Posts Tagged ‘GDP growth’
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
A few years ago, investors couldn’t get enough of Chinese stocks. This led to numerous frauds committed by crooks in China that has since tarnished the reputation and reliability of all Chinese companies, whether they’re legitimate or not, despite their operating in one of the top growth areas in the world.
While I’m not focused on Chinese stocks at this moment due to better trading opportunities in the domestic stock market, I monitor the country and remain convinced it’s still a key place to have some risk capital invested in. When the broader market understands this, I would expect renewed buying in Chinese stocks sometime in the future.
My view is that the country’s current leadership under President Xi Jinping, who assumed power in March 2013, has a vision to create a country of consumers, just like the United States; albeit, I doubt it will come close to what we see here with consumer spending driving 70% of gross domestic product (GDP) growth. In China, consumer spending drives about 30% of GDP so there’s work to do. In the second quarter, retail sales continued at a double-digit growth of 12.4% year-over-year.
The objective to cut the country’s dependence on exports and foreign investment makes sense. With a potential market in excess of one billion people, it’s the right move.
China may not be in the spotlight for investors now, but you cannot ignore the country. With the recent years of underperformance, I see great longer-term upside in Chinese stocks.
The Chinese economy is growing at well below the double-digit growth of the past, but comparatively, the growth is far superior … Read More
Five years ago, it looked like the world was falling apart. Remember when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, freezing financing on Wall Street? The government had to bail out General Motors and the Federal Reserve pumped money into too-big-to-fail banks. Investors were running scared of the stock market.
Seems like years ago…but it was only 2008 and 2009 when this all happened. Fast-forward to today, and thanks to trillions of dollars of new money (printed out of thin air), the Dow Jones Industrial Average has ballooned back, close to 17,000.
The stock market became a bubble in 2007 when it surpassed 14,000, subsequently crashing down to 6,440 in March of 2009. Now the bubble is back; but bigger this time.
Bears like me, who believe the Fed created this new stock market bubble, are rare to find. More and more stock advisors and investors have turned bullish. They believe—incorrectly, I suggest—that all is well with the economy and that the stock market will head higher and higher.
To see just how many advisors have turned bullish on stocks, I really want you to look at the below chart of the Investors Intelligence Bull Index. Under the chart, you will see a black line, indicating the S&P 500.
Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com
The Investors Intelligence Bull Index tracks stock advisors’ opinions on the stock market. Currently, the index of stock advisors’ sentiment stands at 62.20, its highest level since (you guessed it) October of 2007. Whenever this index has gone over 60, the stock market has come down hard.
When it comes to investing, you don’t want to do what … Read More
I keep hearing about the economy improving, but I keep asking, where? I ask because the facts continue to say otherwise.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports gross domestic product (GDP) came in at just 0.1% in the first quarter of 2014. To remind my readers, in the fourth quarter of 2013, U.S. GDP grew by 2.6%. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, April 30, 2014.)
These GDP figures reaffirm what I have been saying for some time now: the U.S. economy is headed towards an economic slowdown, not growth.
All we need to do is look at our exports. Exports from the U.S. economy to the global economy collapsed in the first quarter of 2014, declining by 7.6%. That’s definitely not helping GDP.
The Baltic Dry Index (BDI), an indicator of how demand in the global economy looks, is in a sharp downtrend, as illustrated in the chart below.
And consumer spending is facing headwinds. I can see this in the amount of inventory businesses are stockpiling. In the first quarter of this year, private business inventories rose by $87.4 billion after increasing by $111.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013. Businesses increasing inventories suggests customers are buying less, as each business’ inventory isn’t turning over; it’s stockpiling. GDP cannot grow without consumer spending.
Finally, last Friday, we heard the “good news” that the U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in April—the biggest increase since January 2012. But the underemployment rate, which includes people who have given up looking for work and people who have part-time jobs but want full-time jobs, stands … 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
Consumer spending in the U.S. economy is highly correlated to consumer confidence. If consumers are worried about the economy, they pull back on their spending.
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index decreased by 1.63% in February from January. (Source: Conference Board, February 25, 2014.) And we see the corresponding pullback on consumer spending in weak U.S. retail sales.
Macy’s, Inc. (NYSE/M) reported a decline of 1.6% in revenue in its latest quarter—which includes the holiday season. For its just-completed fiscal year, company revenues were up by only 0.9%. (Source: Macy’s, Inc., February 25, 2014.)
Sears Holdings Corporation (NASDAQ/SHLD) reported a decline of 12.6% in revenues in its latest quarter. Yes, I know this company is having problems; but a drop in revenue of 12.6% for a retail giant like this—and during the holiday shopping season—is an indicator that consumer spending is very weak. (Source: Sears Holdings Corporation, February 27, 2014.)
