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

Posts Tagged ‘central bank’

The Only Thing I Can Find to “Buy Low” These Days

By for Profit Confidential

The Second Half of 2014 What It Looks Like for GoldThe tally as of this morning:

The stock market is up 2.4% so far in 2014 as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, while gold bullion is up 8.1% for the year.

“As an investor, do I get into gold or stocks at this point in the year?”

Well, if you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you know I’m not a fan of stocks right now. I simply believe the stock market has become a Federal Reserve–induced bubble.

And while there has been a lot written about price manipulation in the gold market, and while mighty Goldman Sachs still says the metal is headed lower in price, investors should look at gold bullion right now…that’s both old gold investors (so they can average down their cost) and new gold investors taking their first position.

Here are my reasons why…

In 2013, the Indian central bank and government imposed tariffs and restrictions on the importation of gold bullion into India, as they believed the demand for gold bullion in the country was hurting its national accounts. In the first quarter of this year, India started to ease its gold importation restrictions, and bang, last month, gold bullion imports into the country increased by 65% over June of last year. (Source: Bloomberg, July 16, 2014.) Demand for gold bullion in China, which I’ve documented in these pages, is also very strong.

Inflation, what gold bullion acts as a hedge against, is starting to gain momentum. The Producer Price Index (which tracks changes in the prices producers pay) increased by 0.4% in June from the previous month; that’s an annualized … Read More

Investors Forgot Everything That Happened Just a Few Years Ago?

By for Profit Confidential

The Economy and the Stock MarketThere are two important charts I want my readers to see this morning.

The first is a chart that is an indirect measure of demand in the global economy. Right now, the Baltic Dry Index (BDI) sits at its lowest level of the year. Since the beginning of 2014, the BDI has fallen 60%.

The BDI measures the cost of moving major raw materials by sea in the global economy. The thinking is that the lower the cost to move goods by ship, the lesser the amount of goods to move (a strict demand/supply price situation).

BAtic Dry Index (EOD) INDX Chart Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

What’s happening with the steep drop in the BDI can be seen in a corresponding slowdown in the global economy.

Germany, the fourth-biggest economy in the world, saw its industrial production decline by 1.8% in May after falling 0.3% in April. (Source: Destatis, July 7, 2014.)

Great Britain, the sixth-biggest market in the global economy, saw its production decline 0.7% in May, while its manufacturing decreased 1.3%. (Source: Office for National Statistics, July 8, 2014.)

France, the fifth-biggest economy, reports no gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the country in the first quarter of 2014. (Source: MarketWatch, July 8, 2014.)

In 2014, the Chinese economy will grow at its slowest pace in years. In Japan, the Bank of Japan (its equivalent to our Federal Reserve) has announced it will start buying exchange-traded funds (in specific, the Nikkei 400 ETF) to “boost the impact of (its) unprecedented easing.” (Source: “Bank of Japan Seen Buying Nikkei 400 ETF,” Financial Post, July 10, 2014.) Yes, the central bank of Japan is buying … Read More

The Downside to Dow 20,0000

By for Profit Confidential

Where the Stock Market Could Head NextWith the Dow Jones hitting 17,000 being pretty likely in the not-too-distant future, from there, it’s only another 18% or so until the Dow hits 20,000, which is pretty incredible.

These numbers seemed so unrealistic just a few years ago but now, it’s not too farfetched. The most amazing thing to me is that stocks still haven’t experienced a material price correction since the financial crisis.

Stocks aren’t necessarily stretched in terms of valuation, especially with corporate earnings outlooks holding up for this year and going into 2015. What is stretched is investor determination with a market at its high.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) is a great company and a worthy long-term investment (see “Three Blue Chips Set to Drive Higher”), but it’s tough to buy stocks at all-time record-highs. In Johnson & Johnson’s case, the position’s up almost 20 points since the beginning of February, and this is on top of a previous 20-point gain in 2013.

One of these days, stocks are going to get walloped. But there’s got to be some sort of catalyst for it to happen.

The Federal Reserve can be a catalyst if it decides to suddenly change its outlook for interest rate certainty. The catalyst could also be a geopolitical event or something that comes out of nowhere, like a big derivatives trade gone bad.

In any event, there will have to be a shock that is perceived to have a lasting effect on capital markets.

