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

Posts Tagged ‘stock market rally’

Another Warning Sign: Stocks Hit Highs on Collapsing Volume

By for Profit Confidential

The Only Bear Left StandingSo the S&P 500 has touched the 2,000 mark.

Will the S&P 500 continue to march to new highs?

Well, my opinion towards the stock market hasn’t changed. I remain skeptical for a variety of reasons, many of which I have shared with my readers over the past few months.

But I have a new concern about the stock market, something that hasn’t been touched on by analysts: trading volume is collapsing.

Please look at the table below. It shows the performance of the S&P 500 and its change in trading volume.

Year Performance Change in Volume
2012 11.73% - 17.58%
2013 14.50% - 24.91%
2014 8.40% - 44%*

*Until August 25, 2014

Data source: StockCharts.com, last accessed August 25, 2014

Key stock indices like the S&P 500 (it is the same story for the Dow Jones) are rising as volumes are declining, suggesting buyers’ participation in the stock market advance is very low. For a healthy stock market rally, any technical analyst will tell you that you need rising volume, not declining volume.

It’s Economics 101: rising demand pushes prices higher. In the case of the S&P 500, we have declining demand (low trading volume) and rising prices. Something doesn’t make sense here.

Looking at the economic data, it further suggests key stock indices are stretched. We continue to see the factors that are supposed to drive the U.S. economy to deteriorate.

Just look at the housing market. The number of new homes sold continues to decline. In January, the annual rate of new-home sales in the U.S. was 457,000 units. By July, it was down more than 10% … Read More

Feel Like You Are Missing Out?

By for Profit Confidential

Stock Market Correction Very HighIf you follow the financial news, it feels like the stock market is moving higher and higher…a situation in which investors often feel they are missing out.

But the reality of the situation is very different. So far this year, almost eight full months in, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up only three percent.

Would you buy stocks with the Dow Jones trading at 17,100, near a record-high price-to-earnings (P/E) multiple and a record-low dividend yield? I wouldn’t. Hence, the question changes from “Am I missing out?” to “Is it worth the risk?”

On Monday, the chief market strategist at BMO Capital Markets said, “Longer term we are in the camp that believes U.S. equities are the place to be. They are the most stable asset in the world.” (Source: “Bull market will charge higher for 15 more years says strategist,” Yahoo! Finance, August 18, 2014.)

The belief that “stocks are the place to be” has gone mainstream now. And that’s very dangerous.

The reality of the situation: (1) stocks are trading at very high historical levels when measured by the P/E multiple and dividend yield; (2) the Fed is stopping its money printing program; (3) investors are pulling money out of the stock market; (4) consumer spending is tumbling; (5) stock advisors have remained too bullish for too long; and (6) the chances of a 20% stock market correction are very high.

According to the Investment Company Institute (ICI), between April and June, mutual funds that invest in U.S. stock markets witnessed net withdrawals of $19.1 billion. While July’s monthly figures are not updated just yet, looking at … Read More

Stock Market Fake? Economic Growth Falls to Slowest Pace Since 2009

By for Profit Confidential

Eurozone Economic Growth PrecariousNot 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

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

Investors Forgot Everything That Happened Just a Few Years Ago?

By for Profit Confidential

The Economy and the Stock MarketThere are two important charts I want my readers to see this morning.

The first is a chart that is an indirect measure of demand in the global economy. Right now, the Baltic Dry Index (BDI) sits at its lowest level of the year. Since the beginning of 2014, the BDI has fallen 60%.

The BDI measures the cost of moving major raw materials by sea in the global economy. The thinking is that the lower the cost to move goods by ship, the lesser the amount of goods to move (a strict demand/supply price situation).

BAtic Dry Index (EOD) INDX Chart Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

What’s happening with the steep drop in the BDI can be seen in a corresponding slowdown in the global economy.

Germany, the fourth-biggest economy in the world, saw its industrial production decline by 1.8% in May after falling 0.3% in April. (Source: Destatis, July 7, 2014.)

