What. A. Year.

First of all, thank you to all you readers for an incredible first year of this venture. It has been an absolute pleasure to be part of your Sunday morning reading for the last 12 months. As always, I love hearing your feedback – I’m constantly on the lookout for interesting reads and ideas – email me anytime at uma@unbenchd.com. I will be back in your inbox on January 5th following a short break from the regularly scheduled programming next week. Until then, happy holidays and happy new year to you all, and enjoy this last weekly digest of the decade. 

There’s still some hope 

Despite last week’s disappointing retail sales report, consumer spending as a whole increased 0.4% in November, which marks the biggest sequential growth in four months. Apparently, we were spending more money on cars and trucks (checks out, as 2019 models are now cheaper since 2020 models are available) and healthcare (check out, again, as I find myself constantly avoiding the germs around me). Incomes rose at a steady clip while the Fed’s inflation measure of choice, the PCE Index, still remains solidly below the 2% target. 

Moral of the story: This report is at odds with the retail sales report we saw last week; however, combined with the strong December consumer sentiment report, provides some confidence in the potential for the December retail sales to rebound and consumption to continue providing some sort of boost to economic growth.

Donald Dump 

The House officially impeached Trump this week on abuse of power in relation with his Ukrainian dealings and obstruction of Congress. This makes Trump the third President to be impeached. He will now face a Senate trial that could potentially remove him from office. I’ve decided the Trump impeachment drama deserves a name, I’ve landed on “Donald Dump” as of now, but I’m open to other suggestions. I digress.

Moral of the story: Despite the Donald Dump drama in DC (too many D’s?) investors don’t really seem to care about the politics. Since the proceedings began in late October, stocks have actually risen 5% as the market deems it unlikely that a Republican Senate finds this Republican President guilty. Speaking of politics that matter, though, UK lawmakers have agreed to Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill that will be debated by Parliament early next year and, if passed, would mean Brexit would finally happen on January 31st (in case anyone wants to feel better about their indecisiveness, it’s been 3.5 years since the UK voted to leave the EU…).  

Who argued it better?

Politics took much of the airwaves this week as seven Democratic presidential candidates took the stage in LA for the final debate of the year. Hot topics of discussion included the Donald Dump drama (only Andrew Yang made it a point to focus more on what Democrats can do instead of focusing on what Trump can’t), Warren’s “down with the rich” campaign (I’d like to note the hypocrisy of this rant given her net worth is $12m and she owns a $3m home in Cambridge and another $800k condo in DC. I think this puts her very squarely in the top 1% and it seems like she’s enjoying the life afforded to her by capitalism. Economically, her tax plans largely disincentivize growth), climate change (re-entering the Paris Agreement, thank goodness), and China. 

Moral of the story: Joe Biden remains at the top of the leaderboard but Buttigieg has recently found his way to the top of the polls in some of the first crucial state votes – Iowa and New Hampshire. Michael Bloomberg’s late entry in the race remains a wild-card to monitor.