Consumers appear to be holding back on buying non-essential goods, and this could impact the economic recovery.
The durable goods orders contracted a dismal 5.7% in March, according to the United States Census Bureau, representing the largest decline in seven months—a far cry from the 4.3% rise in February and well below the Briefing.com estimate calling for a four percent decline.
Taking out the volatile transportation portion, durable goods fell 1.4%, versus the Briefing.com estimate of -0.1%, equaling the second straight month of declines.
The durable goods readings have largely been inconsistent, as reflected in the chart below, and suggest the economic recovery may be at risk.
Chart copyright © Lombardi Publishing Corporation, 2013;
Data source: United States Census Bureau, April 25, 2013
When consumers are more confident, they tend to spend more on major purchases in the retail sector, such as homes, vehicles, furniture, appliances, and travel. This will impact the economic recovery, gross domestic product (GDP) growth, and the ability of companies to expand their businesses.
But whether it’s the added taxes or the fragile confidence from the lack of strong jobs growth, the decline in the demand for goods that are deemed non-essential should be a red flag that not everything is proceeding along smoothly, which could affect the economic recovery.
The fact remains that jobs creation is fragile and not expected to ratchet higher until 2014 and 2015, due to the slow economic recovery.
The recent 88,000 jobs created in March was weak, so it will be interesting to see what happens with the April non-farm payrolls reading due next Friday.
Retail sales have also been … Read More
With the stock market at all-time highs, the momentum has been built on the belief that an economic recovery is close at hand and the world will avoid a global recession. However, new data show that perhaps this belief might be too optimistic.
Markit Economics has just released the Purchasing Managers’ Indexes (PMIs) for many nations and economic zones around the world. Frankly, the data are quite bleak, showing that an economic recovery is certainly not occurring anytime soon, and that a global recession is becoming a distinct possibility.
For April, the U.S. Flash Manufacturing PMI (early reading) came in at 52, versus expectations of 53.8, and last month’s data point of 54.6. Just a reminder: a PMI number above 50 is a sign of growth; below 50 is a sign of contraction. (Source: “Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI,” Markit Economics web site, April 23, 2013.)
While the U.S. manufacturing PMI data still show expansion, the decline was significant, as was the degree by which it missed expectations. This April PMI reading for the U.S. was the lowest in six months, and is an indication that the economic recovery in the manufacturing sector is starting to slow.
The PMI composite for the entire eurozone was a very poor 46.5 in April, down slightly from expectations of 46.8. While the reading was unchanged from March, it is worrisome that there were no improvements at all. There is no current economic recovery in Europe; in fact, this reading indicates that economic activity has declined for 19 of the last 20 months.
Is a global recession very far away? Obviously, predicting the future … Read More
In President Obama’s election debates and his State of the Union address, a key part of the talk focused on getting Americans back to work. Despite what you are sometimes hearing about the improving jobs market, the reality is that jobs remain somewhat scarce.
By the time you read this, you will know what the non-farm payrolls reading is and, by all accounts, it will not be that good for the jobs market. Briefing.com estimates the creation of 185,000 new jobs in March, which would be well below the 236,000 created in February. This is not what we want to see in the jobs market. The unemployment rate is predicted by Briefing.com to nudge up to 7.8%, from the current 7.7%. Again, not great.
In my estimate, the jobs market is moving along, but not at a rate that will lower the unemployment numbers anytime soon.
The private Automatic Data Processing (ADP) Employment Change reading reported on Wednesday foreshadowed America’s fragile jobs market, as a mere 158,000 new jobs were created in March, well below the Briefing.com estimate of 200,000 and the upward revised 237,000 new jobs in February. The interesting fact was that 74,000 of the new jobs were generated by small businesses with under 50 employees, while a mere 47,000 new jobs were created by large companies with over 500 employees, according to ADP. (Source: “National Employment Trends,” Automatic Data Processing, Inc. web site, last accessed April 4, 2013.)
The March ADP reading was the lowest since 148,000 in October 2012. In fact, since March 2012, there have only been three months with over 200,000 new jobs created. … Read More
The impact of the Federal Reserve’s low interest rates and easy monetary policy can be seen everywhere. The housing sector is seeing another boom thanks to the Federal Reserve. So is the retail sector and consumer spending, in spite of the fact that jobs growth is not at pre-recession levels. The Dow and the S&P 500 also achieved more records on Tuesday. Again, the stock market wealth and all of the 300,000 or so newly minted millionaires have the Federal Reserve to thank.
