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.

Forecasts & Trends

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  • Economy Is Improving, Yet Most Americans Are Pessimistic

    Today we tackle several issues. We start with the fact that several new surveys show that most Americans remain pessimistic about the economy and the direction the country is headed. This is despite the fact that the economy has been growing for the last five years, the unemployment rate is the lowest in seven years and the stock market has more than tripled since 2009.

    Yet despite these latest reports showing that most Americans are pessimistic about the future, the widely-followed Consumer Confidence Index has risen sharply in the last few years. Most analysts have no answer for this discrepancy. I have some specific thoughts on this contradiction, and I’ll do my best to explain it today.

    The much stronger than expected unemployment report on November 6 has sent the stock markets sharply lower in recent days, based on fears that the Fed will hike interest rates at its next policy meeting on December 15-16. I’ll offer my thoughts on what will determine the Fed’s decision next month. I wouldn’t bet money on a rate hike just yet.

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  • U.S. Debt To Hit $20 Trillion, Poverty Remains Rampant

    As long-time clients and readers are well aware, the explosion in our national debt has been one of my continuing themes over the last 30+ years, under both Republican and Democrat presidents. So today’s discussion is not a political issue, and it should worry us all.

    By the time President Obama leaves office in January 2017, the US national debt is projected to have almost doubled during his eight years in office. Put differently, Obama will have added as much to the national debt as all presidents before him combined. That is simply staggering!

    Throughout history, no major nation that has accumulated debt of more than 100% of Gross Domestic Product has ever paid it back. Instead, they have defaulted. So will we at some point if we don’t reverse course, which seems very unlikely.  As such, the question is when will the US default and what will trigger it?

    Saddest of all is the fact that, despite almost doubling the national debt over the last seven years, with much of the spending on social programs, the poverty rate in the US is near an all-time high; ditto for those living on food stamps. You would think that doubling the national debt and increasing entitlements should have dramatically lowered poverty and those living on food stamps. It didn’t.

    Over the last decade, we’ve also seen an explosion in the number of Americans who receive disability benefits. Unfortunately, Congress has watered-down the requirements to receive disability payments to the point that many able-bodied Americans are no longer working.

  • Is The U.S. Economy Really In Trouble? A Debate

    Today we’ll take a closer look at last Thursday’s disappointing GDP report for the 3Q. It turns out that the report was not quite as bad as the headline 1.5% growth suggested. Following that, we’ll look at some polls which show that about two-thirds of Americans are worried about the direction the country/economy is headed.

    Along that line, I have reprinted a very interesting column from The New York Times’ senior economics writer, Neil Irwin. In a debate with himself, Mr. Irwin discusses the many pros and cons regarding the economic outlook, and suggests that maybe we worry too much. While you might not agree with him, he quotes a lot of economic stats and the article will make you think.

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  • China & Fed Lift-Off Dominate Market Trends - Why?

    Is it just me, or does it seem like the global markets are preoccupied with two things: China’s economy and when the Federal Reserve will raise US interest rates? Sure, there are other things going on, but these two topics seem to be driving the financial markets more than any others this year.

    In that light, we will begin today with a look at China’s latest economic report last week which received mixed reviews among economists. While China’s economy is slowing, growth is still officially near a 7% annual rate. Even if it’s only 5-6%, as many believe, a recession is not likely in China anytime soon.

    Following that discussion, I will touch briefly on the Fed’s policy meeting that began today and ends tomorrow. Most Fed-watchers, including me, don’t expect any surprises tomorrow, but you never know. On the subject of the Fed, there is increasing talk about short-term interest rates going below zero. I’ll briefly explain what that’s all about.

    While China and the Fed seem to dominate the headlines and financial market trends, there is a very important report coming out this Thursday. That’s when we get the government’s first estimate of 3Q GDP. The pre-report consensus is at 1.7% with some estimates as low as only 1.0%. If correct, that means the strong growth in the 2Q (3.9%) did not carry over during the summer.

    Finally, I will close out today’s letter by summarizing the most interesting article I read last week.

  • Upcoming Debt Ceiling Fight Could Get Really Ugly

    Today we will focus initially on the upcoming battle over whether to increase the US debt ceiling. The government reached the current statutory debt limit of $18.1 trillion back in March. Since then, the Treasury has been paying the nation's bills by using so-called "extraordinary measures." But the Treasury warned recently that such funding will be exhausted by November 5, and that means another debt ceiling battle will play out between now and then.

