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Will the Rational Bubble Become Irrational?

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In my last article, “Riding the Rational Bubble,” I shared that given the economic conditions we have experienced over the last six years, financial bubbles could be developing. Alan Greenspan said, “Long-term economic stability with low inflation will result in a bubble.” If he is right, get ready for a financial bubble, because that is exactly what we have seen over the past seven years. Since 2010, the U.S. economy has been stable, with real GDP growing at an annual 2.2 percent average. Inflation during that period has been low, with the consumer price index growing at
1.7 percent on average over that same period.

However, bubbles alone aren’t necessarily damaging to an economy. Take the stock market debacle of 1987—late in the year the market tumbled 24 percent in one day, but fundamentally the economy didn’t change. Bubbles with leverage, on the other hand, can be dangerous.

Since the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has been stimulated by aggressive monetary policy, with little impact on growing the economy, yet perhaps with significant impact on stabilizing the economy. With the new administration, we will experience a paradigm shift moving from aggressive monetary policy and weak fiscal policy to the opposite—aggressive fiscal policy and diminishing monetary policy stimulus. Could this exacerbate financial bubbles and change rational bubbles to irrational ones?

At present, we see three potential bubbles worth watching: 1) sovereign debt, 2) the stock market, and 3) interest rates. At this time we think interest rates could be the first irrational bubble, with sovereign debt following suit if not dealt with over the longer-term.

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Sovereign Debt

The U.S. national debt is $19.8 trillion or 105 percent of our GDP. On the surface that looks like a bubble that will end badly. However, $5.4 trillion, or 27 percent, of that debt is intragovernmental holdings. Therefore, if evaluating debt held by the public, debt to GDP is only 75 percent.

This model has been the recent strategy to combat slowing economic growth around the world. Japan’s debt to GDP stands at 229 percent. Again, on the surface it seems like a bubble, yet 40 percent of their debt is held by the Bank of Japan. What matters is who owns the debt.

Professors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff and economist Vincent Reinhart studied the debt- to-GDP ratios of advanced economies. Their conclusion was when countries have a debt to GDP ratio that exceeds 90 percent for at least five years, it has a negative effect on the economy. High levels of public debt are associated with lower growth. In total government debt, the U.S. passed the 90 percent debt- to-GDP ratio in 2010; but when we consider just the debt in the public’s hands, we still have a way to go.

The sovereign debt bubble has been developing over many years; I don’t think it will burst in the next few years, but do believe it will become more problematic. President Trump’s fiscal policy may deflate one bubble and exacerbate another. Lower taxes and regulation may jump-start corporate earnings and keep equity valuations in check. However, more than likely, it will increase the national debt. Sooner or later there may be a day of reckoning, but I have been in the investment business for 27 years, and over the years the common question has always been, “What about the debt?” In hindsight, perhaps the best response would have been, “So what about the debt?” The reality is that even though the economy grew and the debt levels increased, investors continued to make money.

The Stock Market

Since the beginning of 2009 to the end of 2016, the S&P 500 has moved up nicely—190 percent to be exact. But that alone doesn’t put it in bubble territory. When you analyze the valuation of the S&P 500, it is clearly not in bubble territory. In fact, I would argue that it is fairly valued. Today the market trades at 17.5 times forward earnings, far from the near 30 times earnings we saw in the tech bubble in the late 1990s.

Bubbles with debt are dangerous. Margin debt, or leverage in buying stocks, is now at previous peaks relative to GDP. If the market traded at a lofty valuation, along with this leverage, it would be a red flag, and an irrational bubble would be looming. That is not the case today as valuations remain rational.

Last year we were concerned with an earnings recession due to the contraction of oil prices and the U.S. dollar headwinds. In the first and second quarters of 2016, earnings contracted, putting the market’s valuation in question. However, earnings did rebound in the second half of the year, and we expect earnings growth for calendar year 2016 to be in the 2-4 percent range. This year, given the economy’s momentum, we anticipate corporate earnings to grow around 9 percent, not assuming any of President Trump’s growth initiatives. If President Trump is successful in implementing his proposed fiscal policy initiatives swiftly, the risk to our earnings forecast is to the upside. This should keep valuations in check and avoid an irrational bubble.

Interest Rates

The U.S. bond market has been in a bull market for more than 35 years. In 1981, the yield on the 10-year Treasury was 15.8 percent. Over the next 35 years, interest rates came down to virtually zero. In August of 2016, the yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.3 percent, partly due to loose monetary policy and quantitative easing. This has become an irrational bubble. Why have Fed Funds been at virtually zero with a stable economy growing at 2 percent? This is not solely a U.S. problem—global growth has slowed and the central bankers in Europe and Japan have pushed interest rates down to zero in an attempt to stimulate their economies, putting additional downward pressure on interest rates in the United States.

President Trump has suggested the economy will grow faster than 3 percent. We think 2.5-3 percent is more realistic. If the president’s forecast comes to fruition, inflation expectations will move higher, ending the longest bull market I have seen in my career. As long as we don’t experience a surprise inflation spike or runaway inflation, the Federal Open Market Committee will be able to manage this bubble deflation by moving short-term interest rates higher on a moderate glide path.

Conclusion

As economies and markets ebb and flow, financial bubbles come and go; they’re just part of the cycle. Many times it is difficult to identify bubbles until they pop. As a friend once told me, “All peaks aren’t bubbles, yet all bubbles have peaks.”

Conditions are conducive for bubbles to develop; we have to be mindful of that. Risk-based assets may perform well this year, and we remain cautiously optimistic. Yet, as always, we never lose sight of the risk that is present.

 

UMB Investment Management is a division within UMB Bank, n.a. that manages active portfolios for employee benefit plans, endowments and foundations, fiduciary accounts and individuals. UMB Financial Services, Inc.* is a subsidiary of UMB Financial Corporation. UMB Financial Services, Inc is not a bank and is separate from UMB Bank, n.a.

This content is provided for informational purposes only and contains no investment advice or recommendations to buy or sell any specific securities. Statements in this report are based on the opinions of UMB Investment Management and the information available at the time this report was published.

All opinions represent our judgments as of the date of this report and are subject to change at any time without notice. You should not use this report as a substitute for your own judgment, and you should consult professional advisors before making any tax, legal, financial planning or investment decisions. This report contains no investment recommendations and you should not interpret the statements in this report as investment, tax, legal, or financial planning advice. UMB Investment Management obtained information used in this report from third-party sources it believes to be reliable, but this information is not necessarily comprehensive and UMB Investment Management does not guarantee that it is accurate.

All investments involve risk, including the possible loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Neither UMB Investment Management nor its affiliates, directors, officers, employees or agents accepts any liability for any loss or damage arising out of your use of all or any part of this report.