On Tuesday, the automobile sector joined in on the fun, as easy money and cheap financing rates for new vehicles helped to drive up sales to the highest levels since 2007.
At Ford Motor Company (NYSE/F), sales increased six percent to 236,160 vehicles sold in March, while at General Motors Company (NYSE/GM), sales jumped 6.4% to 245,950 in March.
You can get a 60-month financing term for a new vehicle for as little as 2.24% at the Bank of America Corporation (NYSE/BAC) and 2.69% at Capital One Financial Corporation (NYSE/COF). (Source: “Auto Loan Rates,” My Bank Tracker web site, last accessed April 2, 2013.) The average 60-month rate is around 4.12%, according to Bankrate.com, down from 4.52% a year ago.
You can also thank President Obama for helping to save the auto sector, as the move is apparently paying dividends.
While the renewed spending across America is good for the economic recovery, you kind of have to wonder about the ramifications down the road, when interest rates begin to ratchet higher.
Some members of the Federal Reserve are already beginning to voice their opinion to start reducing … Read More
The market appears to have another bull leg, with the Dow closing higher in 10 straight sessions, setting multiple record-highs in the process.
With the advance, there are now questions regarding the sustainability with arguments on both sides. Even former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan went on CNBC and suggested the stock market did not show “irrational exuberance,” saying stocks were cheap. (Source: Belvedere, M.J., “Greenspan: No ‘Irrational Exuberance’ in Stocks Now,” CNBC, March 15, 2013.) There have been others also supporting the bull case, yet some pundits have also come out and suggested the market is set for a downfall.
While I’m encouraged by the recent rally to multiyear highs, I believe the rapid pace of the advance is not sustainable and stocks are priming for a setback, but I’m not sure when or by how much. I do believe 2013 will be positive for stocks, but at this time, you also need to be aware of the risk and vulnerability on the charts, especially with the S&P 500.
So while the global economy is improving, the catalyst for the upward move in stocks has largely been the easy monetary policy worldwide that has resulted in a low interest rate environment and the search for alternative investments to low-yielding bonds. Without the easy money, I highly doubt stocks could have risen at such a rapid pace.
At this time, you need to think about a viable investment strategy in case stocks falter.
One investment strategy would be to take some profits off the table, but then you may miss out on a potential stock market rally.
You can buy … Read More
The 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
The latest monthly employment data had a positive headline; a stronger than expected job creation number. However, looking at the core information, there remain significant concerns regarding the U.S. economic recovery and job creation specifically.
For February, job creation for non-farm related payrolls totaled 236,000. This number was far higher than expected, giving a boost to the stock market. (Source: “Employment situation summary,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 8, 2013, accessed March 8, 2013.)
One might tend to think the economic recovery is going full steam ahead. I would urge caution, however.
To begin with, job creation data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is notorious for large revisions. This latest report shows just how volatile this job creation data really is.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has revised job creation data for January from 157,000, down to only 119,000. That is a huge revision in percentage terms, creating difficulties when calculating whether or not an economic recovery is occurring.
My biggest worry for a sustained economic recovery is the continued decline in the participation rate. This is the number of people who are active in the employment market. People who have given up looking for work drop out of this data, which is why this level continues to decline.
The current seasonally adjusted participation rate of working age people is 63.5%. This is the lowest level since September 1981. (Source: “Payrolls Surge as U.S. Jobless Rate Falls to Five-Year Low,” Bloomberg, March 8, 2013, accessed March 8, 2013.)
This means that a huge amount of people have given up looking for work and are not active participants in the … Read More
Bank stocks are providing excellent leadership this year. In fact, if it weren’t for the credit crisis that surfaced in 2008, financial institutions, such as banks, credit, and insurance companies may still be playing Russian roulette on their balance sheet as far as risk.
It now appears that bank stocks are cutting down on the amount of risk that they are willing to take on. The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE/GS) is now at a point where the potential loss that can occur from trading is at a seven-year low. The other major Wall Street banks are also seeing a reduction in their risk. (Source: LaCapra, L.T., “Goldman trims risk-taking to lowest level in 7 years,” Reuters, March 1, 2013.)
