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

Posts Tagged ‘U.S. economy’

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

Top Sector Offering More Capital Gains

By for Profit Confidential

The One Sector with More Capital Gains to ComeWhile business conditions are pretty good in the domestic oil and gas business, they’re also holding up very well in the railroad sector.

If railroad companies and related services are old economy, they are still important economic benchmarks and they continue to be great businesses producing excellent returns to stockholders.

Union Pacific Corporation (UNP) is an important company to follow, even if you aren’t interested in owning a position. What the company reports about its business conditions is material and helpful in advancing your own market view. Union Pacific reports on Thursday.

Norfolk Southern Corporation (NSC) just hit an all-time record-high on the stock market. This time last year, the stock was around $77.00 a share; now, it’s close to $107.00.

CSX Corporation (CSX) is not as large in terms of market capitalization as Norfolk Southern or Union Pacific, but it is still a $31.0-billion company with extensive operations in the eastern United States and Canada.

Its second quarter of 2014 was a record quarter with sales growing seven percent to $3.2 billion on an eight-percent gain in volume.

Earnings growth was more modest, coming in at $529 million, or $0.53 per diluted share, compared to $521 million, or $0.51 per diluted share, for second quarter 2013. But management expects margin expansion going into 2015, and the Street wasn’t fazed.

Like so many other large-caps, the company is buying its own shares, including some $131 million worth during the most recent quarter.

By April of next year, the company will have spent $1.0 billion on share repurchases over the last two years.

Notably, CSX saw double-digit volume and revenue gains … 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

Stock Market Pricing-in a Recession?

By for Profit Confidential

U.S. Economy Close to Technical RecessionBy no surprise to me whatsoever, the government’s third and final estimate of first-quarter U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) came in at a negative annual pace of 2.9%. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, June 25, 2014.) The U.S. economy’s growth rate in the first quarter of this year was the worst since 2009.

I’ve been writing since the fall of 2013 that the U.S. economy would see an economic slowdown in 2014. I have been one of the few economists warning of a recession in 2014. My calls are not to scare or create fear; rather, they are based on the government’s own data.

Not to boast, but it’s like the creators of the first-quarter U.S. GDP report have been reading Profit Confidential! Everything we have been warning about came out in this most recent GDP report.

I’ve been harping on about how the U.S. consumer was tapped out…and low and behold, consumer spending in the U.S. economy increased by only one percent in the first quarter of 2014. In the fourth quarter of 2013, consumer spending increased by 3.3%. The fifth year into the so-called economic “recovery” and consumers are pulling back on spending for the simple reason that they don’t have money to spend.

The poor have no money; the middle class has been wiped out. And the rich are far from spending enough to make up for the lack of spending by the poor and middle class.

But have no fear, dear reader; stocks are up. The stock market is telling us we have nothing to worry about? It seems so.

I, for one, … Read More

If You Learn One Thing This Year from Profit Confidential…

By for Profit Confidential

Living Off Mom & Dad Longer Than Ever BeforeDear reader, if you’ve learned one thing from reading these issues of Profit Confidential, I hope it is this: Don’t buy into the hype created by the rising stock market and the media that the U.S. economy is improving. The economic growth promised by the Federal Reserve and the politicians five years ago is still missing.

The majority of Americans are facing serious financial troubles. Their jobs don’t pay them well or enough. Those who are looking for better jobs can’t find them. Their salaries aren’t increasing, but inflation sure is rising. Many Americans can’t even afford to live in their homes!

And young Americans are in just as bad shape as retired Americans…

According to research by the University of Arizona, half of graduates, after they are out of college for two years, are relying on their parents or other family members for financial support. As per the study, graduates are postponing many of life’s goals, such as marriage, having children, or buying homes, because they can’t afford them. (Source: CNN Money, June 10, 2014.)

In times of economic growth, you have college graduates finding jobs easily. This isn’t happening. In fact, student debt in this country sits at $1.2 trillion, 85% of it guaranteed by the government and 11.5% of it 90-days-plus delinquent or in default. (Source: “$1 Trillion Student Loan Problems Keeps Getting Worse,” Forbes, February 21, 2014.)

