Posts Tagged ‘interest rates’
Not too long ago, I reported that Italy, the third-biggest economy in the eurozone, had fallen back into recession.
Now Germany’s economy is pulling back. In the second quarter of 2014, the largest economy in the eurozone witnessed a decline in its gross domestic product (GDP)—the first decline in Germany’s GDP since the first quarter of 2013. (Source: Destatis, August 14, 2014.)
And more difficult times could lie ahead…
In August, the ZEW Indicator of Economic Sentiment, a survey that asks analysts and investors where the German economy will go, posted a massive decline. The index collapsed 18.5 points to sit at 8.6 points. This indicator has been declining for eight consecutive months and now sits at its lowest level since December of 2012. (Source: ZEW, August 12, 2014.)
Not only does the ZEW indicator provide an idea about the business cycle in Germany, it also gives us an idea of where the eurozone will go, since Germany is the biggest economic hub in the region.
But there’s more…
France, the second-biggest economy in the eurozone, is also in a precarious position—and a recession may not be too far away for France.
After seeing its GDP grow by only 0.4% in 2013, France’s GDP came in at zero for the first two quarters of 2014. (Source: France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, August 14, 2014.)
France’s problems don’t end there. This major eurozone country is experiencing rampant unemployment, which has remained elevated for a very long time.
While I understand North Americans may not be interested in knowing much about the economic slowdown in the eurozone, we … Read More
The U.S. dollar is still regarded as the reserve currency of the world. The majority of international transactions are settled in U.S. dollars and most central banks around the word hold it in their foreign exchange reserves.
But since the Credit Crisis of 2008, and the multi-trillion-dollar printing program by the Federal Reserve, the supremacy of the U.S. dollar as the “world’s currency” has been challenged.
The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) have agreed on starting a new development bank that will compete with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. (Source: Washington Times, August 5, 2014.) Both the IMF and World Bank are “U.S. dollar”-based.
Since the year 2000, the U.S. dollar composed about 56% of all reserves at central banks. But after the Credit Crisis, that percentage started to decline. In 2013, the greenback made up only 32.43% of all foreign exchange reserves at foreign central banks. (Source: International Monetary Fund COFER data, last accessed August 11, 2014.)
Yes, the $3.5 trillion in new money the Federal Reserve has created out of thin air has made other central banks nervous about holding U.S. dollars in their vaults. After all, if you were a foreign central bank with U.S. dollars as your reserve currency, how good would you feel to know the U.S. just printed more dollars as it needed them without any backing of gold?
But it’s not just the money printing. It’s the massive debt the U.S. government has accumulated…currently at $17.6 trillion and soon to be $20.0 trillion.
In the short-run, the U.S. dollar is still considered a safe … Read More
Remember Alan Greenspan? He was the chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006. Several media sources, including this one, blamed the sub-prime mortgage fiasco that led to the Credit Crisis of 2008 on the easy money policies under the leadership of Greenspan.
But the Credit Crisis aside, it is ironic but true that Greenspan has had a knack for calling stock market bubbles correctly.
For example, in December of 1996, while chairman of the Federal Reserve, Greenspan grew wary about the stock market. In a now famous speech called the “Challenge of Central Banking in a Democratic Society,” along with other observations on the value of stocks, Greenspan essentially argued that the rise in the stock market at that time wasn’t reflective of the poor economic conditions that prevailed.
Within two years of that speech, the stock market started to decline and stocks did not recover until 2006.
In an interview with Bloomberg a few days ago, Greenspan said, “the stock market has recovered so sharply for so long, you have to assume somewhere along the line we will get a significant correction.” (Source: “Greenspan Says Stocks to See ‘Significant Correction,’” Bloomberg, July 30, 2014.)
In the interview, Greenspan says long-term capital isn’t growing and as a result, productivity and the economic recovery will be in jeopardy.
Greenspan is out of the Federal Reserve. But the leader of the Fed today, Janet Yellen, also has reservations about the value of certain stocks. As I wrote on July 16, Yellen had been quoted saying tech stocks were priced “high relative to historical norms.” (See “How Many Warnings Can … Read More
Yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 317 points, while the NASDAQ Composite Index fell 93 points—respective losses of about two percent per index. This morning, stock market futures are down again.
As a reader of Profit Confidential, this “rout” we are now in should come as no surprise. I have been writing for months how overpriced the stock market has become, how the stock market has become one big bubble thanks to the easy money policies of the Federal Reserve, and how the bubble would burst.
Yesterday, those who have been riding the stock market’s coattails higher and higher got the first taste of what is being called a “correction” by the mainstream media. But like I just said, to me, this is a stock market bubble that is bursting—very different than a correction. For months, historically proven stock market indicators (many of which I have written about in these pages) have been flashing red…but very few investors paid any attention to them.
The Dow Jones is now down for 2014. Yes, seven months into the year and big-cap stocks have gone nowhere. So far in 2014, investors would have done better owning gold and silver or U.S. Treasuries.
I have been predicting this will be a down year for the stock market and I’m keeping with that forecast. After five consecutive positive years for the stock market, the bounce from the 2008 market low of 6,440 on the Dow Jones could finally be over.
Dear reader, as elementary as it sounds, interest rates are the catalyst for all this.
