Trade War Games
I have lived through recessions and bear markets; I know what they look like. I wish I could forget what they feel like. They don’t come out of nowhere; there are always warning signs. Many investors choose to ignore those signs; I choose not to. I hope you make the same choice.
The Great Reset, Part Two
Last week I discussed what I think will be the fallout from the Great Reset, when the massive amounts of global (and especially government) debt and the bubble in government promises will have to be dealt with. I think we’ll see a period of great volatility in the markets. I offered a solution for dealing with this complexity and uncertainty in the markets by diversifying trading strategies. But that diversification must reflect a rethinking of Modern Portfolio Theory, including a significant reshaping of valuations in asset classes. We’ll deal with those topics today.
The Great Reset: How Should We Then Invest?
This letter will cover the philosophical underpinnings of my thinking. I’ll also introduce some investment tools (which I will give you access to through a link later on in the letter) that express that philosophy, but you could also design a different answer that fits your own (or your client’s) portfolio construction.
How to Drink from a Firehose
Today I’m going to share a small sample of Peter Boockvar’s daily output. Below are three articles he published on one day – Thursday, May 11, 2017. And he does this every day, week and month and year in and out. He never fails to make cogent, interesting points about the day’s events. Think about the brainpower it takes to generate this sort of creative output every working day.
Angst in America, Part 7: The Angst of the Millennial Generation
I fully intended to end my series on “Angst in America” last week, moving on to portfolio construction and what I call the Great Reset. But as I did my regular reading and research this week and reflected on it, I realized there was one piece missing from this series. That is a discussion of the angst that the Millennial generation and generations that follow are facing. And this is not just a US problem; it’s global.
Angst in America, Part 6: Middle Class Blues
The middle class is a fairly new development in economics. Up until the last century or two, most societies had a tiny wealthy elite and great masses of common laborers. We now regard having this group in the middle, not wealthy but with their own assets and spending power, as a great achievement. We don’t want to lose it, but some people fear we will.
Angst in America, Part 5: The Crisis We Can’t Muddle Through
There is one problem that is very definitely coming our way that I really don’t think we can Muddle Through and where even the middle-of-the-road scenarios are terrible, and that’s the public pension crisis. I really see no way it can end well. It’s going to hurt just about everyone.
Angst in America, Part 4: Disappearing Pensions
Today, in what will be the first of at least two and possibly more letters focusing on pensions, we’ll begin to examine that angst in more detail. The mounting problems of US and European pension systems are massive on a scale that is nearly incomprehensible.
Stock Market Valuations and Hamburgers
Yes, active management has had its collective head beaten bloody for the past few years; and the proclivity for passive investing may persist a lot longer than any of us imagine, driving markets higher than many of us believe possible; but I think the stampede into passive investment is going to end up painfully, at the bottom of a cliff, for many investors.
Angst in America, Part 3: Retiring Broke
Today we continue looking at angst in America, the financial worries that so afflict us here in the world’s largest economy and by extension in much of the developed world. We may be the envy of the world in some ways, but we also have no shortage of stress. Today we’ll look at some data on retirement savings – or lack thereof.
Angst in America, Part 1: Aimless Men
This week we begin a series of letters exploring the new economic and sociological anxiety. I want to look at what causes it and think about what we can do to ease it. I don’t know how many letters this dive will take. I may break away for other topics and then come back to the topic of angst.
Tax Reform: The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly—Part Five
Today, patient reader, we hopefully reach the end of our tax reform saga, which has grown much longer than I expected. I seriously thought at the beginning that I could fit all this into one letter. Then it became a two-parter, then a trilogy, and then … well, here we are.
Tax Reform: The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly—Part Three
Today we come to part 3 of my tax reform series. So far, we’ve introduced the challenge and begun to describe the main proposed GOP solution. Today we’ll look at the new and widely misunderstood “border adjustment” idea and talk about both its good and bad points
Tax Reform: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Part Two
We will look more closely at the rest of the tax proposals. Then next week we will go much deeper into the BAT and then into what I think the tax system should actually look like, which will be far different from anything I’ve suggested in the past. That discussion will make more sense if we have placed the ideas in full context.
More on Complexity Economics
In last weekend’s Thoughts from the Frontline, I talked about how the economics profession in general and central bankers in particular have consistently failed with their economic projections, and I pointed to the need to deepen our understanding of complex systems behavior.
