Lombardi: Stock Market Commentary & Forecasts, Financial & Economic Analysis Since 1986

Posts Tagged ‘inflation’

The Sobering Issue

By for Profit Confidential

Why Our National Debt Will Double From HereAccording to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, next year, the government is expected to incur a budget deficit of $469 billion and then another budget deficit of $536 billion in 2016. (Source: Congressional Budget Office web site, last accessed July 21, 2014.) From there, the budget deficit is expected to increase as far as the projections go.

Yes, the government’s own estimates are that our country will run a budget deficit every year for as long as the government’s forecasts go.

That’s quite unbelievable. We live in a country where the government (and politicians) feel it is okay to continue being “negative” every year, indefinitely. It’s like I’ve written many times: if our government were a business, it would have gone bankrupt long ago. But the government, through its non-owned agency, the Federal Reserve, has the luxury of printing paper money to fund its budget deficit and debt. If a business did that—printed money to pay its bills—that would be illegal.

Today, the U.S. national debt stands at $17.6 trillion with about $7.0 trillion of that incurred under the Obama Administration. (Is it any wonder a CNN/ORC International poll said this morning that 35% of Americans say they want President Obama impeached with about two-thirds saying he should be removed from office?)

But what happens to the budget deficit once interest rates start going up? We’ve already heard from the Federal Reserve that interest rates will be sharply higher at the end of 2015 and 2016 than they are now.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of the Treasury was able to borrow money (issued long-term bonds) at an interest … Read More

Why Higher Interest Rates Will Become a Necessity

By for Profit Confidential

A Weak Economy Masked By an Artificial Stock Market RallyLet’s start with the U.S. housing market. Has the recovery for it ended or just stalled?

My answer comes in one sentence: While it’s always a matter of location, only the high-end housing market is doing well, while the general market is weak.

I can see it in the mortgage numbers. People just aren’t taking loans to buy homes in the U.S. economy. In fact, mortgage applications are tumbling.

In the second quarter of 2014, Bank of America Corporation (NYSE/BAC) funded $13.7 billion in residential home loans and home equity loans—down 49% from a year earlier, when it funded $26.8 billion in similar loans. (Source: Bank of America Corporation, July 16, 2014.)

JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE/JPM) originated $16.8 billion in mortgages in the second quarter (ended June 30, 2014)—down 66% from a year ago. (Source: JPMorgan Chase & Co., July 15, 2014.)

And Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE/WFC) also reported a massive decline in mortgage originations. In the second quarter of 2014, it originated $47.0 billion in new mortgages—down 62% from the second quarter of 2013. (Source: Wells Fargo & Company, July 11, 2014.)

So even though interest rates continue at a record low, people are not borrowing to buy homes in the U.S. economy.

But it’s not just the housing market that is weak. The entire U.S. economy is soft…masked by an artificial stock market rally and skewed “official” government statistics that don’t give us a true picture of the unemployment situation or inflation.

We’ve all heard by now that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ/MSFT) is planning job cuts of almost 20,000. (Source: USA Today, July 15, 2014.) … Read More

The Only Thing I Can Find to “Buy Low” These Days

By for Profit Confidential

The Second Half of 2014 What It Looks Like for GoldThe tally as of this morning:

The stock market is up 2.4% so far in 2014 as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, while gold bullion is up 8.1% for the year.

“As an investor, do I get into gold or stocks at this point in the year?”

Well, if you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you know I’m not a fan of stocks right now. I simply believe the stock market has become a Federal Reserve–induced bubble.

And while there has been a lot written about price manipulation in the gold market, and while mighty Goldman Sachs still says the metal is headed lower in price, investors should look at gold bullion right now…that’s both old gold investors (so they can average down their cost) and new gold investors taking their first position.

Here are my reasons why…

In 2013, the Indian central bank and government imposed tariffs and restrictions on the importation of gold bullion into India, as they believed the demand for gold bullion in the country was hurting its national accounts. In the first quarter of this year, India started to ease its gold importation restrictions, and bang, last month, gold bullion imports into the country increased by 65% over June of last year. (Source: Bloomberg, July 16, 2014.) Demand for gold bullion in China, which I’ve documented in these pages, is also very strong.

