Monetary policy is the mechanism through which the supply of money is controlled by monetary authorities. The goal of almost every monetary authority around the world is stability of prices. If prices are unstable—either too high or, in some circumstances, decreasing—this causes unforeseen and unwanted consequences for the economy as a whole. Monetary authorities usually enact changes to interest rates for the purpose of changing the demand for money. Monetary policy can be either expanding, when interest rates are lowered and more money is available at a cheaper, or contracting, when interest rates are raised to make money more expensive to slow price increases.
According to Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, “More jobs have now been created in the recovery than were lost in the downturn… the unemployment rate, at 6.2% in July, has declined nearly 4 percentage points from its late 2009 peak.” (Source: “Labor Market Dynamics and Monetary Policy,” Federal Reserve, August 22, 2014.)
Great news, right? On the surface, yes. But when you look closer at the numbers, the jobs market paints a very different picture as to what is going on in this country.
Prior to the Great Recession, in January of 2007, there were 4.24 million Americans who were working part-time because they couldn’t find full-time work. In July of this year, the number of Americans working part-time (because they couldn’t find full-time work) was 76% higher at 7.51 million. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed August 25, 2014.)
The boom in the jobs market has been in part-time work! How do you feed a family with part-time employment?
But the jobs market misery doesn’t end there…
In January of 2007, the average duration of unemployment in the U.S. economy was 16.3 weeks. In July of 2014, this number stood at 32.4 weeks. Once unemployed today, people are taking over seven months to find another job—double the time it took to find a job before the Great Recession. (Source: Ibid.)
And let’s not forget that the “official” government unemployment numbers exclude those people who have given up looking for work. If we look at the jobs market and include those people who have given up looking for work and those who have part-time jobs because … Read More
The Dow Jones Transportation Average is close to breaking its 50-day simple moving average. This, in itself, is not the end of the world; it did so most recently in April and recovered nicely.
But it is worth keeping an eye on, especially because the stock market is looking so tired right now.
Earnings are still streaming in and are generally okay. But there’s diminishing momentum. If the broader market opens up on positive news, on many days, it’s not able to sustain the gains. This is indicative of a stock market due for a break.
Summer action is typically slower, and while a 10% stock market correction would make it easier to put new money to work, the investing guide should be corporate outlooks—and they are pretty good going into 2015.
With Federal Reserve certainty, which includes diminishing quantitative easing and a very low interest rate environment going into 2015, the stock market is well informed regarding monetary policy.
Balance sheets remain in excellent condition, especially among blue chips, and the NASDAQ Composite is maintaining its leadership relative to the other benchmarks, which resumed about one year ago.
While the stock market has definitely earned a meaningful break, it very well could turn out to be another positive year with high single-digit returns, not including dividends. This is on the back of an exceptionally good year in 2013—a breakout year from what I view as the previous long-run cycle, that being a 12-year recovery period for the stock market.
But with this fundamental backdrop, I still view investment risk as being high and that quality is something that equity … Read More
The numbers are still coming in pretty good this earnings season and corporate outlooks are holding up well for the year.
Stocks have been trading off of Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen’s monetary policy report to Congress, and less so on earnings.
This market is tired and you can see it in the trading action of individual stocks that beat the Street with their earnings. Most market reaction is pretty mute.
One that wasn’t, however, was Intel Corporation (INTC). The company’s second quarter really got institutional investors fired up. The stock was $26.00 a share mid-May; now it’s close to $34.00, which is a very big move for this company.
Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) doesn’t report until next week, but the company’s shares moved commensurately with Intel’s.
Earnings strength from these older technology benchmarks is really good news for both the stock market and the economy in general. It means that the enterprise market is spending money again, and that’s exactly what the technology industry needs.
Even Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) got a boost from Intel’s earnings results. This stock has been trying to break out of a long price consolidation. It hasn’t really done anything on the stock market since its bubble burst in 2000.
I actually view Microsoft as an attractive company for equity portfolios looking for higher-quality stocks.
The position is very fairly priced and offers a current dividend yield of just less than three percent. And management has a multifaceted business plan focused on growth in personal computers (PCs), the cloud, and devices.
But the best potential with a company like Microsoft is its prospects for … Read More
What led to the 2008/2009 stock market and real estate crash and subsequent Great Recession can be attributed to one factor: the sharp rise in interest rates that preceded that period.
In May of 2004, the federal funds rate, the bellwether rate upon which all interest rates in the U.S. are based, was one percent. The Federal Reserve, sensing the economy was getting overheated, started raising interest rates quickly. Three years later, by May 2007, the federal funds rate was 5.3%.
Any way you look at it, the 430% rise in interest rates over a three-year period killed stocks, real estate, and the economy.
My studies show the Federal Reserve has historically taken things too far when setting its monetary policy. It raised interest rates far too quickly in the 2004–2007 period. And I believe it dropped rates far too fast since 2009 and has kept them low (if you call zero “low”) for far too long.
In the same way investors suffered in 2008–2009 as the Fed moved to quickly raise rates, I believe we will soon suffer as the Fed is forced to quickly raise interest rates once more while the economy overheats.
It’s all very simple. The U.S. unemployment rate is getting close to six percent. The real inflation rate is close to five percent per annum, and the stock market is way overheated. The Fed will have no choice but to cool what looks like an overheated economy. But the Fed won’t be able to do it with a quarter-point increase in interest rates here and there. It will need to raise rates by at least … Read More
If there ever was an equity security epitomizing the notion that the stock market is a leading indicator, Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) would fit the bill.
This manufacturer is in slow-growth mode, but it’s been going up on the stock market as institutional investors bet on a global resurgence for the demand of construction and other heavy equipment and engines.
And the betting’s been pretty fierce. Caterpillar was priced at $90.00 a share at the beginning of the year. Now, it’s $110.00, which is a substantial move for such a mature large-cap. (See “Rising Earnings Estimates the New Catalyst for Stocks?”)
The stock actually offers a pretty decent dividend. It’s currently around 2.6%.
While sales and earnings in its upcoming quarter (due out July 24, 2014) are expected to be very flat, Street analysts are putting their focus on 2015. Sales and earnings estimates for next year are accelerating, and it’s fuel for institutional investors with money to invest.
The notion that the stock market leads actual economic performance is very real. Just like there are cycles in the economy, the stock market itself is highly cyclical. And while every secular bull market occurs for different reasons, there are commonalities in the price action.
Caterpillar’s share price is going up on the expectation that its sales and earnings (on a global basis) will accelerate next year.
Transportation stocks, as evidenced by the Dow Jones Transportation Average, are the classic bull market leaders.
Transportation, whether it’s trucking, railroads, airlines, or package delivery services, is as good a call on general economic activity as any. The Dow Jones Transportation Average was … Read More
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