The Independent Market Observer

Negative Interest Rates in Europe

February 27, 2015

Lost in the hand-wringing over whether, when, and how quickly the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates, something very interesting is happening in the rest of the world.

In many countries in Europe—including, for the first time, Germanyinterest rates have gone negative.

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The Hidden Hand of Inflation

February 26, 2015

One of the coolest talks I’ve ever seen at a conference was by a professional pickpocket named Apollo Robbins. (You can see his TED talk here.) Watching someone steal wallets, watches, and even glasses from people—on stage, in full view of everyone, and after warning the victim what was about to happen—redefined my idea of how our perceptions work.

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Greece and the Minsky Moment

February 25, 2015

Over the weekend, we saw one of the major risk factors in the world take a step back from the brink. Greece and Germany essentially agreed to disagree for the next couple of months, giving the Greeks enough rope to either weave a ladder down (the Greek version) or hang themselves (the German version).

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Will She or Won’t She? Janet Yellen and Interest Rates

February 24, 2015

Janet YellenAll eyes (at least in the economics world) are on Janet Yellen today as she sits down to update Congress on what the Federal Reserve is doing.

What will she say? When are rates going up?

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The Outside View: The U.S. Labor Market

February 23, 2015

I’ve maintained for some time that the U.S. labor market is doing very well. Although it's too soon to call it a "boom," that isn’t out of the question given job-creation levels unseen since the mid-1990s and a drop in the unemployment rate back to normal levels.

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Bubble Trouble?

February 20, 2015

I wrote yesterday about gaps opening up in the stock market, and how the tech space in particular is starting to look a lot like a bubble.

Among other things, I mentioned that the stock market isn’t in a bubble yet because companies are making money. Later in the day, though, I saw a story pointing out that 71 percent of companies that went public last year were unprofitable, the highest level since 2000 (when 80 percent weren't making money).

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Are We in Tech Bubble Territory?

February 19, 2015

A headline on CNBC yesterday morning caught my eye: “Nasdaq back to bubble highs.” What it meant, of course, was that the Nasdaq stock index is approaching the levels of 2000. What it said, or at least what I read, was that the tech market is back in a bubble.

I have to admit, I probably interpreted it that way because that’s what I have been thinking for some time.

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Book Review: “Flashpoints,” by George Friedman

February 18, 2015

As I’ve noted over the past couple of days, Europe is back in the headlines. The confrontation between Greece and Germany has once again captured the world’s attention with the real prospect that the eurozone could break down.

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Where Does the U.S. Fit in the European Mess?

February 17, 2015

I’m writing this in response to a comment on an earlier post about Europe, which essentially asked: Where does the U.S. fit in all this? A good question, and one that demands a further look.

Right now, the U.S. is in the process of trying to bang heads together to get a settlement between Greece (and the rest of the Southern European countries) and Germany (and the rest of the Northern European countries).

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Appearance on Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo, February 12, 2015 [Video]

February 13, 2015

In case you missed it, I was in studio for Fox Business's Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo on Thursday, February 12. We covered a lot of ground, including retail sales and employment, developments in the EU with Greece, and the U.S. markets.

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What Will the Market Return This Year?

February 13, 2015

I hope you enjoy today’s insightful post from my colleague Peter Essele. See you next week! — Brad

“What will the market return this year?” As a portfolio manager, I hear some variation of this question at the beginning of each and every calendar year. Following the requisite exchange of pleasantries, it inevitably comes up at cocktail parties, birthday get-togethers, client meetings, and even the après-ski scene.

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The Outside View: The U.S. Economy

February 12, 2015

After analyzing China, Japan, Brazil, and other economic powers around the world, we come at last to the U.S. An outside view is particularly useful here. As citizens, we tend to think we know all the details, and so we're all the more likely to be caught up in an inside view.

The benefit of looking at the other countries first is that we now have some context for judging where we stand and what that might mean. 

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The Outside View: Russia

February 11, 2015

As I mentioned yesterday, Russia’s economy basically doesn’t work without oil. Today we’ll take a deeper look at that problem, along with the potential consequences as Russia attempts to deal with it.

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Where the Real Risks Are: Europe and Russia

February 10, 2015

I wrote yesterday about what I see as the two major domestic risks to the U.S. economic recovery, neither of which is worth worrying about too much. The two immediate risks we should be thinking about originate outside the U.S.: the standoff between Germany and Greece, and the confrontation between Europe and Russia.

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Two Economic Risks for the U.S.

February 9, 2015

As I mentioned in my post about the latest employment numbers, I’ve been focusing quite a bit on all of the good things happening for the U.S. economy. But that doesn't mean I'm not paying attention to potential threats. 

Let’s take a look at a couple of economic risks the U.S. faces.

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Another Great Employment Report, But Can It Be Trusted?

February 6, 2015

When I give talks or interviews, I’m often perceived as bullish on the U.S. recovery. In my own view, though, I’m neither bullish nor bearish, but simply driven by the data.

Others see it differently, especially when it comes to the employment story. Just this past week, the chairman of Gallup wrote a column titled “The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment.” After seeing that piece, several readers reached out to question what they see as my optimism, asking, in effect, Really? Can things really be that good?

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The Outside View: India

February 5, 2015

As we discussed yesterday, Brazil is different from the developed economies in Europe, Japan, and even China, and it presents a different kind of opportunity for investors. With an economy halfway between those of Brazil and China, and a set of advantages that both other countries lack, India is potentially an even more interesting opportunity.

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The Outside View: Brazil

February 4, 2015

Since it's a fairly quiet news day, I want to return to our "outside view" series on countries that matter around the world. So far, we’ve considered China, Europe, and Japan, but today we’ll shift gears and look at a very different country, Brazil.

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Market Thoughts for February 2015 [Video]

February 4, 2015

In my latest Market Thoughts video, I discuss the ongoing U.S. economic recovery, the difficult month U.S. financial markets just experienced, and changes in the global markets.

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Economic Risk Factor Update: February 2015

February 3, 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 move into the year, though, the economic forecast remains bright.

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Appearance on CNBC Worldwide Exchange, February 3, 2015

February 3, 2015

Learn why I told CNBC Worldwide Exchange that I think the Federal Reserve is likely to start raising short-term rates in June in an interview today, February 3

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Making Sense of Mutual Fund Gains and Losses

February 2, 2015

Driving in Massachusetts can be confusing. South Boston, for example, is actually east of the city, while East Boston is to the north. And the road labels can be just as bad. There is a section of a major highway, where two roads converge, where you can actually be headed south on one highway and north on another at the same time.

Hard to believe—and even harder to describe when you try to give directions—but true. Don’t try this if you’re not from around here.

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