economy, retirement, risk management

Tariffs, Trade Wars, and Risk

“All things being equal, trade is a good thing, although it can also eliminate certain jobs and hurt some firms or workers. On balance, though, trade creates jobs and boosts the overall welfare of a country… Trade can be an engine of increased production, economic growth, development, and poverty reduction.” (1)

–Richard Haas

In 2018 I had several clients ask about what impact the proposed trade tariffs might have on their retirement plans.

On June 19th, 2018 the S&P 500 sank the most in three weeks with industrial companies getting hit hardest after President Donald Trump threatened tariffs on another $200 billion of Chinese goods, and the Asian nation pledged retaliation. (2)

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Climate change, economy, environment, retirement, risk management

Climate Change, Sea Level Rise and Retirement Risk

One of the oft repeated risks from climate change is the threat that comes from rising sea levels. Depending on the forecast, even in the most optimistic ones, seas are projected to rise several feet before the end of the century. With the accelerating build-up of CO2 and the rate of temperature increase (2017 being the hottest year on record), many expect dramatic sea level rise to occur much sooner than most expect. CO2 concentrations in March 2020 was 414.5 ppm, much higher compared to 411.97 ppm in March 2019. (1)

 

While people might want to buy shore property for benefits that include potential rental income, capital appreciation and personal use, they also face potential risks of hurricanes, sea level rise, etc. Some of these risks can be mitigated by purchasing flood insurance.

 

Last summer I explored the question, “if sea levels rise, what will be the impact on a clients’ net worth and portfolio?”

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economy, income, interest rates, retirement, risk management

Where to from here? July 2020

It has been a difficult year on many levels. Given the past few months I want to catch up in several areas… with what has transpired since the spring, where things currently stand in the economy, and what I foresee going into the second half of the year and beyond. This may take a while…

As a reminder, the current economic downturn did not occur spontaneously due to COVID. In September of 2019 Repo rates indicated problems in lending markets. For several year’s companies have been borrowing extensively, especially at lower levels of credit quality. In the Fall of 2019 Morgan Stanley noted that over 20% of corporate borrowers were “zombie companies”; companies with no positive cashflow, excessive debt, and borrowing to stay afloat. This was the situation when the economy was “healthy”.

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economy, interest rates, retirement, risk management

Fed Reluctant To Raise Rates While Raising Questions Around The Economy

On July 29th, 2020 the federal reserve committed to keeping interest rates pinned to the zero bound and stated their expectation to maintain this position for years to come.

In his meeting with reporters to discuss fed policy, fed chair Powell stated, “We haven’t even thought about thinking when we plan to raise rates.” The FOMC statement explained why; The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus. The ongoing public health crisis will weigh heavily on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term. In light of these developments, the Committee decided to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent. The Committee expects to maintain this target range until it is confident that the economy has weathered recent events and is on track to achieve its maximum employment and price stability goals.” (1)

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Climate change, economy, new economy, risk management

Energy, Economic Trends, and Effecting Change: A Review of the Economic Superorganism

In his book “The Economic Superorganism”, Carey King outlines a novel system to organize economic decision making and to evaluate outcomes in a Climate Changed world. People are becoming increasingly aware of the consequences of climate change. In October of 2018 the UN Panel on Climate Change stated we have 12 years to halt the growth of CO2 if we hope to avoid the worst possible consequences of global warming. (1) The fossil fuel industry is the primary driver of CO2 growth.

In January 2020 the World Economic Forum held its annual gathering at Davos, Switzerland… the primary subject discussed by business and economic leaders was the impact of Climate Change and the need to manage the resulting changing economy.

“The debate on climate change is forcing businesses to respond to demands to stop carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. While some have been slow in embracing the fight, executives at Davos highlighted that the overall views from within the business community have dramatically changed over the last decade or so, moving from denial and questioning science into complete acceptance.” (2)

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economy, interest rates, retirement, risk management

What is the Long-Term Economic Impact of nCov19?

In the Spring of 2020 the Coronavirus led to the quarantine of 800 million people in China. As the virus spread to other countries, economies were forced to close in order to limit the spread of the virus and protect populations.

As economies implemented social distancing policies and closed down, unemployment skyrocketed and GDP plummeted. The economic impact was faster and more severe then the Great Financial Crisis (GFC); some even compared conditions to the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

In April 2020 PIMCO sponsored a virtual forum with Dr. Ben Bernanke. Bernanke is a senior advisor for PIMCO and a policy advisor at Brookings. Bernanke was chairman of the Federal Reserve during the GFC and is an expert on the Great Depression. His insights during the current crisis are valuable on many levels.

Bernanke was asked how is this crisis different from the GFC?

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diversity, economy, ESG, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

Diversity Matters… Especially In Business

Even before the economic crisis wrought by the Coronavirus, the economy is changing at a rapid pace. Companies in many sectors that have been pillars of the economy have fallen on hard times. Companies that were leaders in industrial America have seen their market cap fall by 2/3rds in the past year. Leaders in retail have closed hundreds of stores and laid off thousands of people. Even technology companies that started off strong in the past 10 years have suffered setbacks in the past year due to corporate governance issues.

As technology advances, the challenge for businesses to stay competitive becomes amplified. In the last 3 years, advances in robotics and AI (Artificial Intelligence) have significantly added to the bottom line of companies. That pace of change seems to be accelerating.

A recent Mckinsey & Company report titled Delivering Through Diversity reinforces the business case for diversity. “The statistically significant correlation between a more diverse leadership team and financial outperformance demonstrated three years ago continues to hold true on an updated, enlarged, and global data set.” (1)

Learning how to deal with this change is a crucial issue for businesses.

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Climate change, economy, environment, health, new economy, retirement, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing

How Will COVID19 Potentially Affect the Climate Change Debate?

As the severity of the COVID19 pandemic became clear to leaders in China in early 2020, the CCP announced the quarantine of over 800 million people and effectively closed down the economy of China. One of the effects of this shutdown was a dramatic drop in carbon emissions and air pollution.

Paul Monks, professor of air pollution at the University of Leicester, predicted there will be important lessons to learn. “We are now, inadvertently, conducting the largest-scale experiment ever seen,” he said. “Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low-carbon economy? Not to denigrate the loss of life, but this might give us some hope from something terrible. To see what can be achieved.” (1)

“What I think will come out of this is a realization – because we are forced to – that there is considerable potential to change working practices and lifestyles. This challenges us in the future to think, do we really need to drive our car there or burn fuel for that,” said Monk.

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Climate change, economy, environment, ESG, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

US intelligence agencies warn about managing risks in a climate changed world

A recent report by the US national intelligence agencies raised the issue of Climate Change and the impact they expect it to have on global stability.

“The nation’s intelligence agencies are warning, in the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, of global instability if climate change continues unabated, according to a report submitted for a hearing Tuesday before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.”

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economy, interest rates, retirement, risk management

The End of the 10 Year Bull Market

There is a Chinese curse… “May you live in interesting times.” (1)

 

Given the past month, we clearly live in interesting times. Twice this week the market has opened down more than 5% triggering circuit breakers. While these breaks helped, the market still declined.

 

As of March 12, 2020 the SP500 is down 26%.

 

On March 3, 2020 the Federal Reserve announced a 50 basis point rate cut and are expected to cut rates another 100 basis points at its March 18th meeting. (2) On March 12, 2020 the Fed announced a $5.5 trillion program to assist in Repo operations. (3)

Yes… $5.5 trillion… The scale of the program is beyond anything ever attempted to stabilize markets.

 

WHAT ARE THE ISSUES THAT ARE FEEDING INTO EACH OTHER? HOW DID WE GET HERE?

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