This week, Heath Hightower and I are attending the Schwab IMPACT conference in Boston, providing us with the chance to hear from thought leaders across our industry. Yesterday, I had an opportunity to sit down one-on-one with Rick Rieder, Chief Investment Officer of Fundamental Fixed Income at BlackRock and portfolio manager of the BlackRock Strategic Income fund, an investment we’ve held in our clients’ portfolios for many years.
Now anyone who knows “bond guys” will agree that they aren’t generally known for their optimism, so after hearing Rick talk so enthusiastically about the long-term prospects for US investors, I was eager to pass a few nuggets along to our clients.
Rick explained that even though it isn’t reflected in some of the indicators commonly used by economists and market pundits, the economy is growing. He explained that technology is creating growth without the inflation that typically comes along with it. In other words, technology is improving our efficiency, and as companies and consumers become more efficient, costs go down.
Here’s an example: “A single iPhone in 1991 storage and computing cost dollars would be worth $1,440,000 today.” Let that sink in for just a moment. Staggering, isn’t it?
Smartphones are revolutionizing how we work and play. He asked me to think about all of the things we do today on our smartphones that used to require multiple devices: alarm clock, flashlight, dictionary, calendar, rolodex, camera, etc., etc.
Rick told me that half of all photographs taken in all of history will be taken this year. Eighty-seven percent of people in the millennial generation take at least one photo a week on their phone, and the only technology in history to be adopted more quickly than the smartphone was the television.
Rick’s point was that these technologies are causing businesses and consumers to be so much more efficient than they’ve ever been, which leads to a much stronger economy.
Now these sentiments may seem overly simplistic. After all, it isn’t exactly news that smartphones are revolutionary, but don’t be fooled. The day-to-day fluctuations of the market can be based heavily on short-term indicators that fail to look at the deeper story. So while the markets gyrate due to monthly data readings, Rick believes growth and returns over the long term will be driven by huge changes in demographics and technology. Hard to argue with that, isn’t it?