The major bank stocks all closed 2012 near their respective 52-week highs and have started 2013 with a bang, with the KBW Bank Index up 5.8%, slightly below the comparative return of the S&P 500 and the Dow, but above the NASDAQ. The attraction to the bank stocks has been driven by an improving banking industry that is assuming less risky businesses while shoring up their balance sheets and producing stronger units.
The chart of the Philadelphia Bank Index below shows the upward move of bank stocks from their 2011 bottom. Bank stocks staged a nice rally but retrenched in March to May 2012 on the European bank concerns, and Moody’s Investor Services downgraded the sector. The group has since staged a rally back above the 50- and 200-day moving averages (MAs). But there was some topping on the charts, followed by the recent selling, as indicated by the blue … Read More
The media is harping on about how the U.S. is well on its way to recovery. Well, I don’t agree—the country’s economy is slowing. In the fourth quarter, gross domestic product (GDP) growth based on the second estimate expanded at 0.1%; this is above the -0.1% reading in the first estimate, but nonetheless, it’s below consensus, which estimated the economy would grow 0.5%. I’m not sure how the 0.5% growth was arrived at, but the concerns of the fiscal cliff in the fourth quarter clearly made consumers think twice about spending. Of course, the government also saw its spending curtailed due to the debt limit and pending sequester.
I’m not going to spin a good story for you to hear; I truly feel the country is in trouble. The sequester deadline last Friday came and went. The two parties have yet to iron out a strategy to cut the deficit, so the country will face a daunting $85.0 billion in annual cuts for a total of $1.2 trillion over the next decade. Of course, this will have a negative impact on economic recovery in America. The cuts will be focused on the defense sector and Medicare, so as an investor, I would stay away from these sectors. If the jobs market also stalls, I would be careful when looking at housing and retail stocks.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the automatic cuts to spending will reduce GDP growth by 0.6% this year and will result in the loss of 750,000 jobs. And while this is not what you want to see during these times, the sequestration is needed; … Read More
The day has arrived. Today will see the start of the much-anticipated $1.2-trillion decade-long budget cuts under the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 (394 pages if you want to read it), which represents America’s own austerity measures to cut the deficit. The proposed cuts will entail about $85.0 billion in annual budget cuts; and while it’s needed, given the runaway national debt of over $16.6 trillion, it will have a widespread impact on the state of the country and the economy, including program cuts, job losses, and chaos.
The cuts will have a negative impact on the country’s fragile economic recovery, but it’s something that is required; otherwise, it’s more of the same in the way of money printing and pumping up the national debt just to keep afloat and avoid a crash. If not for the significant fiscal and monetary policies that focused on pumping liquidity into the economy, I’m pretty sure the country would have fallen into a depression.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the automatic cuts to spending will reduce gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 0.6% this year and will result in the loss of 750,000 jobs. And while this is not what you want to see during these difficult economic times, the sequestration is needed; without it, the ballooning national debt will continue to spiral out of control, hurting future generations.
While I doubt the budgetary cuts will drive the country into another recession, I do feel there will be negative impacts across the board.
The question is: where will some of the budget cuts be made?
Defense will lose a big chunk … Read More
The money printing presses appear to be in jeopardy. The amount of liquidity that has been pumped into the U.S. economy and other global financial systems has been superlative; and as I’ve said before, it would only be a matter of time before the massive national debt levels accumulated by the governments in the U.S. and Europe would wreak havoc with the economic recovery.
Yet, it may have finally clicked for the Federal Reserve, as comments made Wednesday questioned the central bank’s $85.0 billion in monthly bond purchases and suggested that the buying be reduced or stopped to avoid facing losses. Could you imagine losses for an already cash-strapped central bank, given the national debt?
What has been happening is the Fed’s bond-buying provided the mechanism to pump hundreds of billions of dollars of liquidity into the economy; it was meant to keep it going and avoid a worsening of the recession, but it added to the national debt. Not isolated to the U.S., other central banks around the world have been pumping cash into the fragile global economy. In the financially distressed eurozone, the European Central Bank (ECB) bought bad debt and provided easy monetary liquidity, in order to avoid a financial Armageddon. But this added to the national debt of the countries. Yet here we are: Greece is in shambles; Spain, Portugal, and Italy are broke; and the eurozone’s two powerhouses, Germany and France, are struggling with their own growth issues.
