November 30, 2022

Commodity Insight: ‘Know what has gone before’

From the Columbia Missourian newspaper: “Harry Truman remains near the top of a list of U.S. presidents ranked this year by C-SPAN, the public affairs TV network.

“Truman, who was born in Lamar and grew up in Independence, landed in sixth place, ahead of Thomas Jefferson, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. The ranking is based on leadership.

“Abraham Lincoln holds first place, while George Washington is No. 2, Franklin Roosevelt is No. 3, Teddy Roosevelt is No. 4 and Dwight Eisenhower is No. 5.” Truman is No. 6.

In my younger days while living in Missouri I passed up a chance to meet Truman and regret that decision to this day. For the life of me I cannot recall my reason for doing so.

Not long afterward Truman passed away on Dec. 26, 1972. To this day I cannot believe I passed up a chance to meet him.

Here are some of my favorite Truman quotes. He was a student of history and arguably one of the most intelligent presidents in U.S. history.

Truman once said: “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” He also said: “Education is our first line of defense. In the conflict of principle and policy which divides the world today, America’s hope, our hope, the hope of the world, is in education.”

And he said: “There is not really anything new, if you know what has gone before. What is new to people is what they do not know about their history or the history of the world.”

I am a firm believer that one should know the history of markets, or a specific market, before plunking down hard-earned money into any segment of the Big Four — stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities.

Certainly, one does not need to be fully versed in the history of markets, per se, or investing, but doing a bit of research can’t hurt. Best of all, you may enjoy it.

History was indeed made this week when the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of England hiked interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point a day apart.

Many hoped the Federal Reserve would ease up on rates after the hike this week. But Fed Chair Jerome Powell stated: “It is very premature to think about pausing. We have a ways to go.”

That statement put to rest the hope the Fed was going to back off on fighting inflation. The Bank of England was more direct about interest rates than the Fed or Powell.

From “The Bank of England has warned the UK is facing its longest recession since records began, as it raised interest rates by the most in 33 years.

“It warned the UK would face a ‘very challenging’ two-year slump with unemployment nearly doubling by 2025.

“Bank boss Andrew Bailey warned of a ‘tough road ahead’ for UK households, but said it had to act forcefully now or things ‘will be worse later on.’”

A sobering forecast indeed.

In the United States with interest rates rising at their fastest rate in 40 years, are we facing a recession or depression? Well, that all depends on how such economic conditions are viewed.

Truman once weighed in on that very issue and said: “It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.”

One of my favorite stories about Truman comes from “In 1948, President Harry Truman was running for reelection. During a campaign stop in Bremerton, Washington, Truman delivered a rousing speech attacking the Republicans. One of Truman’s supporters called out, ‘Give ‘em hell, Harry!’ Truman replied, ‘I don’t give them hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it’s hell.’”

As it turned out, “Give ‘em hell, Harry” became a reference to Truman’s 1948 reelection campaign. It is also the name of a very successful play and a movie.

The 1948 Truman reelection campaign was hard fought and very close — so close in fact that at the very last minute some newspapers called the election outcome the wrong way.

A now-famous photo shows Truman with a big smile on his face holding up a two-day-old copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune with a headline reading, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” In reality, Truman defeated Dewey and made history in the process.

It remains to be seen if the U.S. economy will endure a hard or soft economic landing. But tumultuous times are ahead as the world’s central banks are hiking rates in unison, something never before experienced.

I am, however, certain about one thing: If Truman was still with us he would be having fun and giving ‘em hell with a broad smile on his face — and that is why he is considered by most as one of the greats.