• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Photo: Headshot of Rich Barlow, an older white man with dark grey hair and wearing a grey shirt and grey-blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 40 comments on Stock Market Crash Likely, BU Economist Predicts

  1. Wow. You might expect when a respected economist goes public with advice to pull all of your assets out of the stock market immediately they would have a detailed analysis and reasoned explanation for such a radical position. Instead we get Elton John might hold a press conference and yet another anti Trump diatribe. Seriously? No doubt Kotlikoff has forgotten more than I’ll ever know about economics but you couldn’t prove it by his statements here.

    1. You really need to understand that a detailed explanation will not provide any more certainty. Crashes are all black swans by definition. All you can do is take 1000ft view with historical context and make a best guess.

  2. If everyone sells all their stocks, as Prof. Laurence Kotlikoff suggests, then the stock market crash will become a self fulfilling prophecy. Them some, like the good professor, will buy up the cheap stocks and elevate their status among the one percent.

  3. In November of 2016 Fortune magazine reported that “Bridgewater Associates sent out a note to its clients predicting that the Dow Jones Industrial Average could plunge nearly 2,000 points in one day if Trump is elected president.” and “That would erase nearly $1.9 trillion in value from U.S. stock market portfolios.”. Because that did not happen it makes me question the opinions of conventional experts.

    1. The market is way over heated. There has clearly been a post election rally based on pure speculation which the technical charts and PE ratios suggest is way over due for a major correction so Kotlikoff predicting a down turn in this market now is like the weatherman predicting snow melting in the mountains in the spring time.

      More importantly, when Kotlikoff ran for president he said that neither Hillary nor Trump would be able to solve the economic mess they inherit but rather that it could only be solved by the likes of “him”. That said, I suppose Paul Krugman would disagree with him on this last point as well.

      The president has definitely inherited an economic mess created by the unwillingness of both political parties to confront the 800 pound gorilla in the room which is and has been excessive government spending over decades mediated by virtue of the dollar being the reserve currency for the world.

      Trump did not create this mess and while he may not be able to help it and may even make it worse a careful review of Kotlikoff’s previous interviews shows he knows the real cause of what comes next will not be entirely due to any of Trump’s policies irrespective of how things ultimately play out.

  4. I have been following Prof. Kotlikoff for several years and while I agree with his thoughts on the problems associated with aging baby boomers I also think that Krugman is right in that the government will print its way out of debt while at the same time raising interest rates on Treasury bonds. This will induce the aging boomers to sell stocks and purchase these less risky investment vehicles thereby effectively buying the government debt to pay for their own SS payments. TheDow Index fund will likely continue to go up in terms of numbers of USD in circulation but of course the purchasing power of these dollars will be offset by inflation. As a result, the risk of stocks will still be alluring to the less risk averse young people seeking a better ROI. The government will never truly default on its debt. The good news is the debasement of the dollar will drive up cost of imported goods even without any tariffs which means we will also need to make more stuff here in order to maintain our standard of living which in turn will be good for the jobs market.

    1. What you are describing sounds a lot like a spike in inflation, which would increase interest rates and in turn, create more inflation (incentive for banks to spend their huge excess reserves on hand).

      If this happens it will be devastating for the economy, very high inflation reduces the standard of living, and wipes out savings.

      1. Yellen has given her marching orders today. They not only want inflation they need it to inflate away the national debt. This could get out of control but they are crosding their fingers hoping it will not.

  5. My comment is more about the state of the BU faculty. Is there any professor who is a conservative or moderate…? Although I respect Prof Kotlikoff’s opinion on the stock market, I find his over the top attack on President Trump unnecessary. As a registered Independent who have voted for Bill Clinton and donated money to Hilary Clinton in the past, I am alarmed with academia and students showing unreasonable left wing behaviors since the election. BU newsletters are almost always left leaning and I am concerned. We are spending a lot of money to send our daughter to BU and are worried about her exposure to the extreme left . BU and all colleges should teach the students to think on their own and be politically and ideologically neutral.

    1. I have to agree. I remember my econ there in 87-91 had liberal, radical, and conservative perspectives stressed and balanced. From what I see in many publications now (post silber) and especially now into 2000s is pure left doctrine

  6. I’m a fellow faculty member, and I respect Professor Kotlikoff’s views. I will take what he suggests seriously since he’s one of the most important thinkers on baby boom retirement and regular people’s concerns. As per the showing of “unreasonable left wing behaviors,” I’m not sure what people are referring to exactly. BU is full of diversity of viewpoint and rich in discussion. Yes, there is activism, and I’m grateful for that because it shows me that millennials are engaged and thinking about the many deep challenges to the democracy. I believe no one should be deprived of encountering any points of view in the academy. There is no such thing as neutrality, but there is critical thinking, and I am proud of how we do that at BU.

