I’m rejoicing at the recent all time highs in the stock markets. The money gained is real. But I’m also cautious. Let’s stay diversified and careful. We don’t really know what will happen. We need to be emotionally prepared for a downturn, even if it’s slight. Remember, for us, downturns are when investments go on sale. In my professional life, every decline in the stock markets has been a opportunity to create greater long term gains.
The fading middle class is the dominant social issue of our era, and will somehow affect our investment choices.
This article is by a leading economist. My thought is that the fading middle class is the dominant social issue of our era, regardless of politics. It is CERTAIN to have an effect on the financial markets, but what that effect will be, we cannot know.
I continue to find lessons and indicators in the Brexit experience.
- In general, economically and culturally, Asia is rising. Europe is in decline.
- Immigration is a big issue globally. Britons feel swamped by unfettered immigration from Europe. That strongly affected their votes. I’m perceiving that the immigration issue was bigger by far than economic questions.
- Social anger is increasing. Many people feel they have lost ownership of government and are at risk of losing their cultural identity. Results: anger, alienation, separation, and fear. This was apparent in the “Brexit” vote. It is also apparent in the current angry American presidential campaign.
- Low and lower interest rates. Brexit demonstrates yet again that any crisis is a giant gift to the Federal Reserve. At this point the Federal Reserve can keep interest rates as low as it wishes for as long as it wishes, and blame Brexit.
Here’s my article in the Salinas Californian, to discuss this further.
Early thoughts on BREXIT: first, the vote last week was a non-binding referendum, which means that it was simply an opinion poll. Second, everybody seems intent on stalling any implementation. Third, the central banks are lining up to throw money supply at the problem. So this could be a big deal…or not. What happens next is literally unpredictable but probably we’ll all muddle by as we so often manage to do. Despite the rhetoric, we may discover that this was a good event, a bad event, or a non-event. Nobody really knows. So far it’s essentially been a non-event. Stay diversified. We are following this closely.
Now that we seem to be experiencing the much-awaited stock market correction, we have a new crop of doomsayers preaching that the end of the (financial) world is nigh.
Of course I can’t say they are wrong, any more than I can say that a catastrophic earthquake won’t happen. However, history suggests that the more financial catastrophes are predicted by the experts, the more moderate our market declines are likely to be. Why does this happen? We don’t entirely know, but I’m guessing that it has something to do with investors’ emotional preparation. If they are hearing a lot about financial catastrophes, they are likely to be more cautious from the start, and less likely to be surprised.
Here’s one expert’s prediction, and it’s a genuine emotional slap. “Sell everything” is a very strong statement, especially when issued by a bank.
Here’s another, and it’s also frightening. Simply envisioning a stock market decline of 75% is painful.
Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if the S & P 500 DID decline 30%. The world faces many headwinds currently, and the financial markets have been both blindly optimistic and historically overvalued. But, historically, a bear market of -30% which passes in a few years is not catastrophic, in fact, normally, it tends to be a buying opportunity. In contrast, both these pundits are predicting 1929 or 2008 style train wrecks which take a decade or more to heal.
However, we CAN’T PREDICT THE TIMING OF SUCH AN EVENT ACCURATELY!!! If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past three years, it’s that statistics can identify probabilities, but they can’t deliver accurate forecasts relative to when the forecast will occur. Yes, it’s possible that the downturn which is now emerging in the stock and bond markets will be severe. But the predictive indicators aren’t really saying that now. They are suggesting that we may have a downturn, which won’t be completely catastrophic.
In fact, the Value Line Median Price Appreciation Potential, which has a very good historical record for accuracy, indicated that the S & P 500 was overvalued three years ago. Since then it’s suggested that stock markets have grown ever-more overvalued. Now it’s actually becoming slightly more attractive and less indicative of future stock market maelstroms.
In my experience, the worst financial market train wrecks happen when everyone thinks the world is just wonderful. That’s certainly not the case now. I’m maintaining our relatively defensive, highly diversified positions, and I’m still keeping us invested somewhat in the stock market. The reality is that we don’t really know what will happen.
Currently the stock markets continue their trend of overvaluation which has defined the past three years. Overvaluation doesn’t mean that a downturn is imminent. On the other hand, it implies that the stock markets are vulnerable. So we need to stay diversified, and we’ll all muddle by. This indicator has been useless for the past three years, so selling out and running away may not be viable choices. Meanwhile, there are genuine bargains in the energy and materials sectors. Also the European indices are becoming attractive. England’s FTSE 100 is trading at 3 year lows.