Posts Tagged ‘GDP’
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
Whenever I got stuck solving a problem in elementary school, my teacher would say, “go back and see where you went wrong.” This lesson—“learn from your mistakes”—was taught again in high school, and then throughout my life. It’s very simple: you can’t do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Albert Einstein called it “insanity.”
When I look at the Japanese economy, I see the most basic lesson you learn in business school being ignored. The Bank of Japan, and the government, in an effort to improve the Japanese economy has resorted to money printing (quantitative easing) over and over, failing each time to spur growth. One might call it an act of insanity.
Through quantitative easing, the central bank of Japan wanted to boost the Japanese economy. It hoped that pushing more exports to the global economy from its manufacturers would change the fate of the country. It wanted inflation as well.
The result: after years of quantitative easing, the government and the central bank have outright failed to revive the Japanese economy. In fact, the opposite of their original plan is happening.
In January, the trade deficit in the Japanese economy grew—the country’s imports were more than its exports. Imports amounted to 7.70 trillion yen and exports were only 5.88 trillion yen. The trade deficit was 3.5% greater compared to the previous month. (Source: Japanese Customers web site, last accessed February 20, 2014.) Mind you, January wasn’t the only month when imports were more than exports in the Japanese economy. This is something that has been happening for some time.
Inflation in the … Read More
In the first five weeks of this year, investors bought $22.0 billion worth of long-term stock mutual funds. (Source: Investment Company Institute, February 12, 2014.)
But as investors poured money into the stock market, hoping to ride the 2013 wave of higher stock prices, stocks did the opposite and went down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down three percent so far this year.
Looking at the bigger picture, corporate earnings and key stock indices valuations are still stretched. The S&P 500’s 12-month forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio stands at 15.1. This ratio is currently overvalued by roughly nine percent when compared to its 10-year average, and 15% compared to its five-year average. (Source: FactSet, February 14, 2014.)
This isn’t the only indicator that says key stock indices have gotten too far ahead of themselves. In the chart below, I have plotted U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) against the S&P 500.
The chart clearly shows a direct relationship between GDP and the S&P 500. When U.S. GDP increases, the S&P 500 follows in the same direction, and vice versa. When we look at the 2008–2009 period (which I’ve circled in the chart above), we see that when GDP plunged, the S&P 500 followed in the same direction.
Going into 2014, we saw production in the U.S. economy decline; consumer spending is pulling back, unemployment is still an issue, and the global economy is slowing. U.S. GDP is far from growing at the rate it did after the Credit Crisis. Take another look at the chart above. In 2011, you’ll see U.S. GDP was very strong; but after … Read More
For the first time in more than three years, Chinese stocks are beginning to show some promise for growth investors looking for opportunities outside of the United States.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index has moved to just above its close of 2013; hence, it’s more or less in line with the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Many of you are aware of my continued bullishness for China, as I have talked about this in recent commentaries.
We saw some encouraging estimates on Tuesday. The country’s industrial output is estimated to rise 9.5% this year, which could support gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 7.5%, according to Industry and Information Technology. (Source: “China targets factory output growth of around 9.5 percent in 2014,” Reuters, February 17, 2014.) What’s interesting is that the key areas of growth for this year include telecommunications, along with a big jump in business for software and information technology (IT).
You can play the growth in these areas via Chinese IT services firms, such as iSoftStone Holdings Limited (NYSE/ISS, $5.15, Market Cap: $297 million), a provider of IT services to clients and globally. Services include consulting and solutions, IT services, and business process outsourcing. The company is growing with its headcount increasing 27% to 17,702 in the third quarter compared to the same time in 2012. Broken done, 65.1% of the company’s global sales came from the Greater China area, 21.4% were from the U.S., Europe accounted for 7.3%, and Japan made up 5.8%.
Analysts expect iSoftStone to report revenue growth of 13.6% to $432.81 million in 2013, followed by 17.8% to $510.06 million … 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
Old Man Winter appears to be killing the retail sector and the economic renewal. Extreme cold and nasty weather has engulfed about 70% of the country, reaching as far south as Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas, which don’t traditionally experience winter weather.
All that nasty weather means less driving to the malls and shops, which, judging by the numbers, appears to have been the case over the last two months. And if consumers don’t spend, the retail sector hurts and this translates into softer gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
Retail sales contracted by 0.4% in January, which represented the second straight month of declines following a revised contraction of 0.1% in December, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The poor showings were attributed to the weather.
