Here’s something that we are taught very young; Our governments steer markets. We are taught what is decided in Canberra, in the White House, in Downing Street or in Bonn determines what markets everywhere are doing.
To be honest, I have always believed what happened in those places was interesting, but not important. What I have always thought was important was what the people believed, what people are actually doing with their money and what they think is likely to happen next month is important. We track that at CoreData. It’s interesting – and you ought to know that the rich lead the market by about 90 days on average.
It may be that once what happened in Canberra WAS important, but isn’t any more. It might be that the increasing flow of information and data has rendered the opinions of politicians impotent.
Last millennium for example when I was tracking things like monetary policy and the rate of borrowing, for the bank I was working for, when Paul Keating was Treasurer and then Prime Minister – I noticed that he didn’t actually need to change policy or alter the budget much to change the direction of the economy.
But he did talk about it. He would – before every budget – leak to the press that this year’s budget was going to be very bad, a recession budget, the recession that we have to have, that our dollar was the pacific peso and the markets would react.
Inevitably – the budget wouldn’t be terrible. The interest rate rises or falls wouldn’t be so bad and the populace would sigh in relief and normal service would be returned.
We adopted a term for that in that bank that I was working at: the Treasurer was jawboning the economy. After a while – we started to simply not listen to him and follow the numbers.
Now I don’t think outside very specific political interference in markets, not one cares at all what the Government is saying any more because they tend to say anything at all, or what they think they want people to hear…
To be honest I think that’s happening in a few places. I think that’s happening in New Zealand where there is a populist Unicorns Shitting Rainbows Prime Minister, Ditto Turkey, where there is a fire and Damnation President and China and Russia, well that’s all pretty obvious right?
Now in Australia it’s worse. No one listens at all to what the politicians are saying – except perhaps themselves. Political parties don’t actually stand for anything anymore – they just oppose what the Opposition is saying and they it do with such power and rhetoric and control of the media that it’s hard to work out what is true.
The psychologists who research this call this all sorts of things and there is bags of longitudinal research on it if you are interested – but at its simplest level it’s a kind of search for authenticity.
Humans love authenticity. We look for it unconsciously and are hardwired to it, but it’s a slippery little sucker and something worth understanding.
In Australia, we don’t really have the resources to track the dishonesty, intellectual, marital or filial of our politicians, but in America they do, so that’s where I’m gathering data from.
Here’s something that we all know: President Trump is a liar.
In fact because these things are tracked – and in the first 355 days of his presidency he’s lied 2,000 times (2).
Here’s something interesting – my researcher’s brain immediately starts to think – well where is the comparative data on this? Did Obama lie? If so was it more or less than Trump?
Are lies of different weight? Does the lie of free medical treatment hurt more than the lie of I’m going to build a wall and the Mexicans are going to pay for it…?
Does it matter if, all of a sudden, the people expect the President or Prime Minister to lie, what if the leader was someone who never even wanted to be President? What if they just wanted to be the most famous man in the world? What if they thought that losing was winning (3).
Well, given what is happening in America – it looks like no one cares.
One of the great predictors of success in America is contained in a chart compiled by the good people at Thompson Reuters – it’s called the USA Small Business Confidence Index and it’s in their DataStream series.
Have a look at it –it’s below. Its higher than pre GFC levels.
To be honest – I don’t know what that means. I can’t honestly tell you is that’s a buy or a sell signal.
Here’s what I can tell you: the USA is pump-priming their economy – going the full supply side hog – pushing as much money in as they can. They are reducing the corporate tax rate – in the hope that more of it flows through to the wage earners; they are rolling back the Frank-Dodd Act which will loosen monetary controls.
I’m not sure where you sit on supply side economics – whether you think it’s nonsense, whether you think it’s risky, whether you think that we should embrace the whole idea of economic austerity, which many think is just bullshit (4).
It’s clear however, what’s happening in America means that business has become dislocated fundamentally from Washington. Confidence is up in every area, small business, the business leader index – confidence is higher than it ever was in under Barrack Obama, higher than its been for a decade and everywhere you look in the data the numbers are strong and momentum is building no matter what madness is happening in Washington and businesses are going mad.
Here’s a caveat: not everyone is convinced though, Warren Buffet – the great Sage of Omaha is sitting on $100 billion of cash (5). I’m not joking. He’s got enough to buy PayPal and he’s not spending it, because he can’t see value anywhere.
I’m like Warren. I’m investing in my own business and I’m holding cash and reducing my debt, because I’d rather owe you a dollar until I die, than do you out of one. (6)
(1) This is quote stolen from Gabrielle Day. A slender, highly intelligent girl I knew in High School. She was unconsciously gifted in the area of amazing alliteration.
(2) Glenn Kessler and Meg Kelly – The President has Made more than 2000 False Claims over 355 Days – Washington Post January 10, 2018.
(3) Michael Wolff “You Can’t Make this Shit Up,” my year inside Trump’s Insane White House the Hollywood Reporter, January 4 2018.
(4) Austerity Economics is Bullshit, Mark Blythe ( a very fine economist and worth listening to) “Why Do People Continue To Believe Stupid Economic Ideas, April 2017.
(5) Fortune, The $100bn Problem that Warren Doesn’t Want April 2017
(6) “Mouse” John Eames. Bricklayer. Father of two brothers I used to play Water Polo with.