What will the new year bring?

Posted 12/31/08

The new year is dawning, hopefully leaving an ugly recession behind. But consumer confidence still lags, and the stock market continues to waver. It …

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What will the new year bring?


The new year is dawning, hopefully leaving an ugly recession behind. But consumer confidence still lags, and the stock market continues to waver. It is getting difficult to predict what news will throw the world in a tail spin from day to day.

I believe the falling housing market and record high oil prices set 2008 up for failure. This led to the first recession with inflation, causing the announcement of a true recession to be delayed. The loose credit and collapse of real estate appreciation led to the worst credit crisis in history. Then we had a heated presidential campaign mired with bail-out programs. The unspoken recession caused a domino effect around the world leading to closed factories in the United States and China. Other countries followed suit, especially those oil dependant countries when oil prices fell from a record of $147 barrel to $38.

Now we are finally enjoying lower prices since oil came down and we can have a real recession, one where prices actually fall.

The economic problems of 2008 will not be over now that we’ve turned the calendar page to January. However, there is always new hope with a new year and a new president. We can dwell on the negatives, but additionally, there is a lot of optimistic news, too.

Americans should be proud they were able to reduce their dependency on foreign oil and imports from China. Our drop in consumption, while corporate profits will suffer, is important for a true contraction. Food prices also should start to decline. Interest rates are at all-time lows, which should in turn help the housing market. When we start to see the housing inventories decline, we should see the framework for a better economy.

With the dawn of a new year dragging the recession in tow, Wall Street analysts announce what to expect. While many said similar things, like recovery will eventually occur, and certain sectors may provide more opportunity than others, I feel they were predicting the obvious. What was interesting is the way they stated our economic situation. Here are a few highlights:

UBS had an optimistic outlook and warned, “the light is not a train.” I believe this is its line to indicate we won’t get blown off the tracks but we are in a tunnel, so to speak. The UBS outlook is for recovery at some point in 2009 starting with the U.S. economy just as the crisis did. Hence, it is choosing domestic positions for faster rebound over foreign holdings. It expects earnings to be weak, but that’s no real surprise. They state government policy will continue to have a significant role and stock market gains are probable.

UBS sees the consumer struggling to find sign posts that it is OK to be positive again. Falling interest rates, lower credit costs and stabilization in housing prices will be catalysts for improved consumer confidence.

Milton Ezrati, senior economist for Lord Abbott, stated the extreme pessimism that has been baked into the existing market may begin to recede. Markets should start to see better days, not from a positive outlook, but from relief we didn’t actually go into a depression. This analyst believes that would be impossible with today’s government intervention and breadth of a resilient economy. Ezrati said, “Markets will return to economic and financial realities because markets tend to ultimately reflect fundamentals.” Policy makers here and abroad are helping to stabilize economies around the globe and we can be the beneficiaries of that being the largest economy in the world.

Other analysts had similar views, some predicting improvement on Wall Street ahead of economic recovery. Others warn for a second wave of housing problems resulting from increasing unemployment.

All in all, the forecasts were positive if we can comprehend the government will not let banks go under and the bail-outs will continue until we get back on track.

This holiday weekend should be more about ringing out the old and bringing in the new than ever before.

Patricia Kummer has been an independent certified financial planner for 22 years and is president of Kummer Financial Strategies Inc. at 8871 Ridgeline Blvd. in Highlands Ranch. She is a financial consultant offering securities through AIG Financial Advisors Inc., and investment advisory services through KFS Inc. She welcomes your questions at www.kummerfinancial.com.


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