Some Good Economic News for a Change

by Michael Lombardi, CFP

In the midst of all the negative economic news we’ve heard in the past 12 months, some light is shining for the economy:

— Last Thursday Wells Fargo & Co. said that it expects to report a profit of $3.0 billion in its first quarter — a huge profit the Street did not expect. The company said that it processed $83.0 billion worth of applications for mortgages in March. Its CEO said, “People are buying homes.”

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which has been one of the biggest bears in the U.S. economy, now says that the U.S. recession seems to be near a bottom.

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— As of March 13, 2009, over 16 billion shares were sold short on the NYSE, the highest level since September 2008. If the current stock market rally continues, these shorts will have to cover, sending stock prices even higher.

— On March 26, 2009, a U.S. 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 4.85%, the lowest rate on record. Reduced interest rates are bringing home-buyers back into the market. In February, sales of previously owned homes in the U.S. rose 5.1%, their biggest monthly gain since 2003.

So the “good news” is slowly making people feel better. This is bringing people back to the housing market and to the stock market.

The most obvious question is: have we truly hit bottom (and turned the corner) or is this indeed a replay of the 1930s? On November 14, 1929, the stock market crashed. In early 1930, the stock market started to rally and, by April 1930, the stock market had regained 50% of its losses. Is history about to repeat itself?

Tomorrow: The answer to the above question and the simple but big difference between the Great Depression of the 1930s and today that most analysts fail to realize.

Michael’s Personal Notes:

I attended four different parties this weekend and the sentiment amongst passive investors seems to be that the worst is behind us economically. Everyone accepts (and is ready for) the bankruptcy filing of General Motors. And people are asking if this is the right time to get back into the stock market. My loyal readers know my position: I believe we are in the midst of bear market rally in which stocks will move higher (giving people comfort that the worst is behind us) before the market retests its lows of March 9, 2009.

Where the Stock Market Stands:

While some analysts were calling the bear market rally dead, the Dow Jones Industrial Average delivered a strong 246-point rally on the last trading day of the week. The Dow Jones is now down only 693 points for the year, or 7.9%. My bold prediction that the Dow Jones would recoup all of its 2009 losses and then some (in the confines of bear market rally) looks like it may come to fruition.

What He Said:

“As investors we need to take a serious look at our investment portfolios and ask, ‘How will my investments be affected by an American grown recession?’ You should take what precautionary steps you can right now to protect yourself from a recession in 2007. Maybe you need to cut your own spending or maybe you need to sell some stocks that will take a beating during a recession. You know what tidying up you need to do. Don’ procrastinate…get to it now. And please remember: Recessions can happen quickly, stock markets don’t go up during recessions, and the longer the boom before the recession, the longer the recession. Just based on my last point, we have plenty to worry about in 2007.” Michael Lombardi, PROFIT CONFIDENTIAL, November 13, 2006. Michael was one of the first to predict a U.S. recession, long before Wall Street analysts and economists even thought it a possibility.