One thing is certain: numerous predictions about 2020 and 2021 in categories ranging, from the emergence of a pandemic, to continuance of the pandemic, how best to cure the pandemic, to rates of inflation, supply and demand in the economy, to the ability of technology to make accurate predictions… were wrong.
Possibly the largest factor affecting the US economy today, inflation, was not even on the list of biggest risks at the 2021 World Economic Forum.* This is not to poke fun at the predictors but rather an indication of how misguided predictions about risk can be.
Long time readers of TGIF 2 Minutes may remember the above photo* which accompanied a February 2018 post describing how inflation feels.
Earlier this year in March, a TGIF 2 Minutes post titled Get Ready for Corona Inflation described what could happen if government spending and stimulus continued unchecked. This week’s reported economic numbers underscore reality: a three-month continued surge in inflation that in several categories has not been seen since the early 1980’s. Lots of people reading this post may not have even been born in 1981 – which was the last time that restaurant meals and food prices rose this fast. To the younger generation, inflation may be learned painfully early in their careers. Inflation hurts EVERYONE, most of all the middle class and low-wage workers. For the wealthier, inflation gradually eats into returns on savings and investments.
Just like that it is July 2021! That means both the 2nd Quarter and 1st Half of the year have come to a close. Here are a couple of quick notes about the quarter including a few things that changed and did not change on the year.
Stock and bond markets along with portfolio performance continued to be strong. It seems there is less caution in the air with an economy continuing to come out of the pandemic. Although the expression “the most unloved bull market” is still on peoples’ minds. Reason being that worries abound as the US Fed and Treasury continue to pump record amounts of money into the US economy. And there are plans for the stimulus to continue. This state of affairs risks inflation among other economic maladies.
This week brought long-awaited although not unexpected news from the US Federal Reserve Board: Fed officials expect to raise interest rates from the current level of “near zero” by the end of 2023 instead of sometime in 2024. Earth-shattering? NO. Cause for paying attention? YES. Even though 2023 seems fairly distant, interest rates have already begun to increase. It is not too early to pay attention to, review, and understand your overall Asset Allocation. Thus, today’s title, “CYA”. Cover Your Asset Allocation.
As quick background, the US Federal Reserve System, or the “Fed”, has as its mandate to maximize US employment and allow for stable prices. Its primary tool for accomplishing these goals is the setting of short-term interest rates – which then translate into to interest rates for anything from 30-day Treasury bills to 10-year Treasury notes, to 15- and 30-year mortgages. Even debt issued globally watches the Fed’s interest rate policy.
The title of this edition could also be called “A Deeper Dive into Inflation.” Inflation is serious stuff – for people of all ages. Consider that lots of younger people (under the age of 45) have far less awareness of inflation because they have not experienced serious and sustained inflation in their lifetimes. Those of us in our 50’s and older have likely been stung by this invisible enemy – sometimes really stung!
The reason why inflation matters so much is because it is like a thief who literally takes a chunk of your money every time you go to buy something – especially something you really need or want. So then, you must reach deeper into your pockets to pay more for whatever you were about to buy. What if you were already spending pretty close to 100% of what you make? Or what if you are retired (or close to retirement) and are on a fixed income… and already figured out the life of your dreams and what it would cost?
It may be time to diversify – if that was not already the name of your game.
When is the last time that BONDS, no less the 10-year Treasury and TIPS, were the information we sought to read before we checked TSLA and AAPL??
Yes, when stock markets get rocky it is wise to look to the bond market, interest rates and the Fed for answers. Here is a less than 2-minute primer on several terms that matter. Oh, and my bond expert and bond trader friends will smile at the following statement: Everyone knows the “bond gals and guys” are smarter than the “equity gals and guys.” (PS. I started out as an equity gal.)
A quick post, as today’s message presents a challenging fact. Sometimes the truth hurts and better on a Friday than a Monday! Keep reading, though, for an inspiring conclusion.
Fact: Prices for discretionary (and non-discretionary) items are about to go UP. All one needs to look at is the spike in residential home prices that began in mid-2020 and is still going. Demand for suburban homes has skyrocketed due to the work-from-home and leave-big-cities trends, among other major factors. As learned in high school and college economics, as demand increases generally so do prices.
As we all “shelter in place” and our kids are in “cyber school” we take in news both of the day and of the bigger picture. Here are several personal financial-related cautionary thoughts and a quick graphic (see below). People way smarter than I say that data is key to decision-making and the ability to stick with a plan in crisis situations.
After a year – really a decade – of excellent returns in the stock market, and for 2019 in the stock AND bond markets, it makes sense to ask, “WHAT IF?” As in, what if certain events take place in the markets or economy that could spoil the last several years of positive portfolio returns? Naturally then, there would be a handful of guesses or responses to the “what if” questions.
This edition of TGIF 2 Minutes originally ran on February 16, 2018 just after the (now) temporary 12% decline in the Dow Jones, which ended as a 6% decline for the month.
Typically, I do not get too far “into the weeds” of technical terms in my TGIF 2 Minutes messages. However – this has not been a typical last two weeks in the markets – at least not “typical” as defined by the past several years of gradually UP markets (and portfolios) month after month. Thus, a short walkinto the weeds to talk a little about inflationis warranted – and may shed light on the volatility we have experienced lately with more likely to come over the next months and year or so.
See this visual of a rocket launch* – and not just any rocket launch, the Falcon Heavy launch as photographed by a friend of mine with years of clearance for NASA rocket launches – as an appropriate comparison to what inflation can look like. Continue reading “Inflation Revisited”