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

Posts Tagged ‘interest rates’

The Era of Financial Insanity

By for Profit Confidential

What Happens Next for the Stock MarketMy 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

The Problem With Reality in 2014

By for Profit Confidential

U.S. Economy Halfway to a Recession AlreadyEarlier 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

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 18,000. (Source: USA Today, July 15, 2014.) … Read More

How Many Warnings Can You Give?

By for Profit Confidential

Why Stocks Will Not End 2014 WellI’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

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

What Investors Need to Know About the Current Market Cycle

By for Profit Confidential

What These Large-Caps Are Revealing About the Current Stock Market CycleIf 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

This Is Odd…

By for Profit Confidential

Demand for Stocks Outweighs Supply at This PointOne of the oddest things to happen with the stock market since it has recovered is that the number of shares trading hands each day has slowly disappeared.

In the table that I have created for you below, I list the trading volume for the S&P 500 for each June since 2009 and the percentage change in volume from the previous June.

Trading volume on the S&P 500 has dropped 60% since 2009!

Trading Volume, S&P 500, June of Each Year, 2009 – 2014

Year Volume (Shares Traded Per Month) Year-Over-Year % Change
June 2009 93,147,496,448
June 2010 91,971,043,328 -1.3%
June 2011 63,674,499,072 -30.8%
June 2012 59,703,365,632 -6.2%
June 2013 51,560,980,480 -13.6%
June 2014 38,765,629,440 -24.8%

Data source: www.StockCharts.com, last accessed July 1, 2014

What’s happening here? How can the stock market rise year after year if trading volume is down?

It’s very simple, but I’ll explain this new phenomenon in a moment. First, look at the chart of the S&P 500 below. Pay close attention to the volume at the bottom of the chart. As volume on the S&P 500 collapsed, the price of the index rose.

S&P 500 Large Cap Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Volume is collapsing because the number of shares companies have outstanding is being reduced at an accelerated rate. For example, in the first quarter of 2014, S&P 500 companies purchased $154.5 billion worth of their shares back (stock buyback programs). Over the trailing 12 months, S&P 500 companies purchased more than half-a-trillion-dollars worth of their own shares—$535.2 billion to be exact. (Source: FactSet, June 18, 2014.)

Add to the shrinking number of shares outstanding the fact that central … 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

Guess Who Is Pushing the Stock Market Higher Now

By for Profit Confidential

So That's Why Stocks Have Been Moving Higher…When I look at the stock market, I ask who in their right mind would buy stocks?

While key stock market indices creep higher, the fundamentals suggest the complete opposite. But despite valuations being stretched, insiders selling, corporate revenue growth being non-existent, and the U.S. economy contracting in the first quarter of this year, the S&P 500 is up seven percent since the beginning of 2014, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is getting closer to the 17,000 level, and the NASDAQ is back above 4,000.

As I have written before, a company can buy back its stock to prop up per-share earnings or cut expenses to improve the bottom line, but if revenue isn’t growing, there is a problem. In the first quarter of 2014, only 54% of S&P 500 companies were able to grow their revenue. (Source: FactSet, June 13, 2014.)

Going forward, things aren’t looking bright either. For the second quarter of 2014, 82 S&P 500 companies have already provided negative guidance for their corporate earnings. I expect this number to climb higher.

And consumer spending, the driver of the U.S. economy, is very weak, as evidenced by negative gross domestic product (GDP) in the U.S. economy in the first quarter of this year.

So if the overall environment is negative for the equities, who is buying stocks and pushing the stock market higher?

The answer (something I suspected some time ago): central banks are buying stocks.

A study done by the Official Monetary and Financial Institution Forum (OMFIF) called Global Public Investors 2014, states that central banks and public institutions around the world have gotten involved … Read More

What Do This Quarter’s Mixed Earnings Results Mean?

By for Profit Confidential

Market May Be Entering a New Cycle—But Don't Buy Just Yet!Oracle Corporation (ORCL) announced a quarterly revenue gain of three percent, but Wall Street was looking for more and the company’s share price retreated on its earnings results.

