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.
There are lots of companies but very few stocks I like in this stock market, because stocks have already gone up in value so tremendously.
Countless large-caps provided excellent returns this year, and many of them are old brands that still offer meaningful dividend yields. What’s transpired with the equity market this year has been truly amazing and practically, I don’t think the run is over just yet.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. (CBRL) has a 52-week trading range of $60.07 to $118.44 and a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 18.46, according to Thomson Reuters. And guess where the stock is now—right at its all-time record high, up approximately 84% (not including dividends) since this time last year. All this from a mature restaurant brand.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), one of my key benchmark stocks and the kind of company that’s welcome in any long-term equity market portfolio, has had a really good year. Its capital appreciation is reminiscent of its performance in the late 90s.
Many blue chips trade similarly to Cracker Barrel and Johnson & Johnson: they go through long periods of consolidation providing minimal capital gains, and then they explode in trading action, typically associated with technology stocks. (See “Why I Like This Blue Chip So Much [55th Dividend Increase Just Announced].”)
So with the huge price moves, the case for a major retrenchment/correction/consolidation in the equity market is very solid. But there needs to be a catalyst for this to happen. The equity market is overbought and looking tired, but there is still a strong willingness on the part of institutional investors to … Read More
Recently, I revisited J. Anthony Boeckh’s book The Great Reflation, which was written in 2010 and is a thorough, well-written analysis of the long-run cycles experienced by the U.S. economy and the affects of financial crises and monetary policy on the stock market.
Back in June, I presented a summary of Boeckh’s conclusions in this column. Many of his points, based on a non-political historical analysis of business and stock market cycles, have come to fruition. (See “Breakdown: U.S. Economy and Its Cycles in 18 Brief Points.”)
Here are Boeckh’s key top-10 conclusions:
1. The global financial system will always remain flawed and subject to price inflation and bubbles, so long as it is based on fiat paper money. All anchorless fiat money systems are destined to suffer inflation and instability.
2. Stock market investors will be playing a cat-and-mouse game with the Federal Reserve for years to come, a problem caused by excessive private and public debt.
3. Deleveraging of the private sector bodes well for the transition process to the next long-wave cycle (2015 or later).
4. In the short term, deficits and extreme monetary expansion help the private sector repair balance sheets, but they cannot raise the standard of living for the average person.
5. Gold is a crowded trade (in the context of 2010), but is useful as an insurance/inflation hedge in portfolios. Gold is an emotional purchase. Financial/investment demand for … Read More
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