    While we've seen this movie before and know how it will ultimately end, the political battle in the coming weeks could get really ugly, especially now that House Speaker John Boehner has announced that he is stepping down soon. With a lack of leadership in the House, this year's debt limit circus could be especially unsettling for the stock and bond markets.

    Next, we turn to the question of whether a recession is likely just ahead. While the economy grew by a better than expected 3.9% in the 2Q, more and more forecasters are downgrading their outlook for the second half of this year. The number expecting a recession in the months ahead rose sharply in a survey by Bloomberg at the beginning of this month. The good news is that about 85% of economists surveyed do not expect a recession to begin this year.

    As usual these days, there's a lot to think about - so let's get started.

  • September Jobs & Manufacturing Reports Disappoint Again

    As is becoming increasingly frequent, we will touch on several bases today, given that there’s so much going on these days. (Speaking of bases, How ‘bout them Texas Rangers!!) Hitting several topics in a single E-Letter makes it more interesting and fast-paced for me, and I hope the same is true for you. After all, YOU are what this is all about. That’s why I always value your input, positive or negative, so much.

    Today, we’ll start with the latest economic reports. I wish I could tell you they were encouraging – most were not. There was last Friday’s disappointing unemployment report for September – which was below expectations for the second month in a row. Then there was last Thursday’s decidedly downbeat report on US manufacturing, which was yet another big disappointment.

    These two negative reports have most Fed-watchers very confident now that there will not be a rate hike this year. Most now believe that “lift-off” won’t happen until early 2016. Yet the Fed may fear it will lose its credibility if it doesn’t make at least one move this year. So expect this debate to continue at least until December 17 when we will know for sure.

    Last Wednesday, the head of the International Monetary Fund warned that there are new reasons to be concerned about the global economy, and emerging economies in particular. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde issued the latest warning, along with another call for the US Fed to delay the first rate hike until next year. But does the Fed care what she thinks? Probably not.

    Finally, I have just completed a new SPECIAL REPORT: Seven Risk Factors That Could Drive the Markets Lower. Back in March and April, I saw the storm clouds gathering on the horizon and warned my readers to reduce their long-only (buy-and-hold) positions in stocks and equity funds.

    Still, most investors don’t understand why this six year-old bull market seems to have run off the tracks. In this new Special Report, I discuss in detail the unique combination of risk factors that are weighing on the markets today and may continue to do so.

    Best of all, I offer advice on what you can do to protect yourself should the latest market downturn continue. If you are looking for some clarity in this crazy market and some advice on how to protect your portfolio, be sure to download my latest FREE SPECIAL REPORT at the end of today’s E-Letter.

  • The Economy Surges Higher, But Is It For Real?

    Today we look at last Friday’s better than expected final report on 2Q GDP, which was revised from 3.7% to 3.9%. Best of all, this increase was largely due to increased consumer spending which accounts for almost 70% of GDP. Following the paltry 0.6% increase in GDP in the 1Q, this means the economy grew by 2.25% in the first half of this year.

    While a 3.9% jump in economic growth in the 2Q was welcome news, there is a growing consensus that such reports from the government may not be remotely accurate. The problem is, many agree, that the government’s “seasonal adjustments” to the monthly and quarterly data have gotten out of control, and the numbers reported are no longer reliable. We’ll talk about this below.

    Next, we’ll look into what many are calling a “flip-flop” on the part of Fed Chair Janet Yellen in the last two weeks on the subject of when short-term interest rates are likely to be raised. At the Fed’s latest policy meeting on September 17, they decided to postpone the first rate hike in nearly a decade, seemingly indefinitely. But then last Thursday, Yellen said lift-off will happen before the end of this year, and this sparked the latest selloff in the equity markets. So, what gives?

    I will close today with a few thoughts about the SuperMoon, BloodMoon and lunar eclipse we saw on Sunday night. I hope you got to view it.

    And finally, our latest WEBINAR with ZEGA Financial is now available for viewing on our website. ZEGA’s strategy for using options is one of the most interesting I have ever seen.

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  • On The Fed, Deflation, Government Shutdown & The Moon

    Once again this week, we touch on a variety of topics that piqued my interest over the last week. We begin with some further analysis of the Fed’s controversial decision to hold interest rates near zero last Thursday. While this was the topic of my Blog last Thursday, I have more analysis today that I think you’ll find interesting.

