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Inflation - How Big a Risk Is It?

The exponential rise in the national debt since COVID began by the tune of more than $3.8 Trillion of stimulus monies was inevitably going to lead to a wave of hard asset inflation as well as consumer inflation. The only question was "how much"?

In the last couple of days, the markets woke up to the fact that inflation might be worse than the federal reserve predicted. The CPI (Consumer Price Index) numbers released for April 2021 rose 0.8% versus an expected rise of 0.2% month over month. Should we be alarmed and worried? In the short term, the answer is "not really". If you have been tracking first quarter earnings calls, you will have heard many CEO's describing how tight supply chains are right now. Higher costs of raw material inputs are being passed onto the consumer. As COVID restrictions ease and consumer demand for goods and services rise alongside tight supply chains operating on "just in time" demand cycles, the natural consequence of greater demand and tight supplies is higher price increases.

It is difficult to say how inflation numbers will fare over the coming months as it will take time for supply chains to re-calibrate and meet rising demand.  However, as this occurrs, inflation numbers will likely decrease as supply increases. Overall, however, we expect the inflation trend to show up as net higher consumer prices across most hard and soft asset categories, compared to before the pandemic.

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The Impact of The Biden Tax Plan

Joe Biden announced his new trillion dollar infrastructure plan last week and how he intends to fund it, which sent chills through the markets and the $400,000 plus annual income earners. Of course, this should not have come as a surprise. The odds of the Biden Administration not implementing such a key campaign promise was close to zero. What the announcement did do was sound the alarm ammong the top segment of american earners that it was time to take action and evaluate steps to mitigate taxes going forward under the likely scenarios outlined by the president.

The actual proposal however still needs to pass the chambers of congress and the resulting outcomes will not be known until it does. It is likely that the proposed announcement of a hike on income and capital gains taxes was a negotiating tactic and it would be unlikley that long term capital gains would be as high as the 39.6% proposed rate and more likely to be sub 30%. In addition, it is anticipated that there will be an increase in estate and gift taxes which will also require heirs to pay capital gains taxes on assets above a certain amount that they inherit.

The cosy tax rules governing asset inheritances which has allowed wealth to be locked up generationally without taxes needing to be paid on any assets held for the long term looks likely to change. The Biden infrastructure proposal needs funds to pay for it and just adding to the national debt to pay for it is not a solution. In a predominant capitalist society the spoils of industry and most advantageous tax rules go to the few while comparatively much larger segments of the population live on sub $15/hour wages and are unable to cover the increasingly expensive needs of life.The middle classes are shrinking and the working classes have felt left behind.The new Biden Tax plan aims to address some of these imbalances.

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China Issues Digital Currency - The Big News That is Not Being Covered with Giant Implications

China has issued a digital Yuan and it's got governments around the world scared and in catch-up mode. So what's the big deal? The world is moving at breakneck pace to a digital based currency system. Cash is being phased out. Consumers around the world are paying increasingly with debit and credit cards. Cash is being used less and less and this trend has only accellerated since the advent of COVID. It only makes sense in a predominantly digital commerce world that this would be accompanied by government issued digital currencies.

When Facebook announced its intentions to launch Libra, the world took notice and action. When a public company with 2 billion users starts issuing its own currency the financial elite start to panic. Just imagine how much power would shift to Facebook. It could become one of the largest financial payment networks in the world overnight. As if it did not have enough power and influence right now, a move to digital banking would tip the balance of power even further to the digital elite. Mark Zuckerberg's argument was simple. "If we do not do it, someone else will" and that is exactly what is happening with China announcing the launch of its digital currency. However, the implications of China announcing a digital currency are just as far reaching as Facebook's announcement.

From a Geo political and economic standpoint, China's launch into the digital world is a significant threat to the dollars global dominance. A digital currency means the ability to bypass US oversight allowing countries that the US is looking to penalize with sanctions, for example, to bypass international payment networks such as SWIFT (which the US monitors closely) and exchange funds anonymously. China's game plan to weaken US dominance in the world is not exactly a secret. As we have written in previous articles, there is a global economic fight for dominance going on between China, US and the EU (less so). One of the last significant bastions of US power in the world is the dominance of the US dollar as the global reserve currency. Almost 80% of all global trade is done in dollars. China is going to keep doing everything it can to disrupt the last bastion of US power.

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Part 2 - Bubbles, Bonds & The Allocation Dilemma

As we mentioned in part one of this article last week, wealth management firms are managing a cross-section of economic conditions and asset classes that each carry comparative risk. We define comparative risk as the "opportunity cost" of asset allocation in which "yield" is the primary measure by clients.

How much "risk on" or "risk off" is the asset allocation question in the midst of what are inevitably "unknown timeframes" and economic conditions that can outlast any rational mind.

In this article we will talk about some other dilemna's facing wealth management firms and their clients:-

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Bubbles, Bonds & The Allocation Dilemma - Part 1

In the last months we have written about bubbles, bonds and the shifting balanced portfolio model in an inflation prone environment. We have a unique mix of variables in play today unlike any other time in history. Zero to 1.6 percent bond yields that are unlikely to cover the rate of inflation, so in essence, negative yielding. There is little to no room for bond prices to rise so the next logical question is: What's the economic rationale for holding bonds? For most institutions, at this juncture and in a climate of forseable low interest rates per the Federal Reserve, bonds are looking increasingly like a losing proposition.

As Christina Lagarde, the head of the ECB (European Central Bank) recently commented "Higher market interest rates pose a significant risk to financing conditions (e.g. a recovery). Rising bond yileds could lead to premature lightening" of credit conditions which of course would hamper yes, you guessed it, a recovery. COVID has walloped the Global Economy, created sky high unemployment and generated a bigger wealth divide. The answer per the Federal Reserve and ECB is continued stimulus and low, exceedingly low, rates.

The Bond Dilemma unless you are Microstrategy

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Phone: 925-906-9800
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