Adding an oil refiner. Oil weak, refining stronger [generally]. Nice 22% yield on dividend.
November 28, 2014
November 26, 2014
Jim Rogers: If the stock market goes down — say, you pick the number, 13%, 23%, who knows — everyone will be screaming, and Mrs. Yellen and her friends will say, ‘Oh, we’re sorry, we didn’t mean to hurt you,’ and they will loosen up again. One way or the other, the markets will heave a sigh of relief, have a big rally, maybe even turn into a bubble, at which point I hope I’m smart enough to try to short stocks in the US.
Henry Blodget: We seemed to have a preview of that a few weeks ago where we had a pretty sickening plunge for a few days, and then James Bullard came out and said, ‘Hey, we’ll do what we need to do.’ And suddenly stocks took off again. So you’re expecting a bigger version of that?
JR: That’s exactly right. Wait until it gets worse and it will, somewhere along the line. At which point, the Fed will panic. It’s all they know how to do, Henry, so they will pump huge amounts of money in. It’s going to go into shares, and that will cause the top. I have no idea when that will be. That’s when I would sell short. By the way, if it happens that way, one should be long, and long big time. I doubt if I will. Either I’m too smart or not smart enough. What we need is a 26-year-old. The 26-year-old will think this is wonderful. She will think she is very smart. She will make a lot of money for a while, and then it will collapse.
HB: You said recently we’re going to pay a ‘terrible price’ for what the Fed doing is doing. What do you mean?
JR: We’re going to have economic hard times again. Next time it will be worse because the debt is so much higher and because for the first time in recorded history, all major central banks are printing huge amounts of money. So there’s this gigantic artificial ocean of liquidity that’s going to dry up some day, and when it does, we’re all going to pay a terrible price.
HB: Could the recent move in oil prices indicate a fundamental positive for the economy?
JR: It’s a fundamental positive for anybody who uses oil, who uses energy. It’s not a positive for places like Canada, Russia, or Australia. It seems to me that this is a bit of an artificial move. The Saudis, from what I can gather, are dumping oil because the US has told them to in order to put pressure on Russia and Iran. And it’s probably not a real move. I read about shale oil like you do. But at the same time, North Sea production is declining. Russian production will start declining next year. All the major oil fields that we know about — all the production is static or declining. So it doesn’t quite add up on any kind of medium-term basis I can see.
HB: You’ve been bullish in the last year or two on Russia, which is now going through something of a crisis. Has your view changed?
JR: No, no. I’ve been travelling a lot lately. I should probably try to sit down and figure out what to buy in Russia again. It has had a collapse, as you know, but I suspect if you look at things like Russian ETFs, they are down at previous lows, but not making new lows. And a lot of that is because of the ruble. To Russia’s credit, Russia has not been sitting around supporting the ruble in any big way. My view of markets is you let them clean themselves out, let the system find a clearing price. To my astonishment, the Russians are being more capitalist than the Western capitalists. They are letting the currency find its own bottom. That will change soon. It will find its own bottom, and then Russia will be a good place to invest.
HB: And you say that even given Russian President Vladimir Putin and his aggressiveness?
JR: It sounds like you have been reading American propaganda too much. This all started with America, with that diplomat in Washington [Victoria Nuland, the Asst. Secretary of State]; they have her on tape. We were the ones who were very aggressive. We’re the ones who said, ‘We’re going to overthrow this government, we don’t like this government, even though it was elected. They are fools and we don’t like them, so we’re going to get rid of them.’ We were the aggressive ones. Crimea has been part of Russia for centuries. If it weren’t for [Nikita] Khrushchev getting drunk one night, it would still have been part of Russia. That election was in process, anyway. Everybody would rather be part of Russia than Ukraine. Ukraine is one of the worst-managed countries I’ve ever seen. Of course people want to get out of Ukraine. You would, too. It’s a disaster. And Russia has been much more prosperous. Maybe Putin has been overly aggressive, but he has been subject to horrible stress in the West. The State Department says he’s a bad guy, so the American press says he’s a bad guy. They stop looking at the facts. It happened in previous wars, including Vietnam.
