The Independent Market Observer

Putting the Great Financial Crisis to the Test

September 30, 2021

Today, I want to apply the analysis we laid out yesterday to the great financial crisis (GFC). The idea is to see whether it would have given us some advance warning of just how bad that crisis got. If so, the analysis might be useful in identifying future crises that are actually worth worrying about.

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Headline Risk Vs. Real Risk

September 29, 2021

We are now entering the phase of the market cycle where worries start to proliferate. We’ve already talked about Evergrande, supply chain issues, rising interest rates, and so on—and the risks for all of these things are real. As the situations evolve, though, each of these categories and others will present themselves in different ways. For example, looking at China, we have Evergrande, the demographic rollover there, trade and competition issues with the U.S., and many more. Even as one issue (Evergrande) starts to recede from investor consciousness, others will rise again.

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Unpacking the Supply Chain Issues

September 28, 2021

This post will be on the short side, as I am leaving Laguna Niguel in California at the end of the Commonwealth Summit Club conference. I wanted to take some time, however, to comment on something that has been forcing itself to my attention all week: the supply chain issues that are driving much of the current inflation concerns.

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Monday Update: New Home Construction Accelerates in August

September 27, 2021

Last week saw a number of important economic updates, with a focus on the housing sector and the FOMC rate decision from the Fed’s September meeting. The housing market showed signs of continued growth, as both housing starts and building permits increased by more than expected in August. This will be another busy week for updates. Highlights will include reports on durable goods orders, consumer and manufacturer confidence, and August personal income and spending.

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The Science and Art of Investing

September 24, 2021

“There is an art to science, and a science in art; the two are not enemies, but different aspects of the whole.” Isaac Asimov

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The Next “Crisis”: The Debt Ceiling

September 23, 2021

After the past several crises, some real and some manufactured, we are now on our way to the next one: the debt ceiling. To pay for the spending Congress has authorized, the Treasury needs to borrow more money. But it can’t borrow more money because Congress has said there is a ceiling to how much it can borrow, and the Treasury has hit that ceiling. So, Congress has essentially forbidden the Treasury to borrow enough money to pay for the things that Congress has said the Treasury has to pay for. If this makes no sense to you, well, I agree. But this is where we are, again. We have seen this movie several times before.

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Will We Get a Hint of Change from the Fed?

September 22, 2021

Here we are on the cusp of the end of the most important Fed meeting since, well, the last meeting. The headlines are going back and forth as to whether Chair Powell will announce tapering (i.e., slower Fed purchases of bonds). The consensus is no. But if not, what will he do? All is uncertain.

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Will Evergrande Take Down China and the World Markets?

September 21, 2021

For those who haven’t heard, global markets slumped yesterday as a Chinese real estate developer, Evergrande, was reported to be approaching bankruptcy. For many, this news brings to mind the great financial crisis of 2008. Back then, a collapsing real estate sector almost took the U.S. and global banking system down, starting with the Lehman Brothers investment bank. Now, the fear is that Evergrande could kick off China’s “Lehman moment.” In other words, many are starting to worry that we could be facing another global financial crisis.

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Monday Update: Retail Sales Beat Expectations in August

September 20, 2021

The focus of last week’s important economic data releases were on consumer inflation, industrial production, and August retail sales. Retail sales increased by more than expected last month, largely driven by a pickup in grocery and online sales. This will be another busy week for updates, including news on the housing sector and the results from the Fed’s September meeting.

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Despite Medical Uncertainty, Economic Outlook Positive

September 17, 2021

This coronavirus update will be shorter than those I have done previously for a couple of reasons. First, there is not much new news. While case growth at the national level appears to have rolled over, other national data is mixed. The case slowdown is by no means certain. Second, the national case data is significantly misleading for many areas, which continue to suffer much higher infection rates than the rest of the country. So, while it is worth taking a look at where we are, the medical situation remains uncertain.

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Is the Market Crazy Expensive?

September 16, 2021

One question I get a lot is whether the market is overvalued. Or, to put the concern the way my son would, is the market crazy expensive? All year, even as the market continued to rise, many people called out high valuations. Now that the market has pulled back, at least for the moment, fears are rising that we may see valuations collapse—and the market with them. Should we be worried?

