Posts Tagged ‘financial crisis’
This past Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 175,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in the month of February. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 7, 2014.)
The way the media reported it…
“Friday’s jobs market report caught the market by surprise,” was what most media outlets were telling us via their untrained reporters. The expectation was an increase of 149,000 jobs in February (after a dismal December and January jobs market report) and so the usual happened—stocks went up and gold went down on a jobs market report that was only slightly better than what was expected.
The consensus, from what I read, is that the jobs market in the U.S. economy is getting better. Of course, I think of this as hogwash. And as I’ll tell you in a moment, this is the kind of misinformation that is characteristic of what happens in a bear market in stocks, not a bull market.
Within February’s jobs market report, we find:
The long-term unemployed (those who have been out of work for six months or more) accounted for 37% of all the unemployed in the U.S. economy. The longer a person is unemployed—likely because that person has not been re-trained for the jobs market—the less likely it is that person will eventually find work.
Today, once a person becomes unemployed in the U.S. economy, that person remains unemployed for an average of 37 weeks! This number remains staggeringly high. Before the financial crisis, this number was below 15 weeks. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed March 7, 2014.)
When you have a … Read More
The bond market is in trouble.
As we all know, the Federal Reserve has been the biggest driver of bonds since the financial crisis. The central bank lowered its benchmark interest rate to near zero, then started quantitative easing, all of which resulted in the bond market soaring as yields collapsed to multi-decade lows.
The chart below will show you what’s happened to the U.S. bond market since the mid-1970s.
As you can see from the chart, the declining yields on bonds stopped in the spring of 2013 and have increased sharply since then.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
What’s next for bonds?
The Federal Reserve is slowly taking away the “steroids” that boosted the bond market. The central bank is now printing $65.0 billion of new money a month instead of the $85.0 billion it was printing just a few months back. And now we hear the Federal Reserve will be slowing its purchases by $10.0 billion a month throughout 2014.
Since May of last year alone, when speculation started that the Federal Reserve would cut back on its money printing program, bond yields skyrocketed and bond investors panicked.
According to the Investment Company Institute, investors sold $176 billion worth of long-term bond mutual funds between June and December of last year. (Source: Investment Company Institute web site, last accessed February 26, 2014.) I would not be surprised if withdrawals from bond mutual funds are even bigger this year.
And China is slowly exiting the U.S. bond market, too. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, in December, China sold the biggest amount of U.S. bonds since 2011. In … Read More
Fasten your seatbelt, dear reader. We’re in for a global financial crisis, a currency fiasco, and a stock market collapse all in the same year!
I’m being too bearish? Not after you read this…
In their search for economic growth in 2009, the Federal Reserve and other major central banks in the global economy started lowering interest rates and printing paper money.
While the central banks of the world wanted economic growth, they inadvertently created the “trade” for big investors like financial institutions and banks. I talked about this last Friday. (See “Stock Market: The Great Collapse Back to Reality Begins.”)
The “trade” had investors borrowing money from low interest rate countries and buying bonds in high interest rate countries, pocketing the spread. In the world of finance, this is often referred to as the “carry trade.” It works as long as the currencies of the low interest rate country and the higher interest rate country stay stable.
But now, the “trade” is backfiring as the currencies of emerging markets go into free fall.
China, the biggest economy in the emerging markets and second-biggest in the global economy, got most of the “trade” money. According to the Bank for International Settlements, in 2013, foreign currency loans and borrowing by Chinese companies from other countries was close to a trillion dollars. In 2009, it was only $270 billion. (Source: Telegraph, February 1, 2014.)
European banks have the biggest exposure to emerging markets, having lent them $3.0 trillion. Breaking down this number even further, British banks have loaned $518 billion to the emerging markets; Spanish banks come in second … Read More
The Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported that inflation in the U.S. economy increased by 0.3% in the month of December and that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the entire year of 2013 increased by only 1.5%. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 16, 2014.)
Is inflation in the U.S. economy really this low?
It sure doesn’t feel like it. Every time I buy groceries, go out for dinner, get my car fixed, pay utilities bills, or fill up my car’s gas tank, it feels like I am paying a lot more than I did last year or the year before.
