Joseph Y. Calhoun

Joseph Y. Calhoun

Joe has worked in the financial services industry since 1992 in various capacities, including Operations Manager, Compliance Manager, Registered Representative and Portfolio Manager. From 1997 to 2006, when he founded Alhambra Investment Management, Mr. Calhoun was a Director of Investments at Oppenheimer & Co. Mr. Calhoun holds the Series 63 (Uniform Securities Agent State Law) and 65 (Uniform Investment Advisor Law) securities licenses. He has previously taken and passed the Series 7 (General Securities Representative) and Series 9/10 (General Securities Sales Supervisor) securities exams. His company is a global investment adviser, hence potential Swiss clients should not hesitate to contact AIP

Articles by Joseph Y. Calhoun

Monthly Macro Monitor: Economic Reports

Is recession coming? Well, yeah, of course, it is but whether it is now, six months from now or 2 years from now or even longer is impossible to say right now. Our Jeff Snider has been dutifully documenting all the negativity reflected in the bond and money markets and he is certainly right that things are not moving in the right direction.

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Monthly Macro Chart Review: April 2019

Economic Growth & Investment

The economic data reported over the last month managed to confirm both that the economy is slowing and that there seems little reason to fear recession at this point. The slowdown is mostly a manufacturing affair – and some of that is actually a fracking slowdown – but consumption has also slowed.

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Monthly Macro Monitor: Well Worried

Yield Curve and Lending Standards 1990-2018

Don’t waste your time worrying about things that are well worried. Well worried. One of the best turns of phrase I’ve ever heard in this business that has more than its fair share of adages and idioms. It is also one of the first – and best – lessons I learned from my original mentor in this business. The things you see in the headlines, the things everyone is already worried about, aren’t usually worth fretting over.

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Monthly Macro Chart Review – March

Economic Growth and Investment

We’re changing the format on our Macro updates, breaking the report into two parts. This is part one, a review of the data released the previous month with charts to highlight the ones we deem important. We’ll post another one next week that will be more commentary and the market based indicators we use to monitor recession risk.

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Monthly Macro Monitor – January 2019

Economic Growth & Investment

A Return To Normalcy. In the first two years after a newly elected President takes office he enacts a major tax cut that primarily benefits the wealthy and significantly raises tariffs on imports. His foreign policy is erratic but generally pulls the country back from foreign commitments. He also works to reduce immigration and roll back regulations enacted by his predecessor.

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2019 Outlook

A discussion of the outlook for 2019 in the markets and the economy by Alhambra CEO Joe Calhoun and the Head of Alhambra Global Investment Research Jeff Snider.

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Living In The Present

10-Year US Treasury Yield 2016-2018

It’s that time of year again, time to cast the runes, consult the iChing, shake the Magic Eight Ball and read the tea leaves. What will happen in 2019? Will it be as bad as 2018 when positive returns were hard to come by, as rare as affordable health care or Miami Dolphin playoff games? Will China’s economy succumb to the pressure of US tariffs and make a deal?

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Monthly Macro Monitor – November 2018

Economic Growth & Investment

Is the Fed’s monetary tightening about over? Maybe, maybe not but there does seem to be some disagreement between Jerome Powell and his Vice Chair, Richard Clarida. Powell said just a little over a month ago that the Fed Funds rate was still “a long way from neutral” and that the Fed may ultimately need to go past neutral.

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Monthly Macro Monitor – October 2018

Economic Growth & Investment

Stocks have stumbled into October with the S&P 500 down about 6% as I write this. The source of equity investors’ angst is always hard to pinpoint and this is no exception but this correction doesn’t seem to be due to concerns about economic growth. At least not directly.

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Global Asset Allocation Update – September 2018

Moderate Allocation, Sep 2018

The risk budget is unchanged again this month. For the moderate risk investor, the allocation between bonds and risk assets is 50/50. Decoupling anyone? That’s what the market is whispering right now, that the recent troubles in foreign economies is contained and won’t affect the US. The most obvious example of that trend is the performance of US stocks versus the rest of the world.

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Monthly Macro Monitor – August 2018

US Real GDP, Q1 2013 - Q1 2018

The Q2 GDP report (+4.1% from the previous quarter, annualized) was heralded by the administration as a great achievement and certainly putting a 4 handle on quarter to quarter growth has been rare this cycle, if not unheard of (Q4 ’09, Q4 ’11, Q2 & Q3 ’14). But looking at the GDP change year over year shows a little different picture (2.8%).

