GDP is the abbreviation for “Gross Domestic Product,” the market value of all the goods and services produced by a country in a given year. It includes all the expenditures of citizens, investors and government, and the value of all exports less imports, in a year.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) surprised even the most optimistic of economists when it reported the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of four percent in the second quarter of 2014.
On the surface, the number—four percent growth—sounds great. But how serious should we take that gross domestic product (GDP) figure?
Firstly, I’d like to start by pointing out that the BEA often revises its GDP numbers downward. We saw this happen in the first quarter. First, we saw the BEA say the U.S. economy grew by 0.1% in the first quarter, then after a couple of revisions, they said the economy actually contracted 2.9% in the quarter.
I obviously expect the BEA to lower its initial second-quarter GDP numbers again.
But here’s what really worries me…
If the GDP data suggests the U.S. economy is growing, why are investors pricing in an economic slowdown?
The chart below is of the 10-year U.S. Treasury, the so-called safe haven. Back in 2007 to 2009, investors ran to U.S. Treasuries as a safe haven. As the U.S. economy improved, the yields on the 10-year U.S. Treasury started to rise as interest rates rose with general optimism towards the economy.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
But since the beginning of this year, yields on the 10-year U.S. notes have declined 18%. This is despite the fact the biggest buyer of these bonds, the Federal Reserve, has stepped away from buying these Treasuries as its quantitative easing program comes to an end.
At the same time, we have the stock market finally starting to give in. So if the stock market is a … Read More
Earlier this month, Jeremy Siegal, a well-known “bull” on CNBC, took to the airwaves to predict the Dow Jones Industrial Average would go beyond 18,000 by the end of this year. Acknowledging overpriced valuations on the key stock indices are being ignored, he argued historical valuations should be taken with a grain of salt and nothing more. (Source: CNBC, July 2, 2014.)
Sadly, it’s not only Jeremy Siegal who has this point of view. Many other stock advisors who were previously bearish have thrown in the towel and turned bullish towards key stock indices—regardless of what the historical stock market valuation tools are saying.
We are getting to the point where today’s mentality about key stock indices—the sheer bullish belief stocks will only move higher—has surpassed the optimism that was prevalent in the stock market in 2007, before stocks crashed.
At the very core, when you pull away the stock buyback programs and the Fed’s tapering of the money supply and interest rates, there is one main factor that drives key stock indices higher or lower: corporate earnings. So, for key stock indices to continue to make new highs, corporate profits need to rise.
But there are two blatant threats to companies in the key stock indices and the profits they generate.
First, the U.S. economy is very, very weak. While we saw negative gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the first quarter of this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) just downgraded its U.S. economic projection. The IMF now expects the U.S. economy to grow by just 1.7% in 2014. (Source: International Monetary Fund, July 24, 2014.) One more … Read More
According to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, next year, the government is expected to incur a budget deficit of $469 billion and then another budget deficit of $536 billion in 2016. (Source: Congressional Budget Office web site, last accessed July 21, 2014.) From there, the budget deficit is expected to increase as far as the projections go.
Yes, the government’s own estimates are that our country will run a budget deficit every year for as long as the government’s forecasts go.
That’s quite unbelievable. We live in a country where the government (and politicians) feel it is okay to continue being “negative” every year, indefinitely. It’s like I’ve written many times: if our government were a business, it would have gone bankrupt long ago. But the government, through its non-owned agency, the Federal Reserve, has the luxury of printing paper money to fund its budget deficit and debt. If a business did that—printed money to pay its bills—that would be illegal.
Today, the U.S. national debt stands at $17.6 trillion with about $7.0 trillion of that incurred under the Obama Administration. (Is it any wonder a CNN/ORC International poll said this morning that 35% of Americans say they want President Obama impeached with about two-thirds saying he should be removed from office?)
But what happens to the budget deficit once interest rates start going up? We’ve already heard from the Federal Reserve that interest rates will be sharply higher at the end of 2015 and 2016 than they are now.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of the Treasury was able to borrow money (issued long-term bonds) at an interest … Read More
Investors poured $4.3 billion into the SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE/SPY) last week, an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks the S&P 500. For the week, ETFs tracking U.S. equities witnessed the most inflows in the last four weeks. (Source: Reuters, July 17, 2014.)
And as investors continue to inject vast sums of money into the stocks, stock valuations are at historical extremes. When I want to see how expensive the stock market is getting, I look at the S&P 500 Shiller P/E multiple (the value of stocks compared to what they earn adjusted for inflation)…and it’s screaming overvalued.
In July, the S&P 500 Shiller P/E stood at 25.96. That means that for every $1.00 a company makes, investors are willing to pay $25.96. The stock market has reached this P/E valuation (25.96) only seven percent of the time since 1881.
The number suggests the stock market is overvalued by 57%, according to its historical average of 16.55. (Source: Yale University web site, last accessed July 18, 2014.) The last time the S&P 500 Shiller P/E was above the current level was in October of 2007—just before one of the worst market sell-offs in history.
But this isn’t the only indicator suggesting the stock market is overvalued.
Another indicator of stock market valuation I look at is called the market capitalization-to-GDP multiple. Very simply put, this indicator is a gauge of the value of the stock market compared to the overall economy. It has been a good predictor of where key stock indices will head.
At the end of the first quarter of this year, the Wilshire 5000 Full Cap Price Index … Read More
A few years ago, investors couldn’t get enough of Chinese stocks. This led to numerous frauds committed by crooks in China that has since tarnished the reputation and reliability of all Chinese companies, whether they’re legitimate or not, despite their operating in one of the top growth areas in the world.
While I’m not focused on Chinese stocks at this moment due to better trading opportunities in the domestic stock market, I monitor the country and remain convinced it’s still a key place to have some risk capital invested in. When the broader market understands this, I would expect renewed buying in Chinese stocks sometime in the future.
My view is that the country’s current leadership under President Xi Jinping, who assumed power in March 2013, has a vision to create a country of consumers, just like the United States; albeit, I doubt it will come close to what we see here with consumer spending driving 70% of gross domestic product (GDP) growth. In China, consumer spending drives about 30% of GDP so there’s work to do. In the second quarter, retail sales continued at a double-digit growth of 12.4% year-over-year.
The objective to cut the country’s dependence on exports and foreign investment makes sense. With a potential market in excess of one billion people, it’s the right move.
China may not be in the spotlight for investors now, but you cannot ignore the country. With the recent years of underperformance, I see great longer-term upside in Chinese stocks.
The Chinese economy is growing at well below the double-digit growth of the past, but comparatively, the growth is far superior … Read More
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