As we enter a presidential election year in the U.S., financial markets are resonating with historical echoes. One can particularly recognize the rise of populism after the Civil War, which parallels today’s socio-political dynamics. This comparison challenges the conventional wisdom about investing in a world that is constantly evolving. Concomitantly, there are parallels to the post-Second World War era, notably the extreme levels of debt which rival only today. As the war ended and life got back to normal, a growth scare and deflation resulted. Hence my thesis that our transition period out of COVID-19 has all the earmarks of a transitional period of secular stagnation and deflation.
In this sequel to Is There Something Rotten in the State of Canada? we delve further into the complex web of monetary and fiscal policies that seem at odds with one another, evoking the drama of a Shakespearean play. The phantom of secular stagnation and deflation is likely to haunt us once again in 2024. To quote Macbeth, “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” This chilling sentiment resonates when considering the future of Canada’s economy.
It has been 45 years since BusinessWeek declared the “Death of Equities,” warning that rampant inflation was “destroying the stock market” and “to regard the death of equities as a near-permanent condition.”1 These dramatic prognostications haven’t subsided over time, likely because negative news is more appealing. When one news website decided to report exclusively good news for a day, it lost two-thirds of its readership.2 Our brains are hardwired to react more strongly to negative information.
Ray Kurzweil, computer scientist and futurist, once said, “The past is over; the present is fleeting; we live in the future.” This sentiment echoes through our current moment as we stand on the threshold of an era defined by technological advancement, navigating a myriad of complex challenges and opportunities.
On November 21, 2023, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, delivered the 2023 Fall Economic Statement (FES 2023), a mid-fiscal year update that was narrower in focus than previous economic statements.
In the investment world, volatility and uncertainty often reign, evoking a sense of unease. Remembering the call for 3000 on the S&P 500 Index in late 2022, the recent correction at 4600 might seem unnerving. Yet, like the hopeful message in Steely Dan’s song Any Major Dude Will Tell You, we should maintain our resilience, knowing that things will eventually fall together again.
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