Dawn Bennett, CEO and Founder, Bennett Group Financial Services
I’ve had so many phenomenal and diverse guests on my syndicated radio show, Financial Myth Busting, this year: Steve Forbes, Mort Zuckerman, David Stockman, Michael Belkin, David Walker, Dr. Ben Carson, Marc Faber, and even Ted Nugent. This is a very eclectic group, but they all have certain opinions in common. They all share the same concerns that the U.S. economic growth remains anemic and the continued economic instability and political deadlock along with business community’s mistrust of the U.S. government will continue to destroy America’s bottom line in the future.
So for everyone who feels they missed the 2013 recovery, yes I’m being tongue in cheek, it must be tough to consider that some feel we just experienced a bull market. Now, I don’t know any of those people, since even some that were in the market didn’t feel it. At the same time, it can be really unnerving because we are already primed for another major correction.
The markets in this upside down U.S. economy continue to go up while the fundamentals continue to get worse. The vast majority of Americans have had a hard time making ends meet and that is the rub. Unemployment remains high, household debt is skyrocketing, Gross Domestic Product is essentially flat to negative. Even the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced that the U.S. economic outlook for 2014 is pessimistic. The CBO expects the U.S. economy in 2014 to remain near death. So, for the average American that means continuing to stretch and suffer to make ends meet in 2014. You can bet that the coming year will look and feel the same, like we are on our last legs.
Given the weak foundation of our economy going into 2014, I look to 2014 prognostications from some of the past guests on my radio show, Financial Myth Busting on WMAL in Washington, D.C., as well as some future guests I hope you get. They were remarkable in predicting the 2008 market crisis and ones before. However, just because they have been right in the past, does not mean they will be right in the future. Yet, I believe they are worthy of consideration because without a doubt, their prognostications are ominous.
Legendary investor Jim Rogers writing about 2014 said, “You saw what happened in 2008 and 2009 which was worse then the previous economic setback because the debt was so much higher. Now the debt is staggeringly much higher, so the next economic problem when it happens and whatever causes it is going to be worse than in the past because of these unbelievable levels of debt and unbelievable printing of money all over the world. Be worried and get prepared.”
Michael Belkin of The Belkin Report said, “ They’re partying like crazy…drinking from the punch bowl like there is no tomorrow and we have seen this movie before and what will happen is that things will go wrong…in the market and underneath the surface of the market financials are breaking, autos are breaking down…so beneath the surface of this market it’s not the way it seems at the party…the Federal reserve is playing a very dangerous game, here, by trying to keep consumer confidence from collapsing by inflating the market into a speculative bubble.”
Mexican billionaire Hugo Salinas-Price writes, “I think we are going to see a series of bankruptcies. A rise in interest rates will be the fatal sign, which is going to ignite a derivatives crisis. This will bring down the derivatives and financial system. There are over $1 quadrillion of derivatives and most are related to interest rates. The spiking of interest rates in the United States may set that off. What will happen in the world is that we will come to a moment where there is going to be massive bankruptcies around the globe. Mostly in the developed economies.”
American writer and publisher Jim Grant said, “From the United States to Europe and Asia the world’s central banks are flooding markets with liquidity and pushing deeper into unknown monetary policy territory and I feel this journey will not end well. The stock market is increasingly full of stocks that are borne aloft by hope rather than demonstrated performance.”
Winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Economics, Robert Shiller writes, “I’m not sounding the alarm just yet, but in many countries, the stock price levels are high.” He’s referring to developed economies. “In many real estate market prices have risen sharply too. That could end badly.”
Last, but not least, there’s David Stockman, who was just on our show a couple of week’s ago. He is the Former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under Former President, Ronald Reagan. He writes, “We’ve had a massive bubble everywhere from Japan to China to Europe to the UK. As a result of this I think the world financial markets are extremely dangerous, unstable and open to serious trouble and dislocation in the future. Certainly there are already signs that the U.S. economy is slowing down as we head into the final weeks of 2013. For example, on Thursday we learned that the number of initial jobless claims for benefits increased by 60,000 last week to a disturbingly high level of 368,000. This was the largest increase that we have seen in more than a year.”
In addition, he wrote, “Railroad traffic is way down right now. In fact, for the week ending November 30, 2013, U.S. rail traffic was down 16.3% from the same week one year earlier. This is an important indicator that economic activity is getting slower. As we continue to get more evidence that the middle class is
steadily eroding, and poverty in America is rapidly growing.
There was a survey that was released that showed that requests for food assistance and the level of homelessness has risen significantly in major cities over the past year.”
So no one knows precisely what is going to befall us in 2014, so everyone must remain circumspect about any and all predictions, even the ones on my radio show, Financial Myth Busting. But as mindful as we are of the risks of a forecast being wrong, it seems increasingly self evident that financial systems in the developed economies are reaching extremes. In 2008 when the financial crisis happened, the U.S. debt levels were at $9.2 trillion and recently the Obama White House stated that our national debt levels will be $20 trillion by the end of the decade, which will be a 140% of our current GDP.
So my advice going into the end of 2013 and into 2014 is to follow the economy and financial markets closely to make the changes that suit risk tolerances and time horizons. Just be prepared!