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Articles by Dr. Ed Yardeni
The current business cycle has been unprecedented. It has been fast and furious so far. Last year’s recession was among the worst in US history, but it lasted just two months. The V-shaped recovery in real GDP has been one of the fastest on record, with real GDP likely to surpass its previous Q4-2019 record high during the current quarter. That means that the full recovery in real GDP lasted five quarters, with the economy now in the expansion phase of the business cycle.
Not surprisingly, this remarkable performance has been reflected in the unprecedented V-shaped recovery in corporate earnings, also to record highs, in recent months. That’s propelled stock prices to record highs so far this year.
Meanwhile, policymakers continue to step on their growth accelerators, hoping that
While the debate rages on over whether inflation is transitory or long lasting, there’s no debating that an enormous amount of liquid assets has piled up since the start of the pandemic.
The accumulation began with a mad dash for cash by panicked individuals and businesses. But since “Modern Monetary Theory Week” (March 23-27, 2020), when the Fed and the Treasury (a.k.a. “T-Fed”) joined forces, the huge accumulation of liquid assets has been mostly attributable to “helicopter money.” Actually, “helicopters” don’t do the situation justice: It’s been more like T-Fed loaded up B-52 bombers with cash and has been carpet bombing the economy and financial system since then. How much cash has been dropped from the B-52s, so far? Let’s count it up:
(1) T-Fed’s B-52 money. Since February 2020,
President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. (JRB) aspires to be as transformative a president as was FDR in expanding the scope and scale of the US social welfare state. Biden is also the anti-Reagan president. He loves Big Government as much as President Ronald Reagan hated it. Furthermore, he has as much faith in Big Unions as Reagan distrusted them.
The Reagan Revolution didn’t last very long. President Ronald Reagan was a proponent of free-market capitalism. He was against big government. He championed the constitutional system of federalism and the republican system of checks and balances. Yet here we are three decades later with lots more crony capitalism and with the federal government bigger and more powerful than ever.
Conservative presidents have had very little lasting impact on the
Socialists promote policies that they claim will lead to greater income equality. History shows that most countries that have embraced socialism have achieved income equality: Almost everyone is poorer than before socialism was imposed on them for their own good. Purchasing power is depressed for most people, and the quality of the goods and services they can purchase is poorer too.
Socialists often declare that the rich don’t pay their “fair share” of taxes and must pay more so that the proceeds can be redistributed to boost the incomes of the poor. The problem is that the fair share that the rich must pay never seems to be enough. Higher and higher taxes on the rich result in fewer and fewer of them. Eventually, the only fat cats left are the socialist elites, who always get richer as
Prince, Bowie, or Metallica? I’m still trying to figure out what will be the theme song for 2021. I’d been thinking “Party Like It’s 1999” by Prince until last week, when I suggested that “Space Oddity” by David Bowie might be more relevant if stock prices continue to hurtle into outer space. Either song would be consistent with a continuation of the bull market in stocks. Alternatively, perhaps I need to consider a far more pessimistic theme song like “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Metallica.
There’s an old stock market adage: “They don’t ring a bell at the top.” My study of financial history suggests that the adage isn’t true: Credit crunches serve as bells. More specifically, financial crises that trigger a widespread credit crunch tend to cause bear markets in stocks as investors
The Fed I: Backward Looking. Just in case we didn’t get the Fed’s memo on the change in its monetary framework, Fed Governor Lael Brainard explained it very clearly in a speech on March 23 titled “Remaining Patient as the Outlook Brightens.” Throughout her talk, she stressed very important distinctions in meaning between “outlook” and “outcome” and between “preempting” and “reacting.” She concluded her speech with her punchline: “By taking a patient approach based on outcomes [emphasis added] rather than a preemptive approach based on the outlook, policy will be more effective in achieving broad-based and inclusive maximum employment and inflation that averages 2 percent over time.”
Brainard acknowledged that the efforts of public health, fiscal, and monetary policymakers “have
In the past, I often have observed that, contrary to popular belief, inflation-adjusted wages have been expanding rather than stagnating for many years. Wage stagnation has been a popular myth perpetuated by progressives bemoaning workers’ plight to promote their own political agenda.
Naturally, progressives want even more progressive income taxes on higher-income workers and more social benefits for lower-income ones. Their goal is to redistribute income to reduce income inequality. They’ve actually succeeded in doing so, but they never seem to be satisfied. They always want more taxes and more benefits. The result is more “big government.” For now, let’s update the data that belie their basic claims:
(1) The wrong measure of inflation-adjusted wages. One measure of real wages seems to
I am raising my S&P 500 operating earnings forecast for 2021 from $175 per share to $180, a 27.8% y/y increase from 2020. I am also raising my 2022 forecast from $190 to $200, an 11% increase over my new earnings target for this year. I would have raised my 2022 estimate more but for my expectation that the Biden administration will raise the corporate tax rate next year.
