This blog post originally appeared on
on Jan. 7 at 8:47 a.m. EST.
Last night was another fun segment with the "Fast Money" gang.
During my appearance, I believe that
cash will be king over the next few months.
I expressed four principal concerns that represent challenges to the smooth and self-sustaining economic recovery upon which a lot of the recent market enthusiasm has been based.
Concern No. 1: Fiscal Policy and Imbalances
There are consequences to our profligate spending and to our monetary and fiscal policies. That has been the message of the rising price of gold over the past several years. As we move closer to the 2012 election, the risk is that neither the Democrats nor Republicans have the political will to move on reducing the deficit. I fully expect partisanship to replace what now appears to be a move to the center by the Obama administration and its opponents. Our fiscal imbalances at the local, state and federal levels are out of control. Aggregate federal debt is now above 90% of GDP now. In
This Time Is Different
, authors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff point out that once you get to the 85%-90% threshold of excessive debt/GDP levels, there is a secular erosion in country growth rates.
Concern No. 2: Structural Unemployment
"Fast Money" panelist Zach Karabell wrote a great column in
Where the Jobs Aren't: Grappling With Structural Unemployment
," which fits in precisely with this concern. While the job picture has brightened, the large roster of unemployed is structural and will remain with us in the new year, owing to a bunch of "mega trends" such as rising globalization, gains in technology and
becoming a permanent feature to the jobs market. As Zach writes, "these structural issues will not go away simply because the
pumps more money into the system or Washington spends more in the form of tax cuts or stimulus."
Concern No. 3: The Rapid Rise in Interest Rates
The risk that interest rates continue their rapid rate of ascent has been one of my most common ursine themes over the past several months (I have called shorting bonds "
the trade of the decade
.") Not only do higher rates compete with equities but they represent a serious challenge to the already weak residential real estate market. Home prices have not bottomed. Refinancings are already evaporating, and the
S&P/Case-Shiller Home Prices Index
has turned down in the last three months (and will likely worsen as foreclosures delayed by the robo-signing scandals come back into the marketplace for sale).