We ask you, gentle reader, after indulging in some well-earned schadenfreude, to print this epistle, burn it and let its incense waft heavenward to be inhaled by St. Thomas More, the patron saint of politicians, who, among other achievements, was beheaded for dismaying Henry VIII. We should be so lucky.
This sacrificial rite is called for, we believe, after our premise on election eve was neatly defenestrated by the stunning victory of Donald Trump and the upending of our expectation that divided government would persist in these
The upshot in financial markets has been a rout in debt on expectations of a Trumpian agenda that includes more spending on infrastructure and defense, meaning more bond supply; fewer workers via mass deportations, meaning wage inflation; and, perhaps more importantly, the expectation of significant tax cuts for corporations and the one-percenters. Stocks, meanwhile, have climbed ever higher, anticipating brisker economic growth on the back of the aforementioned government outlays, tax cuts and business-friendly government.
The irony in all this, of course, is that the hot-under-the-blue collar class (no snarky ripostes, please; we’re a working man ourselves) is likely to cede even more slices of the pie to capital. If you’re a lefty, you should be happy; after all, to paraphrase Lenin, “It has to get worse before it gets better.” How much worse (or better, if you’re so inclined)? As the network correspondents say, only time will tell, but Trump’s recent selections for the Labor and Environmental Protection portfolios suggest coddling for capital and nose-thumbing for workers.
We all live in the meantime, though, and we are reminded of a line from our favorite Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. When Clarence the angel remarks no money is needed in heaven, George replies, “Comes in pretty handy down here, bub.”
With the warning that the cake that Trump bakes will be heavily salted with surprise, we attempt to reconfigure our outlook.
- Obamacare is dead! Long live Obamacare! Republicans will not return healthcare for the poor back to the emergency room. Neither will they get rid of the pre-existing condition guarantee or parental coverage for young adults. They’ll just call it something else.
- With Trumpian inflation on the way and the U.S. economy at full employment, the market expects the Federal Reserve to ratchet up the Fed Funds rate another quarter to one-half percentage point at the Open Market Committee’s meeting in five days. Indeed, futures contracts assign a 97% probability of a rate hike. But don’t expect another unless the Fed wants to pop the equity bubble.
- And a prodigious bubble we think it is. The ratio of stock market capitalization to gross domestic product is over 125%, significant overvaluation by historical standards.
- Which means we believe that it’s wise to focus on individual trees, not the forest. We pick two consumer retail names at opposite ends of the income target spectrum. We still like J.C. Penney (JCP), despite its recent rapid run-up, believing it undervalued at a price-to-sales ratio of 0.25 compared with 0.50 for flailing Macy’s (M). And more disposable income for the wealthy should favor luxury names. We recommend Coach (COH), the handbag, shoes and fashion house. Superior operating margins and a safe dividend that yields 3.49% justify its trailing 12 months’ price-to-earnings ratio of 22, in our view.
Meanwhile, gentle reader, we pause in this season of light to count our manifold blessings and, at the risk of squandering our remaining brain capital, cogitate in peace about the year ahead. We called the election of Trump last year (albeit as a jape), so we’re confident of your attention to our 2017 predictions. Coming soon.