Posts Tagged ‘consumer spending’
The stock market in France has been on a tear! Below, I present a chart of the French CAC 40 Index, the main stock market index in France.
Looking at the chart, we see the French stock market is trading at a five-year high. With such a strong stock market, one would expect France, the second-largest economy in the eurozone, to be doing well. But it’s the exact opposite!
As its stock market rallies, France’s economic slowdown is gaining steam. In January, the unemployment rate in France was unchanged; it has remained close to 11% for a year now. (Source: Eurostat, February 28, 2014.) Consumer spending in the French economy declined 2.1% in January after declining 0.1% in December. (Source: National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, February 28, 2014.) Other key indicators of the French economy are also pointing to an economic slowdown for the country.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
And France isn’t the only place in the eurozone still experiencing a severe economic slowdown. In January, the unemployment rate in Italy, the third-biggest nation in the eurozone, hit a record-high of 12.9%, compared to 11.8% a year ago.
I have not mentioned Greece, Spain, and Portugal because they have been discussed in these pages many times before; as my readers are well aware, they are in a state of outright depression.
Just like how investors have bought into the U.S. stock market again in hopes of U.S. economic growth, the same thing has happened in the eurozone. Investors have put money into France’s stock market in hopes of that economy recovering—but it hasn’t. We are dealing with a … Read More
Consumer spending in the U.S. economy is highly correlated to consumer confidence. If consumers are worried about the economy, they pull back on their spending.
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index decreased by 1.63% in February from January. (Source: Conference Board, February 25, 2014.) And we see the corresponding pullback on consumer spending in weak U.S. retail sales.
Macy’s, Inc. (NYSE/M) reported a decline of 1.6% in revenue in its latest quarter—which includes the holiday season. For its just-completed fiscal year, company revenues were up by only 0.9%. (Source: Macy’s, Inc., February 25, 2014.)
Sears Holdings Corporation (NASDAQ/SHLD) reported a decline of 12.6% in revenues in its latest quarter. Yes, I know this company is having problems; but a drop in revenue of 12.6% for a retail giant like this—and during the holiday shopping season—is an indicator that consumer spending is very weak. (Source: Sears Holdings Corporation, February 27, 2014.)
Target Corporation (NYSE/TGT) reported revenues fell by 3.8% in its last fiscal quarter. (Source: Target Corporation, February 26, 2014.)
Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE/BBY) is in a very similar situation. The company reported a decline of more than three percent in revenues for its latest quarter. And for the 12 months ended February 1, 2014, Best Buy’s revenues fell 3.4%. (Source: Best Buy Co., Inc., February 27, 2014.)
The retailers I just mentioned are just a few of the many retailers that reported a decline in their revenues in the last quarter of 2013, which suggests consumer spending is in troubling territory.
My point is that those companies that are closest to consumer spending—the big American retailers—are giving us a … Read More
In 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.
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
In 2013, the U.S. economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), rose at an average rate of 1.9% compared to 2.8% in 2012. And as it stands, GDP may slow further in 2014.
What makes me think this?
In January, U.S. industrial production declined by 0.3% from the previous month. This was the first decline in production since August of 2013. Production of automotive products in the U.S. economy declined by 5.15%, and appliances, furniture, and carpeting production declined by 0.6% in the month. (Source: Federal Reserve, February 14, 2014.)
And factories in the U.S. economy just aren’t as busy as they used to be. The capacity utilization rate, a measure of companies using their potential production, was 78.5% in January. The average rate between 1979 and 2013 has been 80.1%. While a difference of two percent in factory utilization isn’t a big number, because overhead is often fixed in factories, a two-percent decline in production is a big deal.
Then there’s the inventory problem; inventories in the U.S. economy continue to increase. In December, inventories at manufacturers increased by another 0.5% to $1.7 trillion. From December 2012, they have increased by 4.4%. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, February 14, 2014.)
