recessions

About Those Good Old Days

© Can Stock Photo / Chuckee

A client recently expressed a desire to return to the good old days, when we didn’t have all this turmoil and trouble. Wouldn’t we all like that?

But we human beings have some quirks. One of them is the universal sense that, back in the misty past, things were normal, or stable. This idea may not stand up to scrutiny.

If we confine our study just to the economy and markets, the history we’ve lived through has this to say:

1. In the early 1970’s, a mania centering on big blue chip stocks hit the market. It was thought that you could just buy them at any price, and own them forever while they went up and up—“one decision stocks” they were called. Prices ballooned to extremely high levels. The major stock market averages peaked, then sold off more than 50%1.

2. The 1970’s also saw a pair of Arab oil embargoes that resulted in spiking gasoline prices, shortages, gas stations out of gas, and rationing. Over the course of the decade, inflation rose, eventually going over 10%. Unemployment went over 10% in the mid-decade recession2.

3. The early 1980’s began with back-to-back recessions, 15% mortgage interest rates, and inflation at unprecedented levels. The unemployment rate went over 10% again. Long term bonds declined in price as interest rates rose. A mania in oil stocks that began in the 70’s ended badly early in the decade3. The biggest one-day plunge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average ever—22% in a single day—happened in 19871.

4. The 1990’s began with the cleanup from the savings and loan crisis. The Federal deposit guarantee fund had gone broke, along with thousands of financial institutions. The value of housing, which began to fall nationwide in the late 1980’s, didn’t recover until 19924. The bond market suffered its first annual loss in seventy years in 1994.

5. Clients, most of you remember the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, the attacks on 9/11, and the so-called Great Recession of 2008-2009. You already know the fine points; it was not good fun for investors.

6. The current decade, free of recessions so far, has had a lot of ups and downs. The downgrading of US Treasury debt and the recurring Greek financial crisis were two of the main events. The zero-interest-rate policy of the Federal Reserve distorted prices in some sectors of the investment markets, some observers believe.

The resilience of the equity markets over these many decades is astonishing to us. We had all these challenges and issues, and somehow the country came out on the other side, every time. We suspect this general trend will continue. The problems of today will give way to solutions– and new problems–tomorrow. That seems to be how it works.

In the meantime, financial strategies that have worked through the decades may be the best way to approach the future. There will be winners and losers in every change and challenge. We may not be able to get back to those mythical good old days, but we can make the most of what we have to work with.

Clients, if you wish to discuss this, or your situation, please email or call.

1S&P Dow Jones Indices, https://us.spindices.com/indices/equity/dow-jones-industrial-average

2Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Unemployment and Inflation

3Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Oil Prices

4Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Housing Prices


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

Bonds are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rates rise and bonds are subject to availability and change in price.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is comprised of 30 stocks that are major factors in their industries and widely held by individuals and institutional investors.

The Next Recession is Coming, pt 2

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / albund

Regular readers will recognize this headline. The next recession is always coming. Human nature being what it is, the economy will always have cycles just as the world will always have seasons. We humans are great at this: taking a good thing too far. The excesses that build up in good times lead to imbalances that get corrected by economic downturns.

Because investment trends are based loosely on what is going on in the real economy, it makes sense to think about where we might be in the economic cycle. So from time to time we report to you the state of the economy as we see it, with an eye on that next recession. Hat tip to LPL Research, people who do a lot of work on topics we need to know about.

In his latest report, LPL’s chief economist John Canally looked at the current fears in the marketplace and compared them to the groundhog. Many people pay attention to the groundhog, but he actually isn’t worth a darn at weather forecasting. Likewise with the drop in the price of oil, the rise of the dollar, some shrinkage in one sector of the economy—people are paying attention, but these things are not good at forecasting recessions.

Canally also compares the current situation to the 2007 economic and market peak and how things look for consumers. The savings rate is more than double, the mortgage rate is better by a third, household debt is a lower percentage of income and falling, and gasoline prices are….well, you know. Bottom line, we’re in pretty good shape.

Did you know the bond market provides a recession forecast that has worked very well since 1950? The bond market speaks through the yield curve, a simple measure of whether shorter term rates are higher or lower than longer term rates. When short term interest rates get above long term rates, there has always been trouble ahead. LPL’s Anthony Valeri just released a study concluding that the yield curve is not indicating recession.

We’ve never had a recession in recent history that was marked by strong jobs growth. And here we are, with a record 64 straight months of jobs growth. Nor has a drop (or a crash) in the price of oil ever precipitated a recession. The oil price drop is a mixed bag: the energy industry has been hit hard with job losses and reduced corporate earnings. But the losses to energy are gains to the rest of us.

So yes, the next recession IS coming. We just do not think it will arrive soon. Our plodding plow-horse recovery continues, no boom—but no bust either.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

Bonds are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rates rise and bonds are subject to availability and change in price.