Date: January 31, 2017

Economy Sees Recession During the Next Four Years

The Friday before the election, our quantitative election model forecasted that Donald Trump was going to be the 45th President of the United States. I didn’t believe it myself, yet I didn’t question whether the model was broken. After all, it’s accuracy rate has been higher than 80%, correcting predicting every election since 1996.

After a barrage of media interviews where some questioned whether I was just a shill for Mr. Trump, the election came and he was in fact elected President. In follow up interviews the day after the election, I offered that any pullback in stocks would be a buying opportunity for a run to all-time highs by the first quarter or so on the way to my longstanding target, first offered in 2010, of Dow 20,000.

I also opined that while Mr. Trump may have run under the GOP label, he was certainly not conforming to any traditional Republican platform and was really a populist who leaned right. Although he often fought with Speaker Paul Ryan during the campaign (and many other mainstream Republicans), Trump knew he needed Republican leadership and they needed him to advance their pro-growth and America First nationalistic agendas. “Politics makes strange bedfellows”

Economically, I believed that the corporate tax rate would be one of the first and easiest items to pass. I even expected a few Democrats to join the party. Tax reform would be next with the individual brackets being cut from 7 to 3 and rates for everyone making less than a million to go down. Legislation to terminate hundreds of Barack Obama’s executive orders would also be seen in the first 100 days. Infrastructure, where I have my own idea of how to pull this off without having the government borrow, would be tabled until 2018.

While Donald Trump began his term with an approval rating of 42%, 66% of the people believe better times are ahead. Consumer Confidence spiked for the past two months to a 13-year high. People may seem to dislike President Trump, but they have very high expectations for the economy and their own well-being. Some could argue that’s because the GOP controls Congress and they believe Speaker Ryan will get the job done.

In any case, with the stock market breaching 20,000 and at all-time highs and the economic data from Q4 still stuck in neutral, the markets and public hopes seem to be priced for perfection. That means there is not a lot of margin for error. With that in mind, it got me thinking about things that could go wrong or different paths President Trump could take.

8 – Economy sees recession during the next four years.

With all of these pro-growth economic plans from Speaker Ryan, this surprise may seem counterintuitive. The past 8 years have seen the worst economic recovery of the modern era. While it may be the typical post-financial crisis expansion, it’s still underwhelming. I think Barack Obama inherited part of this, but I also think his policies caused part of it and prevented more robust growth. There is a chance that our economy has significant structural problems, like Japan on a smaller scale, and even a strong, pro-growth agenda won’t help.

Additionally, presidents who follow two-term presidents typically see a recession within four years. Obama followed Bush 43 and he inherited the Great Recession. Bush 43 followed Clinton and he had the post 9-11 one. Bush 41 succeeded Reagan and he saw the S&L crisis/Gulf War oil recession. Carter followed Nixon/Ford and the economy pulled back in 1980 from Fed rate hikes. Nixon succeeded Kennedy/Johnson and he faced recession at the end of 1969 from higher inflation. JFK followed Eisenhower and he inherited a Fed-driven recession. Ike succeeded Truman and saw another inflation-led recession in 1953. Lastly, Truman took over for FDR and presided over two recessions during his first term as the economy was changing back to a peacetime economy with less government spending.

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Paul Schatz, President, Heritage Capital