We've got a problem with the number of people who are bemoaning the steps being taken to solve our economic crisis. America has been rewarded with prosperity in large part because of our ability to quickly solve problems and move on. Lately that tradition of problem solving has turned into a bad habit of second guessing; we've turned into a nation of Monday morning quarterbacks.
Enough already. The positive developments over the last month have put us in the best economic position we have been in for well over a year and yet markets join the chorus of political negativism that is wrongly being spread by so many. Consider the recent progress made in the three most important triggers for an economic recovery:
Trigger #1: Banking. Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve have quietly taken policy innovation to a new level in their efforts to solve the financial crisis. While all eyes are focused on the indecisive banking plan from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Bernanke has been making great strides. His actions deserve much more credit than they have been given. After his speech yesterday, Tony Crescenzi labeled him as the 'most powerful man on earth'. For those in need of a simple refresher course, the primary motivation for creating the Federal Reserve was to address banking panics. It was formed in response to the severe crisis of 1907 that led to Congress enacting the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. The Fed is doing what they were built to do.
In the midst of this crisis Bernanke has improved the relative strength of the dollar, he has lowered interest rates, he has helped lower mortgage rates, he stabilized the money market mutual fund industry, he has increased the supply of credit to households and businesses, and he is about to puchase asset backed securities that will help with student loans, auto loans and credit cards. He's also doing his part to prop up bank balance sheets with his commitment of $500 billion to purchase mortgage backed securities.
The Fed balance sheet has practically doubled in the last year as it will soon surpass $2 trillion. Bottom line is the banks are in much better shape than they were last year and we haven't even talked about what Geithner's trillion will do to help. The big banks of JP Morgan (JPM), Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C), and I'll include Goldman Sachs (GS) are very good buys at these levels because of the progress that has been made by Bernanke and his gang.
Trigger #2: Unemployment. The purpose of stimulus is to get the money in the hands of those who will spend. In a time when taxpayers are unwilling to spend money, the government must lead the way. The latest trends suggest that consumers would rather save than spend; perfect time to pass the biggest spending bill in American history. Remember that no matter how loudly Republicans bark about what this money is being spent on, the truth is that the economy is blind, all money spent is positive.
From the reaction on Wall Street you would think this spending bill is somehow a negative for economic growth, but rest assured there are some innovative initiatives in here. Money is headed to NASA, agriculture, law enforcement, defense, alternative energy, infrastructure, homeland security, healthcare, education, public transportation and housing. While there are no obvious stock plays off of this widespread package it does open the door to buy the broad market index ETF (SPY) at these levels. Four million new jobs are obviously better than zero new jobs. Obama is taking care of business but the cloud of negativity hovering over this market is so thick that not many can see what is happening.
Trigger #3: Housing. President Obama has been innovative in his method of dealing with housing. The latest mortgage plan relies on incentives to both lenders and borrowers who participate and it doesn't bailout the worst of the worst who have no business owning a home in the first place. Sounds like an excellent plan to me. We went from no plan to a plan that will help 9 million avoid foreclosure. That is closer to a glass half full than half empty.
Strong action has been taken. Once the smoke of negativity clears we will see that this administration has doused the flickering fire of our economy with massive amounts of lighter fluid. Without this lighter fluid, we would be at risk of losing the flame as we were at various times last year. Without the lighter fluid we would be at risk of finding new market lows. During those nervous moments of 2008 the people and the markets were screaming for help, now that it has arrived we all want to think we have a better plan. It's time for everyone to get over themselves and embrace these unprecedented responses; after all, finding solutions is what makes America so great.
DISCLOSURE: LONG BAC