Posts Tagged ‘federal reserve’
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lowered its growth forecast for the global economy. It says the world economy will now grow by 3.6% in 2014 and 3.9% in 2015; it grew at three percent in 2013. (Source: International Monetary Fund, April 8, 2014.)
I see the IMF forecast on global growth as being far too optimistic. In fact, I think we’d be lucky to get three percent growth in the global economy this year. Key indicators I follow suggest demand in the global economy is close to outright collapsing.
Consider the chart below of the Baltic Dry Index (BDI). This index tracks the shipping prices of dry goods in the global economy. If it declines, it suggests global demand is declining. The BDI has plunged more than 48% since the beginning of the year, pointing to slow growth for the global economy ahead.
Manufacturing is another indicator of demand in the global economy that we follow. If manufacturing activity increases, it means demand is increasing and that consumers are buying more. Sadly, global manufacturing is suggesting an economic slowdown is the most likely scenario ahead.
The JPMorgan Global Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index declined to its lowest level in five months in March. (Source: Markit, April 1, 2014.)
Adding to the misery, most economic hubs are telling the same tale.
The eurozone is still in trouble; the European Central Bank is contemplating its own quantitative easing program as Italy just reported its highest unemployment rate ever recorded. China is pumping out weak economic data. Japan’s economic slowdown isn’t taking any break despite the central bank … Read More
Being financial reporting season, it’s important to discern between results that beat Wall Street consensus and real economic growth.
Abbott Laboratories (ABT) just announced better-than-expected first-quarter earnings, but they weren’t better than the comparable quarter of 2013. Operating earnings, earnings from continuing operations, and diluted earnings per share were all down significantly compared to the first quarter of 2013.
So, the illusion can definitely become real in hot markets. Investors are always better off ignoring headlines and going right to the financial statements. Managed earnings are just that—managed.
One company that just produced a very good quarter was The Charles Schwab Corporation (SCHW). The stock broker’s first-quarter sales grew 15% to $1.48 billion on strong growth in asset management and administration fees.
Net earnings leapt 58% to $326 million, or 60% to $0.60 in diluted earnings per share. Top-line growth and strong expense control were the reasons for the strong bottom-line growth.
There’s no real reason why Charles Schwab’s share price should keep on appreciating near-term. All the good news is priced into the shares. The company beat consensus earnings by $0.02 a share, while revenues were in line.
This reporting season, earnings are here to justify current share prices.
I’d be very wary of buying corporate good news now. Market jitters aren’t going away and all it takes is a small catalyst for institutional investors to pull the sell trigger again.
A meaningful correction or price consolidation would be a positive development for the longer-run trend and a good opportunity to consider adding to blue-chip positions.
A good deal of speculative fervor has come out of this market, … Read More
Trading action in stocks has been all over the map so far this year, while investor sentiment remained generally positive. The fact that there was a bunch of profit-taking after the solid recovery in February and March is neither a surprise nor unnatural for a market at a high.
The Federal Reserve continues to be more than accommodative to Wall Street with its words of comfort and its willingness to provide continued monetary stimulus past previously stated benchmarks.
Near-term, geopolitical events in Ukraine are likely the biggest risk for stocks. It’s been a slow start this earnings season with unremarkable results, but the numbers aren’t that bad. Growth is growth.
The NASDAQ Biotechnology Index has just now crossed its 200-day simple moving average, if that’s meaningful. It’s done so several times over the last five years and recovered after a period of consolidation.
Biotechnology stocks aren’t worth paying a lot of attention to in terms of portfolio strategy. These risk-capital stocks trade on their own unique set of business fundamentals. They’ve been powerhouse wealth creators for sure over the last few years. They are due for an extended break.
I think the best plays in this market are still with dividend-paying blue chips as they experience price retrenchments. These stocks continue to have a tremendous amount of favor with big investors in a slow-growth environment. Dividend income is very important when top-line growth is in the single digits.
