Bank stocks have been one of the strongest sectors in the market over the past year. Bank stocks have rallied sharply after many investors dumped shares on fears that the financial crisis might worsen. Those fears obviously never materialized, and many bank stocks have begun to resume paying dividends and generating profits.
There are two questions I am often asked: 1) is it too late to incorporate bank stocks into one’s investment strategy; and 2) if someone has already owned bank stocks over the past couple of years, is this the time for that investor to start taking profits?
Since the fall of 2011, an index of bank stocks has almost doubled in value. Clearly, an investment strategy that owns a number of bank stocks has seen significant gains in this sector. But no one can rationally expect this type of return to continue forever.
Part of my cautious view on bank stocks, in terms of reducing the sector weighting in an investment strategy, is the fact that there is a limit to upside capital appreciation in every sector. A big question when developing an investment strategy: what is the future outlook for the sector?
Obviously, the low-hanging fruit has already been picked when it comes to bank stocks. Regardless of what was thought about bank stocks in the past, as an investor you are only interested in the potential for growth in earnings and revenues. Large gains have already been realized; now we need to consider how bank stocks fit into an investment strategy over the next decade.
Large concerns for bank stocks shareholders are increased regulation and a … Read More
One of the common questions I get asked is: where are the long-term opportunities for growth? We all know that the American economy is growing extremely slowly, yet most people don’t realize how international many of the S&P 500 companies really are.
As an example, while we all think of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza Hut as American restaurants, the parent company, YUM! Brands, Inc. (NYSE/YUM), has a growth plan that is not based domestically and is instead focused on the Chinese economy.
Because S&P 500 companies are increasingly focusing on growth potential around the world, the one economy that has seen consistent increases in gross domestic product (GDP) has been the Chinese economy.
However, recent data are showing signs that the Chinese economy might be slowing down. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, industrial profits in March increased by 5.3% year-over-year, but it marks a drop from the 17.2% increase in industrial profits recorded during January and February. (Source: Orlik, T., et al., “Chinese Industrial Profit Growth Slows,” Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2013.)
Earlier this year, we received information that the Chinese economy did post a lower-than-expected GDP increase of 7.7%, down from 7.9% during the fourth quarter of 2012. The leadership in China is trying to engineer a slower Chinese economy to prevent bubbles.
So, what does this mean for S&P 500 companies?
Many S&P 500 stocks are looking toward the Chinese economy as the next great growth generator. YUM! Brands opened almost 2,000 restaurants in 2012, of which 889 were based in China. (Source: “YUM! Staying the Course: China and a Whole Lot More, … Read More
You can tell a lot about the pulse of the economy by examining the retail sales and restaurant sector. When people are working and making money, they tend to be more confident and want to spend, especially non-discretionary spending.
In the fast-food restaurant sector, the “Best of Breed” is McDonalds Corporation (NYSE/MCD).
The company has numerous rivals and the sector is extremely competitive, but there is no real and valid threat on the horizon for McDonalds that could affect it.
Characterized by its familiar “golden arches,” which are sometimes visible from miles away, the company is a true American icon, just like General Motors Company (NYSE/GM).
Yet McDonalds is also a decent indicator on how the United States and global economy are faring.
The current level and valuation of stocks suggest everything is going well and on target with the global economy.
But, sorry to break it to you: the path to sustained economic renewal is still filled with potholes.
As I’ve previously written in these pages, the global economy and performance of the stock markets have been built by the easy money injected into the global monetary system by the world’s central banks, including our friends at the Federal Reserve.
So when I begin to see slowing at some of the key multinational companies, I wonder about the condition of the global economy.
McDonalds is a decent barometer on the global economy and, based on what I’m seeing, I sense there’s some stalling in the global economy.
In the first-quarter earnings season, McDonalds reported a marginal one-percent rise in its consolidated revenues due to the slowing in Europe and … Read More
When I read the newswires each morning, I scour for trading opportunities; but the one thing that I have been noticing lately is the lack of moderate revenue growth among the reporting companies. I’m not saying that I would like to see revenues growing at 30%–40% or more, but even growth in the low double digits would suffice at this point, given the global stalling.
The market is all giddy about the first-quarter earnings season early on, but I really don’t understand why investors are that happy. I’m clearly not seeing the same things.
As of Monday, about 104 S&P 500 companies have reported during the earnings season, and their results have been in line with the previous quarters, in which about 67.3% beat earnings-per-share (EPS) estimates, according to Thomson Financial.
