No. We are not repeating the “Roaring 20’s” analog. Ben Carlson had a recent post asking if the “Roaring 20’s” are already here? As his chart shows below, there are certainly some similarities between 1920 and 2020 given the recent “pandemic shutdown” driven recession.
However, what Ben missed were the differences both economically and fundamentally between the two periods.
Let me preface this article by stating that I don’t like market analogies, particularly when they are with early market eras like the ’20s. The population of the country was vastly smaller, the financial markets were rudimentary at best, there were few big players in the markets, and the flow of information was slow.
1920 Was The Bottom
Ben makes an important observation to start his post.
“Yet coming out of that awful period, America experienced an unprecedented boom time the likes of which this country had never seen before.
The 1920s ushered in the automobile, the airplane, the radio, the assembly line, the refrigerator, electric razor, washing machine, jukebox, television and more. There was a massive stock market boom and explosion of spending by consumers the likes of which were unrivaled at the time. After the immense pressure of the Great War, many people simply wanted to have fun and spend money.”
Ben is correct, the ’20s marked the start of a period of marvel and rapid change. However, his chart above misses some important events starting in 1900 leading to 20-years of negative returns.
- Panic of 1907
- Recession in 1910-1911
- Recession in 1913-1914
- Bank Crash of 1914
- World War I ran from 1914-1918
- Spanish Flu Pandemic 1918-1919
- Economic Depression in 1920-1921
The market “melt-up” was undoubtedly driven by an economic recovery, a surge in innovation, etc. but was supported by historically low valuations. (Current valuations align with 1929 more than 1920.)
The innovations in the early 1900s put increasing numbers of people to work. The increases in jobs led to higher wages and more robust economic growth. Today, companies are spending money on innovation and technology to increase productivity, reduce employment, and suppress wage pressures.
The history of the economy and related events shows the difference between then and now.
As Ben notes:
“But that’s why people in the 1920s were so joyous — they went to hell and back before the boom times.”
Yes, the U.S. certainly went through a tough year in 2020. But such is far different than what was experienced in the early 1900s. There are also fundamental challenges that exist today.
Valuations Do Matter
“Frederick Lewis Allen once wrote, ‘Prosperity is more than an economic condition: it is a state of mind.’ Yet the current boom isn’t just a happiness survey. The numbers back me up here.
The S&P 500 has now hit 58 new all-times since the pandemic bear market ended in March 2020. Housing prices are at all-time highs. People have more equity in their homes than ever before. Wages are rising at the fastest pace in years. Economic growth is going to be at the highest level in decades in 2021.
Add it all up and the net worth of all American households is at all-time highs. But this time it’s not just the top 1% who is benefitting.” – Ben Carlson
Again, Ben is correct, however comparing the recent liquidity-driven stock market mania to that of the 1920s is not exactly apples to apples.
In the short term, a period of one year or less, political, fundamental, and economic data has very little influence over the market.
In other words, in the very short term, “price is the only thing that matters.”
Price measures the current “psychology” of the “herd” and is the clearest representation of the behavioral dynamics of the living organism we call “the market.”
But in the long-term, fundamentals are the only thing that matters. Both charts below compare 10- and 20-year forward total real returns to the margin-adjusted CAPE ratio.
Both charts suggest that forward returns over the next one to two decades will be somewhere between 0-3%.
There are two crucial things you should take away from the chart above with respect to the 1920’s analogy:
- Market returns are best when coming from periods of low valuations; and,
- Markets have a strong tendency to revert to their average performance over time.
Wash, Rinse, & Repeat
As noted, the flood of liquidity, and accommodative actions, from global Central Banks, has lulled investors into a state of complacency rarely seen historically. However, while market analysts continue to come up with a variety of rationalizations to justify high valuations, none of them hold up under real scrutiny. The problem is the Central Bank interventions boost asset prices in the short-term; in the long-term, there is an inherently negative impact on economic growth. As such, it leads to the repetitive cycle of monetary policy.
- Using monetary policy to drag forward future consumption leaves a larger void in the future that must be continuously refilled.
- Monetary policy does not create self-sustaining economic growth and therefore requires ever-larger amounts of monetary policy to maintain the same level of activity.
- The filling of the “gap” between fundamentals and reality leads to consumer contraction and, ultimately, a recession as economic activity recedes.
- Job losses rise, wealth effect diminishes, and real wealth is destroyed.
- The middle class shrinks further.
- Central banks act to provide more liquidity to offset recessionary drag and restart economic growth by dragging forward future consumption.
- Wash, Rinse, Repeat.