For those equity investors wanting to take on positions in this market, I’m still a fan of existing winners, particularly among the brand-name stocks that have distinguished themselves with long track records … Read More
From our recent reader survey, I see our readers are not that concerned about what happens in the eurozone. But there’s a phenomenon occurring there that I believe every investor who is interested in gold bullion should be aware of.
Let me explain…
It’s a known fact that when central banks print more of their paper money, it’s usually bullish for the yellow metal. We saw this after 2009, when the Federal Reserve started to print more paper money; gold bullion prices skyrocketed.
In the eurozone, there continues to be major economic problems in the region. Italy, the third-biggest economic hub in the eurozone, has reported its unemployment rate hit 13% in February—the highest unemployment rate ever recorded in the country. (Source: Reuters, April 1, 2014.)
To help countries like Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal with their economic woes, the European Central Bank (ECB) has lowered its benchmark interest rate—but that hasn’t spurred bank lending as bad debts on the books of major eurozone banks keep piling up. Even once-strong eurozone countries like France are under economic scrutiny.
Now, as no surprise, the ECB has started talk about following the same route the Federal Reserve has taken—printing paper money.
At a conference last week, one of the ECB’s Executive Board members, Yves Mersch, said the ECB is ready to turn on its printing presses. The president of the ECB, Mario Draghi, has also said quantitative easing in the region may be needed if inflation in the eurozone continues to remain subdued. (Source: Reuters, April 7, 2014.)
Hence, to the printing presses of the Federal Reserve, the Central Bank … Read More
Those 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.
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
Is 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
|Fed Balance Sheet (Trillions)||YOY Change in Balance Sheet|
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
In the early days of the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve said, “Job losses, declining equity and housing wealth and tight credit conditions have weighed on consumer sentiment and spending. Weaker sales prospects and difficulties in obtaining credit have led businesses to cut back on inventories and fixed investment.” (Source: Federal Reserve, March 18, 2008.) As a result of this, the central bank came up with the idea of printing paper money to stimulate the economy; thus, “quantitative easing” was born.
Five years later, the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has grown to $4.2 trillion. We also saw the U.S. government increase spending to stimulate the U.S. economy after the Credit Crisis of 2008. The U.S. national debt skyrocketed from around $9.0 trillion back then to over $17.0 trillion today.
With all this money being created (by the Fed) and borrowed (by the government), the logical assumption is that there’s finally economic growth in the U.S. economy.
Paper money printing by the Federal Reserve and out-of-control spending by the government hasn’t really given much of a boost to the U.S. economy (aside from the stock market bubble it has created). Problems still persist. The amount of paper money that has been printed out of thin air is huge—an unprecedented event in American history.
Now that the Federal Reserve is putting the brakes on quantitative easing (it will print less money each month), will we see businesses pull back on capital spending? Of course we will. When money is tight, businesses pull back on research and development, expansion, and acquisitions.
Consider this: since December of last year to this past … Read More
For a moment, consider yourself a loan officer at a major bank. Would you approve a loan for a customer who says they earn $1,000 a month, spend $1,300 a month, and don’t have a job? They also tell you they have unpaid debts of $17,000.
I don’t think anyone would authorize that kind of loan because the chances of getting the money back are next to zero. The individual spending more than he earns is a prime example of a financial disaster waiting to happen. It is unsustainable living; when someone does this, they break the most basic principles of Personal Finance 101.
So why does the U.S. government get away with it?
The United States Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Fiscal Service reported the budget deficit for the month of February was $194 billion. The U.S. government received $144 billion in revenues and spent $338 billion; the government spent 134% more than what it earned. (Source: Bureau of the Fiscal Service, March 14, 2014.)
So far for fiscal year 2014 (which began in October of 2013), the U.S. government has incurred a budget deficit of $380 billion on revenues of $1.10 trillion and expenses of $1.48 trillion. Since the beginning of its current fiscal year, the government has been spending 34% more than what it takes in.