Again, the first-quarter earnings are encouraging—but not exactly something to get euphoric about.
The reality is that while two-thirds of the S&P 500 companies are beating estimates during the earnings season, the revenues side is another story—a story that I feel is being ignored by investors.
Companies are beating the earnings estimates assigned by Wall Street. In some cases, the earnings estimates are lower than previous estimates; in this regard, the companies are, in some cases, actually only meeting or beating reduced estimates during this earnings season.
Moreover, we are also seeing legitimate earnings manipulation by companies that want to please Wall Street and investors. This is not illegal and can often return business intelligence (BI) for shareholders.
By pursuing aggressive cost cutting and containment, companies can reduce the cost side and present a much better earnings picture, even … Read More
One of the most worrying signs from the latest batch of economic data is that the global recession might be reappearing. Central banks around the world have been attempting to fuel their economies through massive stimulus, yet these efforts appear to be failing.
Increasingly, the earnings outlook for a number of companies continues to be quite poor for the remainder of the year. This is giving me pause for thought, because these poor outlooks raise the chances that another global recession will occur.
Last week’s data from the Conference Board Leading Economic Index for the U.S. indicated a drop in March. This was the first drop in seven months—certainly a negative move away from the chance of averting another global recession.
More importantly, the Conference Board’s outlook for the next three to six months dropped 0.1% in March, below the median forecast by a survey conducted by Bloomberg. (Source: Smialek, J., et al., “Leading Index’s Drop Points to Slower U.S. Growth: Economy,” Bloomberg, April 18, 2013.)
Manufacturing also declined, as indicated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reporting that its factory index dropped to 1.3 in April from 2.0 in March. (Source: “March’s Coincident Indexes Show Increased Economic Activity in 47 States,” Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia web site, last accessed April 23, 2013.) This was a significant reversal from the median forecast, in which expectations were for the index to rise to 3.0.
How does this affect the earnings outlook for corporations? Many companies have been expecting that the global recession could be averted, as each company’s revenue and earnings outlook last fall was fairly positive for 2013. … Read More
One way to look for an investment opportunity, finding companies that will grow their corporate earnings over the long term, is to look for situations in which there is an unmet demand.
Recently, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) conducted a survey; the results were a shock to me. Approximately one in 12 U.S. households currently has no bank account—that’s roughly 17 million adults. A further 20% of U.S. households are currently under-banked, meaning they have a bank account, but they also use check cashing services and other alternatives. (Source: “Margin Calls: Life on the edges of America’s financial mainstream,” The Economist February 16, 2013.)
This is an investment opportunity for firms willing and able to service this market. Companies should be able to increase their corporate earnings by widening their clientele, since the traditional market is becoming quite saturated.
The initial thought would be to look at payday lending firms as an investment opportunity in this market. While it is true that the annual interest rate can exceed 400%, providing ample corporate earnings, the long-term investment opportunity might not be there for payday lenders. The reason is that lawmakers are enacting tougher restrictions and standards, with the possibility of the federal government beginning to regulate this industry.
Many might believe banks can provide this service, creating an investment opportunity for higher corporate earnings. However, the truth is that due to new regulations and rules on interest rate increases and fees for credit cards, banks are actually not generating corporate earnings from the lower-end market sector.
According to consulting agency Oliver Wyman, following the financial crisis and new rules from … Read More
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ/AAPL) has been punished in the financial media and on Wall Street, having lost its edge. Trading above $705.00 in September 2012, the stock has snapped back to reality, recently declining to a two-week low of $419.00 on March 4, 2013.
At the current price, there are arguments on both sides regarding whether Apple is worth a gamble or if it is the beginning of a new downtrend below $400.00.
In my view, the business landscape for Apple has become much more competitive. You have “Android”-powered devices accounting for a large portion of the smartphone market. This is mainly thanks to the overwhelming success of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.’s “Galaxy” series of smartphones and tablets. I have both an “iPad” and a Galaxy phablet (a large smartphone with the capabilities of a tablet). I must admit after using the iPad for a few years, I actually find it much better than the Galaxy.
Yet the market is still mixed.
While the iPad remains the dominant tablet, Apple’s reign in the tablet sector is clearly in jeopardy; but in my view, until a better tablet surfaces, the company will continue to produce the top tablet.
