Forecasts & Trends

Forecasts & Trends is much more than just investment blog posts. You need to know the "big picture;" you need to have a "world view," especially in the post-911 world; and you need more information than ever before to be successful in meeting your financial goals. Gary intends to help you do just that.

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  • U.S. Supreme Court - 2015 Will Be A Blockbuster Year

    The Supreme Court is poised for a blockbuster year in 2015 – and the list of high-profile cases could keep growing. Already, the Court is set to rule in a key case that threatens to wreak havoc on Obamacare. In addition, the justices will consider important cases regarding religious freedom, free speech, and limits on political fundraising.

    That mix of cases poses big risks for liberals, who were caught off guard by the Court’s willingness/enthusiasm to take on another high-stakes Obamacare battle much sooner than expected. Yet conservatives have a lot on the line as well. Under mounting pressure, the High Court agreed to hear a landmark the case on same-sex marriage once again – one that could clear the way for same-sex couples to legally marry in every state.

    We will take a look today at the most high-profile cases that the Supreme Court will hear this year, and what lies at stake in each of them. I wish Americans paid more attention to the Highest Court in the land.

    Before we get into that discussion, let’s take a look at the minutes from the most recent Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting on January 27-28. Those minutes revealed that several members on the Committee have new concerns about the economic recovery, especially in light of falling inflation and the rising US dollar. While the minutes didn’t say so specifically, it is clear that several members of the Committee now question whether short-term interest rates should be raised at all this year.

    Finally, we’ll look at the federal court decision in Texas last week that stopped President Obama’s executive action on immigration dead in its tracks, at least for now. This is an interesting development, and it remains to be seen if Obama can get this decision reversed.

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  • The Most Successful Public Company In The World

    Today we focus on the most successful and profitable company in the entire world. It just happens to be an American company, but many of us have never heard of it. If you had invested $1 in this company in 1968, your investment would have soared to $6,638 at the end of last year. I think you’ll be surprised to see which company this is.

    Following that discussion, I will address the growing trend of “socially-responsible” investing. That is, not investing in so-called “sin” stocks such as tobacco, alcohol, gambling, firearms, etc. A new report from Credit Suisse points out that there is a cost associated with socially-responsible investing – in the form of lower performance returns.

    I bring this to your attention, not in an attempt to discourage it, but to point out that there is a cost involved in “politically-correct” investing. In my 35+ years in the financial business, I have never seen an analysis that compares socially-responsible investing to investing in so-called sin stocks. I think you’ll find it very interesting.

    But before we jump into those topics, I want to briefly revisit the likelihood that the Federal Communications Commission, under orders from President Obama, will vote a week from Thursday to take control of our precious Internet. It now looks inevitable that the federal government will enact what may prove to be one of the largest power grabs in history!

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  • Deflation Is Spreading In Europe – Is America Next?

    US consumer prices fell in December by the largest amount in six years, reflecting another big monthly decline in gas prices and providing further evidence of falling inflation pressures. The Labor Department said Friday that its Consumer Price Index dropped 0.4% in December, the largest one-month drop since December 2008.

    Consumer prices also fell in the Eurozone in December by 0.2% for the first time in over five years. Given that consumer prices in the US and Europe went negative in December, we are hearing a lot more talk about deflation – which is a general decrease in prices for goods and services.

    A general decline in prices may sound good on paper but when deflation takes hold, it can wreak havoc on the economy. That’s because consumers and businesses have an incentive to delay purchases and investment since prices are expected to fall further. Deflation strangles borrowers because their debts get harder to repay. Just ask Japan.

    With the growing concern about the threat of deflation, I am receiving more requests from clients and readers to address it. While I don’t think deflation will take hold in the US anytime soon, it is growing rapidly in parts of Europe, one of our largest trading partners, and elsewhere. So today, we will focus on deflation and the trouble with falling prices.

    Before we go there, I would like to discuss two important recent economic reports. The first is last Friday’s unemployment report for January which was widely hailed by the mainstream media. The other recent report we’ll look at is the January Consumer Confidence Index which surged higher than anyone expected.