Target Corporation (NYSE/TGT) reported revenues fell by 3.8% in its last fiscal quarter. (Source: Target Corporation, February 26, 2014.)
Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE/BBY) is in a very similar situation. The company reported a decline of more than three percent in revenues for its latest quarter. And for the 12 months ended February 1, 2014, Best Buy’s revenues fell 3.4%. (Source: Best Buy Co., Inc., February 27, 2014.)
The retailers I just mentioned are just a few of the many retailers that reported a decline in their revenues in the last quarter of 2013, which suggests consumer spending is in troubling territory.
My point is that those companies that are closest to consumer spending—the big American retailers—are giving us a … Read More
In 2013, the U.S. economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), rose at an average rate of 1.9% compared to 2.8% in 2012. And as it stands, GDP may slow further in 2014.
What makes me think this?
In January, U.S. industrial production declined by 0.3% from the previous month. This was the first decline in production since August of 2013. Production of automotive products in the U.S. economy declined by 5.15%, and appliances, furniture, and carpeting production declined by 0.6% in the month. (Source: Federal Reserve, February 14, 2014.)
And factories in the U.S. economy just aren’t as busy as they used to be. The capacity utilization rate, a measure of companies using their potential production, was 78.5% in January. The average rate between 1979 and 2013 has been 80.1%. While a difference of two percent in factory utilization isn’t a big number, because overhead is often fixed in factories, a two-percent decline in production is a big deal.
Then there’s the inventory problem; inventories in the U.S. economy continue to increase. In December, inventories at manufacturers increased by another 0.5% to $1.7 trillion. From December 2012, they have increased by 4.4%. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, February 14, 2014.)
We have a situation in the U.S. economy today where factories are working at lower capacity than they have historically, while business inventories are rising—two bad omens for the economy; hence, you can see why I’m concerned about economic growth in 2014.
It’s a domino effect…
Inventories increasing suggest consumer demand is stalling. Examples of consumer spending declining in the U.S. economy are many. As I have … Read More
While the focus is on the government shutdown and debt ceiling, I’m getting ready for the start of another earnings season, to see if America delivers. Of course, the somewhat muted gross domestic product (GDP) growth has me fully expecting to see a drag in revenues across the broad.
Alcoa Inc. (NYSE/AA) starts the third-quarter earnings season when it reports after the markets close tomorrow. The company is a pretty decent indicator for the global economy, as aluminum is used in a broad assortment of industrial and consumer applications around the world.
The company is forecasted to earn $0.06 per diluted share on revenues of $5.71 billion, down 2.1% year-over-year, according to Thomson Financial. For this reporting year, Alcoa is expected to see revenues contract 2.8%, followed by 2.8% growth in 2014. This essentially means zero growth over two years. In my books, that’s not good; this clearly indicates a global economy that’s in trouble.
I don’t even think traders are expecting some miraculous jump in revenues or earnings in the third-quarter earnings season. Wall Street has already downgraded expectations for the earnings season.
Earnings growth for the third-quarter earnings season is estimated at 3.2%, according to a FactSet report dated September 27. (Source: “Earnings Insight,” FactSet Research Systems Inc. web site, September 27, 2013; last accessed October 4, 2013.) The number is well down from the estimate of 6.5% as of June 30.
The financial sector is expected to report the top growth, while the healthcare sector is projected to report the lowest level of growth in the third-quarter earnings season. Of course, should the U.S. government shutdown … Read More
Analysts and investors demand clarity when a company reports or offers up guidance. But when it comes to the Federal Reserve, investors and analysts don’t seem to demand the same level of clarity, even though the central bank has been what I would label “wishy washy” as far as its policies and what it offers up to the market.
The stock market is trading (and it has been for a while) on what the Federal Reserve says about its quantitative easing program, namely its monthly bond-buying strategy.
Yet the Federal Reserve appears to be saying one thing, only to contradict it with the next statement. This type of confusion and uncertainty is not what I want to hear. I want more certainty in order to formalize my trading and investment strategy. The cloudiness offered by the Federal Reserve doesn’t help.
Case in point: at last week’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, to the surprise of nearly everyone both on Wall Street and Main Street, announced that the bank had decided against tapering, despite what I see as moderate growth in the economy. Yes, the country continues to slug along, but with the second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 2.5% and with the Federal Reserve estimating the country will continue to expand at a rate above two percent this year and in 2014, the Federal Reserve should have begun to rein in some of its bond buying. Pundits were estimating a $10.0-billion cutback to start.
Well, even that small cut didn’t happen. Bernanke said the economy was still fragile, and the Fed didn’t … Read More
In my view, this is the new reality in the retail sector. And it’s not only hurting the retail sector, but it is also supporting an increase in traffic at the major discount mall operators, such as Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, Inc. (NYSE/SKT) and king of discount malls Simon Property Group, Inc. (NYSE/SPG), which owns the well-known Premium Outlets centers.
