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Weekly Commentary: Moral Hazard Quagmire

Weekly Commentary: Moral Hazard Quagmire

The Nasdaq100 jumped another 3.5% this week, increasing 2020 gains to 32.3%. Amazon gained 4.3% during the week, boosting y-t-d gains to 77.8% – and market capitalization to $1.626 TN. Apple surged 8.2% this week, increasing 2020 gains to 69.4%. Apple’s market capitalization ended the week at a world-beating $2.127 TN. Microsoft rose 2.0% (up 35.1% y-t-d, mkt cap $1.612 TN). Google rose 4.8% (up 18.2% y-t-d, mkt cap $1.073 TN), and Facebook gained 2.2% (up 30.1%, mkt cap $761bn). The Nasdaq100 now trades with a price-to-earnings ratio of 37.4.
This era will be analyzed and debated for decades to come – if not much longer. Market Bubbles, over-indebtedness, inequality, financial instability and economic maladjustment – festering for years – can no longer be disregarded as cyclical phenomena. Ben Bernanke has declared understanding the forces behind the Great Depression is the “Holy Grail of economics”. It’s ironic. That the Fed never repeats its failure to aggressively expand the money supply in time of crisis is a key facet of the Bernanke doctrine – policy failing he asserts was a primary contributor to Depression-era financial and economic collapse. Yet this era’s unprecedented period of monetary stimulus is fundamental to current financial, economic, social and geopolitical instabilities.

August 18 – Bloomberg (Craig Torres): “The concentration of market power in a handful of companies lies behind several disturbing trends in the U.S. economy, like the deepening of inequality and financial instability, two Federal Reserve Board economists say in a new paper. Isabel Cairo and Jae Sim identify a decline in competition, with large firms controlling more of their markets, as a common cause in a series of important shifts over the last four decades. Those include a fall in labor share, or the chunk of output that goes to workers, even as corporate profits increased; and a surge in wealth and income inequality, as the net worth of the top 5% of households almost tripled between 1983 and 2016. 

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