The other effect it’s having is driving the Russians and the Asians together. That will hurt us — the US — in the end because the Asians have more money than the West. America’s the largest debtor nation in the history of the world. China has huge assets, as do other Asian countries. So unfortunately, it’s causing Russia to turn more toward Asia. That too will be good for Russia in the long term. There are 3 billion people in Asia. You see the Russians have made this huge gas deal with the Chinese. The Chinese and the Asians have recently started an Asian bank to compete with The World Bank. This whole thing, which we started, is only accelerating bad movements.
These sanctions are not hurting everybody, but they’re certainly hurting Europe, which is driving more and more people to look for competitors to the US dollar and the US banking system. In the end it’s good for Russia. I don’t like saying it. I’m an American like you are. But I have to deal with facts, not with propaganda and not with hope.
HB: What would make you lose faith in Russia?
JR: If Putin suddenly invaded Germany, I would certainly lose faith. If it turns out that Putin is deranged, or other people in the Kremlin are deranged. I was bearish on Russia for 46 years. I went to Russia in 1966 and came away with the idea that this will not work; this cannot work. And only in the last couple of years have I realised that something was going on and changing at the Kremlin. If I suddenly find this is wrong, that this is the same old KGB and the same old Kremlin, then of course I would change my view.
HB: You made a great call on commodities more than a decade ago. We’re in a downturn now. What is your view going forward?
JR: Great question. I certainly missed this correction. The correction has been worse than I thought. Some of it I knew — I’ve been quite vocal that gold would go down and stay down for a while during this bull market, maybe even under $US1,000 dollars per ounce. But still the overall correction I got wrong. My view, rightly or wrongly, is that this is a correction in a bull market. You will remember in the bull market in stocks between 1980 and the end of the century, we had some very serious corrections. And every time people said the bull market was over, it wasn’t. It ended in a bubble. My view is that’s what’s going to happen with commodities. We’re in a correction, a serious one, but that it will turn around. Back to what we said about oil, most major oil fields are in decline. In agriculture, we’re running out of farmers. So we’re facing a serious problem worldwide. I don’t see enough new supply to say the bear market has started again, that the bull market is over. I think there will be one more big leg.
HB: So is this a buying opportunity?
R: For sugar maybe. Rice maybe. I do own gold, I do own silver. I haven’t bought any of significance in a few years. I haven’t sold any. Gold went up for 12 years in a row without a down year, which is extremely unusual in markets. So in my view the correction will be unusual as well. Gold has not had a 50% correction in years, which too is unusual. That would be $US960 per ounce. I’m not predicting it’s going to go there. I’m just pointing out to you there’s going to be another chance to buy gold and silver in another year or two or three, I have no idea why. If America goes to war with Iran, I’ll probably buy gold at $US1,600, begging to get more.
HB: When you look back at your career, are there specific experiences, either mistakes or successes, that you feel have shaped you as an investor?
JR: I, like many people, didn’t know much when I was young. I thought I knew everything. At one point, I decided the market was going to collapse. I went and put all my money, which wasn’t much, into puts. And lo and behold, the market collapsed, the worst drop since 1938. I tripled my money when everybody else was going broke. And I thought, ‘Boy am I smart.’ I sold my puts the day the market hit bottom, waited for the market to rally. This time I sold short, didn’t want to pay the premium, and two months later, I was wiped out completely. I didn’t have anything left. I couldn’t meet the margin call. One thing you better learn is about the margin clerk. He doesn’t care. He’s going to give you a margin call. The six stocks I shorted eventually went bankrupt in the next two to three years. But in the meantime, they had gigantic rallies. It never occurred to me that a company on the way to bankruptcy could go up, could double.
I learned a lot about myself. I learned about margin. I learned that markets do really strange things. I assumed that everybody knew what I knew. I now know they don’t but that I have to wait. My timing is useless and hopeless. I now realise if I want to do something, I usually wait a year or two, and even then I am wrong in my timing. When I speak at schools and universities, I explain to them that there’s nothing wrong with failing, nothing wrong with losing everything, but please do it when you’re young, when you don’t have that much money. Learn your lessons that way rather than when you’re 50 and it could be $US50 or $US100 million dollars. That was a great experience.
