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Economic naysayers, including Tampa's Harry Dent, are back with fresh reports of doom

Harry Dent Jr. says the U.S. and world economies will worsen.
Harry Dent Jr. says the U.S. and world economies will worsen.
Published Mar. 28, 2016

Florida's unemployment rate just fell below 5 percent and the Dow is ready to start the new week above 17,500. Must be time for the return of the gloom-and-doomsters.

Tampa's economic grump, financial adviser Harry S. Dent Jr., decided this past weekend was the right time to issue another dire warning that the nation's anger that's driving support for presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders may spark civil unrest.

"The economy will likely worsen into the conventions in July and the election in November," Dent wrote in a piece that appeared over the weekend on the online Business Insider website. "When the global slowdown and bubble collapse hits the U.S. more dramatically from mid-2016 through late 2017 (and beyond into 2022 or so), expect more widespread civil unrest in the U.S.," he wrote.

Dent has warned that the sky is falling numerous times. The Tampa Bay Times interviewed him in 2011 when he forecasted the Dow could fall as low as 3,300 no later than 2014. Instead, the Dow closed out 2014 above 17,500 — about where it is today.

Dent, who sold his Tampa home and rents in anticipation of a real estate calamity, acknowledged in his weekend remarks that he still owned "secluded property" in the Caribbean. "I know for a fact that its value will likely depreciate in the great real estate shakeout I see ahead, although likely by half as much as a high-end property in Florida," he said. He plans to flee there if, as he suggests, "things get really bad" in this country.

Dent has built a career offering dire outlooks, and this one sounds like another one that's over the top. Still, Dent is not the only voice out there who's at least raising disturbing questions about the U.S. economic future — especially if Donald Trump is elected president.

Earlier this month, Ian Winer, director of equity sales trading at the California-based investment firm Wedbush, told CNBC that stocks will fall 50 percent during the first term of a Trump presidency. He expects Trump to sharply cut taxes on the rich and corporations, but spend heavily on the military and infrastructure, thus running up huge deficits. At the same time, a Trump clampdown on immigration would hurt the nation's labor supply.

More investors also seem to have the jitters over the lack of staying power in the Dow. As reported Sunday by the Wall Street Journal, "some investors are so worried the markets will tumble that they are willing to lose money to protect themselves." The Journal describes investors over the past month pouring record sums into funds whose values increase along with Wall Street's so-called "fear gauge" — known formally as the CBOE Volatility Index.

"The demand for the products is one of the clearest signs yet that many investors are starting to position themselves for a reversal of a recent market rally" that has pulled the Dow and S&P 500 up by more than 11 percent since mid February, leaving the markets essentially flat for the year thus far.

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Is this all just cynical herd instinct? More likely, it's the stock market and an investment community reacting to the sharp rise of uncertainty everybody's feeling as we hurtle towards one of the more bizarre presidential elections in a lifetime.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com. Follow @venturetampabay.

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