We have a situation in the U.S. economy today where factories are working at lower capacity than they have historically, while business inventories are rising—two bad omens for the economy; hence, you can see why I’m concerned about economic growth in 2014.
It’s a domino effect…
Inventories increasing suggest consumer demand is stalling. Examples of consumer spending declining in the U.S. economy are many. As I have … Read More
As I have been pointing out to my readers, the “official” unemployment numbers issued by the government are misleading because they do not include people who have given up looking for work and those people with part-time jobs who want full-time work.
In January, there were 3.6 million individuals in the U.S. economy who were long-term unemployed—out of work for more than six months. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 7, 2014.)
Those who are working part-time in the U.S. economy because they can’t find full-time work stood at 7.3 million people in January.
Add these two numbers into the equation and the real unemployment rate, often called the underemployment rate, is over 12%. Meanwhile, the official unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics sits at 6.6%—that’s the number you will hear politicians most often quote.
But if there’s a group of policymakers that looks past the “official” unemployment numbers, it’s the Federal Reserve.
At her speech before the Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. last week, Fed Chief Janet Yellen said, “Those out of a job for more than six months continue to make up an unusually large fraction of the unemployed, and the number of people who are working part time but would prefer a full-time job remains very high. These observations underscore the importance of considering more than the unemployment rate when evaluating the condition of the U.S. labor market.” (Source: “Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress,” Federal Reserve, February 11, 2014.)
Like all economists, Yellen knows that when an individual has a part-time job then their income isn’t as … Read More
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is currently shutting down numerous Chinese shell companies trading on U.S. exchanges, such as the over-the-counter market and the highly speculative Pink Sheets stock exchange.
This is good and is something the SEC needs to continue to pursue and enforce, so domestic investors can regain some lost confidence towards Chinese stocks.
The American appetite for Chinese stocks has been picking up; albeit, it’s nowhere near where it was a few years ago when Chinese stocks were all the rage.
Yet if you think there’s little interest in Chinese stocks, take a look at some of the sizzling debuts of the few Chinese initial public offerings (IPOs) that listed in the U.S. last year.
There are now worries China may be set for a downside slide. I have been hearing how the Chinese economy was set to burst, especially regarding the real estate and financial sectors in China. So far this has yet to happen, but we are continuing to hear continued bearish comments towards China.
It’s true the Chinese economy is stalling and may find it difficult to get back to its former double-digit growth, but with gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 7.7% in 2013 and estimated to rise 8.2% this year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), these are not bad numbers. By comparison, the U.S. economy is predicted to grow 2.9% in 2014, according to the OECD. (Read “OECD Predicts China #1 Economy by 2016; Consumer Spending to Soar.”)
A recent showing of contraction in Chinese manufacturing in January was used by the Chinese bears … Read More
February 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.
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
Don’t for a second believe consumer spending in the U.S. economy is improving!
J. C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE/JCP) has announced it will be closing 33 stores in the U.S. economy. By doing this, the retailer will save about $65.0 million a year starting in 2014. 2,000 employees will be let go. (Source: J. C. Penney Company, Inc., January 15, 2014.)
Macy’s, Inc. (NYSE/M) is also closing stores.
Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE/ BBY) reported that for the nine-week period ended January 4, its comparable sales declined 0.8% from the same period a year ago. The CEO of the company, Hubert Joly, said, “…our holiday revenues were negatively impacted by a number of factors, including: (1) the aggressive promotional activity in the retail industry during the holiday period; (2) supply constraints for key products; (3) significant store traffic declines between “Power Week” and Christmas; and (4) a disappointing mobile phone market.” (Source: “Best Buy Announces Holiday Revenue Results,” Best Buy Co., Inc., January 16, 2014.)
Target Corporation (NYSE/TGT) is another retailer that’s been hurt by dismal consumer spending in the U.S. economy. The company expects a decline of 2.5% in its fourth-quarter comparable sales. Target has also lowered its corporate earnings guidance for the fourth quarter; it now expects to report earnings of between $1.20 and $1.30 per share. Previously, it stated its corporate earnings in the fourth quarter would be between $1.50 and $1.60 a share. The company also plans to close eight stores in the U.S. economy. (Source: Target Corporation, January 10, 2014.)