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Global Asset Allocation Update

Moderate Allocation 50-50 risk budget

The risk budget is unchanged again this month. For the moderate risk investor, the allocation between bonds and risk assets is evenly split. The only change to the portfolio is the one I wrote about last week, an exchange of TIP for SHY.

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Global Asset Allocation Update

50-50 Risk budget

Note: This will be a short update. We are shifting the timing of some of our reports. The monthly Global Asset Allocation update will now be published in the first week of the month, aiming for the first of each month. I’ll put out a full report next week. The Bi-Weekly Economic Review is shifting to a monthly update, published on the 15th of each month.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

Economic Growth & Investment

This will be a fairly quick update as I just posted a Mid-Year Review yesterday that covers a lot of the same ground. There were, as you’ll see below, some fairly positive reports since the last update but the markets are not responding to the better data. Markets seem to be more focused on the trade wars and the potential fallout. I would also note that at least some of the recent strength in the data is related to the tariffs.

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Mid-Year Global Markets Update

S&P 500

Volatility returned to markets with a vengeance in the first half of this year. 2018 started off as an extension of last year when volatility was almost wholly absent. Stocks roared out of the starting gate, up almost every day until January 26th. And then – whoosh. What took nearly a month to gain took just 6 trading days to give back and then some.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

10-Year Treasury Constant Maturity Rate 1990-2018

Is the rate hiking cycle almost done? Not the question on everyone’s minds right now so a good time to ask it, I think. A couple of items caught my attention recently that made me at least think about the possibility. 
There has been for some time now a large short position held by speculators in the futures market for Treasuries.

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Global Asset Allocation Update

Global Asset Allocation Update

The risk budget is unchanged this month. For the moderate risk investor the allocation to bonds and risk assets is evenly split. There are changes this month within the asset classes. How far are we from the end of this cycle? When will the next recession arrive and more importantly when will stocks and other markets start to anticipate a slowdown?

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: As Good As It Gets?

US Treasuries

In the last update I wondered if growth expectations – and growth – were breaking out to the upside. 10 year Treasury yields were well over the 3% threshold that seemed so ominous and TIPS yields were nearing 1%, a level not seen since early 2011. It looked like we might finally move to a new higher level of growth. Or maybe not.

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Global Asset Allocation Update

Moderate Allocation

The risk budget changes this month as I add back the 5% cash raised in late October. For the moderate risk investor, the allocation to bonds is still 50% while the risk side now rises to 50% as well. I raised the cash back in late October due to the extreme overbought nature of the stock market and frankly it was a mistake. Stocks went from overbought to more overbought and I missed the rally to all time highs in January.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Oil, Interest Rates & Economic Growth

Economic Growth and Investment

The yield on the 10 year Treasury note briefly surpassed the supposedly important 3% barrier and then….nothing. So, maybe, contrary to all the commentary that placed such importance on that level, it was just another line on a chart and the bond bear market fear mongering told us a lot about the commentators and not a lot about the market or the economy.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Interest Rates Make Their Move

Economic Growth and Investment

How quickly things change in these markets. In the report two weeks ago, the markets reflected a pretty obvious slowing in the global economy. In the course of two weeks, what seemed obvious has been quickly reversed. The 10-year yield moved up a quick 20 basis points in just a week, a rise in nominal growth expectations that was mostly about inflation fears.

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Global Asset Allocation Update: The Certainty of Uncertainty

Moderate Allocation

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor, the allocation to bonds is 50%, risk assets 45% and cash 5%. Stocks continued their erratic ways since the last update with another test of the February lows that are holding – for now. While we believe growth expectations are moderating somewhat (see the Bi-Weekly Economic Review) the change isn’t sufficient to warrant an asset allocation change.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Investing Is Not A Game of Perfect

Economic Growth and Investment

The market volatility this year has been blamed on a lot of factors. The initial selloff was blamed on a hotter than expected wage number in the January employment report that supposedly sparked concerns about inflation – although a similar number this month wasn’t mentioned as a cause of last Friday’s selling. The unwinding of the short volatility trade exacerbated the situation and voila, 12% came off the market in a matter of days.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Embrace The Uncertainty

There’s something happening here What it is ain’t exactly clear There’s a man with a gun over there Telling me I got to beware I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound Everybody look what’s going down There’s battle lines being drawn Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong Young people speaking their minds Getting so much resistance from behind It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound Everybody look what’s going down.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: The New Normal Continues

There has been a lot of talk about the economic impact of the recent tax reform. All of it, including the analyses that include lots of fancy math, amounts to nothing more than speculation, usually informed by little more than the political bias of the analyst. I am guilty of that too to some degree but I don’t let my personal political views dictate how I view the economy for purposes of investing.

