The Fed has once again followed up a shock with relief as the transcript from the recent policy meeting reveal more flexibility later in the year if the economy slows too fast for comfort. This is what I have been telling you all along.
Granted, inflation will not slow down until the economy does. One way or another, that’s the Fed’s objective. The only question is whether they’ll be able to stack rate hikes to achieve that goal without triggering a full-fledged recession.
We often refer to the tightening cycle as landing a plane. You need to hit the brakes as you approach the destination. The slower you go, the lower you go. A good pilot can keep everything smooth on the way to the ground.
Otherwise, the landing will be hard. One way or another, we need a landing or else inflation will burn out the economy’s engines and then we’re really in trouble. The Fed needs to get this plane down.
The difference between an easy landing and a hard one is the difference between a slowdown and a recession. Nobody likes a hard landing. As the transcript shows, the Fed is not hellbent on bringing the plane down at any cost. They’ll cruise a little if needed.
They might even need to raise the nose again to prevent a crash. We already knew that, but Wall Street evidently needed a reminder.
And with the market still priced for a hard landing, there’s an opportunity here for investors with courage and a little faith to buy good stocks on the dip. But you need to go into that decision with your eyes open.
You need to know why you’re buying those stocks. There are two main motives for ever owning any asset. Either you want to make money or you want to protect what you have.
The first motive is easy to understand. Stocks generally go up over time, so if you buy in the present you have a pretty good shot at selling for a higher price in the future. You make money.
In the meantime, however, stocks go down as well as up. You might need to be patient. You will definitely need to keep your eye on the ultimate goal . . . a future where those companies have expanded and the stocks deserve a higher price.
If you can’t maintain that vision, I’m sorry to say that maybe aggressive investment styles aren’t for you. Recessions come and go. So do bear markets. It’s okay if you don’t want to deal with any of that for whatever reason.
Just know that stocks and similarly aggressive assets are historically the only way to make real money short of hard work. Bonds barely stay a percentage point or two ahead of inflation . . . and right now are trailing far behind. Cash, commodities and real estate aren’t better.
In a world of zero inflation, that was okay. But that’s not the world we live in now. And that’s why even the urge to protect what you have practically demands that you take on a little risk after all.
All these other asset classes revolve around reducing your risk. Bonds rarely make a lot of money in real terms, but they rarely drop far either. In theory, all you need to do to get your cash back is hold to maturity and as long as the issuer doesn’t default, you’re okay.
Cash in the bank is FDIC insured. Even if the bank fails, you get it back. And commodities tend to be a decent reservoir of purchasing power . . . unless we suddenly discover vast deposits of copper or gold or petroleum, their value will not only keep up with inflation but drive other prices higher as we dig it all up.
That’s what gold does. Gold keeps up with inflation . . . so if you want to protect what you have, it’s a good bet that you won’t suffer big losses in bullion.
However, gold just doesn’t make a lot of money. I know gold bugs will argue, but the only way to create real wealth here is to get really lucky or buy a mine and dig it up on your own.
The gold bugs love physical assets and dismiss everything else as mere “paper.” Okay. Take the Sprott Physical Gold and Silver Trust (CEF) and it’s climbed from a lowly $3.75 to $17.79 since 1999. That’s a 374% gain, which is great on the surface.
Counting dividends, the S&P 500 has gained 386% over the same period . . . and it’s on a downswing right now. Meanwhile, prices have climbed 2.5% a year, depressing the real return on both sides of the calculation.
Physical gold has earned about 4.5% a year ahead of inflation . . . roughly in line with economic growth. The S&P 500, so help me, is currently holding a compound return rate of 4.7% over the same period. If we’d done this exercise five months ago, the outperformance against gold would be a full percentage point a year.
Now maybe you think a percentage point a year isn’t worth the headaches. I get it. The math is only compelling if you spend a lifetime in the market and never really give up.
But maybe you want to earn more than 4% or 5% a year. That’s what growth stocks are for. And it’s how active traders get ahead of the game . . . not through passively buying the market and hanging on for decades, but by making their money work harder year by year.
Take a stock like Amazon (AMZN), which was $80 back in 1999 when the Sprott fund got rolling. About 15.5% a year, or 13 points ahead of inflation. If you want to make money and not simply protect yourself, stocks like this are where you need to be.