In the lull between earnings seasons, which we’re currently experiencing, stocks reaccelerated on the back of very modest economic news and that in itself is … Read More

Negative Interest Rates: They’re Here

By for Profit Confidential

What Happens When You Toy with Nature's Boom & Bust CyclesIn 2012, I predicted that if the Federal Reserve couldn’t get the economy growing again, it would take interest rates into the negative zone.

Well, yesterday, the European Central Bank (ECB), the second-biggest central bank in the world, trumped the Fed and became the first major central bank to offer depositors negative interest rates.

What does “negative interest rates” mean?

Each night, major banks in the eurozone collectively deposit USD$1.0 trillion with the ECB. By cutting its overnight rate to negative, these banks will end up paying the ECB to hold their funds.

The ECB hopes that instead of getting a negative return on their money, the major banks in the eurozone will start lending their money out to borrowers, which will get the economy in the eurozone moving again.

This won’t work. Here’s why:

1)      Preservation of capital is the most important thing for banks in the eurozone. If they can deposit their $1.0 trillion with the ECB, even if they have to pay for the safekeeping, it’s a more secure move than lending money to businesses that are still far too risky because the eurozone economy is far too weak. The government regulation of opening and running a business in the eurozone is overwhelming.

2)      If the eurozone banks are getting a negative return on their money, how can they possibly pay savers a return on the money they have sitting in the bank? Yes, savers are punished once again with this latest central bank move.

3)      Smaller countries like Sweden and Denmark tried negative interest rates during 2009 and 2012; they didn’t work in stimulating those economies…. Read More

And They Say the Economy Is Getting Better?

By for Profit Confidential

Four Largest World Economies Slowdown ModeThe Chinese economy had been growing at about 10% a year, like clockwork, for years. Now, China is in the midst of an economic slowdown, with growth expected to come in this year at 30%–50% below China’s five-year average growth rate.

Why is China’s economy growing so slowly, and why does it matter to us here in North America?

Manufacturing, the key component of China’s economy, is quickly slowing. The HSBC Chinese Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) declined for the sixth consecutive month in April, registering at 48.1. Remember that any reading below 50 for the PMI suggests an outright contraction in the manufacturing sector. (Source: Markit, May 5, 2014.)

Japan isn’t faring any better; the third-biggest hub in the global economy is facing its own economic slowdown. The government and Japan’s central bank are trying to boost the economy by printing more and more money, but they are failing miserably. Japan’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth has been abysmal for years.

Germany is the only country in the eurozone showing some resilience. Other eurozone countries, like France, Italy, and Spain, are also facing an economic slowdown. Bad debt, tight lending requirements, and high unemployment remain the biggest problems in the common currency region; so big, the European Central Bank (ECB) wants to take the same course as the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan and start printing more paper money.

In the U.S., we, too, have a soft economy. The first quarter of 2014 proved to be terrible for corporate profits growth. And if the rest of the world is in an economic slowdown, I don’t know how … Read More

When the Cows Go Out for Slaughter a Second Time

By for Profit Confidential

When the Cows Go Out for Slaughter a Second TimeDid you see this story in the Wall Street Journal last Friday?

“Retirement investors are putting more money into stocks than they have since markets were slammed by the financial crisis six years ago… Stocks accounted for 67% of employees’ new contributions into retirement portfolios in March… That is the highest percentage since March 2008…” (Source: Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2014.)

You read that right. With stocks at a record-high (and valuations stretched), retirees are pouring back into stocks. Are they getting ready to get slaughtered again? I believe so.

If you are a long-term reader of Profit Confidential, you know my take: the “bear” has done a masterful job at convincing investors the economy has recovered and the stock market is a safe place to invest again. Meanwhile, nothing could be further from the truth.

We are living the slowest post-recession recovery on record. And that recovery has been manipulated by the tampering of the Federal Reserve. You see, the Federal Reserve played a key role in driving the key stock indices higher. In 2009, in the midst of a financial crisis, the central bank started printing money and buying bonds. This resulted in lower bond yields. Those who had money in bonds, who had essentially paid nothing, moved into stocks.

And those record-low interest rates enabled companies in the key stock indices to borrow money and issue new equity, using the money to buy their own stock, thus pushing up per-share corporate earnings.

