26 May 2020

Economic Growth Expectations

Last week, I saw an interesting table from Goldman Sachs that estimated economic growth across the globe. The table looked exactly like the first four columns of this table, including the various highlights.  Those columns show the annual inflation adjusted (or ‘real’) growth rates for those economies. I took their data and annualized 2020 through 2022 to see what they expect in the first year of the downturn and what… Read More

12 May 2020

Since the Great Depression

One of the phrases that we see over and over again these days is ‘since the Great Depression.’ For example, the employment situation reports on Friday showed that the unemployment rate was the worst since the Great Depression.  In the Great Depression, unemployment reached 25 percent, and the second worst reading until last week was 10.8 percent. While perfectly accurate, I worry a little that using this phrase too much… Read More

11 May 2020

A Look at Unemployment Rates

The unemployment numbers on Friday weren’t surprising, but they were still shocking. The unemployment rate was 14.7 percent, and although that was better than expected, it’s still the highest reading by a long shot since the inception of this data in 1948.  In fact, the unemployment rate only breached 10 percent in two of the recessions since then. The unemployment rate is an interesting and useful statistic, but it attempts… Read More

5 May 2020

Nothing Can Stop America

About one month after Lehman Brothers collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis, Warren Buffett penned an opinion piece for the New York Times that I found immensely comforting. You can read the article by clicking here, but the thrust of it was that even if he didn’t know what stock prices would do in the short-run, that stocks would make record profits in the future and he was buying stocks. My… Read More

30 Apr 2020

Economy Contracts, Stocks Surge. Surprised?

Yesterday, the Commerce Department announced that the economy contracted by -4.8 percent in the first three months of 2020, the worst reading since the last quarter of 2008. Analysts expect that next quarter, GDP will drop by more than 30 percent, the worst in our lifetimes. Stocks surged.  Surprised? One of the phrases that you see me write all the time is ‘better than expectations,’ or ‘worse than consensus.’ Investors… Read More

28 Apr 2020

Financial Conditions Easing

A few weeks ago, I wrote that even though stock prices were still volatile, the stress in the market was settling down; I called it ‘stabilizing, but turbulent.’ Financial journalists often write about the ‘market plumbing,’ and it occurred to me that plumbing is a good analogy for the difference between stress and turbulence.  Volatility is like being in a nice hot shower and it turns ice cold. Obviously, something’s… Read More

27 Apr 2020

Stocks or Bonds in a Recession?

Even in today’s economic environment, coming up with topics daily can be a challenge.  So, when a reader asks a question, I am more than happy to answer it in this forum. Last week, I received a question in response to my article, ‘Chance of Recession: 100 percent.’  The reader wanted to know what the recession meant for bonds, especially in the coming months when markets will be volatile. That’s… Read More

24 Apr 2020

Chance of Recession: 100 Percent

Last year, the researchers at Bloomberg developed an index that assigned the probability of a recession to the US economy (and others around the world) based on a variety of economic data. I find the index interesting because, unlike a lot of other signals that attempt to do the same thing, this one seems to predict the recession before the recession actually hits. That’s the good news.  The bad news,… Read More

21 Apr 2020

Oil Gets Weird

When US Treasury bills first traded with negative yields in 2008, I took a screen shot, printed it and put it in a folder of interesting stuff that I look back at every few years.  I never dreamed that interest rates would be negative all the way out to 10-years in Europe. Well, it turns out that it’s not just interest rates that can trade completely upside down – yesterday… Read More

20 Apr 2020

Unemployment Today

One of the most jarring aspects of the coronavirus epidemic is the speed and magnitude of job losses.  We now have four weeks’ worth of data, and a shocking 22 million people have filed for unemployment benefits. For reference, the previous record for initial jobless claims over a four- week period was 2,697,00 during the 1982 recession.  During the 2008 financial crisis, the record was 2,637,000, just shy of the… Read More