This week’s letter will take a look at the growing number of ridiculous, inane, and otherwise nonsensical absurdities that fill the daily economic headlines. I have gone from the occasional smile to scratching my head now and then to “WTF” moments several times a week.
Last week, the uniformity of market internals shifted to an unfavorable condition. During the advancing half-cycle since 2009, zero interest rates encouraged speculation (and maintained favorable market internals) long after extreme overvalued, overbought, overbullish conditions emerged. But distinctions matter. Once the uniformity of market internals - the most reliable measure of speculation itself - is knocked away, those extremes are still likely to matter with a vengeance.
John Stoltzfus, chief investment strategist at Oppenheimer Asset Management, explains his top-down view of markets, the economy and asset allocation.
When you write about economics, you learn very quickly that the economy doesn’t care what you say about it. The forces that drive it are beyond any one person’s comprehension, much less control. But at the same time, the economy doesn’t work like a law of nature. Unlike gravity, for instance, the economy responds to human choices and preferences. We influence it, even if we don’t understand exactly how.
Encouraged by the novelty of zero-interest rates, not even the most extreme “overvalued, overbought, overbullish” conditions have been enough to derail the speculative inclinations of investors. Yet in every other way, this speculative episode is simply a more extreme variant of others that have come before it.
Lately, my life has been completely packed with speeches, meetings, and in-depth, often lengthy, conversations. Plus ongoing research and writing, of course. It all culminated Thursday afternoon at the beginning of a business meeting with the leadership team from a firm that will become a significant new business partner.
Though the seething pits of humanity at the New York Stock Exchange and Chicago Mercantile Exchange, with their traders all shouting at each other, are largely things of the past, that is still what markets basically are: a bunch of people shouting different things. A market price is the price at which the same amount of people are buying as are selling.
During the third quarter, the economy continued its slow, low inflationary expansion and the equity market continued to gain ground. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanded by an estimated 2.5%, and inflation hovered around 2.0%.
I don’t want to be glib, but our educational system is largely a failure in producing children and young adults ready for the future. Why we would think that more of that would be useful? What we need to do is completely rethink the whole concept of what we call education.
When world leaders talk, markets react. And with social media becoming mainstream, politicians have a new way of getting their message to the masses.