The end result? 2013 was a banner year for stocks on the key stock indices. But as 2014 came around, we began … Read More

One-Third of S&P 500 Companies Report No Revenue Growth

By for Profit Confidential

Why This Is Such a Risky Stock MarketThose who follow the stock market closely know that on days when we hear the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve speak and she mentions something about “easing” or how the central bank will continue to use its “extraordinary measures” for a long period of time, the stock market jumps.

I’ve talked about this phenomenon many times in these pages. Another example of this happened on March 31, when the Fed chairwoman spoke in Chicago. Please see the chart below. It’s a minute stock chart of the S&P 500. I’ve circled a rough area around the time when Janet Yellen spoke.

 SPX S&P 500 Large Cap Index ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

As she spoke more of that “easing” talk, the stock market jumped, as usual.

So it has come to the point where the stock market rises when it hears the Fed will keep interest rates artificially low for a prolonged period of time and when a poor jobs report comes out (like last Friday morning’s), saying jobs have been created in spite of the fact that there is a heavy concentration of jobs growth in low-paying sectors and millions of people have given up looking for work.

In other words, we have reached the point where the stock market takes any news as a reason to move higher; this is characteristic of a market top.

When we look at the fundamentals of the stock market, we see companies in the S&P 500 are using financial engineering to boost per-share earnings. These companies have bought back their shares and have been cutting costs to boost profits as revenue growth just isn’t there anymore.

The proof? In the … Read More

Will the U.S. Escape the Rapid Inflation That Usually Follows Massive Money Printing?

By for Profit Confidential

Proof Growth in Money Supply Not Spurring GDP GrowthIs the Federal Reserve ignoring the very basic law of economics…the law of diminishing marginal utility? You remember that term from economics in high school. The law of diminishing marginal utility states that the more of something you have, the lesser its impact on you.

The Fed has been printing money in hopes of stimulating growth in the U.S. economy. As the Fed printed more paper money, its balance sheet grew to over $4.0 trillion.

Below, I’ve made a table that looks at gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the U.S. each year since 2009, and where the balance sheet of our central bank stood at the end of each year.

In the table below, you will notice something interesting; aside from 2009, there is no real correlation between the increases in the assets (paper money printed) on the Fed’s balance sheet and GDP growth. In fact, after all the money the Fed has printed, the U.S. economy grew last year at its slowest pace since 2011.

U.S. GDP Growth vs. Growth in Size of Fed Balance Sheet

Year YOY Change
in GDP
Fed Balance Sheet (Trillions) YOY Change in Balance Sheet
2009 -2.80% $2.08 73.44%
2010 2.50% $2.31 11.21%
2011 1.84% $2.74 18.58%
2012 2.77% $2.86 4.36%
2013 1.87% $3.47 21.33%

Data source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site,
last accessed April 1, 2014.

The Federal Reserve predicts the U.S. GDP in 2014 will increase between 2.8% and three percent; that’s a jump of about 50% since 2013. (Source: Federal Reserve, March 19, 2014.) I believe this to be way too optimistic. (And as we … Read More

Even Iraq’s Central Bank Buying Gold Now?

By for Profit Confidential

As Pressure Mounts on Paper Currencies, World Central Banks Opt for GoldCentral banks are still adding gold bullion to their reserves and the smaller countries are getting into the act big-time.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in the month of March, Iraq’s central bank added 36 tonnes of gold bullion to its reserves—worth about $1.5 billion. This is the first purchase by the central bank since August of 2012, when it bought 23.9 tonnes of gold. (Source: Reuters, March 25, 2014.)

Sure, you could say, “Michael, 36 tonnes of gold bullion is nothing for a central bank.”

I agree. But looking at the bigger picture, it is very significant for a small country like Iraq—a country whose annual gross domestic product (GDP) is smaller than Amazon.com’s sales for 2013—to be getting into gold bullion in a big way. The official announcement from the central bank of Iraq sent the message that it bought the gold bullion to stabilize the country’s currency and add insurance to their reserves.

Since 2009, central banks around the global economy have become net buyers of gold bullion, and I don’t think they will stop anytime soon. The main reason for this is that the central banks see a significant amount of volatility coming to the world of paper currencies—something they hold in their reserves.

Too many major world currencies are in a downtrend. The U.S. dollar has been on a decline since the beginning of 2014. The Canadian dollar is hitting multiyear lows. The Japanese yen has been plummeting.

Where do we go next with gold bullion?

