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

Posts Tagged ‘federal reserve’

Why Economic Growth Doesn’t Guarantee Rising Share Prices

By for Profit Confidential

Why Today's Earnings Are for Yesterday's Stock PricesTrading 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

Should You Be Buying More Gold Ahead of the ECB’s Printing Decision?

By for Profit Confidential

The European Central Bank Presents Another Reason to Be Bullish on GoldFrom 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

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

Why the Fed Will Have to Get Back into the Paper Money Printing Business Soon

By for Profit Confidential

U.S. Economic GrowthIn 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.

Wrong!

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

Blue Chip Stocks Expensive at This Point

By for Profit Confidential

With These Two Blue Chips Pushing HighsThere are a whole bunch of brand-name stocks that recently appreciated back close to their highs, many of which will soon be reporting their earnings.

Despite this fact, however, it still seems like a very difficult environment in which to be a buyer. Stocks just aren’t that attractively priced; in fact, many brand-name companies are priced for perfection. It’s still slow growth out there, and with equity prices at their all-time highs, this year’s returns may only be the dividends, which would just return the rate of inflation at best.

Colgate-Palmolive Company (CL) is a top-performing blue chip with an excellent track record of generating wealth for investors. The stock hit an all-time record-high last fall, and then backed off just like everything else did in January. It has since recovered.

The position boasts a forward price-to-earnings ratio of around 19.5, which makes it fully priced in my books. Sales growth in the first quarter of 2014 is expected to be minimal, and so are comparative earnings.

This year’s revenue consensus averages two percent among Wall Street analysts, rising to 5.4% in 2015.

Great companies like this tend to command higher multiples, as institutional investors pay for the certainty. But comparatively, Colgate-Palmolive commands a much higher valuation than Microsoft Corporation (MSFT), which is a technology company growing at a faster rate.

All things being equal, it makes me think that a blue chip like Microsoft can actually run a lot further than it has recently, playing catch-up to the rest of the market.

It’s interesting how stocks go through their own cycles, both operationally and in terms of favor among … Read More

What a Loan Officer Would Say to the U.S. Government

By for Profit Confidential

Does the Size of Our National Debt Really Matter AnymoreFor 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

NASDAQ, Russell 2000 Signaling Buying Opportunity Ahead?

By for Profit Confidential

Why I'm Concerned About the Stock Markets Near-TermFolks, I’m beginning to get somewhat concerned about the stock market in the near-term. I’m not saying the stock market is going to crash, but there are some technical indications of a possible correction or adjustment in the near-term.

The S&P 500 recently traded at a new intraday record, but the key stock market indices have declined in three of the last four sessions. What makes matters worse is that the downward slide in the stock market was associated with higher-than-average trading volume, which is a bearish indicator in technical analysis, as it suggests a pick-up in selling momentum.

We all know that momentum can be good or bad depending on which way the stock market is going and whether you long or short the stock market.

What concerns me is not only what’s happening in Crimea and the concerns regarding the Federal Reserve’s recent actions, which I have previously discussed. (Read “The Stock Market Needs to Do This in 2014 Before I Invest More in It.”) Rather, what really concerns me is that we are now seeing a breakdown on the charts of the momentum technology stocks that had helped to drive up past euphoria in the stock market. We are seeing many of the high-momentum stocks fall by 10% or more. This suggests fragility and a potential downward slide coming up for the broader stock market.

Also, the disappointing initial public offering (IPO) debut of King Digital Entertainment plc (NYSE/KING) Wednesday was a red flag; it suggests that the IPO market may be losing some of its recent appeal or that traders are simply nervous about … Read More

The Stock Market Needs to Do This in 2014 Before I Invest More in It

By for Profit Confidential

Why Investors Need to See It to Believe It in 2014This 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

What the Breakout in the Gold-to-Copper Ratio Is Telling Us

By for Profit Confidential

Copper Flashing a Buy Signal for GoldCopper 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.

GOLD - Spot (EOD) Copeer ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

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 - Spot Proce (EOD) CME ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

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

Are We Really Headed for Deflation?

