The Independent Market Observer

Bitcoin: Price Versus Value

November 30, 2017

All of the coverage on bitcoin has centered on its radical appreciation this year. But I believe something is getting lost in the discussion. While much has been said about the price of bitcoin, there has been little mentioned of its value. What I mean by this is that the value of bitcoin, at this point, is purely speculative. People are buying it in the hope that it will become an asset class of its own or just because it has risen so much—not because of what it is intrinsically worth.

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Watch Out for the Risks in Washington

November 29, 2017

As I have been saying, things are pretty good, economically speaking, as we approach the end of the year. At the same time, there are some significant risks in the next couple of weeks that we need to keep an eye on.

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Consumer Confidence and Expectations: It’s All About the Data

November 28, 2017

As we approach the end of 2017, I have been thinking a lot about 2018. Right now, there is quite a bit of good news out there. Hiring continues to be strong, people are earning and spending more, business investment is finally picking up, and the rest of the world economies have started growing again. And, of course, stock markets around the world have done very, very well in 2017.

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Monday Update: Data Pulls Back, Economy Remains Strong

November 27, 2017

With the Thanksgiving holiday, last week was a relatively slow and short one in terms of economic data. Let’s jump right in.

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Active Versus Passive Investment Management: A Different Take

November 24, 2017

One of the major issues in the financial world is active versus passive investment management. The terms themselves are a bit of inside baseball, but it might help to think of them like this: Active managers say they are smart enough to beat the market and try to do so. Passive managers, on the other hand, say no one can beat the market and so just own it.

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Is a New Crisis Brewing in Germany and Europe?

November 21, 2017

Many of us were under the assumption that we could go into the holiday season with Europe pretty much checked off the risk list. The economic news is good and getting better, and the major elections that have caused so much angst have passed. Not so fast, bub.

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Appearance on CNBC's Power Lunch, November 20, 2017 [Video]

November 20, 2017

Is recent weakness in the markets owing more to political risks than to economic ones? Today, I appeared on CNBC's Power Lunch to share my thoughts, including the potential effects of tax reform and political conditions abroad.

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Monday Update: Waning Storm Effects, Growth Resumes

November 20, 2017

Last week was a busy one on the economic front, and the news was good to very good. Retail sales were in line with expectations, despite some headwinds, while industry and manufacturing did very well in bouncing back from the hurricanes. Plus, the housing industry showed signs of acceleration. Let’s take a closer look.

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What the Tax Bills Could Mean for You

November 17, 2017

With the passage of the House’s tax reform bill, the Republicans have moved significantly closer to one of their key political goals. Of course, the Senate bill still needs to pass that chamber, and then the reconciled bill must pass both chambers. But the fact that the fractious Republican factions in the House have come together is a signal that passage is a real possibility. For the first time, in my opinion, the odds are now better than even. So, let’s take a look at what we know so far—and what these bills could mean for you.

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What Is the Yield Curve Anyway?

November 16, 2017

Taking another page from the “things people may not understand” book, today I want to talk about the yield curve. Why? The immediate reason is a spate of coverage in the press about how the inversion of the yield curve may be a signal of trouble ahead, which has prompted questions from clients and advisors. So, let’s take a look at what the yield curve is and how we should analyze it.

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Stock Market Pullbacks and Bounce Backs

November 15, 2017

Yesterday, I did an interview with TheStreet where I stated that I thought the market had some more room to rise before the end of the year. Given some weak days and rising fears that the rally could be breaking down, I thought it would be worthwhile to outline exactly why I think that—and what I will be watching for to see if I need to change my mind.

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Should We Be Worried About the Fed’s Balance Sheet?

November 14, 2017

When speaking with clients over the past couple of weeks, I have had several questions about whether we should be worried as the Fed begins to reduce its balance sheet. With the Fed starting to sell securities, the concern is that interest rates could spike and financial markets could become unsettled.

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Appearance on TheStreet, November 14, 2017 [Video]

November 14, 2017

Given recent weakness, could the S&P 500 still hit 2,700 by the end of the year?

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Monday Update: Consumers Slightly Less Confident

November 13, 2017

Last week was a very slow one for economic news, although the week ahead will be much busier. So, let’s jump right in.

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What Will the Markets Do in 2018?

November 10, 2017

I am really coming to grips with my 2018 outlook, and I find myself wrestling with the implications of slowing growth on the economy and, in particular, the markets. The fundamentals have been strong, with good earnings growth driving the markets up. The other major factor has been confidence, both business and consumer, which (despite everything) has been rising. Typically, rising confidence drives stock market multiples higher—and that is exactly what has happened this year. So, the great market results we’re seeing have been the result of a double whammy: improving fundamentals as confidence and valuations rise.

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Monthly Market Risk Update: November 2017

November 9, 2017

Market risks come in three flavors: recession risk, economic shock risk, and risks within the market itself. So, what do these risks look like for November? Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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Economic Risk Factor Update: November 2017

November 8, 2017

As we work our way through the effects of the hurricanes on the economic data, the news remains very positive. October’s results largely preserved or even improved on September’s strong data, with job growth rebounding and confidence at high levels for both business and consumers. Fed policy, despite the expected rate hikes ahead, remains stimulative.

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Saudi Arabia and the Republican Tax Plan: Will the Markets React?

November 7, 2017

It has been a busy couple of days in the news. So, while I don’t ordinarily quote Lenin, his statement that “there are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen” is just too applicable to ignore. The events in Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser extent, in Washington are potentially changing the range of reasonable future outcomes—to a degree that markets are not fully discounting.

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Monday Update: Positive Data Trends Continue, Hurricane Effects Fade

November 6, 2017

Last week was a busy one on the data front, giving us a wide-ranging look at the economy. Overall, the news was good, with consumer and business confidence improving or holding steady, while the jobs report rebounded significantly. The big Federal Reserve news—the selection of Janet Yellen’s successor—was also well received.

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Economically Speaking? Things Are Really (Really) Good

November 3, 2017

Right now, I am in the process of writing my monthly market update. While reviewing the data, the markets, and so forth, something just hit me: things are actually really, really good! We don’t normally get this much positive news all at once or for such a long time. We are living in the sweet spot.

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Market Thoughts for November 2017 [Video]

November 2, 2017

October was a terrific month for the markets. U.S., developed, and emerging markets were all up. Companies are making money, and stock markets are positive. Plus, despite three of the worst storms in U.S. history, consumer and business confidence grew. This is a very positive sign. On the corporate earnings front, however, there is some worrisome headline data. Still, profit growth continues to beat expectations.

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Why Does the Fed Matter?

November 1, 2017

Sitting in the chair that I do, I take quite a bit for granted, not least of which is that things I deal with every day—for example, the Fed—are important. Yet when you stop and look at it, if you are not in the middle of the financial news flow, it isn’t obvious (at least it wouldn't be to me) exactly why that is. Why is there so much coverage of Fed meetings and, at the moment, the selection of a new chair to run the Fed? Today, let’s take a step back and think about why the Fed matters to you and why you should care.

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