If you don’t believe me, here is the evidence.
The stock market has returned more than 198% since the 2007 peak, which is more than 3.9x the growth in corporate sales and 8x more than GDP.
Unfortunately, the “wealth effect” impact has only benefited a relatively small percentage of the overall economy. While Ben notes that even the bottom 50% have benefitted, such is a bit of an exaggerated claim. The bottom 50% of the population has the same net worth as prior to the “Financial Crisis.” Such hardly suggests an economy benefitting all.
A Quick Note On Technology
Ben is correct when he discusses the advances in technology in the ’20s.
However, there is a fundamental difference between the impacts of technology in the 1920s and today.
The rise of automation and the automobile’s development had vast implications for an economy shifting from agriculture to manufacturing. Henry Ford’s innovations changed the economy’s landscape, allowing people to produce more, expand their markets, and increase access to customers.
In the ’20s, technological advances led to increased demand, creating more jobs needed to produce goods and services to reach those consumers.
Today, technology reduces the demand for physical labor by increasing workers’ efficiencies. Since the turn of the century, technology has continued to suppress productivity, wages, and, subsequently, the rate of economic growth. Such was a point we made in “The Rescues Are Ruining Capitalism.”
“However, these policies have all but failed to this point. From ‘cash for clunkers’ to ‘Quantitative Easing,’ economic prosperity worsened. Pulling forward future consumption, or inflating asset markets, exacerbated an artificial wealth effect. Such led to decreased savings rather than productive investments.”
The critical distinction between the technology of the ’20s and today is stark.
When technology increases productivity and output while simultaneously increasing demand by increasing “reach,” it is beneficial.
However, when technology improves efficiencies to offset weaker demand and reduce labor and costs, it is not.
Given the maturity of the U.S. economy and the ongoing drive for profitability by corporations, technology will continue to provide a headwind to economic prosperity.
Ben and I do agree that this is very much like the 20s. However, where we differ is that while he believes we may starting that period, we suggest we are likely closer to the end.
In 1920, banks were lending money to individuals to invest in the securities they were bringing to market (IPO’s). Interest rates were falling, economic growth was rising, and valuations grew faster than underlying earnings and profits.
There was no perceived danger in the markets and little concern of financial risk as “stocks had reached a permanently high plateau.”
It all ended rather abruptly.
Today, while stock prices can be lofted higher by further monetary tinkering, the underlying fundamentals are inverted. The larger problem remains the economic variables’ inability to “replay the tape” of the ’20s, the ’50s, or the ’80s. At some point, the markets and the economy will have to process a “reset” to rebalance the financial equation.
In all likelihood, it is precisely that reversion that will create the “set up” necessary to begin the “next great secular bull market.” Unfortunately, as was seen at the bottom of the market in 1974, there will be few individual investors left to enjoy the beginning of that ride.
The Gaslighting Of America
The Gaslighting Of America
Authored by Bob Weir via AmericanThinker.com,
I remember a comedy skit several years ago in which a woman comes…
The Gaslighting Of America
I remember a comedy skit several years ago in which a woman comes home unexpectedly and finds her husband in bed with another woman. Shocked, she demands to know who the woman is and why her husband is doing this. The couple get out of bed and start getting dressed as the man says to his wife, “Honey, what are you talking about?” The wife, perplexed at the question, says, “I’m talking about that woman!” Meanwhile, the other woman, now fully dressed, heads for the door. The husband says, “What woman? Honey, are you feeling okay? There’s no woman here.” Feeling dazed and confused, the wife begins to question her own sanity.
That’s a pretty good example of what the Biden administration is pulling on the psyche of the American people.
What they’re doing is not merely “spin,” which has become SOP whenever a political party does a clever sales job on the public in order to keep certain facts from them. No, this is much more than shrewd marketing; this is blatantly lying in the public’s face and telling them they’re crazy if they believe their own eyes.
When we look at videos showing thousands of migrants coming across our southern border with impunity, while Biden and his cohorts tell us they have the situation under control, we’re being gaslighted.
When thousands of Americans and Afghan allies are abandoned to be tortured and killed by Taliban terrorists, while Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, tells us the war ended successfully, we’re being told not to believe what we’re seeing.
President Trump made our country energy independent, only to have his success overturned by Biden on day one of Biden’s presidency. That forced our country to once again be dependent on foreign oil. Biden said his action would help protect the environment. We scratch our heads and wonder how it makes sense to ship millions of barrels of oil on cargo ships from thousands of miles away, only to be used the same way it was used when it was processed here.
