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Money: Some investors are worried about the next recession

25 Jul 2019

Clients and friends are increasingly telling me that there is going to be a world-wide recession and anecdotally it is making them less likely to take risks with their money, both in their businesses and with their investments.

Here is my response, “Of course there will be another recession. They come and go from time to time. But I have no idea when and Neither. Does. Anyone. Else.”

People read something in the media and it nags away at them. Everything they read seems to reinforce that opinion. It gets really bad when they start Googling ‘the next recession’. Wow! They were right. It is just around the corner.

Media. You got to love them; you got to hate them. Playing on people’s fears. Trying desperately to sell eyeballs to advertisers. ‘How can I get the public’s attention? Scare them. That will keep them engaged with my media and the advertisers will pay me more.’

dissolivng dollar

Once fear has taken hold there is very little anyone can do to change their mind. Co-incidentally, it is the same with greed.

Getting back to that recession. Why is it topical now? What is going on in the world that suggests the next recession is just around the corner? I’ve had a good think about this and together with a few good writers on the subject think that the following might be having an impact on people’s confidence:

  • The recovery has been going on since March 2009, over 10 years and this is a long time. Well, not so fast. There was a huge disruption to the ‘recovery’ in 2011 when it seemed Europe was falling out of bed. Let’s not ignore that. Secondly, recoveries are not time dependent. There are no rules about how long a recovery should last. Absolutely none.
  • Shares and property have gone up in value strongly since at least the European crisis of 2011 and valuations are high on an historic basis. Prices tend to revert to the average over time but again, there are no rules about how long it takes for prices to revert to the average. Absolutely none. And in the meantime, profits are growing for companies which reduces their high valuation over time.
  • Shares and property values are high because interest rates are so low. Any sign of interest rates rising results in a quick reduction in share market values and the same is likely to be true for property, only there is a lag with property falling some time after share market valuations have fallen.  There are no signs that interest rates are about to rise. The opposite, in fact.
  • An unexpected rise in inflation is often the catalyst for share market disruption and we can’t see any inflation on the horizon at the moment. Note that I referred to an ‘unexpected rise in inflation’ and by definition we won’t see that until it is too late.
  • We do seem to be in the midst of a general slowdown around the world and most of this can be put down to the President of the land of opportunity and his reckless trade wars. In my opinion, trade wars do not work and are hugely risky. It was a trade war that caused Japan to invade Pearl Harbour in 1941. The Japanese were forced to go to war because the POTUS at the time forced them into it with trade sanctions. Just like the US is forcing Iran to go to war over a world-wide ban on Iran’s exports of oil at the moment. Imagine, if you will, how we would feel if the largest, most powerful country in the world banned all exports from New Zealand. We would have to fight, and a nuclear weapon might be just the thing to bargain with.
  • No one can predict the future other than by luck and luck is a dangerous thing to rely on. Don’t chance your arm right now, is my advice and it works 99% of the time.

Look, Donald Trump is the most dangerous item on the world stage right now but I wouldn’t try and out-guess him. It doesn’t look good what he is doing with Iran, North Korea or China but Trump could be gone by November 3 next year.

Keep asking great questions …

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