Inflation, what gold bullion acts as a hedge against, is starting to gain momentum. The Producer Price Index (which tracks changes in the prices producers pay) increased by 0.4% in June from the previous month; that’s an annualized … Read More

Taking It Too Far Again…

By for Profit Confidential

Why Interest Rates Will Rise Faster and Sooner Than Most ThinkWhat led to the 2008/2009 stock market and real estate crash and subsequent Great Recession can be attributed to one factor: the sharp rise in interest rates that preceded that period.

In May of 2004, the federal funds rate, the bellwether rate upon which all interest rates in the U.S. are based, was one percent. The Federal Reserve, sensing the economy was getting overheated, started raising interest rates quickly. Three years later, by May 2007, the federal funds rate was 5.3%.

Any way you look at it, the 430% rise in interest rates over a three-year period killed stocks, real estate, and the economy.

My studies show the Federal Reserve has historically taken things too far when setting its monetary policy. It raised interest rates far too quickly in the 2004–2007 period. And I believe it dropped rates far too fast since 2009 and has kept them low (if you call zero “low”) for far too long.

In the same way investors suffered in 2008–2009 as the Fed moved to quickly raise rates, I believe we will soon suffer as the Fed is forced to quickly raise interest rates once more while the economy overheats.

It’s all very simple. The U.S. unemployment rate is getting close to six percent. The real inflation rate is close to five percent per annum, and the stock market is way overheated. The Fed will have no choice but to cool what looks like an overheated economy. But the Fed won’t be able to do it with a quarter-point increase in interest rates here and there. It will need to raise rates by at least … Read More

If You Learn One Thing This Year from Profit Confidential…

By for Profit Confidential

Living Off Mom & Dad Longer Than Ever BeforeDear reader, if you’ve learned one thing from reading these issues of Profit Confidential, I hope it is this: Don’t buy into the hype created by the rising stock market and the media that the U.S. economy is improving. The economic growth promised by the Federal Reserve and the politicians five years ago is still missing.

The majority of Americans are facing serious financial troubles. Their jobs don’t pay them well or enough. Those who are looking for better jobs can’t find them. Their salaries aren’t increasing, but inflation sure is rising. Many Americans can’t even afford to live in their homes!

And young Americans are in just as bad shape as retired Americans…

According to research by the University of Arizona, half of graduates, after they are out of college for two years, are relying on their parents or other family members for financial support. As per the study, graduates are postponing many of life’s goals, such as marriage, having children, or buying homes, because they can’t afford them. (Source: CNN Money, June 10, 2014.)

In times of economic growth, you have college graduates finding jobs easily. This isn’t happening. In fact, student debt in this country sits at $1.2 trillion, 85% of it guaranteed by the government and 11.5% of it 90-days-plus delinquent or in default. (Source: “$1 Trillion Student Loan Problems Keeps Getting Worse,” Forbes, February 21, 2014.)

But it’s not only college graduates in the U.S. economy who are suffering…

According to the “How Housing Matters Survey” by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Hart Research Associates, 52% of Americans have … Read More

The Only Sector I See with a Ten-to-One Return Potential

By for Profit Confidential

Shattering the Myth Behind Interest Rates and GoldWe are hearing more and more about interest rates getting ready to rise. The Federal Reserve itself has said it expects the federal funds rate to increase to 1.5% by the end of next year and to 2.25% by the end of 2016.

Before the Fed came out with its forecast, I was writing about how the Fed will have no choice but to raise interest rates because inflation is rising too quickly.

And I have been reading what clueless reporters and analysts are writing about how gold bullion prices don’t perform well in a high interest rates environment. I want to set the record straight for my readers.

Shattering the myth about the high interest rates, today’s rates are still very low compared to the historical average. In the chart below, you will see the changes in the Federal Reserve’s federal funds rate since 1980.

Effective Federal Funds Rate Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Over the past five years, the benchmark interest rate set by the Federal Reserve has all but collapsed to zero. Moving rates to 2.25% by 2016 will have a significant impact on the economy. But at 2.25%, over the long-term, it’s still a very low rate. Prior to the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, the federal funds rate stood above five percent.

