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

Interest Rates

Of all the different elements of the economy, the direction of interest rates is most important. That’s why, as the editors of Profit Confidential, we expend a considerable amount of our time analyzing and providing guidance on interest rates. We believe that the unprecedented debt the U.S. has accumulated will eventually result in foreign investors demanding a better return on U.S. Treasuries. Too many U.S. dollars in circulation will also eventually force interest rates to rise.

Economics 101 suggests inflationary pressure builds during periods of low interest rates. The demand usually increases when people both borrow and consume more. As the price of goods and services is directly correlated with demand, it increases—resulting in inflation.

To tackle inflationary pressures, central banks increase interest rates. Why? Because once they increase interest rates, it is supposed to do the opposite of lowering the rates—forcing people to save and cut back on discretionary spending.

Following a 30-year down-cycle of interest rates in the U.S., we are on the cusp of a new 30-year up-cycle in interest rates; a move that could cripple the government and the economy. This is mainly because the government has added too much debt to its balance sheet, and the Federal Reserve has printed significant sums of money.

After phenomenal amounts of bailouts were doled out, followed by non-stop government spending, the U.S. national debt rose 76.2%—from $9.2 trillion in 2008, to $16.3 trillion in 2012. (Source: TreasuryDirect, last accessed November 27, 2012.)

It gets worse. The current administration said it would keep the budget deficit below $1.0 trillion. It hasn’t. For fiscal 2012, the federal budget deficit was $1.1 trillion, slightly below the $1.3 trillion deficit recorded in 2011. (Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 12, 2012.) What’s more, 2012 marked the fourth consecutive year in which the U.S. government experienced an annual deficit above $1.0 trillion. As a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), the U.S. government’s budget deficit for the year 2012 stands at seven percent.

Along with skyrocketing government debt, the Federal Reserve has printed $3.0 trillion. Where did the $3.0 trillion come from? It’s not backed by gold. It was simply created out of thin air. And, the presses continue to print an additional $85.0 billion a month!

Looking at an even bigger picture, between January 2000 and September 2012, the amount of U.S. money in circulation (the “M1 money supply”) has increased 112%, or $1.25 trillion. That’s a lot of money printing.

Similarly, the “M2 money supply,” which includes the M1 money supply plus savings deposits, balances in money market mutual funds, and deposits, has increased 118%. M2 is a better measure of actual money supply. Since the beginning of 2000, M2 money supply has increased more than $5.4 trillion. (Source: Federal Reserve, October 11, 2012.) Again, the printing presses have been in overdrive.

Now think of it this way; as more money is created and more debt is added to the federal government’s balance sheet, U.S. economic viability becomes questionable. What does this mean? The interest rate at which the government is currently able to borrow is being kept artificially low. With the government adding more debt and the inflationary pressure building—something has to be done.

Should You Buy Into the U.S. Dollar Rally?

By for Profit Confidential

U.S. Dollar: The Best of the WorstSince May, when it was near an all-time low, the U.S. dollar has rallied. Compared to other major currencies of the world, the greenback is up five percent since July, as the chart below illustrates.

The question: should investors get into this U.S. dollar rally?

Dear reader, the U.S. dollar is not moving higher because the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are getting better. It’s moving higher because other parts of the global economy are doing worse than the U.S.

The eurozone economy is so weak that the European Central Bank has lowered interest rates again, pushing the value of the euro lower. In the United Kingdom, Scotland is looking for independence. The crisis between Russia and Ukraine continues without resolution. New troubles are brewing in the Middle East. China reported yesterday it would start pumping money into its largest banks.

US Dollar Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Right now, with the majority of major world central banks either printing more of their paper money or bringing interest rates even lower, the U.S. is the best of the worst.

But I believe the rally in the U.S. dollar will be short-lived.

Central banks are trying to move away from the U.S. dollar as their reserve currency. At one point, trade in the global economy was dominated by the U.S. dollar. This is changing, slowly but surely.

Consider just one of many recent examples; the Chinese and Argentinian central banks will be doing an $11.0-billion currency swap operation. This will allow Argentina to increase its reserves and pay for Chinese imports in yuan—the deal was signed in July. (Source: Reuters, September 7, 2014.)

Putting … Read More

Another Warning Sign: Stocks Hit Highs on Collapsing Volume

By for Profit Confidential

The Only Bear Left StandingSo 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
2012 11.73% - 17.58%
2013 14.50% - 24.91%
2014 8.40% - 44%*

*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

Eight Stocks to Beat the Street

By for Profit Confidential

How Investors Can Beat the StreetCountless stocks are pushing new highs and a lot of them are still blue chips. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is lagging the other indices this year, but this is not unusual.

The fact that many blue chips are still slogging higher is further indication of a bull market, despite all the shocks, risks, and the fact that stocks haven’t experienced a real correction for a number of years now.

PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP) had a great second quarter (for such a mature brand). The company increased its quarterly dividend once again and Wall Street earnings estimates for this year and next have been going up across the board.

What large corporations and well-known business brands say about their operating conditions is as useful as any other kind of information or opinion regarding the equity market. Stocks get overvalued and undervalued, but the best investing information I’ve found is what corporations actually report about their businesses, regardless of whether a company meets, beats, or comes in below consensus.

What Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) says about its global heavy equipment sales is material information, even if you aren’t interested in buying the stock. The same goes for Intel Corporation (INTC), The Boeing Company (BA), Visa Inc. (V), and The Walt Disney Company (DIS).

Second-quarter earnings season came in better than expected, and while many blue chips reiterated their existing guidance, I suspect it’s a simple strategy to make it easier to beat the Street by keeping expectations modest.

It could easily be another great year for stocks with a fundamental backdrop that is still so favorable to equities. And this includes the reality … Read More

Why These Housing Stocks Are Still Attractive

By for Profit Confidential

Why I Still Believe Housing Is AttractiveIn spite of some doom and gloom scenarios for the housing market, so far it has been full steam ahead as the sector continues to blaze along since bouncing out of the Great Recession in 2008.

With interest rates and mortgage rates continuing to be relatively low, and with the jobs market producing more than 200,000 new jobs monthly, the ingredients are there for continued strength in the housing market, which I view as a good buying opportunity.

Yes, while it’s true much of the easy money has been made in the housing market, there are still opportunities to squeeze some profits out from homebuilder stocks.

Housing starts and building permits continue to be fairly strong with more than one billion annualized units for each segment in July.

As I previously said, the low rate environment and jobs growth will continue to provide the catalyst for growing the housing market. And I expect this to hold for at least another year or so until rates move higher to levels that will hurt the housing market.

One of the top housing market stocks is Toll Brothers, Inc. (NYSE/TOL), which just produced an impressive fiscal third quarter (ended July 31) in which revenues grew at 53% year-over-year to $1.06 billion. The company delivered 1,444 units at an average of $732,000. Toll also drove earnings up 110%, more than double the prior year’s same quarter.

The company ended with a strong backlog of $3.1 billion and 4,204 units at an average of $737,000. Currently trading at 15.56X its FY16 earnings per share (EPS) and a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of 0.42, the … Read More

Stock Market Fake? Economic Growth Falls to Slowest Pace Since 2009

By for Profit Confidential

Eurozone Economic Growth PrecariousNot 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 … Read More

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