Iraq’s army prepares to cross the Karoun River in October 1980 while celebrating their success in the war against Iran.
A Baghdad resident walks past the rubble of buildings destroyed by an Iranian air raid, Sept. 29, 1980. Rogers says one of his biggest mistakes was shorting oil right before war broke out. He blames himself for not seeing it coming. ‘You don’t move a lot of armies and start a war without some preparation.’
Once in 1980, when oil had been booming for a decade, I came to the conclusion the bull market was over, and I shorted oil. And that weekend Iran and Iraq went to war. Needless to say, I had to scramble in panic, and I covered like every other amateur. One could say that was bad luck. But no, no. Somebody knew that was coming. You don’t move a lot of armies and start a war without some preparation. I just hadn’t done enough homework. Nearly all the mistakes I’ve made have been from not doing enough homework. Whenever I get sloppy I nearly always lose.
HB: How do you know when to actually stop doing homework and start making a trade?
JR: Well, I do try to discipline myself and realise I better wait, because my timing is hopeless. Eventually I get enough confidence. But even then, Henry, you can’t just act. You gotta keep at it. Because something can change, and things do change. As we were discussing, I decided to start buying Russia and, lo and behold, came the Ukraine. It didn’t occur to me that America was going to try to throw its weight around and try to overthrow the Ukrainian government. I should have done more homework and been more aware. When things change you need to change with it, you need to reexamine and see if you were wrong in the first place. The market constantly makes me reexamine.
HB: You have said you were poor in the beginning of your life. How has that shaped your career and the decisions you’ve made?
JR: When I went to Wall Street I was stunned by what I would hear. How trees can grow up to the sky. Stocks cannot go down. I grew up knowing it wasn’t easy to get money and it wasn’t easy to make money.
When I went to Wall Street I was stunned by what I would hear. How trees can grow up to the sky. Stocks cannot go down. I grew up knowing it was wasn’t easy to get money and it wasn’t easy to make money.
That gave me some grounding or reality or scepticism or something, which at times has stood me in good stead, because in the backwoods of Alabama if you came in and said some of the things I was told on Wall Street, they would run you out of town. They would know you were nuts. So that’s helped me.
On the other hand, it’s made me miss some bubbles. Because if you can invest in bubbles, you will make staggering amounts of money, Henry. And that’s why you need 26-year-olds, Henry, because they don’t know any better. Unfortunately since I did grow up having a sense of reality and grounding, I’ve missed some bubbles because I knew too much, if you will. I was too smart for my own good. There’s nothing more exciting than finding a bubble or two if you can if you can invest in it artfully. I cannot. I am not any good at it.
HB: You’re very humble about your timing ability. Have you met anybody who can time it well in a regular enough fashion that they don’t blow themselves up?
Financier Roy Neuberger in 2003. Rogers, who started out working for Neuberger, calls his trading skills ‘astonishing.’
JB: There are great traders. I try to differentiate between traders and investors. Roy Neuberger, whom I once worked for, was astonishing. I just could not conceive of how good he was at short-term timing and trading. Mike Steinhardt was an awfully good trader and timer of making investments. Mike might disagree, but I always viewed him as more of a trader than investor because he did have such a good sense of market timing. There must be plenty of guys, good market timers, short-term traders. They won’t survive if they’re not. But as far as someone who can time markets — go from a bull market to a bear market — I just don’t know that person. I am sure she exists. I just don’t know her.
Michael Steinhardt, Rogers says, is a master market timer.
HB: You’ve referred to the 26-year-old investor who thinks they know everything, thinks they are incredibly smart, and many of them are incredibly smart. What’s your best advice for young, smart professionals who clearly have a lot left to learn?
JR: Two things. One, they have to understand the numbers and the accounting. They have to read the 10ks and the notes to the 10ks. That’s true no matter how wonderful the story is, and it might be wonderful. But they had better understand the numbers or they won’t last too long as investors. And secondly, understand history. Go back and read about previous markets, bull and bear, read about the ’20s and the ’30s. Read about the Panic of 1907. Read about all this stuff because it’s exactly the same!
