The Flip Side

The Flip Side

| February 18, 2021

Way back, when radio disk jockeys played 45-rpm vinyl singles, the A-side of a disk was the song the record company was promoting and the other side – the flip side – held a song that sometimes had an equal or greater impact. For instance, the flip side of Queen’s We Are the Champions was We Will Rock You.

When it comes to the economy and financial markets, flip sides can have significant impact, too. For example:

  • Stock market performance. Last week, major stock indices in the United States – the Standard & Poor’s 500, the Dow Jones Industrial, and the Nasdaq Composite – finished at record highs. That was happy news for investors.

The flip side: Concern that share prices may not be sustainable. “The long, long bull market since 2009 has finally matured into a fully-fledged epic bubble. Featuring extreme overvaluation, explosive price increases, frenzied issuance, and hysterically speculative investor behavior…this bubble will burst in due time…,” wrote asset manager Jeremy Grantham of GMO in January 2021.

  • Vaccination acceleration. The pace of COVID-19 vaccinations has accelerated. Vaccinations are important to economic recovery because they are expected to restore confidence and increase economic activity, reported Janet Alvarez of CNBC.

The flip side: Vaccines may not be as effective as many anticipate for two reasons: 1) Some Americans are reluctant to be vaccinated, and 2) Vaccines may not be effective against all strains of the virus.

  • Additional stimulus. A $1.9 trillion stimulus package is in the works, which could “…prevent unnecessary financial hardship and mitigate future economic risks,” according to Morning Consult economist John Leer.

That seems particularly important since employment gains have slowed. Last week, Carleton English of Barron’s reported, “All told there were 20.4 million workers receiving benefits under programs for the week ending January 23, a 2.6 million increase from the prior week. At this time last year, there were 2.2 million workers receiving benefits.”

The flip side: Too much stimulus could cause the economy to overheat, lead to inflation, and cause the Federal Reserve to raise rates. The bond market has already been pushing rates higher. Last week, the yield on 30-year U.S. Treasuries rose above 2 percent for the first time since February 2020.

  • Infrastructure spending. Work has begun on a $2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan that is intended to create jobs and rebuild U.S. transportation networks, reported Ian Duncan of TheWashington Post.

The flip side: While many agree U.S. infrastructure needs repair, the cost may be paid through higher taxes. There is ongoing debate about whether tax increases impede or accelerate economic growth, according to Jim Tankersley of The New York Times. In addition, government spending of this type is another form of stimulus, which could heat up economic growth.

Last week, Colby Smith of Financial Times reported numerous economists have increased U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) growth estimates for 2021. Estimates ranged from 5.9 percent to 6.3 percent.

photo by:  Hand throwing up coin to make decision © Denphumi |