“UMB” – Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off. Copyright © 2017. UMB Financial Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Securities offered through UMB Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC or the Investment Banking Division of UMB Bank, n.a.

*Insurance products offered through UMB Insurance Inc.

You may not have an account with all of these entities.

Contact your UMB Representative if you have any questions.

*Securities and Insurance products are:

Not FDIC Insured * No Bank Guarantee * Not a Deposit * Not Insured by any Government Agency * May Lose Value


K.C. Mathews joined UMB in 2002. As executive vice president and chief investment officer, Mr. Mathews is responsible for the development, execution and oversight of UMB’s investment strategy. He is chairman of the Trust Investment, Asset Allocation and Trust Policy Committees. Mr. Mathews has more than 20 years of diverse experience in the investment industry. Prior to joining UMB, he served as vice president and manager of the portfolio management group at Bank of Oklahoma for nine years. Mr. Mathews earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Mathews attended the ABA National Trust School at Northwestern University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst and member of the CFA Institute. He is past president of the Kansas City CFA Society and a past president of the Oklahoma Society of Financial Analysts.



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Riding the rational bubble

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Don Ho’s famous song “Tiny Bubbles” went something like this:

Tiny bubbles, in the wine

Make me happy, make me feel fine.

Tiny bubbles make we warm all over

With a feeling that I’m gonna love you till the end of time.

Don Ho’s lyrics perfectly capture the way we typically feel about asset bubbles. Asset bubbles are formed when assets become over-inflated and prices rise beyond any real sustainable value. As asset bubbles are developing and asset prices are increasing, we feel fine and warm all over, buoyed by hope the bubbles never end. Unfortunately, they are typically followed by a crash. They don’t last until the end of time. Many empirical examples exist going back to the 1600s when “tulip mania,” a speculative bubble in tulip bulbs in the Netherlands, resulted in a collapse. More recently, the Dot-com bubble of the late 1990s burst when shares of Internet-related companies soared to astronomically high prices.

I spoke to CNBC about my take on this recently:

I also sat down with Gregg Greenberg at The Street to discuss asset bubbles.

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How to spot an asset bubble

Identifying bubbles can be difficult. Bubbles have historically emerged in periods of productivity where structural change enhancements and/or a low interest rate environment were present. Examples include the railway boom, the electricity boom and the Internet boom. So the question of the day is: Are we experiencing an asset bubble? Clearly we are not experiencing a productivity boom similar to those that have promoted bubbles in the past. However, we are experiencing the other end of the equation—historically low interest rates. Quantitative easing (QE) has failed to promote economic activity as expected, but it has driven interest rates to virtually zero for six years. Given that backdrop, asset bubbles are to be expected.

So are we in an asset bubble or is a bubble developing? I believe that a bubble is developing, caused by aggressive monetary policy around the globe. Presently the valuation of the market is rational, with the current price earnings (PE) ratio 20 times the last 12 months earnings and the current yield on the 10-year Treasury at 1.5 percent. Looking back, we now know there was a bubble in the equity market in early 2000. At that time the PE ratio was 30 times trailing earnings and the yield on the 10-year Treasury was 6.8 percent. Keep in mind that low interest rates and low inflation should support a higher multiple, so today 20 times trailing earnings would be defined as rational.

Can we ride the bubble?

There is vast array of academic research that would suggest the answer is yes. As asset bubbles form, many attempt to profit from the irrational exuberance of others, in effect promoting further growth of the bubble. I labeled today’s bubble “rational” because we don’t know the counter-factual argument. What if Ben Bernanke didn’t execute on QE? Would we have fallen into a recession? I don’t know; no one does and more importantly, it never happened. It appears to be rational that The Federal Reserve (Fed) would lower interest rates and keep them low for quite some time. In addition, by analyzing the global economy, one could conclude that low interest rates are rational and the bubble will remain in place for some time

When does the rational bubble become irrational?

Again, history provides us some indication. For example, tulip mania manifested over four years and the “South Sea Bubble,” a British stock bubble centered on trading rights purchased by the South Sea Company in the year 1716, also lasted four years. Interestingly, Isaac Newton found himself caught up in this bubble and apparently lost money in the ensuing crash. His famous quote, “I can calculate the movement of stars, but not the madness of men,” sums up the irrational behavior in a bubble. Another famous example, Black Monday – or the stock market crash of 1987 – ended the bull market run that started in 1982. I always get a kick out of the November 1987 Time Magazine cover titled: “The Crash—After a wild week on Wall Street, the world is different.” I respectfully disagree. The world didn’t change because of a stock market debacle. Lastly, the Dot-com bubble I referenced earlier began in the late 1990s and developed over a five-year period. The bottom line is that history tells us most asset bubbles come and go within a three- to five-year period. Rational bubbles become irrational when valuations can’t be justified. I do not believe we are there yet.

Are we in an asset bubble?

Admittedly, the challenge in determining the duration of a bubble is defining the anchor points. When did the bubble actually begin and when did it end? Typically these anchor points are a bit fuzzy. Nevertheless, it appears that historically, bubbles have lasted three to five years.

I know what you’re thinking: interest rates have been low for six years and the stock market has gone up since mid-2009. Does this mean we are in a bubble and will it burst? As I mentioned, it is extremely difficult to determine when exactly a bubble begins to develop. One key indicator to consider is that bubbles typically begin when we see an economic recovery turn into an expansion phase.

After the Great Recession in 2008 to 2009, the Fed lowered interest rates to stabilize the economy and right the ship. However, GDP growth has looked tortoise-like from 2010 to 2013 rather than showing a more robust economic recovery that could then lead to the development of an asset bubble. I believe the rational bubble we are in today likely began around 2014 when GDP held steady at 2.4 percent, followed by 2.4 percent again in 2015.

Stock market valuations have increased but are nowhere near levels we have seen them prior to past crashes. Interest rates are low and are expected to remain low for quite some time, yet inflation remains in check. It all appears to be rational. This signals investors to stay invested, buy quality companies and monitor the situation carefully.

Will the bubble burst?

The previous examples I cited were situations where a bubble has become irrational and eventually burst, though not all asset bubbles end badly. We may experience the frequent development of asset bubbles over the years, but most remain rational and eventually dissipate as the markets correct. This may be precisely the situation we find ourselves in today.

 

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.

UMB Investment Management is a division within UMB Bank, n.a. that manages active portfolios for employee benefit plans, endowments and foundations, fiduciary accounts and individuals. UMB Financial Services, Inc.* is a subsidiary of UMB Financial Corporation. UMB Financial Services, Inc is not a bank and is separate from UMB Bank, n.a.