The problem is that the super loose monetary easing in the U.S. created an artificial economy that has been supported by the free-flow printing of money and … Read More
The major bank stocks all closed off 2012 near their respective 52-week highs; and they’ve started 2013 with a bang. Driven by an improving banking industry that is assuming less risky businesses while shoring up their balance sheets and producing stronger units, the KBW Bank Index is up eight percent, outperforming both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones.
The subprime credit crisis that surfaced in 2008 and drove the U.S. and the global economy into a recession was not what we wanted to see; but in some sort of twisted way, the events have led to an industry that has restructured the way banks do business—more specifically, the amount of risk that is assumed by a bank via sophisticated strategies. So far, this shift in structure, coined the “Volcker Rule” because it was set in place by economist and ex-Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, appears to be capping the number of speculative trades made by the banks, which is good.
Banks have altered the way they do business, and they’ve shown positive strides along the way.
In my view, the operating results have been fairly good, and this indicates that the banks will be able to grow their business volume across the board during the U.S. economic recovery.
Moreover, with the housing market and the U.S. economy continuing to improve, I feel bank stocks will also see some gains.
Most of the big banks have paid back part or all of their government loans. Overall, bank stocks are showing promise and delivering better results.
While risk surrounding the bank stocks has declined, there are still issues that could hamper … Read More
The recession is over, and the U.S. economy is showing some encouraging signs of economic renewal.
Shoppers are hitting the malls and stores, helping to drive up retail sales. I’d stick with the top department stores, like Macys, Inc. (NYSE/M), or discounters, such as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE/WMT), which will continue to rebound.
The housing sector has been sizzling since the recession, with a superlative rise in housing starts, building permits, and home prices. Homebuilder stocks, including the developers of residential real estate, are sizzling on the charts—Toll Brothers, Inc. (NYSE/TOL) and Hovnanian Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE/HOV), especially.
Since the recession, the jobs market is showing some growth, with the unemployment rate holding just below eight percent. As the jobs market recovers, look to some of the staffing companies, such as Robert Half International Inc. (NYSE/RHI), Manpower Inc. (NYSE/MAN), and Kelly Services, Inc. (NASDAQ/KELYA), to deliver.
So, America appears to be headed in the right direction since the recession hit; but underneath all of the economic jargon and positive media headlines about the “Great Recovery” in America’s economic engine, there’s still a sense that many people are still trapped in economic despair, feeling the impact of the recession.
After scanning through “Diminished Lives and Futures: A Portrait of America in the Great-Recession Era,” I can see that uneasiness and worry remains a real issue in the minds of Americans. (Source: Szeltner, S., et al., Worktrends February 2013, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey web site, last accessed February 12, 2013.)
Some of the key findings of the research were as follows:
• About 90% of the respondents remained worried about … Read More
The national debt ceiling debate was initially expected to be resolved by January 1; but when that date came around, it was extended to May 18, as the two sides continue to debate the budgetary cuts, the deficit, and the increase in the debt ceiling above the $16.4-trillion legal limit.
While something needs to be done, President Obama and Congress must also understand that major cuts in fiscal spending to lower the deficit, at this point, could hurt the current economic recovery, which has been showing encouraging signs over the past year. The housing market is hot, with rising construction and sales and home prices that are edging higher. The Federal Reserve’s buying of mortgage bonds and the existence of near-zero interest rates together were the catalyst.
The combination of fiscal and monetary policy is clearly helping the economy, so it would be a grave error to cut spending at this critical time. Taxes for those earning over $400,000 have jumped. Those earning less are also seeing some increases in taxes. The end result was a decline in the consumer confidence reading to 58.6 in January, well below the 61.0 estimate by briefing.com and the 66.7 reading in December. The numbers suggest that consumers may become more hesitant in wanting to spend, given the tax increases.
For the government, the current debt limit will be reached soon. Without the extension of the debt ceiling deadline, the government would have run out of money to pay its employees, support programs, and cover other key spending items.