By for Profit Confidential

Forget Deflation; Inflation Is Becoming a Big ProblemThe 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

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

Risk vs. Reward: Is It Time to Cash Out of This Bull Market?

By for Profit Confidential

Time to Cash Out of This Bull MarketEver since Janet Yellen, the new Chair of the Federal Reserve, made her first speech reiterating a stay-the-course policy regarding monetary policy, stocks got a whole new lease on their financial life.

This market is holding up extremely well, and the action proves that institutional investors will bid stocks if there is certainty. It’s a bull market characteristic. So long as Fed policy stays the course (which includes the tapering of quantitative easing) and there are no major external shocks, the “great reflation” should continue, if not more modestly than last year. (See “Making Sense of the U.S. Economy in 10 Short Points.”)

Fighting the Fed as an investor in stocks is typically not profitable. The current business and monetary cycles are going to change, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

The first quarter of 2014 is almost over and another earnings season is on the horizon. While quarterly earnings results are managed, after monetary policy, corporate numbers are the big news.

Playing a market that’s at an all-time high is extremely difficult. Price momentum can often surprise with its duration, especially in an environment of tremendous monetary ease.

But practically, it’s difficult to consider loading up on new positions after a five-year period of very respectable capital gains from the March low in 2009.

Optimism is a key attribute for any successful entrepreneur, and the expectation for positive outcomes is most certainly a real component of capital markets, especially with stocks.

My sense is that first-quarter earnings results will be quite lackluster, with domestic companies especially reflecting a tough winter.

Buying stocks is all about the … Read More

My Top Investment Strategy for a Stalling Stock Market

By for Profit Confidential

How to Guarantee a Selling Price for Your StockThe current stock market sentiment is bullish and based on the charts, there are indications that the market wants to go higher, especially technology and small-cap stocks.

The S&P 500 is eyeing another record-high and it may just reach it by the time you read this.

While stock market investor sentiment continues to display bullish new highs and new lows, there’s also a sense that the road to higher gains will not be an easy path.

The economic renewal is maintaining a muted pace, in part due to the harsh winter conditions, but what if the economy was actually showing signs of slowing?

Jobs growth in February improved over January, but the jobs market still has not reached a level of self-sufficiency without continued help from the Federal Reserve via low interest rates.

What I expect, after looking at the stock market indices, is that we will likely see new records broken on the horizon. (Read “Why I Believe the S&P 500 Could Easily Reach 2,000 in the Upcoming Months.”) However, the advance will be more hesitant than in 2013 and the past years, since the current bull market is into its fifth year and is very much absent of a major stock market correction, based on my technical analysis.

Given this, I’m somewhat nervous, but there are alternative investment strategies you can consider at this time.

If you feel the stock market may pause and trade in a sideways range through the spring and summer months, you may look at writing covered call options on some or all of your existing long positions that have associated options…. Read More

Is the Housing Market Really a Hot Spot for Investors?

By for Profit Confidential

Urban Housing Market Booming with PotentialNew York City is a colossal urban jungle, but what strikes me is the surging housing market rental prices in not only Manhattan, but also the strong price appreciation in the borough of Brooklyn.

Average home prices peaked around $550,000 in early 2006, prior to a steady decline since then. Yet if you look at regions, especially Manhattan and Brooklyn, the demand for housing and rentals is strong, and this has created a surge in rental prices.

What has been apparent in New York City over the past decade has been the clean-up of the city, along with the rapid development in the surrounding areas close to Manhattan, such as Brooklyn. A look at Brooklyn shows an area that is rapidly growing with multiple new businesses, hotels, and housing market projects reclaimed from former industrial lands.

Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ/WFM), for instance, built its largest outlet in Brooklyn that was previously on industrial land. There are now plans for further development in the area. The end result has been a boom in the housing market in Brooklyn for both property buyers and renters. A look at the rental prices in Brooklyn show rental rates as high as $5,000 a month or more for a two-bedroom apartment. The former docklands in Brooklyn have been transformed into a beautiful urban area with paths, expensive condos, and a great view of New York City.

The rise is staggering and clearly indicates a booming housing market there.

The situation in Brooklyn and New York City is indicative of many areas across the country.

Just take a look at the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price … Read More

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