The U.S. national debt, which has now surpassed $17.0 trillion, has skyrocketed since the Credit Crisis of 2008.
There are two important facts about our rising national debt that don’t get a lot of mainstream attention (and I certainly don’t hear the politicians talking about them):
Point #1: … Read More
This is an odd stock market. On one hand, you don’t want to miss out on any of the upward moves, which is why you should continue to ride the gains; on the other hand, you also want to make sure you have an exit plan in place. (See “Time for Investors to Create an Exit Strategy?”)
As we move toward the end of the first quarter, the one thing that is clear is the difference in the market behavior this year versus the same time in 2013, when everything was moving rapidly higher with minimal regard for the underlying market fundamentals.
As I wrote in these pages in January, this will be a more difficult market in which to make money compared to the previous few years.
The move by the Federal Reserve under Janet Yellen to continue to dismantle the quantitative easing that was put into place by former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke a few years ago has continued into 2014 with the third straight month of cuts to the central bank’s monthly bond buying.
The gradual $10.0-billion-per-month reduction in the Fed’s monthly bond buying will likely continue until the program reaches zero early in the fourth quarter, unless, of course, the economic renewal stalls.
What this means for the stock market is that the drying up of easy money from the Fed will continue to put a damper on the money available for speculating on stocks, especially those in the emerging markets. And as bond yields rise, there will be more of a shift to bonds.
We are already seeing the impact on the … Read More
Copper is considered an industrial metal, used in industries across the board. When copper prices fall, it’s usually an indicator of a slowdown in the global economy. On the contrary, gold bullion isn’t much of an industrial metal; rather, it is used as a hedge against uncertainty in the global economy.
When you look at these two metals together, often referred to as the gold-to-copper ratio, they tell us something very important: the ratio of how many pounds of copper it takes to buy one ounce of gold bullion has long been an indicator of sentiment in the global economy.
If the gold-to-copper ratio is in a downtrend, it means investors are betting on the global economy to grow. In contrast, if it is increasing (if the number of pounds of copper it costs to buy an ounce of gold is rising), it tells us investors are concerned about protecting their wealth in a slowing global economy.
Below, you’ll find a chart of the gold-to-copper ratio.
Looking at the chart above, it is clear something happened at the beginning of 2014. Investors became very worried. Since the beginning of the year, the gold-to-copper ratio has increased more than 28%—the steepest increase in more than two years.
And the weekly chart of copper prices looks terrible too:
Copper prices have been trending downward since 2011. In 2013, these prices broke below their 200-day moving average and recently, they broke below a very critical support level at $3.00. While all of this was happening, on the chart, there was also a formation of a … Read More
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports inflation in the U.S. economy increased by 0.1% in February from the previous month. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 18, 2014.) As usual, these numbers have again brought up the theory of deflation—a period when general prices decline.
Reasons for the deflation fear? In 2013, inflation for the entire year was 1.5%. In 2012, it was 1.9%. Going back further, in 2011, it was three percent. If we extrapolate the inflation numbers from January and February of this year and assume the increase will be the same (0.1%) throughout the year, we are looking at an inflation rate of 1.2% for 2014.
Wells Fargo Securities LLC has gone one step further. Economists at the firm believe there’s a 66% chance that deflation in the U.S. economy will prevail and these chances have been increasing since 2010. (Source: Bloomberg, February 21, 2014.)
To me, this is sheer nonsense!
The reality of the matter is that the inflation numbers reported by the BLS exclude changes in food and energy prices—the most important things consumers use on a daily basis. When you include food and energy, inflation is running at a much higher rate.
The prices of basic commodities are skyrocketing. Take corn prices, for example: since the beginning of the year, corn prices are up more than 15%. Wheat prices are up almost 20% year-to-date. When you look at meat prices, such as lean hogs, you will see they have increased by more than 45% since January.
As I see it, deflation is nothing but a farfetched idea for the U.S. economy. (In a … Read More
We 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
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