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US Economy –

The US Economy took an unexpected GDP drop of 2.9% in the first quarter. The blame was on our tough winter weather, the start of Obamacare, and uncertainty over the Fed’s tapering policies. While the economy recovered to an estimated +2% in the second quarter, most forecasters lowered their full year estimates down from the 3% range back to our recent muddle through 2% growth. Since the recession’s bottom in 2009, we have only gained a total of 11% GDP growth in 60 months – the weakest U.S. recovery ever, despite the most expansive monetary and fiscal stimulus in history.

It has been a very busy and productive first quarter at Optivest:  asset allocation and manager changes with SageView, a breakfast meeting with Mohamed El-Erian (departing CEO at PIMCO), interviews with the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, high level real estate discussions with large local owners including Rick Caruso, launching a Retirement Strategies department, joining Tiger 21 and meeting with 8 New York investment bankers conducting due diligence on our nearly $1 billion REIT.

US Economy –

After a vigorous 3rd quarter in 2013, the economy has fallen back to 6 months of slow growth and uncertainty as the new Fed Chairman, Janet Yellen, continues tapering the artificial support of the monetary system. The year has started exactly as we forecasted in our last newsletter – with a wobbly/sideways stock market and virtually every other asset class (see below) showing only slight gains of 1-3% which are the opposite of 2013. Interest rates have dropped slightly and are holding for now, but Mrs. Yellen has signaled that she expects short-term rates will rise to 3% by the end of 2015 and 4% by the end of 2016. This would only happen if the economy actually picks up organically after the Fed has stopped current stimulus.

US Economy –

The strength of the American economy picked up steam in the 3rd quarter of 2013 with a final GDP estimate of 4.1%, about double the average of the last few years. It is further estimated that the 4th quarter GDP (despite the short government shutdown) also exceeded 3%. Unemployment has dropped to 7.0% and consumer sentiment is back up to 82.5 (Reuters/University of M), up from a November dip of 75.1. This in turn has led the Fed to finally announce the start of tapering to their long-term interest rate support/bond buying program. This positive economic news was welcomed by Wall Street and pushed the S&P 500 further, up 32% for the year, while the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond crept back up to its high for the year, near 3%.  

US & World Economy –

The rapid rise in the 10-year Treasury interest rate from 1.6% to 3% has rippled through the financial and real estate worlds. Bond portfolios got crushed, stocks dropped then rebounded and residential and commercial real estate appreciation has stalled. In response, the Fed has delayed the action that caused the rise (reducing its monthly bond repurchases) as they are concerned with not harming the improving economy. The financial markets are digesting all of this as well, and the 10-year Treasury yield has backed down to 2.65% for now.

US & World Economy –

US consumers have kept the American economy slowly moving forward despite the weakness in our exports and the “sequester and tax” policies. Job growth has finally resumed, giving hope for a stronger second-half of the year economy. China’s slow down in growth (particularly in infrastructure and real estate) has contributed to a drop in commodities. Europe is emerging from its “double dip” recession after choosing austerity vs. US-style stimulus and remains vulnerable to set-backs as their unemployment remains at record levels.

US & World Economy –

Animal spirits are back! With Europe in a mild but stable recession, China on an upswing, US housing starts and prices rising (Case Shiller Index up 8.1% over the last 12 months ending in January – best since 2006), and the Dow Jones and S&P 500 both making new all-time highs, consumers and businesses alike are feeling better. Consider these new economic levels:  the stock market at new highs from 2007, S&P 500 quarterly earnings at new highs, US household net-worth at a new high ($69 trillion vs. $67 trillion), and household debt service to income ratios at a 30 year low (J.P. Morgan).

US & World Economy –

The world breathed a sigh of relief after the recent Fiscal Cliff vote and all of us are happy to remove that phrase from our vocabulary. The US economy is in good shape to absorb the changes to the taxes and likely debt ceiling outcome (more on that below) and according to most economists, should grow at 1.5 – 2.2% in 2013. In other words, more of the same slow growth we have experienced for the past couple of years. Regardless, a serious cloud has been lifted and businesses can now plan with greater confidence. In addition, China’s economy and US housing starts are building strength and will help the economy this year. While there is always something to worry about, the scope of our problems have become smaller over the last few years.

US & World Economy –

While the US economy continues to slowly grow, all eyes are on the election and the 2013 “fiscal cliff”. Job growth has stalled and productivity per employee has little room to grow. We seem to be treading water with Europe’s recession pulling us down and a slightly faster growing Asia pulling us up.  Corporate cash holdings are at high levels as businesses continue to be cautious. The wait is almost over.

US & World Economy –

Weak second quarter job growth and earnings have dominated recent headlines. After a healthy 226,000 per month average job growth in the first quarter of 2012, a measly 80,000 jobs per month were added in the second quarter of 2012 – stalling the decline in the unemployment rate (currently 8.2%). Corporate earnings growth is also slowing. Combined with the start of a recession in Europe, this resulted in a strengthening dollar and weak commodities. The price of oil dropped, despite the continued rumbling from Iran. Add the continuing drama from Greece and Spain and you end up with heightened volatility in the financial markets and lack of confidence from investors.

US & World Economy –

What a difference a few months can make! Last year’s fears of double-dip recessions and Greek tragedies have given way to large job growths (636,000 job gains in the first quarter), improved investor confidence, and the best first quarter for the S&P 500 in 14 years (up 12.6%). The question is will this growthcontinue or peter out like it did after the spring gains in 2011 and 2010? With a large Band-Aid on Europe, a 7.5% soft landing in China and continued modest growth in the US (2 – 2.5% GDP), we expect the economy and financial markets to churn mostly sideways through the Fall, and not experience the 16-18% mid-year drops of the previous two years.