Investment manager Ken Fisher increased his holdings of Apple by 58.12% at prices ranging from $420.05 to $549.03, with an average price of $467.05. (Source: “Ken Fisher Buys Apple Inc, American Express Co, Coinstar, Sells America Movil, Petrobras, Visa,” Forbes April 11, 2013.)
The chart of Apple below shows a bearish descending triangle. The $400.00 level is a key support level. Yet a good quarter could easily turn the tide and drive the share … Read More
I 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
It’s almost that time again, corporate earnings season. Starting next week, American firms begin reporting their corporate earnings for the first quarter of 2013. Considering how high the S&P 500 is, many analysts and investors will be closely watching the results.
According to estimates from Bloomberg, earnings for the S&P 500 firms are expected to drop by 1.9% for the first quarter. This represents the first decrease in corporate earnings since 2009. (Source: Rupp, L. and Gammeltoft, N., “U.S. Stocks Fall as Energy, Financials Tumble on Economy,” Bloomberg, April 3, 2013.)
We’ve seen a decrease in estimates for earnings just over the last couple of months. In January, according to Bloomberg, the average corporate earnings estimate by analysts for S&P 500 companies was a growth of 1.2% for the first quarter. This follows the fourth quarter of 2012, in which corporate earnings for these companies grew by eight percent.
According to FactSet Research Systems Inc., so far for the first quarter 2013, 86 S&P 500 firms have issued negative earnings guidance, while 24 have issued positive guidance. (Source: “Earnings Insight,” FactSet Research System, Inc. web site, March 28, 2013.)
With one-year forward earnings estimates at $114.08 for the S&P 500, this makes the forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio 13.7. This certainly doesn’t make the market expensive, but it’s not cheap either. To put this in context, historically, the trailing P/E ratio is usually in the range of 10 to 25, with certain periods both below and far above this range.
One sector to watch out for is technology, which according to FactSet is predicted to have corporate earnings drop by 3.7% … Read More
The S&P 500 continues to remain at extremely elevated levels, with many professional and retail investors looking for a market sell-off. What is surprising is that the S&P 500 has risen in spite of general market sentiment that hasn’t become overly bullish.
New data from Bloomberg show that the S&P 500 has moved up towards analysts’ estimates to such a level that the market is approximately five percent away from the mean forecast. This is the closest the S&P 500 has gotten to Wall Street estimates in the last seven years, with the historical difference normally around 14%. (Source: Rupp, L. and Gammeltoft, N., “U.S. stocks fall as American manufacturing index slips,” Bloomberg, April 1, 2013.)
What this means is that the S&P 500 has exceeded the current market sentiment and has continued to rise. At this point, either the S&P 500 has gotten far ahead of the underlying fundamentals, or market sentiment will turn even more bullish, as analysts begin to increase their expectations for this year.
Not only are the pros lagging the market, most retail investors are also underinvested in the market. While there has been a definite shift from cash and money market funds to the S&P 500, the vast majority of investors have not enjoyed the S&P 500’s massive upward move.
Two things will occur: either retail investors will look to buy into the S&P 500 on a correction, or the future pullback will indicate a far greater sell-off, as market sentiment shifts into negative territory.
Fundamentally, recent data continue to show conflicting evidence for the U.S. economy. The Institute for Supply Management’s factory index … Read More
It’s that time again. On Monday, aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. (NYSE/AA) will once again grace us with its presence, as the bellwether gets set to tell how the global economy is feeling when it gets the first-quarter earnings season going. The company has long been a staple for the earnings season, as aluminum is used in numerous industrial applications globally and represents a decent barometer on the condition of the global economy. From automobiles to aircraft, packaging to building, and construction to consumer electronics, a strong report from Alcoa this earnings season will keep the current rally going.
Yet a few weeks ago, there were some early warning signs. Bellwether shipping company FedEx Corporation (NYSE/FDX) and farm equipment seller Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE/CAT), both considered to be barometers of the global economy, suggested some global stalling.
The first-quarter earnings season is expected to see earnings fall 0.7%, but growth is estimated to return to 10.3% in the third-quarter earnings season and 15.6% for the fourth-quarter earnings season; clearly there are some optimistic estimates, according to FactSet. (Source: “Earnings Insight,” FactSet Research Systems Inc. web site, March 22, 2013, last accessed April 2, 2013.) The contraction in the first-quarter earnings season is not a big deal, but the optimistic growth expectations going forward appear to be somewhat too optimistic and could result in a market letdown.
