Bears, Bulls and the Risk of 2008


The stock market continues to rise, or at least is was, but the economy continues to grow.   Retail estate values are still rising in growth areas.  Interest rates are still low.  Unemployment is nearing historic lows.  Life and the economy is great.  What is there to be concerned about?  Well, listen to the whispers.  Certain people want it to grow fast, but we have been there before.  There are three things out there you can here.  First, Bull cycles have a lifespan.  They rarely last more than 10 years without a negative (Bear) correction.  We have had 10 years of continuous growth since 2009.  Many complain the recovery was not fast enough, but the steady recovery may be extending its run.  Bulls have reigned for 50 or the last 61 years – 84%.  but those intermittent bears have claimed half the gains from the Bulls each time.  Think 2008 when the Great Recession claimed half the wealth accumulated in your 401K and house.  At some point the Bulls will strike again.

The real estate market, while not at levels seen in the past in most areas, has priced most people out of the market in some urban areas (southeast Florida for example).  That portends poorly for working, middle class people who do the bulk of the work and pay the bulk of the taxes in this country.  47% of people do not pay any income taxes – because they do not earn enough to do so!.  They still pay social security and medicare taxes (which rich people and investors do not).  If labor is priced out, they cannot afford to live there.  However, given the low unemployment, workers may have leverage to increase wages – which will lead to either inflation measures or less profits.  Both can be negatives for the economy.

Finally if the economy tanks,  property values will fall, unemployment will increase and the already questionable tax policy of the federal tax cut will be amplified.  For all the rhetoric amongst those in Congress (on both sides) about deficits, only Bill Clinton was able to balance the budget (largely on the back of the Bush 1 tax increases, plus a few of his own).  The Bush 2 tax cuts created immediate deficits and the economic crash in 2008 forced Congress to increase the deficits to avoid global meltdown that would have exceeded what we experienced.  Some economists are concern – a high growth economy cannot continue indefinitely.  If the economy falters, you want to be prepared.  Are we?  Are local governments and utilities?  I think most of us are still digging out of 2008.

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