Great Britain, the sixth-biggest market in the global economy, saw its production decline 0.7% in May, while its manufacturing decreased 1.3%. (Source: Office for National Statistics, July 8, 2014.)

France, the fifth-biggest economy, reports no gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the country in the first quarter of 2014. (Source: MarketWatch, July 8, 2014.)

In 2014, the Chinese economy will grow at its slowest pace in years. In Japan, the Bank of Japan (its equivalent to our Federal Reserve) has announced it will start buying exchange-traded funds (in specific, the Nikkei 400 ETF) to “boost the impact of (its) unprecedented easing.” (Source: “Bank of Japan Seen Buying Nikkei 400 ETF,” Financial Post, July 10, 2014.) Yes, the central bank of Japan is buying … 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

Have I Got a Deal for You! The Stock Selling at 573 Times Earnings That Just Keeps Rising

By for Profit Confidential

Have Stock Market Investors Lost Their MindsStock market valuations are severely stretched by historical standards. Earnings multiples and other financial ratios no longer make sense. But despite this, investors are still buying.

I continue to preach: the days left in the stock market’s rise are numbered.

As I see it, excessive speculation rules the stock market right now. And that is dangerous because investors are making decisions that they shouldn’t be making. Irrationality is growing. Those who say the stock market will decline, like me, are few and far between.

Investors are putting big money into companies that are nowhere near being profitable.

Just look at Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ/AMZN), a component of the S&P 500. According to bigcharts.com, Amazon.com stock is selling at 573 times its earnings! Since the stock market rally that began in 2009, the stock price of this online retailer has climbed more than 800%.

The price-to-book ratio of Amazon.com (that is the ratio of market value of the company compared to its book value) stands at 17.38. (Source: Yahoo! Finance, last accessed March 24, 2014.) The price-to-book ratio for Amazon.com’s sector—online retailers—is 11.0. (Source: New York University Stern School of Business web site, last accessed March 24, 2014.) By this measure, Amazon.com is overvalued by almost 60% compared to its sector average.

But Amazon.com is just one example of an overpriced stock; there are many other companies in the S&P 500 that don’t make sense as an investment, unless you are playing the “greater fool” theory. That’s when you buy a stock not because it pays a good dividend or because it makes a lot of money, but because the next guy … Read More

Why I’m So Cautious About 2014

By for Profit Confidential

170114_PC_lombardiDon’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

What Bernanke Cemented for Wall Street Yesterday

By for Profit Confidential

Why This Next Stock Market Bust Is Going to Be a DoozySomething very interesting happened yesterday.

The Federal Reserve said it would start “tapering” its quantitative easing program by $10.0 billion a month. In other words, the Fed will now print $75.0 trillion a month in new money instead of $85.0 trillion a month.

Firstly, the whole concept of the central bank printing money out of thin air never made sense to me because the money isn’t backed by anything. The Federal Reserve says that starting in January, it will print 11% less in new money. In 2014, instead of printing more than $1.0 trillion in new money, it will print (or “create,” if you prefer) $900 billion in new money.

But—and there is always a but—the Federal Reserve, through Bernanke’s press conference following yesterday’s meeting of the Federal Reserve governors, said it would adjust the amount of money it creates based on how the economy is faring. I take this to mean that if the economy slows again, the Federal Reserve could, and likely will, start printing even more money than it currently does.

And there is the question of the $4.0 trillion in new money the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet says it has created. How does the Fed get rid of the $4.0 trillion? I don’t think it can. I don’t think the Federal Reserve will find anyone out there who can take the $4.0 trillion, mostly in bonds, off its hands.

What really threw me for a loop yesterday was that when the Federal Reserve said it would start printing $10.0 billion less in new money each month, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 300 points. Yes, we … Read More

Days of Stock Market Irrationality Numbered

By for Profit Confidential

key stock indicesIn the first 10 months of the year, key stock indices like the S&P 500 have gone up more than 20%. Others like the Dow Jones Industrial Average have lagged a little, but the returns are exuberant nonetheless.