This content is provided for informational purposes only and contains no investment advice or recommendations to buy or sell any specific securities. Statements in this report are based on the opinions of UMB Investment Management and the information available at the time this report was published.

All opinions represent our judgments as of the date of this report and are subject to change at any time without notice. You should not use this report as a substitute for your own judgment, and you should consult professional advisors before making any tax, legal, financial planning or investment decisions. This report contains no investment recommendations and you should not interpret the statements in this report as investment, tax, legal, or financial planning advice. UMB Investment Management obtained information used in this report from third-party sources it believes to be reliable, but this information is not necessarily comprehensive and UMB Investment Management does not guarantee that it is accurate.

All investments involve risk, including the possible loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Neither UMB Investment Management nor its affiliates, directors, officers, employees or agents accepts any liability for any loss or damage arising out of your use of all or any part of this report.

“UMB” – Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off. Copyright © 2016. UMB Financial Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Securities offered through UMB Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC or the Investment Banking Division of UMB Bank, n.a.

*Insurance products offered through UMB Insurance Inc.

You may not have an account with all of these entities.

Contact your UMB Representative if you have any questions.

*Securities and Insurance products are:

Not FDIC Insured  *  No Bank Guarantee  *  Not a Deposit  *  Not Insured by any Government Agency  *  May Lose Value

 


K.C. Mathews joined UMB in 2002. As executive vice president and chief investment officer, Mr. Mathews is responsible for the development, execution and oversight of UMB’s investment strategy. He is chairman of the Trust Investment, Asset Allocation and Trust Policy Committees. Mr. Mathews has more than 20 years of diverse experience in the investment industry. Prior to joining UMB, he served as vice president and manager of the portfolio management group at Bank of Oklahoma for nine years. Mr. Mathews earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Mathews attended the ABA National Trust School at Northwestern University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst and member of the CFA Institute. He is past president of the Kansas City CFA Society and a past president of the Oklahoma Society of Financial Analysts.



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Reality TV vs. reality — America is watching

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Reality TV has become popular, to say the least. Apparently we enjoy watching people be voted off islands, on the hunt for love and get fired on national television. Included in this group is our new president, who was the host of The Apprentice for a number of years.

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However, since the January inauguration, President Donald Trump is now faced with reality, which does not include retakes, professional editing and an audience who enjoys both failure and success.

But, his new job does include balancing an active audience’s perceptions and actual reality, particularly as it relates to the economy and some of his key initiatives.

Paradigm Shift

Trump has suggested a paradigm shift by stimulating economic growth through fiscal policy and government spending, rather than relying on monetary policy and lower interest rates. While economic fundamentals have been improving for several quarters, contributing to positive public perception, Trump’s proposed fiscal policy stimulus will have a relatively minor impact on long-term economic growth.

The empirical evidence suggests that when the economy is at full employment, any fiscal policy stimulus will have a temporary impact on growth, four to six quarters at best. In reality, fiscal policy stimulus does one thing on a long-term basis – it increases the national debt.

Tax Cuts

The president, along with others such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, has suggested tax cuts will pay for themselves by boosting economic growth. Yet, there is no evidence to support this idea. Rather, historical reality suggests cutting taxes will increase the federal debt burden.

Former President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s and former President George W. Bush in the early 2000s both cut taxes, yet there is little evidence that economic activity improved.  However, we do know the national debt mushroomed in both cases.

Repatriation of Foreign Profits

Believe it or not we have been here before. In 2004, the American Jobs Creation Act was passed. Part of the plan covered the repatriation of overseas profits at a reduced rate of 5.25 percent. In 2004, five companies, primarily pharmaceutical, dominated the almost $1 trillion foreign profit stockpile.

Only one-third of the total cash came back to the U.S. Most of the money went to repairing corporate balance sheets and rewarding shareholders with share repurchases. $18 billion did go into the U.S. Treasury’s coffer. The Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan think tank, said the program was an ineffective means of increasing economic growth.

Today, the reality is that a small number of technology companies dominate the $2.5 trillion cash balances overseas. If offered a tax reprieve on repatriating foreign profits, history tells us the same behaviors will result—higher dividends and more share repurchases, which, I believe, will not materially impact the economy.

Multiplier Effect

The multiplier effect is a phenomenon where given a change in a particular input, such as government spending, a larger change in an output occurs, such as gross domestic product (GDP).

We are about to see a paradigm shift in the U.S.—moving from monetary policy stimulus (interest rates) to fiscal policy stimulus (government spending).

The million dollar question is, “Will it promote economic growth?” The Congressional Budget Office provides historical analysis on the efficacy of fiscal spending. The multipliers show that any form of increased government spending would have a higher multiplier effect than any form of tax cuts.

Economic Reality

There are two primary drivers of long-term economic growth, labor force growth rate and productive gains. Labor force growth rate in the U.S. is approximately 1.2 percent. Non-farm productivity year-over-year growth is 1.1 percent. Add them together, and you have a 2.3 percent trend GDP over the next few years. We could realize one or two quarters of 3.0 percent or greater GDP, but it’s not sustainable.

However, this is not a doomsday conclusion. If we do experience trend GDP between 2.0 and 2.5 percent, it will allow companies to grow revenues and earnings. This in turn will support higher stock prices.

Political Process Reality

Trump’s term has really just begun. And what many reality television enthusiasts, and the president himself, may be finding out is that reality TV can be fun to watch, but the reality of the political process may not be.

Follow UMB‡ and KC Mathews‡ on LinkedIn to stay informed of the latest economic trends. Read other recent commentary on umb.com.


K.C. Mathews joined UMB in 2002. As executive vice president and chief investment officer, Mr. Mathews is responsible for the development, execution and oversight of UMB’s investment strategy. He is chairman of the Trust Investment, Asset Allocation and Trust Policy Committees. Mr. Mathews has more than 20 years of diverse experience in the investment industry. Prior to joining UMB, he served as vice president and manager of the portfolio management group at Bank of Oklahoma for nine years. Mr. Mathews earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Mathews attended the ABA National Trust School at Northwestern University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst and member of the CFA Institute. He is past president of the Kansas City CFA Society and a past president of the Oklahoma Society of Financial Analysts.



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The Evil Airline Phishing Attack

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Imagine clicking on an attachment in an email confirmation for an online purchase or hotel reservation and being greeted by an urgent pop-up that reads, “A virus has been detected due to suspicious activity. Click here to run a diagnostic on your computer hard drive.” Seems like good advice, right? Before clicking OK, you might want to learn more about a new email phishing scam.

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Known as the evil airline phishing attack, this scam is a two-wave social engineering scam that attempts to take over your computer and steal sensitive personal information—or both— potentially leading to identity theft or damage to your computer. What makes this especially alarming is that recent research says this scam is successful about 90 percent of the time‡.

