Category Archives: Finance

Academics say yes: Is US already in a recession?

America has already slipped into a recession that could be as bad as the 2008 financial meltdown according to key consumer data, a Dartmouth College professor has warned.

David Blanchflower, of Dartmouth, and Alex Bryson, of University College London, say that every slump since the 1980s has been foreshadowed by 10-point drops in consumer indices from the Conference Board and University of Michigan.

Source: US is already in a recession that could be as bad as 2008, paper warns | Daily Mail Online

They say the U.S. is in a recession – but government spending (money printing?), direct payments, and so on, has held it at bay.

I do not know. But there is much that is messed up – the supply chain situation is bizarre, as is the apparent shortage of labor. Something is amiss. With official inflation running YoY at 5.4%, the Fed will likely act soon to begin raising interest rates. That diminishes borrowing, which eventually means less spending, which means less demand, which means moderating price pressures. The stock market will not like that much, nor will Congress, which is up for election in 2022.

Gallup poll: “Americans Revert to Favoring Reduced Government Role”

Likely an effect of authoritarian rule the past 19 months:

Americans once again say the government is doing too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.

Source: Americans Revert to Favoring Reduced Government Role

Suggests the Democrats are out of step with their constituents, as Democrats push for a massive expansion of government and eventually, taxes too. Regardless, there is not overwhelming support for massive government expansion envisioned by Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda now stalled in Congress.

Taleb says bitcoin effectively worth zero

People also conflate the success of bitcoin as a digital currency with the success of bitcoin as a speculative investment. To be a currency would require it to have some stability and usability, Taleb said.

Source: ‘Black Swan’ author Nassim Taleb says bitcoin is worth zero

Imagine if the price of groceries varied by 10% to 25% each week. That is what would happen if the value of the dollar fluctuated wildly, like bitcoin does.

This is why I do not see bitcoin effective as a currency.

There is great merit to applications of the underlying blockchain algorithms, and there is also usefulness for digital assets – but it is not suitable as a currency, for now.

Does auto-enrollment in retirement plans make sense?

Source: A new law would require employees to save for retirement – MarketWatch

The law would mandate automatic payroll deductions of 3%, rising 1% per year until 10% is reached – unless the employee intentionally opts out. (Some businesses already implement this on their own.)

I argue that a younger person just out of college, especially in a professional track job, should be saving money to buy a home and other necessary life expenses at this young age – and not saving for retirement.

There is now research that backs this up – most college educated workers will have dramatic pay increases over the first 10-15 years of their work life. Saving will be easier with higher incomes (if they do not expand spending). This may be a time to spend money on enjoying life too – the future is not predictable and health problems and even death may eliminate future plans.

A side effect of the traditional view to start saving for retirement, immediately as a young person is that many will, surprisingly, save too much for retirement – and be unable to spend that money in retirement to do the things they then wish they had done when younger.

Continue reading Does auto-enrollment in retirement plans make sense?

Lockdowns and face masks forever: CDC says its ok to travel except you should not travel at all

Inconsistent, contradictory, incoherent public messaging continues unabated:

Duchin said Public Health continues to discourage unnecessary travel amid new guidance released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19[1].

Those who aren’t vaccinated should get tested one to three days before traveling, and three to five days after their trips, Duchin said. The CDC said travelers should continue to take precautions and wear masks during travel.

Source: King County public health official: Surge in COVID cases could lead to reopening rollback | The Seattle Times

[1] But if traveling from outside the U.S., even if fully vaccinated, you must also have a negative Covid-19 test (The negative Covid passport), unless you had Covid-19, and then you don’t need a Covid-19 test at all, even if not vaccinated. The CDC is implying via policy that having Covid-19 has higher efficacy than the vaccine, or something.  If you travel much, the CDC’s policy provides an incentive to get Covid-19 so you can avoid the travel hassles. That makes sense. Not.

“U.K. Covid Test Program Cannot Justify Huge Costs, Lawmakers Say”

(Bloomberg) — The U.K.’s coronavirus test-and-trace program has failed to demonstrate it has contributed to a fall in infection rates — despite its “unimaginable” 22 billion-pound ($30.6 billion) cost so far, according to the British Parliament’s spending watchdog.

Source: U.K. Covid Test Program Cannot Justify Huge Costs, Lawmakers Say

But who needs data? All you need is computer model!

More reasons to keep pandemic fear levels high

We cannot allow good news to flourish:

Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office said in a new forecast that the U.S. economy will recover “rapidly” due to coronavirus vaccine rollout and the passage of new legislation. It predicted GDP will reach its previous peak in mid-2021, and that the labor force will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

Source: Dow Rallies As Republicans Offer Biden Stimulus Bargain; Microsoft Surges As GameStop Falls | Investor’s Business Daily

The $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal is harder to pass if cases are in sharp decline and hospitalizations are plummeting unless we keep the fear levels high.

Yesterday, one of the media’s frequently quoted experts said he expects to see a “hurricane” of cases to arrive in the next 6-14 weeks based on “variants”. We do not know what the future will bring but such quotes keep fear levels high. And fear is one of the most powerful tools of persuasion.

There is a chance that once a stimulus package is passed the government will assure us that the pandemic appears to be under control.