Nobel Prize economist Paul Krugman is not in favor of cutting spending to curtail the … Read More
In April 2011, when silver was trading at $50.00 an ounce, Bank of America Merrill Lynch was extremely bullish and suggested $80.00 was possible. (Source: “Prospect of silver hitting $80 shakes up stock, ETF markets,” International Business Times, May 1, 2011, last accessed January 22, 2013.) Of course, this hasn’t been the scenario, as the metal faces tough resistance at $35.00. Until there is a strong breakout here, I doubt the $40.00-level will be achievable.
While the majority of investors focus on gold, I feel silver could actually have more price upside, given its more speculative nature as more of a trading commodity.
In reality, the buying in the white metal is generally in line with the global economic growth, driving the demand for industrial goods that use silver as a raw material, pushing up income levels, and increasing the global demand for jewelry.
Here in the U.S., the economic recovery is faring well. The better-than-expected U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) growth, revised up to 2.7% for the third quarter, along with other encouraging economic data are also adding some optimism of economic renewal. China is offering some hope of a turnaround, but the stagnant condition in the eurozone and Europe remains an issue.
As I said, while gold is considered more of a pure-play hedge against risk, any sign of industrial recovery helps, as silver, unlike gold, is used in numerous industrial applications.
As you can see on the chart, silver is caught in a sideways channel, largely between $30.00 on the support side and $35.00 on the top of the channel. Silver is currently testing its 50-day moving … Read More
The government needs money fast. The problem is that the bank vaults are closed for the time being, and unless they are opened by early March, America could face a cash crunch.
The intense battle between Congress and President Barack Obama, who is requesting an immediate increase to the current national debt limit of $16.4 trillion, is ongoing, but it needs to be resolved soon, as the current national debt subject to the limit is $16.39 trillion. Obama is threatening possible delays to Social Security and veterans’ benefits, along with an impact on the government payroll, if the cash doesn’t come. (Source: Lee, C.E., and Hook, J., “Obama Escalates Debt Fight,” Wall Street Journal,January 14, 2013.)
Failure to raise the national debt limit would mean the government accessing emergency funds to avoid a potential default.
The issue is that the Republicans in Congress want to see more budget cuts and cost control before they look at raising the national debt limit. Rating agency Fitch has warned that if the debt limit is not increased in a “timely” manner, America’s debt rating could be downgraded. In the article, Fitch said the use of the debt ceiling was “an ineffective and potentially dangerous mechanism for enforcing fiscal discipline. It does not prevent tax and spending decisions that will incur debt issuance in excess of the ceiling while the sanction of not raising the ceiling risks a sovereign default and renders such a threat incredible.” (Source: Ahmed, S., “Fitch Warns of US Downgrade Over Debt Fight,” CNBC, January 15, 2013.)
Moody’s Investors Service has already warned it may cut America’s triple-A debt rating … Read More
Sometimes it is interesting to get a different perspective by looking at other nations around the world and how they are dealing with their economies.
The U.S. economy is certainly not booming, although the latest data have shown some contradictory indications. On the one hand, job creation is not occurring at an extremely fast pace; however, there are signs of an economic recovery in certain sectors, including housing, vehicle sales, and energy.
Germany, on the other hand, has had a lot of success, even though its neighbors have been embroiled in a large amount of economic stress due to their financial crisis. The economic recovery of Germany goes back many years, with structural reforms, made over a decade ago, that have prepared its economy to be extremely competitive internationally. The decrease in the euro has only helped the country’s economic recovery.
According to the German Federal Statistics Office, exports for the first 11 months during 2012 grew 4.3% to $1.3 trillion. This includes a 10.4% increase in exports to non-European Union (EU) countries. In another report, conducted by the Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services, export growth is expected to increase by five percent in 2013. (Source: “Booming Sales Beyond Europe German Exports Seen Hitting New Record in 2012,” Der Spiegel, January 8 2013.)
These are record levels of exports for Germany. Clearly, that nation has been able to engineer a decent economic recovery in spite of its weaker European partners. Job creation throughout the financial crisis has been quite strong, as Germany currently employees over 41 million citizens, the highest level ever recorded.
Much of the problem … Read More
Well, the doom and gloom of the fiscal cliff was averted in the nick of time, which in turn, pleased Wall Street and gave stocks a boost to begin the new year.