But as this was all happening, we saw the formations of very troubling trends in the fundamentals that drive key stock indices higher. Companies on key stock indices started to show corporate earnings that were nothing but an illusion. They fiddled with their corporate earnings via massive stock buyback programs and cost-cutting to make them look better.

And as we now near the end of 2013, companies in key stock indices continue to do more of what they have been doing for a while: using “financial engineering” to make their corporate earnings look better. But the real gauge of how companies are doing—if you can’t trust their earnings—lies in their sales.

So far, 366 of the S&P 500 companies have reported their corporate earnings for the third quarter of this year, and only 53% of them have reported sales above the expectations. (Source: FactSet, November 1, 2013.)

Consider General Electric Company (NYSE/GE), one of the major companies in the S&P 500. In the third quarter of 2013, revenues for the company declined 2.3% from the same period a year ago. (Source: Investor Relations, General Electric Company, October 18, 2013.) But the company is buying back its shares!

The board of International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE/IBM), another big component of the S&P 500, authorized an additional $15.0 billion for the company’s stock buyback program. The company’s existing share buyback program already had $5.6 … Read More

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to New Stock Market Highs

By for Profit Confidential

financial crisisThe financial crisis of 2008 was the biggest panic America had witnessed since the Great Depression. Dubbed the “Great Recession,” its after-effects linger. In fact, this is the worst post-bust recovery on record.

Today, for investors, especially stock market investors, there are two camps: those who believe we are in recovery, and those (like me) who believe something is wrong with this recovery…it doesn’t feel or smell right.

America, I believe, was forever changed following the financial crisis. There are more people working into their retirement years today than ever before because they can’t make it without working. There are more people on food stamp programs and government handouts than ever before.

As I wrote yesterday, the housing recovery isn’t real. We don’t have first-time home buyers coming in and buying homes to live in (like they should). Instead, large financial institutions have taken up the inventory of foreclosed homes to rent them out for a profit.

And most of the jobs that have been created since the financial crisis have been in the low-paying service sector—in retail jobs and restaurant jobs. Our kids are graduating from college (with plenty of debt) and are unable to find the job they trained for because they are competing against older middle managers for these jobs.

Our Federal Reserve, which I believe could be the only central bank in the world not owned by the government of the country it operates in, says our economic problems can be corrected by printing lots of extra paper money. That’s what the media is having us believe, too.

The real story is that money printing has … Read More

If the Economy Is Improving, Why Is This Happening?

By for Profit Confidential

Economy Is Improving, Why Is This HappeningWhile the media and politicians tell us we’re in an economic recovery…I keep writing about the slowdown we’re heading towards. How can I say that?

First, take out the stock buyback programs, and you’ll see that U.S. companies are seeing their earnings and revenues grow this year at their slowest pace since 2009. (More on that in today’s “Michael’s Personal Notes” column below.)

From a boring (but extremely important) economic point of view:

When a country experiences economic growth, industrial production of electricity and gas utilities pick up as factories and consumers use more electricity and other utilities. This is not happening in the U.S. economy. As a matter of fact, industrial production is contracting!

An index tracking industrial production of electric and gas utilities has declined almost eight percent since this past March. It stood at 103.76 then; in August, it stood at 95.62. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed September 19, 2013.)

But it doesn’t end there.

Another key indicator of economic growth known as “capacity utilization” shows companies in the U.S. economy are operating below their historical norm. In August, the capacity utilization in the U.S. economy was 77.8%, three full percentage points below the historical average from 1972 to 2012. (Source: Federal Reserve, September 16, 2013.)

And we are seeing layoffs and discharges in the manufacturing sector accelerate in the U.S. economy. In March, there were 83,000 layoffs and discharges in manufacturing. In August, that number rose to 91,000—an increase of almost 10%. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed September 19, 2013.)

When we look … Read More

Why the Risks So Outweigh the Reward in Today’s Stock Market

By for Profit Confidential

The chart below of the Dow Jones Industrial Average depicts the precise moment when the Federal Reserve made its announcement last Wednesday that it was not planning to taper its quantitative easing at this time.