    1. Ms. Ruth, when you say “BU is full of diversity of viewpoint” can you please tell me the exact number of your fellow faculty members that were open supporters of Trump, Rubio, Cruz, Kasich, or even Rand Paul supporters? And perhaps compare that to the number of open Clinton and Sanders supporters?

      I think you know where this is going. Your statement about diversity of views is a joke that only people on the left believe. I’ll bet you can’t name more than one or two Trump supporters on the entire BU faculty, to say nothing of those you interact with on a daily basis and “explore views” together in true Socratic fashion.

      Sorry to call you out publicly but you put it on the web.

  7. I stopped reading when he said Trump could run up the deficit and interest rates would rise. Where has this guy been? 10 trillion the last 8 years? And the rates plummeted. No stocks can’t be stopped now it’s forever up.

    1. If the velocity of money increases and salaries of the middle class go up, then income tax receipts will go up as well and this could in theory offset the effect of higher interest rates on the cost of servicing government debt.

      This has to be their end game goal otherwise the government will find itself unable to service its debt without dramatically cutting government spending; a course of action that congress has historically shown no appetite for taking.

  8. If you took my gains over this last year and projected an average over the next three years, I’d be very happy. Since I’m not greedy and tend to be preserving, I’ve gone almost total cash (except for my AAPL stock) and I’m sleeping well. When the crash occurs, I’ll cheer it on and get ready to buy slowly into the recovering market.

    1. I am doing the very same thing. Only difference, I’m holding my AMZN stock. Meet you here in 1 year and let’s see whose done better, Apple or Amazon. Could be close.

  9. The good professor is mostly, not entirely wrong. There will be an adjustment for sure to the stock market and it will fall but not to the point of collapsing. The professor respectfully is a liberal thinker and has all the Dem’s talking points, but there are in his writing lots of “could”. Whoever invests in the stock market should know full well that it’s inherently a very risky business because there are indeed a lot of “coulds'”. But stock buying is for long term investment. Check out the downfall of the stock market in March 17, 2008 to a low of 11,650.44, and see what happens now, a more than 9 thousands points increase!!!

  10. It begins in the author’s 4th paragraph…” US businessman-turned-president.” Donald Trump was elected President; he didn’t get up one morning and find he “turned president.” I have a hunch that if this article were about Mr. Trump’s rival in the election, it would not contain the silly phrase “US politician-turned-president.” Whoever you vote for, whoever’s views you are sympathetic or unsympathetic to, be accurate in reporting: this phrase denigrates the achievement of a candidate achieving the office of President of the United States.

    These subtle denigrations, with which BU Today articles have been rife for at least the past 4 years, make it– and Boston University– appear myopic and, far from encouraging free discussion and the exchange of opposing ideas, stifle free speech.

    Kim Makoujy correctly identifies a problem at BU: There may be faculty, staff, and students who do not subscribe wholesale to progressive ideas (and the refusal to consider anything but), but my guess is that they are reluctant to assert their opinions in practically any forum at the university. This is Massachusetts, it’s “higher education,” and we’re in Boston; this is very likely the dominant viewpoint of those associated with the Boston University of 2017. However, this microcosm hardly defines the rest of the country or the opinions and attitudes of a majority of Americans.

    I was particularly taken by Prof. Kotlikoff’s statement that Trump “has shown himself to be what he advertised: an autocrat, a know-it-all, a person with a tenuous grip on reality, a narcissistic personality, someone who feels free to interfere in private business decisions.” My goodness, he just described Mr. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama!

    1. Why would someone who doesn’t subscribe wholesale to as you say “progressive ideas” be afraid to express their opinion? So what if a lot of others disagree with them. If they have their facts in line and they have their beliefs, then get into the debate. That’s what healthy people do when they want to express themselves. It doesn’t have to be ugly. And if someone is confident enough with their facts and assertions, no one is going to penalize them for it. I find that those on the opposite side of progressive ideas often complain that they don’t stand a chance around those who disagree with them because they are marginalized and the like. No, that’s the case. One may disagree wholeheartedly with them and state the reasons why but that doesn’t mean the other side isn’t allowed to share their opinions. The question is, do they have the back-up and research to back up their claims? That’s ultimately what matters.

      1. You’re right Kitty argumentum ad hominen is a logical falacy and an authority on any topic should never need to resort to it instead of making their argument based on data and facts that back up their predictions.

  11. Economists and investors have been concerned about National Debt. $25 trillion appears to be a threshold that could trigger an economic collapse. We must also add local and state debt plus personal debt, both at all time highs and growing. One only tour to the past to view the outcome. Germany 1920s collapse of currency values. US late 20s economic depression. We will experience both over the next 18 months.

    1. There is one very important factor that complicates your argument which is that the USD is the reserve currency for the world. So as thevsaying goes, it may be our dollar but it is the rest of world’s problem. The dollar will have to loose its status as the reserve currency before we become the next Weimar in the mean to the extent possible the USA will continue to export its inflation.