As I’ve observed, the economy was hot before the third round of “relief” checks started going out around mid-March. Now it is likely to turn red hot as the Treasury sends $1,400 checks or deposits to 285 million Americans in coming weeks.
I have also observed that the average of the business activity indexes compiled by the Federal Reserve Banks (FRBs) of New York and Philadelphia for their districts jumped from
Rent is one of the major components of both the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the personal consumption expenditures deflator (PCED). Rent inflation has been falling since the start of the pandemic. So it has helped to keep a lid on overall consumer price inflation. Rent disinflation has offset price increases resulting from the stimulative monetary and fiscal policies implemented by the government to shore up the financial system and to revive economic growth. So far, rent disinflation has provided a headwind for overall inflation.
However, a shortage of houses for sale combined with rapidly rising home prices and mortgage rates could soon boost rent inflation, providing a tailwind for overall inflation. Consider the following:
(1) Housing market. The pandemic triggered a wave of
Washington’s lawmakers have discovered the joys of sending checks to their constituents during bad times. They’ve done it twice so far since the start of the pandemic and are likely to do it a third time shortly. The $1,200-per-person checks sent during April did work to revive the economy from last year’s two-month recession during March and April. The $600 checks sent during January certainly averted any stalling in economic growth in the face of the third wave of the pandemic. It’s not hard to guess what another round of $1,400 checks will do to the economy. Consider the following:
(1) Pandemic. On a 10-day moving average basis, Covid-19 hospitalizations have plunged 55% from a record high of 130,386 during January 15 to 58,394 during February 26 (Fig. 1). That’s the lowest pace since
On the health front of the world war against the virus (WWV), the third wave of the pandemic, which started around Halloween, has been the worst by far (Fig. 1). However, it crested on January 15, when the 10-day moving average of hospitalizations peaked at 232,583. This series was down 56% to 101,407 on February 15. That’s encouraging. Hopefully, there won’t be another wave related to the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the pace of vaccinations is picking up, which should change Covid-19 from a plague to a pest.
Notwithstanding the severity of the third wave of the pandemic during the fourth quarter of last year and early this year, a great deal of progress has been made on the economic front of WWV. The US continues to trace out a V-shaped recovery. The same can be said about the global
In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Larry Summers trashed President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan as too stimulative and too inflationary. He also strongly implied that the plan included overly generous unemployment benefits that would discourage the unemployed from taking jobs. In fact, there is mounting evidence that the unemployment benefits provided by the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act have been doing the same.
There actually seem to be lots of job openings, but fewer people willing to take them. That would explain why wages have been rising at a faster pace in recent months. At the start of the pandemic, many low-wage workers lost their jobs, while most high-wage workers could work from home. That explained the jump in average hourly earnings during
Inflation I: Prices Paid vs Prices Received
In recent Zoom calls with accounts, I am spending more time discussing the outlook for inflation. For investors, this may very well be among the most important, if not the most important, issue to get right in 2021 and beyond. If inflation looks likely to remain subdued, then we can “keep walking because there is nothing to see here, folks.” If inflation looks likely to make a modest comeback, then overweighting inflation hedges in portfolios would make sense. In recent months, there has certainly been some comeback-like action in the prices of assets that might benefit from higher inflation. If inflation were to make a big comeback, bond yields would soar. That could cause a credit crunch, a recession, and a bear market. I am inclined to keep
After listening to the lyrics of “Party Like There’s No Tomorrow,” I think it might be a more fitting theme song for our current milieu than “Party Like It’s 1999.” The former was released in 2008 by an acid-rock band while the latter was released during 1982 by the rock star Prince. The former starts with: “Tonight we’re gonna party like there’s no tomorrow / Forget about our woes and drown our sorrows.” The rest of the song is sprinkled with lots of expletives belted out by the nutty band.
While tomorrow will undoubtedly occur on schedule, the Covid-19 pandemic is raging like never before. Yet investors are partying with abandon: The S&P 500 and Nasdaq continue their meltups in record-high territory. On Friday, January 8, they were up 70.9% and 92.4%, respectively, from their March 23,
The Blue Wave made a big splash as Tuesday’s Georgia election results, reported late Wednesday afternoon, showed that both of the state’s seats for the US Senate were won by the two Democratic candidates. A tsunami of socialist policies implemented by progressives in the Democratic party is now likely. A Blue Wave led by the incoming Biden administration, unimpeded by gridlock, certainly represents a radical regime change from the Trump administration. It is likely to be much more radical than the regime change led by the Obama administration. That’s because the Democrats in Congress are much more radical in their left-leaning political views than ever before.
