The ongoing, intensifying supply chain problems are raising costs in ways that add broad inflation pressure everyone will feel. And the zeitgeist in the workplace is literally changing before our eyes.
Historical comparisons are always risky. This is particularly so when comparing different eras in vastly different countries like the US and China. Similarities can actually obscure more important differences.
A few months ago in Xi’s Big Mistake, I said Beijing risked killing the entrepreneurial activity that had spurred the country’s rapid growth. As we learn more, this is looking less like a mistake and more like a mistakenly-conceived plan.
Today, I want to show you how richly valued the market is and then review some of the top risks that could force it downward. Like those sandpiles I talk about, we don’t know exactly what will trigger a collapse. We know something will do it. Sandpiles don’t grow to infinity.
Today we’ll take another walk through the inflation debate. Is it still transitory or should we expect a light-1970s inflation going forward? The answer is critically important.
Today I’m going to look at several possible futures. There are forces at work in both Congress and the Federal Reserve that could take us down radically different paths. There are also changes in the Zeitgeist, the way we act and think both in and as a society, that are going to have major impacts.
We are in an odd situation where it’s unclear if labor is scarce or abundant. Many employers can’t seem to find enough qualified workers, but the August jobs report said 8.4 million are unemployed and millions more underemployed.
Several potentially big storms are brewing. They could be minor annoyances or catastrophic disasters, or anywhere in between. I truly hope they all resolve with minimal fuss. But they may not. They could even combine into a perfect storm of even greater magnitude… so now is the time to prepare.
You’ve probably heard of Ron Baron, founder of Baron Funds which has grown to a stable of not just mutual funds but a variety of private investments and Ron’s own capital—something like $50 billion in total. We were thrilled to have him on the SIC virtual stage, where my good friend David Bahnsen ably interviewed him. I’ll give you some extensive quotes from that session’s transcript, interspersed with comments from me.
“How did you go bankrupt?” “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
If you look just at 2021, it seems the US economy is tearing higher.
I am worried the Fed will either let inflation become psychologically entrenched, or wait too long to stop it and spark crisis with a too-hasty response, but there are other possibilities. None are especially good.
Let me be very clear. I believe the Federal Reserve has already made a significant policy error that can lead directly to recession. An accompanying fiscal policy error by the US Congress could compound the Fed’s error, although that remains to be seen, as it is not clear what will pass Congress.
Xi has been trying to balance economic freedom and authoritarian control and it’s not working like it used to. Today we’ll review some recent events that illustrate where Xi went wrong.
TINA has been applied to investing. You must buy stocks because TINA. You can’t make money any other way. Just close your eyes, buy and hold forever. Or at least through a full market cycle. Frankly, I think that’s stupid.
Rather than my usual economic/investment letter, this week I want to take a more philosophical tack, looking at some of the challenges we face as a country and culture, beginning with the freedom of the press but then turning to technology and even wealth disparity. We will have to consider what freedom of speech meant in the 1800s, what it meant at the turn of this last century, and what it means today in a world of social media.
This year’s SIC closing day was a blockbuster. In this letter, I’ll wrap up my conference reviews by wrapping that day for you.
If it seems I have been talking about the Strategic Investment Conference for weeks… well, you’re right. It really was that much to unpack, and I’ve still only scratched the surface.
The interplay between governments and businesses impacts your investments. So does the interplay of governments with other governments. Thus the drive to create an international corporate tax. So you can’t escape politics… but you can try to analyze it calmly, without partisan histrionics.
This week we’ll review some of the SIC technology sessions and think about where the latest innovations will take us. It wasn’t just pie in the sky, either. We talked about real investment opportunities available right now.
If you could ask the world’s top central bankers what really terrifies them, I think the honest answer would usually be “deflation.” It is their greatest nightmare. They think a little inflation is good (thus the 2%+ target), and they’re confident they can subdue it if necessary. Deflation is a bigger problem.
Today we’ll consider the arguments for higher inflation in the near future. As you will see, they are serious and convincing. But there are equally serious and convincing points on the deflationary side as well. We’ll get to those next week.
Last week I teased you about the China panel, so that seems like a good place to start. We’ll review that conversation and then bring in some China comments from later sessions.
I've developed this kind of duality. It's hard to think of the next 20 years or indeed the last 20 years without being very optimistic about the future of humanity.
