Looking at history and the long waves of demographics is a great and fine thing. It can tell you a heck of a lot. It’s frequently the case that history is driven by large, abstract, impersonal forces rather than singular decisive events. But…
…to start forecasting equity markets using these metrics is a perilous thing. And it’s becoming all the rage lately.
The problem with demographics as equity market forecasters is that, first, in order for you to be right, you might have to wait, you know, a generation or more. Also, even if you can shoehorn a theory to explain all, at best you only have a few good data points to support the correlation tied to equity markets. That’s not much to stake a +20 year forecast on.
Just about everywhere I go, I meet investors who tell me so-called core inflation is a dumb metric and food inflation is very high. Check out this recent graphic from Bloomberg Businessweek by Dorothy Gambrell.
“In 1984, the average U.S. household spent 16.8 percent of its annual post-tax income on food. By 2011, Americans spent only 11.2 percent. The U.S. devotes less of its income to food than any other country—half as much as households in France and one-fourth of those in India.”
In the words of Stan Lee, ‘nuff said.
Dash your expectations for a go-go housing expansion like last decade, but expect a steady recovery in US home prices and a modest GDP tailwind from residential construction. Here’s why:
Simply, the economy has worked through excess inventory created by the last downturn, and housing supply hasn’t seen these low levels basically since they started recording this sort of thing. This creates significant pressure to expand supply, and that’s been seen—in spades—in recent homebuilder sentiment indexes.
I don’t always agree with Jim Cramer, but here is some good sense that’s been espoused on this page for some time now:
You know what didn’t work in 2012? Risk on, risk off. As hard as I tried to stamp out this ridiculous bit of hedge-fund-ese, I was not able to. There are too many commentators out there, and too many traders who want to succumb to this kind of non-rigorous, intellectually lazy thinking, and it’s impossible to shut them all down. But let 2012 be a lesson to you: It was revealed that you would have underperformed these people if you’d followed them. Notice I say “underperformed,” because one thing is for certain — none of these blowhards will let you see their returns after what I bet was a fiasco year for what I can only call an “alleged” strategy.
Let this be the death of risk on, risk off – Jim Cramer
Ken Fisher and Lara Hoffmans have published their layperson’s guide to building a basic wealth plan — I couldn’t recommend it more.
Much like his other books, Ken Fisher takes a route of empowering the average investor, being less didactic or preachy and offering usable perspectives in terms everyone can understand.
In my view, it’s one of the ultimate things a skilled expert can do for us: to give his knowledge back in a way all can participate in. Ken has seen it all, done it all, and been very good at it for very long time; it’s a pleasure to read about the fundamentals of wealth-building with all the signature wit and uncommon perspective he and Lara always bring.
By now, folks have gleaned the Sandy storm won’t have as much economic impact as feared. On the Monday of the storm I saw figures speculating upward of $75 billion in damages. By Wednesday’s end it was knocked down to ~$15 billion, depending who you ask. But it’s clear widespread consensus overestimated by multiples.
Acts of God are often a case study in bad economics. Though, it’s probably not the calculations so much as the psychology of the matter: it’s far better in most folks’ minds to overestimate than underestimate. If you worry too much, no one will blame you. But if you worry too little, fingers will wag in your direction. (In my view, most economists could use a crash course in Bastiat and Broken Window Fallacies before publishing their guesstimates, too.)
Natural disasters have rarely or ever had lasting deleterious effects on capital markets. It’s quite a statement about the durability and plasticity of global capital markets that the NYSE along with US markets generally can be closed for two days and one could barely tell come Wednesday’s trading action. And yet people worry over and over about this stuff.
Fisher Investments (the firm I work for), along with MarketMinder, has posted several good resources on the upcoming US elections and the stock market:
If you wanna lower the cost of healthcare, it ain’t gonna come from insurance machinations or government mandates. It’ll come from the private sector, and it will come from the efficiencies of information technology, creating competitive prices:
“Imagine going to a supermarket where none of the prices was posted or checking into a hotel without knowing the room rate. That, in a nutshell, is what purchasing health care is like for millions of Americans covered by private health insurance. Your doctor tells you to get an MRI but fails to mention, usually because she doesn’t know, that it’ll cost you hundreds of dollars more to get it at the hospital next door than if you go to the clinic 2 miles away. No one is likely to tell a patient that a colonoscopy performed by the same gastroenterologist can cost $2,800 more at one hospital than another.
“This lack of price transparency costs Americans billions of dollars a year in unnecessary spending. A study by Thomson Reuters’ health care arm put the tab of such wasted dollars at $36 billion annually. Donald Berwick, the former head of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, says the lack of transparency and competitive pricing was responsible for between $84 billion and $174 billion in wasteful spending last year. Americans often pay several times more for MRIs and CT scans than people pay in other countries. “At some point the public will realize that it’s all their money,” says Berwick, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.”
These sorts of things will be a great boon to consumers in the decades ahead, and will drive down costs in ways we can barely fathom now.
The notion of risk-on/risk-off is so tempting to believe in. But it’s rote nonsense and always has been. There is no lever traders and fund managers pull each day where they all decide today is a “risk on” or “risk off” day.
There are millions of separate interests and views affecting the markets, all days, always. That correlations sometimes go up, and sometimes go down tells you nothing about how anything is likely to behave moving forward. Non-serial auto-correlation has been a fact of investing life basically forever no matter how volatility and correlation spikes or quells.
Also, what’s risky changes! What’s risk today is different than perceived risk a few years ago. Remember when the euro was the safest place to be? Now it’s a risk asset!
Don’t be fooled by this stuff—market cycles see changes in leadership and periodic corrections. Volatility and correlation will do the same.
The only way to beat the markets long-term in investing is to be an iconoclast. Ray Bradbury was one of our finest, and most human, sci-fi writers. He was a great writer first, and a science fiction writer second. Much like Philip K Dick, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov, his visions of the future influenced thinkers for generations to come.
Ray Bradbury, Prolific Science Fiction Writer, Dies at 91 – Laura Tillman
Futurism in general is a fascinating topic for investors to grapple with. It’s fun and awe-inspiring to think distantly into the future about what could be. But note: most every long-range forecast ends up wrong, and markets only discount a couple years into the future at the very most. Futurism is big danger for investing sanity. So have fun with it, but don’t invest today on vague notions decades in the fore. Here are a few recent favorite futuristic tomes:
- Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku
- Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler
- The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman
- The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil