Ride ’em Cowboy

By Michael Ashton

One disease that afflicts writers of financial commentary…actually, probably commentators in all fields come to think of it…is that when the landscape gets in a ‘rut’ so does our writing. Eventually, if nothing changes about the economy or the market landscape, there isn’t much left to say and thus we (and I really mean “I”) are left repeating ourselves. For those of us who – despite all efforts – aren’t paid for our work, it means that sometimes the right thing to do is to just shut up.

And so that’s what I have done over the last year. As the equity market melted up in somnambulant sameness, as the economy chugged along without major crises or roadblocks…or, anyway, no change in those roadblocks…I wrote less and less. To be sure, part of that was because business was picking up, and this remains an impediment to me writing as frequently as I used to, but much of the reason I didn’t write so much was that not much was changing. There just aren’t many ways you can keep saying “stocks are too expensive, commodities are too cheap, interest rates aren’t at neutral levels, the Fed is screwing up, inflation markets are too low and inflation is rising,” so I took the time to work on other important things.

Well, things are changing. Finally.

The stock market is going down for sensible reasons – which is a major change from when stocks were going up, for nonsensical reasons. President Trump’s trade war, which he promised would hurt China more than the US while every mainstream economist said the opposite, is in fact hurting China more than the US. But the frostiness of global trade relations is hurting growth globally, and pushing inflation higher just as we always knew it would. Domestic growth is slowing; although I’ve said for a while I thought there was a good chance that the US would be in recession sometime in 2019 – which suggestion was scoffed at roundly and regularly – it is starting to look like the US might actually be in recession sometime in 2019. In these events, there is something worth writing about! Guiding a canoe across a placid lake is boring (although lots of equity analysts make a ton of money telling you to buy stocks when they’re going up – good for them!), but guiding a boat through rapids is fun stuff. So, let’s go ride those rapids. I won’t write every day, and I might not even write every week. I’m not sure how often I’ll do my live CPI breakdown…when I asked people to pay for that analysis, the resounding answer was that it wasn’t worth a ton, so I’ll do it when I feel it!

But that brings up another important point I want to be sure to mention: I am very grateful for those of you who did support my various experiments trying to establish the monetary value of my commentary. Some of you subscribed to my private Twitter feed, or the chart package, or bought my book. I really appreciate your voting with your dollars (or yen, or euros, or rupiah, etc) on my behalf. Moreover, I really value the feedback from readers of all persuasions – agreeing, disagreeing, or just expanding on the topic. Most of all, I appreciate those of you who have visited Enduring Investments or Enduring Intellectual Properties and have become clients. You know who you are!

We live, as they say, in interesting times. They’re about to get even more interesting, I’m sorry to say. But it gives me reason to write. Stay tuned.

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Gary

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