    One thing I conclude from the Fed’s decision last week is that Fed Chair Janet Yellen and a growing number of her colleagues are worried about deflation spreading to the US. Since most Americans living today have never experienced a prolonged period of deflation, we should talk about it at least briefly to understand why falling prices are bad for the economy.

    Next, as much as I hate to bring it up, we could be facing yet another government shutdown at the end of this month. Fiscal Year 2015 ends one week from tomorrow, and Congress has not passed a budget for FY2016. As a result, the government could effectively shut down starting on October 1. Here we go again.

    From there, we look at a new report which finds that the $13 trillion in government “debt held by the public” equals a record $107,000 per US household. Yet if we include all of our national debt of $18.4 trillion, that number goes up to over $150,000 per household.

    Finally, a rare combination of celestial events will grace the night sky later this month. NASA says a SuperMoon, a BloodMoon and a lunar eclipse will take place on the night of September 27, this coming Sunday. This rare event has happened only five times since 1900, most recently in 1982, and there won't be another one until 2033. Read about it at the end of today’s E-Letter so that you won’t miss it this Sunday night.

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  • Why More & More Americans Are Working In Retirement

    In my Blog last Thursday, I wrote about the astounding number of seniors 65 years and older who have not paid off their home mortgages. As a follow-up to that topic, a new report finds that more Americans than ever are working well into retirement. That’s where we will start today with a review of the latest numbers on those working beyond age 65.

    Following that, I will reprint the most interesting article I have read in some time. It is an article which discusses President Obama’s most likely legacy – one he will definitely be unhappy about. Interestingly, this article was written by Jeff Greenfield, the award-winning TV journalist, best-selling author and a Democrat. You will not believe what he has to say about Obama’s legacy. Let’s get started.

  • On The Economy, Inflation, China & Odds For Fed Liftoff

    The investment markets remain fixated on whether the Fed will hike interest rates for the first time in almost a decade on September 17. Stock market volatility spiked in late August and so far this month, with most global equity markets in “correction” territory. It remains to be seen if the latest stock market chaos will cause the Fed to delay lift-off until December or later.

    Other than global equity market weakness and below target inflation, other factors that would lead the Fed to tighten are in-line, although last Friday’s unemployment report for August could have been stronger. Today, we will examine the August jobs report, the strength of the US economy in general, inflation trends and the outlook for the US dollar. We’ll also take a look at the latest disappointing economic news out of China.

    We’ll end today with a look at the Fed Funds rate futures market to see what the probability is for a rate hike next week. At the end of last week, Fed Funds futures indicated an 81% chance of a rate hike on September 17, up from a 74% chance in August.

    It’s a lot to pack into one E-Letter, so let’s get started.

  • Stocks Fell Off A Cliff in Late August - What To Do Now

    What an absolutely CRAZY couple of weeks we’ve just been through! The collapse of stock prices around the world has stunned investors. By some measures, the plunge in the Dow and the S&P 500 in August was the worst in 75 years, even worse than the Crash of 1987. While I advised readers to reduce long-only equity exposure significantly in April and May, I was not expecting a 15% spike down in just a few trading sessions.

    Later in today’s E-Letter, I will introduce you to the latest money manager to make it on to our recommended list. This money manager specializes in buying and selling options on stock index contracts. This is one of the more unusual strategies I have seen over the years, but when you see the results, you’ll understand why I’m so excited to add ZEGA Financial to our stable of recommended Advisors.

    Before we get to the above issues, let me briefly comment on last Thursday’s better than expected report on 2Q Gross Domestic Product.

  • Population Growth & Productivity Headed in Wrong Direction

    Today we’ll focus on some longer-term economic data which shows, unfortunately, that the US economy is in a multi-decade slide that will be very difficult to reverse. Population growth and worker productivity – the keys to sustained economic growth – are both in decline, trends that are not likely to change anytime soon.

    US Gross Domestic Product averaged 3.74% annual growth from 1950 to 1990, but has since  slowed dramatically to average only 2.21% from 2010 to 2014. Even worse, worker productivity that averaged 2.5% annual growth from 1948 to 2007 has been slashed by over 50% to only 1.2% annually from 2010 to 2014.

    Throughout its history, the US has been a productivity powerhouse. US worker productivity growth averaged around 3% annually during the period 1996-2004, but fell to 1.5% in 2005-2012, and more recently has slipped even further to just above 1%.