The scam targets individuals who frequently book travel or shop online and are familiar with receiving email confirmations on purchases or bookings. Like other phishing scams, cybercriminals research online and offline before sending these authentic looking emails. The subject line will look something like this:

When the victim receives the email, the two-wave phishing attack begins:

  • First wave: Opening the message signals to the cybercriminal that the email address is authentic and has been received by a real person.
  • Second wave: Inside the email is an authentic-looking attachment such as a .pdf or .docx file. This file is masquerading as a travel confirmation or purchase receipt with malware‡ embedded in it. If the attachment is opened, the malware springs into action impacting your data and computer.

The goal of these cybercriminals is to:

  • Trick you into clicking links and opening attachments which can secretly infect your computer or device
  • Access and steal your information (e.g. usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, etc.)
  • Make transactions, file fraudulent tax returns, use you or your children’s identity, share sensitive medical data with other hackers and a variety of other activities

How can you help protect yourself?

  • First defense: Desktops, laptops, tablets and even mobile devices are at risk of this attack. Install antivirus protection on your electronic devices (including tablets and mobile phones) and keep your hardware and software updated.
  • Second defense: Never click on links or attachments in emails you aren’t expecting. If something looks “phishy,” it probably is. If you have questions or concerns about any electronic communication, go to the company’s website to confirm details or contact them directly.
  • Final defense: Communicate with your coworkers, friends and family. One of the best ways to keep from falling victim is to ask questions, open dialogue and stay informed.

For more information to stay cyber aware, visit UMB’s Security and Privacy page.

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Ms. Flores serves as senior vice president and Chief Information Security Officer, providing oversight of UMB’s information security and privacy programs. She joined UMB in 2010 and more than 15 years of experience in information technology and information security. She attended Kansas State University with a focus on management information systems and is a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US) and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA).



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7 Tips to Prevent Tax ID Fraud

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As the 2017 tax season gets underway, it’s a good idea to take extra precaution to prevent exposure to tax fraud. As we saw in 2016, criminals are using new and innovative methods to try to gain your trust or scare you into lowering your defenses and making a costly mistake. These tactics have continued‡ into 2017.

Tax identity fraud takes place when a criminal files a false tax return using a stolen Social Security number in order to fraudulently claim a refund. Identity thieves generally file false claims early in the year and victims are unaware until they file a return and learn one has already been filed in their name.

To help prevent tax ID fraud, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ‡ and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ‡ offer the following tips:

  • File early – File your tax return as soon as you have all of your documentation giving criminals less time to use your information to file a false return.
  • File on a protected Wi-Fi network – If you’re using an online service to file your return, be sure you’re connected to a password-protected personal network. Avoid using public networks like a Wi-Fi hotspot at a coffee shop.
  • Use a secure mailbox. If you’re filing by mail, mail your tax return at the post office or an official postal box instead of your mailbox at home. Some criminals look for completed tax return forms in home mailboxes during tax season.
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  • Find a tax preparer you trust. If you’re planning to hire someone to do your taxes‡, get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before handing over all of your financial information.
  • Shred what you don’t need. Once you’ve completed your tax return, shred the sensitive documents that you no longer need and safely file away the ones you do.
  • Beware of phishing scams by email, text or phone. Scammers may try to solicit sensitive information by impersonating the IRS‡. Know that the IRS will not contact you by email, text or social media. If the IRS needs information, they will contact you by mail first.
  • Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for W-2s, tax refunds or other mail containing your financial information. If you don’t receive your W-2s, and your employer indicates they’ve been mailed, or it looks like it has been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately‡.

If you believe you’re a victim of tax identity theft or if the IRS denies your tax return because one has previously been filed under your name, you should:

  • Alert the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490
  • Respond immediately to any mailed IRS notice and complete IRS Form 14039‡, Identity Theft Affidavit
  • Contact your bank immediately, to determine if any accounts have been opened without your permission or if your current accounts have been tampered with
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records:
  • Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper

More information about tax identity theft is available from the FTC at ftc.gov/taxidtheft‡ and the IRS at irs.gov/identitytheft‡. To learn more ways to keep yourself protected online, visit UMB’s Security & Privacy page.

Content adapted from the American Bankers Association (ABA).

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


UMB Financial Corporation (Nasdaq: UMBF) is a diversified financial holding company headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., offering complete banking services, payment solutions, asset servicing and institutional investment management to customers. UMB operates banking and wealth management centers throughout Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arizona and Texas, as well as two national specialty-lending businesses. Subsidiaries of the holding company include companies that offer services to mutual funds and alternative-investment entities and registered investment advisors that offer equity and fixed income strategies to institutions and individual investors.



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How investors keep calm and carry on amidst turmoil

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It sounds so easy: buying low and selling high – yet in practice it is very difficult. Why? When stocks are low (attractively-valued), there is often something happening to shake our confidence in the markets and question if we should even consider owning such risk-based assets.

What shakes investor confidence?

  • economic recessions
  • military conflicts
  • terrorist attacks
  • health epidemics

Obviously with all of the unknown factors with these events, investors find themselves questioning how long they will last, how they could impact economic fundamentals and ultimately, how to respond when the stock market reacts.

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Military conflict

The difficulty in buying low always comes down to timing. World War II serves as a perfect example.

The United States entered World War II on December 7, 1941 when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.  As expected, the stock market sold off.  One school of thought is to return to buying stocks when we receive the “all clear” signal, which perhaps would have been when Japan formally surrendered on August 2, 1945. But if we were looking to buy low, historical data indicates the time to buy would have actually been long before the war was over.

The bottom of the market actually occurred on April 27, 1942. At that time, the S&P 500 was at 7.61. When the war ended in 1945, the S&P 500 stood at 15.5. This means investors had an opportunity to more than double their money in the middle of a war. It seems buying stocks was not top of mind after the United States bombed Tokyo.

Now let’s take a look at a more recent situation: the Gulf War in 1991.

In August of 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait. The U.S. got involved immediately by building up troops in a deployment called Operation Desert Shield. The combat phase, Desert Storm, began January 16, 1991 and the war ended shortly after that on April 6, 1991. In this conflict example, the S&P 500 bottomed in October 1990, again long before the conflict was resolved.  At that time the S&P 500 was at 295, and by the end of the war it was at 378, or up 28 percent in less than six months.

The time to buy is when uncertainty is peaking and emotions are running high. If you have found yourself fearful of the market reaction during military conflicts in the past, I suggest you look at historical data during times of military conflict as a starting point before making any dramatic investment decisions.

Terrorism 
Terrorism has plagued the globe for many decades. One might think that terrorism would have an impact on financial markets, but it actually does not. History tells this story as well.