According to FactSet, about 84 S&P 500 companies have warned of lower-than-expected earnings, versus 24 companies that provided positive guidance.
The sectors issuing the worst forecasts include materials, health care, and consumer staples, so you may want to stay away from these sectors.
The top-performing earnings … Read More
One of the most difficult things to do is to try and determine the future level of economic growth. There are so many variables that go into the level of economic growth that no model can accurately predict the exact level.
What we can do is look for signs of economic growth, or a lack thereof, and create an investment strategy based on these indications. Looking backward won’t help; we need to look forward.
One method that can help is to see what the professional investors are doing, as they are on the cutting edge when it comes to creating a profitable investment strategy.
Last week saw two distinctly different moves by professional traders. The first was that hedge funds made a massive trade against copper. With global inventories piling up, professionals have an investment strategy that will benefit from the price of copper if it drops.
Clearly, the professional traders don’t believe there will be enough economic growth to absorb such a high level of inventory, which is currently at a nine-year high globally. (Source: Richter, J., “Hedge Funds Most Bearish Ever on Copper, Favor Gold: Commodities,” Bloomberg, March 25, 2013.)
Hedge funds increased their short positions in copper by a massive 53% last week, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Copper is closely associated with economic growth, since so many industries use copper. As economic growth expands, the use of copper does as well.
The build-up in copper supply is worrisome, as this means that either builders are holding back on ordering more copper, unsure of how strong economic growth will be in the second half, or … Read More
One of the most often stated arguments for the current aggressive monetary stance by the Federal Reserve has been that if asset prices can begin to recover, this will help the overall economy.
With the spectacular rise in the stock market over the past couple of years, it would be natural to think that many Americans have seen an increase in their wealth, leading to an increase in corporate earnings for companies that cater to people who might be investors.
The jewelry market sector is a good indication of this sentiment for clients who might have seen their wealth increase through asset appreciation. However, corporate earnings in this market sector do not appear to follow this logic.
Tiffany & Co. (NYSE/TIF) recently came out with its corporate earnings, which revealed some interesting information regarding the jewelry market sector.
For the Americas, total sales rose only two percent, with its flagship New York store seeing a three percent drop in sales. The New York store for Tiffany makes up approximately eight percent of the company’s total business. Tiffany’s stores in Japan, another country that has seen a recent rise in the stock market due to an aggressive monetary policy stance, also witnessed sales declining by six percent. (Source: Warner, M. and Talley, K., “Tiffany Projects a Rough Start but a Brighter Finish for Its Year,” Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2013.)
While it is true that Tiffany’s Asia-Pacific division did well, as sales rose 13%, the real question is: if this recent rise in the stock market in America, which has been far larger than many had predicted, is failing to … Read More
When developing an investment strategy for a given market sector, you need to consider numerous variables. Increasingly, the variables are becoming far more complex due to the global nature of business these days.
One market sector that many analysts pay close attention to is the steel industry. Because steel is used in so many parts of an economy, signs of increasing or decreasing production can help give indications as to how strong or weak the global economy is operating.
Of all the countries in the world, China is a huge player in the steel market sector. When looking at an investment strategy that incorporates steel and iron ore, which is the main ingredient in the production of steel, trying to determine current and future output by China is crucial.
According to the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics, crude steel production increased 9.8% in February, breaking the previous record set in January. Both the real estate and automobile industries within China have regained momentum, resulting in an increase in investments in factories and other fixed assets by 21.2% during the first two months of 2013, versus the same time period in 2012. (Source: Yap, C.W., “China’s steel production climbs 9.8%,” Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2013.)
Additionally, those investors whose investment strategy incorporates the steel market sector based in America might see this as a cautionary sign: not only are the Chinese producing a huge amount of steel domestically, but exports of steel rose 25% from the year-ago period.
And remember, the steel market sector within China is a money-losing proposition. Most steel makers do not make a profit in China, … Read More
With the recent data over the past few months showing home prices continuing to rise, many investors might believe they’ve missed the boat. The homebuilder stocks have seen a substantial increase in corporate earnings, resulting from higher home prices and elevated production levels; this has led to a massive increase in their share prices.
The market is a forward-looking mechanism. Investors predicted the increase in home prices that we are now witnessing and the resulting rise in corporate earnings in these homebuilder stocks.