    What’s at stake is the very future of America. Without faster growth, the US can’t create enough jobs for those who want them, and Americans will have to get used to much smaller increases in their paychecks. The middle class will likely shrink even more, and the poor would be even worse off. Are we doomed to a dimmer future?

    The question is, what can be done to reverse these troubling trends? The answers are not simple, nor politically correct in most cases. Another question is, do any of the politicians running today have the knowledge and/or conviction to tackle these critical problems?

    That’s what we will talk about today. But before we get to that discussion, let’s look at the Fed’s latest prediction for the economy in the 3Q. The latest GDPNow forecast will surprise you.

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  • Global Economic Slowdown - Implications For US Stocks

    The global economy is rolling over to the downside for the most part. The question is, will this global slowdown take the US economy down with it? While no one knows for sure, that possibility simply cannot be ruled out. If the softening in the global economy leads to a slowdown in the US, that will almost certainly result in a weakening of our stock markets.

    In my March 17 E-Letter, I recommended that investors in traditional “buy-and-hold” equity funds reduce stock market exposure (or hedge long positions partially or fully) due to increasing global risks at that time. I repeated that recommendation twice since then.

    Since March 17, the S&P 500 Index has moved sideways to lower as of this writing. Could the US equity markets be setting up for a significant downward correction? It would be unwise in my opinion to rule it out.

    The slowdown in the global economy and the implications for the US economy and our stock markets will be our main topic for today, but before we get to that, let’s take a quick look at last Friday’s unemployment report for July.

    At the end of today’s letter, I will briefly comment on Obama’s new Clean Energy Plan which will raise electricity costs significantly, if enacted, and give you a link to the full story. I will also comment further on the Dodd-Frank law I wrote about in my Blog last Thursday.

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  • "Renter Nation" - US Homeownership Hits 48-Year Low

    The government’s Census Bureau reported last week that the US homeownership rate fell to the lowest level in the last 48 years. It is indeed a sad awakening that the level of home ownership is now the lowest since 1967.

    Along this same line, the Census Bureau found that more Millennials (18 to 34 year-olds) are living with their parents today than at the worst point in the Great Recession. This is despite the fact that the economy and labor market conditions have improved in recent years.

    The issue is not that we aren’t forming more households. We are. The problem is that fewer and fewer households can afford to buy a house – despite record low interest rates – and more and more are renting rather than buying, whether by choice or by necessity.

    The fact that more and more Americans are choosing to rent their homes and apartments has resulted in rents going through the roof. It’s supply and demand, of course. But the fact that Americans are spending more and more on rent means that they have less and less to spend on buying other goods and services to spur the economy.

    The bottom line is that the American Dream of owning your own home is fading fast. This fact is affecting younger Americans the hardest. Way too many have given up the dream of owning their own home, as a recent Gallup poll has found.

    Today, we’ll look at this disturbing trend and try to discern why it is happening.

  • Thursday’s GDP Report May Hold Big Surprises

    The next few days should be an interesting time in the markets. The Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC) is meeting today and tomorrow and will release its latest policy statement at the conclusion of the meeting. While it is not expected that the Committee will vote to raise the Fed Funds rate at tomorrow’s meeting, Fed Chair Janet Yellen has been talking hawkishly about a rate hike of late.

    Friends, business associates and clients increasingly ask me: Why is the Fed so intent on raising interest rates? The US economy is not that great, the global economy is slowing down, inflation is practically nonexistent and commodity prices are signaling deflation. So why on earth is the Fed hell-bent on raising rates when much of the world is doing just the opposite? I’ll tell you why as we go along today.

    Then on Thursday, we get the first estimate of 2Q GDP from the Commerce Department, and there is an unusually wide range of pre-report estimates. While there is broad agreement that the economy bounced back after the disappointing 1Q rate of -0.2%, some forecasters believe the 2Q estimate will be less than 1%, while others believe it will be north of 3%. That’s a huge spread! The Atlanta Fed’s rolling “GDPNow” indicates 2Q growth of 2.4%.

    Yet perhaps the most important news of this week will be the Commerce Department’s annual revisions to its GDP numbers going back several years on Thursday. While such revisions happen every year, this year’s revisions and changes are expected to be more significant than usual as the government tries to smooth-out “seasonal adjustments.” Many expect that the 1Q GDP estimate of -0.2% could be revised to a slightly positive number. This will be big news.

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