Dear reader, inflation is higher than what the CPI figures say because of the way the CPI is calculated; food and energy prices are taken out because they tend to be more “volatile,” according to the government. That means key items consumers buy on a regular basis—food and gas—are excluded from the official inflation numbers!
While the mainstream fears deflation in the U.S. economy, I’m concerned about an unexpected bout of higher inflation hitting us. Why would I think this?
I can sum up my argument for inflation ahead with just this one chart:
The chart above shows the currency (coins and paper notes) in circulation and deposits of banks at the Federal Reserve.
As you can see, since the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve has injected trillions of dollars into the U.S. economy. This is dangerous, in my opinion, for the simple reason that the more there is of any item in supply, the less the demand, and the lower the price. In this particular case, the … Read More
To illustrate the solid business conditions that exist in the railroad industry, Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corporation (WAB) is a company that’s growing and has been an excellent stock market investment.
Operating as Wabtec Corporation, which was created in 2009 with the merger of Westinghouse Air Brake Company and MotivePower Industries Inc., the stock has been in business since 1869.
Back then, George Westinghouse showed potential customers in the railroad industry the first air braking system for railcars. Three years later, he invented the first automatic air braking system, which would engage if a railcar got separated from the train. The first installation of this innovative technology was in 1872 on a Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train. The rest is a history of growth.
The company’s been doing very well recently, with a growing cash position (long-term debt also has been going up), rising shareholders’ equity, and solid sales and earnings growth for such a mature, old economy industry.
According to the company, its third quarter of 2013 saw sales grow 7.5% to $631.4 million, while earnings grew an impressive 17.4%. With virtually every railcar in North America using some of the company’s products, its strongest growth in the most recent quarter was in remanufacturing, overhauling, and build services.
Westinghouse has been an outstanding wealth creator for shareholders over the last 10 years. Like most other stocks, Westinghouse got beaten up during the financial crisis. But for the most part, this position has been a consistent performer, and I think it will continue to be a winner, with fundamentals in the railroad industry being so good. The company’s 10-year stock chart … Read More
Central banks around the global economy are involved in a race that will not end well. Of course, I’m talking about the race to the bottom of currency devaluation, which is being achieved through the printing of more and more paper money backed by nothing.
Almost weekly, I hear news about different central banks in the global economy cranking up the speed of their printing presses; they are fixated on printing money because these central banks believe they can solve their economic problems by printing. They are wrong!
Our own Federal Reserve is creating $85.0 billion a month in money with the hopes of bringing economic growth to the U.S. economy. But this strategy is failing the masses in America. Those who have benefited the most from this exercise have been big banks, Wall Street, and the rich. The poor and middle-class are in a worse situation now than in 2007!
But it’s not just the Federal Reserve that’s printing massive amounts of new money. Other central banks are doing the same under a fancy phrase: “quantitative easing.”
In its most recent monetary policy statement, the Bank of Japan reiterated it’s take on printing. It said the central bank will continue to work towards increasing the monetary base in the country by 60 trillion to 70 trillion yen per annum. The central bank will buy Japanese government bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and real estate investment trusts with the freshly printed money. (Source: Bank of Japan, November 21, 2013.) (Yes, the Bank of Japan is buying securities that trade on the stock market. As our next American financial crisis approaches, I … Read More
The mainstream and politicians tell us the “wounds” of the financial crisis are over and the U.S. economy is in recovery mode. This simply isn’t true.
A few of the key indicators I follow to see where an economy stands are personal income, consumer demand, and businesses’ activity. All three of these indicators are telling me the U.S. economy is definitely going in the wrong direction.
First of all, the income gap in the U.S. economy continues to grow. The top earners make more, while the lowest income earners make less. According to the Wage Statistic from Social Security, in 2012, 23 million of the lowest wage earners earned a total of $47.0 billion in the U.S. economy. But those who earned $10.0 million or more annually in the year 2012 earned $64.3 billion! Here comes the kicker: there were only 2,915 wage earners in this category in the U.S. economy last year. (Source: Social Security, November 5, 2013.) Yes, you read that right. Less than 3,000 people cumulatively made more than 23 million people.
