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.
A recession for the global economy is becoming an increasingly likely scenario.
The Chinese economy, the second-biggest in the world, witnessed a contraction in manufacturing in May. The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) registered 49.6 for May, declining from 50.4 in April. (Source: Markit, May 23, 2013.) Any number below 50 represents contraction in the manufacturing sector.
The Chinese economy exports a significant amount of what it produces to the global economy. Contraction in Chinese manufacturing shows exports are falling—the global demand for goods is falling.
Similarly, Germany’s Flash Manufacturing PMI showed continuous contraction in the manufacturing sector. The index stood at 49.0 in May. (Source: Markit, May 23, 2013.) The German economy is important to observe, because it’s the largest economy in the eurozone and an economic slowdown in the nation can send the common currency region into another downward spiral, again affecting the global economy.
Looking at other key indicators, they are pointing to an economic slowdown ahead in the global economy. Consider the copper market. Demand for copper is suggesting activity in the global economy is sluggish, even deteriorating.
Copper prices are down more than 10% since the beginning of 2013, and stockpiles of the brown metal, tracked by the London Metals Exchange (LME), are up a staggering 95% this year! (Source: Bloomberg, May 23, 2013.)
Other industrial metal prices, such as aluminum, lead, nickel, and zinc, are in decline as well.
How can the U.S. economy possibly improve when the global economy is in trouble?
The U.S. is highly affected by any shift in demand in the global economy.
After the financial crisis … Read More
As I have been writing in these pages, economic growth in the U.S. economy won’t happen by printing more paper money—it’s a short-term fix that creates more long-term problems.
According to data compiled by Bloomberg, 2,267 non-financial constituents of the Russell 3000 index saw their cash holdings increase by 13% to $1.73 trillion in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same period a year earlier. (Source: Bloomberg, May 23, 2013.)
As the cash hoard continues, business spending declined 21% in the first quarter compared to the last quarter of 2012. This was the biggest decline since the financial crisis of 2008.
To top this off, business executives in the U.S. economy are worried about troubles in the global economy, and they don’t have a very optimistic view on conditions here at home. A CEO Confidence Survey conducted by the Conference Board suggests only 29% of executives believe conditions in their industries have improved in the first quarter; going forward, only 32% expect the U.S. economy to improve in the next six months. (Source: Conference Board, April 25, 2013.)
Looking at all of this, how can you not question the effectiveness of quantitative easing in the U.S. economy? The problem at hand is businesses shying away from spending in the U.S. economy and hoarding cash. To my standards, quantitative easing is failing at making businesses more confident about spending as it was promised.
Dear reader, for economic growth to take place in the U.S. economy, businesses must be willing to spend and make investments; we are seeing the opposite of that. This isn’t rocket science; once businesses start to … Read More
As the key stock indices continue to climb higher, optimism amongst investors and stock advisors rises to a dangerous level.
According to the Advisor Sentiment tracked by Investors Intelligence, an indicator I follow to gauge optimism in the stock market, the number of stock advisors who are bullish towards key stock indices is at its highest since April of 2011. (Source: Investors Intelligence, May 22, 2013.) To bring this into perspective, in April of 2011, the key stock indices like the S&P 500 started to decline, dropping nearly 20% through October of that year.
The stock market is becoming very overbought and very overpriced. It’s not a matter of “if” the market faces a major set-back, but “when.”
The U.S. economy continues to struggle and early indicators of economic slowdown are flashing warning signs. Consider the Business Outlook Survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which provides an outlook for manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia area. The survey indicates demand has been weak, with new orders and shipments declining and inventories building up. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, May 16, 2013.)
The index of current manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region registered at negative 5.3 in May compared to positive 1.3 in April. Any number below zero indicates conditions in the manufacturing sector are becoming poor.
This isn’t the only troubling statistic that shows the U.S. economy is headed towards an economic slowdown. Our economic growth is questionable; unemployment is still staggering; the majority of jobs created since the financial crisis have been in low-paying jobs, and a significant portion of the U.S. population is on food stamps…. Read More
Core retail sales declined 0.1% in April—and that’s after they already fell 0.4% in the previous month! (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, May 13, 2013.)
When compared to the first four months of 2012, consumer spending in the U.S. economy declined in the first four months of 2013 at electronics and appliance stores, health and personal care stores, gasoline stations, and general merchandise stores.
And looking forward, consumer spending in the U.S. economy doesn’t appear to look very promising either.
If companies don’t spend or create better-quality/better-paying jobs, can consumer spending really pick up? It’s well documented in these pages: the job creation we have seen since the financial crisis started has been in low-wage-paying sectors.
Keeping all this in mind, with consumer spending still bleak and core retail sales constantly declining, the retailer must be suffering.
But that’s not so!
When you look at the stock market and, more specifically, at the retailers, it appears that consumer spending in the U.S. economy is booming! Consider the chart below of the S&P Retail Index. This index tracks the performance of some of the most well-known retailers in the U.S. economy.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Dear reader, the stock market isn’t portraying the real picture of the U.S. economy. The retail sales number actually shows how consumer spending—the biggest contributor to our gross domestic product (GDP)—is fairing, and those numbers look terrible.
Even with the printing of trillions of dollars of new money via quantitative easing, the Federal … Read More
Something is starting to smell in the bond market…
Since their peak in July of 2012, 30-year U.S. bonds have declined in value—they are down almost six percent. Trading above $153.00 in mid-2012, 30-year U.S. bonds now hover around $144.00, as depicted in the chart below.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Keep in mind that bond investors use U.S. bonds as a benchmark to what kinds of rates other types of bonds, such as corporate bonds, municipal bonds, and junk bonds, should sell at.
For example, if U.S. bonds decline in value, chances are the other types of bonds in the bond market will follow in the same direction. So the yield on 30-year U.S. bonds really matters when it comes to looking at the direction of the overall bond market.
The bond market experienced a significant run-up as the 2008 financial crisis unfolded and investors sought safety. Now, investors have a different type of worry on their hands.
The Federal Reserve, which has become a major buyer of long-term U.S. bonds, buying up to $45.0 billion worth of them a month, is contemplating when it should stop reducing the amount of bonds it purchases each month.
According to data from Investment Company Institute, an association of U.S. investment companies, in the first three months of 2013, long-term bond mutual funds had inflows of $68.9 billion. This was 25% lower than the same period a year ago, when these funds had inflows of $92.08 billion. (Source: Investment Company Institute, May 8, 2013.)
As I have been harping on about in these pages for some time now, caution and capital … Read More
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