Posts Tagged ‘U.S. dollar’
Central banks are still adding gold bullion to their reserves and the smaller countries are getting into the act big-time.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in the month of March, Iraq’s central bank added 36 tonnes of gold bullion to its reserves—worth about $1.5 billion. This is the first purchase by the central bank since August of 2012, when it bought 23.9 tonnes of gold. (Source: Reuters, March 25, 2014.)
Sure, you could say, “Michael, 36 tonnes of gold bullion is nothing for a central bank.”
I agree. But looking at the bigger picture, it is very significant for a small country like Iraq—a country whose annual gross domestic product (GDP) is smaller than Amazon.com’s sales for 2013—to be getting into gold bullion in a big way. The official announcement from the central bank of Iraq sent the message that it bought the gold bullion to stabilize the country’s currency and add insurance to their reserves.
Since 2009, central banks around the global economy have become net buyers of gold bullion, and I don’t think they will stop anytime soon. The main reason for this is that the central banks see a significant amount of volatility coming to the world of paper currencies—something they hold in their reserves.
Too many major world currencies are in a downtrend. The U.S. dollar has been on a decline since the beginning of 2014. The Canadian dollar is hitting multiyear lows. The Japanese yen has been plummeting.
Where do we go next with gold bullion?
At present, the amount of negativity towards gold bullion is immense. But the fundamentals paint a different … Read More
When news first broke from the Federal Reserve that it would slow down the pace of its quantitative easing program, the consensus was that the U.S. dollar would start to rise in value as the Fed would be printing fewer new dollars and actually eliminating all new paper money printing by the end of 2014.
But the opposite has happened.
Below, I present the chart of the U.S. Dollar Index, an index that compares the value of the dollar to other major world currencies.
As the chart clearly shows, the dollar started on a strong downtrend in July of 2013. When I look at the dollar compared to individual currencies like the euro and British pound, the picture looks even worse.
The common belief since the Credit Crisis of 2008: when there’s uncertainty, investors run towards the safety of the U.S. dollar. But something started to happen in mid-2013. Despite China’s economic slowdown, despite the situation with Russia and Ukraine, and with the Federal Reserve cutting back substantially on its money printing program, one would think the U.S. dollar would rally in value—but the opposite is happening.
Two reasons why the greenback is falling in value so fast:
First, world central banks have been slowly selling the U.S. dollars they keep in their reserves, as the percentage of world central banks that use the dollar as their reserve currency has fallen from more than 70% in the year 2000 to just over 60% today.
Secondly, with the Japanese and Chinese reducing the amount of U.S. Treasuries they buy and with the Federal Reserve reducing the paper … Read More
Understanding the economic slowdown in the Chinese economy is very important because not only does it impact American companies doing business there, but what happens in the Chinese economy—now the second-largest economy in the world—affects the global economy.
While media outlets tell us the Chinese economy will grow by about seven percent this year (30% below the 10% the economy has been growing annually over the past few years), the statistics I see point to much slower growth.
In February, manufacturing activity in the Chinese economy contracted and hit an eight-month low. The final readings on the HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for February showed manufacturing output and new orders declined for the first time since July of 2013. (Source: Markit, March 3, 2014.)
And there are other troubles. The shadow banking sector in the Chinese economy shows signs of deep stress, but we don’t know how much money is really on the line here. China keeps much of its real economic news to itself, but we do hear how firms that are involved in the sector are defaulting on their payments.
And the Chinese currency, the yuan, keeps declining in value compared to other major world currencies. The Wisdom Tree Chinese Yuan Strategy (NYSEArca/CYB) is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks the performance of Chinese money market instruments and the yuan compared to the U.S. dollar. Look at the chart below:
Since the beginning of February, the Chinese yuan and Chinese money market instruments have been showing signs of severe stress, largely unnoticed by mainstream media and economists.
There is no doubt in my mind … Read More
Whenever I got stuck solving a problem in elementary school, my teacher would say, “go back and see where you went wrong.” This lesson—“learn from your mistakes”—was taught again in high school, and then throughout my life. It’s very simple: you can’t do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Albert Einstein called it “insanity.”
When I look at the Japanese economy, I see the most basic lesson you learn in business school being ignored. The Bank of Japan, and the government, in an effort to improve the Japanese economy has resorted to money printing (quantitative easing) over and over, failing each time to spur growth. One might call it an act of insanity.
Through quantitative easing, the central bank of Japan wanted to boost the Japanese economy. It hoped that pushing more exports to the global economy from its manufacturers would change the fate of the country. It wanted inflation as well.
The result: after years of quantitative easing, the government and the central bank have outright failed to revive the Japanese economy. In fact, the opposite of their original plan is happening.
