Last year, during the worst health crisis in more than a hundred years in the United States, Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan was frequently throwing gasoline on the fire in broadcast and print media interviews. Also in 2020, Kaplan was trading in and out of S&P 500 futures, a sophisticated instrument used by hedge funds to time the market and/or short the market. The Dallas Fed will not say if Kaplan engaged in shorting the market during a national health crisis. (Shorting means to place a bearish bet that the market or a security will fall in value.)
Kaplan gave a total of 68 interviews with the press in 2020, an eyebrow raising number for a man also trading S&P 500 futures.
Twice in the span of six days in May of 2020, Kaplan predicted that unemployment was going to surge to 20 percent. That’s a very bold and very bearish call. According to the Congressional Research Service, the maximum unemployment rate in 2020 topped out at 14.8 percent in April.
Kaplan made the 20 percent unemployment prediction on Fox Business with Maria Bartiromo, the cable TV show, on May 1. When the interview started, around 8:34 a.m. ET, Dow Futures were down 450 points. By the time Kaplan finished speaking, Dow Futures had dropped another 10 points. You can watch the program here. In addition to the 20 percent unemployment prediction, Kaplan also described the economic outlook in the interview as an “historic contraction,” “very severe,” and noted that the consumer (which represents two-thirds of GDP growth in the U.S.) had “suffered a body blow.” Throwing a little more anxiety into viewers’ minds, Kaplan predicted disinflation for both 2020 and 2021. (It should be noted that it’s inflation worries that are making headlines today.)