The Independent Market Observer

U.S. GDP and Slow Growth

May 29, 2015

As you may remember, the original estimate for first-quarter U.S. GDP growth was a none-too-exciting 0.2 percent. Today’s revision reduced that to a downright depressing decline of 0.7 percent.

In this light, the slow growth problem I mentioned yesterday sounds optimistic, right?

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Tomorrow’s Big Problems: 4 Issues to Watch

May 28, 2015

My focus on this blog, as you know, is the economy and investing—with the exception of my lobster roll posts (which will resume this summer).

Although there are still big problems out there (Greece, anyone?), the U.S. economy continues its slow expansion, and economics is no longer the concern that it was. The same, generally speaking, applies to investing. Despite many potential pitfalls, which I’ve discussed in detail, the market appears more likely to head up than down, at least for the moment.

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4 Things I Believe About Investing

May 27, 2015

Over the past couple of days, I’ve had several conversations about investing. Nothing new there, but a question came up that deserved some serious thought: What do you really believe, or really know, about investing?

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Today’s Economic News: Expectations and Reality

May 26, 2015

I spent this morning reviewing today's economic news in preparation for a TV appearance. I didn't have much of a chance to focus on it in the interview, but fortunately we can discuss it here. The news wasn’t just good, but good in an interesting way.

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Appearance on Fox Business Network's Opening Bell, May 26, 2015 [Video]

May 26, 2015

Where's the best place for your money today?

That's the question I discussed this morning with Opening Bell host Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network. Hear my thoughts on how to position your portfolio.

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Memorial Day Reflections

May 22, 2015

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row . . .” — John McCrae

I was in London late last year and had the chance to see the poppy exhibition at the Tower of London. A red ceramic poppy stood for every one of 888,246 soldiers of the British Commonwealth who died in World War I, filling the fields around the Tower.

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The Book of Jobs

May 21, 2015

I’ve been away speaking at Commonwealth conferences for the past 10 days, which were (as usual) a tremendous amount of fun. I even had the chance to take my parents to the last one, in Naples, Florida. They found—and I rediscovered—that there’s no nicer group of people than Commonwealth advisors and staff. I’m tremendously grateful for the opportunity to hang out with these folks, and to show my parents my world.

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What Happens When Interest Rates Rise? Part 3

May 20, 2015

In this last post on rising interest rates, let's talk about what everyone really wants to know: What do rising rates mean for our investments? As we discussed yesterday, a rate hike probably isn’t imminent, but it’s certainly worth thinking about to get ahead of the risk.

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What Happens When Interest Rates Rise? Part 2

May 19, 2015

Yesterday, we discussed what the natural interest rate should be, arriving at about 5 percent on a nominal basis, assuming 2-percent inflation. That seems like a reasonable number over time, given that the Federal Reserve has committed to an inflation target of 2 percent. But with interest rates currently far below 3 percent, there’s clearly a gap between what the rate should be and where it is now.

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What Happens When Interest Rates Rise? Part 1: The Natural Interest Rate

May 18, 2015

With stocks hitting new highs today, even as the pace of economic growth seems to be slowing, much of the market’s strength appears to be coming from the continued low interest rates provided by the Federal Reserve. Although we don’t know when rates will rise, the general consensus seems to be that it will happen sometime this year.

With that in mind, it’s time to take another look at what happens when rates start to rise, a topic I originally addressed last year.

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Is Free Trade Really Good for Everyone?

May 15, 2015

As I noted yesterday, President Obama and Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, are working to move a new free trade agreement through Congress, based on a shared conviction that it is good for the country. Many Democrats, who do not share that conviction, are fighting it.

To understand what the stakes are here, and what the different sides are fighting for, let’s take a deeper look at how free trade works and how its benefits are distributed.

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Free Trade and American Politics

May 14, 2015

For the first time in a while, the U.S. has a major free trade agreement on the agenda. Trade is an interesting intersection of economics and politics, as we’ve seen in today’s news, which features President Obama and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, working together for the first time in, well, ever, to overcome Democrats’ objections.

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Interest Rates and the Bond Market: Why You Should Care

May 13, 2015

Over the past couple of days, the bond market has had a bit of a snit. Rates for government bonds have risen—meaning that prices have dropped—around the world.

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Why Greece Really Matters

May 12, 2015

As promised yesterday, I want to talk about how the Greek situation could end up disrupting Europe and the European financial system, but in a completely different way than most people expect.

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Greece and China: Risks Continue to Simmer

May 11, 2015

Last week's strong employment report settled what I saw as the major short-term risk here in the U.S. Meanwhile, the biggest international risks—Greece and China—continue to make headlines, but the pot isn’t boiling over yet.

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April Jobs Report: Things Are Looking Up

May 8, 2015

The employment report for April came in just right, not too hot and not too cold.

At 223,000, it was a bit below expectations, but not meaningfully so. More important, it was back above the 200,000 threshold and well above the 126,000 of last month, prompting immediate sighs of relief all around.

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Appearance on CNBC's Power Lunch, May 7, 2015 [Video]

May 8, 2015

I participated in a brief panel on CNBC's Power Lunch program on Thursday, May 7, 2015. The discussion centered on whether equities are overvalued—and what that could mean for retail investors and the stock market. 

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Janet Yellen’s Warning About the Stock Market

May 7, 2015

Once again, the chair of the Federal Reserve has weighed in on asset prices.

Yesterday, Janet Yellen said to Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, that “equity market valuations at this point are quite high.” Her comment has prompted a certain amount of soul-searching in the media over whether Yellen should be talking about stock prices at all, whether she’s right, and, of course, what that means both for the market and for the future course of Fed actions.

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What Happens If Greece Defaults on Its Debt?

May 6, 2015

Last night, a reader wrote in asking about a bold prediction by a “very successful financial advisor”: if Greece were to miss a payment and default on its debt, the market would fall 50 percent. Setting aside whether this financial advisor has moved all his clients to cash—and if he really believes in that idea, he certainly should—I very much disagree with his conclusion.

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Market Thoughts for May 2015 [Video]

May 6, 2015

In my latest Market Thoughts video, I discuss the economy’s mixed performance in April, focusing on key economic indicators and the stock market. I also share how recent employment figures fit in with the recovery.

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Two Articles I Wish I Had Written: On GDP and Shadow Labor

May 5, 2015

Every so often, you read something that makes so much sense you wonder why you didn’t write it yourself. Recently, I have run into a couple of articles I wish I had written, and I’d like to highlight them with some additional thoughts.

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Yuan Vs. Dollar: The Fight of the Century

May 4, 2015

I know I’m a couple days late on the “fight of the century” theme. Apparently, there was a major boxing match the other night, which, characteristically, I missed.

Nonetheless, better late than never, especially since there’s another “fight” going on that will ultimately have a much bigger effect on our lives.

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Economic Risk Factor Update: May 2015

May 1, 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.

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