At present, the amount of negativity towards gold bullion is immense. But the fundamentals paint a different … Read More

Time for Investors to Create an Exit Strategy?

By for Profit Confidential

Should You Be Considering an Exit Strategy at This TimeWe have Russia annexing Crimea from Ukraine and interest rates set to float higher sometime in early 2015, but the S&P 500 continued to edge up to another record-high on Friday.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is continuing to pull back on the quantitative easing that the former chair, Ben Bernanke, put in place. By year-end, the bond buying will likely be eliminated as the central bank allows the economy to try to stand on its own two feet. Of course, if everything goes well, Yellen also plans to begin ratcheting up interest rates as soon as early 2015. This could impact the stock market.

The upward move in interest rates and the elimination of quantitative easing means the easy money that had been pumped into the economy by the Federal Reserve will come to an end. This is concerning for the stock market, as the easy money has largely been the key reason why we are in the fifth year of this superlative bull stock market.

While it’s enticing to sit on all of the gains achieved so far, you should also be conscious of the profits made and should look at several risk management strategies.

The most important lesson is to take some money off the table and avoid soaking a possible downdraft in the stock market that could severely reduce your gains.

Making sure you have an exit strategy is paramount at this time.

I fully expect another downside move in the stock market sometime in the upcoming quarters. (Read “Stock Market Setting Up for Its Next ‘Fire Sale’?”)

You can also set a … Read More

Bond Market: Something Wicked Cometh This Way

By for Profit Confidential

Bond Investors to Face Severe Losses in 2014The bond market is in trouble.

As we all know, the Federal Reserve has been the biggest driver of bonds since the financial crisis. The central bank lowered its benchmark interest rate to near zero, then started quantitative easing, all of which resulted in the bond market soaring as yields collapsed to multi-decade lows.

The chart below will show you what’s happened to the U.S. bond market since the mid-1970s.

As you can see from the chart, the declining yields on bonds stopped in the spring of 2013 and have increased sharply since then.

30-Year T-Bond Yield Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

What’s next for bonds?

The Federal Reserve is slowly taking away the “steroids” that boosted the bond market. The central bank is now printing $65.0 billion of new money a month instead of the $85.0 billion it was printing just a few months back. And now we hear the Federal Reserve will be slowing its purchases by $10.0 billion a month throughout 2014.

Since May of last year alone, when speculation started that the Federal Reserve would cut back on its money printing program, bond yields skyrocketed and bond investors panicked.

According to the Investment Company Institute, investors sold $176 billion worth of long-term bond mutual funds between June and December of last year. (Source: Investment Company Institute web site, last accessed February 26, 2014.) I would not be surprised if withdrawals from bond mutual funds are even bigger this year.

And China is slowly exiting the U.S. bond market, too. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, in December, China sold the biggest amount of U.S. bonds since 2011. In … Read More

Lessons Not Learned from the Japanese (At Least, Not Yet)

By for Profit Confidential

How Money Printing Devastated This CurrencyWhenever I got stuck solving a problem in elementary school, my teacher would say, “go back and see where you went wrong.” This lesson—“learn from your mistakes”—was taught again in high school, and then throughout my life. It’s very simple: you can’t do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Albert Einstein called it “insanity.”

When I look at the Japanese economy, I see the most basic lesson you learn in business school being ignored. The Bank of Japan, and the government, in an effort to improve the Japanese economy has resorted to money printing (quantitative easing) over and over, failing each time to spur growth. One might call it an act of insanity.

Through quantitative easing, the central bank of Japan wanted to boost the Japanese economy. It hoped that pushing more exports to the global economy from its manufacturers would change the fate of the country. It wanted inflation as well.

The result: after years of quantitative easing, the government and the central bank have outright failed to revive the Japanese economy. In fact, the opposite of their original plan is happening.

In January, the trade deficit in the Japanese economy grew—the country’s imports were more than its exports. Imports amounted to 7.70 trillion yen and exports were only 5.88 trillion yen. The trade deficit was 3.5% greater compared to the previous month. (Source: Japanese Customers web site, last accessed February 20, 2014.) Mind you, January wasn’t the only month when imports were more than exports in the Japanese economy. This is something that has been happening for some time.