Bringing it back to gold bullion, if you are old like me and remember the early 1980s when interests were very high, you will also remember gold bullion was trading at a then-record high of more than $800.00 an ounce, or about $2,500 in 2014 dollars.

The higher interest rates went then, the higher gold bullion went. … Read More

Is This What America Has Come To?

By for Profit Confidential

Five Years Later, Many American Still SufferingI’m going to put aside my daily ranting about the stock market and the economy today to bring what I believe is an important story to the attention of my readers.

There is no doubt you’ve heard about how poorly the city of Detroit, Michigan is faring now that the automotive sector has all but closed up there.

Yesterday, news came that the city has started cutting off water to about 150,000 people. About half of the city’s 324,000 water customers are delinquent on paying their water bill, so the city is turning off their taps. (Source: Financial Post, June 24, 2014.)

In protest, residents are appealing to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, saying their human right to water has been denied. (Unfortunately, the right of access to water is not in our Constitution or our Charter of Rights.)

I think what’s happening in Detroit, while it’s not getting much publicity, is very important. It should be a warning to us all.

At the very core, it tells me that if a government is not taking in enough money to pay its bills, it will increase the financial burden on its citizens…and if you can’t pay, you’re cut off.

In the case of Detroit, last week, city council approved a nine-percent hike in what it charges for water. (And the government tells us inflation is below two percent!) This lesson teaches us that if you can’t pay the increased costs the government levies on you, it will cut you off.

Secondly, today’s citizens are responsible for the past actions (or should I say lack of actions) … Read More

Why Gold Went Up $50 Yesterday

By for Profit Confidential

Perfect Inflation Storm BrewingWell surprise, surprise, surprise.

Gold bullion rallied just under $50.00 an ounce yesterday…and nobody expected it. (Okay, maybe just me. In a single day yesterday, my portfolio went up by twice the amount the stock market has risen in all of 2014.)

Going through all the major financial web sites, I read story after story yesterday on why gold was rising so fast. They were all wrong; just reporters grabbing at straws, trying to explain something they know very little about.

As I started writing in these pages in 2014, inflation is becoming a real problem in America. Years ago, I started writing about how all this money the Federal Reserve is creating out of thin air would become inflationary. That’s exactly what is starting to happen now.

Why is the Fed starting to pull back on its money printing operation with the goal of being out of the money printing business by the end of this year? Why is the Fed telling us that after keeping interest rates near zero for years, by the end of next year, the federal funds rate will move up to 1.13% and by the end of the following year, it will move to 2.5%?

In my opinion, we are being told this because the powers that be see inflation in the cards, and they are working on trying to curb rapid inflation before it happens. And if there is something gold thrives on, it is inflation.

Even the manipulated government statistics are now pointing to inflation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports prices in the U.S. economy increased by 0.4% in May after … Read More

Why I Never Pay for Coffee at Sam’s Bakery

By for Profit Confidential

Grains of coffee and dollarsThere’s a local bakery near my office I try to get to at least once a week. Sam and his wife own the bakery, and Sam is usually the one there serving espressos and cappuccinos to the many small business owners who meet there early in the morning to talk about business and the economy.

My problem is that I never pay for coffee at Sam’s bakery. “Don’t worry Michael, it’s been taken care of” is the standard line Sam usually gives me. Either Sam is giving me free coffee or one person is buying for everyone in the bakery.

But I think my free coffee streak is about to end.

Kraft Foods Group, Inc. (NASDAQ/KRFT) recently raised the prices of its Maxwell House and Yuban coffee brands by 10%. This is after another company called The J.M. Smucker Company increased its prices. (Source: Bloomberg, June 8, 2014.)

But it’s not just coffee prices that are moving up. Even the government itself is now predicting food prices will rise at an accelerated rate this year.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, inflation in food prices in the U.S. economy will be between 2.5% and 3.5% in 2014. This is compared to just a 0.9% increase in prices in 2013. Inflation of meat prices is expected to be much higher. Beef and veal prices are expected to increase 5.5% and 6.0% respectively this year. (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture web site, last accessed June 10, 2014.)