One reason, other than the fact that I grew up in the backwoods of Alabama, that I could recognise bubbles is because I had read about them. I realised, ‘Oh my God, they said the same thing in the ’20s!’ They said the same thing in previous bull markets, no matter where it was. ‘This time it’s different.’ They’re always talking about this new technology, or new genius or new methods. Just go back and read market history, economic history — history. I tell kids all the time that they should study history if they want to be successful at just about anything, because it has all happened before.
Mark Twain said it rhymes, well, it does, if you understand history, all the big forces. I don’t mean when the First World War started, but if you understand why the First World War started, the real reasons, not because somebody was assassinated. If you can understand the real workings of previous times, you’re going to be much better able to understand our time because it’s the same stuff. We’re all the same people! We haven’t changed. We still put our trousers on one leg at a time.
HB: Talk a bit about living in Singapore. What drew you to it? What do you like, and what’s toughest about it?
JR: I am keen on Singapore. I moved here because I had been lecturing for many years that everybody should teach their children Mandarin because it would be the most important language in the 21st century, eventually. And then suddenly I had a child and I said, ‘What do I do now?’ We had a Chinese governess, and it became clear it wouldn’t work long-term. There comes a time when every 9-year-old refuses to speak the language because their friends say it’s not cool. So I realised we had to move to a Chinese-speaking city where our daughter wouldn’t have any choice but to speak Mandarin.
We looked at all the Chinese cities. They were too polluted. Singapore seemed perfect. They speak both Mandarin and English. Everything works. There’s fantastic healthcare and education. My kids like it here very much. My wife, Paige, and I both feel it’s a great place to live. It’s certainly an easy place to live compared to New York, which I loved and still do, even though every time I go, I see it deteriorating. As for complaints about Singapore, they’re minimal. It’s not as bicycle friendly as I would like. And to my amazement, when I travel, my Singapore mobile phone gives me trouble. Even AT&T phones don’t give me problems when I travel.
HB: Do you get homesick?
JR: My wife says I’m a gypsy, a wanderer. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten homesick in my life. I remember as a teenager I said I wanted to see the world, I want to taste it all.
HB: Given the contrast in the way you grew up, how do you talk to your kids about money? What do you tell them?
JR: Oh, boy. I’ll tell you, Henry, somebody is spoiling my kids. I hope it’s not me. It’s hard, living in Singapore, since everything is so prosperous. People do expect good times or nice lives, even people who are not very well off. It’s a problem that I grapple with all the time. I have never been a parent. Certainly my kids are growing up different than me. They see the cars we have. Friends tell them, ‘that’s an expensive car, or, ‘that’s an expensive house,’ no matter how much I tell them we’re not well off.
You and I both went to Yale. There were certainly kids when I was there who had grown up quite spoiled, from a life different than anything I had ever conceived of. And some of them didn’t do well in life, partly because of that. I don’t know how to solve this problem. I tell my daughters all the time that money is hard to get. I try to show them that. I try not to buy them everything in sight, which they want and they expect.
When they were born I got each of them six piggy banks for 6 currencies. I am not trying to teach them to be currency traders. But I am trying to teach them you have to save, and these are different kinds of money. I do try to give them money when they do something, when they do a chore or when they do something terrific. But I don’t have an answer. I wish I did.
November 25, 2014
At twice the price of regular milk, the +50% protein is possibly a bit expensive. The ads don’t seem to have gone down that well for KO either.
November 11, 2014
The Affordable Care Act’s legal troubles are far from over. The Supreme Court’s announcement that it will review King v. Burwell, the case challenging health insurance premium subsidies for those who buy their insurance on the 36 federal exchanges, increases the priority of reforming the most destructive aspects of the Act. This announcement comes just over a year after Judge James R. Spencer of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia agreed to rule in the case, then called King v. Sebelius.
Last year, few had heard of King v. Sebelius or its parallel case, Halbig v. Sebelius. With Friday’s Supreme Court announcement, the case could upend the Affordable Care Act. Congress should focus on passing legislation before June, in case the Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs. Then, President Obama would have an incentive to sign the bill to stop his signature piece of legislation from falling apart.
