August 2015 - 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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  • Population Growth & Productivity Headed in Wrong Direction

    Today we’ll focus on some longer-term economic data which shows, unfortunately, that the US economy is in a multi-decade slide that will be very difficult to reverse. Population growth and worker productivity – the keys to sustained economic growth – are both in decline, trends that are not likely to change anytime soon.

    US Gross Domestic Product averaged 3.74% annual growth from 1950 to 1990, but has since  slowed dramatically to average only 2.21% from 2010 to 2014. Even worse, worker productivity that averaged 2.5% annual growth from 1948 to 2007 has been slashed by over 50% to only 1.2% annually from 2010 to 2014.

    Throughout its history, the US has been a productivity powerhouse. US worker productivity growth averaged around 3% annually during the period 1996-2004, but fell to 1.5% in 2005-2012, and more recently has slipped even further to just above 1%.

    What’s at stake is the very future of America. Without faster growth, the US can’t create enough jobs for those who want them, and Americans will have to get used to much smaller increases in their paychecks. The middle class will likely shrink even more, and the poor would be even worse off. Are we doomed to a dimmer future?

    The question is, what can be done to reverse these troubling trends? The answers are not simple, nor politically correct in most cases. Another question is, do any of the politicians running today have the knowledge and/or conviction to tackle these critical problems?

    That’s what we will talk about today. But before we get to that discussion, let’s look at the Fed’s latest prediction for the economy in the 3Q. The latest GDPNow forecast will surprise you.

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  • Global Economic Slowdown - Implications For US Stocks

    The global economy is rolling over to the downside for the most part. The question is, will this global slowdown take the US economy down with it? While no one knows for sure, that possibility simply cannot be ruled out. If the softening in the global economy leads to a slowdown in the US, that will almost certainly result in a weakening of our stock markets.

    In my March 17 E-Letter, I recommended that investors in traditional “buy-and-hold” equity funds reduce stock market exposure (or hedge long positions partially or fully) due to increasing global risks at that time. I repeated that recommendation twice since then.

    Since March 17, the S&P 500 Index has moved sideways to lower as of this writing. Could the US equity markets be setting up for a significant downward correction? It would be unwise in my opinion to rule it out.

    The slowdown in the global economy and the implications for the US economy and our stock markets will be our main topic for today, but before we get to that, let’s take a quick look at last Friday’s unemployment report for July.

    At the end of today’s letter, I will briefly comment on Obama’s new Clean Energy Plan which will raise electricity costs significantly, if enacted, and give you a link to the full story. I will also comment further on the Dodd-Frank law I wrote about in my Blog last Thursday.

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  • "Renter Nation" - US Homeownership Hits 48-Year Low

    The government’s Census Bureau reported last week that the US homeownership rate fell to the lowest level in the last 48 years. It is indeed a sad awakening that the level of home ownership is now the lowest since 1967.

    Along this same line, the Census Bureau found that more Millennials (18 to 34 year-olds) are living with their parents today than at the worst point in the Great Recession. This is despite the fact that the economy and labor market conditions have improved in recent years.

    The issue is not that we aren’t forming more households. We are. The problem is that fewer and fewer households can afford to buy a house – despite record low interest rates – and more and more are renting rather than buying, whether by choice or by necessity.

    The fact that more and more Americans are choosing to rent their homes and apartments has resulted in rents going through the roof. It’s supply and demand, of course. But the fact that Americans are spending more and more on rent means that they have less and less to spend on buying other goods and services to spur the economy.

    The bottom line is that the American Dream of owning your own home is fading fast. This fact is affecting younger Americans the hardest. Way too many have given up the dream of owning their own home, as a recent Gallup poll has found.

    Today, we’ll look at this disturbing trend and try to discern why it is happening.

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