Each day, it is becoming more evident that consumer spending, which makes up about two-thirds … Read More
Investors were happily greeted with a surprise on Tuesday after the reporting of better-than-expected retail sales numbers that suggest the consumer spending market may be alive and well after all.
In December, the headline retail sales reading jumped 0.2%, which was above the Briefing.com estimate calling for a flat result. Even after adjusting for the volatile auto sales, the core retail sales reading surged 0.7% compared to the 0.4% consensus estimate.
The results offer some encouragement for spending this year in the retail sector and were much needed, given the recent downward guidance from several retailers.
Now, don’t get too giddy and go out and buy retail stocks at random. It’s not that easy. Investing in retail stocks at this time requires careful thought and evaluation. But with the right investments, there’s some money to be made in the retail sector.
The National Retail Federation also reported some encouraging numbers for the retail sector. Excluding auto, gas station, and restaurant sales, retail sales advanced 3.8% in November and December.
Sounds good on the surface, but there may be some underlying issues surfacing in the retail sector. About 25 of the 29 retailers that issued earnings guidance, unfortunately, offered a negative outlook. (Source: O’Donnell, J., “Holiday sales paint mixed picture for retailers,” USA Today, January 14, 2014.)
The stats put forth are non-conducive to a rally in the retail sector and, in fact, represent a troubled retail climate that is facing lower income from middle-class consumers.
Even the discounted retail sector area is showing some weakness in growth. Family Dollar Stores, Inc. (NYSE/FDO) offered a soft tone in its outlook … Read More
In New York last week, 1,500 people lined up for 50 apprenticeship positions as painters and decorators. These are union jobs, and only 500 applications are being accepted. Some hopefuls lined up in front of the District Council 9 office for days in extremely cold weather. If they are able to get the job, they will receive $17.20 an hour during the first year. After one year, they may get hired as a full-time employee. (Source: Eyewitness News, January 10, 2014.) This equates to about $37,000 per year considering one would work 40 hours a week.
Hold on a second: I thought the jobs market was strong in the U.S. economy? How come we are seeing such massive lines for a very small number of jobs?
What I just mentioned above is not an isolated event. I have reported other events like this in these pages before—a large number of people applying for very few jobs. It’s a fact that continues to be ignored: the U.S. jobs market remains bleak and the better-paying jobs are just not there.
In the entire year of 2013, the total non-farm payroll jobs market grew by 2.03 million jobs. But the majority of these positions were created in low-paying jobs.
Retail trade jobs in the U.S. economy increased by 358,400 last year—about 18% of all jobs created in 2013. The well-paying sectors of the jobs market, such as construction and manufacturing, didn’t see as much growth: construction jobs increased by 98,000 and manufacturing jobs in the U.S. economy increased by 63,000 in 2013. Together, the higher-paying jobs made up less than eight percent of … Read More
All of a sudden, auto sales are declining…
Auto sales in the U.S. economy declined to an annual rate of 15.4 million units in December. In November, this number stood at 16.41 million units—a decline of more than six percent. (Source: Motor Intelligence, January 3, 2014.) Analysts were caught off guard by the decline in December auto sales; they were expecting an increase!
I see the decline in auto sales as being directly related to rising interest rates. And it’s not going to get any better.
For years now (since the Credit Crisis), auto sales have been increasing due to low interest rates. It’s very similar to what happened to the housing market prior to 2007. More and more people went on a house-buying spree when the mortgage rates were at record lows. When mortgage rates started to increase in 2007, the already-inflated housing market got hit hard. The same thing is happening to auto sales now.
Interest rates are rising again. Look at the chart below of the bellwether 10-year U.S. Treasury. Since November, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury has gone up roughly 20%. The higher interest rates go, the weaker auto sales will get. (And we can already see the impact on the auto stocks. The stocks of America’s major car makers are off five percent from their 2013 peak, but key stock indices are near their peaks.)
