A new piece, and a great interview

Here’s my new piece at EnhancingCapital.com on interest-sensitive investments — a handy little read, I hope, for anyone concerned about how an interest rate hike might affect their portfolio. Then again, I still stand by my prediction from last December: The Fed won’t raise interest rates in 2015. Inflation is just too low. In fact, I don’t think raising rates in 2015 was ever a serious possibility when rate-hike-talk began last fall.

Switching gears…

Here’s great interview with some great thoughts on immigration (and other things) from someone who could very well be the next President of the U.S. At the least, it’s encouraging to know that someone running for president actually believes his message is robust enough to convince millions of people (i.e. Republicans) that they are wrong on a big issue (immigration).

Tech-bubble-talk on repeat

I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been busy. I started a new job two weeks ago and I still have class three evenings per week. The job is great, though. I’m a research associate at a pretty cool market research firm here in the D.C. area. My coworkers and assignment are quite engaging.

I did find time to write a piece for Enhancing Capital last week. It’s on the “tech bubble” (or lack thereof, in my opinion). Mostly, talk about the tech bubble has been based on impulsive reactions to sky-high valuations of tech startups. The old guard just can’t seem to bring themselves to believe these companies actually add amazing value to users of their products. Airbnb and Uber come to mind.

On one hand, this incredulity is understandable. These companies often have just a few dozen employees. Their products are little games and buttons that live on a little 5.1″ handheld display. Isn’t a $1 billion valuation a little high?

But on the other hand, apps these days are becoming quite sophisticated, yet simultaneously easier to use for the average person. And they’re not just fun and games. Apps like Airbnb and Uber bring the physical and digital worlds together in ways that make life easier for everyone. They solve problems we didn’t know we had in ways that add real, dollars-and-cents value to our wallets.

On a somewhat related note, I guarantee you kids in twenty years won’t believe we used to hail cabs by walking down to the sidewalk and flailing our arms around hoping a driver would see us.

My new piece, and a pet peeve

I have a new piece out at Enhancing Capital. Topic is booming stock markets and how to explain record-highs.

On a related note, one thing that’s frustrated me lately is people’s willingness to ignore good news when it comes from the “wrong” source. Booming financial markets, for example, are happening. Perhaps you think the recovery is all “phony” or whatever, but that doesn’t change the fact that stocks have performed remarkably well over the past five years. Those who insist this is all a facade and refuse to buy in are only hurting themselves.

“But the country just can’t be doing well as long as Obama is in office, right? I mean, he’s got all the wrong ideas! He’s “fundamentally changing” (or whatever) the United States!”

Again, even if that is true, it doesn’t mean we haven’t had six years of strong recovery, or that major economic indicators aren’t looking better and better with each passing quarter. Good things can happen even with the “wrong” people in power.

Don’t let your politics get in the way of your financial success. You can still criticize Obama and the actions of economic/monetary policymakers while taking advantage of the booming stock market. And yes, you can even believe things are worse than they would be if policymakers had taken another path while still believing that markets are strong.

Same goes for your personal life. Don’t ignore good ideas coming from people you don’t like, or from people who’ve had only bad ideas in the past. And don’t let the source of your information determine how you are going to use it. Weigh everything on its own merits and look out for your own interests. Don’t waste your energies spiting others or refusing to grant legitimacy to an idea you had rejected in the past. Rise above all that. You’ll be better off for it.

Me on net neutrality

If you’re like most people, you’re hearing a lot about net neutrality but know almost nothing about it. It has something to do with the internet. President Obama likes it. Republicans don’t seem to get it, but they don’t like that Obama likes it.

That was me a few weeks ago. Then I read up on net neutrality, and now I’ve written a piece at Enhancing Capital that (I hope) familiarizes people with net neutrality and helps put the issue in some context. I also offer some advice for investors who might have positions in some stocks whose performance could be affected—namely, that both ISPs (like Comcast and Verizon) and large web content owners (like Netflix and Google) could see some volatility in the coming weeks and months, as net neutrality is approved by the FCC (which is quite likely), is fought by Republicans in Congress (also likely), and reveals its true nature (whether it will be a game-changer for the internet as we know it).

I’m not a big fan of net neutrality. I understand its proponents’ arguments and their fear that big, powerful ISPs “colluding” with big, powerful content owners could stifle competition. But I don’t like government meddling in markets, and frankly it only makes sense to me that barriers to entry become higher as an industry gets older. Trying to prevent this from happening will, I think, have some unfortunate consequences.

The lowdown on negative interest rates

Here’s my humble attempt to explain the logic of “negative interest rates” over at Enhancing Capital. I’ve found some good stuff written on this topic already, but nothing that I thought was accessible to the average person. Hopefully this report helps to fill that gap.

One highlight I’d like to point out is that negative interest rates on reserves at the central bank aren’t necessarily a “game changer.” They do reverse the logic of interest on reserves (commercial banks pay interest to the central bank instead of the central bank paying interest to commercial banks), but they don’t mean that banks are all of a sudden going to try to get rid of all their reserves. This hasn’t been the experience of banks in the Eurozone, where negative rates already exist on some deposits at the ECB. It won’t be the experience of banks in the U.S. if the Federal Reserve takes similar measures. Finance is all about trade-offs—paying a small fee to hold reserves at the central bank could still be a more attractive option to commercial banks than making more loans to keep their negative interest-bearing reserve balances from growing. What matters is whether commercial banks can identify enough credit-worthy borrowers whose risk of default is low enough to promise a higher return than the negative interest rate charged by the central bank. If not, then banks might very well be content to pay interest to the central bank rather than make more loans.

Finally, I realize this report might seem mistimed. If anything, talk on the town regards when the Fed is going to tighten monetary policy, not loosen it. My explanation is three-fold:

  1. I’m not convinced tightening is as imminent as many analysts are making it out to be, for reasons I’ve explained before.
  2. It’s important for investors to understand the logic of negative interest rates before they happen, not after (no harm in being over-prepared!).
  3. The ECB has already imposed negative interest rates, and the Bank of Japan has toyed with the idea. The policies at these banks, of course, have ramifications worldwide, and investors everywhere ought to understand what negative interest rates are.

Read the full report at EnhancingCapital.com.