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

Posts Tagged ‘federal reserve’

Stock Market: Four New Warning Signs Emerge

By for Profit Confidential

New Warning Signs EmergeAccording to the Investment Company Institute, investors have been taking money out of U.S. equity funds since April of this year.

Between April and July of 2014, investors pulled $32.0 billion from long-term stock market mutual funds that invest in U.S. stocks. While August’s monthly figures are not available, looking at weekly data, it appears investors ran away from the stock market in August as well. (Source: Investment Company Institute web site, last accessed September 16, 2014.)

How does a stock market rise when investors are selling? Well, there is a bigger anomaly in the stock market you need to be aware of.

Another indicator is suggesting investors are scared about the stock market. The yields on long-term U.S. bonds have been declining since March despite the Federal Reserve’s prediction that interest rates are to rise sharply next year and in 2016.

30-Year T-Bond Yield Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

As the chart above shows, yields on long-term U.S. bonds continue to go lower. Again, this is on the backdrop of the Fed getting out of the money printing business (and warning investors that interest rates are going to rise).

U.S. bonds have historically gone down when the Fed has told us interest rates are going to rise. But the fear of higher rates (and lower bond prices) is overwhelmed by the strong demand for U.S. bonds, as scared stock market investors jump into U.S. bonds—where they believe their money will be safe.

There are definite cracks starting to show in the stock market. While we hear and read about the main indices moving higher, there are fewer and fewer companies reaching new price … Read More

Why the Old School Dow Theory Still Applies

By for Profit Confidential

The Most Important Stocks to FollowGetting a sense of where stocks are going to go in the year ahead is always difficult with the major indices at their all-time highs.

The fundamental backdrop is still very favorable for equities. While the Federal Reserve has put off raising interest rates for the near future, the cost of capital, especially for corporations, remains extremely low. And corporate balance sheets remain in excellent condition with strong cash positions and good prospects for rising dividends going forward.

The stock market recovered extremely well from the financial crisis and subsequent crash in 2008/2009. But it wasn’t until early 2013 that I saw the beginning of a new cycle for stocks, or a bull market as it were.

Until then, I viewed the market’s performance purely as a recovery period from the previous cycle, which was the technology bubble.

Many of the technology stocks have only now recovered to their previous highs set in 1999 and 2000. The recovery cycle took a long time to play out and the catalyst for its breakout was, not surprisingly, the Federal Reserve.

Stocks can move significantly higher in a rising interest rate environment, but only from a low base, which is what we have now. And within the context of a new market cycle or bull market, the economy can experience a full-blown recession and stocks can experience meaningful corrections.

The two most important catalysts for the equity market near-term are what corporations actually report about their businesses and the Federal Reserve’s actions.

The surprising weakness in oil prices should be evident in corporate financial results (especially in the fourth quarter). Old economy industries … Read More

What the Worst Jobs Report of the Year Really Tells Us

By for Profit Confidential

What We Found Buried in August’s Jobs ReportA week ago today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its jobs market report for the month of August. To say the very least, there was nothing in that report that says the labor market in the U.S. economy is back on its feet. In fact, the report painted a gruesome image of employment in this country.

In August, 142,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy—the lowest monthly pace in 2014. And the jobs market numbers previously released for June and July were revised lower. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 5, 2014.)

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Americans who have been out of work for more than six months continue to make up a significant portion of the total unemployed population—31.2% of all unemployed to be exact. Over the past few years, this number hasn’t really come down much.

What’s worse is that the labor force participation rate, that is the rate of those who are in the working-age population and are looking for work, stood at 62.8% in August. This is the lowest rate of labor force participation in the U.S. economy seen since the late 1970s! (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed September 5, 2014.)

Adding to the misery, and as I have reported many times in these pages, we are seeing more part-time jobs created than ever and job creation remains concentrated in the low-wage-paying sectors, like service and retail.

There’s another problem that doesn’t get much attention. Incomes in the U.S. economy are falling. According to a report by the Federal Reserve, median household … Read More

About That $38-Million Ferrari…

By for Profit Confidential

The Other Side of the Ferrari StoryA 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta has set a new record selling for $38.1 million at an auction in Pebble Beach, California. News of the sale was all over the Internet and made it into major newspapers like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.

But it’s not just old, rare cars that are selling. The high-end luxury car market is also booming. For example, Maserati sold 6,573 cars this past July, compared to only 1,536 cars a year ago. (Source: Motor Intelligence web site, last accessed September 2, 2014.)

The markets for high-end real estate and high-end fashion goods are hot in the U.S. economy, too.