I believe food prices will rise much faster than what the government is predicting; I’m talking real inflation of five to eight percent per … Read More

How to Invest in a Market Constructed by Central Banks

By for Profit Confidential

How to Profit in a Fed-Built MarketThe resilience the stock market continues to have is a reflection of what continues to be extreme monetary stimulus. And while the stock market is a leading indicator and a bet on a future stream of earnings and economic activity, throughout history, the underlying goal of central banks has been price inflation.

Seemingly, the capitalist economic system is based on two basic underlying factors: property rights and price inflation. And in modern history, the latter, through central bank intervention, is the most important catalyst for the stock market.

In capital markets, long-run history is a very good guide and an important tool in helping to shape your market view. And most importantly, it’s very helpful in laying the groundwork for separating present-day conjecture from what has actually transpired before.

I’m reminded of J. Anthony Boeckh’s book titled The Great Reflation, which provides a non-political long-run analysis on the U.S. economy and its cycles.

It’s a historical breakdown of interest rates, inflation, and monetary and fiscal policies, and how they have affected the stock market. It is required reading for any serious long-term investor.

Written in 2010, the book breaks down financial crises and looks at the long-run effects of price inflation and the effects on capital markets. Boeckh offers some poignant analysis on all kinds of financial topics, and many of his observations have not only come to fruition, but they are also worth consideration.

Boeckh plainly states that the global financial system is flawed because of fiat paper money. And because we use paper money, price inflation exists and capital markets are subject to bubbles.

Add in … Read More

About That Letter My Dad Got in the Mail Friday

By for Profit Confidential

Pay a Bank to Hold Your MoneyMy father is 87 years old. He’s in great shape, drives on his own, plays cards with the guys each afternoon, and has basically been enjoying retirement since he sold his business when he was 65.

Like all retirees, he and my Mom have been living off their savings for years.

And like millions of Americans, the low interest rates we have been enduring since the Federal Reserve decided back in 2008 that it was best to bring rates down to historically low levels (and keep them there for six years) haven’t been kind to them.

But last week, the letter we got in the mail, well, it was the last straw.

My folks have some of their money in the wealth management division of one of the largest banks in North America. On Friday, we received a letter from them that said the bank would start charging a fee of $500.00 a year if the balance in my parents’ accounts fell below $125,000.

Yes, you got that right. If my parents keep less than $125,000 in their accounts at this (essentially) brokerage arm of the bank, they will be charged $500.00 a year for the bank to keep their money.

Nice. (If you are a small business owner, imagine treating your customers like that!)

The letter ended by saying that if we are not happy with the bank, we can transfer the money to another financial institution by a certain deadline date and the transfer fee will be waived. Nice, again.

Dear reader, I have been writing to you for months that my view is essentially that money is … Read More

Negative Interest Rates: They’re Here

By for Profit Confidential

What Happens When You Toy with Nature's Boom & Bust CyclesIn 2012, I predicted that if the Federal Reserve couldn’t get the economy growing again, it would take interest rates into the negative zone.

Well, yesterday, the European Central Bank (ECB), the second-biggest central bank in the world, trumped the Fed and became the first major central bank to offer depositors negative interest rates.

What does “negative interest rates” mean?

Each night, major banks in the eurozone collectively deposit USD$1.0 trillion with the ECB. By cutting its overnight rate to negative, these banks will end up paying the ECB to hold their funds.

The ECB hopes that instead of getting a negative return on their money, the major banks in the eurozone will start lending their money out to borrowers, which will get the economy in the eurozone moving again.

This won’t work. Here’s why:

1)      Preservation of capital is the most important thing for banks in the eurozone. If they can deposit their $1.0 trillion with the ECB, even if they have to pay for the safekeeping, it’s a more secure move than lending money to businesses that are still far too risky because the eurozone economy is far too weak. The government regulation of opening and running a business in the eurozone is overwhelming.

2)      If the eurozone banks are getting a negative return on their money, how can they possibly pay savers a return on the money they have sitting in the bank? Yes, savers are punished once again with this latest central bank move.

3)      Smaller countries like Sweden and Denmark tried negative interest rates during 2009 and 2012; they didn’t work in stimulating those economies…. Read More

The New Land of Oz

By for Profit Confidential

When Gold Will Finally BottomYesterday was an amazing day for the markets.

