The Flinchum File

Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions
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Missionaries of Calmness

 I’m proud of my clients!  Even though the stock market has been historically awful so far in this young year, not a single client has panicked and wanted to sell everything.  There were a few who wanted to increase their level of cash, just to help them sleep, which is fine.

But, I have been getting a lot of questions – two in particular.  First, is it over yet?  No, it is not!  My best guess is that we are halfway through the downdraft.  Part of my thinking reflects the sheer speed of the decline.  It has its own momentum and will need time to slow down.

There is still a possibility of a genuine financial crisis being exported from China, but they do have one advantage most nations lack – they can make a quick decision.  So, sit back and help others who might panic.  After all, history tells us that sudden sharp downturns in the stock market are often followed by dizzying sharp upturns in stock values.

The second most-asked question is . . . why is it so bad that gas is below $2 a gallon?  Normally, a cut in gas bills leaves the consumer with more money to spend elsewhere.  That is not happening this time.  Instead, consumers are reducing debt.  Also, the oil-producing regions of the country are rapidly moving from recession into depression.  I know, I know . . . it is hard to feel sorry for bragg-ish Texans, but their growing economic misery has already spilled over into Oklahoma, Louisiana, and North Dakota.  Firms selling in those areas can expect decreased sales.

More importantly, one-third of high-yield or junk bonds sold since the last recession are bonds related to fracking companies, who are the high-cost drillers of oil.  When oil was $50/bbl, they could barely pay interest to their bondholders.  At $29/bbl, increased defaults in that bond market are inevitable. This is a big deal!

I appreciate my clients!  Now, I hope they will be missionaries – calming down those around them.