Last week’s elections signal possible trouble for Republicans in 2018. We caution against reading too much into the results. But Democratic gains in Virginia and elsewhere confirm signals from national polling that suggest the GOP will struggle to hold the House next year.
We expect a tax bill to be passed in 2018, which should help the economy and equity markets. While there are significant differences between the two plans, the simple reality is that it would be political suicide for Republicans if they don’t pass tax reform before next year’s elections. Depending on the details of the final bill, we expect individual tax cuts to be a plus for consumption, while repatriation and corporate tax cuts should contribute to corporate revenues and earnings.
Despite some views to the contrary, we believe the global economy should continue to improve. Some argue the world is in a period of secular stagnation. After all, growth remains very slow despite years of low or even negative interest rates. In our view, the world economy is enjoying a period of reflation and should experience more synchronized growth in 2018.
Stronger global growth is benefiting multinational companies. These companies have reported stronger revenue and earnings results than domestically oriented companies this quarter.
The bull market in equities is aging but remains very much intact. The current bull market is closing in on nine years, which makes it natural to ask how much longer it can continue. In our experience, there are several reasons for a bull market to end, including advanced Federal Reserve tightening, the flattening of the yield curve, slower levels of money growth, widening credit spreads and rising inflation. We are watching these factors closely, and don’t see signals yet that would point to the end of the current run.
In a nutshell: the bull market will continue until the Fed tightens monetary policy in response to rising inflation. When this will happen, no one is sure.
Robert Scheer quotes Democrat Jim Hines on the corrupt relationship between Wall Street and Capitol Hill:
“I won’t dispute for one second the problems of a system that demands immense amount of fund-raisers by its legislators,” Jim Himes, a Democrat from Connecticut who supported the bankers’ recent bills and conveniently heads fundraising for House Democrats, conceded to the Times. Himes, who worked for Goldman Sachs before pretending to represent the people’s interest as an elected representative, is one of the top beneficiaries of Wall Street payoffs but claims to be distressed by the corruption that is his way of life. As he told the Times, “It’s appalling, it’s disgusting, it’s wasteful and it opens the possibility of conflicts of interest and corruption. It’s unfortunately the world we live in.”
Mohamed A. El-Erian, CEO of PIMCO, describes four key dynamics that will shape the future of the global economy:
Many economies have built up excessive debt that is now causing market instability. They have three options for de-leveraging: default, like Greece; austerity, like the UK; or “financial repression” like the US — where “interest rates are forced down so that creditors, including those on modest fixed incomes, subsidize debtors”.
Economic growth would reduce the ratio of debt to incomes: “Many countries, including Italy and Spain, must overcome structural barriers to competitiveness, growth, and job creation through multi-year reforms of labor markets, pensions, housing, and economic governance. Some, like the US, can combine structural reforms with short-term demand stimulus. A few, led by Germany, are reaping the benefits of years of steadfast (and underappreciated) reforms.”
It is also important that the benefits of economic growth be shared across the entire community, reducing income inequality and related social instability.
Political systems in Western democracies, designed to support the status quo, are ill-equipped to deal with these “structural and secular changes”. Failure to adjust is the greatest risk.
“Those on the receiving end of these four dynamics – the vast majority of us – need not be paralyzed by uncertainty and anxiety. Instead, we can use this simple framework to monitor developments, learn from them, and adapt. Yes, there will still be volatility, unusual strains, and historically odd outcomes. But, remember, a global paradigm shift implies a significant change in opportunities, and not just risks.”