Jerome Powell has spoken … now what?

In our last edition, we discussed what gold might be revealing that the Fed isn’t … while waiting to see what Fed Chair Jerome Powell would say to Congress.

But now the great and powerful Powell has spoken … and there are a couple of notable nuggets worthy of an inquisitive real estate investor’s attention.

According to this report by CNBC, the Wizard of the Emerald Printing Press told Congress …

“… the relationship between … unemployment and inflation … has gone away.”

If you’re not a faithful Fed watcher (and therefore have a life), you might not know about the Phillips curve. It’s been a guiding principle for the Fed interest rate policy for a long time.

It goes without saying (but we’re saying it anyway) that interest rates are important to real estate investors.

After all, debt is arguably the most powerful tool in the real estate investor’s toolbox. And interest rates profoundly affect both cash flows and pricing.

Many investors rely on their mortgage pro for interest rate guidance. Most mortgage pros watch the 10-year Treasury. But Treasury prices are strongly impacted by Fed jawboning and open market activities.

By watching further up the food chain you can get more advance notice of the direction of rates … and better position yourself to capture opportunity and avoid problems.

Through their comments, Fed spokespeople … chief among them Chairman Powell … send signals to those in the market who care to pay attention.

Of course, sometimes a little interpretation is needed. In this case, it seems to us Powell is being pretty clear.

The Phillips curve … which presumes that full employment leads to higher wages which leads to high inflation (prompting rate hikes to preempt it) … “has gone away”.

In other words, don’t assume high employment will trigger the Fed to raise rates.

But just in case the message wasn’t clear enough, Powell also added …

“… we are learning that the neutral interest rate is lower than we had thought …”

In other words, there’s a NEW normal in town … and the Fed is abandoning (just like Peter Schiff has been telling us they would) rate hikes and tightening.

But unlike Peter Schiff, the Fed is just now figuring this out.

So the great and powerful Wizard pulled not one, but TWO doves out of his hat.

(For the un-initiated, when the Fed is “hawkish”, it means tightening the currency supply by raising rates … while “dovish” is easing … like quantitative easing … and lowering rates)

It seems the Fed looked over the economic landscape … (and over their shoulder at the real estate guy in the White House) …

… and concluded the punch bowl fueling the longest recovery in history needs to be spiked again.

You might agree or disagree.

But it doesn’t matter what YOU think the Fed SHOULD do. We’re pretty sure they’re not asking you. They’re sure not asking us.

They think what they think. They do what they do. And THEY are the ones behind the curtain with their hands on the levers.

Our mission as a real estate investors (accumulators of mass quantities of debt used to control assets and cash flows), is to watch and react appropriately.

So here’s some food for thought …

Fed “dovishness” usually translates into higher asset prices … primarily stocks and real estate. Equity happens!

It’s EASY to get enamored of equity growth based on momentum (price changes) and not fundamentals (income). Be careful.

Sometimes the Fed loses control or misses a major problem until it rolls over the market.

If your portfolio is anchored with strong fundamentals, you’re more resilient.

Equity is wonderful, but fickle and unproductive.

If your balance sheet is telling you you’re rich, but your cash flow statement doesn’t agree, you’re not really rich.

Read that again.

The key to resilient real wealth is durable passive income. And rental real estate of all kinds is a time-proven vehicle for building durable passive income.

But wait! There’s more …

It’s no secret President Trump wants to weaken the dollar … and has been pressuring the Fed to make it happen.

Based on the Fed’s recent shift of direction, it seems it’s not just interest rates headed down … but the dollar too. The currency war could be about to escalate.

And remember … the dollar has a 100+ year history of losing purchasing power.

So if you’re betting on the direction of the dollar long term … we think DOWN is the safer bet. And right now it seems that what the Wizards are planning.

This is where real estate REALLY shines.

That’s because an investor can use real estate to acquire enormous sums of dollars TODAY (via a mortgage) which effectively shorts the dollar.

Those dollars are used to buy tangible, tax-advantaged, income-producing, real assets which not only pays back the loans from their own income …

… but unlike debt, grows nominally (in dollars) in both income and price as the purchasing power of the dollar falls (inflation).

That’s why we say, “Equity Happens!”

And when it does, it’s a good idea to consider converting equity into cash using low-cost long-term debt, and then investing the proceeds in acquiring additional income streams and assets.

Of course, you can only do that when the stars of equity, lending, and interest rates all align. Right now, it seems they are.

We think last week signaled an important change of direction. And while the financial system is arguably still weak, it’s working …

… so it might be a good idea to do some portfolio optimization while the wheels are still on.

Until next time … good investing!


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