Inflation in the … Read More

Stock Prices and U.S. GDP; Historic Relationship Turns Bearish

By for Profit Confidential

Historic Relationship Tur​ns BearishIn the first five weeks of this year, investors bought $22.0 billion worth of long-term stock mutual funds. (Source: Investment Company Institute, February 12, 2014.)

But as investors poured money into the stock market, hoping to ride the 2013 wave of higher stock prices, stocks did the opposite and went down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down three percent so far this year.

Looking at the bigger picture, corporate earnings and key stock indices valuations are still stretched. The S&P 500’s 12-month forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio stands at 15.1. This ratio is currently overvalued by roughly nine percent when compared to its 10-year average, and 15% compared to its five-year average. (Source: FactSet, February 14, 2014.)

This isn’t the only indicator that says key stock indices have gotten too far ahead of themselves. In the chart below, I have plotted U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) against the S&P 500.

S&P 500 Large Cap Index ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

The chart clearly shows a direct relationship between GDP and the S&P 500. When U.S. GDP increases, the S&P 500 follows in the same direction, and vice versa. When we look at the 2008–2009 period (which I’ve circled in the chart above), we see that when GDP plunged, the S&P 500 followed in the same direction.

Going into 2014, we saw production in the U.S. economy decline; consumer spending is pulling back, unemployment is still an issue, and the global economy is slowing. U.S. GDP is far from growing at the rate it did after the Credit Crisis. Take another look at the chart above. In 2011, you’ll see U.S. GDP was very strong; but after … Read More

The Best Investment You Can Make in 2014?

By for Profit Confidential

What Happened Last Time Gold Had a Bad YearTo say the very least, 2013 was an interesting year for gold bullion. The precious metal’s price surprised gold bugs and declined 24%.

As 2013 progressed, we heard calls for the yellow metal to fall even lower in price. The stocks of gold producers were slammed. Equity research departments at big banks like The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE/GS) called gold bullion a slam-dunk sell (and the last time I checked, their opinion hasn’t changed).

In the midst of all this, a very important phenomenon was forgotten: gold bullion prices are no stranger to price declines. In the table below, I’ve compiled a list of every period since 1974 when gold prices fell more than 20% and what happened after the decline.

Year, % Drop in Gold Prices Year, % Increase After Drop
1974-1976 declined by 45.67% 1976-1980 increased by 705%
1980-1982 declined by 63.84% 1982-1983 increased by 71.8%
1983-1985 declined by 45.17% 1985-1987 increased by 76.7%
1987-2001 declined by 48.88% 2001-2008 increased by 291.38%
Mar. 2008-Nov. 2008 declined by 28.8% Nov. 2008-2011 increased by 169.56%

Data source: www.StockCharts.com, last accessed February 6, 2014.

The table above illustrates that the bigger the decline in gold bullion prices, the greater the ensuing rebound.

Since gold bullion prices fell in 2013, gold miners have pulled back on operations at mines where $1,200-an-ounce gold no longer justifies production. This has resulted in a reduction in the supply of newly mined gold.

And while the supply of gold bullion is under pressure, demand for the precious metal keeps increasing. In China, both consumers and the country’s central bank have become gold hoarders over … Read More

What Happened on Yellen’s First Day on the Job

By for Profit Confidential

Why Stock Market Bulls Should Be WorriedFebruary 4 was a terrible day for key stock indices. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted by more than two percent each and broke below important support levels.

That day was also Janet Yellen’s first day on the job as chief of the most important central bank in the world.

Was Wall Street giving Yellen a message? Was that message, “Think twice before pulling back on money printing”?

While the severity of the sell-off in the stock market in January and into February of this year has caught many by surprise, to us, it was one more of those “I told you so” moments. And it should have been of no surprise to our readers at all, since we’ve been “singing the blues” of an overpriced and overbought market for months.

Here are four important points my readers need to know about the stock market:

Looking at the bottom of the chart below, you will clearly see an increase in stock market trading volume. As the stock market went down in January and into February, volume increased. When volume rises sharply during a stock market downturn, it means panic selling is setting in. February 4, 2014, was the highest volume day on the Dow Jones Industrial Average in about five months.

Dow Jones Industrial Average Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Secondly, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen below its 200-day and 50-day moving averages, as I’ve circled in the chart above. This move is considered bearish among technical analysts and suggests stock market sentiment is turning negative very quickly.

Thirdly, insiders continue to aggressively dump the stocks of the companies … Read More

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