Daily Update: Moving The Fear Goalpost

Remember last summer when everyone was saying the world would end every time long-term interest rates nudged above a lofty 1.5%? They said the COVID economy was just too weak to survive anything but a free money world.

They said tech stocks in particular could never grow fast enough to support their prices. They said we were living in a dangerous bubble.

Here we are, nine months later and that same long-term rate hasn’t dipped below 2% in 2-1/2 weeks. The world hasn’t ended. Every day we survive these rates is proof that the world can survive these rates.

And tech stocks have surged 10% in the meantime. They’re loving this, because even in a world where everything stinks, these are the companies that can innovate themselves out of the depressing headlines. They can actually make the world more tolerable and create wealth for investors¬†at the same time.

The money flowing back into these stocks now is a fact. The rate worries that pushed a lot of them down 20-50% or more were evidently more of a rumor. Turns out there’s nothing magical about 1.5% rates being terrible that 2% or even 2.5% rates won’t cure. Never forget, the economy held up all right back in 2018 when that same rate got above 3%. Felt fine.

What was so allegedly fatal about 1.5% last summer when rates were double that level before the pandemic? Clearly nothing.

But people who want to be frightened are now forgetting about all that. They’re looking for a place to move the goalpost so they can keep the scary story alive.

Now the story revolves around the internal relationships between long- and short-term rates, the yield “curve.”

Suddenly the curve is flashing recession. The chair of the Fed says it’s no big deal, no recession likely before 2024 at the earliest. That’s a long time away.

So now a different part of the curve signals a recession, maybe 5 years out. People try to spin it as doomsday but get real, we all knew the country has long-term problems that might come to roost in the late 2020s or into the 2030s or beyond. Out of control federal budgets, Social Security funding, all the usual suspects. Probably it comes to a head late in the decade or beyond.

Late in the decade is a long way away. Think of the difference between the way the world worked in the wake of the dot-com crash and 911 . . . and the way it worked in 2005-6. New companies innovated us back to a cycle of prosperity that not even the 2008 crash could really take away. We’ll get through this. We’ve always done it in the past.

Oil shocks come and go, leaving new fuels in their wake. Ethanol blends get it done and that’s renewable, comes from Iowa. Plug in cars are real now. Good news for TSLA. Work at home is real now for office workers. Cut the commute for them and give people who need to drive into work a break. We owe it to them.

But we don’t get there by hiding on the sidelines. Gold, bitcoin, dividend stocks . . . wherever you want to go to park your funds . . . and then invest in the stocks that can change the world.

One shout out to those dividend stocks. They look boring but they’re doing really well. 85% of the stocks that are up YTD pay shareholders back every three months . . . better than bonds right now because these companies can grow.

If someone moved your fear goalpost, ask yourself: are the big banks, big consumer companies and Big Pharma names that dominate the dividend list going away? Probably not.