Well, I went to camp this summer, too. I go every year, and I always learn more than I can manage to remember. Camp Kotok is an invitation-only gathering of economists, market analysts, fund managers, and a few journalists. It takes place at the historic Leen’s Lodge in Grand Lake Stream, Maine. We fish, talk, eat, drink, and talk some more. It’s a three-day economic thought-fest (and more rich food and wine than is good for me or anyone else at the camp). For me, that’s about as good as life gets.
Today I am at Camp Kotok in a remote area of Maine where connectivity (the electronic kind) is limited. Rather than try to write a regular letter, I decided to hand the keyboard over to you – or at least to a few readers like you. I went through the feedback to my last few letters and picked some comments to share and respond to. These are a small fraction of the feedback we received, so forgive me if I omitted your brilliant submission! And because I want to get to the Camp Kotok opening reception in a bit, this letter will be shorter than usual.
Today I will show you a simple indicator that has an excellent recession-forecasting record, according to research by the Federal Reserve itself. Though the Fed’s own wacky policies may have weakened this early-warning system’s reliability, an interpretive adjustment can restore its usefulness.
I am concerned that another major crisis will ensue by the end of 2018 – though it is possible that a salutary combination of events, aided by complacency, could let us muddle through for another few years. But there is another recession in our future (there is always another recession), and it’s going to be at least as bad as the last one was, in terms of the global pain it causes.
I have lived through recessions and bear markets; I know what they look like. I wish I could forget what they feel like. They don’t come out of nowhere; there are always warning signs. Many investors choose to ignore those signs; I choose not to. I hope you make the same choice.
While there are bright spots, without major reforms the economy will drift lower, toward stall speed. Any outside shock – and several may be in the offing – could push us into recession.
In last week’s letter, John Mauldin had some harsh words for the Federal Reserve leaders whose hubris pushed us into our current monetary corner. Now, with no good choices left, all we can do is pick the least-bad one.
When a person or an organization fails – and of course we all do – the best response is to show some humility, identify the problem, and modify the strategy. The Fed is doing the opposite.
Ttoday we’ll have a little Minsky refresher and look at some recent danger signs. And I predict that we will soon see Minsky mentions popping up everywhere.
With all the usual disclaimers, today I will review some recent analysis from my reliable sources and let you take a peek into my worry closet.