Sure, we have problems, lots of them, but right now America and its financial markets are the only game in town. Here’s why.
Let’s start with the mid-term elections. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the GOP would sweep both houses of congress. Now pundits are talking about whether or not this will usher in a new spirit of cooperation in Washington, D.C. The contrarian in me thinks there is a chance that both parties and the president may come together on legislation over the next two years. After all, with their approval rating at 8%, what do they have to loose?
Corporate tax reform, maybe some infrastructure spending, a bit of tinkering with the Affordable Care Act, passage of the embattled Keystone Pipeline, we could see some progress in all of these areas. And we had better because most pundits believe that the next two years will be a make or break period for the GOP.
The Republican win was not so much about voters embracing Republican ideals as it was about throwing the do-nothing rascals out. Americans expect action from the GOP, given their control of both houses, and are in no mood for excuses.
On the economic front, unemployment dropped again to 5.8%, the lowest level in six years. All the data points are indicating that the economy is accelerating; and don’t forget the dollar. The greenback is on a tear and most analysts believe our currency will continue to strengthen in the months and years ahead. At the same time, interest rates remain at historically low levels. That’s a recipe that the Wizard of Oz would envy.
The story is completely different in other areas of the world. Europe is teetering on the edge of recession. Mario Draghi, the EU’s Central Bank chief, has been talking a good game of doing “whatever it takes” to support the EU economy, but investors are becoming increasingly cynical over the lack of substance in his programs.
I had the privilege of hearing former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke speak this week in Denver. He commented that he thought Europe’s central bank would have a more difficult time in waging a U.S. -style quantitative easing program. He was also quite bullish on our own economy and stock market, calling the U.S. “a good place to invest over the medium term.” He also debunked those who continue to predict runaway inflation and a crashing dollar. “That’s just bad economics,” he said.
He had good words to say over Japan’s surprise move to extend their own brand of quantitative easing on Halloween. He believes the Japanese are doing what is necessary to stimulate their own economy and return it to a healthy growth rate. I said the same thing last week in “From one Fed to another.”
The facts are that most of the world is sucking wind right now. Most Asian nations are struggling to keep their economies growing. China, while maintaining a healthy growth rate of above 7%, is in a multi-year economic transition from an export-lead nation to one of domestic consumption. The Middle East is embroiled in the ISIS conflict as part of a much larger issue between Shiite and Sunni.
Ebola has Africa by the throat and in recent days Vladimir Putin is up to his old tricks in Ukraine. The latest reports have Russian tanks entering the eastern part of Ukraine and the civil war there is threatening to explode once again. George W. Bush, who was also at the same conference I attended, believes Putin is intent on restoring Russia to its former soviet ‘glory’ and the Balkans could be his next target.
Given all of the above, it is clear to me that America provides investors with the least amount of geopolitical risk, combined with a faster-growing economy and a stock market that looks ready to climb to a series of higher highs over the next few months.
Is it any surprise that investors saw all three indexes climb to record highs this week? Things are as they should be. Your focus should stay mainly on the U.S. for now because as far as investments are concerned, there’s no place like home.