D. Scott Peterson: ‘Tis the season for markets
“It’s the hap-happiest season of all.”
While holidays don’t make everyone happy, investors should be feeling festive. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is up more than 18 percent year-to-date. The Dow Jones Global ex U.S. Index is up about 21 percent year-to-date, and Treasury bond yields are lower than they were at the start of the year.
In addition, the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), a measure of how unpredictable investors expect the S&P 500 Index to be over the short-term, finished the week below 10. A low VIX reading means investors expect calm markets through the end of the year.
Some are wary of the optimism that pervades markets, though. Barron’s wrote:
“In fact, everything’s going well right now — really well … The Citigroup U.S. Economic Surprise Index — a metric designed to measure the extent to which economic data have been beating or missing expectations — is near its highest level since January 2014, a sign of just how smoothly everything’s been going. The problem is that once the data have been surprising by this much, for this long, it gets hard for good news to provide much more of a boost …”
There was a disappointing piece of economic news last week concerning wages. Unemployment has fallen to a 17-year low (4.1 percent), and unemployment in the manufacturing sector is at 2.6 percent, an all-time low. It appears demand for labor is high and supply is low. That should translate into higher wages, but it hasn’t yet. Average hourly earnings are up 2.5 percent year-on-year. That’s an improvement on October, but not much of one.
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT HUMAN OBSOLESCENCE?
Researchers from the University of Oxford and Yale University asked experts at several artificial intelligence (AI) conferences how long it would be before machines became better than humans at various tasks. The answers weren’t encouraging.
Overall, researchers think there is a 50 percent chance that AI will outperform humans at all tasks within 45 years. They also said it’s possible many jobs humans do now will be automated within 120 years. Asian survey participants expect the change to happen more quickly than North American participants do.
Wondering if this might affect you? Here are a few of the time frames as determined by averaging survey participants’ answers. Machines may be better at:
Translating languages by 2024
Writing high-school essays by 2026 (Would this be cheating?)
Driving trucks by 2027
Working in retail by 2031
Writing bestselling books by 2049
Working as surgeons by 2053
However, dooms day proclamations about humans becoming obsolete has been around since the dawn of the industrial age. Humans could see more leisure time and productivity gains more than anything from robots and machine learning. Only time will tell on whether these predictions come to fruition.
D. Scott Peterson is CEO and head investment manager for Peterson Wealth Management. If you wish to contact him, call 775-673-1100, or visit PetersonWM.com.