Since President Obama’s State of the Union Address Tuesday night, there have been a lot of articles dissecting his remarks and picking his proposals apart. As you might suspect, the vast majority have been politically charged by one side of the aisle or the other.
As Chief Investment Strategist for Money Map Press, I can’t afford the luxury of taking sides. It’s my job to help the hundreds of thousands of investors who are part of our family with their money…politics aside.
If you’re with me, then I’ve got five bullet points — key takeaways really — from the president’s speech that can help you grow your money this year and for the remainder of President Obama’s second term.
1) We’re in line for more “accommodative spending.”
You hear that term a lot in the media but very few people have thought about what it actually means – more bailouts, more Fed meddling and more handouts.
No question the president’s intentions are good; it’s his execution that’s problematic. Accommodative spending means more debt piled on top of the trillions we are already in the hole. It means low rates and the Fed’s meddling to keep them that way. It means more artificial manipulation in Treasury markets and continued debt purchases.
Team Bernanke has made it very clear that the Fed will support low interest rates until employment recovers which, not surprisingly, dovetails with the president’s policies as he discussed them Tuesday night. Never mind that the Fed is supposedly an independent, apolitical entity.
To me this is a little like saying they’ll ring the bell until the cows come home. The more logical thing to do is to prepare for what happens after they get back in the barn instead of looking into the darkness for lost animals.
2) More offshore asset flows
The president’s speech, while filled with lots of interesting concepts, was very Pavlovian. He used all the right buzzwords as he outlined his priorities hitting on national defense, budgets, health care, wages, taxation, spending, education, and international policy, among other things. He even played to gun control.
What I heard was very simple: Bigger government + smaller wallet = greater uncertainty. So did the many executives I’ve talked with over the past few days, and that points to more money moving overseas.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), which is in the press a lot recently for supposedly “hoarding” $137 billion worth of cash, is the poster child for what I am talking about. Some 70% of its stockpile is offshore thanks to punitive U.S. tax policies and loopholes and CEO Tim Cook’s desire to save money for a rainy day (or future spending). Other companies are in similar positions.
Barring any changes from Washington, that means choices with high offshore sales contributions are more logical than U.S.-only alternatives because they indirectly capture the higher returns associated with that money.
McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) is a superb example of what I am talking about. With more than 34,000 restaurants in 120 countries, the company is aggressively diversifying its revenue stream to build in defenses against just the sort of stuff the president is pushing.
Frankly, I’d like to buy all-American as much as the next guy, but with very few exceptions the reality is that’s simply not where the money is nor where it will be for the foreseeable future.
3) Hiring will slow.
President Obama spent a fair amount of time pitching a minimum wage hike to $9 an hour. That’s below the $9.50 he targeted on the campaign trail, but right in the neighborhood.
I think it’s going to backfire. Don’t get me wrong, raising the minimum wage sounds great and is needed. In fact, I believe everybody should be paid as much as they can at every stage of the job chain.
But here’s the thing. Raising minimum wage levels will be an example of the law of unintended consequences at its finest.
Unemployment and underemployment will rise if this gets inked. That’s because companies will not hire more expensive employees during uncertain economic times. Instead, they will further offshore critical manufacturing and opt instead for solutions that do more with less.
I believe that technology companies selling processes and raw computing power capable of compensating for the transition are appealing, especially when it comes to cyber defense. People hear that term – cyber defense – and they think terrorism. What they forget is that distributed companies have plenty of intellectual property, too.
I particularly like CommTouch Software (NASDAQ:CTCH) at the moment. It’s small, agile, growing quickly and has a who’s who of clients despite its small size and relative youth in the sector.
The president has hammered on energy for a while now so Tuesday’s speech was really just a warm up — or a reminder, depending on your perspective. It was also a glaring signal that energy is going to be the place to be. But, as usual, there’s a twist.
Nobody needs another Solyndra, so take direct investing out of the equation. The government has never, ever spent money more efficiently than the private sector, nor has it earned better returns. And forget about the jobs everybody is concentrating on as part of the pipe dream of energy independence.
The real secret is in the picks, shovels and transportation needed get it out of the ground and move energy (in all its various forms) from one place to another.
Pipeline, oil services, and shipping firms are especially appealing under the circumstances. Many, like Teekay LNG Partners (NYSE:TGP) pay high dividends, too.
The longer Washington keeps meddling with things, the lower returns are going to be over time. That’s because the government cannot ever invest more effectively than the private sector. In fact, study after study shows that the opposite is true. Every dollar the government spends is money that has been quite literally stripped from the private sector…which can actually create a recovery.
This means that investors are going to have to contend with lower rates of return and lower interest rates for the foreseeable future. The surest way to combat this is through a renewed focus on income rather than speculation.
You and I may not benefit from “trickle-down economics” any time soon because Bernanke and his minions have sold Middle America down the river, but there are plenty of big companies that will — especially if they’re operating in sectors that the world needs, like energy, geriatric medicine, and defense tech. That’s as opposed to what the world “wants.”
Zurich-based ABB (NYSE:ABB) is the quintessential example here because it’s poised to capitalize on literally trillions of dollars in infrastructure repair and new investment over the next decade.
Now where did I put that $100 trillion note from the Bank of Zimbabwe?