Gold bullion hit a three-month low despite: 1) inflation rising rapidly in North America; and 2) the Chinese buying half of this year’s world gold production.

The stock market was up to a new high despite: 1) corporate insiders selling like mad; 2) corporate earnings growth collapsing; 3) the amount of money investors have borrowed to buy stocks standing at a record high; and 4) the economy stinking.

In the words of Robert Appel, my esteemed colleague, the following best describes what is happening with the markets:

“Time to take those ruby slippers out of the closet because we are definitely on our way to the ‘Wizard of Oz’ show once again. There is a view that the government and its ‘special contractor’ (the Fed) have things under control and we are now at the beginning of the biggest stock bull in history. We don’t buy that theory for a minute but we do acknowledge it exists.

“Those opposing this view—an ever-declining number—suggest that if inflation were defined as it was when the greatest economic minds of our age were still alive—the U.S. economy would be in big trouble. The recent corporate earnings wipeout in the retail sector was one of the most under-reported financial stories of the year.

“Interestingly (this is too bizarre to make up) the only major upside surprise in the retail sector in respect to first quarter earnings reports was Tiffany’s…where they can barely keep up with demand. No surprise for our readers as the ‘gap’ between rich and poor under QE [quantitative easing] has only intensified. QE … Read More

Is Money Really Worth Anything Anymore?

By for Profit Confidential

Inflation Getting Out of ControlThere’s a big problem brewing…one that I started warning about two years ago: food and basic commodities prices are skyrocketing.

In April, the Producer Price Index (PPI), an index that tracks prices paid by producers for commodities, increased by the most in 19 months. The month-over-month change was 0.6%—yes, that is an annualized inflation rate of 7.2%. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics web site, last accessed May 20, 2014.)

Generally speaking, the producers (the companies that grow/import the food we eat and make the goods we buy) are “hedged” in the short-term so consumers won’t see a jump in prices right away; consumers will see prices rise in the months ahead.

While some economists are saying food prices are rising because we had a terrible winter and the weather played havoc with harvests around the world, I simply think too much money has been created out of thin air over the past five years, too many dollars are in circulation, the U.S. dollar is falling in value against other world currencies and that is pushing up domestic prices for goods, causing inflation.

This chart illustrates the situation very well. It shows how much currency there is in circulation in the U.S. economy. You can easily see that after 2008, our monetary base exploded.

St. Louis Adjusted Monetary Base Chart

As the chart shows, there is no denying we are experiencing hyper-monetary inflation in the U.S. There’s simply too much money in circulation. (You can thank the Federal Reserve for that.)

Understand this: when inflation increases, your buying power goes down. Today, your dollar is worth less than it was last year, last month, or even last … Read More

No Inflation? Everyday Commodity Prices Up 10% This Year

By for Profit Confidential

Real Inflation Running at Five Times Official NumbersThe Bureau of Labor Statistics reports inflation in the U.S. economy increased by 0.2% in March, after increasing by 0.1% in each of February and January. In total, prices have increased by 0.4% in the first three months of the year. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 12, 2014.) If we extrapolate these “official” numbers for the entire year, inflation will come in at roughly 1.6% in all of 2014.

Dear reader, ask yourself this question: “Do the items I buy on a regular basis seem to only cost 1.6% more than they did 12 months ago?” Of course not; that’s because the “official” government inflation figures are outright misleading.

The reality is that early economic indicators are flashing warning signs about inflation.

A little background…

The direction of the prices of commodities used as raw materials that go toward the making of a final product is an indicator of where general prices are headed. For example, wheat is used to make bread, so the price direction of wheat (going up or down) is important. Oil is another example. Oil is needed to make gas, so if oil prices are rising, it’s safe to say that gas prices will go up.

With that said, look at the chart below of the Reuters/Jeffries CRB Index, an index that tracks the prices of commodities that affect our daily life, like wheat, corn, oats, and live cattle. It also tracks the price of heating oil, gasoline, and basic metals.

CRB Reuters Jefferies Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Since the beginning of the year, this index has increased about 10%.

In the long-term, this jump in commodity prices … Read More

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