Posts Tagged ‘federal reserve’
With nine months behind us this year, today we look at how two popular forms of investment have done in 2014 and where I think they are headed for the remainder of the year.
Starting with stocks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed yesterday up 2.8% for the year. Given the risk of the stock market, 2.8% is no big gain. I wrote at the beginning of 2014 that the return on stocks would not be worth the risk this year. I was on the money. When we look at the broad market, the Russell 2000 Index is down 5.4% for the year.
Going forward, as you know as a reader of Profit Confidential, I see stocks as risky. Plain and simple, stocks are overpriced in an environment where the Federal Reserve is putting the brakes on paper money printing and is warning that interest rates are going higher.
On a typical day, I see the Dow Jones up 100 points; the next day, it’s down 100 points. This is happening in an environment where trading volume has collapsed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see October deliver us a nasty stock market crash.
Moving to gold (and this is very interesting), gold is flat for the year in U.S. dollars. But if we look at gold in Japanese yen, gold is up 4.6% for 2014. If we look at gold in Canadian dollars, bullion is up 4.6% as well this year. And if we measure gold in euros, we find gold bullion prices are up 10.4% in 2014.
What explains this?
Yesterday, the U.S. dollar hit another six-year high … Read More
Today’s Special Report: The Great Crash of 2015!
For the U.S. federal government’s fiscal year, which ends this Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts a budget deficit of $506 billion. (Source: Congressional Budget Office web site, September 26, 2014.)
But just because our annual deficit is declining, that doesn’t mean our national debt is rising by an equal amount.
In fact, between September 20, 2013 and September 20, 2014, the U.S. national debt increased by $1.0 trillion. (Source: Treasury Direct, last accessed September 23, 2014.)
And the government is expected to post budget deficits until at least 2024.
According to a report released by the CBO, the U.S. government’s budget deficits will amount to $7.19 trillion between 2015 and 2024. (Source: Congressional Budget Office, August 27, 2014.) That’s roughly $780 billion a year on average.
Each year the government incurs a budget deficit, it has to borrow money to pay for its expenses and as a result, the national debt increases.
With the national debt now at $17.7 trillion, adding another $7.19 trillion takes the total to $24.89 trillion within 10 years. But as I showed you earlier in this story, government debt is rising at a much faster pace than national debt.
My prediction: a national debt of $34.0 trillion within 10 years.
For the current fiscal year, the U.S. government is estimated to pay $430 billion in interest on the national debt. The Federal Reserve has stated it plans to raise interest rates starting in 2015 and will continue to do so right through to 2017.
According to the CBO, interest payments on the government’s debt will … Read More
Six years ago this month, in the midst of the Great Recession, Lehman Brothers, one of the most well-known investment banks in the U.S. economy, filed for bankruptcy.
At the time, Lehman’s bankruptcy sparked widespread worries…and the U.S. financial system teetered on the verge of collapse. For those of us who remember that time, there was too much uncertainty.
So, the Federal Reserve and the government stepped in to help the crumbling U.S. economy. Loans were made to companies that were “too big to fail,” interest rates fell to historic lows, and trillions of dollars in new money was printed (out of thin air).
Six years later, is the U.S. economy better off now?
Looking at Wall Street today, it looks like things couldn’t be better. The markets are close to all-time highs. The big banks are in better shape; their profits are rising and executives’ incomes and bonuses are big once again.
And speculation is back, big-time. As just one example, Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ/FB) recently reached a market capitalization of more than $200 billion in hopes that the company will be able to make more money on mobile ads. Facebook is trading at a price-to-earnings multiple of 100!
The luxury market is hot again. Exotic cars are being sold at record prices. Sales of million-dollar-plus mansions are on the rise.
Sadly, on the other side of the coin, there have never been so many poor people in the U.S. economy, and the middle class hasn’t seen a return to the wealth and income they had before the Credit Crisis.
In 2013, 14.5% of the U.S. population was living … Read More
Last week, at the end of its regularly scheduled meeting, the Federal Reserve said:
1) It would continue to reduce the amount of money it creates each month. The Fed said it will be out of the money printing business by the end of this year. By that time, the Federal Reserve will have created more than $4.0 trillion new American dollars (out of thin air).
2) And when the Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities the Fed has bought mature, they will roll them over—which means they will just continue collecting interest on the securities they bought as opposed to taking the cash when they mature. (Source: “Press Release,” Federal Reserve, September 17, 2014.) I doubt the Fed has any choice on this. If the Fed doesn’t roll over the Treasuries it has bought, who would buy them when they hit the market?
The Federal Reserve also provided its economic projection on where it expects the federal funds rate, the key U.S. interest rate, to be down the road:
1) The central bank believes the U.S. economy will grow between two percent and 2.2% in 2014, then grow in the range of 2.6% to three percent in 2015. From there, it goes downhill. In 2016, the Federal Reserve projects more of the same—U.S. economic growth of between 2.6% and 2.9%. In 2017, the U.S. growth rate is projected to be sluggish and in the range of 2.3% to 2.5%. (Source: “Economic Projections,” Federal Reserve, September 17, 2014.) Hence, we are looking at four more years of slow growth.
2) A majority of the members of the Federal … Read More
According 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.
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
Getting 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
A 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
A 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.
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
According 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
Between 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
The 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
The 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
The 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.
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
Remember 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
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