Posts in category Buttonwood’s notebook


Business and financeButtonwood's notebook

Where did the inflation go?

THE strength of the global economy is one reason why the stockmarket has started 2018 in buoyant mood (with the Dow passing 25,000). At some point, in any expansion, businesses find it harder to recruit workers or get the materials they need; these bottlenecks cause wages and prices to rise. Central banks then start to tighten monetary policy, a process that can eventually turn the market (and the economy) down.

After many years of ultra-low interest rates, the Federal Reserve has started to tighten monetary policy. There were three rate rises in 2017, and three are expected this year. The idea is to tighten gradually and (keep ahead of the curve) so that inflation does not accelerate so fast that a very sharp monetary tightening is needed.

The problem is that inflation remains hard to spot. Continue reading

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Business and financeButtonwood's notebook

Is the bubble only starting?

READY for a melt-up? Investors are generally upbeat about the prospects for equity markets this year but one intrepid fund manager thinks it is likely that American share prices could rise by 50% in the next six months to two years. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the identity of that pundit: Jeremy Grantham.

Mr Grantham, one of the founders of the fund management group GMO, is best known for a cautious approach to valuations. He was one of the investors who got out of the dotcom boom well before the top. His firm’s most recent prediction for seven-year returns are for an annual loss of 2% from American largecap equities; indeed among all the asset categories, only cash and emerging market equities and bonds are expected to produce a positive real return over the seven-year period. 

So how can Mr Grantham justify his views? He does not…Continue reading

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Business and financeButtonwood's notebook

When politicians and executives get caught out

POLITICIANS and executives are held to different standards. That is pretty clear when it comes to issues such as sexual harassment, notwithstanding the resignation of Al Franken or the rejection by voters of Roy Moore. As others have pointed out, the tweets and remarks of Donald Trump would have seen him forced out of the leadership of an S&P 500 company long ago.

There are also big differences when it comes to the consequences of their regular actions. Politics is about making choices. Should public money be spent on defence or welfare benefits? Should taxes be cut for one type of voter and raised for another? The problem for politicians is that making those choices explicit may not be a vote-winning strategy. The losers will be more resentful than the winners will be grateful. So politicians get around this problem by making their promises very generic—tax cuts will go to hard-working families, public spending will be reduced through cutting waste and the like. 

The executives who run quoted companies face a…Continue reading

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