Posts Tagged ‘U.S. economy’
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
On February 24, the S&P 500 broke to a new all-time high. There was panic buying as soon as the markets opened that day, as the chart below depicts.
Looking at this, I can’t help but ask if investors have completely lost touch with reality. It seems the fundamentals that drive stock prices higher—corporate earnings—have been ignored.
And as investors are driving key stock indices higher, the state of the global economy is becoming worrisome. This can’t be stressed enough: the U.S. economy isn’t immune to a disturbance in the global economy. But this isn’t all; if the global economy sees an economic slowdown, the companies on U.S. key stock indices suffer as well.
One clear example of this, as it stands, is Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE/CAT), a giant industrial goods manufacturer and component of the S&P 500. The company reported that annual sales declined 16% in 2013. Caterpillar’s revenues were $55.65 billion compared to $65.87 billion. The company’s corporate earnings per share were down more than 32% in 2013. The reason for this: a challenging business environment in the global economy. (Source: Caterpillar Inc., January 27, 2014.)
The global economy is going to disappoint in 2014.
First in line is Asia. Look anywhere on that continent, and you will see economic slowdown looming in the air. China, the biggest economic hub in the region and the second-biggest in the global economy, is outright slowing down. In February, the manufacturing activity in the country dropped to a seven-month low. The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) registered at 48.3 in February compared to 49.5 in … Read More
Mainstream stock advisors are blowing air…telling us the U.S. economy is stalling due to cold weather. They say the economic chill caused by the uncharacteristically cold weather this year is only temporary. I don’t believe this for a moment.
Sure, the weather had its impact. Consumers have been reluctant to go out and shop, and higher home heating bills might have them spending otherwise so far in 2014, but there’s more to the story.
While discussing existing-home sales for January, the chief economist at the National Association of Realtors said, “Disruptive and prolonged winter weather patterns across the country are impacting a wide range of economic activity, and housing is no exception.” Existing-home sales in the U.S. economy declined by 5.1% in January from the previous month. (Source: “Existing-Home Sales Drop in January While Prices Continue to Grow,” National Association of Realtors, February 21, 2014.)
The reality of the situation is that existing-home sales in the U.S. economy have actually been declining since August of last year. The annual rate of already built homes being sold in the U.S. economy was 5.33 million in August. In January, it was 4.62 million. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed February 24, 2014.)
Below, I’ve prepared a table that shows the extent of the drop in existing-home sales in the U.S. economy.
Sales (Annual Rate)
% Change from Previous Month
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed February 24, 2014.
But weak home sales aren’t … Read More
In the first five weeks of this year, investors bought $22.0 billion worth of long-term stock mutual funds. (Source: Investment Company Institute, February 12, 2014.)
But as investors poured money into the stock market, hoping to ride the 2013 wave of higher stock prices, stocks did the opposite and went down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down three percent so far this year.
Looking at the bigger picture, corporate earnings and key stock indices valuations are still stretched. The S&P 500’s 12-month forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio stands at 15.1. This ratio is currently overvalued by roughly nine percent when compared to its 10-year average, and 15% compared to its five-year average. (Source: FactSet, February 14, 2014.)
This isn’t the only indicator that says key stock indices have gotten too far ahead of themselves. In the chart below, I have plotted U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) against the S&P 500.
The chart clearly shows a direct relationship between GDP and the S&P 500. When U.S. GDP increases, the S&P 500 follows in the same direction, and vice versa. When we look at the 2008–2009 period (which I’ve circled in the chart above), we see that when GDP plunged, the S&P 500 followed in the same direction.
Going into 2014, we saw production in the U.S. economy decline; consumer spending is pulling back, unemployment is still an issue, and the global economy is slowing. U.S. GDP is far from growing at the rate it did after the Credit Crisis. Take another look at the chart above. In 2011, you’ll see U.S. GDP was very strong; but after … Read More
In 2013, the U.S. economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), rose at an average rate of 1.9% compared to 2.8% in 2012. And as it stands, GDP may slow further in 2014.
What makes me think this?
In January, U.S. industrial production declined by 0.3% from the previous month. This was the first decline in production since August of 2013. Production of automotive products in the U.S. economy declined by 5.15%, and appliances, furniture, and carpeting production declined by 0.6% in the month. (Source: Federal Reserve, February 14, 2014.)
