There has been an interview circulating through the financial media recently with long-time Fidelity investment manager, Joel Tillinghast. During the interview he is asked “How does this market feel to you?”. Here is his response:
“How do you describe a party where everybody is sloshed but nobody is having any fun?”
Well said. Since the S&P 500 index bottomed on March 9, 2009 it has produced a cumulative return of 336.02% through July 31, 2017. Even with that tremendous recovery, people do not seem euphoric. They don’t even seem optimistic. News seems to be bad 95% of the time and only instills fear in us. What this does is lead us to believe we are living during a terrible period of history. This reminds me of the following “hot dog cart” parable. I’m not sure where it originates but have heard it many times.
There was a man who lived by the side of the road and sold hot dogs. He sold very good hot dogs. He put up signs along the highway and advertised in the newspaper telling how good they were. He stood on the side of the road and cried: “Buy a hot dog, mister?” And people bought. He increased his meat and bun orders. He bought a bigger stove to take care of his trade. He finally got his son home from college to help him out.
But then something happened. His son said, “Father, haven’t you been listening to the radio and watching TV? There is a big depression. The foreign situation is terrible. The domestic situation is worse.” Whereupon the father thought, “Well, my son’s been to college, he listens to the radio and watches TV and he ought to know.” So the father cut down on his meat and bun orders, took down his signs and canceled his newspaper ads and no longer bothered to stand out on the highway to sell his hot dogs. And his hot dog sales fell almost overnight. “You’re right, son,” the father said to the boy. “We certainly are in the middle of a great depression.”
So what on Earth is there to be optimistic about besides a rising stock market? We have threats of nuclear wars, major conflicts over racism, the possibility of automation eliminating jobs, and class warfare. Having said all that, there is no better time in history to be walking the Earth than right now. Here are some great statistics from OurWorldInData.org:
People Living in Extreme Poverty
In 1820: 94 out of 100
In 2015: 10 out of 100
People Living in a Democracy
In 1820: 1 out of 100
In 2015: 56 out of 100
People with Basic Education
In 1820: 17 out of 100
In 2015: 86 out of 100
In 1820: 12 out of 100
In 2015: 85 out of 100
In 1820: 43 out of 100 die before age 5
In 2015: 4 ouf of 100 die before age 5
The progress made globally over the last 200 years is unbelievable, and the next 200 years should be even more so. 100 years ago the concept of retirement did not exist. You worked your entire life (usually much more than the typical 40 hours today) and then you died. Does anyone want to go back to that era?
The United States has been an economic machine for over two centuries, and I believe the future is very bright.