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Global Asset Allocation Update: Tariffs Don’t Warrant A Change…Yet

Moderate Allocation

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor the allocation to bonds is 50%, risk assets 45% and cash 5%. We have had continued volatility since the last update but the market action so far is pretty mundane. The initial selloff halted at the 200 day moving average and the rebound carried to just over the 50 day moving average.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: One Down, Three To Go

US Leading Index, 1984 - 2018

We pay particular attention to broad based indicators of growth. The Chicago Fed National Activity Index and the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Indicators are examples. We watch them because we are mostly interested in identifying inflection points in the broad economy and aren’t as interested in the details. Why? Because, while bear markets do happen outside of recession, it is rare and unpredictable.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

Personal income for December was better than expected at up 0.4% on the month and 4.11% year over year. Wages and salaries were up 0.5%. Unfortunately, that rate of rise is not even up to the lower end of the range we’ve seen in past expansions when 5% income growth was a precursor to recession. Still, it is, sadly, about average for this expansion.

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Global Asset Allocation Update:

Moderate Allocation

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor the allocation to bonds is 50%, risk assets 45% and cash 5%. Despite the selloff of the last week I don’t believe any portfolio action is warranted. While the overbought condition has largely been corrected now, the S&P 500 is far from the opposite condition, oversold. At the lows this morning, the S&P 500 was officially in correction territory, down 10% from the recent highs.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Markets At Extremes

Production ended the year on a strong note but early readings from January are not as positive. The December industrial production report headline was strong at a 0.9% gain but a lot of that strength was in the mining (oil drilling) and utility sectors. Mining has actually led the way the last year as rig count has risen with drilling activity. I’d love to see our economy less dependent on the price of oil but that is what we’ve become over the decade or so.

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Global Asset Allocation Update

Moderate Allocation

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor the allocation to bonds is 50%, risk assets 45% and cash 5%. The extreme overbought condition of the US stock market persists so I will continue to hold a modest amount of cash. There are some minor changes within the portfolios but the overall allocation is unchanged.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Housing Market Accelerates

The economy ended 2017 with current growth just slightly above trend. In general the reports of the last two weeks of the year were pretty good with housing a standout performer going into the new year. We are still trying to get past the impact – positive and negative – from the hurricanes a few months ago though so it is probably prudent to wait for more evidence before making any definitive pronouncements about the economy.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Animal Spirits Haunt The Market

The economic data over the last two weeks continued the better than expected trend. Some of the data was quite good and makes one wonder if maybe, just maybe, we are finally ready to break out of the economic doldrums. Is it possible that all that new normal, secular stagnation stuff was just a lack of animal spirits?

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Who You Gonna Believe?

We’ve had a pretty good run of data recently and with the tax bill passing the Senate one would expect to see markets react positively, to reflect renewed optimism about economic growth. We have improving economic data on pretty much a global basis. It isn’t a boom by any stretch of the imagination but there is no doubt that the rate of change has recently been more positive.

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Global Asset Allocation Update

Moderate Allocation

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor the allocation to bonds is 50%, risk assets 45% and cash 5%. The extreme overbought condition of the US stock market did not correct since the last update and so I will continue to hold a modest amount of cash.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: A Whirlwind of Data

The economic data of the last two weeks was generally better than expected, the Citigroup Economic Surprise index near the highs of the year. Still, as I’ve warned repeatedly over the last few years, better than expected should not be confused with good. We go through mini-cycles all the time, the economy ebbing and flowing through the course of a business cycle.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Gridlock & The Status Quo

The good news is that the economy just printed its second consecutive quarter of 3% growth, a feat not accomplished since Q2 and Q3 2014. The bad news is that the growth spurt in 2014 was better, quantitatively and qualitatively. Those two quarters produced gains of 4.6% and 5.2% (annualized) in GDP, much better than the most recent 3.1% and 3% prints of Q2 and Q3 2017.

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Global Asset Allocation Update

Moderate Allocation

The risk budget this month shifts slightly as we add cash to the portfolio. For the moderate risk investor the allocation to bonds is unchanged at 50%, risk assets are reduced to 45% and cash is raised to 5%. The changes this month are modest and may prove temporary but I felt a move to reduce risk was prudent given signs of exuberance – rational, irrational or otherwise.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Yawn

When I wrote the update two weeks ago I said that we might be nearing the point of maximum optimism. Apparently, there is another gear for optimism in this market as stocks have just continued to slowly but surely reach for the sky.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Maximum Optimism?