Yet another data point just came out, finding that 87.5% of single-family homes in 152 cities had an increase in home prices during fourth quarter 2012 compared to the same quarter in 2011. The number of residences exhibiting higher home prices is increasing, as only 79.0% of metropolitan areas showed an increase in home prices for the third quarter 2012. (Source: “Fourth Quarter Metro Area Home Prices Show Strongest Performance in Seven Years,” National Association of Realtors web site, February 11, 2013.)
While housing inventories are at 12-year lows and the interest rates of mortgages remain low, home prices are set to continue rising for the near future. Firms that are leveraged to higher home prices will see significant increases in corporate earnings.
However, there are still firms that can benefit from higher home prices and that are able to continue growing their corporate earnings over the next several years. But these companies might not be the ones that come to mind for investors when they think of the real estate investment industry.
One company that I have mentioned before when it was trading much lower is … Read More
Sometimes the best investment opportunity arises when a situation looks the bleakest. When a firm’s earnings outlook is stable and there is little volatility in the stock, this makes it extremely difficult to identify an investment opportunity, since all the good news is usually priced into the stock.
An interesting situation is taking place now, and I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is taking the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. (NYSE/MHP) to court, alleging that the ratings agency was involved in fraudulent activities.
From 2004 through 2007, according to the complaint, S&P allegedly issued credit ratings on approximately $1.2 trillion worth of collateralized debt obligations and $2.8 trillion of mortgage-backed securities. The government is seeking $5.0 billion from the firm for damages incurred, as they believe the ratings were fraudulently issued. (Source: Pettersson, E., “McGraw-Hill, S&P Sued by U.S. Over Mortgage-Bond Ratings,” Bloomberg, February 5, 2013.)
Initially, the government was seeking a fine of $1.0 billion in addition to an admission of guilt from the S&P unit. Failing to reach an agreement, the government is now escalating the case, along with the fine.
To begin with, I do not like the way rating agencies operate. For those who aren’t aware, a ratings agency is actually paid by the issuer to rate it before being sold to investors. This creates an obvious conflict of interest. For a rating agency that is interested in increasing its earnings outlook and creating a greater investment opportunity for the future, its best interest, in my opinion, is to issue favorable ratings that will … Read More
Over the past few months, the strong performance by the broader market, best represented by the S&P 500, has been far better than most analysts and investors had expected.
Considering the political situation in America, especially with the fiscal cliff talks, and the questions surrounding earnings, the S&P 500 has risen to levels not seen in years.
However, there are some indications that perhaps a market correction in the S&P 500 is likely. One indicator is to use insider selling information to gauge how corporate executives view their companies.
For the week ended February 1, 2013, the Vickers Weekly Insider Report, produced by Argus Research, reported that the insider sales ratio was nine to one for stocks on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). This means that for every one share bought by insiders, they sold nine shares. (Source: Hulbert, M., “Insiders now aggressively bearish,” MarketWatch, February 6, 2013.)
This is an extremely high level of insider selling. The last time the ratio was this high was in the summer of 2011, just prior to a market correction in the S&P 500.
Note that this does not guarantee that a market correction in the S&P 500 will occur. There have been many times in the past when insider-selling pressure was high and the market continued moving higher. However, based on information gathered by Argus Research, when the insider selling ratio gets to this point, the Wilshire 5000 index experiences a market correction of 2.1% over the next month.
While many analysts had expected a disappointing earnings season to cause a market correction in the S&P 500, so far, companies have … Read More
One of the stronger commodities over the past couple of months has been oil. Oil prices have moved from $85.00 a barrel for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) in November to just under $100.00 per barrel currently.
There are many variables that go into oil prices. Naturally, the initial reaction is to blame geopolitical risks; however, we have not seen any real increase in hostilities, such as an attack on Iran by Israel, that would explain such a strong move in oil prices lately.
Two recent reports might shed some light on the strength in oil prices. The Chicago Institute for Supply Management recently released its Chicago Business Barometer data for January, which showed a sharp 5.6-point increase to 55.6 compared to the previous month. Its data are based on a three-month average, indicating an increase in business activity. (Source: “Chicago Business Barometer,” Institute for Supply Management Chicago web site, January 31, 2013, last accessed February 4, 2013.)
