An economic slowdown is a contraction in the economy. This can be viewed by several indicators, including lower gross domestic product (GDP), higher unemployment, lower industrial production, lower business investment, decline in retail sales, and a decrease in corporate profits. Not all of these factors need to be present for an economic slowdown, but these are some of the main indications to watch for regarding the overall health of the economy.
Now that the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 1,035 points (six percent) from its mid-September peak, the question investors are asking is “how far will she go?” For small-cap investors, the drama is greater, as the Russell 2000 Index has fallen 12.5% from its July peak.
Since 2009, every market pullback presented investors with an opportunity to get back into stocks at discounted prices. Even some editors here at Lombardi Publishing Corporation see the recent pullback in stocks as an opportunity.
But what happens if it is different this time? How about if stocks just keep falling?
If you have been a long-term follower of my column, you know I have been adamant about an economic slowdown in the global economy.
And let’s face it: the American stock markets have been addicted to the easy money policies of the Federal Reserve, namely money printing and record-low interest rates. But that is all coming to an end now. The Fed will be out of the money printing business soon and it has warned us on several occasions that interest rates will need to rise.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is now (or should I say, is finally) warning about an economic slowdown in the global economy. In its most recent global growth forecast, the IMF said, “With weaker-than-expected global growth for the first half of 2014 and increased downside risks, the projected pickup in growth may again fail to materialize or fall short of expectation.” The IMF also said the global economy may never see the kind of expansion it experienced prior to the financial crisis. (Source: “IMF says economic … Read More
So the S&P 500 has touched the 2,000 mark.
Will the S&P 500 continue to march to new highs?
Well, my opinion towards the stock market hasn’t changed. I remain skeptical for a variety of reasons, many of which I have shared with my readers over the past few months.
But I have a new concern about the stock market, something that hasn’t been touched on by analysts: trading volume is collapsing.
Please look at the table below. It shows the performance of the S&P 500 and its change in trading volume.
|Year||Performance||Change in Volume|
*Until August 25, 2014
Data source: StockCharts.com, last accessed August 25, 2014
Key stock indices like the S&P 500 (it is the same story for the Dow Jones) are rising as volumes are declining, suggesting buyers’ participation in the stock market advance is very low. For a healthy stock market rally, any technical analyst will tell you that you need rising volume, not declining volume.
It’s Economics 101: rising demand pushes prices higher. In the case of the S&P 500, we have declining demand (low trading volume) and rising prices. Something doesn’t make sense here.
Looking at the economic data, it further suggests key stock indices are stretched. We continue to see the factors that are supposed to drive the U.S. economy to deteriorate.
Just look at the housing market. The number of new homes sold continues to decline. In January, the annual rate of new-home sales in the U.S. was 457,000 units. By July, it was down more than 10% … Read More
Not too long ago, I reported that Italy, the third-biggest economy in the eurozone, had fallen back into recession.
Now Germany’s economy is pulling back. In the second quarter of 2014, the largest economy in the eurozone witnessed a decline in its gross domestic product (GDP)—the first decline in Germany’s GDP since the first quarter of 2013. (Source: Destatis, August 14, 2014.)
And more difficult times could lie ahead…
In August, the ZEW Indicator of Economic Sentiment, a survey that asks analysts and investors where the German economy will go, posted a massive decline. The index collapsed 18.5 points to sit at 8.6 points. This indicator has been declining for eight consecutive months and now sits at its lowest level since December of 2012. (Source: ZEW, August 12, 2014.)
Not only does the ZEW indicator provide an idea about the business cycle in Germany, it also gives us an idea of where the eurozone will go, since Germany is the biggest economic hub in the region.
But there’s more…
France, the second-biggest economy in the eurozone, is also in a precarious position—and a recession may not be too far away for France.
After seeing its GDP grow by only 0.4% in 2013, France’s GDP came in at zero for the first two quarters of 2014. (Source: France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, August 14, 2014.)
France’s problems don’t end there. This major eurozone country is experiencing rampant unemployment, which has remained elevated for a very long time.
While I understand North Americans may not be interested in knowing much about the economic slowdown in the eurozone, we must … Read More
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
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