The Democrats’ win in Georgia could be bad news for entrepreneurial capitalism. It could also be bearish for the stock market if
Inflation I: Post-Pandemic Worry. I was an early believer in “disinflation.” I first used that word, which means falling inflation, in my June 1981 commentary titled “Well on the Road to Disinflation.” The Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate was 9.6% that month. I predicted that Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker would succeed in breaking the inflationary uptrend of the 1960s and 1970s, which he did.
Nevertheless, throughout my career, I’ve often fielded questions about the likelihood of a rebound in inflation from accounts who were worried that it just might make a comeback. After all, the Fed chairs who followed Volcker tended to favor stimulative monetary policies. This year, as a result of the unprecedented monetary and fiscal policy stimulus provided by governments around the
Carrie is a horror novel by Stephen King. It was his first published novel, released on April 5, 1974. It was turned into a movie in 1976 starring Sissy Spacek and John Travolta. Carrie is a misfit bullied in her high school and dealing with an abusive, religious fanatic mother at home. She finds that she can channel her angst into telekinetic powers, which she uses to exact revenge on her tormenters. Much blood is spilt along the way, including Carrie’s. In the final scene, she seems to rise from the dead but that’s just a bad dream.
The Bond Vigilantes have been buried by the Fed. However, in our nightmare scenario, they could rise from the dead like Carrie. It isn’t likely to happen if inflation also remains buried, as I expect.
Meanwhile, there are other vigilantes in the financial
This should be the first and last holiday season requiring us all to socially distance from one another. Apparently, we will have a cornucopia of vaccines and treatments available for mass distribution early next year. If so, then 2020 may mark the beginning of the Roaring 2020s, as I’ve discussed in previous LinkedIn articles. Let’s compare the current situation to the one before and during the Roaring 1920s:
(1) World War I. Recall that the years leading up to the Roaring 1920s included World War I from July 28, 1914 through November 11, 1918. The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was about 40 million, with estimates ranging from around 15-22 million deaths and about 23 million wounded military personnel—ranking World War I among the deadliest conflicts
The following is the Introduction to our latest study in our "Predicting the Markets" series. The paperback and e-book are available on Amazon here. The other studies in this series are available on my Amazon author’s page here.
I started my career on Wall Street in 1978. I spent the prior year at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the economics research department after receiving my undergraduate degree in economics and government from Cornell University in 1972 and my PhD in economics from Yale University in 1976. Over the past 40-plus years, I’ve worked as both the chief economist and the chief investment strategist at several firms on Wall Street. Since January 2007, I’ve been the president of my own consulting firm, Yardeni Research, Inc.
My job continues to be to predict the
A large team of the Fed’s researchers have been busy constructing a new database containing quarterly estimates of the distribution of US household wealth since 1989. They launched it with the release of a March 2019 working paper titled “Introducing the Distributional Financial Accounts of the United States.” The Distributional Financial Accounts (DFA) is an impressive accomplishment combining quarterly aggregate measures of household wealth from the Financial Accounts of the United States (FA) and triennial wealth distribution measures from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF).
I. A much more comprehensive database. We believe that the new database can be used to resolve lots of controversial issues about wealth distribution in the US. The DFA’s balance sheet of the household sector
I’ve often observed that the US economy has performed remarkably well over the years despite Washington. Presidents like to take credit for the millions of jobs they have created or boast about the number of jobs they will create. Presidential candidates make similar promises about how their policies will boost employment by millions if they are elected or re-elected.
The reality is that it is businesses that create jobs, not politicians. Businesses tend to do a better job of creating jobs when they aren’t burdened by Washington’s meddling in their affairs. Since Washington almost always meddles to varying degrees with the economy, it’s amazing how so many businesses in so many industries continue to be profitable and to expand their capacity and payrolls, with only recessions briefly
The Fed I: Birth of T-Fed. What a difference a pandemic makes. Prior to the Great Virus Crisis (GVC), Fed officials were either dismissive of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) or remained silent on the subject since it crosses into the realm of fiscal policy. Fed officials have had a very long tradition of never crossing that line. They do monetary policy. Congress and the White House do fiscal policy. Period! Nothing to see here. Move on.
