New Articles

Can We Afford Trillions in Stimulus to Combat COVID-19?

stimulus

Can We Afford Trillions in Stimulus to Combat COVID-19?

The United States has approximately $150 trillion of total consolidated private and public assets and $100 trillion total net wealth (assets minus liabilities). The $1.5 trillion monetary stimulus portion is about 1% of our asset base, so for context, it is far from being financially ruinous. We are a very wealthy nation with vast financial and intellectual capabilities.

The Federal Reserve action of lowering interest rates and driving the 10-year treasury yield into negative real yield territory causes concern that it will eventually produce inflation. But maybe not. The Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 contain interesting and important economic history lessons regarding inflation. In response to this severe downturn, interest rates were reduced to near zero and the world was flooded for many years with US dollars, usually causing concern that inflation will ensue, yet inflation remained stubbornly low; as economic theory might have predicted, the classic scenario of too many dollars chasing too few goods did not unfold.

The world was simply too productive, spitting out goods and services at a rate unheard of just a few decades earlier, primarily due to new technologies in the fields of manufacturing, communications, transportation, and information systems. What ensued were too many dollars chasing too many goods, neutralizing the inflationary effect. By logical extension, deflation, to some extent, would have most likely occurred absent the monetary and fiscal stimulus. In short, inflation (or deflation) is the interplay between the money supply and productivity.

One of the best barometers and leading indicators of inflation is a basket of commodity prices which have, in real terms, generally been depressed over the past decade, not government statistics which are lagging indicators and can be improperly defined and collected, hence less reliable.

If this is truly a national emergency, a substantial fiscal stimulus is warranted, assuming it is applied properly. And that is a big assumption. Though large chunks of fiscal stimulus are designed to meet short-term needs, like a spike in immediate health care costs associated with the virus, and to soften a variety of financial hardships, there will be a significant set-aside for longer term projects to stimulate the economy in an attempt to avoid a recession.

Even prior to this national emergency, there was much debate regarding infrastructure projects to “rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.” The response should always be to build a business case, on a project-by-project basis, for public dissemination. With a conservative set of underlying assumptions, each project should estimate the discounted future cash flows to determine if it makes economic sense and, given that we have limited resources, compared to the net returns of other competing projects. There should always be (but probably are not) a backlog of these “shovel-ready” projects with well thought out and documented financial plans on the shelf at all times for just these kinds of emergencies.

Equally important, a rigorous post-audit process of public sector capital projects to measure what was projected in cost outflows and future beneficial inflows to the actual results, are required for accountability and full transparency on public record. Developing better forecasting skills and techniques is essential to enhance future efficiency in the allocation of limited capital. You get what you measure. And if you don’t measure it, you won’t get it.

Since interest rates are at historic lows, it makes sense to undertake valid infrastructure projects now versus later when both costs and interest rates may be at significantly higher levels. The reality is we probably have been significantly underinvesting in legitimate public infrastructure projects. The time is now when the economy desperately needs the appropriate stimulus.

Though often projects make sense and have public support, many people hesitate because it is subject to the wheeling-and-dealing of politicians, who have a dismal record of efficient execution. Coupled with this, are special interest constituencies which risk steering public funds to projects that have the most influential backers, not the highest return. Additionally, public sector projects have a storied history of massive cost overruns—poor planning, cronyism, corruption, and costly union preferences in certain jurisdictions. These factors serve to cast doubt and undermine public support for otherwise valid investment projects that benefit future economic growth and opportunity, as well as providing meaningful employment and additional economic growth in the short run.

Over a decade ago, we undertook infrastructure stimulus measures to confront another crisis, with less than stellar execution and results. Let’s get this one right by developing a new set of processes and procedures that will not only make this stimulus package much more effective, but will serve us well whenever a massive crisis arises requiring similar measures. If accomplished, it would represent a valuable silver lining to this crisis.

All eyes are on our political class to see if it is up to the task.

________________________________________________________________

Richard Smith has a range of business experience from private development stage start-ups to $300-million public companies. As chief financial officer, he led a successful $132-million initial public offering (IPO) and many private placements to fund and capitalize high-growth companies. Currently, Smith is the Managing Director of an advisory firm specializing in analyzing economic and financial conditions and their impact on financial projections and operations. Smith received his MPhil from Cambridge University and is a certified public accountant (CPA).

To learn more, visit www.richoutlook.com and connect with the author on Twitter and LinkedIn.

real estate

Global View of How the Coronavirus Affects Stock and Real Estate Markets

The coronavirus has already killed more than 3,000 people worldwide. Although most cases are concentrated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the virus has left the country and has spread to up to 30 nations. On February 16, 2020, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, warned that the growth of the world economy that is currently estimated at 3.3% for this year, could be cut between 0.1% and 0.2% due to the coronavirus.

The optimism at the beginning of the year for Asian markets has blurred in the shadow of the coronavirus epidemic.

