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Newsletter February 2017

MARKET VOLATILITY - CHANGE AT THE HELM

When President Obama assumed the presidency on January 20, 2009, the financial markets were in the midst of turmoil and tremendous uncertainty. Economic growth and prosperity had reversed from earlier years of expansion during the 2000’s.

Unemployment stood at 7.8% in 2009, and fell to 4.7% by the time President Trump took office. Yet average annual household income remained stagnant for eight years, increasing a dismal $1,140 per year from $55,376 to $56,516, resulting in a drop of wage growth from 3.6% per year to 2.9% per year.

The economic environment that President Trump assumed requires assistance from the administration to garner any fundamental improvement. GDP stood at 1.7% when Trump took office on January 20, 2017, lagging due to minimal capital investing by companies.

The one item that may continue to offer headwinds is the amount of debt as a percentage of GDP. The increase in Federal debt from 77.4% of GDP to 104.8% of GDP can be alleviated with an increase in GDP, since Federal debt is expected to rise under Trump’s fiscal policies.

A key component of GDP growth has been lagging for years, as a lack of incentives for companies to invest in capital has been an issue.

Many believe that economic growth since the financial crisis in 2008/2009 has been driven primarily by the monetary stimulus efforts enacted by the Federal Reserve. The Quantitative Easing programs, aka Q.E. 1 & Q.E. 2, provided tremendous liquidity for nearly eight years as the Fed bought debt and placed it on its balance sheet.

The problem is that what the Fed did was considered a form of “artificial stimulus”. Rather than investing in capital equipment for long-term economic growth, companies instead borrowed money at historically low rates via issuing debt, then bought back a portion of their stock. This in turn helped send stock prices higher without any tangible economic growth strategy in place. As this transpired, GDP growth lagged and companies basically became complacent with anemic rates of growth.

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Sources: BLS, Labor Dept, Federal Reserve