While the deal was a nice compromise between the two parties on the tax issues, there is a lot of work ahead for President Obama, as the statutory national debt limit of $16.4 trillion nears. As of this morning, the national debt balance used for the limit stood at a superlative $16.39 trillion. The headline national debt of $16.43 trillion is actually already above the limit, but don’t worry, the Treasury Department said it will be able to pay its debt payments and bills. Of course, we know this will also hold until the extended deadline on March 1.
The bottom line is: President Obama needs money to operate his plan to save America. Obama has asked for increased power to increase the national debt limit without Congress, but we all know this will never happen under the Republican-controlled House.
So while I view fiscal and monetary strategies as critical to keeping economic growth going, I also understand that the government needs to be tough and do something to the staggering national debt or risk deepening the financial crisis down the road for generations.
The problem is that if too much spending is cut, the impact on the economic recovery could be enough to send America back into another recession and financial crisis this year.
The question is concerning where some of the budget cuts will originate from.
Defense will likely lose a big chunk of its budget, … Read More
If you believe the recent gross domestic product (GDP) reading, you would think the country is doing well, on its way to better times ahead—but hold on.
The third estimate of U.S. GDP growth showed a stellar 3.1% annualized rate, according to the Department of Commerce, well above the 2.7% Briefing.com estimate. But before you get too excited, know that the reading was aided by government spending, which increased 3.9% in the third quarter and contributed 75 basis points to the GDP reading. (Source: “Exports, government spending buoy third-quarter growth,” Reuters, December 20, 2012.)
While the government-aided GDP is positive, my concern is that the fiscal spending will likely begin to slow, given the pending “fiscal cliff” on January 1. And yes, it will happen; albeit, I’m not sure what the actual impact will be as the two parties continue to debate the mechanics.
One thing is for sure: America doesn’t have a lot of capital to freely spend. But then it has always been able to go to the printing presses to issue more money into the system and add to the out-of-control national debt.
Just take a look at the Federal Reserve. The printing of money in America will continue and intensify after the announcement of a more aggressive stimulus strategy that will involve the additional monthly buying of $45.0 billion in longer-term Treasuries on top of the existing $40.0 billion monthly buying of mortgage-backed bonds from the third round of quantitative easing (QE3) in September. (Source: Federal Reserve press release, December 12, 2012.) My concern is that the additional buying of bonds will add another trillion dollars … Read More
The fiscal cliff is causing a drag on the economy and, in particular, consumers’ desire to spend, due to the uncertainty of how the budgetary cuts and tax increases will impact income. If the fiscal cliff is allowed to proceed—and it will to some degree—the reality is that taxes will rise. I’m not sure if the middle class and those who earn less than $250,000 will be spared, but I do feel there will be a compromise made on the income tax increases.
In the meantime, consumers are likely to be hesitant to spend in the retail sector. The headline retail sales reading rose 0.3% in November, which was below the Briefing.com 0.6% estimate but up from -0.3% in October. The ex-auto reading was flat, lower than the Briefing.com 0.2% estimate. While the November numbers don’t translate into December, I’m sensing the uncertainty of the fiscal cliff will impact consumer spending in this key shopping season for the retail sector.
We are heading into the heart of the holiday shopping season. I’m sure the retail sector is anxiously praying for consumers to spend. A strong shopping season in the retail sector will also go a long way to helping the economic recovery, while also giving the stock market good news.
The two recent jobs reports added some optimism to the retail sector; albeit, I doubt it will be enough to drive consumers to the malls and online to spend. We need to see progressive and stronger job creation going forward to instill some confidence in shoppers. In the best-case scenario, if job creation rises, this would likely translate into higher … Read More
America is fast approaching the $16.4-trillion limit in national debt that is legally allowed under the current debt ceiling. With the current debt at $16.24 trillion, time is running out, which is why we need to either resolve the fiscal cliff or, as the President wants, hike up the national debt ceiling in order to allow the government more flexibility in its spending. Failure to raise the national debt limit would mean that the government would need to access emergency funds to avoid a default and initiate the fiscal cliff cuts and tax increases in some form.