One of the worst acts of terrorism on American soil occurred on September 11, 2001. In addition to the catastrophic loss of life, the twin towers of the World Trade Center, considered the most important financial hub in the United States, were destroyed. This caused the financial exchanges in New York to be closed for four trading days, the longest shutdown since 1933. On September 17, 2001, the first day of New York Stock Exchange trading since the attack, the S&P 500, expecting chaos, lost 684 points or 7.1 percent – the largest loss in history for one trading day. By the end of the week, the S&P 500 was down 11.6 percent.

Many expected the markets would be down for several months. However, it took only 30 days for the Dow Jones, the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 to regain their pre-9/11 price levels.

As I mentioned, some industries may sustain a more material impact. The airline industry suffered significant losses after 9/11 as the fear of additional hijacks escalated. The major airlines saw their stock prices tumble approximately 40 percent at the opening of the market on September 17. Steep declines also hit the travel, tourism, hospitality, entertainment and financial services industries.

But even as the number of terrorist attacks rise, it appears the markets have learned that they don’t change the fundamentals of the economy.

Unfortunately terrorism is now part of our lives.  My point is not to desensitize these issues, but to strictly investigate the economic data and market action around these events. It is clear that, at least historically, terrorism does not change the fundamentals of the economy. It may have a material impact on specific industries, but much of that has proven to be temporary.

Health crises

From time to time the human population becomes concerned with potential healthcare scares or epidemics. In 2013 an Ebola outbreak in Africa began. In September 2014 the CDC confirmed a case of Ebola in Dallas. Once again the markets sold off and recovered to pre-event levels less than 30 days later. I caution you to keep in mind when analyzing these events and market reactions that other variables will always concurrently impact markets. Market action is a function of the news of the day. The question is: what news is nothing but noise and what news changes the underlying fundamentals?

You may have news of a terrorist attack and favorable earnings reports on the same day. And while the market will react to uncertainty in the short-run, only a change in the fundamentals will cause a long-term market reaction.

Buying low can be difficult, but selling low becomes easy when investors erroneously react to events without knowing what truly impacts markets and companies’ fundamentals. Perhaps the most profitable strategy is to invest in great companies and continue to deploy capital into the markets when there is a high level of uncertainty. As Warren Buffet who once said, “The best time to buy a farm is in a drought.”

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.

UMB Investment Management is a division within UMB Bank, n.a. that manages active portfolios for employee benefit plans, endowments and foundations, fiduciary accounts and individuals. UMB Financial Services, Inc.* is a subsidiary of UMB Financial Corporation. UMB Financial Services, Inc is not a bank and is separate from UMB Bank, n.a.

This content is provided for informational purposes only and contains no investment advice or recommendations to buy or sell any specific securities. Statements in this report are based on the opinions of UMB Investment Management and the information available at the time this report was published.

All opinions represent our judgments as of the date of this report and are subject to change at any time without notice. You should not use this report as a substitute for your own judgment, and you should consult professional advisors before making any tax, legal, financial planning or investment decisions. This report contains no investment recommendations and you should not interpret the statements in this report as investment, tax, legal, or financial planning advice. UMB Investment Management obtained information used in this report from third-party sources it believes to be reliable, but this information is not necessarily comprehensive and UMB Investment Management does not guarantee that it is accurate.

All investments involve risk, including the possible loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Neither UMB Investment Management nor its affiliates, directors, officers, employees or agents accepts any liability for any loss or damage arising out of your use of all or any part of this report.

“UMB” – Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off. Copyright © 2016. UMB Financial Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Securities offered through UMB Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC or the Investment Banking Division of UMB Bank, n.a.

*Insurance products offered through UMB Insurance Inc.

You may not have an account with all of these entities.

Contact your UMB Representative if you have any questions.

*Securities and Insurance products are:

Not FDIC Insured  *  No Bank Guarantee  *  Not a Deposit  *  Not Insured by any Government Agency  *  May Lose Value


K.C. Mathews joined UMB in 2002. As executive vice president and chief investment officer, Mr. Mathews is responsible for the development, execution and oversight of UMB’s investment strategy. He is chairman of the Trust Investment, Asset Allocation and Trust Policy Committees. Mr. Mathews has more than 20 years of diverse experience in the investment industry. Prior to joining UMB, he served as vice president and manager of the portfolio management group at Bank of Oklahoma for nine years. Mr. Mathews earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Mathews attended the ABA National Trust School at Northwestern University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst and member of the CFA Institute. He is past president of the Kansas City CFA Society and a past president of the Oklahoma Society of Financial Analysts.



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Be safe, secure & informed

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Banking, socializing, shopping online and downloading apps make life more convenient and help us stay connected. But that convenience also gives cybercriminals more opportunity to take over our email and bank accounts, and infect our computers or steal our identities. Did you know consumers globally lost $158 billion to cybercrime in the past year? In the United States alone, the figure is nearly $30 billion. These cybercriminals are becoming savvier and sophisticated, making it even more important for you to know how to stay safe and secure online.

We want to do our part in helping you stay informed when it comes to online banking. That’s why we recently created our Security and Privacy Resource Center where you can go for tools and resources to help protect yourself online.

Go to the Security and Privacy Resource Center>>

UMB Security Resource Center

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You can use the Security News & Alerts section to help you stay up-to-date on the latest in cybersecurity and best practices. Here are even more resources and guidance on staying safe:

  • How UMB protects you: explains our strong commitment to your security and details of how we protect you when using our digital products.
  • How to protect yourself: provides you with best practices for mobile devices and other online activity.
  • Preventing identity theft: describes how identity theft occurs, steps to prevent identity theft and what to do if you become a victim of identity theft.
  • Privacy notice: provides you our most current detailed privacy notice.
  • Protect your business: provides our small business customers with 10 common security practices and resources for reducing security risk and the likelihood of fraud as well as information about popular fraud schemes such as the Business Email Compromise (BEC).
  • Report fraud: provides you a quick list of how to report fraud for:
  • ATM, debit card, or checking fraud for business or personal accounts
  • Credit card fraud
  • Identity theft
  • Suspicious phishing emails

We hope this provides you useful and meaningful information that you can use in our ever evolving digital world.  

Be sure to bookmark the Security and Privacy Resource Center so you can easily check back for updates to this new and expanded content.

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Ms. Flores serves as senior vice president and Chief Information Security Officer, providing oversight of UMB’s information security and privacy programs. She joined UMB in 2010 and more than 15 years of experience in information technology and information security. She attended Kansas State University with a focus on management information systems and is a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US) and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA).



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Associate fraud: who they are and why they do it

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We shared this information with you a couple years ago, and unfortunately are finding that fraud remains a hot topic. So here is a refresher on how to detect and avoid internal fraud. Be sure to check out our other blog posts on the topic of fraud.

