Posts Tagged ‘stock market’
This past Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 175,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in the month of February. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 7, 2014.)
The way the media reported it…
“Friday’s jobs market report caught the market by surprise,” was what most media outlets were telling us via their untrained reporters. The expectation was an increase of 149,000 jobs in February (after a dismal December and January jobs market report) and so the usual happened—stocks went up and gold went down on a jobs market report that was only slightly better than what was expected.
The consensus, from what I read, is that the jobs market in the U.S. economy is getting better. Of course, I think of this as hogwash. And as I’ll tell you in a moment, this is the kind of misinformation that is characteristic of what happens in a bear market in stocks, not a bull market.
Within February’s jobs market report, we find:
The long-term unemployed (those who have been out of work for six months or more) accounted for 37% of all the unemployed in the U.S. economy. The longer a person is unemployed—likely because that person has not been re-trained for the jobs market—the less likely it is that person will eventually find work.
Today, once a person becomes unemployed in the U.S. economy, that person remains unemployed for an average of 37 weeks! This number remains staggeringly high. Before the financial crisis, this number was below 15 weeks. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed March 7, 2014.)
When you have a … Read More
The stock market in France has been on a tear! Below, I present a chart of the French CAC 40 Index, the main stock market index in France.
Looking at the chart, we see the French stock market is trading at a five-year high. With such a strong stock market, one would expect France, the second-largest economy in the eurozone, to be doing well. But it’s the exact opposite!
As its stock market rallies, France’s economic slowdown is gaining steam. In January, the unemployment rate in France was unchanged; it has remained close to 11% for a year now. (Source: Eurostat, February 28, 2014.) Consumer spending in the French economy declined 2.1% in January after declining 0.1% in December. (Source: National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, February 28, 2014.) Other key indicators of the French economy are also pointing to an economic slowdown for the country.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
And France isn’t the only place in the eurozone still experiencing a severe economic slowdown. In January, the unemployment rate in Italy, the third-biggest nation in the eurozone, hit a record-high of 12.9%, compared to 11.8% a year ago.
I have not mentioned Greece, Spain, and Portugal because they have been discussed in these pages many times before; as my readers are well aware, they are in a state of outright depression.
Just like how investors have bought into the U.S. stock market again in hopes of U.S. economic growth, the same thing has happened in the eurozone. Investors have put money into France’s stock market in hopes of that economy recovering—but it hasn’t. We are dealing with a … Read More
Consumer spending in the U.S. economy is highly correlated to consumer confidence. If consumers are worried about the economy, they pull back on their spending.
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index decreased by 1.63% in February from January. (Source: Conference Board, February 25, 2014.) And we see the corresponding pullback on consumer spending in weak U.S. retail sales.
Macy’s, Inc. (NYSE/M) reported a decline of 1.6% in revenue in its latest quarter—which includes the holiday season. For its just-completed fiscal year, company revenues were up by only 0.9%. (Source: Macy’s, Inc., February 25, 2014.)
Sears Holdings Corporation (NASDAQ/SHLD) reported a decline of 12.6% in revenues in its latest quarter. Yes, I know this company is having problems; but a drop in revenue of 12.6% for a retail giant like this—and during the holiday shopping season—is an indicator that consumer spending is very weak. (Source: Sears Holdings Corporation, February 27, 2014.)
Target Corporation (NYSE/TGT) reported revenues fell by 3.8% in its last fiscal quarter. (Source: Target Corporation, February 26, 2014.)
Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE/BBY) is in a very similar situation. The company reported a decline of more than three percent in revenues for its latest quarter. And for the 12 months ended February 1, 2014, Best Buy’s revenues fell 3.4%. (Source: Best Buy Co., Inc., February 27, 2014.)
The retailers I just mentioned are just a few of the many retailers that reported a decline in their revenues in the last quarter of 2013, which suggests consumer spending is in troubling territory.
My point is that those companies that are closest to consumer spending—the big American retailers—are giving us a … Read More
Currently, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ/AAPL) is largely considered a commodity stock that needs to excite investors with new innovations and growth in order to propel its long-term growth.
The stock has been stuck in a relatively tight range between $500.00 and $560.00 since late October 2013, as Apple looks for stronger growth opportunities and convinces the stock market that it can expand its business and not just depend on “iPhone” and “iPad” sales.
To this point, the company took a positive step forward after announcing it was launching its “CarPlay” solution for the auto sector that aims at making the iPhone a powerful add-on in the car. The solution will allow drivers with iPhones access to multiple services while driving. The solution will be initially launched with high-end automakers, such as Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo, but it will eventually be available across a much wider auto segment.
