When there is a loss of confidence in financial assets, investors around the world sell them at the same time, which results in a financial crisis. These assets will, of course. be worth a fraction of what they were before. Financial institutions that own these assets may not have enough money to cover them. This causes financial institutions not to lend to people, because they have no liquidity. Without credit available in an economy from financial institutions, an economy contracts.
This is how a financial crisis translates into an economic contraction. This is why governments step in to provide liquidity to the banks—quantitative easing—in order to keep the economy from further contracting on itself. A financial crisis can bring an economy to its knees. The government’s job is to ensure there is no loss of confidence in the first place, because this is what triggers a financial crisis.
Getting a sense of where stocks are going to go in the year ahead is always difficult with the major indices at their all-time highs.
The fundamental backdrop is still very favorable for equities. While the Federal Reserve has put off raising interest rates for the near future, the cost of capital, especially for corporations, remains extremely low. And corporate balance sheets remain in excellent condition with strong cash positions and good prospects for rising dividends going forward.
The stock market recovered extremely well from the financial crisis and subsequent crash in 2008/2009. But it wasn’t until early 2013 that I saw the beginning of a new cycle for stocks, or a bull market as it were.
Until then, I viewed the market’s performance purely as a recovery period from the previous cycle, which was the technology bubble.
Many of the technology stocks have only now recovered to their previous highs set in 1999 and 2000. The recovery cycle took a long time to play out and the catalyst for its breakout was, not surprisingly, the Federal Reserve.
Stocks can move significantly higher in a rising interest rate environment, but only from a low base, which is what we have now. And within the context of a new market cycle or bull market, the economy can experience a full-blown recession and stocks can experience meaningful corrections.
The two most important catalysts for the equity market near-term are what corporations actually report about their businesses and the Federal Reserve’s actions.
The surprising weakness in oil prices should be evident in corporate financial results (especially in the fourth quarter). Old economy industries … 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
We 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.
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
Everything in the stock market experiences its own cycle of enthusiasm among investors. And this is especially well illustrated among speculative issues.
There was a time only a few years ago when some of the hottest speculative stocks were in solar energy. Now this small equity universe is still trying to rebuild itself.
And in more recent history, 3D-printing companies experienced incredible capital gains, only to experience incredible capital losses in what is a commonality among the market’s most speculative stocks.
At the end of the day, high-flying positions are still real businesses that have to deal with managing their own business conditions and hype among institutional investors.
As an investor, you have to consider both realities—the growth an underlying business is experiencing and the enthusiasm the marketplace has for such an enterprise or sector.
Twelve months ago, 3D Systems Corporation (DDD) was trading at $44.00 a share. Then it appreciated to a high of $97.28, before spending most of this year retreating to the $50.00-per-share level.
It’s only recently that the position broke the $55.00-per-share barrier, still sporting a forward price-to-earnings ratio of approximately 46.
Fervor for speculative stocks definitely diminished at the beginning of this year, and it’s part of the cycle that equities perpetually experience.
At the beginning of 2013, the breakout was in large-cap blue chips. Institutional investors had just started buying these stocks, and they led the broader market higher.
Then the NASDAQ Composite began to improve and actually took the lead for a while. But even with the Federal Reserve onside, it didn’t take too long for big investors to just book some profits. … Read More
I’m going to put aside my daily ranting about the stock market and the economy today to bring what I believe is an important story to the attention of my readers.
There is no doubt you’ve heard about how poorly the city of Detroit, Michigan is faring now that the automotive sector has all but closed up there.
Yesterday, news came that the city has started cutting off water to about 150,000 people. About half of the city’s 324,000 water customers are delinquent on paying their water bill, so the city is turning off their taps. (Source: Financial Post, June 24, 2014.)
In protest, residents are appealing to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, saying their human right to water has been denied. (Unfortunately, the right of access to water is not in our Constitution or our Charter of Rights.)
I think what’s happening in Detroit, while it’s not getting much publicity, is very important. It should be a warning to us all.
At the very core, it tells me that if a government is not taking in enough money to pay its bills, it will increase the financial burden on its citizens…and if you can’t pay, you’re cut off.
In the case of Detroit, last week, city council approved a nine-percent hike in what it charges for water. (And the government tells us inflation is below two percent!) This lesson teaches us that if you can’t pay the increased costs the government levies on you, it will cut you off.
Secondly, today’s citizens are responsible for the past actions (or should I say lack of actions) … Read More
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