It's Coming, Are You Ready?

Automation may wipe out 1/3 of America’s workforce

In a new study that is optimistic about automation yet stark in its appraisal of the challenge ahead, McKinsey says massive government intervention will be required to hold societies together against the ravages of labor disruption over the next 13 years. Up to 800 million people—including a third of the work force in the U.S. and Germany—will be made jobless by 2030, the study says.

The bottom line: The economy of most countries will eventually replace the lost jobs, the study says, but many of the unemployed will need considerable help to shift to new work, and salaries could continue to flatline. "It's a Marshall Plan size of task," Michael Chui, lead author of the McKinsey report.

In the eight-month study, the McKinsey Global Institute, the firm's think tank, found that almost half of those thrown out of work—375 million people, comprising 14% of the global work force—will have to find entirely new occupations, since their old one will either no longer exist or need far fewer workers. Chinese will have the highest such absolute numbers—100 million people changing occupations, or 12% of the country's 2030 work force.

The details:

  • Up to 30% of the hours worked globally may be automated by 2030.
  • The transition compares to the U.S. shift from a largely agricultural to an industrial-services economy in the early 1900s forward. But this time, it's not young people leaving farms, but mid-career workers who need new skills. "There are few precedents in which societies have successfully retrained such large numbers of people," the report says, and that is the key question: how do you retrain people in their 30s, 40s and 50s for entirely new professions?
  • Just as they are now, wages may still not be sufficient for a middle-class standard of living. But "a healthy consumer class is essential for both economic growth and social stability," the report says. The U.S. should therefore consider income supplement programs, to establish a bottom-line standard of living.
  • Whether the transition to a far more automated society goes smoothly rests almost entirely "on the choices we make," Chui said. For example, wages can be exacerbated or improved. Chui recommended "more investment in infrastructure, and that those workers be paid a middle wage."
  • Do not attempt to slow the rollout of AI and robotization, the report urged, but instead accelerate it, because a slowdown "would curtail the contributions that these technologies make to business dynamism and economic growth."

For Gold Bulls the Disappointment Continues

As you can see in the ratio chart (middle pane) below that gold’s out-performance against the SP500 came to an end in 2012 when the ratio broke both the upper red horizontal and blue uptrend line simultaneously. Since that time the SP500 has been kicking tail as it has outperformed gold by ~45%.  We can also see that the ratio has been consolidating sideways since 2015, bouncing between the upper and lower channel providing gold bulls hope a turnaround was in the cards.  Unfortunately, it was not to be as you can see support finally gave way to the down side last month.  

Ratio charts are a great way to view relative performance but ultimately help decide which to commit your investment capital to (assuming achieving the best returns are what you desire). In the choice between gold or stocks, the chart is sending a strong message that stocks are the place to be. Like all trends this will eventually change, but until then there is no reason at this time to be (over)exposed to gold.

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All the Right Moves?

All the Right Moves

While this chart does not show it, Inphi Corp., IPHI, a semiconductor company right here in our backyard rose almost 600% from the end of 2012 until the beginning of this year. Since peaking early this year, it fell 35% and then began to consolidate sideways (underneath blue horizontal resistance zone) bouncing between $32 and $41/share.

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Interestingly, last week it broke and closed above resistance on higher than average volume. Since then, as quite often happens, price is back-testing that same level testing support on lower than average volume.  Yesterday closed with a hammer candle which, if we get confirmation in the next few sessions, indicates at least a temporary bottom. A breakout from this horizontal pattern indicates a price target back up to January’s highs which is more than 22% higher.

A price correction followed by at least a six month consolidation, a breakout on higher than average volume with a back-test of support is an almost perfect setup from this technicians view. A hold above support provides a compelling argument for additions to patient, risk tolerant investor's portfolios.