The bottom line: while Wall Street and big business has boomed again, the average working American family is struggling under an after-inflation personal income that is lower than it was in 2009—four years ago. In 1999, real median household income (that’s adjusted for inflation) in the U.S. economy was $56,030. By 2012, that number was $51,017. (Source: “Real Median Household Income in the United States,” U.S. Department of Commerce, September 18, 2013.)
Next, American consumers are pulling back on their spending—something that’s not supposed to happen when an economy is recovering.
One indicator of consumer … Read More
This market has been due for a major correction for quite some time. The marketplace expected it (including myself), but what we got instead was share price consolidation with continued leadership from blue chips and small-caps.
Countless stock market indices are right close to their highs, including the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and Dow Jones Transportation Average. There’s also the Russell 2000 Index of small-cap stocks, which has performed exceptionally well throughout this year. Finally, the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index continues to be a powerhouse wealth creator, having doubled in value over the last two years.
All this in an environment of satisfactory earnings but very little in the way of top-line growth. While the stock market has every reason to pull back significantly, fighting the Fed has proven to be unprofitable in equities. The opportunity cost of not being in the stock market since the financial crisis has been significant.
The monetary reflation has seemingly worked for the stock market so far, but it’s very clear that corporations remain unwilling to make major new investments, which would go a long way in helping the Main Street economy. Instead, they are keeping shareholders happy by returning their excess cash in the form of dividends and paying for those dividends with share buybacks. (See “If You’re Looking for Rising Dividend Income…”)
Given current information, I see no reason why prevailing conditions in capital markets might change significantly near-term. With funds continuing to flow into equities, the stock market needs a catalyst to effect a major retrenchment in share prices.
Balance sheets among many large U.S. corporations continue to … Read More
If you are a stock market investor, you’ve probably come to the same realization I have: the stock market is behaving irrationally. These days, the fundamentals don’t really matter. What’s even more frustrating is that when you do talk about the fundamentals behind the market’s continued advance missing, you are ridiculed.
Soft revenues at public companies are just one area of concern. As of October 25, 244 companies on the S&P 500 have reported their third-quarter corporate earnings; only 52% of them registered revenues above the expectation, which means companies are selling less than they expected—not a good sign. Third-quarter corporate earnings growth is now expected to be just 2.3%. A month ago, the same number stood at an even three percent. (Source: FactSet, October 25, 2013.)
We are seeing some of the well-known bears of the stock market turning bullish. “Dr. Doom” is suggesting investing in stocks, and others like David Rosenberg, who has been bearish for years, are turning bullish.
Is this the peak optimism?
As it stands, investors believe the stock market is a safe place to be again. The charts of key stock indices only show an upward trajectory.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
What will happen once the euphoria comes crashing down again? After all, irrationality cannot go on forever.
The most recent and best example of a stock market crash we have is from the financial crisis of 2008. We saw key stock indices come down like a rock. That stock market crash wiped out consumer confidence. Those who were retiring and saving each dollar for their golden days (by investing in stocks) saw their … Read More
I harp on about this over and over again: economic growth is when the average consumer is optimistic about their future; they are spending money, they know they will have a job tomorrow, and they are saving. In the U.S., we are seeing the opposite of all this.
In fact, consumer confidence in the U.S. continues to plummet; the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, an indicator of consumer spending, plunged more than 11% in October from September. (Source: Conference Board, October 29, 2013.)
But the misery doesn’t just end there for consumers in the U.S. economy. They are struggling to even buy the most basic of needs—food.
According to a recent study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2012, 17.6 million households in the U.S. economy were “food insecure”—they had difficulty bringing food to the table due to a shortage of resources. (Source: United States Department of Agriculture, September 2013.)
And as a result of so many Americans having trouble putting food on the table, it is costing taxpayers significantly. According to the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, over the last five years, the U.S. government has spent $3.7 trillion on 80 different poverty and welfare programs. The amount of money spent on these programs was five-times greater than combined spending on NASA, education, and all federal transportation projects over the time period. (Source: U.S. Senate Budget Committee, October 23, 2013.)
