Stocks continued to move up last week as all major U.S. indices hit new highs. Investor optimism rose as expectations for deregulation, possible tax cuts and fiscal stimulus under the new administration accelerated. These same factors put upward pressure on bond yields and the U.S. dollar. A strong Dollar has historically been good for the stock market. The reasoning is simple. If you are a European or Japanese, would you leave your money in a bank which takes a piece of your money given negative interest rate policies; or would you rather send your money to the US where we have positive interest rates and a rising stock market?
In 2007, Nassim Taleb published his best-selling book "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable." Taleb contends that banks and trading firms are very vulnerable to hazardous Black Swan events and are exposed to losses beyond those that are predicted by their defective financial models. This proved to be right on the mark as one year later, the financial system almost collapsed due to poor financial models that predicted real estate prices would go up forever.
"It's déjà vu all over again." - Yogi Berra
The stock market has long been classified by economists as a leading indicator of the economy. It tracks and reflects the nation’s economy and industry fundamentals. The market often seems able to anticipate positive or negative change before it happens. Since the beginning of the bear market in August of 2015, the prices of many bank stocks, especially European and Japanese banks, have declined steadily and precipitously. Deutsche Bank has lead the way by dropping below the level it reached in 2009. Shares of HSBC, Citibank, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs as well many other big banks have also taken a beating of 25-45%.
Bubbles are the only things that matter. The rest of it is boring. You show up for work, markets are at normal levels, and there's not much you can do. It's all trivial. But in a great bubble you can get your clients' arses out of the way, and the money you can save can be quite legendary." - Jeremy Grantham
The financial services industry generally frowns upon market prognosticators. "Stay the course," they say. This is especially true in recent years since passive investments have outperformed active ones. Admittedly, peering into one's financial crystal ball and voicing an opinion can be a risky endeavor. Besides the obvious risk of being wrong, another risk is being labeled a perma-bull or perma-bear. In article after article that I read, the media loves to turn to its favorite go-to bulls and go-to bears for an appropriate quote. Unfortunately, few individuals are permitted to change their minds and even fewer do it well.
At Runnymede, we do a lot of research, and our view is dynamic, not fixed. Ultimately, our market outlook is reflected in the positioning of our clients' portfolios.
Fed’s Williams foresees up to five rate hikes this year. Is he clueless?
Many of the economic departments of the regional Federal Reserve banks conduct outstanding research on the economy. At Runnymede, I rely on them heavily for my prognostication on the economy as well as the stock market. The pity is the bosses at the Fed must not read their own research. Is it possible that the Chicago Fed's National Activity Index (CFNAI) is not part of the "data" that the Central bank is so "dependent" upon? CFNAI has missed expectations 9 of last 11 months and has been below 0 (contraction) for 8 months last year. In November the index missed expectations once again, tumbling to its lowest reading since May.
The #Fed has NEVER correctly forecast a recession.— Jim Rickards December 16, 2015
The Fed announced that it would increase its benchmark rate by one quarter of a percentage point. The major beneficiaries will be the banks and brokers, not people on Main Street. Runnymede believes the US and world economies will weaken in the quarters ahead. Our view is supported by Jim Rogers, a top investor, and Sam Zell, a real estate tycoon.
The Fed has a very different opinion. Who will be right?
How is the economy doing currently? Not well. The United States has had two recessions in the 21st century, in 2001 and 2008/9. Our prognosis is that the US economy is losing steam quickly and the third recession is getting near. Let’s look at the cost of money, raw material and labor. Due to a lack of demand, all current indications are that interest rates, commodity prices and real wages will continue to fall.
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