Fourth-Quarter GDP Isn’t as Bad as It Looks

January 30, 2015

In light of this morning’s somewhat disappointing U.S. growth number—2.6 percent for the fourth quarter of last year—I expect we’re in for another round of economic doomsaying. Before we get too upset, though, it’s worth looking at the fourth-quarter GDP number in a bit more depth.

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The U.S. Economy: 5 Key Stories

January 29, 2015

Between oil prices, the Greek election, and everything else, quite a bit has happened around the world over the past several weeks. Let’s take a look at five recent events and what they might mean for the U.S. economy.

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More Market Turbulence

January 28, 2015

Yesterday's largish market pullback has caused many to wonder whether more trouble lies ahead.

As always, let's start with some context: At the end of the day yesterday, the market was down about 3 percent from its all-time high, which is nothing to worry about.
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Storm Report: About to Be Crushed by Glaciers

January 27, 2015

Today’s post will be a short one for two reasons. First, Commonwealth’s Massachusetts office is closed due to the snowstorm slamming New England.

Second, of course, is because my home, my family, and I are about to be crushed by the oncoming glaciers. So I hear, anyway.

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Greek Election Creates Unease in Europe

January 26, 2015

Europe just got quite a bit more uncertain. The election in Greece over the weekend brought to power the Syriza party, which has vowed to challenge the existing Greek financial bailout, an implicit threat to the current economic consensus throughout Europe.

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The ECB Pulls the Trigger on Stimulus

January 23, 2015

The top story yesterday, at least in financial and investing circles, was the European Central Bank's decision to launch its own version of quantitative easing (QE). In short, the central bank will buy bonds in order to force down interest rates and encourage business investment and consumer spending.

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Why Did My Investments Do Badly in 2014?

January 22, 2015

I’ve had a lot of conversations recently about 2014 portfolio performance. Investors are reviewing their results, comparing them with the performance of U.S. stocks, and asking the question in the headline: Why did my investments do badly last year?

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Japan: The Outside View

January 21, 2015

Now that we've looked at China and Europe, it’s time to examine Japan’s economic future.

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Europe: The Outside View

January 20, 2015

Today, we’ll continue the “outside view” series on international investing with a look at the eurozone.

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Time to Worry About the Stock Market?

January 16, 2015

Ever since Christmas, the stock market has been trending downward, with the slide getting worse over the past week or so.

As I’ve mentioned multiple times, I generally don’t start to pay attention until we hit the 200-day moving average (which is now at around 1,966 for the S&P 500). But a couple of things have caught my notice lately.

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China: The Outside View

January 15, 2015

Let’s take the factors we discussed yesterday and apply them to the countries that matter, starting with China.

The largest economy outside the U.S., China is approaching several challenges, the most urgent of which is the need to shift economic growth away from infrastructure and investment and toward consumption. Let’s examine the data and see what an outside view suggests for investors.

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Three Ways to Assess a Country's Economic Future

January 14, 2015

Now that we’ve determined which countries are globally relevant, from an economic point of view, we need to decide which factors really matter in how those countries will fare over the next five years.

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Which Countries Matter?

January 13, 2015

Building on yesterday’s post, today we’ll start to look at what a global perspective means in an investment context. Of course, I know perfectly well that all countries matter; what I’m getting at in the headline is “Which countries are economically significant on a global scale?”

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Taking the Global View

January 12, 2015

This week, I'm at Commonwealth’s Chairman’s Retreat in Miami, a place that quickly reminds you that the world is much bigger than the U.S. As it happens, my talk here will focus on the rest of the worldand how, exactly, the U.S. fits into it.

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Jobs Report: Amid Good News, a Darker Cloud

January 9, 2015

The December jobs report came in this morning, with very good results overall.

  • The total number of jobs was up by 252,000, beating expectations of 240,000.
  • This continues the streak of months with 200,000-plus jobs created, the longest since the mid-1990s.
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Oil Prices, Interest Rates, and Europe

January 8, 2015

I wrote yesterday that lower interest rates and oil prices shouldn’t be a major problem here in the U.S. But the rates, at least, could be symptomatic of real problems in Europe and Japan.

With the recent report that consumer price inflation dropped below 0 percent for the eurozone, it’s worth taking a closer look at what Europe is facing, and what lower interest rates there mean.

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Do Falling Oil Prices and Interest Rates Spell Trouble?

January 7, 2015

I’m a big believer in the lessons of history and, as regular readers know, always deeply skeptical of claims that “things are different this time.” So I can appreciate the arguments we’re hearing today that falling oil prices and interest rates signal trouble ahead.

I'm just not sure the U.S. is in a position to worry.

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Stock Market Declines, World Ends—Again

January 6, 2015

The headline this morning, of course, is yesterday’s stock market decline—a loss of almost 2 percent for the S&P 500 on the heels of a weak December. There’s been a great deal of commentary pointing out that the market dropped both the last day of December and the first day of January, which means . . . what?

Not much, I would argue.

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Market Thoughts for January 2015 [Video]

January 6, 2015

In my latest Market Thoughts video, I discuss the U.S. and global economic recoveries, the falling price of oil, and the strength of the U.S. dollar. 

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Economic Risk Factor Update: January 2015

January 5, 2015

Once again, it’s time for our monthly update on risk factors that have proven to be good indicators of economic trouble ahead. As expected, the data hasn’t changed much from last month—it remains positive in almost all areas and has continued to improve in many cases—but it’s still important to keep an eye on things.

As we enter a new year, though, the economic forecast remains good. 

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Oil Prices and the Economy

January 2, 2015

This post was a popular read in October, so I’m rerunning it as a reminder that what’s good for Americans’ wallets in the short term can also be good for our economy in the long term.

Some time ago, I wrote that the changing supply-and-demand picture for oil would lead to further price declines. Well, I was right in terms of direction but wrong on timing—it’s happened much faster than I expected.

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