The unintended Consequences of Social, Economic, and Monetary Interventions

Monthly Market Commentary: July 1, 2020

I find the idea of defunding the police to be ludicrous. This particularly in the US where violence is so widespread. During Father Day weekend in Chicago, 103 people were shot, 14 killed, including a three-year old Black girl.

According to Patrick Buchanan, “To pander to the militants on the left, liberal politicians will devise new restrictions on cops and more severe punishments for infractions, treating the police as potential threats to civil and constitutional rights.

The 'Ferguson Effect' will take hold. Cops will back off from confronting the lawless and violent. Criminals will see an opening to seize opportunities. The urban poor who look to the police as their only protection will stay inside and lock their doors. And small businesses, realizing the cops may not be there, will sell and move out.”

The American "War on Poverty" has been a complete failure. This was also observed and discussed by Milton Friedman in Capitalism and Freedom (highly recommended). As Thomas Sowell said, "A vastly expanded welfare state in the 1960s destroyed the black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and generations of racial oppression."

I recommend my readers to listen to a 2016 interview with Sowell. Obviously, socialists and Marxists oppose family unity as a matter of policy and doctrine and implemented policies which favoured single parents: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICsPQnGJEpY

In the meantime, the monetary policies of the geniuses at the Fed are working wonders for one class: the billionaires. According to Statista, "U.S. billionaires saw their wealth surge 20 percent since the start of the pandemic according to an analysis by the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness. Between March 18 and June 17, the total net worth of 643 American billionaires increased from $2.9 trillion to $3.5 trillion while a further 29 individuals joined the club. While their collective wealth grew by $584 billion, some 45.5 million Americans filed for unemployment.

The level of inequality across the U.S. was highlighted by the fact that total U.S. billionaire wealth increased by twice as much as the federal government paid out in one-time stimulus checks to 150 million Americans. Commenting on the report's findings, ATF's [Americans for Tax Fairness] executive director Frank Clemente said that “this orgy of wealth shows how fundamentally flawed our economic system is” and that “if this pandemic reveals anything, it’s how unequal our society has become and how drastically it must change.”

If we use the Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index excluding AAPL, MSFT, AMZN, GOOG, and FB the US stock market is essentially flat since January 2018 – almost two and a half years ago.

To put it simply: Most US equities have been moving sideward or down since the January 2018 top. But because of few stocks (FAANG and related stocks) that were in very powerful uptrends, the major indices, which are capitalization weighted, continued to move higher as well. What could happen in future is that the strong stocks begin to weaken, and relatively depressed stocks including emerging markets begin to outperform. This could lead to the S&P 500 Index trading in a range of between approximately 2,300 to 3,200 for a few years.

Some pundits will argue that the ultra-expansionary monetary policies can only lead to much higher stock prices. Other strategists contend that the economic slump will be long lasting and that, therefore, earnings will remain weak for some time. These strategists hold the view that stocks are overvalued by up to 40%.

I should think that both these opposing views have some merit. The economy could stay weak. However, expansionary fiscal and monetary policies, and ultra-low interest rates could keep asset prices at elevated levels.

Regarding China, India, and other emerging markets we need to be extremely nuanced. In the second half of the 19th century America was the "Wild West." Some of the European investors who placed some money in the US were horribly ripped off and some made a lot of money. This is the situation nowadays in countries like China. People who listen to the perennial China bashers (most of whom are completely ignorant about its history, culture, and society) are likely to lose out on some great opportunities.

Finally, and in view of the riots we currently experience consider the words of John Adams:

“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

With kind regards   
Yours sincerely   
Marc Faber

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