And factories in the U.S. economy just aren’t as busy as they used to be. The capacity utilization rate, a measure of companies using their potential production, was 78.5% in January. The average rate between 1979 and 2013 has been 80.1%. While a difference of two percent in factory utilization isn’t a big number, because overhead is often fixed in factories, a two-percent decline in production is a big deal.
Then there’s the inventory problem; inventories in the U.S. economy continue to increase. In December, inventories at manufacturers increased by another 0.5% to $1.7 trillion. From December 2012, they have increased by 4.4%. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, February 14, 2014.)
We have a situation in the U.S. economy today where factories are working at lower capacity than they have historically, while business inventories are rising—two bad omens for the economy; hence, you can see why I’m concerned about economic growth in 2014.
It’s a domino effect…
Inventories increasing suggest consumer demand is stalling. Examples of consumer spending declining in the U.S. economy are many. As I have … Read More
As I have been pointing out to my readers, the “official” unemployment numbers issued by the government are misleading because they do not include people who have given up looking for work and those people with part-time jobs who want full-time work.
In January, there were 3.6 million individuals in the U.S. economy who were long-term unemployed—out of work for more than six months. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 7, 2014.)
Those who are working part-time in the U.S. economy because they can’t find full-time work stood at 7.3 million people in January.
Add these two numbers into the equation and the real unemployment rate, often called the underemployment rate, is over 12%. Meanwhile, the official unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics sits at 6.6%—that’s the number you will hear politicians most often quote.
But if there’s a group of policymakers that looks past the “official” unemployment numbers, it’s the Federal Reserve.
At her speech before the Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. last week, Fed Chief Janet Yellen said, “Those out of a job for more than six months continue to make up an unusually large fraction of the unemployed, and the number of people who are working part time but would prefer a full-time job remains very high. These observations underscore the importance of considering more than the unemployment rate when evaluating the condition of the U.S. labor market.” (Source: “Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress,” Federal Reserve, February 11, 2014.)
Like all economists, Yellen knows that when an individual has a part-time job then their income isn’t as … Read More
On Friday, we learned that the U.S. economy added a lower-than-expected 113,000 jobs in January and the “official” unemployment rate had dropped to 6.6% from 6.7% in December. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 7, 2014.)
How can we create so few jobs and have the unemployment rate improve? It’s because the way the government calculates the unemployment rate is skewed. (It gets me outright mad to listen to politicians tell us the jobs market is getting better, when in fact, it’s not.)
The most obvious problem with the government’s way of calculating the unemployment rate is that it excludes people who have given up looking for work and those who have part-time jobs but want full-time jobs. If we were to include those two groups, the underemployment rate (as it is referred to) sits at 12.7%—and it’s been above 12% for a very, very long time. (This is something you didn’t hear President Obama talk about in his State of the Union speech two weeks ago.)
Now if we look a little deeper, we discover a much bigger problem in America. People who have the ability to work are leaving the jobs market!
What I’m talking about is the catastrophic decline in labor force participation in the U.S. economy.
Take a look at the chart below. It illustrates the labor force participate rate.
You will note that from about 2002, which is the same year gold prices started moving up, the percentage of the U.S. population in the labor force started to collapse.
Labor force participation is simply the number of people who are employed plus those people looking … Read More
Fasten your seatbelt, dear reader. We’re in for a global financial crisis, a currency fiasco, and a stock market collapse all in the same year!
I’m being too bearish? Not after you read this…
In their search for economic growth in 2009, the Federal Reserve and other major central banks in the global economy started lowering interest rates and printing paper money.
While the central banks of the world wanted economic growth, they inadvertently created the “trade” for big investors like financial institutions and banks. I talked about this last Friday. (See “Stock Market: The Great Collapse Back to Reality Begins.”)
The “trade” had investors borrowing money from low interest rate countries and buying bonds in high interest rate countries, pocketing the spread. In the world of finance, this is often referred to as the “carry trade.” It works as long as the currencies of the low interest rate country and the higher interest rate country stay stable.
But now, the “trade” is backfiring as the currencies of emerging markets go into free fall.
