Monetary policy is the mechanism through which the supply of money is controlled by monetary authorities. The goal of almost every monetary authority around the world is stability of prices. If prices are unstable—either too high or, in some circumstances, decreasing—this causes unforeseen and unwanted consequences for the economy as a whole. Monetary authorities usually enact changes to interest rates for the purpose of changing the demand for money. Monetary policy can be either expanding, when interest rates are lowered and more money is available at a cheaper, or contracting, when interest rates are raised to make money more expensive to slow price increases.
One of the biggest worries for investors is the anemic economic growth globally. This has made it extremely difficult to generate corporate earnings going forward. As investors, we are constantly looking for signs that a firm has the ability to increase corporate earnings substantially for the near future.
Ultimately, for corporate earnings to move upward, revenues need to increase as well. With the lack of economic growth internationally, this is becoming a serious problem.
As an example of the extent of weak economic growth internationally, McDonalds Corporation (NYSE/MCD) posted a drop of 0.6% for comparable same-store sales in April. (Source: “McDonald’s global comparable sales decreased 0.6% in April,” McDonalds Corporation web site, May 8 2013, accessed May 13, 2013.)
The company saw its comparable same-store sales in Europe decrease by 2.4%, and the Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and African (APMEA) regions reported a 2.9% drop in same-store sales. Most analysts were expecting a drop of only one percent in Europe and a 1.4% drop for the APMEA region.
A positive note showing the disparity in economic growth was that same-store sales for the U.S. increased 0.7%, versus expectations of a slight decline. As weak as the U.S. is regarding economic growth, much of the rest of the world is in worse shape.
One worry for investors looking at the potential for corporate earnings growth is that much of the sales push by McDonalds has been in lower-priced items. This means that, while revenues might be running at a similar pace, margins will drop.
The chart for McDonalds is featured below:
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
McDonalds’ stock has performed quite well over … Read More
With the aggressive monetary policy plan implemented by the Federal Reserve in place, it’s not just retirees who are seeking yield and can’t find it; large institutional funds are in the same predicament.
I believe that one of the goals of the Federal Reserve in enacting its current monetary policy plan is to entice investors into assets other than cash. Simply having cash sitting idle cannot help the economy. However, yields are so low that many investors are hunting for income in dangerous places.
Just this past Tuesday, the yield on Barclays U.S. Corporate High Yield index (junk bonds) dropped below five percent. This represents a record low and is the first time in its history of 30 years that the junk bond index has seen rates fall to such low levels. (Source: Burne, K., “Yields on Junk Bonds Reach New Low,” Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2013, accessed May 9, 2013.)
In addition to this record-breaking threshold, this junk bond index yielded six percent only this past January, which shows the massive amount of capital being put to work. The monetary policy by the Federal Reserve is leaving institutions with so much demand for yield that they are piling into any marginal investment, which could end up costing investors.
Even more esoteric, investors are moving into emerging markets such as Cote d’Ivoire, which has seen yields on its eurobonds (bonds denominated in U.S. dollars outside of America) cut in half over the past year. (Source: “Africa’s bond markets: Kings of the wild frontier,” The Economist, March 2, 2013.)
Risks are substantial for investors hunting for yield in this environment … Read More
The massive sell-off in the price of gold bullion has certainly shaken up some investors. However, it seems there are others whose investment strategy has been to wait for a pullback in gold to continue accumulating the precious metal.
Recent data has shown that China imported gold bullion from Hong Kong at a record-high level in March. Net imports into China of gold from Hong Kong were 130,038 kg, compared to 60,947 kg of the yellow metal in February, according to Bloomberg. (Source: “China’s Gold Purchases From Hong Kong Expand to Record,” Bloomberg, May 7 2013, last accessed May 8, 2013.)
While these imports happened prior to the sell-off in the price of gold bullion in April, China has clearly been using an investment strategy to continually accumulate the precious metal whenever it can. With the price of gold in April dropping 14% in just two days—the biggest sell-off in 30 years—this led to an increase in demand for jewelry and coins in China.
Essentially, gold transactions have increased as many more participants use the metal for trading purposes as an investment strategy. Exports of gold from China into Hong Kong were 93,481 kg, a huge jump from February’s exports of the yellow metal of 36,159 kg. Profiting from the volatility, trading in gold continues to skyrocket globally.
The volume of gold bullion on the Shanghai exchange hit a record high on April 22 of 43,272 kg. As more traders use gold in their investment strategy, transactions continue to increase substantially. Following the sell-off in gold bullion prices on April 15 and 16, the China Gold Association reported that retail … Read More
The latest meeting by the Federal Reserve was quite significant regarding its monetary policy program, and many economists will now need to revise their analyses.
The key sentence in the Fed’s statement was, “The Committee is prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes.” (Source: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System web site, May 1, 2013, last accessed May 2, 2013.)
Why is this so significant? For the past few months, many economists and analysts have been expecting that the Federal Reserve would begin to discuss when it would be appropriate to begin reducing its aggressive monetary policy program, specifically the monthly $85.0 billion bond-buying level.
Many were thinking that at this meeting the Federal Reserve would indicate that at some point in the future it would begin reducing its aggressive monetary policy stance. While the Fed did indicate that it might be prepared to reduce bond buying and lower monetary policy measures, this is the first mention in its press releases that an increase is possible.
In my opinion, this indicates that the Federal Reserve now believes that additional monetary policy might be necessary, whereas we all had been hoping that the U.S. economy would begin to improve. Clearly, the recent data has shown otherwise.
Job creation remains very weak, and various sectors, such as manufacturing, do not indicate that they will increase their level of production anytime soon. Internationally, we are also seeing continued weakness in many countries, which can only put downward pressure on our own economy.
With … Read More
Economist Nouriel Roubini, also known as Dr. Doom, is finally on board with the stock market upswing; in fact, he believes the stock market can go even higher over the next two years.
Now, if you are familiar with the often bearish opinions of Roubini, you’ll know that his hawkish view of the stock market is somewhat bizarre, but you’ll also understand why he thinks this way.
The thinking behind Roubini’s view is similar to my own view on the stock market. Roubini believes that the concerted move by the world’s central banks to provide easy access to money via aggressive monetary policy is helping to drive the current buying in the stock market.
“In the short-term, it’s great for assets,” said Roubini about investors riding the bubble higher. (Source: Farrell, M., “Dr. Doom: Buy stocks while you still can,” CNNMoney.com, April 30, 2013.)
As many of you know, I have long been a critic of the Federal Reserve’s money-printing operations, along with the easy money flow from the world’s other banks.
Roubini predicts that the stock market will move higher over the next two years—as long as the Federal Reserve continues its aggressive stimulus strategy.
Of course, Roubini is aptly named Dr. Doom for a reason: he believes a period of reckoning is coming. And I’m on the same page.
As interest rates edge higher, investors will exit the stock market, and there will be a subsequent backlash.
I refer to this cause and effect as the impending economic Armageddon—it’s coming.
Interest rates will inevitably move higher. The low or near-zero interest rates are currently enticing investors to look … Read More