With consumers staying at home, we are hearing whispers that fourth-quarter GDP growth could be revised downward from its initial 3.2%.
And while it’s too early to call for the economy to weaken, continued bad weather could mean just that. Now there are, of course, other reasons for the lackluster retail sector metrics.
There’s still a sense that the jobs market continues to be fragile following the creation of a mere 74,000 jobs in December that was blamed on the weather. Yet January was only marginally better with the creation of 113,000 jobs, which was well below the 185,000 estimate.
The jobs numbers are horrible, and unless they start to improve, I expect consumers to continue to feel hesitant about spending in the retail sector.
As I wrote in a previous commentary, investing in the retail sector will be much more difficult this … Read More
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is currently shutting down numerous Chinese shell companies trading on U.S. exchanges, such as the over-the-counter market and the highly speculative Pink Sheets stock exchange.
This is good and is something the SEC needs to continue to pursue and enforce, so domestic investors can regain some lost confidence towards Chinese stocks.
The American appetite for Chinese stocks has been picking up; albeit, it’s nowhere near where it was a few years ago when Chinese stocks were all the rage.
Yet if you think there’s little interest in Chinese stocks, take a look at some of the sizzling debuts of the few Chinese initial public offerings (IPOs) that listed in the U.S. last year.
There are now worries China may be set for a downside slide. I have been hearing how the Chinese economy was set to burst, especially regarding the real estate and financial sectors in China. So far this has yet to happen, but we are continuing to hear continued bearish comments towards China.
It’s true the Chinese economy is stalling and may find it difficult to get back to its former double-digit growth, but with gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 7.7% in 2013 and estimated to rise 8.2% this year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), these are not bad numbers. By comparison, the U.S. economy is predicted to grow 2.9% in 2014, according to the OECD. (Read “OECD Predicts China #1 Economy by 2016; Consumer Spending to Soar.”)
A recent showing of contraction in Chinese manufacturing in January was used by the Chinese bears … Read More
Don’t for a second believe consumer spending in the U.S. economy is improving!
J. C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE/JCP) has announced it will be closing 33 stores in the U.S. economy. By doing this, the retailer will save about $65.0 million a year starting in 2014. 2,000 employees will be let go. (Source: J. C. Penney Company, Inc., January 15, 2014.)
Macy’s, Inc. (NYSE/M) is also closing stores.
Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE/ BBY) reported that for the nine-week period ended January 4, its comparable sales declined 0.8% from the same period a year ago. The CEO of the company, Hubert Joly, said, “…our holiday revenues were negatively impacted by a number of factors, including: (1) the aggressive promotional activity in the retail industry during the holiday period; (2) supply constraints for key products; (3) significant store traffic declines between “Power Week” and Christmas; and (4) a disappointing mobile phone market.” (Source: “Best Buy Announces Holiday Revenue Results,” Best Buy Co., Inc., January 16, 2014.)
Target Corporation (NYSE/TGT) is another retailer that’s been hurt by dismal consumer spending in the U.S. economy. The company expects a decline of 2.5% in its fourth-quarter comparable sales. Target has also lowered its corporate earnings guidance for the fourth quarter; it now expects to report earnings of between $1.20 and $1.30 per share. Previously, it stated its corporate earnings in the fourth quarter would be between $1.50 and $1.60 a share. The company also plans to close eight stores in the U.S. economy. (Source: Target Corporation, January 10, 2014.)
Each day, it is becoming more evident that consumer spending, which makes up about two-thirds … Read More
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke did something that many on Wall Street including myself did not believe he had the inclination to do: he began the tapering process in his final meeting as the head of the most powerful central bank in the world.
The Federal Reserve will cut its bond buying by $10.0 billion each month, which I believe is a sensible move at this point, given the economic renewal and jobs market growth.
Markets surged to new record-highs for the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average, as now there’s a sense that the ongoing uncertainty of when the Federal Reserve will begin to taper has finally been removed, and traders like certainty.
In addition, by reducing the stimulus by just less than 12%, the Federal Reserve can also gauge the market reaction and any negative impact tapering may have on the economy.
The intense buying following the announcement was based on the premise that the economy was moving along pretty well, and this could fuel consumer spending and gross domestic product (GDP) growth. The market was also pleased to hear that the record-low near-zero interest rates could remain, even if the unemployment rate fell below 6.5%.
