Gary D. Halbert

  • Fed Continues to Overstate the Growth of the Economy – Why?

    Two prominent Fed officials gave major speeches over the last week, and both suggested that the US economy will surge in the second half of this year. Both indicated that this newfound growth in the previously moribund economy means the Fed will raise...
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  • US Worker Productivity In Serious Decline -- The Reasons Why

    The Labor Department reported earlier this month that US worker productivity, which measures hourly worker output, declined for the third consecutive quarter at the end of June, the worst showing since the late 1970s. The productivity rate also declined for the 12 months ended June. This news came as a surprise to most forecasters who were sure that the productivity rate would have snapped back strongly in the 2Q.

    There is near-universal agreement among economists that worker productivity is the most important determinant in whether our incomes and living standards rise or fall over the years. If productivity continues to fall, the economy will be hamstrung, incomes will stagnate and our living standards will deteriorate in the years ahead.

    Interestingly, there is not near-universal agreement on what is causing the current extended period of falling productivity, nor what should be done to reverse this critical trend. Today I will devote this space to explaining why productivity is moving in the wrong direction and what should, and should not, be done about it.

    Given the enormous impact productivity has on our economy, our incomes and our living standards, I would hope that more Americans understand this issue better before they head to the polls in what will be the most critical presidential election in many years. Therefore, feel free to forward today’s E-Letter to as many people as you see fit.

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    Posted to Forecasts & Trends by Gary D. Halbert on 08-23-2016
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  • Clinton & Trump Unveil Very Different Economic Plans

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New York billionaire Donald Trump both announced their major plans for the economy last week, if elected president in November. As you might expect, the two plans are very different. I will summarize both as we go along today, and you can draw your own conclusions.

    Before we get to that discussion, I want to bring to your attention the fact that the Atlanta Fed is forecasting a significant improvement in the US economy for the current 3Q. As you may recall, the Atlanta Fed produces a real-time estimate of the US economy which is called “GDPNow.” As of last Friday, the GDPNow is forecasting a jump to 3.5% in GDP in the 3Q.

    Keep in mind that US GDP was only 0.8% in the 1Q and 1.2% in the 2Q. A strong jump to 3.5% in the 3Q would be almost triple the anemic 1.2% in the 2Q. The obvious question is, what is the Fed seeing so far in this July to September quarter that is making it so confident? That’s what we’ll talk about just below.

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    Posted to Forecasts & Trends by Gary D. Halbert on 08-17-2016
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  • Another Strong Jobs Report, But Economy Remains Weak

    Last Friday’s unemployment report for July was significantly better than expected for the second month in a row. This has led many analysts to upgrade their forecasts for growth in the second half of this year. Yet as I will argue below, forecasters often put far too much weight on one or two monthly economic reports that can be revised significantly in subsequent months.

    While new jobs were substantially above the pre-report consensus in June and July, let us not forget that job creation in May was almost non-existent, the lowest in several years. The fact is, the US economy continues to limp along at less than 2% growth.

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    Posted to Forecasts & Trends by Gary D. Halbert on 08-09-2016
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  • GDP Stunner: 2Q Growth Was Less Than Half of Forecast

    The Commerce Department reported last Friday that gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the US, rose only 1.2% (annual rate) in the second quarter. That was less than half the pre-report consensus of 2.6%. This was one of the largest misses by forecasters in quite some time. I'll break down the report as we go along today. I will also discuss what the Fed's reaction to the disappointing GDP report is likely to be.

    At the end of today's letter, I will give you a link to a WALL STREET JOURNAL article on Sunday which claims that while Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton compromised national security by urging US technology companies to fund Russian research for military purposes. Assuming it’s true as the Journal claims, it will easily be the most serious scandal ever for Ms. Clinton. And it couldn't come at a better time!

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    Posted to Forecasts & Trends by Gary D. Halbert on 08-02-2016
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  • "How America Lost Its Mojo" - Some Troubling Trends

    In my business, I read a lot more than the average American, in large part due to my “speed-reading” training in college. Most of what I read is about the economy, markets, financial matters, world events and yes, politics among other topics.