After falling for 30 years, a time in … Read More
My colleague Robert Appel (BA, BBL, LLB) issued a research paper to the subscribers of one of his financial advisories earlier this week. I thought it important that all my readers be aware of and understand the crux of what Robert is saying about our current economic situation and where it will eventually lead.
Here it is:
“The actions of the Federal Reserve (how far they went to ‘stabilize’ the economy) after the Credit Crisis of 2008 is unprecedented in American history. Of course, I’m talking about the Federal Reserve printing nearly $4.0 trillion in new U.S. dollars while keeping interest rates artificially low for almost six years now.
These actions have caused an ‘era of financial insanity’ that penalizes seniors, savers, and prudent investors, while rewarding borrowers, those who leverage, and risk-takers.
It encourages public companies to doctor their own bottom lines by borrowing money (at cheap interest rates) to repurchase their own shares. This reduces the denominator of their earnings numbers—giving only the illusion of prosperity—and also reduces share float, thereby putting upward pressure on stock prices since more money is suddenly chasing fewer shares.
Articles have appeared in several well-known financial publications, with sources, citing central banks around the world have injected $29.0 trillion into equity markets because they themselves simply could not manage a return at the very same rates they were inflicting on others!
The prime beneficiaries of these insane monetary policies are the banks themselves and the government itself. Because low interest rates allow Washington (and other, similar, fiat regimes) to manage debt payments that could not otherwise be managed in a ‘normal’ interest … Read More
Earlier this month, Jeremy Siegal, a well-known “bull” on CNBC, took to the airwaves to predict the Dow Jones Industrial Average would go beyond 18,000 by the end of this year. Acknowledging overpriced valuations on the key stock indices are being ignored, he argued historical valuations should be taken with a grain of salt and nothing more. (Source: CNBC, July 2, 2014.)
Sadly, it’s not only Jeremy Siegal who has this point of view. Many other stock advisors who were previously bearish have thrown in the towel and turned bullish towards key stock indices—regardless of what the historical stock market valuation tools are saying.
We are getting to the point where today’s mentality about key stock indices—the sheer bullish belief stocks will only move higher—has surpassed the optimism that was prevalent in the stock market in 2007, before stocks crashed.
At the very core, when you pull away the stock buyback programs and the Fed’s tapering of the money supply and interest rates, there is one main factor that drives key stock indices higher or lower: corporate earnings. So, for key stock indices to continue to make new highs, corporate profits need to rise.
But there are two blatant threats to companies in the key stock indices and the profits they generate.
First, the U.S. economy is very, very weak. While we saw negative gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the first quarter of this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) just downgraded its U.S. economic projection. The IMF now expects the U.S. economy to grow by just 1.7% in 2014. (Source: International Monetary Fund, July 24, 2014.) One more … Read More
According 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
Let’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 18,000. (Source: USA Today, July 15, 2014.) … Read More
I’ve been writing in these pages for most of 2014 on how the stock market has become one huge bubble. On my short list:
The economy is weak. The U.S. experienced negative growth in the first quarter of 2014. If the same thing happens in the second quarter (we’ll soon know), we will be in a recession again. Revenue growth at big companies is almost non-existent.
Insiders at public companies are selling stocks (in the companies they work for) at a record pace.
The amount of money investors have borrowed to buy stocks is at a record high (a negative for the stock market).
The VIX “Fear” index, which measures the amount of fear investors have about stocks declining, is near a record low (another negative for the stock market).
Bullishness among stock advisors, as measured by Investors Intelligence, is near a record high (again, a negative for the stock market).
The Federal Reserve has issued its economic outlook, and it says interest rates will be much higher at the end of 2015 than they are today and that they will continue moving upward in 2016.
The Federal Reserve has said it will be out of the money printing business by the end of this year. (Who will buy all those T-bills the U.S. government has to issue to keep in business?)
And yesterday, in an unprecedented statement, Janet Yellen, during her usual semi-annual testimony to Congress, said the valuations of tech stocks are “high relative to historical norms.”
How many warnings can you give investors?
Well, the warnings don’t seem to matter. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has … Read More
What 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 there ever was an equity security epitomizing the notion that the stock market is a leading indicator, Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) would fit the bill.
This manufacturer is in slow-growth mode, but it’s been going up on the stock market as institutional investors bet on a global resurgence for the demand of construction and other heavy equipment and engines.
And the betting’s been pretty fierce. Caterpillar was priced at $90.00 a share at the beginning of the year. Now, it’s $110.00, which is a substantial move for such a mature large-cap. (See “Rising Earnings Estimates the New Catalyst for Stocks?”)
The stock actually offers a pretty decent dividend. It’s currently around 2.6%.
While sales and earnings in its upcoming quarter (due out July 24, 2014) are expected to be very flat, Street analysts are putting their focus on 2015. Sales and earnings estimates for next year are accelerating, and it’s fuel for institutional investors with money to invest.
The notion that the stock market leads actual economic performance is very real. Just like there are cycles in the economy, the stock market itself is highly cyclical. And while every secular bull market occurs for different reasons, there are commonalities in the price action.
Caterpillar’s share price is going up on the expectation that its sales and earnings (on a global basis) will accelerate next year.
Transportation stocks, as evidenced by the Dow Jones Transportation Average, are the classic bull market leaders.
Transportation, whether it’s trucking, railroads, airlines, or package delivery services, is as good a call on general economic activity as any. The Dow Jones Transportation Average was … Read More
We 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.
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
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