The mainstream is looking at the boom in various luxury markets and calling it economic growth. Truth be told, only a very small fraction of Americans can afford to live a lavish lifestyle and buy expensive cars, homes, and other gadgets.

The other side of the story—the story of the 99%-plus—usually goes untold.

What follows below is a picture (I personally took) of a sign posted in every grocery store I went into in a prominent town very close to New York City. The picture not only shows how the average American is struggling, but it also puts a big dent in the theory of economic growth in the U.S. economy.

We Accept WIC Check and Food Stamp
Americans are using food stamps and other government assistance programs like never before. The truth is that if the U.S. economy was witnessing economic growth, we wouldn’t have 46.25 million Americans and 22.5 million households using food stamps in the U.S. economy…. Read More

What Recovery?

By for Profit Confidential

The Biggest Boom in the U.S. EconomyAccording 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

History Repeats: Car Loans to People Who Don’t Qualify?

By for Profit Confidential

Sharp Rise in Auto Loan Delinquencies ConcerningBetween the first quarter of 2012 and the second quarter of 2014, auto sales in the U.S. economy have increased 16%. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed August 21, 2014.) And auto sales this year have been stellar, too. In July, auto sales reached the highest level since 2007 and are up eight percent from this past January. (Source: Motor Intelligence, last accessed August 21, 2014.)

As auto sales have risen, auto loans have increased as well. In the first quarter of 2012, auto loans amounted to $737 billion; now they are just short of $1.0 trillion. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York web site, last accessed August 21, 2014.)

More auto sales, more auto loans; sounds right. But the problem is that more and more cars are being sold to individuals with bad credit scores.

Looking at it percentage-wise, the amount of auto loans to people with poor credit scores is much higher than to those with good credit scores. As an example, in the second quarter of 2014, $20.6 billion in new auto loans were issued to those with a credit score below 620. That’s an increase of 33% to this group from the first quarter of 2012.

Meanwhile, auto loans to those who have credit scores above 760, called super-prime customers, only increased 17% over the same period.

Now, here comes the kicker…

In the second quarter of 2014, 15.1% of all auto loans originated in the U.S. economy were delinquent for more than 30 days. That’s a 44% jump in auto loan delinquencies from the first quarter of 2012. … Read More

Two Reasons Why Interest Rates Will Rise

By for Profit Confidential

U.S. Dollar Under BRICS PressureThe U.S. dollar is still regarded as the reserve currency of the world. The majority of international transactions are settled in U.S. dollars and most central banks around the word hold it in their foreign exchange reserves.

But since the Credit Crisis of 2008, and the multi-trillion-dollar printing program by the Federal Reserve, the supremacy of the U.S. dollar as the “world’s currency” has been challenged.

The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) have agreed on starting a new development bank that will compete with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. (Source: Washington Times, August 5, 2014.) Both the IMF and World Bank are “U.S. dollar”-based.

Since the year 2000, the U.S. dollar composed about 56% of all reserves at central banks. But after the Credit Crisis, that percentage started to decline. In 2013, the greenback made up only 32.43% of all foreign exchange reserves at foreign central banks. (Source: International Monetary Fund COFER data, last accessed August 11, 2014.)

Yes, the $3.5 trillion in new money the Federal Reserve has created out of thin air has made other central banks nervous about holding U.S. dollars in their vaults. After all, if you were a foreign central bank with U.S. dollars as your reserve currency, how good would you feel to know the U.S. just printed more dollars as it needed them without any backing of gold?

But it’s not just the money printing. It’s the massive debt the U.S. government has accumulated…currently at $17.6 trillion and soon to be $20.0 trillion.

In the short-run, the U.S. dollar is still considered a safe … Read More

Having Trouble Coming Up With Four Hundred Bucks

By for Profit Confidential

Economic Growth in 2014The burning question that’s facing economists like me today and that will only be answered in the future: did creating $3.0 trillion in new money out of thin air really make things better or worse for America?

My personal view, as expressed in these pages, is that the rich (the big banks and Wall Street) got richer from the “printing press” era, while the average American did not directly benefit from the Fed’s actions.

In fact, in America today, the spread in wealth between the rich and the poor has never been so great. As for the middle class, they are becoming extinct.

The “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2013,” recently published by the Federal Reserve, says 34% of Americans feel they are worse off today than they were five years ago, and 42% said they are holding back on the purchase of major or expensive items. (Source: Federal Reserve, August 7, 2014.)

But the data gets worse…

Of those Americans who had savings prior to the 2008 recession, 57% of them say they have used up some or all of their savings in order to combat the after-effects of the Great Recession.

