The burning question that’s facing economists like me today and that will only be answered in the future: did creating $3.0 trillion in new money out of thin air really make things better or worse for America?
My personal view, as expressed in these pages, is that the rich (the big banks and Wall Street) got richer from the “printing press” era, while the average American did not directly benefit from the Fed’s actions.
In fact, in America today, the spread in wealth between the rich and the poor has never been so great. As for the middle class, they are becoming extinct.
The “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2013,” recently published by the Federal Reserve, says 34% of Americans feel they are worse off today than they were five years ago, and 42% said they are holding back on the purchase of major or expensive items. (Source: Federal Reserve, August 7, 2014.)
But the data gets worse…
Of those Americans who had savings prior to the 2008 recession, 57% of them say they have used up some or all of their savings in order to combat the after-effects of the Great Recession.
Only 48% of Americans said that they would be able to cover a “hypothetical emergency expense” that costs $400.00 without selling something or borrowing money. Simply put, about half of Americans have less than $400.00 in emergency funds!
Meanwhile, 31% of Americans say they do not have any retirement savings or pension. Of those who are between the ages of 55 and 64, 24% of them expect to work as long as possible, … Read More
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) surprised even the most optimistic of economists when it reported the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of four percent in the second quarter of 2014.
On the surface, the number—four percent growth—sounds great. But how serious should we take that gross domestic product (GDP) figure?
Firstly, I’d like to start by pointing out that the BEA often revises its GDP numbers downward. We saw this happen in the first quarter. First, we saw the BEA say the U.S. economy grew by 0.1% in the first quarter, then after a couple of revisions, they said the economy actually contracted 2.9% in the quarter.
I obviously expect the BEA to lower its initial second-quarter GDP numbers again.
But here’s what really worries me…
If the GDP data suggests the U.S. economy is growing, why are investors pricing in an economic slowdown?
The chart below is of the 10-year U.S. Treasury, the so-called safe haven. Back in 2007 to 2009, investors ran to U.S. Treasuries as a safe haven. As the U.S. economy improved, the yields on the 10-year U.S. Treasury started to rise as interest rates rose with general optimism towards the economy.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
But since the beginning of this year, yields on the 10-year U.S. notes have declined 18%. This is despite the fact the biggest buyer of these bonds, the Federal Reserve, has stepped away from buying these Treasuries as its quantitative easing program comes to an end.
At the same time, we have the stock market finally starting to give in. So if the stock market is a … Read More
The S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index, a measure of the housing market in key American cities, declined in May by 0.31% from April—the first monthly decline in home prices in 27 months. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed July 30, 2014.)
The number of homes being built in the U.S. is also falling. In June, the annual rate of new homes being built in the U.S. housing market declined 9.3% from May to the lowest level in eight months. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, July 17, 2014.)
And pending home sales in the U.S. housing market declined in the month of June by 1.1% from the previous month. Pending home sales now sit 7.3% lower than they were in June of 2013. (Source: National Association of Realtors, July 28, 2014.) Pending home sales are considered to be a leading indicator of the housing market.
As no surprise, companies directly related to the housing market are struggling. The chart below of the U.S. Housing Index tracks the stock prices of companies involved in construction, mortgages, and home-building materials.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
The chart is collapsing, trading near its lowest level of 2014. Over the past few days, the index fell below both its 200-day moving average and its 50-day moving average.
Dear reader, please let me set the record straight: I don’t expect to see an outright collapse in home prices like we saw in 2007. What I am pointing out to you today is that the momentum we saw in the U.S. housing market in 2012 and 2013 is dissipating.
This observation is consistent … Read More
The Dow Jones Transportation Average is close to breaking its 50-day simple moving average. This, in itself, is not the end of the world; it did so most recently in April and recovered nicely.
But it is worth keeping an eye on, especially because the stock market is looking so tired right now.
Earnings are still streaming in and are generally okay. But there’s diminishing momentum. If the broader market opens up on positive news, on many days, it’s not able to sustain the gains. This is indicative of a stock market due for a break.
Summer action is typically slower, and while a 10% stock market correction would make it easier to put new money to work, the investing guide should be corporate outlooks—and they are pretty good going into 2015.
With Federal Reserve certainty, which includes diminishing quantitative easing and a very low interest rate environment going into 2015, the stock market is well informed regarding monetary policy.
Balance sheets remain in excellent condition, especially among blue chips, and the NASDAQ Composite is maintaining its leadership relative to the other benchmarks, which resumed about one year ago.
While the stock market has definitely earned a meaningful break, it very well could turn out to be another positive year with high single-digit returns, not including dividends. This is on the back of an exceptionally good year in 2013—a breakout year from what I view as the previous long-run cycle, that being a 12-year recovery period for the stock market.
But with this fundamental backdrop, I still view investment risk as being high and that quality is something that equity … Read More
This is an entirely free service. No credit card required.
We hate spam as much as you do.