In the medium term, so long as the epidemic is contained in the coming weeks, equity markets will probably rise again. This is partly because global growth should benefit from the delayed effect of the decline in fixed income yields and an improvement in the global industrial sector due to significant restitution of stocks.

Furthermore, uncertainty — an important risk aversion factor for investors — receded considerably with the truce in the commercial war and the adoption of an orderly Brexit, as investment firm Imperial Fund recently stated. There is confidence that the budgetary/credit stimuli in developed countries (mainly Europe) may continue with a change of stance of the German Government due to the pressure from recent external events.

China should also contribute its grain of sand. Its percentage of health spending remains much lower than that of developed countries, which will lead the Government to increase social spending and continue adding liquidity to support its economy.

Production chains are also much more interconnected, in a world that is still very globalized despite Donald Trump’s attempts to limit trade.

In the U.S., the favorable forecast of the economy persists despite some inconveniences derived from the potential spread of the disease and its effect in the manufacturing and services sector. The Fed made a mid-cycle adjustment before entering pause mode and there is some uncertainty about a possible increase in protectionism and fiscal regulation.

In essence (for now), there is no reason to panic. But, let’s face it, the market provides for a strengthening of corporate results, an increase in investment in capital goods and a greater willingness of investors to take risks. This is not really the intended scenario. At a minimum, we must protect ourselves against risk of an extended pandemic that affects the economy for a longer period than the planned months.

Does it affect the real estate market?

Yes. Housing is another sector that is affected by the coronavirus. For instance, in the first week of February alone, house sales plummeted 90% year-over-year in the 36 main Chinese cities and most real estate agencies are closed to the public. The price of housing in the country has registered the most moderate growth during the past year and a half.

The real estate industry in the U.S. has had to take its own challenges to keep the market moving as well. The presence of the coronavirus becomes a new hurdle to overcome within luxury real estate in cities like New York, Miami, and San Francisco.

The federal government suspended the entry of foreign citizens who have visited China in the last 14 days in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus, a situation that could affect the housing sector due to the blocking of access by potential investors.

Foreign entrepreneurs often get an idea of ​​their future homes with the offer presented on the internet; however, investors have less incentive to buy real estate if its uncertain he or she can visit the property. Therefore, in the short term, the virus could further reduce luxury sales. Time will tell.

________________________________________________________________

Imperial Fund is a mortgage investment fund formed in 2014 and headquartered in Hollywood, FL. Imperial seeks to achieve attractive risk-adjusted returns by exploiting inefficiencies in the residential and commercial real estate lending market.

Pass USMCA Coalition Announces Newest Co-Chairman

The Pass USMCA Coalition announced former Congressman Erik Paulsen will serve as the group’s latest honorary co-chairman this week, adding to the robust lineup of representatives focusing on supporting the swift passage of the USMCA.

“I’m thrilled to welcome my former Republican colleague, because USMCA must be a bipartisan priority,” added Pass USMCA’s honorary co-chair, Joe Crowley. “The new trade pact will create jobs, open new markets for U.S. creators and innovators, and grow America’s economy.”

Paulsen is well known for his ten years representing Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives between 2009-2019 in addition to his time in Congress on the House Committee on Ways and Means and Subcommittee on Trade. Current leaders of the group include former Congressman from New York, Joe Crowley, former Washington Governor Gary Locke, and Rick Dearborn.

“Erik’s experience in Congress will be an asset for the Coalition as lawmakers prepare to vote on USMCA,” said Gary Locke, honorary co-chair of Pass USMCA.

“I’m thrilled to join the Pass USMCA Coalition,” Paulsen commented. “USMCA will strengthen America’s economy and boost opportunities for American workers. My former colleagues should move this deal across the finish line quickly.”

Report Reveals California as Tech Employment Hub

In 2018, the state of California increased its tech-related jobs by 51,567 according to the CompTIA Cyberstates 2019™ report, ultimately contributing to the state economy.

“Clearly the broad-based impact of the tech industry touches virtually every community, industry and market across California, especially when you consider the millions of knowledge workers who rely on technology to do their jobs,” said Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO, CompTIA.

These numbers confirm that the state is increasingly becoming a tech-employment hub in the nation, with a reported increase of an estimated 360,000 jobs over the last two decades.

“When it comes to tech jobs, California is at the top in all categories from tech workforce total, tech jobs added and innovation score. More than 1.78 million Californians have a tech-related job, contributing more than $481.7 billion to the state’s economy and median annual wages of more than $96,000,” said Kelly Hitt, director of state government affairs for CompTIA in California.

“The findings attest to a tech labor market that will remain tight as employers balance short-term needs with an eye towards the future,” said Tim Herbert, senior vice president for research and market intelligence at CompTIA. “As digital-human models begin to unfold, employers and employees alike will face new challenges – and opportunities, in shaping the workforce of tomorrow.“