The essence of King v. Burwell is whether those who buy health insurance on federally-run exchanges are eligible to receive premium subsidies. The IRS says yes. The letter of the law says no. The answer as to whether the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will move forward lies with the nine justices.
If the justices rule that subsidies are not permitted on the 36 federal exchanges, then insurance markets in these states would break down. Eighty-five percent of people who bought plans on the exchanges received subsidies in 2014, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. If Americans on the federally-run exchanges do not qualify for health insurance subsidies, far fewer will sign up because plans will be unaffordable for many. If fewer people sign up, rates will rise, leading to a vicious cycle and possible collapse of the plans offered.
If the ACA begins to fall apart, President Obama will have to sign remedial legislation to preserve it. The Act will be practically repealed-unless most or all of the remaining 36 states set up their own state exchanges. Without functioning exchanges, employers will not have to offer health insurance, since there will be no subsides available, and the employer mandate in those states would vanish.
According to the text of the Affordable Care Act, subsidies are available to those who get their health insurance “through an Exchange established by the State under section 1311 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” Or, in another section, those “enrolled in…an Exchange established by the State under section 1311.”
Section 1321 of the Act allows the federal government to set up exchanges in states that have not set up their own web-based portals. But nowhere does the law state that people on federal exchanges can receive tax subsidies.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argued on November 10 that defining exchanges as “established by the State” was an “obvious typo.” Krugman wrote, “not only is it clear from everything else in the act that there was no intention to set such limits, you can ask the people who drafted the law what they intended, and it wasn’t what the plaintiffs claim.”
However, MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of the ACA, said in January 2012 that subsidies were put in place to encourage states to set up exchanges: “What’s important to remember politically about this is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits-but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying [to] your citizens you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges.”
Regardless of the letter and the intent of the law, in a May 2012 ruling, the IRS extended the subsidies to those getting health insurance on any exchange by defining an exchange as a “State Exchange, regional Exchange, subsidiary Exchange, and Federally-facilitated Exchange.” The Department of Justice argues that the law is ambiguous, so the IRS had the right to extend subsidies to the federal exchanges.
A three-judge panel in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decided on July 22, 2014, in Halbig v. Burwell, that individuals could not receive subsidized premiums. On the same day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in King v. Burwell that they could. This appeared to be a circuit split, until the entire D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decided to rehear Halbig v. Burwell in December, vacating the panel’s ruling.
The potential of this case to upend the Affordable Care Act was one of the reasons that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid triggered the “nuclear option” in November, 2013, and broke long-standing Senate rules requiring confirmations with 60 senators. Now only 51 senators are needed. Judges Patricia Ann Millett and Nina Pillard were confirmed to the D.C. Circuit in December 2013, and Judge Robert Wilkins was confirmed in January, 2014, giving Democratic appointees a majority on the Court.
The overtly-political use of the “nuclear option” is likely one reason that the Supreme Court decided to take the case.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the ball would be in Congress’s court to offer a replacement, since it would have substantial leverage. The question is, what would such a bill contain? Here are five suggestions.
Reforms should solve the central problem before the Court by giving individuals at all income levels a tax-free subsidy to purchase health insurance. This would qualify everyone enrolled through the federal exchanges for subsidies and mitigate the current financial disincentives to work and marry.
Due to the steep subsidies that phase out gradually and then completely at $95,000 for a family of four, families have an incentive to keep their income under $95,000. As a result, some adults are working fewer hours, with others dropping out of the labor force entirely, all in order to keep their healthcare subsidies. Other couples have had to delay, or completely forego, marriage in order to keep their combined income low.
As I wrote in these columns last week, ACA reform should reduce disincentives to hiring. This means repealing the requirement that employers offer health insurance to full-time employees or pay a fine. Beginning in January 2015, employers with more than 100 full-time equivalent workers will face a substantial penalty for not offering the right kind of health insurance. In January 2016, the penalty will apply to employers with more than 49 full-time equivalent employees. This pressures firms to create fewer jobs, or staff their businesses with part-time employees to avoid paying penalties for those workers.
