As we close out 2018, it’s time to look ahead. What’s in store for 2019? Equity markets and global political conditions are volatile while the fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong. Market turbulence can be caused by a number of factors; the impacts of some we can forecast, the impacts of others are not fully knowable. Everyone has opinions. Here are RESIDCO’s insights from our own analysis.
Unemployment and Wage Rates
Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate unchanged at 3.7% (for the third month in a row). That’s a low not seen since 1969. Low unemployment tightens labor markets which lead to wage increases. Full employment elevates consumer confidence and drives consumer spending.
But rising wages pressure inflation and the Federal Reserve’s expected response will be to continue to raise interest rates which will create a moderately more challenging business environment.
Also announced last week, U.S. shale production turned America into a net oil exporter for the first time in 75 years. Crude oil and jet fuel pricing are moderating. Trump’s Tax Cut and Jobs Act and deregulatory agenda have driven domestic growth above trend.
GDP has expanded by 3% over the past year and the Federal Open Market Committee expects it will continue to grow above trend in 2019. Over the past thirty years, the average growth in revenue passenger kilometers (“RPK”) has exceeded global GDP growth by about 1.7 times each year. Applying this history to recent International Monetary Fund economic forecasts implies expected global passenger growth of ‘around’ 6.3% for 2019. Despite market turbulence, the outlook for 2019 remains positive. Commercial aircraft manufacturer order books certainly support this optimism.
Bracing for Turbulence
Prior to every flight, a pilot checks the weather. Flight risk is mitigated by adjusting routes to avoid thunderstorms and icing. The FAA defines Clear Air Turbulence (“CAT”)’ as sudden, severe turbulence occurring in cloudless skies that causes violent buffeting of an aircraft. It’s a recognized problem that affects all flight operations and is especially troublesome because it is often encountered unexpectedly and frequently without visual clues to warn pilots of the hazard. The first step in avoidance of hazards? Establish access to the best available information for planning flight operations.
Similarly, when heading into economic turbulence consider your investment horizon, goals, and risk tolerance. Different aircraft portfolios react to turbulence in different ways. The solution is to develop a set of protocols that deal with uncontrollable events. An example: earlier this month the yield curve flattened, producing its first ‘inversion’ in more than a decade. History shows inversions have preceded all nine U.S. recessions since 1955 (with lag times from six months to two years). The year ahead won’t bring the end of the current cycle. There is time to dodge market turbulence, secure the cabin, and adopt defensive investment strategies.
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