    I especially enjoy reading well-written articles on shifting demographic trends in the US and around the globe, which give us insights regarding what the country and the world might look like in 10-20 years. I recently read just such an article on the rapidly changing demographics in America and their long-term implications.

    After thinking about it for several weeks, I decided to reprint it for you today. I think you will find it very interesting.

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    Posted to Forecasts & Trends by Gary D. Halbert on 07-19-2016
  • Treasury Yields Hit Record Lows – Global Flight To Safety

    It is so, so tempting to write about Hillary Clinton’s latest news today that I can hardly stand it. We had Bill Clinton’s “chance” meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the Phoenix airport last Thursday. Then the FBI...
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  • Stocks At Record High, Treasuries At Record Low - A Rarity

    Stocks as measured by the S&P 500 and the Dow have cruised to new record highs over the last week. Treasury yields on 10-year notes and 30-year bonds moved to all-time record lows last week. Historically, these two things rarely happen at the same time. In fact, the S&P 500 has hit a record high when the 10-year Treasury note yield was below 2% only once in the last 40 years.

    The fact that stocks are at new highs and Treasury yields are at new lows is largely due to red-hot foreign demand for US securities. There are continued worries about the UK and Europe in the wake of "Brexit" and rising concerns about China's economy. With negative interest rates spreading around the world, foreign investors are gobbling up Treasuries which still have positive yields and adding US equities as well. Some say this is the "New Normal." But is it?

    That's what we'll talk about today.

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    Posted to Forecasts & Trends by Gary D. Halbert on 07-12-2016
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  • Is "Brexit" The Beginning of the End For European Union?

    Just about everywhere I go lately people ask me what I think about “BREXIT” and the ramifications it will have for Great Britain, Europe and even the United States. My standard answer since the vote on June 23 is that I don’t think about it much.

    The reason is that, other than the vote itself wherein the “Leave” crowd won 52%-48% over the “Remain” crowd, nothing else has happened to make Brexit the law of the land, and may not happen for months to come. British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned the day after the vote didn’t go his way, but offered to stay on until October if need be to find a replacement.

    In order to officially initiate its withdrawal from the European Union, Britain must invoke “Article 50” of the 2007 Lisbon Treaty with the EU, and it now looks likely that such a notification won’t happen until after the new Prime Minister is in office. And then withdrawal from the EU is a two-year process after that.

    I last wrote about Brexit on Thursday, June 23, the day of the referendum, in my Blog. At that time, I noted that some of the final polls showed a slim lead for the Leave crowd. I also noted that the Leave crowd in Britain is part of a “global anti-establishment movement” that is growing around the world – which has brought us the likes of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

    While the Brexit outcome roiled the global equity markets for the first couple of days following the vote, some of those losses have been recovered. Frankly, I expect Brexit will fall out of the headlines soon, if it hasn’t already, and the media attention for the rest of this month will be on the GOP convention on July 18-21 and the Democratic convention on July 25-28.

    Nevertheless, I will give you my thoughts and those from others I read on Brexit as we go along today. Just keep in mind that we don’t have any idea when Brexit will happen, under what terms it will happen or even if it will happen at all.

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    Posted to Forecasts & Trends by Gary D. Halbert on 07-06-2016
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  • "BREXIT" - Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

    The citizens of Great Britain will make a monumental decision that will be felt worldwide if they vote to leave the European Union (EU) next week on June 23. If the Brits vote for “Brexit” it could eventually lead to the end of the EU and the euro. It could potentially lead to serious turmoil in the world financial markets in the days and weeks following the referendum if the vote is to leave.

    Yet if Brexit passes, it does not mean that Britain will leave the EU immediately. We are told that there will be a transitionary period which could last a year or longer. Maybe this will limit the potential turmoil in the markets, but that’s far from certain. In any event, I think most Americans should understand the long-range implications of next week’s key vote.

    I have read a great deal about what may happen if the Brits vote to leave the EU. It is clear that Brexit is part of a groundswell of dislike around the developed world for all things “Establishment.”  This growing trend also explains in part why characters like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders did so well in the election primaries.

