Investing for All Seasons

If you read my last post about K-waves, you know what to expect from this post.  If not, then you really should read about Nickolai Kondratiev and K-waves for a better understanding regarding today’s topic.  After all, Stalin had him killed for his work.

I will start out by outlining the characteristics of the various seasons:  spring, summer, autumn, and winter.  Then I will delve into the various investments that might be most appropriate for the expected conditions.  Just like certain activities and clothing is more suitable for summer versus winter, the same holds true during these economic “seasons”.

Kondratiev actually proposed three phases to the cycle, but his work has been expanded to include a fourth phase to help it correspond to the seasons of the year.  I think this is a great way to remember them as well.

Spring Expansion

The spring phase is all about gradual expansion and growth.  It is characterized by mild inflation and technological innovation leading to new opportunities of entrepreneurship.

Interest rates start from historically low levels due to the previous winter economics.  Credit slowly begins to build and expansion slowly begins to take hold.  As a result, inflation slowly picks up as the money supply begins to expand following its contraction.

Optimism begins to fill the air and investment in this new technology begins to quicken.  There is usually peace in the world and no major wartime efforts going on either so that countries can focus on the technology of the day.

Think about the period after World War II and the growth of communication technology from television to satellite to the internet.  The most recent beginning of spring was identified in 1949.

Summer Stagnation

Summer is a time of slowing growth and often even some economic recession.  The recent spring has led to high consumer confidence and the bullishness leads to a stock market peak at the beginning of summer.  Summer ushers in a period of stagnation.

Credit continues to expand primarily to companies and leads to high inflation that peaks at the end of summer.  The stock market grinds lower to bottom at the end of summer.  There is often a major conflict at the beginning of summer that corresponds with the stock market peak.

The most recent summer began in 1966 which saw the Vietnam War and the Nifty Fifty of the NYSE which were peaking in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  Of course the 1970’s saw “stagflation” with no growth and high inflation.  The stock market ground to a low in the early 80’s and gold peaked in 1980.

Autumn Euphoria

Autumn is a time for euphoria.  Coming out of the summer doldrums, consumer confidence begins to build and credit to individuals begins to expand greatly.  Inflation begins to fall along with interest rates and a massive bull market in stocks begins.

The falling inflation, bountiful credit, and plentiful jobs leads to higher levels of consumer confidence which develop into euphoria leading to asset bubbles.  Also the declining interest rates results in massive expansion of debt such that by the end of autumn debt is at historic levels.

The euphoric peak in the stock markets announces the onset of winter as it did in 1929 and 2000.  Autumn is usually a time of peace as well with no major armed conflicts which help to add to the euphoria.

Winter Depression

Winter is characterized by the bursting of bubbles.  Credit contracts and then virtually disappears as balance sheets require repair.  Interest rates decline as does inflation such that fears of deflation begin to emerge.

Consumer confidence takes a major hit leading to concern, fear, and despair.  Obviously, unemployment is high and jobs are scarce.  Interest rates are lowered in an attempt to stimulate the economy.

There are often fiscal crises resulting in bankruptcies, banking crises, and even international currency crises like in 1931-1934.  Repudiation of debt is significant.  The bear market in stocks is on a parallel with the previous bull market.  Armed conflict occurs.

Out of the ashes of the winter depression, a new technological advance begins, and the cycle begins anew.

WOW!

When I first read about this eight years ago, I was utterly speechless.  I couldn’t believe it.  It seemed as if every period in history going back to the Revolutionary War could be outlined and placed into these various seasons.  Of course, there were tables and graphs to do just that.  I would encourage you to do some more research on your own but I have included one such table along with the link reference to begin that research.  Then I will go into the investments for each season.

Reference:  Institute for Practical Finance, Inc.

Investing for All Economic Seasons

As you can see from the table above, there are certain investments that might do well in each season, but let’s think logically about what may be worth investing in now that we know each season’s characteristics.

  • Spring is a period of growth and optimism coming out of the bursting of stock market and real estate bubbles so it would make sense that investing in stocks and real estate at the lows would be a good choice.  Interest rates are low so bonds would be a poor choice.
  • Summer is characterized by inflation and so gold, commodities, and real estate are good choices.  Stocks grind away for years at a time so decreasing allocation to stocks is a good idea.  Gold usually peaks at the end of summer as do interest rates.  The end of summer is a good time to purchase bonds or other interest rate investments.
  • Autumn is the season for bubbles so real estate and stocks are a good place to be as long as you can sell at or near the top at the end of autumn.  Gold is bottoming and going through its bear market so moving out of stocks and real estate over the years is a good idea.
  • Winter is when the debt and financial crises hit as well as deflation.  It is a good time to be in gold, commodities, and cash as investors are looking for tangible investments since confidence in paper is low.  Cash is good because of the likelihood of deflation.  Maintaining wealth is a good strategy for winter so that capital is ready for spring again.

Well this post has gotten a little bit long.  I have more topics that I would like to cover in the same vein so I am going to pause right here and save it for my next post.  In my next post, I want to cover my investing thoughts at this time.

In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts so far.  Do you think that we are in Kondratiev’s winter?  What implications might this have?  Any idea when spring is coming?  As always, thank you so much for reading!

 

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