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  • President Proposes $4 Trillion Budget & New Tax Increases

    Most every year about this time, I criticize the sitting President of the United States for submitting an ever-larger federal budget that almost always includes a big deficit which adds to our massive national debt. I have criticized every president for this going all the way back to Ronald Reagan who also ran budget deficits, especially in his second term. Yes, I even criticized “The Gipper” who sparked my initial interest in politics way back in 1976.

    Given my long history of speaking out on this issue, I see no reason to make an exception today. On Monday, President Barack Obama submitted the largest proposed federal budget in history to Congress. In the past, most presidents who were shellacked in the mid-term elections tended to compromise in order to work with the opposition in Congress. Not this president!

    The president’s proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2016 is a whopping $3.99 trillion which would increase spending for government agencies by a whopping 7% and includes numerous onerous tax increases to pay for most of it. Yet even with the tax increases, the FY2016 deficit is projected to be $474 billion.

    The reality is that this is all simply political theatre. The president knows he won’t get nearly all of the new spending increases and taxes on the wealthy and corporations he proposes, what with a Republican-controlled Congress. But he does throw a very large bone to his liberal political base, while making the Republicans look like the “Party of No.” 

    In any event, I’ll briefly summarize the president’s latest record-large budget proposal today, and you can make of it what you will. But before we go there, let’s take a look at last week’s disappointing 4Q GDP report and what transpired at the Fed’s first policy meeting of 2015.

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  • European Central Bank Embraces QE, For Better Or Worse

    Last Thursday, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced the much-anticipated launch of a sovereign bond buying program at the rate of €60 billion ($70 billion) per month known as “quantitative easing.” The ECB's QE program could be as much as one trillion euros over the next two years. The ECB said the purpose for the larger than expected QE effort is to head-off deflation and stimulate the struggling Eurozone economy.

    It remains to be seen, however, whether the bond buying program will actually achieve its goals. It certainly hasn't worked as expected in the US, the UK or Japan. There are in fact some reasons to believe that QE will face even stronger headwinds in Europe, not to mention that the program is likely to devalue the Eurodollar which is already in freefall. We will look at all of these issues and more as we go along today.

    Despite the benefits of sharply lower energy prices, two international organizations revised their global growth forecasts lower last week. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank both reduced their growth forecasts for 2015 and 2016. While both organizations still expect global growth above 3% overall this year, they are becoming more concerned about recessions in Europe, South America and elsewhere. Details to follow.

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  • Swiss Franc’s Surge = Chaos In Global Currency Markets

    Last Thursday, the Swiss National Bank stunned the financial world by decoupling the Swiss franc from the euro. This surprise move sent the franc up almost 40% against the euro in one day, although it didn’t close that high (up 19%). Nevertheless, many currency traders, banks and brokerages were left with devastating losses. I’ll give you the details below.

    But first, let’s take a look at the recent US economic data which has been disappointing overall. Following the stronger than expected GDP growth of 5% (annual rate) in the 3Q, the US economy seemed to stumble a bit in the 4Q. We’ll cover the latest reports before shifting our attention to Europe and Switzerland in particular.

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  • Is The US Treasury Market Rigged? Some Say Yes

    The last time federal regulators took a hard look at how Wall Street banks and brokers trade US Treasury securities – the largest bond market on the planet by a longshot – a little company called Google Inc. was just starting out.

    That was 1998, and the technological leaps since then – including ones that are now transforming bond markets – have left government regulators in the dust. In particular, executives from three of the biggest market-making firms in Treasuries say an electronic bait-and-switch tactic known as “spoofing,” – which is already the focus of a manipulation allegation at a major futures exchange – needs to be investigated in cash Treasuries (OTC, etc.) and related futures.

    Rules first enacted in 1986 that have gone virtually untouched since then are allowing certain high-tech firms to outmaneuver less-savvy rivals and are manipulating bond prices. They say a lack of cohesive regulation and technology to monitor “high-frequency traders” is making the world’s biggest government bond market more dangerous for everyone.

    Today I am reprinting an eye-opening article that appeared in Bloomberg/Businessweek on December 11 on the subject of manipulation in the Treasury market. Since then, I’ve seen no one else touch it. I’ve googled this subject dozens of ways… and very little on this topic comes up.You can read it yourself, and I think you will find it very interesting and troubling.

