Weekly Market Commentary August 5, 2019

Fast Facts

The Future is Now- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to transform a barren stretch of his country’s coastline into a $500 billion city-state filled with flying cars and an artificial moon, said Justin Scheck in The Wall Street Journal. The fake rising moon—an illusion created nightly by “a fleet of drones”—is partly why the futuristic project called Neom sounds more like a “Jetsons-style world of automation.” Residents will “fly drone taxis to work while robots clean their homes”; children will be taught by “holograms”; and “cloud seeding” will produce enough rain to keep temperatures cool. There are Orwellian elements too: “To keep Neom safe, cameras, drones, and facial-recognition technology will let Saudi intelligence services track everyone.” The Saudi government has been working with American consultants on the project, which could require 20,000 people living in the area to relocate by 2022.

Black Bear, Black Bear, What Do You See? A black bear sauntered into a hotel in New Hampshire and lingered on the balcony, apparently enjoying a view of a spectacular sunrise. Employee Sam Geesaman said he was working the night shift at the Omni Mount Washington Resort when the bear entered, sniffed around for food, and “decided to hop up on the rail and enjoy the sunrise, as I had intended to do myself.” Worried about hotel guests, Geesaman stomped his foot and clapped his hands loudly, driving the bear into the woods for what he called a “quieter sunrise viewing.”

Funny Money- A woman in Germany walked into an Audi dealership and tried to buy a car with 15,000 euros in counterfeit cash so amateurish it looked like Monopoly money. Examining the wad of bills, the flabbergasted salesman asked the woman if she wanted to play Monopoly. When the woman insisted she was serious, the salesman phoned the police, who raided the 20-year-old’s home and found another 13,000 euros in fake notes produced by a very cheap inkjet printer and regular office paper. “We have experienced plenty of scam attempts before,” the salesman said, “but so far, no one has been this brash.”

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing.”
                                                                                               –Seth Godin, American author

The Markets

Tariffs strike again.

The Federal Open Market Committee completed what it called ‘a mid-cycle adjustment’ with a quarter-point rate cut last week. Some investors were unhappy when Fed officials implied there would not be another reduction this year. They’d been hoping for at least one, reported Barron’s.

Despite the disappointment, investors settled and U.S. stock markets rallied on Thursday.

Then, like a movie villain that just won’t die, U.S. import taxes – a.k.a. tariffs – reared their ugly heads and wiped out the week’s gains. Barron’s explained:

“By midday on Thursday, the stock market had all but recouped its losses in the wake of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting the previous day. That’s when President Donald Trump announced that he will impose a 10 percent levy on an additional $300 billion of Chinese goods on September 1. The shock sent stocks underwater and resulted in this year’s worst week for the S&P 500 index and the Nasdaq Composite, which slid 3.1 percent and 3.92 percent, respectively. The Dow got off with just a 2.6 percent nick. For the broad U.S. stock market, the paper loss was about $1.1 trillion, according to Wilshire Associates.”

Tariffs have pummeled U.S. and Chinese economies for months. Early estimates suggest imports from China to the United States fell by 12.6 percent from June 2018 to June 2019, while exports from the United States to China fell by 16.8 percent during the same period, according to a source cited by Barron’s.

Bond investors were jolted by the tariff announcement, too. The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes dropped from 2.1 percent last week to 1.9 percent, reported MarketWatch. In Germany, all maturities of government bonds are offering negative yields.

In the face-off between rate cuts and tariffs, tariffs may prove to have a greater impact.

DOES FLYING TRIGGER YOUR LIZARD BRAIN? Flight attendants and frequent fliers have some crazy stories to tell. Lets Fly Cheaper, Business Insider, and Point Me To The Plane reported on some of the strange things flight attendants have experienced, including:

  • Medicated sleep zombies. Passengers sometimes take sleep aids to slumber while flying. In one instance, a passenger sleep-streaked to first class.
  • Emotional support animals (ESAs). In an effort to remain calm while flying, some people bring pets for emotional support. These have included a turkey, a pig, a monkey, and a kangaroo.
  • Impatient passengers. In 2014, a passenger deployed the emergency slide because he wanted to disembark more quickly.
  • Strange requests. Flight attendants report passengers have asked how to roll down plane windows, if they could stop at the Sky Mall, and whether they could borrow a screwdriver to take a seat apart.

A flight attendant told NPR, “When people get on a plane, they revert to a lizard brain where they forget all social decencies and common sense…Flying takes away everybody’s sense of control. So people tend to grasp at whatever kind of control they can have…”

There may be a scientific explanation for passengers’ odd plane behavior. NPR reported that low air pressure reduces the oxygen in passengers’ blood, making them more emotional and more prone to poor decision-making.

Best regards,

John Klevens, CFP


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Sources: The Week Magazine
Portions of this newsletter has been prepared by Peak Advisor