The introduction of CarPlay is critical, as it will expand the use of the iPhone for users and also help to drive sales. The car solution comes at a critical time in the recent aftermath of BlackBerry Limited’s (NASDAQ/BBRY) announcement that it would be replacing Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ/MSFT) as the information solution in cars made by Ford Motor Company (NYSE/F). This is a key area of growth, and Apple’s innovation is the kind of development investors want to see.
While Apple continues to be the market leader in the premium smartphone and tablet market around the world, the company also needs to deliver alternative avenues of growth. Of course, Apple needs to grow its market share in the key emerging markets; so far, this … Read More
The bond market is in trouble.
As we all know, the Federal Reserve has been the biggest driver of bonds since the financial crisis. The central bank lowered its benchmark interest rate to near zero, then started quantitative easing, all of which resulted in the bond market soaring as yields collapsed to multi-decade lows.
The chart below will show you what’s happened to the U.S. bond market since the mid-1970s.
As you can see from the chart, the declining yields on bonds stopped in the spring of 2013 and have increased sharply since then.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
What’s next for bonds?
The Federal Reserve is slowly taking away the “steroids” that boosted the bond market. The central bank is now printing $65.0 billion of new money a month instead of the $85.0 billion it was printing just a few months back. And now we hear the Federal Reserve will be slowing its purchases by $10.0 billion a month throughout 2014.
Since May of last year alone, when speculation started that the Federal Reserve would cut back on its money printing program, bond yields skyrocketed and bond investors panicked.
According to the Investment Company Institute, investors sold $176 billion worth of long-term bond mutual funds between June and December of last year. (Source: Investment Company Institute web site, last accessed February 26, 2014.) I would not be surprised if withdrawals from bond mutual funds are even bigger this year.
And China is slowly exiting the U.S. bond market, too. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, in December, China sold the biggest amount of U.S. bonds since 2011. In … Read More
Among blue chips, 3M Company (MMM) is getting a lot of increased earnings estimates from analysts. For such a mature company, 3M’s been doing very well on the stock market, and it looks to be well-positioned for more capital gains.
At the end of 2013, 3M had approximately 89,000 employees (full-time equivalent), of which 60% were based abroad. The company spends a lot on new research and development, and while many blue chips have been doing everything they can to squeeze costs, 3M keeps spending on new scientific and technology development ($1.57 billion in 2011, $1.63 billion in 2012, and $1.72 billion in 2013).
The largest component of the company’s sales is its industrial business, which makes a lot of product for automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and the automotive aftermarket. Products like tapes, sealants, ceramics, vinyl, polyester, and adhesives are sold to this market, but they’re also sold to electronics, appliance, food and beverage, construction, and paper and printing customers.
Thanks to the acquisition of Ceradyne Inc. in the fourth quarter of 2012, 3M is now one of the top manufacturers of advanced ceramics used for solar, electronics, and defense applications.
The company’s industrial business was 34% of last year’s total sales, growing the most over other operating divisions at 6.5% in U.S. dollars comparatively.
3M has paid a dividend to stockholders since 1914 and just recently increased its first-quarter dividend 34.6% to $0.855 per share, representing the 56th consecutive year of dividend increases. (See “The Six Things I Look for in a Company Before Buying Its Stock.”)
No wonder this stock is doing well. Its … Read More
The NASDAQ Composite index sold off significantly in January to around 4,000. Then it recovered to its current level at 4,300, which is a pretty substantial move.
For a number of months now, the NASDAQ has been outperforming both the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average. This relative outperformance continues to be a positive overall sign regarding sentiment.
I don’t really expect much from stocks this year, although the prospect of rising dividends still remains very good in the bottom half. 2013’s stock market performance was so exceptional and so substantial, especially among blue chips, that it’s time for earnings to catch up with share prices.
Not to be excluded, the performance of the Russell 2000 index has also been relatively strong compared to larger-caps. But this index still can’t quite keep up to the outperformance of the NASDAQ.
Stock market leadership from large-cap technology stocks is always a good thing. And a lot of it has been from older brand-name companies, the kind of former fast-growing stocks that are now almost income plays.
Oracle Corporation (ORCL) has been on the comeback trail after several quarters of disappointing results. This position has been treading water since the beginning of 2011, and its recent breakout on the stock market is not immaterial. The company’s five-year stock chart is featured below:
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Following a similar trading pattern over the last several years, Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) has recently been strong. The stock is up $10.00 a share over the last 12 months, and Wall Street earnings estimates have been going up across the board for this fiscal year and … Read More
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