Only 48% of Americans said that they would be able to cover a “hypothetical emergency expense” that costs $400.00 without selling something or borrowing money. Simply put, about half of Americans have less than $400.00 in emergency funds!

Meanwhile, 31% of Americans say they do not have any retirement savings or pension. Of those who are between the ages of 55 and 64, 24% of them expect to work as long as possible, … Read More

If the Economy Is Improving, Why Are Investors Pricing in a Slowdown?

By for Profit Confidential

U.S. Economy Slowing Down Here in 2014The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) surprised even the most optimistic of economists when it reported the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of four percent in the second quarter of 2014.

On the surface, the number—four percent growth—sounds great. But how serious should we take that gross domestic product (GDP) figure?

Firstly, I’d like to start by pointing out that the BEA often revises its GDP numbers downward. We saw this happen in the first quarter. First, we saw the BEA say the U.S. economy grew by 0.1% in the first quarter, then after a couple of revisions, they said the economy actually contracted 2.9% in the quarter.

I obviously expect the BEA to lower its initial second-quarter GDP numbers again.

But here’s what really worries me…

If the GDP data suggests the U.S. economy is growing, why are investors pricing in an economic slowdown?

The chart below is of the 10-year U.S. Treasury, the so-called safe haven. Back in 2007 to 2009, investors ran to U.S. Treasuries as a safe haven. As the U.S. economy improved, the yields on the 10-year U.S. Treasury started to rise as interest rates rose with general optimism towards the economy.

10 Year Treasury Note Yield Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

But since the beginning of this year, yields on the 10-year U.S. notes have declined 18%. This is despite the fact the biggest buyer of these bonds, the Federal Reserve, has stepped away from buying these Treasuries as its quantitative easing program comes to an end.

At the same time, we have the stock market finally starting to give in. So if the stock market is a … Read More

Alan’s Words of Wisdom for Stocks (He Was Right Last Time)

By for Profit Confidential

History Repeating Itself with This Stock MarketRemember Alan Greenspan? He was the chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006. Several media sources, including this one, blamed the sub-prime mortgage fiasco that led to the Credit Crisis of 2008 on the easy money policies under the leadership of Greenspan.

But the Credit Crisis aside, it is ironic but true that Greenspan has had a knack for calling stock market bubbles correctly.

For example, in December of 1996, while chairman of the Federal Reserve, Greenspan grew wary about the stock market. In a now famous speech called the “Challenge of Central Banking in a Democratic Society,” along with other observations on the value of stocks, Greenspan essentially argued that the rise in the stock market at that time wasn’t reflective of the poor economic conditions that prevailed.

Within two years of that speech, the stock market started to decline and stocks did not recover until 2006.

In an interview with Bloomberg a few days ago, Greenspan said, “the stock market has recovered so sharply for so long, you have to assume somewhere along the line we will get a significant correction.” (Source: “Greenspan Says Stocks to See ‘Significant Correction,’” Bloomberg, July 30, 2014.)

In the interview, Greenspan says long-term capital isn’t growing and as a result, productivity and the economic recovery will be in jeopardy.

Greenspan is out of the Federal Reserve. But the leader of the Fed today, Janet Yellen, also has reservations about the value of certain stocks. As I wrote on July 16, Yellen had been quoted saying tech stocks were priced “high relative to historical norms.” (See “How Many Warnings Can Read More

Why a Full-Blown Market Correction Should Be Expected

By for Profit Confidential

Investors Can't Overlook to Succeed in This MarketThe monetary environment is still highly favorable to stocks and should continue to be so well into 2015. However, while this market can handle higher interest rates, stocks can only advance in a higher interest rate environment if gross domestic product (GDP) growth is there to back it up.

Because of the capital gains over the last few years and the across-the-board record-highs in many indices, investment risk in stocks is still high. Accordingly, it’s worthwhile reviewing your exposure to risk, particularly regarding any highflyers in your portfolio; they get hit the hardest when a shock happens.

Currently, geopolitical events between Ukraine and Russia have the potential to be the catalyst for a correction. It could happen at any time depending on what transpires.

The risk of stocks selling off on the Federal Reserve’s actions is diminishing. The marketplace is well informed about the central bank’s intentions and it’s quite clear that Fed Chair Janet Yellen doesn’t want to do anything to “surprise” Wall Street.

I still view this market as one where institutional investors want to own the safest names. The economic data just isn’t strong enough for traditional mutual funds and pensions to be speculating.

This is why the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other large-cap dividend paying stocks are so well positioned. They offer great prospects for increasing quarterly income, some capital gain potential (still), and downside protection compared to the rest of the market.