    To help us understand these trends and the important implications, I have chosen to reprint a very good analysis on this subject today. It appeared in TIME Magazine online last Friday and is written by Frank Luntz.  Mr. Luntz is a well-known political analyst, professional pollster, author and contributor to CBS News and the Fox News Channel among others.

    You should read it. I will be writing more on this key topic in the weeks and months ahead.

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    Posted to Forecasts & Trends by Gary D. Halbert on 06-15-2016
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  • More Young Adults Live With Parents Than Ever Before

    A new report from the Pew Research Center this week found that American adults aged 18 to 34 were more likely to be living in their parents’ home than living with a spouse or partner in their own household. The report, based on Census Bureau data...
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  • Fed: Almost Half of US Households Have Under $400 Saved

    We begin today by looking at the recently released Federal Reserve study on the economic conditions of 50,000 randomly-selected US households. This annual survey attempts to capture a snapshot of the financial and economic well-being (or not well-being) of US households. Let me warn you upfront that some of the findings are really bad.

    Following that discussion, I will reprint a recent study by FORBES which concludes that Americans who make over $100,000 pay almost 80% of all federal income taxes. That’s right. According to IRS data, Americans earning over $100,000 paid 79.5% of federal income taxes for 2014. This proves that top income earners pay more in income taxes than those who earn less.

    Finally, I have two great opinion pieces in SPECIAL ARTICLES at the end that everyone should read, regardless of who you will be voting for in November.

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    Posted to Forecasts & Trends by Gary D. Halbert on 05-31-2016
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  • Gun Sales In America Hit Another Record In March

    Sales of firearms in the US hit an all-time record in March, but that’s not really a surprise since monthly sales of guns have broken the previous record for 11 consecutive months . This year (2016) is widely expected to be the largest year for...
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  • Second-Longest Bull Market Ever, Yet Investors Remain Skittish

    If the US stock markets don’t collapse between now and Friday, this will be the second-longest bull market on record. Really. The current bull market began in March 2009 and will have lasted for 2,608 days (7.2 years) on Friday. If so, it will top the former second-longest bull market which ran from 1949 to 1956 (2,607 days). That’s quite impressive.

    Yet despite the stock market’s very impressive returns since the end of the Great Recession, American investors have unloaded stocks at a near-record pace. According to a new Gallup poll, only just over half of American households say they currently have any money invested in the stock market, matching the lowest ownership rate in the poll’s 19-year history.

    The latest Gallup poll found that only 52% of American households have any money invested in stocks (individual stocks, equity mutual funds, ETFs, etc.), down from a high of 65% in late 2007. Unfortunately, young people are the ones with the lowest investment in stocks. There’s a lot to talk about on this subject.

    Yet before we get to that discussion, I want to bring to your attention a new report which found that almost half (45%) of Americans now pay zero in federal income taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center. The reasons may surprise you. Let’s get started.

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    Posted to Forecasts & Trends by Gary D. Halbert on 04-26-2016
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  • The Unprecedented Real Estate Bubble In China

    Most economists and financial writers agree that the US has the strongest economy among the developed nations, even though we’re only growing at about 2%. Despite the slow growth, most don’t believe we are facing a recession anytime soon. However, most economists and financial writers also agree that a serious external shock could quickly throw the US economy into a recession and take most of the rest of the world with it.

    The question is, what kind of a shock might it be? Some point to Greece, others to Brazil, both of which have flirted with bankruptcy. Others worry about a hard landing for China’s economy, which some fear would be enough to throw the US economy into a recession.

    Yet there is another totally different risk in China that most Americans know nothing about. It’s the bubble in Chinese real estate. Chinese citizens are up to their eyeballs in real estate and almost nothing else. Prices have skyrocketed in recent years into what some are calling a giant bubble.

    If that bubble bursts and home prices plummet, millions of Chinese would see their net worth evaporate.

    This problem is much larger and potentially more devastating than most economists and forecasters realize. My clients and readers need to know about this, so that’s what we will talk about today. But before we do, let’s take a look at the latest economic news out of China from last Friday.

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    Posted to Forecasts & Trends by Gary D. Halbert on 04-21-2016
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