Does foreign oil have less environmental effect than American oil?
When Biden proposes a $3.5-billion “infrastructure bill” that is heavily weighted toward social engineering and radical “Green New Deal” initiatives, we’re told that everything is infrastructure.
We’re also told that the massive spending bill will cost “zero dollars” because the new taxes will be assessed only on the wealthy.
Then, to add more consternation to a public getting groggy trying to keep up with twelve-digit numbers, Biden and his accomplices want another $80 billion for the IRS so its agents can check into every bank account that has transfers of $600 or more. As if the IRS weren’t already a liberty-crushing organization, Biden wants to provide it with more ammo to use against those who oppose him. Nevertheless, we’re told it’s going after only tax cheats. Why would these people need $80 billion more to do what they’ve always done? Don’t ask, lest you get audited for questions they don’t want asked.
When the supply chain of cargo ships, carrying about a half-million shipping containers filled with goods from all around the globe, are stalled in the waters outside major American port cities, we’re told by White House chief of staff Ron Klain that it’s just “high-class problems.”
In other words, only the wealthy are waiting for the goods to arrive at stores. Moreover, Jen Psaki mocks it as the “tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed” — another elitist poking fun at the reasonable expectations coming from the working class.
The list of gaslighting incidents is growing longer than Pinocchio’s nose.
Each time we are faced with another destructive lie, our attention is diverted to the latest Trump investigation or the probe of one of his supporters. Keeping the January 6 imbroglio alive is one of those diversions. The radical left has come to power by a sinister display of distractions from reality. A major part of that distraction is using accusations of racism to muzzle opposition. Most people will cower in fear of such labeling, even when they know in their hearts it’s not true. That’s precisely what makes the accusations so useful to those who seek power through intimidation and distortion of reality.
President Trump called out situations for what they are, without the odious and murky filtration of political correctness. That’s why the entrenched powers of Deep State corruption despised him.
Now we’re stuck with a president who says “what inflation?” as we pay higher prices than ever at the gas pump and the supermarket. I seriously doubt that shoppers are questioning that reality.
The U.S. Budget Deficit
#CKStrong The U.S. Treasury findly released their monthly statement on Friday, which closed the books on the government’s 2021 fiscal year (October to…
The U.S. Treasury findly released their monthly statement on Friday, which closed the books on the government’s 2021 fiscal year (October to September). The deficit came in at $2.8 trillion (12.0 percent of GDP, based on our Q3 GDP estimate) , a bit lower than FY 2020’s $3.1 trillion (14.8 percent of GDP). Those are some massive deficits, folks.
U.S. Deficit Larger Than 95 Percent Of Global Economies
In fact, the FY 2021 deficit was larger than Italy and Canada’s economy, bigger than 185 of the 192 country economies in the lastest IMF database. Take a look at the peak 12-month deficit of $4.1 trillion in March. The March deficit would have made the G5.
Financing The COVID Deficit
How can the U.S. Treasury finance $5 trillion in borrowing over the past 18-months without spiking global interest rates, crowding out investment and other asset markets, and tanking asset prices? They can’t.
The table below breaks down the financing in several different measures. Check it out.
The bottom line is that 23 percent of the COVID deficit borrowing has been financed by an increase in Treasury bill issuance, easy given the mass excess liquidty on the short-end where the Fed is soaking up over a trillion with overnight reverse repos in order to keep short-term rates postives. Most of that liquidity, by the way, was created from QE.
Of the remaining $4.1 trillion of non T-Bill debt issuance, 75 percent was taken down by the Fed, albeit indirectly.
There you have have it, folks, T-Bills and the Fed have financed the bulk of the COVID deficit and debt buildup. No judgment, but policymakers are now going to have engineer a soft landing in the economy and asset markets as we approach a fiscal cliff to normalize the budget deficit and tighten up monetary policy.
We are not throwing stones as they saved the world from a global economic castasophe.
We do criticize their continued irresponsible policies as inflation rages and stagflation sets in. It’s not wise, in our experience, to try and monetize supply shocks. We learned that hard and painful lesson by doing so with the OPEC oil shocks.
Narrow window for a soft landing. Stay tuned.
Email us or comment if you have questions.
An Anti-Inflation Trio From Three Years Ago
Do the similarities outweigh the differences? We better hope not. There is a lot about 2021 that is shaping up in the same way as 2018 had (with a splash…
Do the similarities outweigh the differences? We better hope not. There is a lot about 2021 that is shaping up in the same way as 2018 had (with a splash of 2013 thrown in for disgust). Guaranteed inflation, interest rates have nowhere to go but up, and a certified rocking recovery restoring worldwide potential. So said all in the media, opinions written for everyone in it by none other than central bank models.
