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Latest Issue

The Good News Economy

August 17, 2018

In my business, there is a fine line between standing by your conclusions and being unwisely stubborn. But no matter what I say, people will still label me a perma-bear or perma-bull—often at the same time. It’s an occupational hazard to which I am accustomed.

It’s really a lot more fair to characterize me as the “Muddle Through” guy. There are always reasons to be bullish or bearish. Admittedly, my letter tends to dwell more on the reasons to worry, but I think that’s a sign of the times. We have more to worry about today than in the past (see the 80s and 90s).

Last week, I tried to clarify what some of you perceive as inconsistencies in my outlook. I am long-term very bullish, medium-term very bearish, and short-term uncertain to slightly negative.

If you read social media or the mainstream financial news, you don’t need me to tell you the bearish case. Skepticism abounds in the punditry. Positive outlooks are harder to find, even though they have been largely correct recently. That’s no accident. They’re correct in part because they are out of favor.

I see some major problems coming in the 2020s (and perhaps a bit sooner), but I also see a lot of good things happening right now. The economic recovery, while still weak by historic standards, is gaining some momentum that ought to carry it forward for another year or two, assuming (as I perhaps naïvely do) that we can put this trade war thing to rest. That’s good news because it buys us time to prepare for worse times,...

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