Of course, all stocks are risky. An equity security is priced in a secondary market where fear, greed, emotions, and a herd mentality are part of the daily pricing mechanism.

Accordingly, anything … Read More

My Poor Italy

By for Profit Confidential

Why This Stock Market Will Fall Like a RockThis morning came the news that Italy, a country very close to my heart (just look at my last name) and the third-biggest economy in the eurozone, is back in recession.

And Germany, the biggest economy in Europe, saw factory orders in June drop by the most since 2011.

While the financial media has taken the focus off the eurozone over the past couple of years, I have continued to tell my readers about how bad conditions are there. I have the pleasure to travel to the eurozone several times a year. I can tell you first-hand how people there are suffering. Outside of Germany and the smaller, rich countries, jobs in the eurozone are extremely hard to find and wages are very soft.

The European Central Bank’s move to bringing its overnight deposit rate to negative is obviously not having its desired effect of getting banks there to lend out more money. Many eurozone banks are in serious financial trouble. You can’t force a bank to lend money to its customers if the bank is concerned about its own financial health.

With about half of the S&P 500 companies deriving revenue from Europe, it is no wonder American corporations are having trouble increasing revenue. Last week, the eurozone introduced wide-ranging sanctions against Russia because of the Ukraine situation. Russia is Germany’s largest trading partner in Europe—obviously, eurozone companies will feel the pain of the sanctions imposed on Russia.

In the U.S., we were already dealing with an overpriced stock market—a market characterized by heaving corporate insider selling, too much bullishness among stock advisors, the VIX Index saying investors … Read More

With Stocks Still Near Their Highs, What Should Your Priority Be?

By for Profit Confidential

One Key Index Close to Breaking This MarketThe 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 Question Everyone Is Asking This Morning

By for Profit Confidential

Stocks Turn Negative for 2014; Likely to Get WorseYesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 317 points, while the NASDAQ Composite Index fell 93 points—respective losses of about two percent per index. This morning, stock market futures are down again.

As a reader of Profit Confidential, this “rout” we are now in should come as no surprise. I have been writing for months how overpriced the stock market has become, how the stock market has become one big bubble thanks to the easy money policies of the Federal Reserve, and how the bubble would burst.

Yesterday, those who have been riding the stock market’s coattails higher and higher got the first taste of what is being called a “correction” by the mainstream media. But like I just said, to me, this is a stock market bubble that is bursting—very different than a correction. For months, historically proven stock market indicators (many of which I have written about in these pages) have been flashing red…but very few investors paid any attention to them.

The Dow Jones is now down for 2014. Yes, seven months into the year and big-cap stocks have gone nowhere. So far in 2014, investors would have done better owning gold and silver or U.S. Treasuries.

I have been predicting this will be a down year for the stock market and I’m keeping with that forecast. After five consecutive positive years for the stock market, the bounce from the 2008 market low of 6,440 on the Dow Jones could finally be over.

Dear reader, as elementary as it sounds, interest rates are the catalyst for all this.

After falling for 30 years, a time in … Read More

The Era of Financial Insanity

By for Profit Confidential

What Happens Next for the Stock MarketMy colleague Robert Appel (BA, BBL, LLB) issued a research paper to the subscribers of one of his financial advisories earlier this week. I thought it important that all my readers be aware of and understand the crux of what Robert is saying about our current economic situation and where it will eventually lead.

Here it is:

“The actions of the Federal Reserve (how far they went to ‘stabilize’ the economy) after the Credit Crisis of 2008 is unprecedented in American history. Of course, I’m talking about the Federal Reserve printing nearly $4.0 trillion in new U.S. dollars while keeping interest rates artificially low for almost six years now.

These actions have caused an ‘era of financial insanity’ that penalizes seniors, savers, and prudent investors, while rewarding borrowers, those who leverage, and risk-takers.

It encourages public companies to doctor their own bottom lines by borrowing money (at cheap interest rates) to repurchase their own shares. This reduces the denominator of their earnings numbers—giving only the illusion of prosperity—and also reduces share float, thereby putting upward pressure on stock prices since more money is suddenly chasing fewer shares.

Articles have appeared in several well-known financial publications, with sources, citing central banks around the world have injected $29.0 trillion into equity markets because they themselves simply could not manage a return at the very same rates they were inflicting on others!

The prime beneficiaries of these insane monetary policies are the banks themselves and the government itself. Because low interest rates allow Washington (and other, similar, fiat regimes) to manage debt payments that could not otherwise be managed in a ‘normal’ interest … Read More

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