income, interest rates, retirement, risk management

“The Fed is going to break things…”

In the last week of March 2022, the Federal Reserve revealed a regime change in their policy. The Fed moved from balancing jobs and inflation and being patient to a new policy of aggressively raising rates in order to fight inflation, regardless of its impact on the economy.

On March 16, 2022 the Fed raised rates for the first time in several years 25bps. The move was well broadcast and expected by markets for many months. Many critics of the Fed have complained the Fed has waited too long to raise rates. In 2020 the Fed lowered rates and engaged in massive quantitative easing (“QE”) in order to pull the economy out of the recession that resulted from the COVID shutdown.

On Monday March 20, 2022, Chair Powell appeared at the NABE (National Association for Business Economics) conference; his comments revealed a clear change in priorities at the Fed, and some insight to policy going forward. (1) In his statement he shares that “Supply chains are healing, but we are now seeing new COVID related supply disruption from China. The healing will come in time as the world settles into a new normal, but the timing and scope of that relief are highly uncertain. In the meantime, the Fed will be focused on trying to reduce price pressures.

As the magnitude and persistence of inflation became more clear at the end of 2021, the FOMC pivoted to less accommodative monetary policy. I believe these policy actions, and those to come, will help bring inflation down to 2% over the next 3 years.“

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

Mixed Economic Signals, Debt Issues and Fossil Fuel Companies

Several years ago, Bloomberg Businessweek did a bio pic on Hank Paulson, Bush’s Treasury secretary who served during the Financial Crisis of 2008. After reviewing the events that led to the Crisis, connecting the dots, and seeing the impact of what happened, Paulson had this to say at the end of the film…

“The whole reason I’m doing this, is not because I want to look back, but because I have increasingly come to the view that it’s important that there be a historical record for those that come after me, so we don’t replay this movie all over again.” (1)

Fast-forward to November 2019, and we saw many positive and negative conditions developing that raised questions about the stock market and the health of the US economy.

Since the summer of 2019 financial conditions have noticeably weakened as the trade war with China has started having a significant economic impact. American and Chinese officials have spoken publicly that progress is being made. Hopes of a trade deal had driven equity markets higher, but as of December 2019 there is still no deal.

The trade war had caused a real decline in business investment and optimism. A CFO survey in the Fall of 2019 showed, “U.S. business optimism dropped this quarter to its lowest level in three years, according to third-quarter results from the Duke University/CFO Global Business Outlook. A majority of CFOs expect a recession to start before the presidential election.” (2)

This lack of business confidence had slowed growth in the economy and motivated the Fed to cut interest rates several times this year. This was all before COVID crippled the economy in the Spring of 2020…

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economy, interest rates, retirement, risk management

March Jobs Day – “There is a huge fog that is blanketing future economic outlooks.”

The geopolitical crisis of the past month has changed the global economic roadmap ahead. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has disrupted flows of commodities and driven up prices stoking already high inflation. As a result…

Tom Keene points out “We are not focused on payrolls…” (1)

March 4, 2022 was the release of the jobs report for February. The estimate for new jobs is for 421k, and a 3.9% unemployment rate.

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

“We are talking about a genuine existential issue”: An interview with Ian Dunlop, Sustainability Consultant based in Australia

This article is an update from an interview in 2016 with more recent comments from Ian Dunlop and James Cox.

Ian Dunlop’s life has been spent in the center of the carbon economy and the climate change debate.

His bio from LinkedIn chronicles his background…

Ian Dunlop has wide experience in energy resources, infrastructure, and international business, for many years on the international staff of Royal Dutch Shell. He has worked at senior level in oil, gas and coal exploration and production, in scenario and long-term energy planning, competition reform and privatization. He chaired the Australian Coal Associations in 1987-88. From 1998-2000 he chaired the Australian Greenhouse Office Experts Group on Emissions Trading which developed the first emissions trading system design for Australia. From 1997 to 2001 he was CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Ian has a particular interest in the interaction of corporate governance, corporate responsibility and sustainability. An engineer from the University of Cambridge (UK), MA Mechanical Sciences, he is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and the Energy Institute (UK), and a Member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers of AIME (USA). He is Chairman of Safe Climate Australia, a Director of Australia 21, Deputy Convenor of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil, a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development, a Member of The Club of Rome and a member of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Climate Change Task Force. He advises and writes extensively on governance, climate change, energy and sustainability.

He grew up in the middle of the oil and coal business, and over the years he has come to his own conclusions about climate change and the impact it will have on humanity’s future. I interviewed him mid-May 2016 to learn more. I wanted to learn more about what can be done about climate change, what the role of business is, and what the impact on the economy is.

