February 2016 - 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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  • Negative Interest Rate Policy & The War On Cash

    We are living in strange and unprecedented times to say the least. Interest rates on bank deposits have gone into negative territory across much of Europe and more recently Japan. While we have yet to see negative savings rates in the US, Fed Chair Janet Yellen recently warned that NIRP (Negative Interest Rate Policy) is on the table if the economy slips.

    Yet the truth is that NIRP is not working as intended.  I’ll tell you why as we go along today.

    Meanwhile, monetary policy leaders and liberal politicians are increasingly waging a war on cash. Specifically, left-leaning policymakers in Europe and more recently the US want to make it harder for their citizens to hold large amounts of cash. To do so, they have called for the elimination of large-denominated treasury notes such as the €500 bill and the US $100 bill.

    The promoters of the war on cash claim that large-denominated euros and greenbacks are used primarily by criminals, drug dealers, tax cheats, terrorists and bad people in general. They claim that law-abiding citizens around the world have little use for these large-denomination treasury notes and would have little resistance to their elimination over time.

    What these left-leaning groups don’t admit is that it is their goal, ultimately, to eliminate cash altogether over time and convert us to digital currencies which can be used to track all of our transactions, at least those over certain defined amounts.

    Since these two alarming trends are getting very little attention in the mainstream media, that’s what we’ll talk about today. I want my clients and readers to know what is happening and why. Let’s start with NIRP.

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  • Exploding Healthcare Costs Are Out Of Control

    Today I want to address the soaring costs of healthcare, which are rising far more than the Obama administration and the Department of Health and Human Services will admit. While I personally don’t consider healthcare costs to be a political issue, many argue that it is indeed a political issue with regard to “Obamacare.”

    When talking to friends and colleagues, the most frequent comment I get is something like: Obamacare health insurance premiums are much higher than the government says they are – what gives? Today, I will answer that question with some new facts from an independent non-profit on healthcare premiums around the country. Prepare to be surprised.

    The Obama administration’s Health and Human Services Department (HHS) announced on January 21 that healthcare premiums on the Affordable Care Act exchanges rose an average of only 9% from 2015 to 2016. That was highly misleading since the HHS data covered less than half of all consumers buying healthcare on the federal exchanges in the last year.

    The real premium increases, almost across-the-board, are substantially higher in most states this year. A new, independent report from the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce includes the weighted-average premiums for all plans available on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges.

    The findings will shock you, or maybe not, if you have recently renewed your healthcare coverage. In that case, you may already know, especially depending on where you live. In any event, that’s what we’ll talk about today.

    We will also talk about how healthcare costs are by far the fastest growing subset of the US economy. And that’s putting it lightly. The increase in healthcare cost almost doubled the next fastest growing sector’s cost growth last year.  Can you say, out-of-control?

    But before we get to that discussion, let’s take a look at last Friday’s unemployment report for January. The headline unemployment rate dropped to 4.9%, the lowest level since early 2008, but some of the internal numbers were mixed or disappointing.

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  • Sub-3% GDP Growth: A Lost Decade For The US Economy

    Whew – January is finally over! Up until the last week or so, the downside carnage in January was the worst New Year’s stock market start in history. Thanks to last week’s rebound, it was only the worst New Year’s start since January of 2009 when the Great Recession was unfolding. Still, it was a hair-raising month for stock investors. And no one knows if the damage is over.

    There are many theories as to why equity markets around the world suddenly plummeted in January. I have written about several of them in the last couple of weeks. Most market commentators, including yours truly, have pointed to concerns about China’s economy, the collapse in oil/commodity prices, the strong US dollar, Fed interest rate hikes, etc., etc. as the likely causes for the January implosion.

    Rather than continue that discussion today, I want to point out a milestone that was reached with the end of 2015 and last Friday’s 4Q GDP report – and this milestone was not a good one. With 2015 behind us, it has been a decade since we have seen 3% yearly growth in the economy. The last year we had 3% growth was 2005. Call it America’s “Lost Decade.”

    Near the end of today’s letter, I will make some suggestions on how we could stimulate our now moribund economy – starting with a significant corporate income tax cut for businesses large and small. Republicans complain that they can’t override President Obama’s veto, so they do nothing. Yet with the economy now growing by less than 1%, I think the GOP would be surprised at how much support they could get from Democrats, especially in an election year.

    Before we get to that discussion, let’s take a look at last Friday’s GDP report for the 4Q. The advance report came in lower than expected with growth of only 0.7% for the final three months of last year. The sharply lower 4Q reading suggests yet another year of weak economic growth. And there is now a controversy over how much the economy expanded last year, which I will explain as we go along.

    And finally, I am very excited to announce our latest Special Report: UNDERSTANDING & MAXIMIZING YOUR 401(K). We have worked long and hard on this Report to help our many clients and readers not only understand how their 401(k)s work, but also how to maximize their benefits. If you have a 401(k), you definitely want to download our FREE Special Report.

    There’s a lot to cover in today’s E-Letter, so let’s get started.

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