Congress should allow any state-approved plan to be offered on the exchanges in order to lower the cost of insurance. Currently, all plans offered have to contain free preventive care, drug abuse coverage, mental health coverage, free contraceptives, and even free pediatric dental care-even for those without children. People should have the option to buy basic plans, without all the bells and whistles, that better fit their needs..
Congress should repeal the medical device tax, which compels medical device manufacturers to expand their offshore production, or forgo developing innovative medical equipment. America needs all the jobs it can get, and new technologies are one critical component of better healthcare. Ending this job- and innovation-killing tax is an area of strong bipartisan agreement, and should be a commonsense first step for the 114th Congress.
Congress should get rid of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which has the power to dictate which drugs and devices are cost-effective and therefore permitted to be covered. This reduces innovation by discouraging companies from developing many novel treatments will not receive coverage. An expensive drug or device that is expensive now can fall in price and become routine the following decade, as well as spawning other pharmaceutical and biomedical inventions.
No one knows how the Supreme Court will rule in June 2015. But regardless of the decision, the new Congress should be prepared to act swiftly to improve the most destructive aspects of the Affordable Care Act.
November 10, 2014
From Barry Ritholtz
People who work in specialized fields seem to have their own language. Practitioners develop a shorthand to communicate among themselves. The jargon can almost sound like a foreign language.
Finance is filled with colorful phrases such as “Spoos,” “Vol,” “Monte Carlo simulation,” and “Gaussian Copula.” In these columns, I try to eschew the usual Wall Street jargon. But I have used the phrase “secular cycles” (most recently here), and a reader recently called me on it. To redress that error, this week I will discuss what a secular — vs. cyclical — market is, its significance and what it might mean to your portfolios.
Based on a lifetime of observations and a few decades in the markets, I understand that societies, beliefs and fashions all move in long arcs of time. We call these arcs several things: cycles, periods, eras. They vary in length and intensity, but they are typically characterized by an idiosyncratic set of qualities that set them apart from each other as unique.
Regardless of the name we affix to them, we intuitively understand what defines a specific period of time. If you name an era, I can describe for you the dominant economic and societal themes and trends. Ultimately, all of these eventually find their way to equities and bonds.
Rather than describe these obliquely, let me give you a definition, and then a few specific examples:
Secular cycles are the long periods — as long as decades — that come to define each market era. These cycles alternate between long-term bull and bear markets. Societal elements affect these markets. These cycles are driven by specific and dominant economic ideas.
Each secular market cycle reflects the key issues of an era. These can include geo-politics, economics, resource consumption, technology or any one of a number of other elements. Over time, each of these factors comes to define the dominant economic theme of a generation. Consider the post-War World II era, or the inflationary malaise of the 1970s or even the roaring 1980s and 1990s. Each period can be defined as a secular cycle.
With each secular cycle, a dominant Market Trend emerges. Historically, these have been extremely powerful and, once established, are very difficult to break. They can last 10 to 20 years.
As an example, let’s use the post-World War II boom. This long expansion lasted from 1946 to 1966 (with a few mild recessions along the way). The economy was driven by a broad assortment of factors that all aligned at once: Millions of troops returned home from the war; more than half of them took advantage of the GI Bill, which provided a stipend ($110 per month) to obtain a college education. A well-educated workforce never hurts the economy.
After being on a wartime footing for so long, civilian manufacturing responded to years of pent-up consumer demand. Commercial aviation expanded until it became an ordinary part of life. The electronics industry expanded rapidly and the seeds for the semiconductor and software revolution were planted.
The postwar period also saw the suburbanization of America, the rise of the homeowner, the build-out of the interstate highway system and the rise of automobile culture. Credit availability expanded dramatically.
Given these factors, would it come as a surprise to learn the stock market had a good run from 1946 to 1966? The long boom led to a long market rally. During that period, the secular bull produced outstanding returns. The Dow Jones industrial average was well under 200 in 1946. By 1963, the Dow was trading five times higher at a level of 1,000.
This postwar expansion was followed by another secular cycle — the ugly secular bear market of 1966-1982.
