Over the past decade, Americans
have had to endure a debilitating "triple-zero economy"—wage growth, jobs growth, and stock-market returns
are all near zero. At least one zero is about to change for the very much better. We are on the verge of a new American bull
market likely to rival that of the 1990s. Even better, this new bull market has next to nothing to do with politics, government,
or last week's election.
I don't make this forecast lightly. For the past five years, I've been a permabear. I started with a call to cash
in November 2007, just before the bottom fell out of global equities. After brief flings with a few bullish rallies, I once
again issued a cash call in February 2011, and I have adhered to that strategy.
Today, however, I see America's next great bull market being driven by
four powerful trends.
• First, the profits—and therefore
the stock prices—of big U.S.-based multinational companies like Apple (ticker: AAPL), Boeing (BA), Caterpillar (CAT), Ford Motor (F), General Motors (GM), and General Electric (GE) are becoming decoupled from the U.S. economy. It's the inevitable result of an ever-increasing share of the profits
of these largely flagless corporations being earned in production and sales offshore, as they open factories and gain market
share in emerging Asian, African, and Latin American markets.
To put this most simply, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard &
Poor's 500 no longer measure U.S. stock markets; they just reflect markets physically located in the U.S. that will rise and
fall, based more and more on events outside our borders.
• As a second macrotrend, coming after a
difficult decade, the vast majority of globalized U.S. companies have adjusted to lower gross-domestic-product growth rates
in the U.S. and Europe by "right-sizing" themselves. Add to this a sustained era of low wage growth in the U.S.,
cheap wages abroad, and little or no inflation, and you have a recipe for sustained corporate profit growth previously thought
impossible. The big corporations will profit, even if the world's two biggest economic engines—the U.S. and Europe—remain
stuck in low gear.
• The third macrotrend underpinning the
next global bull market is the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing. It lowers long-term interest rates through massive Fed
purchases of long-term government bonds. Because the Fed pays for these new bonds by simply printing money, the result is
an ongoing flood of new currency onto world markets; this is positive for equities.
In addition, the U.S.'s quantitative easing also has
sparked imitations from central banks around the world. This is because when the Fed cuts interest rates in the U.S., it lowers
the value of the dollar and makes American exports more competitive. Other countries have responded with their own styles
of printing money and devaluing their currencies, to avoid loss of competitiveness.
The only sensible thing for stock-market investors
to do in this era of quantitative easing is to move out of bonds paying near-zero returns and into equities. Ironically, this
extremely bullish macrotrend is likely to be around for years to come, because QE is likely to be a very ineffective policy
• The fourth bullish macrotrend is the largely
unforeseen energy revolution now underway. Just a few years ago, many analysts were glumly looking at a supposed peak in proven
petroleum reserves, which was colliding with the undeniably rapid growth in energy demand from emerging countries like China
and India. Bearish predictions of long gas lines and a rapid acceleration of energy prices that would cripple long-term global
growth inevitably followed from this gloom-and-doom scenario.
Today, however, the technology-driven development of massive reserves of shale
gas and oil sands holds the prospect of what once was unthinkable—North American energy independence. Even cost-effective
development of arctic hydrocarbon reserves might become feasible. Simply put, we have the makings of another 30 to 50 years
or more of cheap energy and attendant higher growth rates.
OF COURSE, ANY NUMBER of geopolitical flash points
could smother this baby bull in its crib: a nuclear tango in Iran, a territorial clash between Japan and a rapidly militarizing
China, and more rapid spread of Islamic terrorism, just to name a few.
I do not, however, fear that the global economy will soon be shoved off
the U.S.'s fiscal cliff.
With this most bitter of election seasons over, a Republican-led House of Representatives and a Democratic-led Senate
have far more room to move toward the middle of the playing field for a compromise that should put our fiscal house in better
As our politically divided nation heals, a new
bull market should take root. As it does, the disgusted, disinterested, fearful, and cynical retail investors who have been
on the sidelines for so long should come roaring back into the market, producing a bullish trend that should last for years.