The economic reports of the last two weeks were generally of a more positive tone. The majority of reports were better than expected although it must be noted that many of those reports were of the sentiment variety, reflecting optimism about the future that may or may not prove warranted. Markets have certainly responded to the dreams of tax reform dancing in investors’ heads with US stock markets providing a steady stream of all time highs, bond yields rising and the dollar coming off the mat.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: As Good As It Gets

The incoming economic data hasn’t changed its tone all that much in the last several years. The US economy is growing but more slowly than it once did and we hope it does again. It is frustrating for economic bulls and bears, never fully satisfying either. Probably more important is the frustration of the average American, a dissatisfaction with the status quo that permeates the national debate. The housing bubble papered over the annoying lack of income growth and eroding job security of the new millennium in a way the financial market gains of today can’t. 

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Global Asset Allocation Update: Step Away From The Portfolio

Moderate Allocation

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor, the allocation between risk assets and bonds is unchanged at 50/50. There are no changes to the portfolios this month. The post Fed meeting market reaction was a bit surprising in its intensity. The actions of the Fed were, to my mind anyway, pretty much as expected but apparently the algorithms that move markets today were singing from a different hymnal.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Waiting For Irma

This update will be a bit shorter than usual. I’m in Miami awaiting Hurricane Irma. As of now, it looks like the eye of the storm will make landfall near Key West and continue west of us with the Naples/Ft. Myers area at risk. Or at least that’s the way it looks right now. I’ve done a lot of these storms though – I lost a house in Andrew in ’92 – and you never know what these things will do. We are secure in a house that survived Andrew with barely a scratch so we’re pretty confident. In some ways it is like monitoring the economy.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Don’t Underestimate Gridlock

Bi-weekly

The economic reports released since the last update were slightly more upbeat than the previous period. The economic surprises have largely been on the positive side but there were some major disappointments as well. The economy has been doing this for several years now, one part of the economy waxing while another wanes and the overall trajectory not much changed. Indeed, the broad Chicago Fed National Activity index probably says it all, coming in at -0.01.

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More Noise Than Signal

US Real Gross Corporate, 1951 - 2017

A number of people have forwarded this Bloomberg article – Wall Street Banks Warn Downturn Is Coming – to me over the last couple of days. That fact alone is probably a good argument to ignore it but I can’t help but read articles like this if for no other reason than to know what the crowd is thinking.

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Questions

US Corporate Profits / Gross Domestic Product, 1950 - 2017

Why are profit margins persistently high? With decent earnings this quarter, corporate profits as a % of GDP will approach (maybe exceed) 10% again. That is abnormally high compared to the period 1960 to 2000. Margins actually started to rise in the mid-80s but really accelerated after 2000 and outside of the 2008 crisis have remained high. Why?

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Global Asset Allocation Update: No Upside To Credit

Moderate Allocation

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor, the allocation between risk assets and bonds is unchanged at 50/50. There are other changes to the portfolio though so please read on. As I write this the stock market is in the process of taking a dive (well if 1.4% is a “dive”) and one can’t help but wonder if the long awaited and anticipated correction is finally at hand.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Ignore The Idiot

Of the economic releases of the past two weeks the one that got the most attention was the employment report. That report is seen by many market analysts as one of the most important and of course the Fed puts a lot of emphasis on it so the press spends an inordinate amount of time dissecting it.

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SNB Balance Sheet, Markets and Economy: As Good As It Gets?

Markets and Economy 1972 - 2017

Late 2014/early 2015 will perhaps be the closest to a real recovery from the Great “Recession” we shall see in this cycle.  Q1 2015 marked the peak year over year growth rate of GDP in this recovery at 3.76%. That rate compares quite unfavorably with even the feeble post dot com crash recovery high of 4.41% in Q1 2004.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Extending The Cycle

This economic cycle is one of the longest on record for the US, eight years and counting since the end of the last recession. It has also been, as almost everyone knows, a fairly weak expansion, one that has managed to disappoint both bull and bear.

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Global Asset Allocation Update: Not Yet

Moderate Allocation

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor, the allocation between risk assets and bonds is unchanged at 50/50. There are no changes to the portfolio this month. Growth and inflation expectations rose somewhat since last month’s update. The change is minor though and within the range of what we’ve seen in recent months.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Attention Shoppers

The majority of the economic reports over the last two weeks have been disappointing, less than the consensus expectations. The minor rebound in activity we’ve been tracking since last summer appears to have stalled. Retail sales continue to disappoint and inventory/sales ratios are once again rising – from already elevated levels.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Draghi Moves Markets

In my last update two weeks ago I commented on the continued weakness in the economic data. The economic surprises were overwhelmingly negative and our market based indicators confirmed that weakness. This week the surprises are not in the economic data but in the indicators. And surprising as well is the source of the outbreak of optimism in the bond market and the yield curve.

