In recent days I've received forwarded e-mails of an article that evidently has been circulating the Internet. It pertains to an in-depth study of year ending in 5. In it, the author tries to establish that the past century's unbroken record of bullish X-5 years in each decade can be explained away in most cases as pertaining to either "chance" or had to do with U.S. presidential policy.
I found this author's attempt at dissecting the Year 5 Phenomenon and his conclusion that 2005 will be the exception to this rule, while obviously well-researched, somewhat lacking. He seemed intent on proving that the remarkable and unbroken string of bullish X-5 years is not attributable to any long-term cycle or wave, but rather mere happenstance or the result of political maneuvering. He even called the exceptional stock market gains of 1925, 1945, 1965, and 1985 mere "chance," a dismissal that cannot be overlooked.
The author states that the years 1935, 1955, 1975 and 1995 were "predictably good years," and attributes the positive performance of these years to incumbent U.S. presidents wanting to be re-elected. He writes, "Accordingly, just after the U.S. mid term election near the end of the second year of his mandate, he introduces and supports fiscal stimulus to improve the economy by the fourth year of his mandate. Historically, U.S. equity markets have recorded their best year of performance in the four year cycle during the third year of a president's mandate in anticipation of strong earnings gains into the fourth year."
How much of the economic strength of the third year of a president's term can be attributable to his fiscal policy is debatable. What isn't debatable is that in the most recent X-3 year, the excellent stock market gains of 2003 were mainly attributable to the bottoming of the 12-year cycle in late 2002. This leads me to the main consideration behind the Year 5 Phenomenon. The 10-year cycle always bottoms in the fourth year of each and every decade. As those of you who have read my work this year know, the 10-year cycle was due to bottom this year and has already done so. It is this lifting of pressure from a major long-term cycle that clears the way for the market to rally in the X-5 year, hence, every fifth year of the decade has been bullish because the downside pressure of the 10-year cycle has lifted.
In his book, Don't Sell Stocks on Monday, Yale Hirsch showed that the middle year of the decade has produced a rather sizeable rally in the stock market in 11 out of 11 times, making it the strongest year in the so-called Decennial Pattern. Years ending in five from 1885 through 1995 have produced an average gain of over 25%! Hirsch has chronicled that the fifth years of the decade is where the vast majority of profits are made. He showed a total gain of 254 percent in the X-5 years, making these years among the very best of each decade.
If you are a stock market bear, ask yourself this question: "Do I really believe that with the alleviation of pressure from the Kress 12-year and 10-year cycles, and with past performance as an untenable guide, that 2005 will be any different than other X-5 years?" If you answered "yes" to that question then you are simply betting against history and you will most likely lose that bet.
Returning to the study, the author makes the following conclusion: "Chances are 2005 will be a difficult year for U.S. equity markets." Among other reasons for making this assumption, the author provides the following possible scenarios for the coming year:
* "The Federal Reserve's attempt to "sop up" excess liquidity in a systematic way by raising interest rates."
Response: The Fed recently raised the Federal funds overnight lending rate from 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent. Coming off 45-year lows, "raising" the interest rate in a systematic way isn't necessarily going to upset the upward path of equity markets as long as those rate increases are in line with the natural rate of interest, which are not likely rise to dangerous levels in the next 10 years. The K-wave hasn't even bottomed yet, yet alone the 120-year cycle, which means the rate of interest is likely to remain at reasonably low levels for the remainder of this decade. The stock market has in all likelihood already discounted Fed rate increases in the foreseeable future. In fact, one could make a case that the lateral correction of 2004 was the market responding in advance to these coming increases.
* "Declining consumer confidence due to record high debt levels."
Response: Since when has a decline in consumer confidence ever been attributable to high debt levels? Consumers are quite happy to remain in debt up to their eyeballs as long as they can convince themselves that they can remain financially afloat and can continue to borrow and make payments on existing debt. America is a debt-based consumer economy. As perverse as it may be, the more debt there is the greater the economy will expand, and along with it, consumer confidence levels. Consumer confidence levels are mainly a function of the rate of change in the available money supply. Consumer confidence falls in response to declines in the money supply but rises in response to "easy money." The increase in money supply of recent months will eventually hit the economy by early 2005 and when it does consumers will suddenly regain their "lost" confidence.
As an aside, it was recently reported that U.S. household assets rose to a record $56 trillion while their liabilities rose to $10 trillion. That's a net worth of $46 trillion as of mid-year! Economist Dr. Ed Yardeni points out nearly ten percent of household net worth was in very liquid time and savings deposits -- a record $4.1 trillion. "Americans do have a lot of debt," writes Yardeni, "but 70 percent of it is in home mortgages, which have become less burdensome for many homeowners, since they refinanced at lower and lower mortgage rates."
Does this picture look like the "cash-strapped consumer" that many bearish analysts are painting to you? These liquidity figures speak volumes about the true underlying state (near-term) of the U.S. economy.
* "Declining confidence in the U.S. dollar by international investors."
I've said it before and I'll say it again. The feds will not allow the dollar to break below its long-term benchmark support. The process of global economic integration, which is being led by the U.S., depends in large measure upon the "dollarization" process. Until the globalization process is complete the dollar will not be allowed to collapse and thus will be bolstered during critical periods. The U.S. market Enforcers have ways of making domestic markets look attractive to overseas investors when needed.
One very vital bullet point that most bearish commentators seem to miss is the impact of globalization on the free markets of developed countries, including the U.S. As Donald Rowe of the Wall Street Digest recently remarked, "Thanks to free trade, free markets and global competition, there is an abundance of virtually everything. Hence, inflation is not going to erupt and interest rates are likely to remain low for the rest of the decade."
And with record inflows of foreign imports coming into our shores each year, the consumer-based U.S. economy will likely remain liquified by the Enforcers so that consumers can buy these goods to keep the global economy propped up long enough for the integration process to be completed.