Since the GVC, Fed officials repeatedly and frantically have been exhorting the fiscal authorities to do much more to support the economy. They’ve made it very clear that they will continue to help finance the resulting federal deficits by purchasing most, if not all, of the Treasury debt issued to pay for more fiscal stimulus. They’ve certainly been doing
“E pluribus unum” certainly doesn’t apply to our highly partisan political discourse these days. The phrase is Latin for “Out of many, one.” It is a traditional motto of the US, appearing on the Great Seal. Its inclusion on the seal was approved by an Act of Congress in 1782. Another motto is “Novus ordo seclorum,” which is Latin for "New order of the ages.” That doesn’t seem to apply these days either given our political and social disorder.
Then again, we all seem to be united when it comes to shopping. While the country remains bitterly divided politically, we are united in our drive to thrive. That certainly helps to explain the remarkable economic recovery in recent months from the two-month lockdown recession during March and April.
American consumers almost never disappoint us. I
We didn’t know how good we had it in 2019. Then the pandemic hit in 2020, and we all concluded that it will take many years before life will be as good as it was in 2019. Perhaps we’re too pessimistic. After all, 2019 was better than we realized at the time; perhaps we’ll return to the good life sooner than we realize now. Let’s examine that notion, starting with how good it was in 2019, then considering how we might rebound to the good old days sooner than widely anticipated:
(1) Household income rose to record high in 2019. My attitude toward any data series that doesn’t support my story is that either it is flawed or it will be revised to support my story. That’s been my strongly held attitude toward median real household income, the annual series compiled by the Census Bureau and
There has never been a recession like the one that hit the global economy earlier this year. It was truly global because every country in the world experienced an economic downturn as almost all governments around the world responded to the pandemic by imposing lockdown restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. China (in late January) and Italy (in early March) did so before the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the pandemic on March 11. Almost everyone else followed suit immediately after the WHO declaration. While the pandemic continues to plague the world with new outbreaks and waves of infection, the global economy has recovered in recent months. Let’s take a world tour to assess the strength and sustainability of the recovery:(1) Global PMIs and leadingRead More »
In my August 12 newsletter, I discussed the technological innovations that drove the prosperity of the 1920s. Then I discussed the ones that are likely to do the same during the current decade:
“The awesome range of futuristic ‘BRAIN’ technological innovations includes biotechnology, robotics and automation, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology. There are also significant innovations underway in 3-D manufacturing, electric vehicles [EVs], battery storage, blockchain, and quantum computing.”
In my 2018 book, Predicting the Markets, I observed:
“In the past, technology disrupted animal and manual labor. It sped up activities that were too slow when done by horses, such as pulling a plow or a stagecoach. It automated activities that required lots of workers. Assembly lines required
We seem to be living in unprecedented times. We always seem to be living in unprecedented times, according to conventional wisdom, mostly because we don’t spend enough time studying history. There’s certainly a precedent for our current times in the past, one that was truly unprecedented back then.
World War I was followed by the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, which infected an estimated 500 million people and killed as many as 50 million. Given that the world population was 1.8 billion back then, that implied a 28% infection rate and nearly a 3% death rate. Both stats are currently significantly lower for the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the global population is 7.5 billion. There have been 20 million cases and 735,000 deaths worldwide as of yesterday.
The good news is that the bad news
Bonds I: Eulogy. Let me begin my eulogy for the Bond Vigilantes with apologies to William Shakespeare. The emotional eulogy for Julius Caesar that Shakespeare penned for the character Marc Antony in his play Julius Caesar inspired the words that I would like to share with you on this solemn occasion:
Friends, countrymen, citizens of the world, lend me your ears. I come to bury the Bond Vigilantes, not to praise them. The noble Fed killed its rival, the Bond Vigilantes, because they were too ambitious. If it were so, it was a grievous fault. The Bond Vigilantes sought to marshal market forces to counter the ever-growing power of the government. That cause is noble and good. But while the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones—so let it be with the
We live in surreal times. I’ve previously compared them to the TV series
The Twilight Zone. However, a more apt comparison would be with the
land that Dorothy and her dog Toto visited in the movie "The Wizard of Oz." When a tornado ripped her house from its foundation,
causing it to crash-land in Oz, she emerged safe and sound, looked around in
wonder, and famously marveled, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas
anymore.” Oz had a colorful cast of characters, including assorted Munchkins,
the Good Witch of the North, the Bad Witch of the West and her Winkie Guards,
and a blustery wizard—not unlike Washington today. And the news these days
showcases plenty of national and local leaders behaving like cowardly lions,
heartless tin men, and brainless straw men.