Good morning all. You may have noticed a very different look for this week’s blog. That’s because I’m ‘on vacation’ yet again … and working exclusively off my handy little iPad. So let me quickly apologize to my long-time readers for a couple of things.
First, I have no doubt you’ll find plenty of typos. Sorry.
Second, this blog will contain few if any images. Missing will be the images of the SHI10 charts I include each week. Sorry, but gathering the restaurant data and working Excel on an iPad is just too technically challenging for me. Or perhaps I’m just to lazy. Either way, in any event, no charts.
Finally, instead of sharing detailed data and research I’ve complied for the blog, today’s commentary will be much more high-level. More of a thoughtful meandering than a focused, data-driven discussion. I hope you’ll enjoy my musings, but if this sounds unappetizing, you can close this link now and find something far more productive to do! 🙂
‘May you live in interesting times’ is a quote I’ve used quite often, and one we’ve all heard many times. It fits so well today. But perhaps it always does. As we consider mankind’s experiences thru out history, very few “times” could be said to have been boring or uninteresting — most are filed with new, and if not entirely desirable, certainly unique experiences. Empires, despots, leaders, political parties, feast and famine, economic expansions and contractions, etc. are always coming and going.
Against this backdrop, the challenge facing the Steak House Index is really trying to see thru the misinformation, listen thru the noise, and navigate a financial or economic path that enhances your and my economic success thru it all. And so I attempt to find the essence, and then distill it down to the actionable nuggets that will, hopefully, help us all make better economic and financial choices.
This isn’t easy to do. For example, consider the “DELTA VARIANT!” outcry we’re seeing in, and hearing from, every media source today, all across the globe. To be sure, any sickness and/or death from any strain of Covid is undesirable. This is not debatable. However, what IS debatable is the underlying issue of risk. Risk is precisely, and essentially, the topic the Steak House Index focuses upon each and every week. Every week, we discuss potential risks of recession, inflation, bubbles, and other (possibly) economically undesirable outcomes. These, too, can be scary topics … fraught with risk. Applying the same intellectual rigor to the health and financial risks we find in the Covid and Delta debate, once again I find myself seeking the essential facts. And here is an excerpt from two (2) of the best data sources, the Johns Hopkins and the CDC, on the topic of ‘breakthrough infections’ — Covid infections contracted by people who have already been fully vaccinated:
“… the fraction of breakthrough infections that result in severe disease is extremely small, which is exactly what the clinical trial data illustrate. While the authorized vaccines’ efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 disease is 90% or higher, the efficacy against severe disease is nearly 100%. Symptomatic breakthrough infections are not unexpected—nor are severe cases—but the vaccines have demonstrated their ability to drive that risk to nearly zero.
In fact, the CDC has reported only 3,554 hospitalized breakthrough cases and 733 deaths out of more than 157 million fully vaccinated individuals.”
Amazing. With over 157 million fully-vaccinated here in the US, the vaccines have demonstrated that serious illness and death are almost nonexistent. Almost isn’t zero, but in this case, it’s pretty close. Risk is exceptionally low.
And yet, the media would have you believe your and my risk today from Covid or the various variants is as high as it ever was. The data, and the science, assures us this is not true. Of course, the landscape changes daily, but the most current data is very promising: Your and my risk of a serious adverse outcome from Covid is extremely unlikely — assuming you’ve been fully vaccinated.
Our greater risk, as we saw on Monday of this week, is the world’s economic reaction to all the noise, and it’s impact on the stock markets, bond markets, and other related/correlated markets. A near 1,000 point drop in the DJIA within a couple hours of opening is a very real reminder of just how impactful emotional, “scare-tactic” media commentary can be, in the short-term, on all financial markets, here and across the globe. “If it bleeds, it leads” is the famous media adage. Well, today, Covid hysteria leads.
I suggest you don’t buy into the hype. Because tomorrow the hype will be yesterday’s news, and the underlying strength of the US economy will once again shine thru. Fear and headlines may drive short-term fluctuations in financial markets, but longer term trends — I believe — will always rest on a foundation of fact and data.
So when the ‘crisis-de-jour’ rears its ugly head, ask yourself if today’s headlines are truly frightening and factual, or if the highest and best use of today’s newspaper is lining the trash can. More often than not, I find the latter is the case.
The facts and the risks, once distilled and separated from the noise, suggest that the US economy is as strong as it as been in years, if not decades. We all know the future holds no guarantees, and thus any SHI forecast could miss the mark, but this SHI author remains firmly convinced 2021 will finish up with extremely strong economic performance.
I research and write the Steak House Index in order to share with you, my readers, the essential “truths” and data we all need to make the best informed economic and financial decisions. I enjoy the intellectual exercise, and as long as you want to read it, I’ll continue to write it.
Thank you for your time today. Next week the SHI10 charts and data will return! Until then, stay healthy out there!
– Terry Liebman