The Fed's Newest Service: Portfolio Insurance

Every generation believes that they know more than the previous generation. Then, as they get older, they slowly start to realize that their elders aren’t as dumb as they thought. It's normal.

What's different today is that we seem to think, or at least many people do, that not only are we wiser today than everyone who has come before us but that humankind has been doing everything wrong for the past 5,000 years or so of civilization. Whether it's morally wrong to eat meat, or how many genders there are, or who can marry who, or whatever, it seems that we've been misguided since the beginning of time.

This attitude also manifests itself in the economic sphere. Based on the Federal Reserve’s recent actions, they appear to believe that everything we knew or thought we knew about economic cycles and bull and bear markets has been all wrong. Thousands of years of boom and bust cycles could have been eliminated, apparently, if only the proper monetary policy fixes had been applied.

Quite clearly, the Fed’s new mandate is that if economic growth starts to sputter, or the stock market moves beyond a correction, or some international crisis – Brexit, Megxit, Iran, North Korea, trade wars, you name it – threatens to upset the applecart, it will immediately turn its monetary policy tools into high gear.

Before now, economic growth and stock prices were pretty much allowed to take their own course, with some attempts to smooth out the worst excesses. It was considered to be both normal and healthy for markets and economies to go up and down periodically, as long as the general trend was upward. Now, however, that appears to be not only quaint, old-fashioned thinking but just plain wrong. There is no reason, the thinking goes, for us to suffer any economic pain as long as we have the policy tools to avoid it. Continue reading "The Fed's Newest Service: Portfolio Insurance"

Sorry, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus

So who looks more right now, President Trump or Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell? Based on the market’s reaction to last week’s Fed rate increase, we’d have to say it isn’t Powell.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t right, at least looking at the situation objectively and what Powell is supposed to be doing as Fed chair. While it’s certainly arguable that the Fed does need to take a pause from raising interest rates for a few months to fully digest the recent economic data, which is showing the economy slowing some – but nowhere near a recession – it is right to continue tightening, no matter how unpalatable that is to the market.

Quite frankly, most of the calls for the Fed to refrain from raising interest rates are blatantly self-serving. Of course, investors don’t want the Fed to ever tighten policy, because, as we’ve seen, higher rates mean lower stock prices. Not many people like that, especially when it’s been ingrained in them over the past 10 years that stock prices only go one way – up – and that “buying the dips” is a no-lose strategy to make up for past losses.

Welcome to reality, folks. Continue reading "Sorry, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus"

Why Eurozone Growth Could Trigger A U.S. Budget Crisis

By David Sterman of Street Authority

At this point in President Obama's first term, the world looked very different.

The still-anemic economy made it hard to fathom how we would ever get out from under a crushing government debt load. Government spending far surpassed revenue and concerns grew that our key financial backers (such as Chinese bondholders) would pull the rug out from under us.

Fast forward to 2015, and the notion that our national debt is any sort of real problem has simply vanished. Sure, the Republican party has been recently threatening government agency shutdowns, but this time the issue is immigration and not our nation's unstable finances. The percentage of Americans that believe that deficit reduction should be Washington's top priority has slid to a recent 64%, from 72% in 2013, according to a recent survey conducted by Pew Research.

However, events across the Atlantic Ocean could bring this issue right back onto the front pages. Continue reading "Why Eurozone Growth Could Trigger A U.S. Budget Crisis"

Article source: http://www.streetauthority.com/node/30524294

U.S. Economic Growth Lowered To A 2.4 Percent Annual Rate

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.4 percent annual rate last quarter, sharply less than first thought, in part because consumers didn't spend as much as initially estimated.

Severe winter weather is expected to further slow the economy in the current quarter. But as temperatures warm, most economists think growth will rebound beginning in the spring.

The Commerce Department on Friday reduced its estimate of economic growth in the October-December quarter from an initial 3.2 percent annual rate. The revised estimate of 2.4 percent annual growth is the weakest quarterly showing since the first quarter of 2013.

A key reason for the downgrade was that consumer spending is now estimated to have expanded at a 2.6 percent annual rate, below the initial estimate of 3.3 percent though still the strongest quarterly spending by consumers in nearly two years. Continue reading "U.S. Economic Growth Lowered To A 2.4 Percent Annual Rate"