You probably didn’t notice, but Monday, September 11 marked a milestone: the S&P 500 index’s bull market became the second-longest and the second-best performing in the modern economic era. Stock prices are up 270% from their low point after the Great Recession in March 2009—up 340% if you include dividends. That beats the 267% gain that investors experienced from June 1949 to August 1956. (The raging bull that lasted from October 1990 to March 2000 is still the winningest ever, and may never be topped.)
By now, you’ve surely watched with sympathy and concern as hurricane Harvey flooded America’s fourth largest city. You may remember seeing similar footage when Hurricane Katrina roared through New Orleans, and when superstorm Sandy roared through the most populous areas of New Jersey and New York. As you see Houston sitting in six feet of water, you’re probably wondering what the economic impact will be of all this devastation, and how it compares to natural mega-disasters like Katrina and Sandy.
The U.S. Federal Reserve Board’s Open Market Committee just raised the Fed Funds rate from 0.75% to 1.00%—the second rate hike in three months. So what should you do with your investment portfolio in light of this change?
You’re starting to hear people talk about “if” there’s a bear market during the Trump Administration, when the real truth is they should be talking about “when.” And it won’t necessarily be triggered by a poorly-worded tweet, a global-trade-stopping new tariff regime or tax and entitlement reform. Every presidential cycle has its share of market drawdowns, seemingly regardless of presidential policies.
Anybody who was surprised that the Federal Reserve Board decided to raise its benchmark interest rate this week probably wasn’t paying attention. The U.S. economy is humming along, the stock market is booming and the unemployment rate has fallen faster than anybody expected. The incoming administration has promised lower taxes and a stimulative $550 billion infrastructure investment. The question on the minds of most observers is: what were they waiting for?
If you think taxes are higher than their historical rates, well, it depends on how far back in history you’re comparing them to. Take a look at the accompanying chart, which shows tax revenue as a percent of total national income for four countries—France, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the U.S.—since 1868. The chart ends in 2008, and is taken from research by tax policy analyst Thomas Piketty.
Leaked information tells the story of prominent world leaders who avoided taxes or looted their country’s treasuries in order to squirrel away not only money, but expensive yachts, luxury homes, ownership of a candy company and investments in construction companies. The Prime Minister of Iceland has already resigned as a result of the leaked client files of a Panamanian-based law firm that specializes in creating secret tax havens.