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Debt, war and fear

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The discussion and angst go on and on. People are worried about the United States at war in Afghanistan. (We are between a rock and a hard place — if we leave, the enemies win, and as one general said, approximately, about some members of the enemy, “It’s their country.”) People are worried about government debt — maybe not as much as those who worry about the Greece Fire; in Greece, the debt stands at about 146% of GDP — but worried nonetheless. People are worried about municipal bonds and probably worried about another l-o-n-g presidential election cycle. The Republicans are lined up with about 17 months to go, which means we will get very tired of politics very soon. Ye gods, but the presidential campaigns go on forever.

As my father used to say, “Worry, worry, worry.”

The market is squirrelly. At least two bond-strategy investors have moved to between 90% and 100% around June 20. The investment committees were worried.

Bill Sherman of The Sherman Sheet, as of June 23, says we are still in a cyclical bull in a secular bear.

I got an e-mail yesterday asking me about “whether or not we still had downside protection (read: living/income benefits) in his annuity.”

The last time people got this nervous, we were just a month or two away from a raging cyclical bull, or we might begin a secular bull. If the P/Es were lower, maybe in the single digits, I’d be a believer. But who knows? The last time I got calls from people who were worried, the market took off like a rocket.

In any event, I have built a new advisory portfolio and done the best I can to position people carefully for whatever. The U.S. debt will have to sort itself out, but we need a gutsy leader to tell us what we already know. Or we need the economy to take off — when it hums, it covers a multitude of sins. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place, if the government raises taxes, it could drive the economy into a deeper hole. If the government cuts jobs (like that is going to happen, right?), it will create greater unemployment.