But it’s not only college graduates in the U.S. economy who are suffering…

According to the “How Housing Matters Survey” by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Hart Research Associates, 52% of Americans have … 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

What the Collapse in Lumber Prices Means for Stocks

By for Profit Confidential

Why Are Lumber Prices CollapsingHistorically, the direction of lumber prices has led the direction of the stock market.

If lumber prices are rising, it suggests demand for lumber is increasing, more homes are being built, more construction is happening, and the economy is improving. The opposite is also true. Weak demand for lumber is a sign of poor economic growth.

At the very core, the direction of lumber prices can be considered as a leading indicator of the S&P 500.

With that said, please take a look at the chart below. On the chart, you will see the S&P 500 in black and the lumber prices in green. You will note that whenever lumber prices went down, the S&P 500 followed and also moved lower with one exception: the present time.

S&P 500 large Cap Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Since March of this year, lumber prices have fallen sharply, suggesting business activity in the U.S. economy is slowing down. But the S&P 500 is moving in the opposite direction! Lumber prices are going down and the S&P 500 is moving up? That never happens. This disparity is a sign of great concern.

You can add the disparity in the direction of lumber prices compared to the direction of the S&P 500 index to the long and increasing list of historical indicators now pointing to a market that is overbought and overpriced. If you continue to own equities, be wary of the increasing risks of the stock market…. 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

A Stock Market Break? These Indices Say No

By for Profit Confidential

These Turning Indices Show How Stocks Can Go HigherThe great monetary expansion is still alive and well and the effect on equity securities continues to be profound.

But what I find striking about the stock market’s continued advancement is that it’s blue chips that are pushing through to new record highs.

Speculative fervor in several sectors has diminished, but hasn’t completely disappeared. But it’s the big brand-name companies—a lot of which pay dividends—that just keep on trucking as institutional investors buy earnings safety and outlook reliability, and are betting on revenue and earnings acceleration going into 2015.

Union Pacific Corporation (UNP), a benchmark railroad stock, just hit another new record high on the stock market, breaking through the $100.00-per-share level. It was $35.00 a share this time in 2010.

And this from an old-economy, industrial enterprise that is probably not on many investors’ wish lists.

Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) broke down considerably at the beginning of the year when it was trading around $400.00 a share. It recently broke $300.00 a share, but has bounced back significantly and the position looks to be fighting hard.

And this is one of the speculative stocks on which investors booked their profits. This stock is on the comeback trail and so are Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO), The Priceline Group Inc. (PCLN), Oracle Corporation (ORCL), Apple Inc. (AAPL), and Google Inc. (GOOG).

The stock market has been digesting continued mediocrity in domestic economic data and slightly more positive numbers from China. Institutional investors are buying. I think that, in the absence of some kind of shock or new catalyst, the stock market can slowly keep grinding higher. It could very well turn … Read More

How to Invest in a Market Constructed by Central Banks

By for Profit Confidential

How to Profit in a Fed-Built MarketThe resilience the stock market continues to have is a reflection of what continues to be extreme monetary stimulus. And while the stock market is a leading indicator and a bet on a future stream of earnings and economic activity, throughout history, the underlying goal of central banks has been price inflation.

Seemingly, the capitalist economic system is based on two basic underlying factors: property rights and price inflation. And in modern history, the latter, through central bank intervention, is the most important catalyst for the stock market.

In capital markets, long-run history is a very good guide and an important tool in helping to shape your market view. And most importantly, it’s very helpful in laying the groundwork for separating present-day conjecture from what has actually transpired before.

I’m reminded of J. Anthony Boeckh’s book titled The Great Reflation, which provides a non-political long-run analysis on the U.S. economy and its cycles.

It’s a historical breakdown of interest rates, inflation, and monetary and fiscal policies, and how they have affected the stock market. It is required reading for any serious long-term investor.

Written in 2010, the book breaks down financial crises and looks at the long-run effects of price inflation and the effects on capital markets. Boeckh offers some poignant analysis on all kinds of financial topics, and many of his observations have not only come to fruition, but they are also worth consideration.

Boeckh plainly states that the global financial system is flawed because of fiat paper money. And because we use paper money, price inflation exists and capital markets are subject to bubbles.

Add in … Read More

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