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Global Asset Allocation Update:

Moderate Allocation

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor, the allocation between risk assets and bonds is unchanged at 50/50. There are no changes to the portfolio this month.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Has The Fed Heard Of Amazon?

The economic surprises keep piling up on the negative side of the ledger as the Fed persists in tightening policy or at least pretending that they are. If a rate changes in the wilderness can the market hear it? Outside of the stock market one would be hard pressed to find evidence of the effectiveness of all the Fed’s extraordinary policies of the last decade.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: The Return of Economic Ennui

The economic reports released since the last of these updates was generally not all that bad but the reports considered more important were disappointing. And it should be noted that economic reports lately have generally been worse than expected which, if you believe the market to be fairly efficient, is what really matters.

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Global Asset Allocation Update

Moderate Allocation

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor, the allocation between risk assets and bonds is unchanged at 50/50. There are, however, changes within the asset classes. We are reducing the equity allocation and raising the allocation to REITs. 

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

The economic data releases since the last update were generally upbeat but markets are forward looking and the future apparently isn’t to their liking. Of course, it is hard to tell sometimes whether bonds, the dollar and stocks are responding to the real economy or the one people hope Donald Trump can deliver when he isn’t busy contradicting his communications staff.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

The economic reports since the last economic update were generally less than expected and disappointing. The weak growth of the last few years had been supported by autos and housing while energy has been a wildcard. When oil prices fell, starting in mid-2014 and bottoming in early 2016, economic growth suffered as the shale industry retrenched.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

bi-weekly

It wasn’t a very good two weeks for economic data with the majority of reports disappointing. Most notable I think is that the so called “soft data” is starting to reflect reality rather than some fantasy land where President Trump enacts his entire agenda in the first 100 days of being in office. Politics is about the art of the possible and that is proving a short list for now.

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Global Asset Allocation Update

Moderate Allocation

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor, the allocation between risk assets and bonds is unchanged at 50/50.

The performance of markets in the first quarter of the year was a bit schizophrenic. Stocks performed well which one might interpret as a reflection of improving economic growth prospects. Certainly President Trump and his proxies were quick to take credit but unfortunately for the new administration if they are responsible then they seem to be making foreign markets and gold miners great again sooner than America.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

It is hard not to notice that the chart above has a lot less red in it than it has in some time. That is true of the month to month data as well as the year over year changes. There has been a widely reported gap between so called soft data – surveys and polls – and the hard data – actual economic activity reports. Bulls say the gap is there because the soft data always leads the hard data.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

B-weekly

The Fed did, as expected, hike rates at their last meeting. And interestingly, interest rates have done nothing but fall since that day. As I predicted in the last BWER, Greenspan’s conundrum is making a comeback. The Fed can do whatever it wants with Fed funds – heck, barely anyone is using it anyway – but they can’t control what the market does with long term rates.

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Global Asset Allocation Update

Moderate Allocation

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor, the allocation between risk assets and bonds is unchanged at 50/50. The Fed spent the last month forward guiding the market to the rate hike they implemented today. Interest rates, real and nominal, moved up in anticipation of a more aggressive Fed rate hiking cycle.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

The Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise interest rates again at their meeting next week. They obviously view the recent cyclical upturn as being durable and the inflation data as pointing to the need for higher rates. Our market based indicators agree somewhat but nominal and real interest rates are still below their mid-December peaks so I don’t think a lot has changed.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

Economic Reports Scorecard. The economic data released since my last update has been fairly positive but future growth and inflation expectations, as measured by our market indicators, have waned considerably. There is now a distinct divergence between the current data, stocks and bonds. Bond yields, both real and nominal, have fallen recently even as stocks continue their relentless march higher.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

ScoreCard

The economic data since my last update has improved somewhat. It isn’t across the board and it isn’t huge but it must be acknowledged. As usual though there are positives and negatives, just with a slight emphasis on positive right now. Interestingly, the bond market has not responded to these slightly more positive readings with nominal and real yields almost exactly where they were in the last update 3 weeks ago. In other words, there’s no reason – yet – to believe this is anything more than one of the number of blips higher we’ve seen over the last few years. I will say though that this one appears to be a little more global than some of the other ones so maybe it will have more legs.

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