As we bid adios to 2016  and anticipate 2017, many of the 'givens' from years past have vanished. The healthcare industry will almost certainly undergo another sea-change, like it did in 2010 with Obama Care. Taxes are apt to fall significantly with both a White House and Congress on parallel courses to cut virtually all tax rates, corporate and personal. International trade is headed for a shakeup as Mr. Trump promises to end or re-negotiate all major agreements on the table and in force that in his view unfairly penalize American interests. Major federally-funded construction projects will renovate highways, bridges, dams, waterways, and airports, but which ones and at what cost to the debt? Immigration laws will be strenuously enforced, impacting families, sanctuary cities, farms, and high tech companies dependent on lower cost visa workers. And foreign policy? If there ever was a case of 'out of the frying pan and into the fire,' we are there. The world is a mess and likely to to get messier, unless and until American diplomacy, backed by credibility and power, is reestablished.

Despite the disruption of a two-week shutdown and media warnings of impending financial doom if the debt ceiling was not raised, the stock market and the Treasury market have done surprisingly well. Both, of course, have more to do with continued government influence than with economic drivers.

Since our last Brief a couple of weeks ago, inflation has taken center stage as the new hand-wringer.  On March 2nd oil blew through its most recent high of $52.88 reached on October 26th.  It now stands at $56.62 per barrel.  But the economy seems relatively unfazed.  That is until recently.  It now appears that businesses are beginning to pass along their commodity and labor prices to consumers.  On Tuesday, Greenspan seemed to confirm what many had been worrying about for months; that inflation is creeping back into the economy.

For years investors took comfort in the statement above.  Contemporary investors, including this one, took comfort on Tuesday when the automotive giant affirmed its third-quarter profit outlook and production for the year, four days after rival Ford Motor Co. lowered its earnings forecast.  That prediction shocked investors who had been reassured by stronger-than-expected first-half U.S. auto sales as the economy slowed.  GM’s confidence on Tuesday gave investors a glimmer of hope that the economy‘s trend might be improving.