It was going to be awesome.
Straight away, however, right from the very start of 2018 there were an increasing number (and intensity) of warning signs. Flat curves were a big one – which then later inverted. In global economic data, crucial contradictions were purveyed by Japan and Germany.
In other words, taking cues from those three – Japanese and German conditions augmented by consistent contortions in the US Treasury yield curve – before we even got to the end of 2018, while the mainstream narrative prevailed unopposed with Jay Powell still hiking rates, we said very differently. Here’s early November 2018, with already negative GDP in both those places:
This year is proving to be a trainwreck in too many important places. It was supposed to be the arrival of worldwide recovery. Worse, too many arrows are still pointing down for 2019. But you wouldn’t know it from the Bank of Japan, ECB, Federal Reserve, etc. Not until they are forced into some honest assessments for once.
Heads in the sands (or another orifice, if you prefer), “tightening” became the preferred if only option across the globe. The Fed, the ECB, others around the world rushed to get ahead of the (imagined) inflationary pressures “everyone” said were on the cusp.
Just a few months further on, March 2019, everything had already changed though it would take many more months for the stunned mainstream to even begin appreciating all the roughness.
As is standard practice, when weak data began showing up last year it was attributed to anything, everything else. Europe was downright booming, they said, so there was no possible way for a macro negative scenario…Europe isn’t the only place where manufacturing declines are showing up. Just as Germany is a bellwether for global trade and therefore global economy, Japan is in very much the same situation. Export-oriented, if Japan Inc. isn’t making new goods that’s because the rest of the world isn’t demanding them.
Germany. Japan. Yield curve. Twenty-eighteen.
Germany and Japan the economic bellwethers for the whole global economy (the importance of trade at the margins) along with the Treasury curve reacting to, and forecasting ahead from, the real global economy’s interior and insides. Economists are, by contrast, so removed from the realities of real-time facts so as to be modern day astrologers making claims based on little more than specious privileges.
Germany or Japan struggling isn’t really about Japan or Germany; nor the UST curve specific to US and Treasury. With a massive overflow of goods heading toward especially the US, however warehoused on the way, as I wrote earlier today, what might this trio bode with regard to the direction for future demand?
Many companies have claimed they are absolutely ready for “too many goods”, believing both their newfound penchant for individual supply chains as well as logistical consulting to manage more than ever. This so long as demand doesn’t “unexpectedly” fall off, even a little, which then might trigger the downside of the inventory cycle.
Three years ago, these three indications taken together were keen warning signs how demand was about to and would fall off “unexpectedly” (if it hadn’t already). And these ended up being highly accurate measures of the global economic direction that were completely, utterly contrary to the surefire, guaranteed inflation/recovery/BOND ROUT!!! no one ever challenged.
Is this time different? Hope so, but history keeps repeating because no one ever explains what happened last time. And the time before. And the time before. And…
Edible Oil Prices Hit Record High As Food Inflation Treat Soars
Equity outlook – What is the problem? The recovery
What’s Behind The Eerie Calm In Corporate Credit
Treasury Secretary Says US Not Losing Control Over Inflation As Twitter CEO Issues Dire Warning
Bob Farrell: 10-Investing Rules For A “QE” Driven Market
The Price of Bitcoin
ChargePoint Stock Could Get a Short-Term Jolt, But the Future Is Foggy
Lira Tumbles To New Record Low As Critics Blast Erdogan’s Ambassador Expulsion Scandal
Stagflation Is On Tap: What Will Happen to Gold Prices?
Energy & Critical Metals9 hours ago
Tesla Ditches Nickel and Cobalt in Move to Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) Batteries
Precious Metals12 hours ago
Trending Silver Stocks To Buy Now? 3 For Your Watchlist
Articles10 hours ago
Silver Sands Neighbor Golden Arrow Resources Commences Exploration at Various Projects
Precious Metals16 hours ago
Gold Prices Accelerate as Fears Over Global Inflation Mount
Today’s News12 hours ago
Silver Sands Resources Commences Phase III Drilling at the Virginia Silver Project
Precious Metals16 hours ago
New Found Gold Uses Sprott Investment to Double Queensway Drill Program To 400,000 Metres
Economics20 hours ago
Equity outlook – What is the problem? The recovery
Precious Metals8 hours ago
Stocks, Bonds, Bitcoin, & Bullion All Bid As Billionaire Tax Threat Builds