When confronted about an apparent change of his opinions, John Maynard Keynes is reported to have said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" The earnings season for the 4th quarter is almost 80% complete, and the facts are dismal. It is worse than the current data shows, and could get uglier. Unemployment is increasing, and consumers are both saving more and spending less as incomes are not keeping pace with what little inflation there is. All in all, a very different set of facts than a few quarters ago. This week we examine some of the new facts, and start out by analyzing how Thoughts from the Frontline has done over the past two years with some of the more important predictions. It should make for an interesting letter.
At the end of the letter, I have a few notes on my upcoming Strategic Investment Conference in La Jolla, April 2-4 (which looks like it will sell out), information on the Richard Russell Tribute Dinner, a mention of my new Conversations srvice (which is getting very good reviews), and the need for one or two part-time editors.
Over the last year, I have become increasingly more bearish on the economy than I was in January of 2007. In my 2007 annual forecast issue, I said that we would be in a recession by the end of the year (we were), and that it would be a long but not too deep recession, with a multi-year below-trend Muddle Through period to follow. I was thinking GDP would maybe be down 2-3%. As I have repeatedly written in this letter and said in speeches, the US stock market drops by an average of 43% in recessions. I saw no reason to be in the stock market, as there was just too much risk of a serious bear market. Further, since international markets now have close to a full correlation with the US markets, foreign stock indexes would be in trouble as well. I also said interest rates would be coming down and deflation would be a problem before we got through this recession.