Washington, DC -- (ReleaseWire) -- 04/30/2015 --The Greek philosopher Aristotle famously said, "Happiness depends upon ourselves." In fact, in his great work, the Nicomachean Ethics, he explores the question of what the ultimate purpose of human existence is, the goal toward which all our activities should be directed. For Aristotle that ultimate purpose is happiness. Every move, every decision we make is about our own personal happiness. Now, 2,300 years later, we in the 21st Century are still consumed with questions regarding happiness. Of course, such questions tend to lead us to the very biggest issues, when we look at them from a global perspective.
Last week, the UN-sponsored Sustainable Development Solutions Network released their third World Happiness Report. This report is designed to provide an index of perceived well-being as a guide for public policy decisions, and to that end, participants in 158 countries were asked to evaluate their lives through a survey. The major variables considered in the results are: national GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and the perceived level of corruption. Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada top the list, but the United States is down at number 15, behind Israel (11th, even with aerial bombardments and the constant threat of terrorism) and even Mexico, which ranked 14th.
Of course, Greece, all the way down at number 102, has suffered a huge decrease in the level of happiness as measured by the survey. This isn't surprising, as the Greek financial dilemma is continuing to get worse and worse. Their possible "Grexit" from the Eurozone is seeming more possible by the day. Berlin is certainly preparing for a Greek default. In a recent interview with the German news agency Bild, Mark Hauptmann, a lawmaker from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's political party spoke about this. He said that if Greece remains in the Eurozone, it will need not just a third bailout, but likely a fourth and a fifth, maybe even more. He went on to say that perhaps Greece leaving the Eurozone would actually be good in the long term, because it would allow European contracts to regain their validity. European bonds are currently trading at a negative yield, so of course only the central banks are buying them. The United States, however, isn't seeing the possibility in such a positive light. The head of the Council of Economic Advisers, Jason Furman, warned last week that Greece leaving the Eurozone would present a large and unnecessary risk for the global economy. It's likely we'll know more soon, because another debt repayment deadline looms on May 1st. If Greece and therefore Europe are on the verge of a financial collapse, it would inevitably have repercussions for the United States.
Unfortunately, we're not in the greatest position to deal with those repercussions, because all the growth we've seen in the last six years hasn't been exactly real. We're starting to see the cracks more and more each week. The number of publicly traded companies that filed for bankruptcy in the first quarter of 2015 was nearly double the number that did so in the first quarter of 2014. Caterpillar has seen 28 consecutive months of declining global retail sales, whereas during the 2008 crisis, they suffered only 19 consecutive months of the same. McDonald's, which is traditionally strong especially in difficult times, has announced intentions to close 700 poor performing restaurants in 2015. Add to this a piece of trading lore that goes, "Sell in May and go away." Conventional wisdom says that stocks perform more poorly during the period from May to October than during the November-April span. In fact, Yardeni Research has examined this, and found that since 1928, the S&P 500 rose an average of only 1.9% during May-October, but as much as 5.2% in the November-April period.
The central banks have become so deeply entrenched in the markets, nearly the sole drivers of investment decisions, that there seems to be no way for them to gracefully extricate themselves. If Greece does turn out to be the first domino that starts the whole chain tumbling, investors need to be prepared with liquidity and defensive positions. Investors need to consider their options and seek solutions that make sense, because there is no white knight riding to their rescue. We need to be our own white knights. It's worth remembering the quote from Aristotle we started with: "Happiness depends upon ourselves."
All data sourced through Bloomberg
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About Dawn Bennett
Dawn Bennett is CEO and Founder of Bennett Group Financial Services. She hosts a national radio program called Financial Myth Busting http://www.financialmythbusting.com
She discusses educational topics and events in the financial news, along with her thoughts on the economy, financial markets, investments, and more with her live guests, who have included rock legend Ted Nugent, as well as Steve Forbes and Grover Norquist. Listeners can call 855-884-DAWN a as well as take podcasts on the road and forums for interaction.
She can be reached on Twitter @DawnBennettFMB or on Facebook Financial Myth Busting with Dawn Bennett or firstname.lastname@example.org