The Independent Market Observer

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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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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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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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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Are Consumers Losing Confidence?

August 31, 2021

One of the key indicators I follow is consumer confidence. With more than two-thirds of the economy based on consumer spending, confidence is the key determinant of growth, even more so than jobs. Yes, jobs are important—you can’t spend money if you’re not making it. But to spend the extra money that kicks growth up another notch, you need to have the job and feel confident enough to spend.

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The State of the Markets

August 27, 2021

Yesterday, in response to advisor requests, my post summarized some of my high-level thoughts about the state of the economy. To recap my take briefly, the economic risks of the pandemic are largely in the past. The economy is growing, and markets are strong. Given this environment, the risks of governmental action (notably the infrastructure spending bills) and the Fed’s policy accommodations are now bigger worries than the pandemic. In the face of these risks, can our economic growth continue? My base case is that we’re getting closer and closer to normal. So, today, I want to address how we can invest in a growing economy that faces risks of inflation, higher interest rates, and government policy changes.

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The State of the Economy

August 26, 2021

Recently, I’ve received several requests for a high-level overview of the economy. As a blog post, this analysis is necessarily short on details, but I hope it provides a big-picture look at what I see happening in the current economic and market environment.

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