Lombardi: Stock Market Commentary & Forecasts, Financial & Economic Analysis Since 1986

Eurozone

Formally established in 1993, the eurozone, often referred to as the “European Union,” is a political and economic union established after the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty by members of the European Community. It has since expanded to include some Central and Eastern European nations. The establishment of the eurozone provided for the creation of a central European bank and the adoption of a common currency: the euro. The idea behind the eurozone is to create a single geographical market where goods, services, and money can be exchanged freely.

My Poor Italy

By for Profit Confidential

Why This Stock Market Will Fall Like a RockThis morning came the news that Italy, a country very close to my heart (just look at my last name) and the third-biggest economy in the eurozone, is back in recession.

And Germany, the biggest economy in Europe, saw factory orders in June drop by the most since 2011.

While the financial media has taken the focus off the eurozone over the past couple of years, I have continued to tell my readers about how bad conditions are there. I have the pleasure to travel to the eurozone several times a year. I can tell you first-hand how people there are suffering. Outside of Germany and the smaller, rich countries, jobs in the eurozone are extremely hard to find and wages are very soft.

The European Central Bank’s move to bringing its overnight deposit rate to negative is obviously not having its desired effect of getting banks there to lend out more money. Many eurozone banks are in serious financial trouble. You can’t force a bank to lend money to its customers if the bank is concerned about its own financial health.

With about half of the S&P 500 companies deriving revenue from Europe, it is no wonder American corporations are having trouble increasing revenue. Last week, the eurozone introduced wide-ranging sanctions against Russia because of the Ukraine situation. Russia is Germany’s largest trading partner in Europe—obviously, eurozone companies will feel the pain of the sanctions imposed on Russia.

In the U.S., we were already dealing with an overpriced stock market—a market characterized by heaving corporate insider selling, too much bullishness among stock advisors, the VIX Index saying investors … Read More

The Only Sector I See with a Ten-to-One Return Potential

By for Profit Confidential

Shattering the Myth Behind Interest Rates and GoldWe are hearing more and more about interest rates getting ready to rise. The Federal Reserve itself has said it expects the federal funds rate to increase to 1.5% by the end of next year and to 2.25% by the end of 2016.

Before the Fed came out with its forecast, I was writing about how the Fed will have no choice but to raise interest rates because inflation is rising too quickly.

And I have been reading what clueless reporters and analysts are writing about how gold bullion prices don’t perform well in a high interest rates environment. I want to set the record straight for my readers.

Shattering the myth about the high interest rates, today’s rates are still very low compared to the historical average. In the chart below, you will see the changes in the Federal Reserve’s federal funds rate since 1980.

Effective Federal Funds Rate Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Over the past five years, the benchmark interest rate set by the Federal Reserve has all but collapsed to zero. Moving rates to 2.25% by 2016 will have a significant impact on the economy. But at 2.25%, over the long-term, it’s still a very low rate. Prior to the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, the federal funds rate stood above five percent.

Bringing it back to gold bullion, if you are old like me and remember the early 1980s when interests were very high, you will also remember gold bullion was trading at a then-record high of more than $800.00 an ounce, or about $2,500 in 2014 dollars.

The higher interest rates went then, the higher gold bullion went. … Read More

About That Letter My Dad Got in the Mail Friday

By for Profit Confidential

Pay a Bank to Hold Your MoneyMy father is 87 years old. He’s in great shape, drives on his own, plays cards with the guys each afternoon, and has basically been enjoying retirement since he sold his business when he was 65.

Like all retirees, he and my Mom have been living off their savings for years.

And like millions of Americans, the low interest rates we have been enduring since the Federal Reserve decided back in 2008 that it was best to bring rates down to historically low levels (and keep them there for six years) haven’t been kind to them.

But last week, the letter we got in the mail, well, it was the last straw.

My folks have some of their money in the wealth management division of one of the largest banks in North America. On Friday, we received a letter from them that said the bank would start charging a fee of $500.00 a year if the balance in my parents’ accounts fell below $125,000.

Yes, you got that right. If my parents keep less than $125,000 in their accounts at this (essentially) brokerage arm of the bank, they will be charged $500.00 a year for the bank to keep their money.

Nice. (If you are a small business owner, imagine treating your customers like that!)

The letter ended by saying that if we are not happy with the bank, we can transfer the money to another financial institution by a certain deadline date and the transfer fee will be waived. Nice, again.

Dear reader, I have been writing to you for months that my view is essentially that money is … Read More

Negative Interest Rates: They’re Here

By for Profit Confidential

What Happens When You Toy with Nature's Boom & Bust CyclesIn 2012, I predicted that if the Federal Reserve couldn’t get the economy growing again, it would take interest rates into the negative zone.

Well, yesterday, the European Central Bank (ECB), the second-biggest central bank in the world, trumped the Fed and became the first major central bank to offer depositors negative interest rates.

What does “negative interest rates” mean?

Each night, major banks in the eurozone collectively deposit USD$1.0 trillion with the ECB. By cutting its overnight rate to negative, these banks will end up paying the ECB to hold their funds.

The ECB hopes that instead of getting a negative return on their money, the major banks in the eurozone will start lending their money out to borrowers, which will get the economy in the eurozone moving again.

This won’t work. Here’s why:

1)      Preservation of capital is the most important thing for banks in the eurozone. If they can deposit their $1.0 trillion with the ECB, even if they have to pay for the safekeeping, it’s a more secure move than lending money to businesses that are still far too risky because the eurozone economy is far too weak. The government regulation of opening and running a business in the eurozone is overwhelming.

2)      If the eurozone banks are getting a negative return on their money, how can they possibly pay savers a return on the money they have sitting in the bank? Yes, savers are punished once again with this latest central bank move.

3)      Smaller countries like Sweden and Denmark tried negative interest rates during 2009 and 2012; they didn’t work in stimulating those economies…. Read More

Next Stop for the Paper Money Printing Press…

By for Profit Confidential

Eurozone's Economic Troubles Far From OverWhen we asked our readers what they enjoy reading the most on Profit Confidential, less than 10% of them said they like to read about the eurozone. We understand it’s not a topic of interest with the majority of our readers, but I can’t stress enough that what’s happening in the eurozone right now is very critical to the U.S. economy.

American-based companies have massive operations in the eurozone and generate significant portions of their sales from the region. American companies are already struggling to post revenue gains in 2014. If the economic slowdown in the eurozone continues, American companies’ revenues will be pressured further, and that means lower corporate earnings.

While giving its 2014 outlook during it first-quarter earnings release, Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE/CAT) said, “The Eurozone economy is recovering but is far from healthy. The ongoing decline in business lending, slowing inflation and recent strengthening in the euro are all concerns. The unwillingness of the ECB to take more aggressive actions risks leaving the economy struggling for years. Continued weak growth would make it difficult for businesses to maintain existing operations, let alone make new investments.” (Source: “Caterpillar Reports Higher First-Quarter Profit Per Share and Raises its 2014 Profit Outlook,” Caterpillar Inc. web site, April 24, 2014.)

But when you listen to the mainstream media, they are saying the opposite of Caterpillar; they are saying the economic slowdown in the eurozone is over. I think they are completely wrong.

And the situation with “bad debt”—the reason the eurozone got into trouble in the first place—is getting worse, not better, as debt-infested countries like Spain and Italy are … Read More

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