November 2014 - 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.

Forecasts & Trends

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  • Median Household Income Down Last 15 Years - Why?

    One of the most puzzling questions in economics today is why did median household income peak in 1999 and has yet to recover? Most analysts cite the fact that we had two serious recessions in the space of a decade, including the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

    While the Great Recession ended in June 2009, real median household income (adjusted for inflation) remains well below the peak of around $57,000 in 1999 and has been below $52,000 in each of the last three years. The question is, why?

    The standard answers, especially among progressives, are: 1) the sluggish economic recovery; 2) growing income inequality; 3) the failure to raise the minimum wage; 4) globalization and outsourcing; 5) corporate greed; and other variations of economic pessimism.

    However, there are some other very obvious, but mostly overlooked, factors that can help explain why median household income has declined over the last 15 years that have nothing to do with economic stagnation. The fact is that there have been significant demographic changes in the composition of US households.

    Economists Mark Perry and Alex Pollock, who also are contributors at the American Enterprise Institute, offered a very interesting analysis on median household income last week, and I will summarize their latest work for you today. I think you'll be surprised.

    Also, we'll look at the reasons why the marriage rate in the US is now at a 93-year low, according to the Census Bureau. The marriage rate for those 18 and older has fallen to a new low of only 50.3%, down from the peak of 72.2% in 1960.  And finally, we'll end with an interesting article from Larry Kudlow on the subject of marriage.

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  • Global Economy Worsening, But America is on Top

    With President Obama making controversial moves on several fronts this month, it is tempting to go all politics this week. The president is threatening to grant defacto amnesty to five or six million illegal aliens, via Executive Order, even though he knows this is unpopular among the American people. It’s as if he’s in full denial regarding the landslide midterm election results.

    In addition, he signed a controversial climate deal with China that will hurt the US economy and allows China to continue building more coal-fired power plants and increase emissions annually until 2030. Obama and the media hailed it as one of his landmark accomplishments. It wasn’t.

    At the Asian summit he attended last week, Mr. Obama pledged to give $3 billion of US taxpayer money to emerging countries to help them work toward clean energy and tackle climate change. Hopefully, Congress will block that pledge.

    And if you missed it, Obama announced last week that he wants the federal government to regulate the Internet. That would be a disaster! More details as we go along today.

    But rather than devote the entire E-Letter to politics, let’s start with a new report on the slowing global economy. According to the latest survey from Bloomberg, the global economy is in the worst position in two years. Fears of deflation are growing in Europe and elsewhere.

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  • Retirement Saving Crisis is Worse Than We Thought

    Each year Wells Fargo & Company conducts a survey of middle-class Americans of various ages to see how they are faring with saving for retirement. The results of the 2014 survey were just made public late last month. I will summarize them for you below. Let me warn you in advance – they are not pretty!

    But first, let’s take a look at last Friday’s better than expected October unemployment report. The headline unemployment rate fell to 5.8%, the lowest level in almost six years. So far in 2014, new jobs are being added at the fastest pace since 1999. Best of all, the employment rate for young people ages 25-34 rose to the highest level since late 2008.

    To all of our brave men and women who have served in our Armed Forces, we thank you and wish you a Happy Veterans Day!

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  • Consumer Confidence Hit a 7-Year High in October... But

    The two most widely-followed indicators of consumer confidence jumped to the highest levels in seven years last week. The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index climbed to 94.5 in October, the strongest reading since October 2007 before the economy entered the Great Recession.

    Then on Friday, the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index rose from 84.6 in September to 86.9 in October, the highest level since July 2007. Respondents to both surveys cited expectations of better economic growth and job gains in the coming months, along with falling gasoline prices, as reasons for their optimism.

    Yet at the same time, the latest polls on the Direction of the Country show that a whopping 66.0% of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, with only 27.8% who believe the nation is moving in the right direction. There is a huge disconnect between these measures of consumer confidence versus how Americans feel about the direction the country is headed. Today I’ll take a shot at trying to explain how and why this dichotomy exists.

    Before we get to that discussion, let’s take a closer look at last Thursday’s advance report on 3Q Gross Domestic Product which came in at a better than expected 3.5%. I also have some further thoughts on the Fed's policy meeting last week and the decision to end its massive quantitative easing program.

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