With Christmas in a few days, it was nice that Bernanke graciously began to rein in the easy money flow. Now a plan has been put into place and the incoming Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will continue it based on how the economy and jobs market progress.
In the meantime, the news also means potentially more stock market gains for investors—albeit, at a slower pace than this past year.
Bernanke … Read More
What the Federal Reserve is doing in the U.S.—its effort to get the economy going via its money printing program—has already been tried by the second-largest economy in the world: Japan.
Unfortunately, the easy monetary policy implemented by the Bank of Japan didn’t spur the Japanese economy. So why would it work for the U.S. economy?
One of the core purposes of easy monetary policy by the Federal Reserve was to improve lending so businesses would borrow money and grow (hopefully creating jobs) and consumers would borrow and spend (creating economic activity). All of this would lead to improved consumer confidence.
The Bank of Japan started a scheme to increase lending in Japan in 2010. It gave funds to its biggest banks to lend to companies. It set aside 21.5 trillion yen for this scheme; but sadly, only 8 trillion yen has been used. (Source: Reuters, October 17, 2013.) Easy money policies, and a program specially designed to give money to banks to lend out to companies, did not work in the Japanese economy.
And consumer confidence in the Japanese economy remains bleak. The index that tracks consumer confidence in the country stood at 41.9 in November. At the beginning of the year, it hovered near 45.0. A subset of consumer confidence, an index tracking consumers’ willingness to buy durable goods, stood at the lowest level of the year in November at 42.4 compared to 44.9 in January. (Source: Japan’s Cabinet Office, December 10, 2013.) The bottom line: after years of easy money policies and with a national debt-to-GDP multiple of 205%, there’s been no improvement in consumer confidence … Read More
Finally some good news in the U.S. jobs market?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Friday that, in November, 203,000 jobs were added to the U.S. jobs market. As a result, the unemployment rate went down to 7.0% from 7.3% in October. In addition to this, the BLS also revised the job numbers from October and September, saying 20,000 more jobs were created than previously reported. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 6, 2013.)
Yes, the jobs market report for November is a step in the right direction. And, while I’m certain the politicians and the mainstream will have a field day with this news, the underlying statistics in the jobs market are not improving.
The underemployment rate, which includes people who have given up looking for work and those who have part-time jobs that want full-time jobs, still sits at 13.2%.
In addition, the number of long-term unemployed, those who are out of work for more than six months, made up 37.3% of all unemployed in November! There are 4.4 million long-term unemployed people in the U.S. and the longer they stay out of work, the harder it will be for them to get back into the market.
Finally, the majority of jobs created in the U.S. economy continue to be created in the low-wage-paying sectors.
The bottom line here is that the “official” unemployment numbers do not reflect what’s really going on in the jobs market. But the official rate is going in the right direction…and moving close to the point (6.5% unemployment) where the Federal Reserve said it would start pulling back on its money … Read More
On the surface, the recent U.S. GDP numbers looked great. I hear the U.S. economy grew at a revised annual pace of 3.6% in the third quarter of 2013—its fastest GDP growth rate since at least the financial crisis. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, December 5, 2013.)
But when I look closer at the numbers released by the government, I discover the U.S. economy didn’t grow due to consumer spending, the most important factor of economic growth, but rather due to a lack of consumer spending!
Let me explain…
In the third quarter, real personal consumption expenditure (a measure of consumer spending) increased by only 1.4%. That’s down 30% from the second quarter!
So how did GDP rise so much in the third quarter while consumer spending pulled back?
U.S. GDP increased in the third quarter because businesses stockpiled more of their goods. In the third quarter, private inventories increased by $116.5 billion; in the second quarter, they increased by $56.6 billion; and, in the first quarter, they increased by $42.2 billion.
The way GDP is calculated, an increase in business inventories pushes up GDP growth! Now the kicker: almost 50% of the increase in U.S. GDP in the third quarter came from an increase in business inventories!
This worries me a lot.
Rapidly increasing business inventories is a major sign that consumer spending isn’t growing. Those who say there’s economic growth in the U.S. economy have to be very careful in their conclusion. Consumer spending is the backbone of U.S. economy. If it declines, we will have economic suffering across the board.
As some point, businesses will have to … Read More
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