If it weren’t for the Federal Reserve, we probably would be in a correction, if not a consolidation, which has been the broader market’s go-to trend when it should have retreated further.

It’s such a mixed bag out there both in terms of economic news and corporate reporting.

While I think dividend-paying blue chips have the advantage going into the second-quarter earnings season, if the Federal Reserve wasn’t so extremely sensitive to Wall Street, this market would probably be a lot lower.

Even the Fed’s recent language is assuaging. If this market had to operate on its own (with free market interest rates and liquidity), things would be a lot different.

But this isn’t the environment we live in. Economic history clearly supports the scenario that it doesn’t pay to fight the Fed and that Wall Street will move mountains when it has Fed certainty.

Lots of investors bemoan the quarterly earnings cycle or game, but I don’t. I want to know a public company’s up-to-date financial results as frequently as possible.

While earnings are managed, over time, a business can’t manufacture success unless it’s a fraud (which, sadly, does happen).

Big companies have the operational leverage and the cash to keep boosting their earnings per share. Oracle’s latest financial results were uninspiring, and while recognizing that this is a very mature business with growing competition in the cloud, the position advanced a material 10 points since last June—this seems so overdone…. 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

As Stocks Brush Off Geopolitical Tensions, Here’s the Catalyst for a Correction

By for Profit Confidential

Where's the Catalyst for Correction in StocksCountless stocks are bouncing off their highs, and in many cases, a lot of these companies are due for share splits.

It’s a peculiar environment for investors in that the main market indices are right at their highs, yet the Main Street economy isn’t performing anywhere near as well.

Stocks are a leading indicator and share prices move in advance of anticipated corporate earnings, but it’s so difficult to be a buyer when most stocks have already gone up like they have. It’s not boom time at all in the real world.

So with this backdrop, I think it’s fair to conclude that an investor has to be extremely careful in the current environment.

I view investment risk in equities as being high because stocks are at their highs and Main Street is stagnant. It’s not a good combination. And with the real possibility of rising interest rates later this year or early 2015, the boom that hasn’t happened could easily turn into a bust.

For an investor looking to buy stocks right now, I would say to wait until second-quarter reporting season begins and we get the latest numbers from corporations before investing.

This market is so badly due for a material price correction, and with the right catalyst, it could happen near-term.

Given the current information, I would view a material price correction as a buying opportunity. A real stock market correction has eluded us for too long since the March of 2009 low.

And while there was a small sell-off at the beginning of this year, stocks have been moving consistently higher for two straight years.

I … 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

Why We Are Closer to a Recession in 2014 Than You Think

By for Profit Confidential

U.S. Economy to Fall into a Recession This QuarterDon’t buy into the notion that there’s economic growth in America!

We’ve already seen U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) “unexpectedly” decline in the first quarter of 2014, and now there are signs of another contraction in the current quarter. (The technical definition of a recession is two negative quarters of GDP—we’re halfway there!)

As you know, consumer spending is the biggest part of our U.S. economy, accounting for about two-thirds of our GDP. And consumers are pulling back.

Consumer spending in the U.S. economy declined 0.26% in April from March. This was the first monthly decline since December of 2013. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed June 4, 2014.)

And while consumer spending is one indicator that suggests a recession may soon be coming into play in the U.S. economy, there’s also one very interesting phenomenon occurring that suggests the very same.

The Federal Reserve is serious about pulling back on its quantitative easing program. And in anticipation of the Fed pulling back on money printing (when it first indicated it would start tapering), the yields on bonds shot up.

But since 2014 began, and the Federal Reserve actually started to taper, the yield on the long-term 30-year U.S. bond has declined more than 12%.

 30 Year t Bond Yield Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

If the Fed is pulling back on printing (it has said it wants to be out of the money printing business by the end of this year), why are bond yields declining?

From a fundamental point of view, it suggests the market anticipates very slow growth for the U.S. economy ahead.

Dear reader, the perfect … Read More

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