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

U.S. Economy

History Repeats: Car Loans to People Who Don’t Qualify?

By for Profit Confidential

Sharp Rise in Auto Loan Delinquencies ConcerningBetween the first quarter of 2012 and the second quarter of 2014, auto sales in the U.S. economy have increased 16%. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed August 21, 2014.) And auto sales this year have been stellar, too. In July, auto sales reached the highest level since 2007 and are up eight percent from this past January. (Source: Motor Intelligence, last accessed August 21, 2014.)

As auto sales have risen, auto loans have increased as well. In the first quarter of 2012, auto loans amounted to $737 billion; now they are just short of $1.0 trillion. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York web site, last accessed August 21, 2014.)

More auto sales, more auto loans; sounds right. But the problem is that more and more cars are being sold to individuals with bad credit scores.

Looking at it percentage-wise, the amount of auto loans to people with poor credit scores is much higher than to those with good credit scores. As an example, in the second quarter of 2014, $20.6 billion in new auto loans were issued to those with a credit score below 620. That’s an increase of 33% to this group from the first quarter of 2012.

Meanwhile, auto loans to those who have credit scores above 760, called super-prime customers, only increased 17% over the same period.

Now, here comes the kicker…

In the second quarter of 2014, 15.1% of all auto loans originated in the U.S. economy were delinquent for more than 30 days. That’s a 44% jump in auto loan delinquencies from the first quarter of 2012. … Read More

Two Important Economic Signals to Share with My Readers This Morning

By for Profit Confidential

U.S. Consumer Confidence CollapsingA good gauge for me on how consumers in the U.S. economy are faring has always been the statistics coming out of Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE/WMT) reported its operating income in its second quarter (ended July 31, 2014) declined by 2.4%. Its subsidiary, Sam’s Club (wholesale store), saw its operating income, after taking out fuel, decline by 10.2%. (Source: Wal-Mart Stores Inc., August 14, 2014.)

For its entire 2015 fiscal year, Wal-Mart now expects to earn in the range of $4.90 to $5.15 per share compared to its previous estimate of $5.10 to $5.45 per share.

The performance of Wal-Mart is very important to economists like me because the massive reach of Wal-Mart is a good indicator of consumer spending. Wal-Mart is the biggest private employer in the world, with a staff of approximately two million, and the largest retailer in the world. More than one hundred million people visit a Wal-Mart store weekly.

So when Wal-Mart comes out with soft earnings, it gives me a reason to be concerned about the direction of consumer spending. But that’s not the only thing I’m worried about in respect to the economy.

According to FactSet, of those major public retailers that have reported their second-quarter same-store sales, 46.8% of them have reported sales below estimates.

Retail sales are stagnant for the simple fact that consumer spending is getting very soft here in the fifth year of the so-called economic “recovery.”

Below is a chart of the widely followed University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index.

University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

As you can see, consumer sentiment has tumbled to its lowest level … Read More

Having Trouble Coming Up With Four Hundred Bucks

By for Profit Confidential

Economic Growth in 2014The 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

If the Economy Is Improving, Why Are Investors Pricing in a Slowdown?

By for Profit Confidential

U.S. Economy Slowing Down Here in 2014The 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.

10 Year Treasury Note Yield Chart

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

Why a Full-Blown Market Correction Should Be Expected

By for Profit Confidential

Investors Can't Overlook to Succeed in This MarketThe monetary environment is still highly favorable to stocks and should continue to be so well into 2015. However, while this market can handle higher interest rates, stocks can only advance in a higher interest rate environment if gross domestic product (GDP) growth is there to back it up.

Because of the capital gains over the last few years and the across-the-board record-highs in many indices, investment risk in stocks is still high. Accordingly, it’s worthwhile reviewing your exposure to risk, particularly regarding any highflyers in your portfolio; they get hit the hardest when a shock happens.

Currently, geopolitical events between Ukraine and Russia have the potential to be the catalyst for a correction. It could happen at any time depending on what transpires.

The risk of stocks selling off on the Federal Reserve’s actions is diminishing. The marketplace is well informed about the central bank’s intentions and it’s quite clear that Fed Chair Janet Yellen doesn’t want to do anything to “surprise” Wall Street.

I still view this market as one where institutional investors want to own the safest names. The economic data just isn’t strong enough for traditional mutual funds and pensions to be speculating.

This is why the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other large-cap dividend paying stocks are so well positioned. They offer great prospects for increasing quarterly income, some capital gain potential (still), and downside protection compared to the rest of the market.

Of course, all stocks are risky. An equity security is priced in a secondary market where fear, greed, emotions, and a herd mentality are part of the daily pricing mechanism.

Accordingly, anything … Read More

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The Great Crash of 2014

A stock market crash bigger than what happened in 2008 and early 2009 is headed our way.

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