When I look at all these statistics showing how Americans are suffering, talk of economic growth or economic recovery just doesn’t sit well with me. I tend to focus on facts, rather than the noise. The noise … Read More
More evidence consumer confidence in the U.S. economy is plunging…
The monthly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, a consumer confidence indicator that shows the expectations of Americans about the U.S. economy, plunged to its lowest level in October since November of 2011. The index stood at -31 in October, down from minus nine in September. (Source: Bloomberg, October 17, 2013.) This index ranges from +100 to -100 (very optimistic to very pessimistic).
At the very core, consumer confidence gives an idea about consumer spending in the U.S. economy. The better the consumer feels, the more they spend: it’s just that simple. If someone doesn’t have a job but has expenses that need to be paid, they will not go out and buy that new flashy car or the house with the greener grass. They are more likely to keep what they have, and cut back on their discretionary spending.
The extent of bleak consumer confidence doesn’t just end here. In these pages, I have been talking about how companies in key stock indices are showing dismal revenues, but one sector is showing the opposite trend—discount stores.
Consider the corporate earnings of Family Dollar Stores, Inc. (NYSE/FDO); the company’s profits increased 27.5% in the fourth quarter of its fiscal year 2013 (ended August 31). Sales at Family Dollar Stores increased 5.8% compared to the same quarter a year ago. (Source: Family Dollar Stores, Inc., October 9, 2013.)
If all the pieces of the puzzle come together as expected (bleak consumer confidence leading to even lower consumer spending), I would not be surprised to see the gross domestic product (GDP) of the U.S. … Read More
These days, central banks are on a very dangerous monetary policy path. Paper money printing has become the norm. Major central banks around the world are taking the same actions; they have learned the phrase “quantitative easing” well. Economy’s soft; no problem! We’ll just print more money so our currency falls in value and our exports rise! (If only it were that simple.)
Two central banks are at the forefront when it comes to implementing paper money printing: the U.S.’s Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan. And it isn’t a secret how poorly these two nations are faring despite their quantitative easing efforts.
In these pages, I have been very critical of quantitative easing.
With that said, to date, I have only heard one senior financial politician and one central bank head criticize the use of quantitative easing.
Canada’s Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, at a private dinner with his G20 equals this week, criticized the use of quantitative easing by the U.S. central bank. The following day, he said, “It’s not good public policy.” He said the U.S. should have never implemented quantitative easing, but “Now that they’ve done it, they should get out of it as quickly as they can.” (Source: “‘Not good public policy’: Flaherty appears at odds with BoC, G20 as he criticizes U.S. quantitative easing,” Financial Post, October 16, 2013.)
The governor of the central bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz, has a similar take. He said, “[we] certainly agree that quantitative easing is one of the last things we want to be in a position to have to use.” (Source: Ibid.)
Finally, … Read More
Union Pacific Corporation (UNP) is a railroad company that’s been a solid wealth creator in what’s been a resurgence of old economy stocks over the last several years.
Wall Street earnings estimates have been going down for Union Pacific for this year and next. But the company is still expected to post double-digit earnings growth in 2013 on an estimated five-percent gain in total revenues.
The company provided the marketplace with its own third-quarter guidance. Earnings per share are expected to be between $2.45 and $2.48, compared to $2.19 in the third quarter of 2012. Operating revenues are expected to grow 4.0%–4.5%.
The worry for Union Pacific and other railroad companies is coal. Low natural gas prices are eating away at the demand for coal, which is one of the principal commodities that railroads haul. Warmer weather is also an issue, and the company cited flooding in Colorado as also having an impact on coal shipments.
Union Pacific is typically conservative with its forecasting. But it’s possible that the recent winning streak for many railroad stocks could be coming to an end. Shipments of oil are way up, but not enough to offset declines in coal.
The Association of American Railroads said that 11 of the 20 commodity categories it tracks saw a year-over-year increase in carload in the month of September. The biggest carload gains were in crushed stone, sand, and gravel, followed by automobiles and parts, then petroleum and petroleum products.
September declines were in coal, down 2.7% to 12,894 carloads, and grain, down 11.3% to 8,627 carloads … Read More
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