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Rising interest rates will have the biggest impact on auto loans given to subprime borrowers (those who have a lower credit standing).
My readers should note that the delinquency rates on auto loans … Read More
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke did something that many on Wall Street including myself did not believe he had the inclination to do: he began the tapering process in his final meeting as the head of the most powerful central bank in the world.
The Federal Reserve will cut its bond buying by $10.0 billion each month, which I believe is a sensible move at this point, given the economic renewal and jobs market growth.
Markets surged to new record-highs for the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average, as now there’s a sense that the ongoing uncertainty of when the Federal Reserve will begin to taper has finally been removed, and traders like certainty.
In addition, by reducing the stimulus by just less than 12%, the Federal Reserve can also gauge the market reaction and any negative impact tapering may have on the economy.
The intense buying following the announcement was based on the premise that the economy was moving along pretty well, and this could fuel consumer spending and gross domestic product (GDP) growth. The market was also pleased to hear that the record-low near-zero interest rates could remain, even if the unemployment rate fell below 6.5%.
With Christmas in a few days, it was nice that Bernanke graciously began to rein in the easy money flow. Now a plan has been put into place and the incoming Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will continue it based on how the economy and jobs market progress.
In the meantime, the news also means potentially more stock market gains for investors—albeit, at a slower pace than this past year.
Bernanke … Read More
It’s less than two weeks prior to the Christmas break, and with the New Year on the horizon, that means it’s time to sit down and really re-evaluate your portfolio.
Now, we could see Santa appear and deliver our Christmas goods (i.e. additional gains) into January. What a wonderful way that would be to begin the year? But I will discuss what’s to come in 2014 in my year-ahead outlook in three weeks’ time. At this point, I’m not positive, but I think it’s going to take some work to make money in the New Year (Santa’s not likely to drop that off under your tree).
The days of the Federal Reserve’s flow of easy money into the stock market, which we witnessed over the last four years, will be steadily fading away unless, of course, the new Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen, decides to extend the bond buying longer than necessary. She does love the use of loose monetary policy to prime the economic engine, just as the exiting Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke did for years.
Naturally, a lot of what the Federal Reserve does will circle around what’s happening in the economy.
The Federal Reserve wants jobs so consumers can go out and spend money, driving up the economic renewal. After all, consumer spending accounts for a whopping 70% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Now, imagine what it’s going to look like when Chinese consumers spend, which is exactly what the government is hoping for in that country. (Read “OECD Predicts China #1 Economy by 2016; Consumer Spending to Soar.”)
On … Read More
Auto sales in the U.S. economy look solid on the surface. According to Autodata, in November, the annual rate of auto sales in the U.S. economy was 16.41 million units. In October, the annual rate of auto sales was reported to be 15.23 million and in the same period a year ago (November 2012), it was 15.32 million. (Source: Autodata web site, last accessed December 10, 2013.) Cleary, auto sales are increasing.
By looking at the auto sales numbers, one could be easily tempted to suggest consumer spending is increasing. But this is not the case. A deeper look at the numbers reveals a large increase in subprime lending to finance consumer auto purchases.
According to Experian, an information services company, loans issued for new vehicles to nonprime, subprime, and deep subprime borrowers made up 26.04% of all auto loans in the third quarter of this year. In the same period a year ago, this number was 24.84%. For used vehicles, loans issued to nonprime, subprime, and deep subprime borrowers made up an astonishing 54.95% of all auto loans in the third quarter. (Source: Experian, December 4, 2013.)
But this is not all. We are also seeing more and more consumers interested in buying vehicles on credit. For example, in its “Household Debt and Credit Developments” report for the third quarter of 2013, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that in the third quarter, 168 million inquires for auto loans were made. In the second quarter of 2012, that number was only 159 million. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, November 2013.)
All of this shouldn’t be … Read More
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