Waiting for the other shoe to drop
By: Philip Lockwood
“Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times.” – Machiavelli
This article is not meant to be a scare piece or to keep anyone up at night. It is simply a view of the potential future shaped by the what we know about the past. This is also brought on by recent statements from some people whom I consider the most brilliant minds of our time.
(founding Managing partner of Guggenheim. Guggenheim manages over $310 billion)
“If there were ever a moment to harvest gains and reduce risk, it is August 2018. And if it turns out not to be the moment, I don’t think you are giving up much upside” Twitter August 14th 2018
Strong fiscal stimulus at the end of this business cycle, at a time when the economy is already at so-called full employment, is likely to force the Federal Reserve to step in and be more aggressive with interest rate hikes to try to keep inflation in check, Minerd fears. As market rates spike, it will be that much harder for financially weak companies to meet their obligations, especially after the initial impact from the Trump tax cuts subside. Short-term rates only need to reach 3% to increase corporate defaults, according to Minerd, who expects the Fed to raise rates four times in 2018 and probably four times next year. That implies short-term rates will hit 2.5% to 2.75% a year from now and will be 3.25% to 3.5% a year after that.
(founder of the world’s biggest hedge fund firm, Bridgewater Associates, which manages over $160 billion in assets)
“I see significant other problems ahead in two or three years, because of the combined effects of debt, pension and health-care burdens, the wealth and opportunity gap that create polarity and populism, and less effectiveness of central-bank policies that makes it more difficult to reverse a downturn.”Moreover, he adds, “The ability to ease monetary policy by lowering interest rates is limited in the United States and nonexistent in Europe and Japan, and quantitative easing will be a lot less effective in the future than it was in the past.” The Big Debt Crisis Ray Dalio
“The chance of the U.S. economy suffering a recession before the next presidential election is around 70%”, Dalio said at a recent appearance at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.
The influx of cash into the market, both due to Trump’s tax cuts, and future initiatives – like an infrastructure bill – combined with a strong economy will force the Federal Reserve to raise rates to combat inflation. That’s never an easy task for the FED. The risks of a recession in the next 18-24 months are rising.
Paul Tudor Jones
Paul is the famed hedge fund manager and found of the Tudor Group. He is credited for having called the October 1987 Crash.
Inflation will follow faster than expected, Jones told his shareholders in a February letter, forcing the Fed to increase rates quicker than stated. This market’s current temperament feels so much like either Japan in 1989 or the U.S. in 1999.” For the record, Japanese stocks slipped into an epic bear market at the beginning of 1990 and the tech bubble burst in the U.S in March of 2000.
We have warnings from some of the folks whose opinions I personally value the most. With that being said, if you read my article in last month’s newsletter, “Recession or Expansion – The Mighty Yield Curve,” you will recall my quote: “It’s one thing to get ahead of the curve and hit the ball, and another to swing so early you strike out.” If you have a plan and are actively involved with your financial planner, it may be in your best interest to continue along your plan, as your financial planner has likely taken this information into consideration. I am simply speculating on what may come down the pipeline looking back historically and heeding the advice of my experienced peers.
In my opinion, it is not enough to say we are headed towards tough times in the next 12 to 24 months. Instead, we must form a hypothesis of what is on the horizon that could cause a recession, and then we need to highlight options we have during a recessionary period. Over the next three newsletters, I will cover the following:
1) Events and scenarios that could cause us to go into a recession;
2) Details on each recessionary possibility;
3) Possible Solutions to help during these recessionary periods.
At this point, I believe it is important to highlight historically what brings down financial markets. The ultimate thing that brings down financial markets is excess leverage. When we look at the last seven recessions – 1970, 1973-1975, 1980, 1981-1982, 1990-1991, 2001, and 2007-2009 – each of these periods was forecasted by an inverted yield curve. The inversion of the yield curve has often been what has led to the downfall of market segments with excessive leverage. (Note: See previous article on inversion of yield curve). When I look to see where we have excessive leverage, I come up with a few different areas of the market that are excessively leveraged:
- Emerging markets
I am particularly worried about the $11 trillion in dollar-denominated emerging-market corporate and sovereign debt issued between 2007 and 2017 (Bank of International Settlements www.bis.org), especially as the U.S. dollar rises along with interest rates. As the dollar increases, it gets tougher and tougher for the emerging markets to service the debt, because it takes more and more of their local currency to do so. With over $200 billion of USD-denominated bonds and loans, issued by emerging market governments and companies will come due during the remainder of 2018, according to the Wall Street Journal. About $500 billion will come due in 2019. They will need to be paid off or refinanced.
- Low-quality U.S. corporate debt (i.e the Junk Bond Market)
When we examine the issuance of low-quality corporate debt in our last recessionary period, we find that U.S. companies issued over $950 billion in junk bonds in 2008. To put that in perspective, they have issued over $1.3 trillion today! In 2017 alone, we had as much subprime corporate debt as quality debt. (Wall Street Journal Sept 7, 2018 What will trigger the next crisis?) We are seeing many of these debt issues because of the low interest rate required to service this debt. These companies are getting hooked on leverage. It is cheap. It is easy to refinance. So why not take more of it? These companies have been lulled into taking more leverage than they can handle. I would not be surprised to see default on this debt in the next 12-24 months.
- Ever-Increasing National Debt
While I think all of the above items can certainly derail the U.S. Market, the ever-increasing national debt is what truly worries me the most. We can discuss the growing amount of debt – and the fact that as I write this article, the national debt is over $21 trillion – but what really matters is how we are able to service this debt. Debt in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing – as long as you have a prudent plan to service (pay for) that debt.
The downside risks of having a significant amount of federal debt depends a lot on the willingness and the ability of policy makers to: 1) control the currency in which the debt is denominated, 2) influence how creditors and debtors negotiate and interact with each other, 3) control the interest rate required to service/repay that debt.
The focus on the debt has been obscured by the fact that we have kept interest rates very low. Those interest rates are now rising. When you combine rising rates with a large debt, the interest begins to contribute to the national deficit. The deficit adds to the national debt. As the national debt grows with interest rates, this rapid cycle continues.
In next month’s letter, we will take a deeper dive in our U.S. National Debt and what that may mean for your portfolio in the coming years.
|Philip Lockwood | Founder + Managing Partner|
|Address: 3100 Ingersoll Ave. Des Moines, IA 50312|
Website: Lockwood Financial Strategies
Securities offered through Parkland Securities, LLC, member FINRA (FINRA.org) and SIPC (SIPC.org). Investment Advisory services offered through SPC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Lockwood Financial Strategies, LLC is independent of Parkland Securities, LLC and SPC