Dow Jones Industrial Average Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

This is really troublesome. Key stock indices have become addicted to easy money and any news about more money printing just drives the market higher. This pattern has been going on since the Federal Reserve first promised it would rev up its printing presses back in 2008.

Unfortunately, as this continues, the fundamentals that are supposed to actually drive key stock indices higher—corporate earnings—are under major pressure. We have been seeing companies in key stock indices playing “tricks” to increase their corporate earnings per share (such as buying back their own stock), but these antics can’t go on forever.

Software giant Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ/MSFT) has announced the company’s board of directors has approved a share buyback program worth $40.0 billion. (Source: Microsoft Corporation Investor Relations, September 17, 2013.)

CBS Corporation (NYSE/CBS) said it has increased the amount of its share buyback program to $6.0 billion. (Source: CBS Corporation Investor Relations, July 25, 2013.)

These two companies are only two of the many big-name companies in key stock indices that are rigorously buying back their shares. Other names, like Juniper Networks, Inc. (NYSE/JNPR) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE/TWC), are taking a similar approach.

As I have recently written, it’s not just corporate earnings growth that’s the problem—revenue growth is also lacking. Companies in key stock indices enjoyed double-digit (or close to it) earnings growth in 2009, 2010, and 2011, as they … Read More

Four Important Stock Charts Showing Warning Signs

By for Profit Confidential

Four Important Stock Charts With the summer months drawing to a close, it has been a somewhat warm few months for the stock market with the S&P 500 and Dow recently at record highs.

Yet we are now seeing a pause, which may or may not be an indication that the current stock market rally has fizzled out after sizzling higher on the charts. Now, I would not be surprised to see a five-percent (or more) stock market correction. In fact, I would love to see a stock market adjustment.

Some of the market leaders in 2012 and 2013 are beginning to fade, and this indicates a possible near-term stock market top.

The leadership of the banks is sliding. The chart of the Philadelphia Bank Index below shows the current situation of a potential bearish double-top forming in these stocks. Failing to attract support (at the bottom blue support line to the right of the chart) could see bank stocks drop lower on the charts, and they will take the broader market down with them.

Bank Index chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

We are also seeing some exhaustion in the previously sizzling housing market. (See “Why the Housing Market Is Eyeing the Fed’s Bond-Buying Strategy.”) The chart of the S&P Homebuilders Index below shows the current downward trendline after the index peaked in May. A closer look shows that a bearish descending triangle may be in the works, which could see the housing sector stocks fall through the lower support line.

Based on my technical analysis, and as I have said in previous commentaries, I would be very careful about chasing housing stocks higher. The … Read More

Amazon vs. Goldcorp: The Stock I Would Buy

By for Profit Confidential

Amazon vs. GoldcorpCarlo and I went to high school together about 30 years ago. We remained friends after we left school even though we went our separate ways. Our common thread is that we are both entrepreneurs running our own businesses. After years of not seeing each other, last night we spent a couple of hours together discussing the economy and investing.

Carlo’s complaint last night, which is characteristic of many investors today, was that he worked hard all his life, watching what he spent and saved. “But I’m being punished for it,” he lamented. Why? Carlo looks at other investors who had less than him, but who borrowed heavily after the credit crisis of 2008 to either buy stocks or buy real estate. And they’ve done remarkably well.

“I worked hard, saved, and bought bonds. Meanwhile, I lost money because the return I’ve gotten over the years hasn’t kept up with real inflation. What the government tells me is the inflation rate is a lie. I’m upside down!”

Carlo went on and on: “I know people with no education, people who have never ran a business, people who never saved, but they made millions since 2008 because they bought properties, interest rates went down, and real estate prices went up.”

The government, by lowering interest rates so aggressively since the credit crisis and keeping them low, “punished savers but boosted speculators,” he noted.

Yes, Carlo would have been better off to close his business in 2008 or 2009, take all his money, borrow as much as he could and either have bought stocks or real estate. He would be further ahead … Read More

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