 

He looks like a typical associate. She could be a 20-something or a person in her fifties. He could be the person you eat lunch with every day. The truth is that you can’t pick out this person from the crowd. She is committing associate or internal fraud in your company and doesn’t look any different from the rest of your co-workers. He makes sure he blends in.

So what should you look for if you suspect one of your associates is committing fraud?

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What to look for

  • A disgruntled associate who is vocal about their unhappiness with the company. They often use this as an excuse to commit fraud.
  • An overly enthusiastic associate who consistently ask questions about processes and procedures that will help them steal from the company.
  • A seemingly harmless associate with no apparent agenda. Their behavior won’t be as easy to spot as the first two. Having audits and checks/balances in place will likely help you catch them.

How they do it

These are not always tell-tale signs of fraud, but those who commit internal fraud are likely to:

  • Always be willing to take on additional tasks that could lead to fraud and have nothing to do with their current duties.
  • Learn as much as they can about company systems to use in conducting fraud. Systems can include but aren’t limited to: accounting, accounts payable/receivable, payroll, bank account access. They will look for weaknesses in policies or procedures.
  • Earn management’s trust with regard to the most vulnerable parts of the company.

Once they gather the necessary information and gain the trust of the company leaders, they will begin their plan. This could be creating “ghost” associates in payroll or diverting funds to a new account for a fake vendor.  A click of the mouse and the associate can send e-mails on behalf of the company or executives  requesting wire or A.C.H. transfers from their bank account.  Sometimes it’s as simple as stealing money directly or even selling confidential company information on the internet.

Why they do it

The best example of why an associate will commit fraud is described by Dr. Donald Cressey as the Fraud Triangle Model, a tool for assessing the risk of fraud. Cressey was a criminologist who studied embezzlers.

Fraud Triangle

  • Pressure is often financial and usually stems from addiction, living beyond one’s means, major medical expenses or gambling losses.
  • Rationalization is the explanation why the theft is not really wrong. Some associates tell themselves that it’s a loan and will be repaid. Others feel they are not paid enough and deserve more.
  • Opportunity is the opinion that a fraud can be committed without being caught. The thief sees poor internal controls, poor supervision, poor “tone at the top” or a combination of these.

Some of the best ways to avoid internal fraud is to set up regular, thorough audits and reviews of processes in your company.  Make sure associates have an avenue to report instances of fraud, such as an anonymous hotline.  Establish the ethical tone at the top where executive management or business owners set the tone for ethical behavior within your organization as a top priority.


Dennis Knop is a vice president and external corporate fraud investigator of UMB Bank, n.a. He has worked for UMB for 20 years, and 14 years of that in fraud investigation. He has a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Mr. Knop is a Certified Fraud Examiner and currently serves as the chairperson of the Midwest Financial Fraud Investigators Group in St. Louis, Mo.



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The presidential election and the stock market

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Stocks always react differently during an election cycle. A piece of advice we give clients is to look for election-neutral stocks. Hear some of my thoughts on how stocks are performing this year from a recent visit to CNBC studios and read more below.

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Elections matter, but do they predetermine a bear‡ or bull market on Wall Street?

If history teaches us anything, there is one thing investors can count on during an election year, and that’s an upcoming period of uncertainty in the markets. The year promises to be interesting on multiple fronts—and while the candidates are busy making the case for why they should be elected, we wanted to get to the bottom of one question: How does a presidential election affect returns in the stock market?

Market Returns and the Four-Year Presidential Cycle

We all know the market dislikes uncertainty and it doesn’t matter what causes the uncertainty. Political uncertainty is no exception. Going back to 1900, we categorized each calendar year of market returns into one of four categories: the election year, the first year, the second year and the third year of the presidency. We discovered the third year in office was the best performing and the election year had the most uncertainty.

Stocks have struggled in the first half of historic election years, no doubt due to the uncertainty of the election and what a new president may mean to the economy and the markets. Typically, the market struggles early in the year when the political theater is at its highest, with numerous candidates still in the running. Consequently, the bottom of the market is linked to the timing associated with determining a clear winner. A few examples make the point: In 1996, President Clinton’s second term was not in question and the market only suffered a minor correction of 5 percent. In 2004, there was more uncertainty. Incumbent George W. Bush, running for a second term, was in a tight race with John Kerry. That year the market established a bottom in August. This graph illustrates the two races.

S&P 500 1996 vs. 2004

The bottom line: Expect volatility whenever you see uncertainty, but as this pertains to election cycles, it usually clears up quickly.

Political Rhetoric

As politicians campaign, they need to gain the voters’ attention. When the discussion turns to sectors and industries, markets react—sometimes temporarily or sometimes longer-term. In any case, the impact is seldom as bad as the language being used.

A perfect example of this is the Affordable Care Act. This legislation was signed into law on March 23, 2010. Initially, there was massive uncertainty as employers and investors analyzed and interpreted the new law. In 2010, the S&P Health Care Index was up a mere 0.7 percent, managed care increased 8.3 percent and the S&P 500 was up 12.8 percent. As I previously mentioned, this market reaction proved temporary as the positive financial impact of the Affordable Care Act began to assert itself on the companies’ bottom lines. So looking at the next 12 months, returns reversed. In 2011, the S&P Health Care Index was up a stellar 10 percent, managed care increased an impressive 32.9 percent and the S&P 500 was up only 2.1 percent.

Democrat or Republican?

In the long run, markets are driven by economic fundamentals that trickle down to corporate earnings. In the short run, noise can influence markets. The data suggests that elections would be classified as noise.

We went back to 1900 and analyzed which political party in the White House produced the best returns in the stock market. Over this long period of time, Democrats won this contest, producing an average return of 7.9 percent. Republicans produced a return of only 3.0 percent.

DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN:
MARKET RETURNS
POLITICAL POWER GAIN/ANNUM % OF TIME
Democratic President 7.9 47.2
Republican President 3.0 52.8
Democratic President, Congress Split 10.1 3.3
Republican President, Congress Split -4.2 10.6

I concede that this is a naïve way to analyze the data; however, the answer to the question of which party is best for the markets is inconclusive. I presented this data to a group of investors and a Republican asked if the returns would be different if I lagged returns by a year. The question has merit and does change the results dramatically as the outcome would be completely opposite.

It becomes difficult to assign market returns to a specific president. For years, we have experienced mounting debt, an increase in terrorist threats and easy monetary policy. As these issues flare up, they either positively or negatively affect the market. So is it fair to say the current president is totally responsible?

Is This Time Different?

