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Lords of Easy Money

John Lim  |  May 6, 2022

THE FEDERAL RESERVE has a daunting responsibility. Among its jobs is “to promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.” This is commonly referred to as its dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability.
Yet those two aims are often at odds. That’s because of the inverse relationship between unemployment and inflation, embodied by the Phillips Curve. Attempts to maximize employment—or minimize unemployment—often stoke the flames of inflation.

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Ominous Predictions

Adam M. Grossman  |  May 1, 2022

IN A NOTE TO CLIENTS last week, Deutsche Bank analysts wrote that they expect a “major recession.” What should you make of ominous predictions like this?

First, don’t panic. Yes, Deutsche Bank is a big institution. But it’s worth noting that last week two equally prominent institutions also weighed in—with a different point of view. Goldman Sachs argued that a recession is “not inevitable.” UBS wrote that, “We do not expect a recession.” They can’t all be right.

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Dangerous Curves

Phil Kernen  |  Mar 22, 2022

FINANCIAL MARKETS are full of indicators and data relationships from which we tease conclusions. Few signals grab our attention more than an inverted yield curve and its habit of showing up before recessions. But is this signal still accurate in predicting economic trouble?
When U.S. Treasury bond yields are plotted on a graph, they normally have an upward slope, with short-term yields generally lower than longer-term yields. That makes sense: Lenders demand a higher rate for 30-year loans than 10-year loans because their money is at risk for longer.

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Too Much Talk

Phil Kernen  |  Jan 20, 2022

OVER THE PAST 25 years, the Federal Reserve has become more transparent than ever. Much of this is the result of political pressure. Still, the Fed has taken it further, believing greater transparency to be a good thing in helping the public understand the likelihood of future policy changes. Talking more may have helped us move past the 2008 financial crisis. But it isn’t helping us now.

Congress created the Federal Reserve in 1913.

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Prophecy Fulfilled?

John Lim  |  Dec 27, 2021

QUANTITATIVE EASING, or QE, has been the Federal Reserve’s policy of choice since interest rates reached their lower bound of 0%. The brainchild of then-Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, QE was launched in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. Quantitative easing is simply a euphemism for bond purchases—Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities—by the Federal Reserve.
In theory, QE should lead to lower interest rates, as reflected in bond yields. Bond prices are, of course,

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Hall of Mirrors

Adam M. Grossman  |  Dec 19, 2021

LAST WEDNESDAY, the Federal Reserve’s policymaking committee concluded its quarterly meeting with two big announcements. First, the Fed is going to scale back its monthly purchases of Treasury securities. Because these multi-billion-dollar purchases have helped keep interest rates low, the Fed’s objective here is to let interest rates begin to rise. That was the first announcement.

The second is that the committee expects to raise its benchmark rate by nearly a full percentage point next year.

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The Bogle Method

Jonathan Clements  |  Dec 11, 2021

TIME TO PLAY MARKET strategist. Trying to figure out what sort of U.S. stock returns we can expect over the next 10 years? Nobody knows for sure, of course. But we can at least think about it in a reasonably logical way—by using what some folks call the Bogle method.
What’s that? In a 1991 article for the Journal of Portfolio Management, Vanguard Group founder John Bogle—who died in January 2019—laid out a relatively straightforward method for estimating stock returns.

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Not So Efficient

Adam M. Grossman  |  Dec 5, 2021

THE STOCK MARKET’S recent wrenching price swings offer a valuable investment lesson. Let’s start by reviewing the facts:

On the day after Thanksgiving, the S&P 500 suffered its worst day in months and the Dow had its worst day in more than a year. The proximate cause: news about Omicron, a new coronavirus variant. Overnight, investors seemed to revive their playbook from the early 2020 recession. Airline stocks dropped precipitously. Oil plunged 13%. Meanwhile,

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Invest Don’t Bet

Rob Carrigg, Jr.  |  Dec 1, 2021

MANY TIMES IN MY career, I’ve heard people say, “The stock market is just one big casino” or “Buying stocks is just like gambling.” Yes, there are similarities between investing and gambling. But when done properly, long-run investing shouldn’t resemble gambling in any real way.
Let’s start with the similarities. Day-traders—who buy individual stocks in an attempt to make a quick profit—are similar to gamblers at the roulette table. Both are hoping for a lucky play.

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Read Before Selling

John Lim  |  Nov 30, 2021

LIKE A TIRESOME rerun of Friday the 13th, COVID-19 has returned in its newest form, the Omicron variant. Last Friday, financial markets were shaken by the news, especially the potential for greater transmissibility and the fear that current vaccines will prove impotent against the new COVID variant. Yesterday saw a partial market rebound. Still, traders are betting that share prices will remain volatile.
Much is unknown at this point, but many investors have taken a sell-now-and-ask-questions-later approach.

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Taking Stock

Adam M. Grossman  |  Nov 21, 2021

A FRIEND DESCRIBED his recent experience trying to buy a new car. “I had two choices,” he said. “One dealer wanted full sticker price. The other wanted even more. It wasn’t much of a choice.”

The inflation situation in the car market is well understood. A shortage of components is limiting car makers’ output, driving up prices. But inflationary pressures aren’t limited to cars. The most recent reading for the Consumer Price Index was higher than it’s been in 30 years.

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When Cash Is King

William Bernstein  |  Nov 6, 2021

YIELDS ON SAFE investments—namely Treasurys, certificates of deposit, savings accounts and money market funds—are in the basement. Yes, Series I savings bonds currently offer an annualized 7.12%. But that rate is only guaranteed for six months, plus regular purchases are limited to $10,000 a year.

“Where can I go for yield?” goes the cry heard throughout the land. Nowhere, of course. As put by money manager Raymond DeVoe Jr., “More money has been lost reaching for yield than at the point of a gun.”

Still,

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Recession Watch

John Lim  |  Oct 25, 2021

I’M PLAYING ECONOMIST today, looking ahead to third-quarter GDP, the first estimate of which will be released Thursday. No, I won’t be offering a forecast. There are plenty of highly capable economists doing just that. Rather, my goal is to discuss what few in the media are talking about. Could a recession be in the offing?
According to economists Paul Samuelson and William Nordhaus, a recession is defined as “a period of significant decline in total output,

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Calculated Courage

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 23, 2021

THE S&P 500 STOCKS are up roughly 100% since March 2020’s market low. I’m 100% clueless about how much longer this remarkable run will last. But I’m 100% confident that, when the next downturn comes, many investors will rush for the exit, fearful that their stock holdings will soon be worth little or nothing.
Which brings me to one of the most important investment concepts: intrinsic value.
No, intrinsic value isn’t a simple notion and,

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Costly Arguments

Adam M. Grossman  |  Sep 26, 2021

OPEN AN ECONOMICS textbook, and you’ll find this fundamental principle: When the money supply expands—that is, when the government prints more money—higher inflation is often the result. This topic has, for good reason, been on investors’ minds lately. Since the pandemic began, the Federal Reserve has increased the money supply by several trillion dollars.

Is higher inflation inevitable? I see five possible answers to this question:

1. Yes, of course. Between 2010 and 2020,

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