Stephen Kyne, CFP
As we roll into 2020, we have ushered in another decade. We’ve just lived through a decade of economic expansion, and are still in the middle of the longest bull run in history, with no clear end in sight. All of the fear mongering and doom-and-gloom predictions since the recession, a decade ago, have been wrong. The sky has not fallen, and the future still looks promising.
In the last 10 years, the S&P index (a frequently quoted index comprised of 500 commonly held U.S. stocks), has increased 190 percent. Just this year, the index is up about 30 percent. While a third of this year’s gains were a recovery from the correction at the end of 2018, the markets still continue to reward those with the discipline to stay appropriately invested.
Technology and capitalism are amazingly transformative forces, and when working together, they produce astounding results on a global scale. Consider that 100 years ago, 80 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty. In the year 2000, 20 percent did, and that number has since been halved.
The last 100 years has seen the rise of America as a global force, spreading and protecting capitalism and democracy around the world, and creating an environment where innovation and entrepreneurship are rewarded.
Technological advances in communications, travel, logistics, heath care, shipping, agriculture, chemistry, energy and in every other part of the economy have freed billions from the shackles of extreme poverty.
Famine is largely a thing of the past. Global inequality has fallen dramatically as Asia and Africa are experiencing faster economic growth than Europe and North America.
For all the talk about an environment on the brink, technology is solving that problem as well and allowing us to do much more with much less, every day. Consider that the computing power in your smart phone would have cost millions of dollars just twenty years ago, and would never have fit in your pocket. Today one device replaces cameras, camcorders, flashlights, atlases, watches, calendars, CD players, newspapers, a stack of board games, and virtually anything else someone with a little ingenuity can dream of.
Twenty years ago, the U.S. was the world’s largest energy beggar, and today we are the largest producer of energy in the world, and we owe this to technological advances in fracking. As natural gas continues to replace coal in the production of power in the U.S., we’ve seen CO2 production plummet since 2005, with per capital levels at their lowest since 1950.
This is absolutely astounding when you consider how much the economy has grown over the same time period.
Yes, sometimes bad things happen, but that doesn’t mean the world isn’t getting better.
We’re going into an election year, so remember to tune out the noise. Both sides need to convince you that they are the only ones with the answers. Neither is right.
As we turn to the future, we think technology continues to lead the way, as long as governments allow innovators to do what they do best.
Unemployment is functionally zero, with rates among African Americans and Latinos at historic lows. There are only two ways to grow your economy when you’ve exhausted your supply of workers; immigration and technology. Since immigration is likely to continue to be a political football, that leaves technological innovation as the primary driver for increasing worker productivity.
In addition, wage growth continues to outpace inflation, especially for the poorest among us, which means consumers have more real dollars to spend.
In the coming year, we expect more economic growth for the U.S., and another positive year for the stock markets. We think 10-15 percent growth in the S&P is likely, although the markets will experience their normal swings.
U.S. government policies continue to be accommodative to growth in this country, as long as tax cuts remain in force, regulations remain as their current levels, and interest rates continue to be appropriate. Barring a sweep of both houses of Congress and the White House by the Democrats, we expect this will be the case.
As always our forecast contains forward-looking statements which may be revised at any time. Stay focused on fundamentals in the coming year, and work closely with your financial advisor to help ensure your investments remain appropriate for your needs and market conditions.
Stephen Kyne, CFP