Posts Tagged ‘inflation’
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
“Michael, you don’t know what you are talking about.” That’s pretty much what I was told back in 2005 and 2006 when I was warning extensively that the U.S. housing market would collapse.
When a boom in any form of investment is going on, and millions of people are participating in that boom, it’s hard to convince people the boom is about to bust. At a certain point, we start hearing that old saying “it’s different this time,” which means people simply don’t believe the boom will end. They try to legitimize it.
But like all booms, the bust did happen. The housing market went bust big-time, and we all know what happened after that.
Today, there’s another asset class that is booming, that investors large and small are literally running to. No, I’m not talking about the stock market (it’s already in bust mode). I’m talking about the greenback, the good old U.S. dollar.
In recent days, and despite trillions of dollars in new money created by the Federal Reserve, the U.S. dollar has gained traction as investors search for safety amid the collapsing emerging markets.
Personally, I think investors are wrong to find security in the U.S. dollar. In fact, I see its days as the leading currency of the world being numbered.
But the fundamentals that make the dollar a “safe haven” are damaged. Aside from the fact the Federal Reserve has printed trillions in new money and the government continues to take on never-to-be-repaid debt daily, central banks around the world are reducing the amount of the reserves they keep in U.S. dollars.
Please look … Read More
If you have a serious commitment to the equity market, you know that it’s very easy to lose money with stocks. Even when market action is good, one wrong number or any small aberration has the potential to change investor sentiment on a dime. Today’s hottest stocks are easily tomorrow’s biggest losers; today’s financial engineering could lead to tomorrow’s market crash after a derivatives trade–gone-bad.
This is why it really is worthwhile to spend time thinking about investment risk and how a portfolio of stocks is vulnerable to the downside.
I firmly believe that capital preservation is just as important as the expectation of generating a return on investment from stocks at a rate that is greater than inflation. In today’s world, with artificially low interest rates and poor rates of return from bonds and cash, stocks are a huge asset class with tremendously higher risks.
Because of this, approaching equities from a portfolio perspective and building core positions in stable, dividend-paying businesses is a strategy that complements the more speculative approach of trying to achieve short-term capital gains.
Equity investors are well served by trying to “do it all” in the sense of having core positions in stocks that can be accumulated over time, along with a certain percentage allocated for risk-capital trades. (See “Two Steps to a Solid and Profitable Portfolio.”)
And for those less comfortable with the idea of selecting and managing a portfolio of individual stocks, there’s no reason why you can’t integrate active investing with passive investing. Index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are still great instruments in which to have exposure to … 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 see where the U.S. housing market is headed, we really need to look at what real home buyers—those who are planning to stay in their home for the long term—are doing. Institutional investors, who came into the housing market in 2012 and bought massive amounts of homes, are speculators; they’ll quickly rush out of the housing market if they can get a profit or if they can get a better return on their money elsewhere.
Right now, real home buyers are not very active in the U.S. housing market, as they face challenges. In fact, it looks like the number of real home buyers in the housing market is declining.
Between January and December of 2013, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate tracked by Freddie Mac increased by 31%. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate stood at 3.41% in January, and it increased to 4.46% by December. (Source: Freddie Mac web site, last accessed January 15, 2014.) Higher interest costs are a real challenge for home buyers.
As we can see from the chart below, there was a sudden change in the direction of interest rates after the Federal Reserve hinted in the spring of 2013 that it would start to “taper” its quantitative easing (money printing) program. It is widely expected that the Fed will continue to taper throughout 2014 as it drastically pulls back on its massive money printing scheme.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Another challenge home buyers face is stagnant growth in their incomes. In 2013, average hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees in the U.S. increased by only 1.85%—less than real inflation. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank … Read More
Quietly, without much fanfare or news, the bellwether 10-year U.S. Treasury hit a yield of 2.9% this past Friday—double what it yielded in June of 2012. (Source: Treasury.gov, last accessed December 20, 2013.)
Yes, the Federal Reserve only slightly pulled back on its money printing program and interest rates are already spiking.
And the standard 30-year mortgage rate hit 4.52% last week, up from 3.35% in November of 2012. Mortgage rates have increased by about a third in one year’s time. (Source: Freddie Mac web site, last accessed December 18, 2013.)
In the statement issued by the Federal Reserve last week, it said, “Beginning in January, the Committee will add to its holdings of agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $35 billion per month rather than $40 billion per month, and will add to its holdings of longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $40 billion per month rather than $45 billion per month.” (Source: Press Release, Federal Reserve, December 18, 2013.)
In other words, the Federal Reserve will continue to print $75.0 billion a month in new paper money as opposed to the $85.0 billion a month it used to print. If the Federal Reserve continues to print $75.0 billion a month through the year 2014, its balance sheet will grow by another $900 billion. Yes, by the end of 2014, we will be looking at a Federal Reserve balance sheet that shows close to $5.0 trillion in newly created money on it.
I’d like to end this year’s last editorial issue of Profit Confidential by communicating my most important message of the year.
All this printing of … Read More
Nearly 100 years ago, on December 23, 1913, the Federal Reserve was created. The central bank was created for many reasons, such as minimizing the impacts of panics, becoming a banker of last resort and “smoothing” economic cycles.
But along the way to keeping the monetary system stable, something happened: the value of money deteriorated.
What you could buy for $1.00 in 1913 costs $23.59 today. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics web site, last accessed December 11, 2013.) A simple calculation would show that prices have increased by 2,259% over the last 100 years.
Something else to ponder: there have been more erratic movements in inflation since the Federal Reserve was created than in the century prior to then, when the Fed didn’t exist! Since the Federal Reserve was born in 1913, there were 10 years when inflation in the U.S. economy came in at more than 10%. Between 1800 and 1912, there were only four years when inflation in the U.S. was greater than 10%. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis web site, last accessed December 11, 2013.)
“What’s your point, Michael?”
The unprecedented amount of paper money the Fed has created (out of thin air) since the Credit Crisis of 2008 will come back to haunt us—that’s my fear.
The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has grown to about $4.0 trillion. M2 money stock, that’s the supply of paper money in the U.S. economy, has gone up 27% since 2009. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed December 11, 2013.)
And through its “quantitative easing” program, the Federal Reserve continues to print $85.0 billion per … Read More
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