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  • Economic Optimism Abounds As Crude Oil Plunges

    Each year at this time, we see a plethora of fresh forecasts for the New Year, and this year is certainly no exception, especially with the recent implosion in oil prices. There is widespread agreement that sharply lower energy prices will provide a boost to the global economy this year, especially for oil-importing nations including the US.

    As a result, almost all of the New Year forecasts that I have seen in recent days have been upbeat and revised higher with regard to the US economy. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea today to revisit the recent developments in the oil and energy markets over the last six months. What we have witnessed since last summer has been nothing short of breath-taking, to say the least!

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  • Handing Down Your Legacy - A Special Gift For Readers

    As we prepare to celebrate the New Year, now is a good time to make sure that your affairs are in order and all of your financial information is recorded in one convenient electronic file that can be updated or changed at any time. And we believe we have developed the best program on the market today to do so.

    Today I am going to address several important financial planning issues everyone should consider, whether you’re young, old or somewhere in between. I will also tell you how you can receive our free E-booklet entitled, “Handing Down Your Legacy” that will help your loved ones manage your finances after your death. Sadly, this is often much more of a difficult burden than most people realize, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

    Our Handing Down Your Legacy is a convenient electronic document that makes it easy to put all of your important information in one place and makes it easy to update. There are several products on the market that allow you to consolidate all of your financial information in one place, but we developed Handing Down Your Legacy to allow you to include not only your investment records but also your final wishes.

    We believe our product is simply the most comprehensive and easy to use program available today. And best of all, it is absolutely FREE and there is no obligation on your part. So do yourself a favor and download Handing Down Your Legacy today. And make it your New Year’s resolution to complete it as soon as possible. Also, feel free to forward this E-Letter to your family and friends who may also benefit from this useful resource.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

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  • Government Spent $29,000 Per US Household in 2014

    A new study from The Heritage Foundation found that out-of-control spending in Washington amounted to more than $29,000 per household in fiscal year 2014. Today, I will reprint the highlights of that excellent report. As you will see below, government spending has topped $3.5 trillion in each of the six years that President Obama has been in office.

    The budget deficit for FY2009 more than tripled to over $1.5 trillion, thanks in large part to Obama’s $800+ billion “stimulus program” which did little to create new jobs or spark the economy. Budget deficits remained above $1 trillion for 2010, 2011 and 2012. While deficits have come down significantly in the last two years, our debt trajectory remains on a collision course as the latest Heritage Foundation study illustrates.

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  • Plunging Oil Prices Spark Fears of Global Recession

    Today, we touch on several bases. No doubt everyone reading this noticed that stocks tanked last week, and now seem to be moving in lockstep with oil prices. While consumers welcome cheaper gas and heating oil prices, there is a growing fear that the collapse in oil prices may be a harbinger of a global recession.

    Despite worries that the oil price plunge is pulling down stock prices, the latest Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index soared to a near eight-year high this month. Expectations for a better job market helped power the Index from 88.8 in November to 93.8 this month, well above expectations.

    Finally, I am sad to report that our national debt topped $18 trillion on November 28 according to the Treasury Department. It was not widely reported by the mainstream media, of course. While our annual budget deficits have come down significantly from the first four years of the Obama administration, we are still on-track to hit a whopping $20+ trillion national debt by 2019.

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  • November Jobs Report Wasn’t So Great After All

    Today we'll take a close look at the November employment report last Friday, which was a positive surprise.  The 321,000 new jobs added last month was the highest reading since January 2012 and was substantially above the pre-report consensus of 230,000. The headline unemployment rate remained at 5.8%. The question is, will such job growth continue, or was this a one-month, seasonal anomaly?

    Yet not all of the news in the November jobs report was positive. While the headline new jobs number was 321,000, a deeper dive into the data reveals that there were only 4,000 more Americans working in November than in October (details to follow). Full-time jobs declined by 150,000, while lower-paying part-time positions increased by 77,000 – that’s not good.

    President Obama praised the jobs report and suggested that the economy is nearing full employment. The truth is, the economy is still far from full employment. The unemployment rate would have to fall to 5% or lower for that to happen, and it is not expected to do so anytime soon.

    And speaking of the president, rumors are swirling in Washington that Obama is seriously considering new sanctions against Israel, our strongest ally in the Middle East. The Obama administration is opposed to Israel’s decision to build new homes in East Jerusalem, and that this construction“undermines the peace process.” Now, apparently, they are considering sanctions against Israel. That is preposterous!