This election may be different. This year we have a candidate who represents the establishment and a candidate who represents the anti-establishment.  I’m fairly confident that not all of the actions and policies touted by the candidates would be a good thing for the markets. Keep in mind that what a candidate says they will do during a campaign is typically not what they will do once in the oval office. A candidate’s goal is to excite the voter base, increase voter turnout and gain a political advantage.

And, remember: the president must work with Congress to get things done. In 2017, the president will not have a free hand. If we have a Democrat in the White House, there is a good chance we will have a Republican Congress. If we have a Republican president, he will have to deal with two experienced and successful leaders, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, individuals who will not subordinate their policy views.

The Long and Short of the Matter

 

Elections are important on many fronts, but as far as markets are concerned there is a short-term effect and a long-term effect.

The only thing we can say conclusively about the market data is that prior to an election, markets tend to trade flat with higher volatility. After the election, the market has consistently delivered stronger returns.

In the long-run, the market’s preference for one political party over another is unclear. The data is clunky and incredibly sensitive to modest adjustments.

I would caution against using every statement and policy suggestion made by the candidates as a tool for guiding investment decisions. Rather, understand what history has taught us and refrain from making long-term decisions based on short-term emotions.

 

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.

 

UMB Investment Management is a division within UMB Bank, n.a. that manages active portfolios for employee benefit plans, endowments and foundations, fiduciary accounts and individuals. UMB Financial Services, Inc.*  is a subsidiary of UMB Financial Corporation. UMB Financial Services, Inc is not a bank and is separate from UMB Bank, n.a.

This content is provided for informational purposes only and contains no investment advice or recommendations to buy or sell any specific securities. Statements in this report are based on the opinions of UMB Investment Management and the information available at the time this report was published.

All opinions represent our judgments as of the date of this report and are subject to change at any time without notice. You should not use this report as a substitute for your own judgment, and you should consult professional advisors before making any tax, legal, financial planning or investment decisions. This report contains no investment recommendations and you should not interpret the statements in this report as investment, tax, legal, or financial planning advice. UMB Investment Management obtained information used in this report from third-party sources it believes to be reliable, but this information is not necessarily comprehensive and UMB Investment Management does not guarantee that it is accurate.

All investments involve risk, including the possible loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Neither UMB Investment Management nor its affiliates, directors, officers, employees or agents accepts any liability for any loss or damage arising out of your use of all or any part of this report.

“UMB” – Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off. Copyright © 2016. UMB Financial Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Securities offered through UMB Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC or the Investment Banking Division of UMB Bank, n.a.

*Insurance products offered through UMB Insurance Inc.

You may not have an account with all of these entities.

Contact your UMB Representative if you have any questions.

* Securities and Insurance products are:

Not FDIC Insured  ▪  No Bank Guarantee  ▪  Not a Deposit  ▪  Not Insured by any Government Agency  ▪  May Lose Value

 


K.C. Mathews joined UMB in 2002. As executive vice president and chief investment officer, Mr. Mathews is responsible for the development, execution and oversight of UMB’s investment strategy. He is chairman of the Trust Investment, Asset Allocation and Trust Policy Committees. Mr. Mathews has more than 20 years of diverse experience in the investment industry. Prior to joining UMB, he served as vice president and manager of the portfolio management group at Bank of Oklahoma for nine years. Mr. Mathews earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Mathews attended the ABA National Trust School at Northwestern University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst and member of the CFA Institute. He is past president of the Kansas City CFA Society and a past president of the Oklahoma Society of Financial Analysts.



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Economic forecast 2016: the tortoise or the hare?

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We all know of Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare—a story of two unequal opponents who agree to a race. The outcome appears to be obvious, but in a surprising twist, the ever-so-diligent tortoise perseveres and wins the race. The moral of the story is: slow and steady wins the race.

UMB’s economic theme for 2016 is The Tortoise OR the Hare. We think the U.S. economy, which has grown throughout the past few years at a tortoise-like pace, will continue to produce mediocre growth in 2016. Given the stimuli that abounds, one might think the economy should grow at a faster pace, more “hare-like;” however, we think slow and steady will win out once again. We anticipate the U.S. economy will continue to grow in the 2 percent to 2.2 percent range in 2016. Relative to other economies, tortoise-like growth will be a winner.

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hareThe hare
Historically the U.S. economy has been more hare-like. So what has changed? When did our economy go from consistently growing more than 3 percent annually to a tortoise-like economy with growth less than 2.5 percent? For example, from 1955 to 2005, the U.S. average real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 3.4 percent. Fast-forward to the period from 2005 to 2015 and real GDP averaged a paltry 1.5 percent, leaving economists wondering what happened.

To answer this question, we investigated two economic variables that drive potential GDP: labor force growth and productivity gains.

two economic variables that drive potential GDP: labor force growth and productivity gainsData Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Labor force growth
In economics, potential output refers to the highest level of real GDP (output) that can be sustained over the long term. Year-to-year actual GDP may vary from potential GDP; this is called the output gap. Forecasting potential GDP should be relatively easy, as the formula is simply labor force growth plus productivity gains.
low labor force growth + low productivity gains

2016 forecast GDP

Labor force growth has changed throughout the years and is influenced by several factors. In the 1960s and 1970s labor force growth changed due to population growth, the baby boomer generation reached working age and more women were working outside the home and entering the labor force. However, the significant labor force growth rate increase of the 70s will not be repeated anytime soon. One reason is that most baby boomers have more siblings than children, and labor force growth is partly a function of population growth.

Productivity
The second variable is productivity, or the efficiency of production. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity change in the non-farm business sector from 2007-2014 was only 1.3 percent.

Debate among economists: What drives productivity?

  • Capital accumulation or…
  • accelerating technical progress in high-tech industries plus the resulting investment in information technology

One common theme between both theories is that investment is critical to any growth theory. Therefore monitoring measures of human capital and research and development expenditures is necessary. We believe we will continue to see exciting new technologies developed in the future, but caution that even though new technology is introduced, the lack of adoption to these new technologies can be limiting to productivity. Therefore, we don’t see productivity gains spiking higher in the near future.

tortoiseThe tortoise
So as the fable goes, the tortoise never gives up—it is patient and persistent, and wins the race. This is a great parallel to the U.S. economy in 2016 and perhaps beyond. Our economy has been slow-growing since the Great Recession in 2009 and has continued on that path to real GDP of 1.5 percent in 2013, 2.4 percent in 2014 and near 2.4 percent last year.

I expect our economy to continue to grow at a slow and steady pace in 2016 with real GDP in the range of 2 percent to 2.2 percent. This is in part due to several tailwinds and a few headwinds.

 

GDP economic growth

Tailwinds
The labor market, consumer confidence and low interest rates are a few of the positive variables that support our expectation for steady, ongoing economic expansion.

