Three economic things to be thankful for
They call economics the dismal science. The world often seems far more interested in the awful things going on rather than positive developments. Thats why we rubber-neck when we see car accidents and airplane landings never make the news. Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone I hope all those who celebrate this seasonal break had a chance to take a moment and think of those things we can be thankful for rather than worry about all the worlds problems. Im thankful for friends, family, health and a host of very important aspects in my life but this is a financial column. Im going to take a moment and give you three economic aspects that we should all be thankful for. Lets shake off the tryptophan coma and revel in some positive economic aspects.
1. Bermudas biggest trading partner is on the mend.
The US recovery continues. It may be slow but it is a recovery. Household debt in the US over the past three years has steadily decreased. From a high of 98 percent of economic output to 83 percent. But even more positive is the cost of servicing this debt. In late 2007 debt servicing costs amounted to about 14 percent of disposable income, now its only 10.7 percent (similar to levels seen in the early 1990s). The median American house now requires a mortgage payment of only $889 per month. House prices are rebounding and the National Association Home Builders Index, which measurers sentiment, is at a six-year high.
2. Financial assets have rallied.
This may be the worlds most hated bull market. Spectrum Group recently indicated that 48.6 percent of affluent investors (those with $500,000 or more of investable assets) are sitting on the sidelines. People are shocked and in disbelief when you tell them that since the March 2009 lows the S&P 500 is up 121.8 percent with reinvested dividends, investment grade bonds have rallied some 55 percent and gold has climbed about 84 percent. (Note: the whole process of investing is an optimistic endeavour. If you were truly persistently pessimistic you wouldnt invest in anything. Youd spend your life much like a doomsday-prepper.)
3. Capitalism and free markets.
Finally I think we should all take as second and be thankful for capitalism and free markets. Over the past few years these tenants have been assaulted from all sides. Although free markets have problems from time to time and capitalism suffers setbacks with periods of greed, I am thankful to be able to live in a free society that is not subject to dictators or autocrats. The competitive nature of capitalism benefits us all.
Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations: It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard for their own interest.
Private companies that compete daily to win consumers and clients create enormous and incalculable benefits for society.
Proponents of socialism suggest capitalism is all about selfishness and greed. Nothing could be more untrue. Capitalism matches desires and rewards. It promotes companies and individuals who sell or offer goods that people want. It is a win-win system. Apple makes a profit and you get an iPad.
Unlike government services and goods, free markets do not mandate an individuals choice. If you dont like iPads, dont buy one and dont work for Apple. Governments can foster environments conducive to private enterprise but they ultimately do not create jobs.
In my opinion, capitalism and free markets are a major reason for our progression and we should be thankful that they will continue to lift us all up in the future.
Nathan Kowalski is the chief financial officer of Anchor Investment Management.