In January, the trade deficit in the Japanese economy grew—the country’s imports were more than its exports. Imports amounted to 7.70 trillion yen and exports were only 5.88 trillion yen. The trade deficit was 3.5% greater compared to the previous month. (Source: Japanese Customers web site, last accessed February 20, 2014.) Mind you, January wasn’t the only month when imports were more than exports in the Japanese economy. This is something that has been happening for some time.
Inflation in the … Read More
If there is an investment theme I would follow in 2014, it would be this:
Preserve your capital, be worried about the economy, and don’t for a second believe that key stock indices are going to provide returns like they did in 2013. This year may just be the year when the floor is taken out from beneath stock prices.
Why am I so bearish on 2014? It’s because I believe a perfect storm is in the making for key stock indices.
The main driver of key stock indices, corporate earnings, is under pressure. Of the 344 companies on the S&P 500 that have reported their corporate earnings for the fourth quarter of 2013, 3.3% of them surprised the market with better-than-expected earnings—43% below the four-year average “surprise” rate of 5.8%. (Source: FactSet, February 7, 2014.) Corporate earnings are far from exceptional.
In respect to the future, so far, for their first-quarter corporate earnings forecasts, 57 of the S&P 500 companies have issued negative corporate earnings guidance compared to 14 companies that have issued a positive outlook. (Source: Ibid.) Buying stock when companies in key stock indices are worried about their corporate earnings has never been a wise move.
Then we have the issue of the slow pullback on money printing by the Fed. The Federal Reserve is now printing $65.0 billion a month in new money as opposed to the $85.0 billion a month it printed in 2013. Not a big deal? It has been for the emerging markets, as the U.S. dollar strengthens and emerging market currencies collapse, putting further pressure on U.S. companies that sell abroad.
The … Read More
This choppy trading action in stocks is here to stay for a while, and it could even be more pronounced once fourth-quarter earnings season ends.
The numbers continue to pour in, but the unease in investor sentiment is obvious, and it’s partially due to the fact that stocks didn’t experience a meaningful correction last year. Whatever the reason or catalyst, further retrenchment in share prices is an eventuality that’s easily in the cards this year.
While companies, especially large-cap corporations, are able to manipulate adjusted earnings and fully diluted earnings per share, the numbers are still only mediocre at best. And share prices came up so tremendously in the Fed-induced reflation that today’s earnings results aren’t making the case for buyers.
In the large-cap space, The Clorox Company (CLX) perfectly illustrates the numbers being presented by countless blue chips.
The company beat on revenues but missed on earnings. Fiscal second-quarter sales were flat at $1.33 billion. Net earnings were down to $115 million, or $0.87 per diluted share, as compared to earnings of $123 million, or $0.93 per diluted share last year. Currency translation had a material effect on U.S. dollar sales.
The company delivered one percent in total volume growth in the most recent quarter, which is quite anemic, even for a mature blue chip consumer company.
Fiscal 2014 total sales growth is expected to be between one and two percent. Diluted earnings per share should be between $4.40 and $4.55, but management specifically cited unfavorable currency rates as a red flag.
Nothing is as troublesome in global capital markets than currency movements. The devaluation of emerging market currencies … Read More
“Michael, you don’t know what you are talking about.” That’s pretty much what I was told back in 2005 and 2006 when I was warning extensively that the U.S. housing market would collapse.
When a boom in any form of investment is going on, and millions of people are participating in that boom, it’s hard to convince people the boom is about to bust. At a certain point, we start hearing that old saying “it’s different this time,” which means people simply don’t believe the boom will end. They try to legitimize it.
But like all booms, the bust did happen. The housing market went bust big-time, and we all know what happened after that.
Today, there’s another asset class that is booming, that investors large and small are literally running to. No, I’m not talking about the stock market (it’s already in bust mode). I’m talking about the greenback, the good old U.S. dollar.
In recent days, and despite trillions of dollars in new money created by the Federal Reserve, the U.S. dollar has gained traction as investors search for safety amid the collapsing emerging markets.
Personally, I think investors are wrong to find security in the U.S. dollar. In fact, I see its days as the leading currency of the world being numbered.
But the fundamentals that make the dollar a “safe haven” are damaged. Aside from the fact the Federal Reserve has printed trillions in new money and the government continues to take on never-to-be-repaid debt daily, central banks around the world are reducing the amount of the reserves they keep in U.S. dollars.
Please look … Read More
Some prolonged downside is exactly what this stock market needs—a market that’s been looking for a catalyst to sell for quite some time.
While there has been pressure on long-term interest rates, we still have virtual monetary certainty this year with the Fed funds rate staying where it is. Weakness abroad in China is still a story of overcapacity, but there has been some refreshing economic data out of the eurozone.