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Climate change, retirement, risk management

Ukraine, the Global Framework and Climate

On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. A number of times today I heard the phrase, “this changes things fundamentally.” The question is what does it change and how do we move forward? In particular, what does this mean for the climate crisis?

The climate crisis requires a level of international cooperation that has never been seen. The breakdown of the framework that came out of Glasgow and COP26 is the latest example of the challenge we face.

Events in Ukraine underscore deeper systemic issues that we need to address in order to be effective on an international scale.

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protection, retirement, risk management

How to Deal with Being Laid Off: 5 Strategies To Prepare For Job Change

Each day we read reports that the economy is booming.

“U.S. housing and consumer are strong” (1)

“Factory output is poised to speed up.”

“Stronger global growth expectations and a weaker dollar should help.”

“The stock market hits record highs…”

With that being the case, you might find it surprising that several large corporations have recently announced they will be laying off large numbers of employees, especially managers. (2)

Companies which are facing an increasingly tough business environment are being forced to “slash costs and stabilize”. (3) Some companies find themselves at a disadvantage because of the move away from fossil fuels. (4) Some companies have failed to innovate in order to remain competitive. Some companies have to carry legacy costs that newer competitors, especially those in the technology or e-commerce space do not have. Many companies are struggling to keep up with commodity and wage costs that are rising with inflation.

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economy, interest rates, retirement, risk management

Feb Jobs Day… “Buckle Up”

It has been a turbulent week…

Price of gasoline rose to the highest since 2014 at $3.43/gallon. Brent crude is at $93 per barrel.

Inflation number to be released next week is expected to rise to 7.3%, from 7.1% in January

On Thursday, the ECB announced it would pull back from QE faster than expected after their meeting on 2/3/22. ECB pivoted away from their policy of “lower rates for longer”. As a result, Italian yields are up dramatically. Yields of Italian bonds started the week at 1.2%… by Friday yields were over 1.7%. Negative yielding debt is at lowest level since 2018.

At a meeting in the UK, Bank of England Governor Bailey called on unions to hold off on demands for pay increases. Union officials called it “a sick joke”.

In equity markets Facebook (Meta) fell 25% and lost over $200billion in value overnight due to slower growth. The next day Amazon rose 15% and gained over $150billion in value on earnings and price hikes. These are massive flows of capital.

On Wednesday, ADP released numbers this week showed a decline of 301,000 jobs due to Omicron and a worsening in economic conditions due to rising bond yields. The question is how much of the drop is due to Omicron which is fading, and how much is due to a slowdown in the economy which could worsen as the Fed raises rates starting in March.

The White House warned “the January jobs number will be ugly”.

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economy, interest rates, retirement, risk management

What do rising rates mean for investors? In 2018, in 2020… and today in 2022

In January of 2022 markets sold off as investors came to grips with the realization that the Fed was committed to end Quantitative Easing (QE), raise rates by March of 2022, and begin selling assets from its balance sheet. After years of “easy money” monetary policy, the Fed had been forced to change direction due to rising inflation worries. (1)

“The market is significantly overvalued, which works okay when interest rates are at record lows,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “But when rates rise, valuations become a real issue, so the market is adjusting to the new interest rate reality.”

To understand how this affects your portfolio and retirement savings a bit of historical context can be helpful.

So first… a history lesson…

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economy, entrepreneurship, new economy, retirement, risk management

The Work of Nations: 30 Years On…

When I first read “The Work of Nations” by Robert Reich in the mid-1990s I had almost no background in macroeconomics. (1) But in reading it, Reich was able to effectively describe how radically the economic system was changing as a result of Globalization. Reich at the time was Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor and a key member of his economic team.

As context, China’s economy in 1991 was $400 billion compared to $6,174 billion for the US. China entered the global trade organizations in 1992. Today China’s economy is $15.6 trillion compared to $23 trillion for the US for 2021. (11)

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economy, interest rates, retirement, risk management

Jobs Friday: December 2021

As a financial advisor and someone who loves the study of economics, “Jobs Friday” is the highlight of my month. It is a signpost of where the economy has been for the past month or two, as well as giving clues about where it is headed in the coming month. Information derived from the Jobs Report posted by the US Dept of Labor is used by the Federal Reserve to judge, manage, and adjust monetary policy. Politicians on both sides use the information to justify and drive fiscal policy.

For this month’s report the expectation was for the economy to have created 550,000 new jobs. One factor going into the jobs report that is a concern is ‘how many people are going to come back into the labor market?’ Currently, economists estimate that nearly 8 million people are still out of the labor force, having left at the beginning of the COVID pandemic in February 2020. (3)

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