China, the biggest economy in the emerging markets and second-biggest in the global economy, got most of the “trade” money. According to the Bank for International Settlements, in 2013, foreign currency loans and borrowing by Chinese companies from other countries was close to a trillion dollars. In 2009, it was only $270 billion. (Source: Telegraph, February 1, 2014.)
European banks have the biggest exposure to emerging markets, having lent them $3.0 trillion. Breaking down this number even further, British banks have loaned $518 billion to the emerging markets; Spanish banks come in second … Read More
February 4 was a terrible day for key stock indices. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted by more than two percent each and broke below important support levels.
That day was also Janet Yellen’s first day on the job as chief of the most important central bank in the world.
Was Wall Street giving Yellen a message? Was that message, “Think twice before pulling back on money printing”?
While the severity of the sell-off in the stock market in January and into February of this year has caught many by surprise, to us, it was one more of those “I told you so” moments. And it should have been of no surprise to our readers at all, since we’ve been “singing the blues” of an overpriced and overbought market for months.
Here are four important points my readers need to know about the stock market:
Looking at the bottom of the chart below, you will clearly see an increase in stock market trading volume. As the stock market went down in January and into February, volume increased. When volume rises sharply during a stock market downturn, it means panic selling is setting in. February 4, 2014, was the highest volume day on the Dow Jones Industrial Average in about five months.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Secondly, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen below its 200-day and 50-day moving averages, as I’ve circled in the chart above. This move is considered bearish among technical analysts and suggests stock market sentiment is turning negative very quickly.
Thirdly, insiders continue to aggressively dump the stocks of the companies … 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
Copper prices are collapsing, a sign that manufacturing activity in the global economy is slowing.
The chart below shows copper prices are down more than five percent so far this year. Notice the steep decline in copper prices starting this January.
Copper is a major commodity used as a material ingredient in a wide variety of manufactured goods. If copper prices are declining, which means demand is falling, we get an early indication that manufacturers are producing less because customer demand is soft.
At the same time, in another startling development, the Baltic Dry Index (BDI), the next chart below, has collapsed 50% from the beginning of the year.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
The BDI basically tracks shipping prices of raw materials in the global economy. When the BDI declines, it means fewer goods are being shipped in the global economy, a sign that the worldwide economy is slowing.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Last but not least, as we have been hearing in the news, the emerging markets in the global economy are in trouble.
Manufacturers in the global economy, not being able to sell enough to developed countries like the U.S. and Europe, were hoping to sell more of their goods to once “fast”-growing emerging markets. But now, economic growth in these countries is slowing, too.
Russia, one of the major emerging markets in the global economy, reported its 2013 economic growth rate was the lowest since 2009! The Russian Federal Statistics Service said the economy grew by 1.3% in 2013 compared to 3.4% in 2012. (Source: Bloomberg, January 31, 2014.)
Other emerging markets like India and China have … Read More
Last night started out like every other State of the Union address I’ve seen…
The President told us all the good stuff about the U.S. economy, like how American corporate profits are at a record high, how the stock market is at record highs, how millions of new jobs have been created since the Credit Crisis of 2008, how the housing market is turning around, and on and on.
Like a good old politician, Obama spun the facts to give the viewer the impression his Administration has done a great job at turning the U.S. economy around.
What Obama, who now has a very low 43% job approval rating (Source: CNN Breaking News alert, January 28, 2014.), didn’t say about the U.S. economy—and which no other politician likely would—is that:
None of his 2013 State of the Union “priorities” made it through Congress.
American corporations ended 2013 with the slowest earnings growth rate since 2009.
The stock market has become a Federal Reserve-induced bubble.
The majority of jobs created in the U.S. economy since the Credit Crisis have been in the low-paying sectors of the retail and service (restaurant) sectors.
A record 47.41 million Americans, or 23.05 million households, in the U.S. economy are using some form of food stamps (Source: United States Department of Agriculture, January 10, 2014.)
The number of first-time home buyers in the housing market is going the wrong way. In December, first-time home buyers accounted for a near-record low of only 27% of all the existing-home sales transactions. (Source: National Association of Realtors, January 23, 2014.)
Midway through the speech, I nodded off. I … Read More
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