Following that release, the national report on manufacturing by the Institute of Supply Management, as opposed to the regional Chicago report, showed that the Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 53.1%, a 2.9% jump from December. Thirteen of the 18 manufacturing industries surveyed showed growth in January, with four contracting and one remaining neutral. What’s also of interest is that the petrochemical and coal sector reported a high level of capital expenditure and investment that’s expected to continue in the first two quarters of 2013. (Source: “January 2013 Manufacturing ISM Report On Business,” Institute for Supply Management Chicago web site, February 1, 2013.)
Oil prices look set to continue at current levels, with the … Read More
Many investors in gold bullion have become increasingly worried due to the lack of price appreciation lately. Even though there has been an aggressive monetary policy initiative by the Federal Reserve, gold bullion and mining stocks in the sector have declined.
Obviously, no one can predict the future; it’s impossible to know for sure where gold bullion, or mining stocks in general, will be in the future.
However, there are several things that individual investors can do to enhance their probability of success when it comes to investing in gold bullion mining stocks.
One metric that I watch is the debt level of a company. This doesn’t mean to avoid all mining stocks with high levels of debt; rather, one should only buy these companies at a discount, unless they are growing rapidly. Gold bullion mining stocks with high levels of debt are far more likely to be susceptible to negative shocks.
Because interest rates have been low for some time, gold bullion mining stocks with high debt have been able to get away with relatively low rates of financing. But over the next five years, we are certainly looking at a higher interest rate environment; this is one area of caution for investors.
One way to look at gold bullion mining stocks is in two general categories: low- or no-debt mining stocks and high-debt mining stocks. The companies with a high debt level should not trade at a premium when compared to gold bullion mining stocks with low levels of debt, unless their growth rate is above average.
Here are three stocks that are great examples.
One of the … Read More
One area that worries me most about the current Federal Reserve monetary policy action is the unintended, long-term consequences of the current program. Unintended consequences are the side effects that can sometimes be more harmful in the long run than the short-term benefit of the initial program.
Keeping monetary policy extremely easy in such an unprecedented manner for so long can have serious long-term ramifications.
The most obvious side effect is that, with the greater availability of easy money, funds are flowing into assets, driving up prices. The question is: will investors who are spending money on assets fueled by cheap money end up suffering significant losses down the road?
I am glad to see that some members of the Federal Reserve are beginning to voice their concerns regarding monetary policy. Recently, the Kansas City Federal Reserve President, Esther George, stated, “We must not ignore the possibility that the low-interest rate policy may be creating incentives that lead to future financial imbalances.” (Source: Torres, C., “Fed Concerned About Overheated Markets Amid Record Bond Buys,” Bloomberg, January 17, 2013.)
One potential worry is that the low interest rate environment resulting from this monetary policy action is causing investors to search for yield in increasingly riskier assets.
One area that has seen a strong increase in demand is speculative-grade bonds, or junk bonds. According to Credit Suisse, an index of over 1,500 junk bonds is now yielding a record-low 5.9%. (Source: Ibid.)
The problem is that when the Federal Reserve begins to tighten monetary policy, many if not all of the investments made over the past couple of years might suffer significant … Read More
On January 1, 2000, the world breathed a collective sigh of relief that the over-hyped Y2K fiasco dissipated without even a whimper after years of ballyhoo.
Some things never change.
As expected, at the last moment, Democrats and Republicans came together in joyous union and resolved the so-called fiscal cliff. Nervous investors around the world joined together with rapturous optimism and jumped back into the markets.
On January 1, 2013, the House approved the new deal by a 257 to 167 margin. The bill increases the income tax rate from 35.0% to 39.6% for individuals earning more than $400,000 a year and couples taking home more than $450,000 combined. Everyone else will continue to see income tax cuts.
None of this should be a surprise to anyone, since Obama, in his bid for re-election, said he would increase the tax rates on the wealthy, though his definition of “wealthy” has changed, climbing from earnings of $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families.
While both sides are unhappy about what they didn’t get, they should be unhappy about how they treated the global population.
For almost a year, inept politicians in Washington sat around, worrying about their chances for re-election; ignoring the impact the unresolved fiscal cliff was having on the international investing community and global economy.
But why put your hard-earned time and effort into resolving the fiscal cliff when you might not be re-elected? Maybe because it’s part of your job? You’d be forgiven for thinking it was otherwise. After all, during the eternal run up to the Presidential elections, the fiscal cliff wasn’t even a major talking point. … Read More