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More Market Turbulence Ahead

The opinion of economists, market strategists and fund managers in the last few weeks suggests this is the beginning of the beginning of more market turbulence.

You can count me among them for these reasons:

  1. The Fed Rate Hike Decision

The uncertainty behind the Federal Reserve’s decision to hike or not to hike interest rates at its Sept. 16 meeting adds fuel to the volatility fire. But that’s a short-term issue.

Jacking up rates could push the U.S. into recession, and worse, spark deflation. Harvard economists Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary, and Carmen Reinhart, have argued recently that the data suggests the U.S. economy is slowing and that deflation should be a concern.

The Fed is notorious bad at predicting recessions. In fact, not a single postwar recession was predicted a year in advance by the Fed, the Federal government, the IMF or a consensus of forecasters. “Most weren’t recognized until long after they started,” Summers said, in a blog on the Financial Times website.

And Reinhart recently wrote in a paper that more countries are now experiencing deflation in consumer prices than countries experiencing double-digit deflation. “Whatever nasty surprises may lurk in the future, the global inflation environment is the tamest since the early 1960s.”

While last quarter’s U.S. GDP growth was revised upward to 3.7% and is encouraging, we would wait to see the next quarter’s numbers before dismissing these economist’s arguments.

  1. The Debate over China Growth

Over the last few days the markets have rebounded somewhat on hopes of more Chinese stimulus. But given China couldn’t prop up its own stock market, this faith seems misplaced.

Warren Buffett recently came out for China as an investment in the long-term—10 to 20 years—but even Buffet would not call China’s short-term market top or bottom when pressed on Bloomberg TV a few days ago.

The fact that the markets have mixed views on what might happen to China and its impact on global markets suggests more volatility ahead.

  1. Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

I’ve always thought that when you start to hear strange, fantastic reasons for why the market should continue to go up we’re probably close to a major market decline, or at least a lot of volatility.

And recently I read a crazy analyst note sent out from a respected financial services firm on why the recent U.S. market selloff was overdone. The analyst said

China is a bubble and the market drop could be long lasting, and then turned around and said the impact will be limited to emerging markets and commodities, particularly after the global market selloffs.

China may be a bubble, but it’s not in a bubble, sequestered from the rest of the world. As many experts have noted, China’s overcapacity is exporting deflation around the world, hurting developed and developing economies alike.

Many other stories and research notes have also challenged credibility. But I think this is normal part of the market readjustment that is happening, where market changes are challenging and slowly changing long-held beliefs.

In sum, we would advise investors to continue to sit tight until we learn what the Federal Reserve will do in terms of rates this month, and until we get another reading on the U.S. economy.

 


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