This week’s letter is going to be an examination of academic economics today and why it fails to explain reality, and I’ll point readers in a direction that can offer a more fruitful explanation of how the economy really works. I readily accept that I will be drummed out of most economists’ Lamb’s Book of Life for espousing too many heresies of the first order. I should hasten to say that much economic research is quite useful and does help to explain how the world works. It is just certain specific branches of economics that have been problematic, but these are the branches that have most influenced government and Federal Reserve policy.
Forecasting with Friends
I gave you my own thoughts last week (see “Skeptically Optimistic”). Today we’ll review several other forecasts from people who deserve your attention. Of necessity, I must leave out some good ones, but I think the ones I cover will give you plenty of useful information.
2017 Forecast: Skeptically Optimistic
As we’ll see, a great deal will happen in the first third of the year that could (and likely will) radically change the course of events in the last two-thirds. Furthermore, the possible outcomes are in the hands of inherently unpredictable individual humans otherwise known as politicians (and not just in the US, thank you very much!) instead of dispassionate market forces. Fancy quantitative models will be of little help.
What Could Go Wrong?
Instead of trying to answer questions about the future, I’ll try to list those we should be asking as 2017 opens. These are the things that I sit and meditate about when I consider the future of economics, markets, and investing. Today’s economy is something like an old-fashioned Swiss watch. It’s a thing of beauty when all those delicate little gears mesh just right. If you ever take the time to actually study the inner workings of the marvelous manifestations of human ingenuity that keep us all alive, it is difficult not to come away awestruck by the ability of the human mind to craft such complexity. But if any of the gears get just a little out of whack, the entire contraption can grind to a halt.
As the Fed Turns
I’m going to have a few things to say about the recent FOMC meeting, and we’ll use it as a springboard to chew the fat about the new season and upcoming episodes of our very own soap opera: As the Fed Turns. Just as devotees of As the World Turns used to speculate about what their favorite characters were up to, we can have a little fun opining about the Fed’s next moves. Now, a Trump presidency offers a lot of potentially juicy drama, too, and we’ll certainly want to chat about it. And of course, we won’t be forgetting that this is soap opera with real-world implications for the markets and our investment portfolios.
The Trump Rally Will Morph
Today we’ll look at stock valuation several different ways, see what history tells us about the future, and then think about how to react. There are good reasons to think that the Trump rally could morph into the stereotypical and expected Santa Claus rally. Toward the end of the letter, I will comment on why. It’s actually kind of a rational process. And then what?
A Big Swirling Italian Mess
Italians are headed to the polls this Sunday (and thus this letter is reaching you a little earlier than usual) – but no one is quite sure what is on the ballot. On the surface, the voters are considering whether to approve constitutional reforms that should make the government operate more effectively (or not, depending on your point of view). But many people think the real question is whether the current government should stay in power and whether Italy should remain yoked to the Eurozone.
This Could Be Our 1989
I think many of my readers are in the same boat I’m in: we are still sorting out the implications of last Tuesday’s election. My style is generally not to shoot from the hip but to think about things before I start to write. When I have adopted the “ready–fire–aim” style of writing, I have usually found myself going back and asking, “What was I thinking?” And the answer is that I wasn’t doing enough thinking.
The Election: Making Difficult Choices
It is quite conceivable that we could be approaching $30 trillion in national debt by the time the president is inaugurated in 2021. Make whatever assumption you want to about interest rates, the level of taxable revenues in current models suggests that interest could easily be consuming more than 15–16% of revenues by then. And growing… That is not a sustainable model.
How to Rebuild Healthcare Right
Today we’ll look at the remarkable results the Cleveland Clinic has already achieved with its 100,000+ employees and dependents and with numerous corporations they work with. They are making people healthier and reducing medical costs. It is a model that I think could work on a much broader scale.
Taking a Wrench to Healthcare
This week we are going to look at the US healthcare system, not simply to critique Obamacare, but to explore the deeper problems. Warning: this letter will print much longer as the latter half of the letter has a lot of charts and graphs.
Federal Repression System
In today’s letter we are going to look at the FOMC’s decision-making process for monetary policy and survey the unpalatable future that our leaders are cooking up for us. But we won’t be living in the fantasy world they have created for themselves; we are going to have to live in the real world instead, where investment portfolios make a difference to our lifestyle and retirement, not only for ourselves but for our families and clients.