Created in 1913 with the enactment of the Federal Reserve Act, the Federal Reserve (the Fed) is the central banking system of the U.S. The Fed functions as the bank of the U.S. government, overseeing the nation’s financial institutions. As the central bank, the Fed safeguards and manages the U.S. economy and its money supply with its economic and monetary policies, which makes it a very powerful global player. Ben Bernanke is the current chairman of the Federal Reserve.
According to research by UC Berkeley, in 2012, the top one percent of income earners in the U.S. earned 22.5% of all the income. The bottom 90%, on the other hand, earned less than 50% of all the income. (Source: Pew Research Center, January 7, 2014.) Income inequality in the U.S. economy is the highest it has been since 1928. The rich are getting richer, and the poor are seeing their share of income decline.
And according to the United States Department of Agriculture, in 2013, 17.5 million households in the U.S. economy were “food insecure.” This means that at some point during the year, they had difficulty putting food on the table for all their family members due to a lack of resources. This number, 17.5 million food insecure households, was unchanged from 2012. (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, September 2014.)
As I have said many times in these pages, economic growth will occur in the U.S. economy only once the average American Joe sees his standard of living improve. This isn’t happening. In fact, the standard of living is deteriorating despite the Federal Reserve having printed and pumped trillions of new dollars into the financial system.
The problem with income inequality in the U.S. escalated after the Great Recession of 2008. According to the Russell Sage Foundation, at the end of 2013, median family wealth in the U.S. economy was $56,335—a decline of more than 43% from $98,872 in 2007. (Source: “Wealth Levels, Wealth Inequality and the Great Recession,” Russell Sage Foundation, June 2014.)
Dear reader, the fact is the U.S. economy isn’t going through a period of … Read More
Credit card companies are some of the best indicators in the global economy. Visa Inc. (V) just reported a pretty decent quarter. While earnings were down comparatively due to a one-time charge, adjusted earnings handily beat consensus.
The company’s fiscal fourth quarter came in solid, with growth of 10% on a constant dollar basis to $3.2 billion compared to the same quarter last year.
Recently, the company increased its quarterly dividend 20%, and a new $5.0-billion share repurchase program has now been authorized.
Management estimates that its upcoming fiscal 2015 will produce revenue growth in the low double-digits and diluted earnings-per-share (EPS) growth in the mid-teens, which is very solid.
Visa’s share price really hasn’t done anything for the last 12 months. But this is on the back of tremendous capital appreciation in 2012 and 2013.
This stock market certainly seems trendless as of late. Investors are taking in corporate earnings news, but not doing too much with it.
The earnings numbers from many large-caps and conglomerates are pretty solid. But this market is tired out and the near-term action seems muted.
September and October are often difficult months for stocks and it’s unclear as to why. But going by the earnings results we’re getting and the forecasts that corporations are providing, I think it’s reasonable to expect a good fourth quarter—barring any shocks.
The marketplace knows that the Federal Reserve is going to initiate a new upward cycle in interest rates. It also knows that the central bank has proven to be highly accommodative to equities in recent history and deflationary indicators will increase the duration of when rates … Read More
It’s widely expected that at the end of this month, the Federal Reserve will end its third round of quantitative easing (that began in September of 2012). This is QE3, where the Federal Reserve was printing $85.0 billion of new money every month and using it to buy U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). In the beginning of 2014, the Fed started reducing the amount of money it was printing each month.
Is there another round of quantitative easing (more commonly known as QE) coming?
Here’s why I ask…
First, U.S. long-term bond yields are collapsing. Back in 2013, when the Federal Reserve hinted that it might move away from quantitative easing, we saw U.S. bond yields soar. Between May and December of 2013, yields on the U.S. 10-year notes almost doubled. But since then the unexpected happened.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Since the beginning of 2014, the yields on the same bonds have plunged 30%. Despite the Federal Reserve telling us it expects to raise interest rates in 2015 and 2016 (which would be catastrophic for bonds), bond prices are rising… Odd, to say the least.
Second, I hear hints about QE4 from key members of the Federal Reserve. In an interview with Reuters, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco said, “If we really get a sustained, disinflationary forecast…then I think moving back to additional asset purchases in a situation like that should be something we should seriously consider.” (Source: “Exclusive: Fed’s Williams downplays global risks, eyes U.S. inflation,” Reuters, October 14, 2014.)
In other words, if inflation in the U.S. economy doesn’t meet the … Read More
Amid all the turmoil in capital markets, I’m reminded of all the good corporate earnings being released.
Of course, the stock market is a system of discounting future business conditions and the recent sell-off has been pronounced, but stocks have come so far over the last several years. If the catalysts were deflationary pressures among oil prices and global economic activity, a little haircut in share prices is well deserved.
One of the first businesses to show a real turnaround after the financial crisis sent stocks and the economy tanking was Winnebago Industries, Inc. (WGO).
The first thing that dries up when there’s a shock to the economy is spending on luxury items and/or non-essential products. Likewise, the recreational vehicle market is very sensitive to prevailing economic conditions. For a number of years now, however, Winnebago Industries has been on a turnaround roll.
Based in Forest City, Iowa, the company’s fourth fiscal quarter of 2014 (ended August 30, 2014) saw revenues improve a solid 15% to $246 million, up from $214 million in the same quarter last year.
The company reported that it experienced a 15% improvement in total motorhome sales. A 25% comparable gain in motorhome unit growth was offset by lower average selling prices.
Earnings came in solid with management noting particular bottom-line strength in towable recreational vehicles. Total fourth-quarter operating earnings grew 19% to $18.3 million. Net earnings grew to $12.9 million for a comparable quarterly gain of 22%, while net earnings per diluted share improved 26% to $0.48.
All in all, it was another very good financial report from Winnebago Industries and the company just reinstated … Read More
Over the past few months, I warned my readers the stock market had become a risky place to be. While I also suggested euphoria could bring the market higher than most thought possible—to the point of irrationality—the bubble has now burst. Key stock indices are falling and fear among investors is rising quickly.
Please look at the chart below of the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index (VIX). This index is often referred to as the “fear index” for key stock indices. If this index rises, it means investors fear a market sell-off. If it declines, investors are complacent and not worried about the stock market falling.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
In just the last 18 trading days (between September 19 and October 15), the VIX has jumped 122% and now stands at the highest level since mid-2012. It has also moved way beyond its 50-day and 200-day moving averages, which shows strength and momentum to the upside from a technical perspective.
Sadly, the VIX isn’t the only indicator telling us that investors don’t want to be in the stock market. Below you’ll find the NAAIM Exposure Index chart, a measure of equity exposure of active money managers (the so-called smart money).
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Active money managers continue to reduce their exposure to equities as key stock indices fall. On September 2, 82% of their collective portfolios were exposed to the stock market. Now, it’s only 33%. This represents a decline of 60% in their equity market exposure.
On the fundamental front, the stock market is constrained as well. Each day, we are seeing deteriorating economic data … Read More
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