HABA Fireside Chat with Dr. Mickey Levy

Left to right: Nick Lionas, Robert Savage, James P. Gerkis, Costas Kellas, HABA President Fanny Trataros, Dr. Mickey Levy, Evdokia (Michelle) Moukios, Manny Caravanos, and Demetri Papacostas. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

By Eleni Sakellis

NEW YORK – On Thursday, March 23, the Hellenic American Association for Professionals in Finance hosted a fireside chat with Dr. Mickey Levy, Shadow Federal Open Market Committee Member, at the Harvard Club in Midtown Manhattan. Dr. Levy discussed the US economic and global outlook for 2017, what to expect from the Federal Reserve, the Trump Administration, and where to put your money. Dr. Levy has over 30 years of experience in economic and public policy research, including 15 years as Chief Economist at Bank of America, and the CBO and American Enterprise Institute. He currently is the Chief Economist at Berenberg, a private German Bank.

HABA President Fanny Trataros welcomed everyone to the event and then turned over the microphone to Vice President Robert Savage who introduced Dr. Levy. He also noted Dr. Levy’s Greek roots, his father was born and raised in Rhodes.

The fascinating discussion provided insights into the economic issues facing the United States and the world. The overall impression Dr. Levy offered was a positive one, noting that the world economy is picking up. In his meetings with global financial managers, once they put aside their feelings about politics and the US administration, they are positive about what economic reforms may be passed, since “it seems there is a chance for pro-growth reforms” and a “nicer momentum” for 2018.

Even the Brexit, Dr. Levy observed, will likely turn out for the best since the UK has a better economic structure, even if it goes into a recession, it is still better off leaving the EU. The Brexit may be more rational than we thought, Dr. Levy said, noting that the indicators are up, and “the UK looks good” while “China is slowing down.”

“Things are picking up around the world, deflation fears have evaporated,” he said.

There are also positive signs from the Federal Reserve which Dr. Levy said will probably raise interest rates two more times this year and two more times in 2018.

Savage asked if it was a mistake for the Fed to have raised interest rates on March 15 and Dr. Levy replied, “No, it was not a mistake…The Fed should have been raising interest rates gradually over the last few years.” He observed that raising rates within the neutral range doesn’t really have much of an impact on the economy. Dr. Levy also remarked that the Fed continued with policy for too long that had been started to get the US economy out of recession. The economy is doing okay, he said, and better than expected.

A Q&A session followed the discussion which included questions on CD rates and bond yields, unemployment rates, demographics, and the economic issues hindering healthcare reform. Dr. Levy gave thoughtful answers to each question. He noted that improving the quality of education, skill training and retraining, and adjusting school curricula to match the needs of employers will be the keys to solving skill mismatches, unemployment, and underemployment. Savage asked the final question on what to invest in this year and the next 18 months, and Dr. Levy replied for the US, long in the stock market, and light on bonds, and in ETFs (exchange traded funds) in Europe, diversifying a touch out of the US. He would not be an investor in China, he said.

Among the professionals in finance in attendance at the event were HABA Treasurer Manny Caravanos, and Directors James P. Gerkis, Costas Kellas, Nick Lionas, Evdokia (Michelle) Moukios, and Demetri Papacostas. Also present were Peter A. Dedousis, John Giapoutzis, and George Zapantis, as well as other professionals interested in the economy and financial issues.