The Independent Market Observer

Being a Good Investor: How to Worry in a Productive Way

September 30, 2015

I gave a talk last night to a group of clients, part of which included a discussion of the possible reasons behind recent market turbulence. Afterwards, a client asked me what else, beyond what I had discussed, could have caused the downturn? I thought that was an interesting way to look at how we as investors should watch markets.

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Another Day, Another Stock Market Drop. So What?

September 29, 2015

Yesterday was another rocky day for U.S. markets, with substantial declines across all major indices. It brought us close to the lows of late August, and the question now is, will we go lower this time?

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Monday Update: More Slow and Steady Economic News

September 28, 2015

Last week’s data was mixed, but on the whole it wasn’t too bad. Let’s take a closer look at the economic news.

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Yellen’s Speech: Much Ado About . . . What?

September 25, 2015

The Fed seems to realize that the message markets took from last week’s decision not to raise rates was not, in fact, the one it wanted to send. Since that decision was announced, we have seen statements from several committee members making the case that it was a “close call” and that a rate increase is still in the cards this year—probably in an attempt to mitigate the markets’ worries. What has been missing, though, is some indication of what the most important member, the chair, thinks about the whole thing. Now we know.

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Thinking About a Global Slowdown: What Are the Biggest Threats?

September 24, 2015

Although growth in the U.S. continues at a reasonable rate, there are undeniable signs of a more global slowdown, especially in China. Even though we are doing reasonably well, the slowdown in the rest of the world does affect us.

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From Gilded Age to Progressive Era: Are We Near the End of a Social Cycle?

September 23, 2015

One of the ideas I play with occasionally is that of long-term social cycles. Strauss and Howe’s book The Fourth Turning is a good example of how demographic cycles can alter society; it’s also a recommended read.

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Should We Prepare for Another Government Shutdown?

September 22, 2015

It was almost two years ago that I wrote “Here we go again” about the pending government shutdown. Well, here we go again—again—as a shutdown looks increasingly likely.

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Monday Update: Better Than It Looks

September 21, 2015

Last week was a busy one, with the release of important data for business and consumers, two macro reports, and the Fed’s decision on raising interest rates. Generally, the economic news in this Monday update is reasonably good and nothing to indicate worry.

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The Fed: Is No News Good News, or Just Bad News Taking Its Time?

September 18, 2015

I was pretty much right on my take that the Federal Reserve would choose not to raise rates yesterday. The U.S. economy is doing well, according to the statement, but rates will remain at zero due to worries about financial markets and the rest of the world. Waiting a bit longer has little downside compared with the risks of acting now—or so the Fed apparently believes.

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The Dog That Did Not Bark: Republican Debate Ignores Economy

September 17, 2015

One of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories centers around something that did not happen: a dog that did not bark when he should have. I was thinking about that story last night during the Republican presidential debates.

It wasn’t just the debates that recalled the story to me, but also how they were reported—lots of words on how Trump and Fiorina interacted; lots of words on how Bush played off Trump’s “low energy” comments. There was essentially nothing about the economy. Why not?

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What Would You Ask Ben Bernanke?

September 16, 2015

I was discussing the Federal Reserve with one of my colleagues the other day, who expressed the opinion that everyone shows the Fed too much deference. “People think they know exactly what they are doing!” he exclaimed.

On the contrary.

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Will She or Won’t She . . . Raise Rates, That Is?

September 15, 2015

The big news this week is the Federal Reserve’s rate-setting meeting tomorrow and Thursday. This is one of eight meetings held each year, approximately every six weeks. The remaining ones in 2015 are in October and December.

The reason this matters is because, once again, the Fed has to decide whether to start raising rates or not.

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Monday Update: The Good and the Bad in the Economic Data

September 14, 2015

Last week was light on economic data, but it brought two important releases: one very good and one very bad.

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A Requiem for the BRICs

September 11, 2015

There’s an undeniable focus on the U.S. in my research and writing. In part, of course, this is sheer parochialism—you write what you know and what your readers seem to be most interested in. But my focus is also driven by a conviction that the U.S. is still the most influential economic and political actor in the world. I have stood by this belief for the past couple of decades and see no reason to change now.

The reason I bring this up is that we are starting to see the beginnings of a new cycle.

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Welcome Back to Politics and Some Familiar Threats to the Economy

September 10, 2015

As the U.S. economy has been normalizing—even moving back to good times—politics has been what I can only call denormalizing. In one more back-to-the-future moment, I am now substantially more worried about political threats to the economy than I am about economic threats.

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What Can We Learn from Yesterday’s Market Melt-Up?

September 9, 2015

When markets drop, I always get calls from advisors and the media asking what the heck is going on. Volatility (at least when combined with a market decline) is often considered evidence that it’s time to worry—that something is broken. It makes sense; after all, if you’re losing money on your investments, something isn’t right. But, somehow, I don’t see the same reaction when there’s a market melt-up. No one called me yesterday to ask what was going on, anyway.

Maybe they should have.

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Monday Update (on Tuesday): Economic News Pretty Good, Overall

September 8, 2015

Data last week was right in the middle of the fairway, to use a late-summer metaphor. We saw a weak print, a strong print, and a medium print, all of which, on balance, added up to a pretty good week for economic news, overall.

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With Labor Day Near, What Can We Take from the August Jobs Report?

September 4, 2015

It seems appropriate to be talking about the August jobs report as we head into the Labor Day weekend. This report certainly has been a market mover so far today, but I’m not sure there’s much news here.  

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Economic Risk Factor Update: September 2015

September 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.

There has been some minor weakening of trends from last month, but only at a level that appears reasonable and typical for the news we have had and for this stage of the cycle. Overall, the data hasn’t changed much.

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Market Thoughts for September 2015 [Video]

September 3, 2015

In my latest Market Thoughts video, I review the recent, surprising declines in U.S. and international markets and what contributed to them. I also provide an update on U.S. economic performance, highlighting an increase in job growth and consumer spending.

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China’s Role in the U.S. Market Correction

September 2, 2015

In thinking about the ongoing U.S. market correction, it occurred to me that, in one respect at least, it really is different this time. Historically, when we have experienced a correction—and, remember, we haven’t had one for years—it was either due to systemic factors or to events here in the U.S. That is not the case today.

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With Further Market Declines Likely, Keep the Long Run in Mind

September 1, 2015

August was the worst month for U.S. markets in more than three years, so say the headlines. I suspect it was also the worst month in at least that long for many international markets as well. And, as today’s numbers show us, we aren’t done yet. As I write this, U.S. markets are down about 2.5 percent, and European markets closed down around 3 percent.

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