David Bahnsen does a podcast for National Review called Capital Record. We did a two-part series. The following is an edited partial transcript of the first part.
I think we will probably have a few months of significantly higher inflation. It will fade but meanwhile hurt certain people and industries. It will be like one of those extremes causing bruised knees and volatile markets.
Right now, the stock market is in the land-where-there-should-be-sea phase. What we don’t know is when the wave is coming. Maybe there’s time to venture out and see what treasure was hidden beneath the waves... or maybe not. Prudence would suggest that we go searching for treasure on higher ground.
Yes, the housing market is a bit overheated, but for reasons that make far more sense than the rationalizations of stock market bulls. Some buyers are certainly overpaying and may regret it. Nonetheless, I don’t foresee another 2008-style housing crash in the near future, nor anything like the subprime crisis. There are altogether different fundamentals working here.
The last year brought exponential growth in, among other things, use of the word “exponential.” It is now the go-to term when you want to say something is “growing super-fast.”
Big economic storms are rare and usually end quickly, but they tend to have long-lasting effects. Today I want to talk about a storm 50 years ago that still affects us now. Important things happened in the 1970s.
We are going to look at broken debt and broken measurements, and then look at how Fed leaders painted themselves into a corner by shifting to a reactive stance this week.
I believe we have passed the point of no return. Changing policy now would create a recession as big as Paul Volcker’s in the early ‘80s. There is simply no appetite for that. Further, the national debt and continued yearly deficits force monetary policy to stay accommodative.
I don’t think that data means what you think it means. Indeed, much of the data in the way we use it is simply broken.
What normalcy will it be? I don’t expect to simply go back to the way things were. The economy as it was structured in December 2019 is gone forever. The world is different now. The economy will be different, too.
Rather than going deep into one theme, this week we will do a “Random Thoughts” from the Frontline. Today we will cover several topics in shorter form: valuations, infrastructure, the debacle in Texas, and a lot more.
If, however, the pandemic continues into summer, it will mean the Gripping Hand is still squeezing us. Employment won’t recover and more small businesses will fail. This relief package, as large as it is, may prove necessary and maybe even too small.
Today I want to discuss an arcane-sounding but incredibly important term you need to know: Yield Curve Control. Several central banks are already using it and I see a strong possibility the Fed will join them. But first we must again consider the Gripping Hand.
I’m often asked if I foresee inflation or deflation. Both are possible in their own ways, and frankly I feel a little funny telling people I think we will see both. I would just like to have a growing economy and dependable money that holds its value.
The 2020s are going to be about rifle shots, not the shotgun approach of index funds.
Today we’ll begin by looking at new virus developments, some of which are good, some very good, and some frightening. We (the entire world) are in a very tight race with dire consequences if we lose.
This week’s letter is the first part of my 2021 forecast. There is simply too much to cover in one letter, and today we’ll start with the most important factor, a known unknown, that I think will be the driver for 2021.
We’ll take a closer look at the stock market and where it may be going.
The virus—or specifically the political response to it—is causing a mass extinction event for small businesses in certain sectors. At the same time, some large businesses are reaping a bonanza of revenue from the same pandemic.
Two weeks ago I talked about Peter Turchin’s idea of “elite overproduction” leading to social and economic crisis. While he doesn’t have any solutions, Turchin helps illuminate how we reached this point. Today we’ll go a little deeper and think about the implications.
A Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all my US friends. This year was different for many of us—sometimes by choice, sometimes not. But there’s one bit of good news I think we can all share: The holiday season means 2020 is almost over. Soon, we’ll be able to turn the page.
Today I’m going to blend a few thoughts about The Great Reset with some other historical analysis I recently discovered. It adds up to a disturbing outlook, even if (as seems likely, given the latest vaccine news) we’re past the pandemic by late next year. We’ll find different challenges on the other side.
Today we’ll talk about the political changes, what they mean for the economy, and then how the latest vaccine news may affect the outlook.
Today I want to use the election to illustrate just how complex a seemingly simple situation can be. This matters not just politically, but economically as well.
Today I want to look at what will not change. And though I will make a few comments on the election below, I want us to think today about what we can look forward to with an optimistic and realistic vision.
Today I want to discuss why the economy will recover, how that will happen and what it will look like. It won’t look like 2019, but the recovery will have its own flavor as we fast-forward future industries. I think that’s a good thing.vvv