  12. I think BU is right especially since the 8-10 year major correction cycle of DOW S&P is still pending- “the last was Feb 2008 and persisted till March 2009”. The impact on the SENSEX of India was very similar.
    I agree with the view that no one can really predict the market, but perhaps the market
    boom is just prior to a Profit Booking spree.
    The gut feeling in this case, as mentioned by a gentleman above, is that perhaps some of the stock could be sold, however, if everyone sells their stock, it would be a fiasco.

  13. The 2008-2009 was not a cyclic market downturn. It was instead caused by Government interference requiring lenders to grant mortgages to those who had no hope of ever repaying. Recall, there was created an outstanding basket of mortgages whose worth was unknown and seemingly could not be determined. Fanny and Freddy, who held what they must have known were junk mortgage guarantees, bundled and sold them. Prof. Kotlikoff can easily explain what followed but somehow I doubt that he will.

    Yes, the markets will rise and fall but without any predictable date certain. If the Prof. could time the markets to the the degree he proclaims he’d soon possess more wealth than Bill Gates and would no longer need to scratch out a living teaching school.

  14. When people cannot see the obvious reasons for the actions of something like the stock market trends, It amuses me. I just can’t figure out if it’s really stupidity or just denial…. Idk, maybe some ppl should stick to scratch off lottery tickets ;-)

  15. Since the US markets have rallied a lot in anticipation of trump reducing taxes and increasing US growth rates it might be prudent to book some profits. The US demographic will make it impossible to achieve a 4% growth rate. One could take exposure to Europe and fast growing emerging markets. Trump is one of the most unstable leaders and it would be good to invest where leaders are more mature and stable.

  16. If the scenarios he predicted will occur, that’ll not be a 100% Trump politics fault. Nobody mentioned the great FED accomodation monetary policies of the last years. If the S&P 500 fall, it will be substantially caused by the market dependancy of FED funds. Nowaday any kind of complaints about predictability of financial markets its no sense, because of the new normal (Janet Yellen taught about that). Given the recent expectations on rates and inflation to increase, it’s easy to assume a riequilibrium of stock market, because of the uncertainty about growth and cash flows (higher interest rates results in lower investments = stagnation)

    1. Spot on.

      It is very interesting how intellectually dishonest people driven by political ideology can be.

      The FED continues to be accommodating because it profits from the Federal Reserse Notes it issues. If the US government actually paid off its debt the FED would effectively be out of business. The US government could pay off its debt tomorrow interest free simply by issuing US notes. This would be highly inflationary but it would also eliminate the threat of rising interest rates contributing to the national debt.

      The most likely scenario is the one I outlined above in which the FED favors inflation and rising interest rates which will attract retiring baby boomers looking for safe investments into T bills. Reduced regulation that favors growth will increase velocity of money some of which will find a home in equities propping up markets. The only threat to this plan would be hyper inflation but i think that is unlikely at least for now.

      1. Actually the FED is no more monetary accomodating, switching to fiscal policy (unofficial but pretty likely to be) to cover QE expenditure.
        How Ts can be attractive in a reflationary scenario? They don’t.
        The ones who search for return in bond markets have to goes up to HY, risking more (default and credit risk) given potential recession due to protectionism and isolationalism (remember that the iphones u are using are a part of a global supply chain). Altough that, fiscal incentive for US small cap and untrustability of govern will hold equity high at the actual level for almost all 2017.

  17. “Buy low and sell high” means timing markets. Individual issues, stock mutual funds or ETFs…whatever.
    Rothschild said “You buy when there’s blood running in the streets. I timed 08. I am timing this one. You have to be blind not to see it.
    One thing that has baffled me over and over in my 54 years has been the herd mentality in bubbles. It’s just baffling. Jesus Christ could be the president right now and not avert this but the professor’s jabs at Trump are well warranted. Some really good ideas. Such poor leadership skills. When flyover country is losing their homes, I’ll be buying back in in bits. If I miss the run up to Dow 50,000 I still have my money.

  18. All-or-nothing thinking doesn’t cut it. One example: “you can’t time the markets.” That’s like saying you can’t quantify market risk. Ridiculous. The fact is that you get the best information you can and make assessments that you know will always be at best imperfect, only relatively true. But the logical inference is not that they are therefore completely false and useless.

  19. So how did selling your stocks in February work out for you?

    Now is the real time to sell. Buy the rumor sell the news. With tax reform about to become a reality and the FED chair up for replacement we should all expect to see major market headwinds bring this rally to a close.

  20. Market continues to be volatile and has now given up all the pseudo gains for year. So, if you sold in February and moved into bonds you would in fact be better off today. We now see an obvious double top which signals the beginning of bear market.

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