October 2013 - Forecasts & Trends

Forecasts & Trends is much more than just investment blog posts. You need to know the "big picture;" you need to have a "world view," especially in the post-911 world; and you need more information than ever before to be successful in meeting your financial goals. Gary intends to help you do just that.

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  • US Economy Mired in a Sea of Contradictions

    Consumer confidence has plunged over the last month, due in large part to the government shutdown and fear that the US might default on its debt – because of the ineptitude of our leaders in Washington. Normally, when consumer confidence plunges, we would expect a significant slowdown in consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of GDP.

    Yet according to the latest Gallup poll, consumers plan to spend even more this coming holiday season than in the past two years. This would seem to be a major contradiction. However, what this tells me that most Americans have figured out that there was never really a threat that the government would default on its debt, as I opined recently. That’s the good news.

    The bad news is that the delayed September unemployment report was yet another disappointment, even though the headline unemployment rate inched down to 7.2%. New jobs created in September were well below expectations. More importantly, the Census Bureau reported last week that there are now more Americans on welfare than those who have full-time jobs. That is very disturbing.

    Finally, I presume you noticed that our national debt skyrocketed by a record $328 billion in one day following the lifting of the debt ceiling earlier this month. The Treasury had to replenish all those “extraordinary measures” it used to fund the government  since we hit the previous debt ceiling back in May. Our national debt is on-track to nearly double under Obama.

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  • Is Your Stock Portfolio Up Over 30% This Year?

    This week’s Forecasts & Trends E-Letter beings with a simple question, but it’s one that can have a major effect on your financial well-being. Given that government intervention in the markets now seems to be built into our expectations, I’m going to recap one of our recommended money managers that has been able to navigate the QE3-induced market rally and is up over 30% year-to-date as of September 30.

    More importantly, the money manager I will talk about today - Niemann Capital Management - has significantly outperformed the S&P 500 Index since the company's inception in 1996, both on the upside and the downside.

    Yet return is only half of the equation. The other half is whether an investment strategy has the ability to manage risks by moving to cash when the market takes a downturn, which it eventually will. Niemann also covers both bases by offering a momentum-based strategy on the upside, and the ability to move to cash during downward corrections and bear markets.

    Best of all, Niemann’s not an amateur in this business.  Don Niemann and his staff have been successfully managing their Risk Managed Program for 17 years, so they’ve seen several different market cycles. I’m highlighting Niemann today because I think they are a viable alternative for investors who are in the market and getting nervous about a pullback, as well as investors on the sidelines who fear that the market may have risen too far too fast for them to participate.

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  • Consumer Confidence Plunging – Recession Ahead?

    The stalemate in Washington continues, the government remains in partial shutdown and the debt ceiling looms on Thursday. A bipartisan deal to fund the government until January 15 and raise the debt limit until early February is working its way through the Senate and could be voted on later today or tomorrow. It is unlikely that the Senate bill would pass in the House, which is reportedly working on yet another bill (see link below) that is unlikely to pass in the Senate.

    The mindless gridlock continues and the Treasury Department warns that it will run out of “extraordinary measures” by the end of this week and the statutory debt ceiling will be eclipsed on Thursday or Friday. While this will technically be a “default,” the Treasury will continue to collect enough revenue each day to pay the interest on all of our outstanding debt. Still, things are likely to get increasingly crazy in the next few days.

    As a result of all the hype and anguish over the shutdown and the debt ceiling, consumer confidence has plunged since the beginning of this month. The confidence index, as measured by Gallup, has declined by the most since September 2008 when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt at the height of the financial crisis. And it continues to fall. This raises fears that consumer spending will drop significantly and a recession could unfold just ahead.

    Following that discussion, we’ll look at some interesting facts surrounding our national debt which now stands at a mind-boggling $16.965 trillion. Since our national debt is Issue #1 on the minds of most Americans, the discussion below should be very timely.

    Finally, today’s E-Letter will print longer than usual because we have lots of charts and graphs.

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  • The U.S. Can’t Default On Its Debt… Right?

    The Treasury Secretary has warned that his agency will exhaust the “extraordinary measures” it has used to fund the government on October 17. On the Sunday talk shows, he warned of “catastrophic consequences” if Congress doesn’t raise the statutory debt ceiling by then. So, over the next nine days, you’ll be hearing ominous forecasts of what will happen if the US defaults on its nearly $17 trillion national debt, or even some of it. Sound familiar?

    Late last week, President Obama warned that he would not negotiate on the debt ceiling until Congress passes a “clean” continuing resolution to get the government funded and fully open again. Most Republicans are hanging onto their demand that the Obamacare mandate for individuals be delayed a year. If both sides hold out, increasing the debt ceiling could be tough.

    Somehow, these debt ceiling fights seem to get resolved at the very last minute, but the uncertainty can be brutal for the markets. In 2011, stocks lost around 19% of their value as this game of chicken played out. Some expect the current debt ceiling fight will be even more harrowing since Obama doesn’t have to worry about re-election.

    We’ll talk about all of this and more as we go along. Let’s begin by looking at the latest economic reports, or lack thereof, as was the case with last Friday’s unemployment report that was furloughed by the Obama administration, supposedly due to the government shutdown.

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  • Handing Down Your Legacy - A Special Gift For Readers

    This week I'm going to cover a topic that is likely to be unpopular but vital to any financial planning process - death. In our culture, we often put off talking about a time when we will no longer be around to enjoy family and friends. Yet it's important to plan for the inevitable and take steps to help ease the strain on loved ones left behind.

    There are many times when surviving spouses contact my firm after the death of a loved one with no idea how the family's finances are organized. Many times, they don't even know where important papers are located, much less how to manage the assets they represent. Because death is so difficult to talk about, those left behind often find themselves in the dark about what to do in case of an untimely death.

    Along with this week's E-Letter, I'm offering a FREE gift of our Handing Down Your Legacy e-booklet. This booklet serves as a resource that you can use to record all of your financial information so it will be available in one convenient place for loved ones left behind upon your death. While it's not pleasant to think about your own death, having your financial information in one place for your loved ones will prove invaluable when that time comes. Because this planning tool is so valuable, I encourage you to forward this E-Letter to your family and friends so they can also take advantage of this free offer.

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