Posts Tagged ‘GDP’
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
Central banks are still adding gold bullion to their reserves and the smaller countries are getting into the act big-time.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in the month of March, Iraq’s central bank added 36 tonnes of gold bullion to its reserves—worth about $1.5 billion. This is the first purchase by the central bank since August of 2012, when it bought 23.9 tonnes of gold. (Source: Reuters, March 25, 2014.)
Sure, you could say, “Michael, 36 tonnes of gold bullion is nothing for a central bank.”
I agree. But looking at the bigger picture, it is very significant for a small country like Iraq—a country whose annual gross domestic product (GDP) is smaller than Amazon.com’s sales for 2013—to be getting into gold bullion in a big way. The official announcement from the central bank of Iraq sent the message that it bought the gold bullion to stabilize the country’s currency and add insurance to their reserves.
Since 2009, central banks around the global economy have become net buyers of gold bullion, and I don’t think they will stop anytime soon. The main reason for this is that the central banks see a significant amount of volatility coming to the world of paper currencies—something they hold in their reserves.
Too many major world currencies are in a downtrend. The U.S. dollar has been on a decline since the beginning of 2014. The Canadian dollar is hitting multiyear lows. The Japanese yen has been plummeting.
Where do we go next with gold bullion?
At present, the amount of negativity towards gold bullion is immense. But the fundamentals paint a different … Read More
For 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
The U.S. national debt has skyrocketed from $9.2 trillion in the beginning of 2008 to $17.3 trillion today. This represents an increase of more than 88% in just a matter of a few years. (Source: Treasury Direct web site, last accessed March 11, 2014.) The national debt of the U.S. is higher than its gross domestic product (GDP).
Japan is in a very similar situation, if not worse. At the end of 2013, Japan’s national debt stood above one quadrillion yen. In U.S. dollar terms, this amounts to more than $10.0 trillion. (Source: Japan Ministry of Finance web site, last accessed March 11, 2014.) Japan’s national debt is more than 200% of the country’s GDP.
In its fiscal 2012–2013 year, the national debt of Great Britain stood at 1.18 trillion pounds; in U.S. dollar terms, that’s close to $2.0 trillion. (Source: Reuters, February 28, 2014.) Great Britain’s national debt represents 74% of its GDP, and that percentage is rising.
The U.S., Japan, and Great Britain are only three countries whose national debt continues to increase. Include troubled countries in the eurozone, and the picture in respect to out-of-control debt and money printing starts to take a really ugly form.
Rising national debt pretty much means there will be higher inflation ahead; that’s one of the reasons why I can’t help but be bullish on gold bullion, one of the best hedges against inflation.
And that’s where the opportunity for investors lies today. Gold mining shares are trading at historically low multiples. Because of the sell-off in gold bullion prices over the last two years, many gold mining companies were punished. … Read More
Among blue chips, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) remains one of the most attractive enterprises for long-term investors.
As a benchmark stock within the entire equity universe and a conglomerate itself of healthcare businesses, it’s reasonable to expect a stock like this to provide a normalized annual return of approximately 10% including dividends.
Johnson & Johnson isn’t typically down for long on the stock market, and most recently, the stock popped higher after dropping to $86.00 a share.
The position’s been toying with $95.00 a share, and this is a ceiling for the stock, according to its recent trading action over the last couple of quarters. If the broader market holds firm, $100.00 a share by year-end would be a fair and attainable price target.
While not robust, earnings have caught up to share prices for many blue chips and countless positions are not overpriced.
Johnson & Johnson has a trailing price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of approximately 19.5 and a forward P/E ratio of around 15. Because of the company’s stellar long-term returns to shareholders, it’s kind of like a golden blue chip, as very few companies have been able to produce such decent and consistent operational growth in their businesses.
Johnson & Johnson’s long-term, split-adjusted stock chart is featured below:
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
All blue chips, even those with increasing dividends, experience periods of non-performance, but often to a lesser degree than the broader market. While not offering robust growth, the stability of an enterprise like this company provides peace of mind, in addition to the high likelihood that dividends will increase in the future and that demand for … 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
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
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