The Independent Market Observer
The Independent Market Observer
Commonwealth’s chief investment officer, Brad McMillan, provides insight on the economic, market, and political events of the day—both domestically and on a global scale.
I have been keeping an eye on bitcoin prices, which are around $3,600 (as of February 14), close to the lowest level in a year. Bitcoin has clearly not run to the sky the way many buyers thought it would. But there are signs that the underlying technology—the blockchain—is starting to make progress in the real world. Bitcoin was not the real story; the technology was. Now, we are starting to see the results.
This will be a short post, as it has been a long 48 hours. I was on a red-eye flight last night, returning from the Commonwealth Retirement Symposium in Scottsdale. Before that, I was at the Commonwealth Chairman’s Retreat in Palm Beach. So, my brain is not working at peak efficiency!
We talked yesterday about the possibility of another government shutdown and the effect that could have on both business and consumer confidence. That shutdown looks to be something we will avoid. But now there is another potential confidence buster ahead being talked up in the media: an earnings recession.
We are getting close to the decision point on whether large parts of the government will shut down again. Much of our discussion on the first shutdown still applies—the direct economic damage will be real but limited. As we look seriously at a repeat, though, we need to spend some time thinking about the indirect damage. If shutdowns become a regular feature of government, then the effect will be linear but could also rise substantially.
Although the government shutdown has now ended, several economic reports from previous weeks have not yet been released. It is still undetermined when they will be made available, although the releases have started. As such, the week ahead will be busy, with the regularly scheduled reports joined by some catch-up data.
Market risks come in three flavors: recession risk, economic shock risk, and risks within the market itself. So, what do these risks look like for February? Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.
As far as we know, the economic news remained solid if somewhat mixed last month. The caveat here is that the government shutdown delayed some reports. The core data we look at, however, is available.
Now that the dust has settled a bit, and we have some (but not all, due to the shutdown) of the year-end data, let’s take a look back at 2018. In many respects, it was a better year than it seemed.
After a terrible fourth quarter in the financial markets, we had a sizable bounce in January. Markets were up significantly, both here in the U.S. and around the world, and sentiment seemed to change markedly from pessimism to a new optimism. The question going forward is whether things have really changed that much.
Last week was a busy one on the economic front, given the planned reports plus some of the catch-up reports from the government shutdown. Although the shutdown is now over, several economic reports from previous weeks have not yet been released. It is still undetermined when they will be available, although some releases have started.
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