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Appearance on Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria, September 15, 2021 [Video]

September 16, 2021

Yesterday, I appeared on Fox Business’ Morning with Maria to discuss the markets, inflation, consumer spending, and what’s ahead for the fourth quarter. Listen in to hear more.

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I’m Not Worried About Taxes (Yet)

September 15, 2021

After inflation, which we talked about yesterday, the next biggest set of questions I get focus on what the effect of the new tax law will be and whether the higher tax rates in it will derail both the economic recovery and the market. People generally make a good argument about how it will hurt confidence, take money out of consumer and business spending and investment, and generally take us back to a state of depression. I understand the arguments. But two things are missing that would make them convincing: facts and context.

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Is the Inflation Balloon Close to Popping?

September 14, 2021

One of the most urgent and consistent questions I have been getting recently is around inflation. With the headline numbers high—and they are high—the concern is that we are moving back to the 1970s and that inflation will stay at the current 5 percent or run even higher. That conclusion seems reasonable, given the large federal deficit and spending over the past couple of years. When combined with the signs of slowing growth, it could point back to stagflation. The 1970s are calling. Maybe disco will come back as well?

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Monday Update: Initial Jobless Claims Set New Pandemic Low

September 13, 2021

Last week was relatively quiet in terms of economic updates, with only two major data releases. Initial jobless claims continued to decline to start September, while producer prices increased by more than expected in August. This will be a busier week for updates, with reports to come on consumer inflation, industrial production, retail sales, and consumer sentiment.

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China: Value Play or Value Trap?

September 10, 2021

China’s recent regulatory crackdown and the consequent impact on its financial markets have caught the attention of worldwide media and investors. (A recent post by my colleague Peter Roberto explores the regulatory backdrop.) Given the current environment, I’ve been receiving numerous questions asking if now is the time to double down on Chinese equities. Potential investors are wondering if the recent bounce in some of the hardest-hit stocks could be a sustained run. My belief is that, over the shorter term, headline risks remain elevated for Chinese equities. In the long term, continued economic growth in China may present attractive opportunities for value creation. To avoid potential landmines, however, active management is critical.

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Monthly Market Risk Update: September 2021

September 9, 2021

My colleague Sam Millette, manager, fixed income on Commonwealth’s Investment Management and Research team, has helped me put together this month’s Market Risk Update. Thanks for the assist, Sam!

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Economic Risk Factor Update: September 2021

September 8, 2021

My colleague Sam Millette, manager, fixed income on Commonwealth’s Investment Management and Research team, has helped me put together this month’s Economic Risk Factor Update. Thanks for the assist, Sam!

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Monday Update (on Tuesday): Hiring Slows in August

September 7, 2021

There were a number of important economic data releases last week, with a focus on consumer and business confidence and the August employment report. The employment report showed that the pace of hiring slowed during the month, as rising medical risks served as a headwind for faster job growth. This week will be relatively quiet, with only two reports due to the holiday-shortened schedule.

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Is Social Security Running Out of Money?

September 3, 2021

Brad here. One of the key pieces of news to hit my desk this week was that the social security trust fund was projected to run out of money a year earlier than expected. Not only will this affect everyone who is retired now, but it will also affect those who plan to retire around the time that money runs out (like me). So, it’s personal. That said, I went to our Advanced Planning group for guidance. David Haughton, advanced planning consultant, prepared a summary on what is happening—and what isn’t. Thanks, David. While I am still not happy about the news, I appreciate the clarity and context he provides around the facts of the situation.

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Looking Back at the Markets in August and Ahead to September 2021

September 2, 2021

August was another great month for the financial markets. Here in the U.S., the markets continued to hit new highs, with the Dow up by 1.5 percent, the S&P up by more than 3 percent, and the Nasdaq up by more than 4 percent. Abroad, developed markets also did well, going up by 1.76 percent. Emerging markets bounced back significantly at month-end with a gain of 2.65 percent.

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Market Thoughts for September 2021 [Video]

September 1, 2021

August was another very good month for the financial markets. In the U.S., both the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 showed material gains, while developed markets also did well. On the medical front, the virus continued its spread. There are signs that the rising medical risks are starting to appear in the data, with consumer confidence dropping significantly in August.

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