For example, say to a person “the 1970s” and they will conjure a vivid memory of that era: disco, polyester, gas lines, stagflation, as well as recession. It was an era of socio-political upheaval and a general economic malaise, defined by spikes in inflation, the Watergate scandal, the oil embargo and the Vietnam War. The market experienced a lot of rallies and sell-offs, but stocks failed to make much forward progress overall. The Dow kissed 1,000 in 1966 but did not manage to get over it on a permanent basis until 1982 — 16 frustrating years later.
The period from 2000 to 2013 was similar. Defined by the bursting of the dot-com bubble, 9/11, massive corporate accounting frauds and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it too featured an inflationary spike and high oil prices. But the financial crisis killed inflation, making deflation the greater threat. Big rallies and sell-offs also defined this era. The S&P 500 hit 1500 in 2000, but did not climb above that until some 13 years later in 2013.
The 1982-2000 era is worthy of its own book. I suggest “Bull: A History of the Boom and Bust,” by Maggie Mahar. The patterns seem to keep repeating.
That is the yin and yang of long cycles. The underlying factors that drive each era come to dominate them. Sometimes it’s war, or inflation, or technology, or some combination of these. But they are extremely powerful, and they can drive global economies for decades at a time.
The takeaway is that we continue to see secular bull markets leading to secular bear markets which, in turn, lead to new secular bull markets, and the cycle repeats into the future.
My own views have been slowly inching into the new secular bull market camp. While we can never be certain about these things until they are long past, the great secular bear market of 2000-13 appears to have finally ended. But as I noted, we can never be sure of these things until afterward. The 1966-1982 era looked like it was over in 1980, only to see a 28 percent slide to the 1982 lows.
Several factors have influenced my thinking that we are entering a new secular cycle.
Stock prices: By spring 2013, most major U.S. stock markets and indices had broken above their previous range. All-time highs soon followed, including for the Dow Jones, the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500. The Nasdaq is the only laggard. Having fallen 78 percent from its March 2000 peak, it has yet to recover to its prior highs, which are still almost 20 percent away.
Economic expansion: Over the past five years, I have often referred to academic studies showing that typical post-credit crisis recoveries are much weaker than the usual recession recovery. I have warned of subpar GDP, weak job growth and poor retail sales. And, in fact, that is what we have gotten — and still the market has powered higher. As the economy continues to slowly heal, it should reflect in improving earnings, which is always a positive for equities.
Disbelief in the rally: When I speak with folks who worked on The Street in the 1970s and 1980s — people like Jeff Saut, chief strategist at Raymond James, or Ralph Acampora, the former director of technical analysis for Prudential Securities and founder of the Market Technicians Association — they all make comments about how similar the current sentiment is when compared with the environment in the early 1980s. No one back then seemed to be willing to accept that the 1970s bear market was over. The same skepticism is present today.
The wild card, of course, is the Federal Reserve. We are in a historically unprecedented era. Quantitative easing (QE) and zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) have been conducted on a scale that never happened before. Now they appear to be ending. No one knows what that unwind will look like, or what possible ramifications it might bring.
Aside from that unknown, most of the other factors are lining up to suggest that we are entering a new secular bull market.
Two last things worth mentioning: We have had a terrific five-year run, without much of any sort of correction or pullback. No one knows when the next 15 to 20 percent correction will occur, but it should not surprise us if we see something along those lines. As a reminder, five years after the last secular bull market began in 1982 we had that little glitch in 1987. While history does not repeat that precisely, a one-day 23 percent fall is certainly worth remembering. Most people forget that markets actually finished 1987 up, albeit a mere 1 percent.
Finally, if historical patterns hold true, and this is a new secular bull market, it could last much longer — another decade or more. We won’t know for sure until it is in the history books.
November 10, 2014
November 7, 2014
This was the empirical data that was contained in the link within the comments section.
This data is the evidence to support primarily this argument:
Constant monetary devaluation however, results in increasing costs and more onerous fiscality so that in the long run, new entrants are precluded a priori.
The data runs from 1978 – 2011.
Easy enough to see the creation of M2 money from 1978. This, at first glance supports the argument highlighted.
On the creation/destruction data, the trend is lower, but, within that downtrend are ups/downs. This is the business cycle. The business cycle is best described in terms of productive stages that leads to finally to consumption goods.
*To be continued