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The Sandy Spring Way

What fiscal cliff?

November 26th, 2012 | By Beau Mercer

Stock prices rose last week to their best weekly gain in five months as investors cheered the start of the holiday shopping season, encouraging economic data from Germany and China, improved housing data, and confidence from President Obama and Congressional leaders that the fiscal cliff will be avoided.

Is this the beginning of a “Santa Claus rally?”

Jordan Kotick, global head of technical strategy at Barclays, told CNBC, “We are about to head into the best seasonal time for the equity market.” Despite this seasonal tailwind, the market’s near-term direction may still depend on how Washington handles the pending budget and tax cliff. So far, the market seems to be pricing in a compromise that will avoid the worst-case scenario.

Beyond the fiscal cliff and a potential Santa Claus rally, what’s in store for the U.S. economy? Well, here’s a not-so optimistic take from famed money manager Jeremy Grantham:

The U.S. GDP growth rate that we have become accustomed to for over a hundred years – in excess of 3% a year – is not just hiding behind temporary setbacks. It is gone forever. Yet, most business people (and the Fed) assume that economic growth will recover to its old rates.

In his view, our economy will grow at a snail’s pace of about 1 percent per year after inflation for the next several decades. Without getting bogged down in details, his gloomy case rests on population and productivity changes.

However, there are some potential bright spots on the horizon. Please read the second half of this commentary to learn about one important part of our economy that could turn Grantham’s pessimistic view upside down.

Data as of 11/23/12 1-Week YTD 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks)







DJ Global ex US (Foreign Stocks)







10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)







Gold (per ounce)







DJ-UBS Commodity Index







DJ Equity All REIT TR Index







Notes: S&P 500, DJ Global ex US, Gold, DJ-UBS Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT TR Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

THE YEARS 2020, 2030, AND 2035

Could turn out to be pivotal years for the United States and the geopolitics of global energy. Here’s why. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts the following will happen by those years:

  • 2020 – The U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer of crude oil.
  • 2030 – The U.S. will become a net exporter of crude oil.
  • 2035 – The U.S. will become effectively self-sufficient in meeting its total energy needs through domestic sources.

Source: International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2012

Today, the U.S. imports about 20 percent of its total energy needs. Can you imagine a world in which the U.S. is energy self-sufficient and not beholden to foreign energy sources? This could deliver a huge boost to our economy.

Five years ago, the IEA predicted the U.S. would pump 10.1 million barrels of oil per day by 2020. In this year’s report, the IEA’s new estimate is 11.1 million barrels per day by 2020. This projected increase in production is, “driven by the faster-than-expected development of hydrocarbon resources locked in shale and other tight rock that have just started to be unlocked by a new combination of technologies called hydraulic fracturing,” according to MarketWatch.

So, we have Jeremy Grantham stating the bear case for the U.S. economy then we have the IEA publishing a report that puts the U.S. in the driver’s seat for the world energy market in the next couple decades.

Now, here’s the thing. Both Grantham and the IEA are making long-range forecasts based on data available today. Yet, we know things can change just as the IEA raised its oil production estimate from 10.1 million barrels of oil per day to 11.1 million.

Trends take time to develop and then, all of a sudden, they could change due to some new technology – as in the case of  “fracking.” We do keep an eye on these long-term trends, but we also understand that investment decisions to buy and sell have to be made based on what’s happening now. This “bi-focal” approach is one of the many tools we use to manage your assets.

Weekly Focus – Really?

“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.”

–Bo Derek, American actress