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There continues to be mixed data regarding the strength of the economic recovery in America. This is creating an interesting divergence between the level of the S&P 500 and the growth rate of the economic recovery, which is far less than many had expected so far.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia recently released its index of manufacturing activity, which dropped to -5.2 in May, versus a reading of 1.3 in April. (Source: “Business Outlook Survey,” Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia web site, accessed May 17, 2013.)
The survey shows no consistency over the past seven months regarding the current conditions of the economic recovery. The report indicates that the economic recovery has oscillated between positive and negative readings. Current demand for manufactured goods dropped substantially to -7.9 in May, from -1.0 in April. As well, the level of inventories increased to 4.1 in May, versus -22.2 in April.
This indicates that for the surveyed businesses during the month of May, there appears to be less demand for manufactured products, and inventories are piling up, which is clearly not a sign of strength. However, the S&P 500 continues to move higher. The question is: is this upward movement sustainable?
Obviously, no one can predict the future, but investors in the S&P 500 try to anticipate future shifts in the business landscape. While the economic recovery is currently weak, people who are now buying the S&P 500 believe that growth is close at hand. The current data do not support such a strong economic recovery; however, there is the possibility that such a recovery might occur.
One such data point that … Read More
All of the talk about the negative impact of the sequestration on consumer spending appears to have some validity.
While the rich consumers are continuing to spend on luxury items, those who are making less money and are influenced by the fragile jobs market and flat income levels continue to worry, which could likely impact consumer spending going forward. The effects of this, along with the widening gaps between the rich and the poor and the middle class are affecting consumer spending by Americans. In fact, we are seeing a widening income gap in many countries around the world, so it’s not just an American phenomenon—its impact on consumer spending is global.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE/WMT) is a good barometer on the state of consumer spending around the world, especially with the lower- to middle-class consumers.
The company reported its results last Thursday, and it seems like Wal-Mart is facing some hesitation in consumer spending.
In the fiscal first quarter, the company’s net sales grew a mere one percent year-over-year to $113.4 billion, which was below the Thomson Financial consensus estimate of $116.4 billion. The sales reading was also shy of the low range of the estimate of $114.6 billion.
The low-cost retailer blamed the decline in consumer spending on a delay in tax refunds, adverse weather, and the rise in payroll taxes. The key comparable U.S. store sales fell 1.4% for the 13 weeks ended April 26, 2013, which represents the first contraction in this key metric in many quarters.
My concern is that Wal-Mart is facing sales pressure at a time when money is cheap. What will happen … Read More
We all know that the stock market has moved up significantly over the past few months. The real question is: is the move up based on the belief that there is enough economic growth available for corporate earnings to continue rising, or is it simply due to a flow of funds?
Let’s analyze this question by taking a look at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE/WMT). Wal-Mart just released its forecast for second-quarter corporate earnings, which was less than most analysts had expected. The company now forecasts corporate earnings on a per-share basis for the second quarter to be $1.22–$1.27, lower than the average estimate by analysts of $1.29. (Source: “Walmart reports a 4.6 percent increase for Q1 EPS of $1.14; U.S. businesses forecast positive comp sales for Q2,” Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. web site, May 16, 2013, accessed May 16, 2013.)
As a sign of the health of America’s economic growth level, Wal-Mart reported that comparable same-store sales dropped by 1.4% between January 26, 2013 and April 26, 2013. Internationally, Wal-Mart is doing better, with sales up 2.9% during the first quarter.
However, corporate earnings suffered during the first quarter due to several reasons, including very cold weather, continuing weak employment levels, and the payroll tax hike. Many businesses that cater to the lower- to mid-level consumer will most likely encounter similar problems due to these issues and general sluggish economic growth.
Recent data have been relatively mixed regarding the potential for economic growth to begin moving upward. However, for Wal-Mart’s corporate earnings, there is the potential for a slightly stronger second half because some of the company’s initial hurdles have been … Read More
There is simply nowhere else to put your money to work, which is why the stock market continues to edge upward to new record highs.
You can earn a yield of 0.23% on a two-year U.S. Treasury, 0.79% for five years, 1.90% for 10 years, and up to 3.13% if you extend it to 30 years. (Source: “United States Government Bonds,” Bloomberg, May 17, 2013.)
Of course, unless you have tens of millions of dollars to invest, I highly doubt you, or anyone for that matter, would be happy with these petty returns on bonds.
You could always go out and buy Spanish 10-year bonds yielding 4.29% as of Friday. Heck, you can do this out of your own kindness and help Spain out of its financial crisis, with an unemployment rate at over 25% and massive debt loads that will hinder the country for decades.
Or you can simply invest in higher-yielding U.S. blue chip companies, such as General Electric Company (NYSE/GE), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE/JNJ), and The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE/PG), which all offer dividend yields of more than three percent.
The reality is that investors have been rushing into the stock market and not wanting to miss out on the Wall Street party, which appears to be attracting many party goers.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE/JPM) is the party organizer and the biggest bull on Wall Street after coming out with a year-end target of 1,715 for the S&P 500. Now with over seven months left in the year and with the index already at 1,660 as of last Friday, another 55 points in this frothy … Read More