Tags: global economy | growth | investing | europe

When Investing This Year, Resist Temptation to Follow the Herd

By    |   Tuesday, 03 February 2015 07:24 AM

We have gotten the first estimate of the fourth quarter of 2014 GDP growth that came in at an annual rate of 2.6 percent, which was below most forecasts and was in part caused by declines in net exports and federal government spending and tepid growth in business investment.

Long-term investors should not overlook the fact this first estimate is based on incomplete data and is subject to further revisions that will be released on February 27 and March 27, which will be the final revision.

Please take notice personal consumption expenditures (PCE) jumped 4.3 percent, which was its fastest growth rate since 2006 and was good for 287-basis points in GDP growth.

Also important was that private inventories expanded by $113.1 billion in Q4, which represented 82-basis points to GDP growth.

Overall it can be said the U.S. continues growing at a good pace.

On Monday, “Markit” released its final January U.S. Manufacturing PMI that came in at 53.9, which was equal to December and signaled further improvement in overall business conditions (50 is the neutral threshold reference) with production levels rising at the fastest level in 3 months, but also keeping in mind key components like factory output growth and  job creation came in below the elevated peaks we have seen during last summer.

That said, as an investor you shouldn’t be surprised if we get on April 29 a first estimate of Q1 2015 GDP growth coming in somewhat “softer” than was lately the case, which is of course not a sure thing, and above all wouldn’t neither mean U.S. growth would be starting to face serious troubles and the Federal Reserve could be forced to intervene again, on the contrary, we could be finally closing in on the Fed’s “take-off” of raising its rates.

One thing is for sure, the U.S. will be, as the year goes on, the only big economic bloc on the globe that will to continue to grow at a sound pace.

In this context, my preference for U.S. based and dollar denominated investment vehicles remain fully in place while I would consider any temporary weakening of the dollar, which by the way remains in overbought territory, as an opportunity to further extend my already important dollar holdings, while giving absolute “liquidity,” especially under a worst case scenario, all the priority it deserves in this uncertain world as well as on the economic and financial levels as on the, and above all, the geopolitical levels.

Since Sunday, we had a couple of events that are worth recalling when we try to detect possible threats that aren’t always on the majority of investors’ radar screens.

On Monday, after meeting Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis in London, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer (UK Treasury chief) George Osborne stated: “The standoff between Greece and the eurozone over the terms of the country's bailout is fast becoming the biggest risk to the global economy … In Europe, as in Britain, now is the time to choose competence over chaos. I urged the Greek finance minister to act responsibly, but it’s also important that the eurozone has a better plan for jobs and growth.”

In fact, Mr. Osborne repeated in some way what President Obama already said on Sunday when he warned that imposing tough austerity programs on Greece could backfire on its creditors and at some point there has to be a growth strategy in order for them to pay off their debts to eliminate some of their deficits.

I personally agree completely with both important Anglo-Saxon views, but, unfortunately, Greece has to be treated under the rules of the European Monetary Union…

Keeping that in mind, I wouldn’t get too enthusiastic for a rapid, strong, transparent and above all honest solution to the Greek debt problem.

To me the whole Greek toolkit appears more like a plan to bring the Greek second edition, or better said, the new twenty first century “Trojan horse” edition "inside" the ECB. Time will tell if I’m right or wrong, and I hope I’m wrong, but it could take some time before we could be able to find out.

And then on Sunday we had an article in the New York Times under the title: “U.S. Considers Supplying Arms to Ukraine Forces, Officials Say,” which refers to a just released report under the title: “Preserving Ukraine’s Independence, Resisting Russian Aggression: What the United States and NATO Must Do.”

I know, most long-term investors usually take very little into account geopolitical risks when making investment decisions, maybe because these are very complicated matters, but we all must admit these kinds of risks are also part of life and if these risks materialize then they can imply serious consequences for our investments.

Related to this subject, I’d like to add that from Friday, Feb. 6 until Sunday, Feb. 8, the 51st Munich (Germany) Security Conference (MSC) will take place. The MSC is considered as the most important independent forum for the exchange of views by international security policy decision-makers.

Immediately after that gathering, German Chancellor Mrs. Merkel, who will also participate at the conference, will meet with President Obama in the U.S. on Monday. I think over the next few days we could learn more what’s brewing in this specific geopolitical ongoing matter.

By the way, about 20 Heads of States and Governments, around 60 Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense, 30 CEOs of large global companies as well as traditionally strong parliamentary delegations, especially from the U.S., are expected in Munich.

I’m not saying we are at the brink of a major expansion of the ongoing crisis with the Russian Federation, but I’d like to underline what’s going on in and with the Ukraine is certainly not something that should be overlooked as a whole.

This year probably will be an extremely difficult year for long-term investors to make profitable decisions. In my opinion, it certainly will not be a year to follow the herd.

Any investor should probably do well checking the “real” liquidity status — which means in clear English, not illusionary terms —  of his/her investments anywhere in the world.

Believe me, if we hit a roadblock, it will be a serious one!

Be prepared.

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Any investor should probably do well checking the “real” liquidity status — which means in clear English, not illusionary terms — of his/her investments anywhere in the world.
global economy, growth, investing, europe
Tuesday, 03 February 2015 07:24 AM
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