* GET READY FOR THE "COUPON PANIC OF 1996". When interest rates fell dramatically in 1992 and part of 1993, retired investors suddenly had to replace 8 percent CDs with CDs offering 4 percent. There was a "coupon panic" as investors stopped worrying about their principal and started to worry about their interest income. In 1994 interest rates rose and investors relearned how to worry about principal. If the Federal Reserve eases and short term rates fall in 1996, allowing longer term rates to fall to 6 percent or less, there will be another "coupon panic".
One consequence: Wall Street will find new ways to make the offers they made in 1987 and 1993: they can find a cushy 7 or 8 percent return even if long Treasuries are only yielding 6 percent. All we have to do is let them invest our money and charge a significant fee for their brilliance.
Don't believe it. A rose is a rose, rates is rates, and parts is parts.
* ANOTHER "MORTGAGE INTEREST DIVIDEND" COMING OUR WAY. If interest rates do decline, homeowners will be have another opportunity to cut their monthly payments. Who is most likely to benefit? Those with standard adjustable rate mortgages, the ones that add 2.75 percent of margin to the one year constant maturity Treasury index. The size of the margin means these mortgages can be replaced by 30 or 15 year mortgages or, at worst, a mortgage with interest guaranteed for 5 or 7 years. Watch the newspaper and magazine rate quotes.
* CREDIT CARD INTEREST RATES WON'T DECLINE MUCH. Bankers, who spent 1994 and 1995 in the bold pursuit of expansion by mailing cards to people with no income, will find the recipients slow to repay. With losses climbing, they'll need high rates from those who DO repay. If you have an income and pay your credit cards like clockwork, the best thing to do is start shopping.
Where to look for low rates: for constant updates try RAM Researchs' new World Wide Web site.
* INDIVIDUAL STOCK INVESTING WILL MAKE A COMEBACK. Some will suggest small investors have a renewed interest in stock investing because so much money was made in stocks in 1995. In fact, small investors didn't rediscover individual stocks in 1985, 1989, or 1991--- years that were about as good as 1995. If investing in individual stock comes back it will be due to the number of mutual funds. It is a lot easier to decide between Ford, Microsoft, and Southwest Airlines than to choose a fund from a list of over 7,000.
* FURTHER IMPROVEMENTS WILL BE MADE IN THE COST OF LIVING INDEX. Having discovered that a reworking of the consumer price index can increase tax revenue while reducing government payments for Social Security and Federal pensions, there will be a surge of statistical innovation in Washington that will be applauded by Republicans and Democrats alike. Each innovation will produce a lower consumer price index.
* PRESIDENT CLINTON WILL STEAL A PHRASE FROM RICHARD NIXON ( BUT HE WON'T ADMIT TO BEING A CROOK). Offering expanded IRA plans for savings to Baby Boomers worried about the future of Social Security and Medicare, he'll say "We're all shareholders, now." He'll be paraphrasing Nixons' early seventies cave-in to budget deficits when he said, "We're all Keynesians, now."
* A NEW AND CRIPPLING MALADY WILL EMERGE. Satellite Thumb Syndrome ( STS) will displace Carpal Tunnel Syndrome among males under age 60. The problem will arise from the overwhelming success of Digital Satellite TV and its multiple sports channels. The labor force participation rate among males will continue to fall while the participation rate among women will continue to rise.
* SEX WILL REALLY BE DIFFERENT. Parents will realize this when they overhear their children talking about their first sexual experiences. The most important question will be, "What file format did you use?", referring to the multitude of formats for graphic files on bulletin board systems and the Internet.
* FEDERAL SPENDING WILL RISE. This is hard to believe, given the ruthless, merciless cutting that has been going on all year. But it is true. The federal government will spend more money in 1996 than it did in 1995. Even more incredible: It will spend still more money in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. Only a courageous columnist would tell you this.
* THERE WILL BE A DELUGE OF NEW FIXED INCOME PRODUCTS. With over 3,400 fixed income mutual funds, up ten fold in ten years, there would seem to be no need. As management fee cutting spreads from money market funds to longer term bond funds, however, brokerage and fund companies will develop an equally wide array of lower cost unit trusts to keep the assets at their firms.
* THEY'LL CALL IT "THE ANDY WARHOL MARKET". The late Andy Warhol is often quoted as saying everyone will be famous... for 15 minutes. In the high flying market of 1996, stocks selling at high multiples of revenues ( but without profits) will be looking for their 15 minutes of profitability. When analysts finally figure out that 15 minutes isn't enough time, the hot stocks will plummet.
This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the opinions of AssetBuilder Inc. The opinion of the author is subject to change without notice. All materials presented are compiled from sources believed to be reliable and current, but accuracy cannot be guaranteed. This article is distributed for educational puposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, product, or service.
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