NEW YORK – The Hellenic American Association of Professionals in Finance (HABA) held a fascinating discussion entitled The U.S. & World Economic Outlook and How to Think about Your Money in 2019 featuring Dr. Mickey Levy, the Shadow Federal Open Market Committee Member, and moderated by Michael Bapis, Managing Director Vios Advisors Rockefeller Capital Management, previously the Partner & Managing Director The Bapis Group at HighTower Advisors. The well-attended event was held on September 17 at Wells Fargo Connections in Midtown Manhattan.
HABA Vice President Robert Savage gave the welcoming remarks and introduced the distinguished speaker as “economist extraordinaire,” noting his impressive career. Dr. Levy is the Chief Economist at Berenberg. He conducts research on a variety of U.S. and global economic and macroeconomic topics. Dr. Levy is an advisor to several Federal Reserve Banks and has testified before U.S. Congressional committees on topics concerning the Federal Reserve and monetary policy, fiscal and budget policies, economic and credit conditions, and the banking industry. Prior to his current position, Dr. Levy was Chief Economist at Bank of America and Blenheim Capital Management. He has also conducted research at the American Enterprise Institute and the Congressional Budget Office.
Bapis noted that it was an honor to have Levy on the panel and then began the discussion with a question about Brexit. Levy said that Brexit is a mess for the UK and a mess for Europe, adding that the UK “had one foot in and one foot out” with the European Union. It always had its own central bank, its own currency, its own foreign policy, standing military, made all its decisions independently.”
Levy pointed out that “since the EU was formally founded in 1999, the UK has outperformed Europe, growing significantly faster, if you were to compound its growth over those 18 years, the UK is way, way, ahead by about 16 percentage points of GDP with millions of jobs over the European averages.”
As for the “rough patch,” Levy said “They’ll get through it when it happens.”
In terms of what business people should do, he pointed out that he ignores 95 percent of the headlines. “Europe has a heap of problems… [and] is going to have to face a lot of these financial problems without the benefit of the UK being a part [of it],” Levy said.
EU countries, like Ireland and Spain, and to some extent Portugal, which have passed positive fiscal reforms are doing better, he observed. Indeed, he noted that Ireland and Spain are performing better than Germany. Italy, however, is not doing well since it has not done anything to increase potential growth and has a “ton of debt coming due in the next couple of years.”
Of Turkey, Levy said, “Turkey’s problems are 100 percent homegrown,” adding that its total debt is not that high, but it has a large amount of corporate debt issued in U.S. dollars, so when the Turkish lira fell, the cost of servicing the debt increased. He also said, “What are they doing in NATO?” noting that Turkey, a NATO member, is making friends with all of NATO’s enemies.
About the U.S. economy, Levy said that Congress is dysfunctional and there is a low probability that the Federal Reserve Chairman will raise interest rates too high. For small businesses, confidence is at the highest level since 1983. “Businesses feel like they’re in expansion mode,” he said.
Of President Donald Trump, Levy said, “Trump doesn’t understand trade policy. He truly has the wrong perspective, but he is a negotiator.”
“Trade skirmishes” as he called them, have not had much effect. Levy observed that “global trade volumes moved up to an all-time high.”
In spite of the scary headlines from day to day, corporate profits are rising, and his advice, “stick to the fundamentals.”
A Q&A session followed the discussion in which Levy emphasized the importance of education reform and job retraining for the future of the U.S. economy.
Among those present at the event were Consul of Greece in New York Spyridoula Ioanna Zochiou, President of the Cyprus-U.S. Chamber of Commerce Nicolas Nicolaou, Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce Vice President George Zapantis, and many past presidents of HABA, finance professionals, and community members.