The robust labor market gives us confidence that the U.S. economy will continue to grow at a steady pace. By the end of 2015, the number of full-time workers rose to a record high of 122.6 million. The Federal Reserve Chairperson, Janet Yellen, suggested in her recent testimony that payroll growth of 100,000 per month can absorb all of the new entrants into the labor market.

Additional data supports a solid labor market. The median duration for the unemployed fell to 10.5 weeks, the lowest in seven years. Finding part-time workers is becoming more difficult, and as the job market improves, we think more people will be encouraged to consider seeking employment. As the labor market tightens, wages will be on the rise as well.

unemployment

Data Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

This dovetails into consumer confidence. When consumers feel good, they will support the economy by spending. Consumer confidence was relatively flat throughout 2015, but remains at a level that supports economic growth. Confidence is primarily driven by the labor market, stock prices and home prices.

The strength in the aforementioned labor market, paired with home prices up 5.5 percent last year, should continue to support confidence. Lower oil prices also gave most consumers a good feeling as their transportation costs were reduced. The wild card here is the stock market. Investors saw mediocre returns last year, (only 1.4 percent return from the S&P 500), along with higher volatility. Weak markets and an increase in volatility may shake consumer confidence this year.

The Fed has kept interest rates low for seven years. We think interest rates will be on the rise throughout 2016, ending the year at 1 percent. However, from a historical perspective, the Fed policy remains extremely expansionary, affording consumers and businesses access to inexpensive capital.

Perhaps China is getting a bad rap; it seems to be blamed for any problem ranging from stock market volatility to global warming. However from our point of view, it’s not all bad. The U.S. imports more goods from China than from any other country. As China devaluates its currency, the yuan, those everyday goods we import become cheaper, which is good for consumers. As their economy slows to a more sustainable level, the demand for energy and commodities wanes and prices are reduced. Again, this is good for the U.S. consumer.

8

Data source: U.S. Census Bureau

Not everything outside of the U.S. is necessarily a negative story, as some would lead consumers to believe. With low interest rates and a quantitative easing program, Europe could experience economic growth in the 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent range. This may not sound like much, but remember in 2014 they grew at a 0.8 percent pace and last year at 1.5 percent.

Headwinds
It’s not all rosy. Some headwinds lead to slower growth and some may not have a significant impact on our economy directly, but rather they may spook risk markets. Stocks are included in this category.

The recent U.S. manufacturing data is suggesting an oncoming economic contraction. For two quarters now, the ISM Purchasing Managers Index has been below 50, indicating a contraction. The good news is that non-manufacturing data is solidly in growth territory, albeit trending south. The bad news–historically the manufacturing data leads the non-manufacturing data. Once again, we think the current data supports a tortoise-like economy in the United States.

The Fed has a tough job: maximize employment, stabilize prices, support global markets, normalize interest rates. Oh, and don’t send us into a recession. Many recessions have been blamed on the Fed for creating a policy error, which is typically viewed as moving too fast or too soon. At this time we don’t see a policy error at hand. The Fed plans to move at a measured pace and it doesn’t look like it will threaten a tortoise-like expansion.

Issues in the global economy will constrain growth in the United States, and as we mentioned, China is slowing. It will have an impact on other emerging markets as well as on the United States to a lesser extent. We don’t believe the Chinese stock market gives us any indication of economic fundamentals due to the speculation in their markets and government intervention. However the massive volatility of their stock markets sends a violent reaction to markets around the globe. If downward pressure continues, it could negatively impact consumer confidence in the United States.

Energy is also an important variable. Even though low energy prices are good for the consumer’s wallet; tension in the Middle East may create an uneasy global economy. And while much of this won’t significantly affect the U.S. economy, it may affect our markets in the short run.

A slow and steady 2016
In 2016 we anticipate GDP growth between 2 percent and 2.2 percent. We think this will be supported by the labor market once again as businesses create new jobs.

Domestic equity returns may once again be challenged, profits are in question and valuations may contract. We expect 3 percent earnings growth which should lead to total returns in the 4 percent to 6 percent range.

We also think interest rates will be on the move this year, expecting both short-term and long-term rates to increase. Fed Funds should end the year at 1 percent.

The moral to our economic story is slow and steady won’t be all bad on a relative basis. Our economy expanding at an approximate 2.1 percent pace will allow the Fed to normalize interest rates and companies will find a way to be profitable and continue to hire workers, supporting consumption.

 

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.

UMB Investment Management is a division within UMB Bank, n.a. that manages active portfolios for employee benefit plans, endowments and foundations, fiduciary accounts and individuals. UMB Financial Services, Inc.*  is a subsidiary of UMB Financial Corporation. UMB Financial Services, Inc is not a bank and is separate from UMB Bank, n.a.

This content is provided for informational purposes only and contains no investment advice or recommendations to buy or sell any specific securities. Statements in this report are based on the opinions of UMB Investment Management and the information available at the time this report was published.

All opinions represent our judgments as of the date of this report and are subject to change at any time without notice. You should not use this report as a substitute for your own judgment, and you should consult professional advisors before making any tax, legal, financial planning or investment decisions. This report contains no investment recommendations and you should not interpret the statements in this report as investment, tax, legal, or financial planning advice. UMB Investment Management obtained information used in this report from third-party sources it believes to be reliable, but this information is not necessarily comprehensive and UMB Investment Management does not guarantee that it is accurate.

All investments involve risk, including the possible loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Neither UMB Investment Management nor its affiliates, directors, officers, employees or agents accepts any liability for any loss or damage arising out of your use of all or any part of this report.

“UMB” – Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off. Copyright © 2016. UMB Financial Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Securities offered through UMB Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC or the Investment Banking Division of UMB Bank, n.a.

*Insurance products offered through UMB Insurance Inc.

You may not have an account with all of these entities.

Contact your UMB Representative if you have any questions.

* Securities and Insurance products are:

Not FDIC Insured  ▪  No Bank Guarantee  ▪  Not a Deposit  ▪  Not Insured by any Government Agency  ▪  May Lose Value

 

 


K.C. Mathews joined UMB in 2002. As executive vice president and chief investment officer, Mr. Mathews is responsible for the development, execution and oversight of UMB’s investment strategy. He is chairman of the Trust Investment, Asset Allocation and Trust Policy Committees. Mr. Mathews has more than 20 years of diverse experience in the investment industry. Prior to joining UMB, he served as vice president and manager of the portfolio management group at Bank of Oklahoma for nine years. Mr. Mathews earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Mathews attended the ABA National Trust School at Northwestern University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst and member of the CFA Institute. He is past president of the Kansas City CFA Society and a past president of the Oklahoma Society of Financial Analysts.



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