Dow 4,000. Food shortages. A bubble in Treasury notes. Fortune spoke to eight of the market's sharpest thinkers and what they had to say about the future is frightening
For the next 12 months I would stay away from risky assets. I would stay away from the stock market. I would stay away from commodities. I would stay away from credit, both high-yield and high-grade. I would stay in cash or cashlike instruments such as short-term or longer-term government bonds. It's better to stay in things with low returns rather than to lose 50% of your wealth. You should preserve capital. It'll be hard and challenging enough. I wish I could be more cheerful, but I was right a year ago, and I think I'll be right this year too.
We don't currently have anywhere near the level of unemployment that we had in the 1930s, but otherwise there are many similarities between today's environment and the Great Depression, with things happening today that we haven't seen since then. First of all, there's the magnitude of the stock market's move up and down. The real (inflation-corrected) value of the S&P 500 nearly tripled from 1995 to 2000, and by November 2008 was down nearly 60% from its 2000 peak. The only other comparable event was the one in the 1920s where real stock prices more than tripled from 1924 to 1929 and then fell 80% from 1929 to 1932. Second, we've had the biggest housing bust since the Depression. Third, we've seen 0% interest rates. We've actually seen briefly negative short-term interest rates. That hasn't happened since 1941. There was a period from 1938 to 1941 when we were bouncing around at zero and sometimes negative, but that hasn't happened since.