What’s clear in Western economies is that positive economic data is sporadic and mostly without trend. The lack of consistency in mature economies has equity investors in a bit of a loop. Ten percent downside across the main stock market indices would be a healthy development for the long-term trend. We never did get a stock market correction last year, only consolidation, as investors were only too happy to keep buying.
Fourth-quarter earnings season has been modest so far, with outperformance (according to Wall Street) mostly coming in at the bottom-line, meaning that genuine sales growth is still a very tough thing to accomplish. Furthermore, a lot of corporations aren’t guiding 2014 above previous outlooks, and this makes it very difficult to be a new buyer.
Global capital markets are gyrating on a reassessment of investment risk and the prospect for real economic growth. Add in currency volatility, and there are the makings of a flight to the U.S. dollar and a sell-off in the stock market.
Still, the most important data now is what corporations actually say about their businesses. Beating the Street is less important than a true assessment of business conditions and expectations for the future. … Read More
The Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported that inflation in the U.S. economy increased by 0.3% in the month of December and that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the entire year of 2013 increased by only 1.5%. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 16, 2014.)
Is inflation in the U.S. economy really this low?
It sure doesn’t feel like it. Every time I buy groceries, go out for dinner, get my car fixed, pay utilities bills, or fill up my car’s gas tank, it feels like I am paying a lot more than I did last year or the year before.
Dear reader, inflation is higher than what the CPI figures say because of the way the CPI is calculated; food and energy prices are taken out because they tend to be more “volatile,” according to the government. That means key items consumers buy on a regular basis—food and gas—are excluded from the official inflation numbers!
While the mainstream fears deflation in the U.S. economy, I’m concerned about an unexpected bout of higher inflation hitting us. Why would I think this?
I can sum up my argument for inflation ahead with just this one chart:
The chart above shows the currency (coins and paper notes) in circulation and deposits of banks at the Federal Reserve.
As you can see, since the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve has injected trillions of dollars into the U.S. economy. This is dangerous, in my opinion, for the simple reason that the more there is of any item in supply, the less the demand, and the lower the price. In this particular case, the … Read More
What the Federal Reserve is doing in the U.S.—its effort to get the economy going via its money printing program—has already been tried by the second-largest economy in the world: Japan.
Unfortunately, the easy monetary policy implemented by the Bank of Japan didn’t spur the Japanese economy. So why would it work for the U.S. economy?
One of the core purposes of easy monetary policy by the Federal Reserve was to improve lending so businesses would borrow money and grow (hopefully creating jobs) and consumers would borrow and spend (creating economic activity). All of this would lead to improved consumer confidence.
The Bank of Japan started a scheme to increase lending in Japan in 2010. It gave funds to its biggest banks to lend to companies. It set aside 21.5 trillion yen for this scheme; but sadly, only 8 trillion yen has been used. (Source: Reuters, October 17, 2013.) Easy money policies, and a program specially designed to give money to banks to lend out to companies, did not work in the Japanese economy.
And consumer confidence in the Japanese economy remains bleak. The index that tracks consumer confidence in the country stood at 41.9 in November. At the beginning of the year, it hovered near 45.0. A subset of consumer confidence, an index tracking consumers’ willingness to buy durable goods, stood at the lowest level of the year in November at 42.4 compared to 44.9 in January. (Source: Japan’s Cabinet Office, December 10, 2013.) The bottom line: after years of easy money policies and with a national debt-to-GDP multiple of 205%, there’s been no improvement in consumer confidence … Read More
Nearly 100 years ago, on December 23, 1913, the Federal Reserve was created. The central bank was created for many reasons, such as minimizing the impacts of panics, becoming a banker of last resort and “smoothing” economic cycles.
But along the way to keeping the monetary system stable, something happened: the value of money deteriorated.
What you could buy for $1.00 in 1913 costs $23.59 today. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics web site, last accessed December 11, 2013.) A simple calculation would show that prices have increased by 2,259% over the last 100 years.
Something else to ponder: there have been more erratic movements in inflation since the Federal Reserve was created than in the century prior to then, when the Fed didn’t exist! Since the Federal Reserve was born in 1913, there were 10 years when inflation in the U.S. economy came in at more than 10%. Between 1800 and 1912, there were only four years when inflation in the U.S. was greater than 10%. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis web site, last accessed December 11, 2013.)
“What’s your point, Michael?”
The unprecedented amount of paper money the Fed has created (out of thin air) since the Credit Crisis of 2008 will come back to haunt us—that’s my fear.
The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has grown to about $4.0 trillion. M2 money stock, that’s the supply of paper money in the U.S. economy, has gone up 27% since 2009. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed December 11, 2013.)
And through its “quantitative easing” program, the Federal Reserve continues to print $85.0 billion per … Read More
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