If you haven’t been to the Premium Outlets malls, these are large malls where there are as many as 100 stores offering quality goods at cheap discount prices. All of the major retailers are there.
Yet the retail sector continues to show mixed results that clearly do not suggest consumer spending is rising at levels the economy wants to see, given the low interest rates.
Retail sales in July were better than expected, but in my view, they still don’t support a massive spending push in the retail sector, which means potential problems brewing for America’s gross domestic product (GDP).
We are beginning to see weakness amid the department stores in the retail sector. There was even a disturbing report from bellwether retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE/WMT), which reported dismal growth in the U.S. and around the world. When this happens, you know all is not right in the retail sector, as Wal-Mart is a good barometer of consumer spending activity.
So it wasn’t a surprise to see department store Macy’s, Inc. (NYSE/M) fall short in its fiscal second quarter after … Read More
If everything is so fine with the economic recovery in both America and the global economy, then why are the emerging markets failing to rebound? It seems somewhat odd how the global economy could be fine when its key trading partners in the emerging markets are not.
You all know how much I like the emerging markets longer-term. (Read “Think Global for the Best Investment Opportunities.”) However, the short- to mid-term is another story, as there’s clearly some stalling.
The HSBC Emerging Markets Index (EMI) declined to a contractionary 49.4 reading in July, versus an expansionary 50.6 in June. This was the first contraction reading since 2009.
The HSBC reading is also a red flag to the stock market that, as I have been saying in recent commentaries, is showing some cracks in its foundation.
If the U.S., Europe, and China are fine, then the emerging markets should be too—but they’re not fine, so you should be wary of this. A pickup in the emerging markets is needed to get the ball rolling on economic growth.
As shown on the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets (NYSEArca/EEM) exchange-traded fund (ETF), the emerging markets have been under some duress since peaking in May, based on my technical analysis.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Here’s what’s happening at this juncture:
GDP growth in China has stalled, holding above seven percent. The manufacturing sector may be contracting, that is if you believe the HSBC estimate over the official estimate from Beijing, which says manufacturing is expanding.
Then you have the dismal state of affairs in the eurozone and Europe. Six of the 17 eurozone … Read More
And when we look closely at the July U.S. jobs market report, it gets worse.
First off, the previous months’ numbers keep getting revised downward; the number of jobs added to the U.S. economy in May was revised down from 195,000 to 176,000, and June’s numbers were revised down from 195,000 to 188,000—combined, that’s 26,000 jobs that never really happened.
The underemployment rate, a statistic I consider to be a better measure of jobs market conditions, remained staggeringly high at 14% for the month of July. The big blow: it was higher than what it was during the months of March, April, and May, and only slightly lower than June. The underemployment rate takes into account people who have given up looking for work and part-time workers who can’t get full-time work.
There are close to one million discouraged workers in the U.S. jobs market, and the number of individuals working part-time because they are unable to find full-time jobs remained unchanged at 8.2 million in July.
Of course, one must ask: where are we seeing growth in the jobs market? If you guessed low-wage-paying sectors, then you are right. In July, a combined 85,000 jobs were added in the retail, trade, leisure, and hospitality sectors—more specifically, in food services and drinking places. This is 52% of all the jobs created during the month!
Employment in industries like construction, transportation and warehousing, mining and logging, and government sectors were … Read More
While I continue to hear politicians and the mainstream media tell me the U.S. economy is in a full-fledged recovery, I totally disagree with the notion.
I believe the truth of what’s going on with the U.S. economy is the total opposite of what we are being fed by both politicians and the mainstream media.
Look at the chart below of the change in the real U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) since the fourth quarter of 2011.
If we were witnessing recovery, or a period of economic growth, would we be seeing the GDP collapsing? The rate of change in the GDP has actually been declining since the first quarter of 2012. This by no means should be taken lightly, as it indicates a recession may be following because economic activity isn’t flourishing.
In fact, I see even more indicators favoring a recession ahead.
Consumers in the U.S. economy are struggling—their pockets are getting emptier. Jobs are being created in the low-paying retail and service sectors. Meanwhile, prices for goods are increasing. Thanks to higher oil prices, I suspect prices for goods will continue to see an uptick.
Dear reader, current estimates of GDP growth are too optimistic—but this will change. Consider this: The Federal Reserve expects U.S. GDP to grow 2.3%–2.6% this year. Currently, in the second quarter, we are only running at an annual GDP growth rate of 1.7%. This is 26% below the Federal Reserve’s lower estimates. Will our economic activity jump by 26% for the balance of this year? I highly doubt it.
This all brings me to one conclusion: the effects of the … Read More
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