    Finally, our recent live webinar with Wellesley Investment Advisors is now available for viewing on our website. Wellesley invests exclusively in convertible bonds and is the only convertible manager we recommend. Whether you are knowledgeable about convertible bonds or not, I highly recommend that you watch this presentation.

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  • On The Economy, Oil Prices & Obama’s Temper Tantrum

    Today we'll touch on several bases, as I'm often known to do. We will start with the latest news on the economy, which is decidedly upbeat, with GDP coming in well above-trend for the last two quarters. The question is whether the latest two quarters of above-average growth are a sign of more good things to come, or are they just the catch-up results of the disappointing 1Q decline due to the severe winter weather?

    Even with the strong growth in the 2Q and 3Q, if we look back further, say to 2010, GDP growth over that period is still below trend at around 2.5% - which is unexceptional. So it remains to be seen if the economy is fully back on track.

    Some argue that the surge in the economy of late is largely the result of the huge decline in oil and gasoline prices. No doubt that has been a significant factor. Some analysts estimate that the drop in oil prices from above $100 a barrel to $67 is the equivalent of a $125 billion tax cut, which is a significant boost to the economy. And most forecasters believe that oil prices will remain low for some time to come, as I will discuss today.

    Finally, I can't help but comment on the deluge of unpopular actions taken by President Obama in just the last month. Unlike most recent presidents who suffered such a defeat in the mid-terms – including Reagan, Clinton and Bush(43) – and then compromised with the opposition, Obama is doubling-down on his unpopular policies. Even worse, he says he's not done yet and promised to veto any bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

    To me, this rash of controversial decisions amounts to a “temper tantrum” on the part of the president, in reaction to the drubbing that the Democrats suffered in the mid-term elections. I'll share my thoughts on why this is happening now as we go along today.

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  • Median Household Income Down Last 15 Years - Why?

    One of the most puzzling questions in economics today is why did median household income peak in 1999 and has yet to recover? Most analysts cite the fact that we had two serious recessions in the space of a decade, including the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

    While the Great Recession ended in June 2009, real median household income (adjusted for inflation) remains well below the peak of around $57,000 in 1999 and has been below $52,000 in each of the last three years. The question is, why?

    The standard answers, especially among progressives, are: 1) the sluggish economic recovery; 2) growing income inequality; 3) the failure to raise the minimum wage; 4) globalization and outsourcing; 5) corporate greed; and other variations of economic pessimism.

    However, there are some other very obvious, but mostly overlooked, factors that can help explain why median household income has declined over the last 15 years that have nothing to do with economic stagnation. The fact is that there have been significant demographic changes in the composition of US households.

    Economists Mark Perry and Alex Pollock, who also are contributors at the American Enterprise Institute, offered a very interesting analysis on median household income last week, and I will summarize their latest work for you today. I think you'll be surprised.

    Also, we'll look at the reasons why the marriage rate in the US is now at a 93-year low, according to the Census Bureau. The marriage rate for those 18 and older has fallen to a new low of only 50.3%, down from the peak of 72.2% in 1960.  And finally, we'll end with an interesting article from Larry Kudlow on the subject of marriage.

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  • Global Economy Worsening, But America is on Top

    With President Obama making controversial moves on several fronts this month, it is tempting to go all politics this week. The president is threatening to grant defacto amnesty to five or six million illegal aliens, via Executive Order, even though he knows this is unpopular among the American people. It’s as if he’s in full denial regarding the landslide midterm election results.

    In addition, he signed a controversial climate deal with China that will hurt the US economy and allows China to continue building more coal-fired power plants and increase emissions annually until 2030. Obama and the media hailed it as one of his landmark accomplishments. It wasn’t.

    At the Asian summit he attended last week, Mr. Obama pledged to give $3 billion of US taxpayer money to emerging countries to help them work toward clean energy and tackle climate change. Hopefully, Congress will block that pledge.

    And if you missed it, Obama announced last week that he wants the federal government to regulate the Internet. That would be a disaster! More details as we go along today.

    But rather than devote the entire E-Letter to politics, let’s start with a new report on the slowing global economy. According to the latest survey from Bloomberg, the global economy is in the worst position in two years. Fears of deflation are growing in Europe and elsewhere.

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