Investment Contrarians

Budget Cuts

Much like a company or a household, to properly run a government, revenue must meet or exceed expenditures. When spending is more than the revenue obtained, there is a budget deficit. One way to reduce the deficit is through budget cuts. Budget cuts for the government can come in many forms, including reducing services and administration. Ultimately, budget cuts are needed to maintain a balance between spending and revenue.

Good Times Are Here for Some, but Can They Last?

By for Investment Contrarians | Jul 11, 2013

Good Times Are Here for Some, but Can They LastOn the surface, America appears to have recovered from the Great Recession. The housing market has seen prices ratchet higher over the past 10 months, creating another cycle of property wealth. The stock market has rewarded investors with strong gains. The S&P 500 is up 21% over the past year. The number of the jobless continues to fall, at least at first glance. But is it all an illusion? For many, it is.

If you are part of the highest five percent of earners and established in the upper middle-class, your future is probably looking pretty good. You have money and disposable income to spend on those extra things such as cars, vacations, restaurants, and clothing. The positive consumer spending and durable goods readings support this. For you, at least, the country is on the mend. But there are underlying issues.

The social cost of the economic recovery is rarely discussed in the mainstream financial media, but there have been real problems generated by the free spending policies of the Federal Reserve and the government that have resulted in massive budget cuts.

After years of excess spending, America is now facing a mountain of debt that is building every day. That’s why we had the sequestration, in which automatic budget cuts came into effect.

The problem is that the budget cuts—while necessary to control the runaway debt from getting worse for the future generations—is also impacting programs for the less fortunate. And trust me: the number of less fortunate is growing.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (better known as SNAP or food stamps) is designed to help those less fortunate … Read More

Is the Only Safe Investment Your Piggy Bank?

By for Investment Contrarians | Apr 10, 2013

Safe Investment Your Piggy BankI think maybe it’s time to start putting your money in the piggy bank to avoid any major investor mistakes.

With the Dow and the S&P 500 at record highs, I’m trying to find reasons to want to buy in this market. However, I’m finding it difficult to even want to buy, as I still feel a stock market correction is on the way.

I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you when this will happen or by how much. All I know is that you need to be careful to avoid possible investor mistakes.

We have the first-quarter earnings season that started on Monday, and if you believe the early estimates, there will not be many happy traders and investors out there.

FactSet estimates earnings will contract by 0.7% in the first quarter, followed by an overly optimistic second half, predicting an explosive earnings rally of 10.1% and 15.6% for the third and fourth quarters, respectively. I’m not sure why FactSet is this giddy, but in my view, for these growth metrics to emerge, all of the stars will have to align.

I’m still not convinced corporate America is set for another growth spurt. The Federal Reserve knows this. Based on the recent non-farm payrolls reading showing a dismal 88,000 new jobs, I just can’t comprehend how the country is set to achieve revenue growth.

I may sound like a downer, but I consider myself more of a realist who wants to avoid investor mistakes.

And Main Street has also appeared to have forgotten the debt, while the government and Congress are still battling it out to come up with … Read More

Dow Jones Hitting 15,000 a Real Possibility Thanks to the Fed?

By for Investment Contrarians | Mar 22, 2013

Dow Jones Hitting 15,000 a Real Possibility Thanks to the FedThe Federal Reserve is intent on keeping this Fed-induced stock market rally intact for perhaps another few years.

At the Federal Reserve monthly meeting this past Wednesday, the Federal Reserve reconfirmed its program of maintaining near-zero interest rates and its $85.0 billion monthly bond-buying strategy. As I recently discussed, the environment of low rates will offer little choice for investors who have to weigh low-yielding fixed-income investments against stocks. In other words, the equities market will continue to be driven, at least in part, by the cheap money. This will be great for the people who have the funds, but it will be horrific for those with lower income and who may be dependent on income from their investments. But for the government it’s great news, especially when it’s carrying so much debt—well, the government can thank the Federal Reserve.

Faced with the uncertainties in the jobs market and job creation, the Federal Reserve suggested it would maintain its record-low interest rates until the country’s unemployment rate falls to 6.5%. The problem is that the Federal Reserve predicts this will not occur until sometime in 2015, so that’s another two years of easy money and the building up of massive national debt. Remember what I said about the sequestration cuts and how they are well below the interest paid on the debt? Imagine the payments when interest rates ratchet higher! It’s not going to be pretty. The Federal Reserve has created this situation, which could inevitably blow up.

In reality, achieving an unemployment rate of 6.5% may not happen until after 2015, based on current job generation. According to the … Read More

U.S. National Debt to Surpass GDP for Third Year in a Row

By for Investment Contrarians | Mar 18, 2013

National DebtThe more I look at the size of the national debt, the more I get squeamish. With the national debt at $16.7 trillion and growing, something needs to be done, as the Federal Reserve continues to print money, creating the artificial economy that is making people think America is faring well and forgetting about the national debt.

The sequestration program will help, but will it hold as the two parties continue to argue about where the cuts should be from and alternative revenue sources? Budget cuts due to the sequestration are already at $17.2 billion and running (source: U.S. Debt Clock web site, last accessed March 14, 2013), but as I have said on numerous occasions, $85.0 billion a year will likely do very little to tackle the mounting national debt. Just the interest on the national debt is already around $223 billion, so the national debt will continue to expand in spite of the sequestration cuts. I wonder if the government gets it. You have $17.2 billion in cuts as of March 14, but $223 billion in interest costs. Something just doesn’t add up here.

The U.S. national debt as a percentage of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) stood at 102.9% in 2011. (Source: “List of Countries by Public Debt,” Wikipedia, last accessed March 15, 2013.) This was just below the massive 208.2% in Japan and the 160.8% in Greece, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Translation: America is in a financial mess, and it will not be easy to get out of it.

And despite the national debt burden, the Federal Reserve has its hands tied. … Read More

Shocking Data Could Sink These Stocks

By for Investment Contrarians | Mar 5, 2013

Shocking Data Could Sink These StocksThe American economy, as with most developed nations, is based primarily on consumer spending. With the collapse in the housing and stock markets several years ago, a big chunk of wealth evaporated overnight. This hurt consumer sentiment, which resulted in a significant slowdown in economic growth.

For economic growth to regain momentum, consumer spending needs to increase, but it needs to be based on a solid footing. It’s one thing if consumer spending was increasing due to higher disposable income, but it’s quite another if consumer spending was increasing due to higher levels of debt, which would lead to fragility when it comes to long-term economic growth.

New data from the Commerce Department stated that personal income declined by 3.6% in January, far worse than economists had expected. However, personal consumption increased by 0.2% in January. (Source: Sparshott, J. and Morath, E., “U.S. Incomes Fall, Spending Rises,” Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2013.)

The higher payroll tax is clearly hurting disposable income for most Americans. Disposable income, which is the amount of income left after taxes, decreased by four percent in January. According to the United States Department of Commerce, this is the largest decline on record. With economic growth being extremely weak, this type of decrease in income has the potential to severely impact consumer spending for some time.

This information was collected prior to sequestration. If budget cuts are to be enacted without revisions, it will be difficult to see how economic growth will accelerate through the remainder of the year. Consumer spending will most likely suffer at some point, because incomes are not growing, taxes are rising, … Read More