So far, the talks between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama have resolved little. Just last week, Boehner offered up a new 10-year, $2.2-trillion strategy that entailed adjustments to Medicare and Social Security benefits but also avoided a return to higher taxes for the nation’s top income earners. In response, the President is willing to look at reviewing the highest tax rate for the rich, but at the same time, he wants to cut loopholes.
With just over three weeks left in the year, something will need to be done. In the event that a resolution is not achieved, the government will have to access emergency funds until a deal is agreed upon. This is the dilemma that we are at now; but something has to be done, or America could be leaving a much worse financial mess for the generations ahead, including a possible recession and massive national debt.
Moody’s Investors Service warned it may cut the U.S. triple-A debt rating for a second time in 2013, should the government not … Read More
There were two winners of the Powerball lottery jackpot of $588 million Wednesday night. I was wondering if there was any chance they could help out with paying down some of the country’s burgeoning $16.2 trillion in national debt, its out-of-control deficit, and its runaway spending. Hey, isn’t that what the fiscal cliff is all about?
With 32 days remaining in the year to resolve this financial crisis, President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner are hard at it, trying to come to a compromise.
The reality is that, like many of you, I’m growing weary of hearing the “FC” term: financial crisis. Let’s just deal with the financial crisis stalemate and work out a deal that makes both parties happy, and slows down the frivolous printing of money that has allowed America to spend endlessly and create the financial crisis that is now lurking.
When I think about it, the government is operating a Ponzi scheme. They’re printing money and using it to pay for the undisciplined spending; when the money runs out and payments are due, they go out and print more money to cover them, and so on. This Ponzi scheme must be halted.
Just take a look at the market action. We are seeing a ridiculous number of U.S. companies declaring “special dividends” to try to help investors avoid higher dividend taxes in 2013 if the fiscal cliff is allowed to move forward.
From the end of September to mid-November, Bloomberg reports that 59 companies belonging to the Russell 3000 Index announced special cash dividends, versus 15 companies in the same timeframe in 2011. … Read More
Since the Great Recession, the U.S. has been struggling in its ability to generate job creation and sustain an economic recovery. There are numerous reasons for the lack of job creation; some are theories, and some are based on actual experiences. I like to look at other countries that are also struggling with a weak economic recovery and learn from their mistakes, as well as their policies and initiatives that are preventing job creation.
One country from which America can learn a great deal about how not to create an economic recovery is France, due to its completely clueless policy initiatives. I have heard a lot of strange and ridiculous ideas about what’s best for an economic recovery, but the rhetoric emanating from France’s political leaders takes the cake.
To begin with, France is encountering an extremely weak economic recovery, with no chance of job creation anytime soon. In fact, the latest data for job creation in October reported that the number of people unemployed in France is the highest in over 14 years. This is the 18th consecutive monthly increase in France’s unemployment rate. (Source: “French Jobless Total Hits 14-Year High,” CNBC, November 28, 2012.)
Not only is the economic recovery failing to ignite, but France is also moving away from any possibility of job creation in the near future. The newly elected French President, Francois Hollande, a hard socialist, has enacted policies that will only make job creation that much more difficult, since he and his party have a strong anti-business sentiment.
So with the French economic recovery being extremely weak, one would think that the government would … Read More
There are 47 days left in the year, and I’m worried. Not about my holiday shopping, albeit the retailers might be, but about whether President Obama can get Congress to agree to his demand to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, while increasing taxes to the rich, cutting expenses, and avoiding a potential financial crisis.
Based on what has happened since the election on November 6, we are seeing a selling bias toward stocks, as there may be a shift to investors taking their profits now; investors are avoiding what will likely be higher taxes on capital gains and investments going forward in 2013 should the fiscal cliff be allowed to follow through without any modification.
We are at a standstill. A financial crisis may be at stake.
The Republican-controlled House wants the tax cuts extended to all taxpayers, while Obama said he would veto any bill that pushes for tax cuts to those earning over $250,000 annually. You can see the dilemma and the difficulty concerning the cliff and potential financial crisis.
Of course, the government needs to be tough and do something to the staggering $16.3 trillion in national debt, or risk deepening the financial crisis.
With every passing second, America is growing poorer, and it will continue to unless major changes are made to avert a financial crisis. At the core of the problem is the direction of the upcoming fiscal cliff and its impact on the economy, national debt, and the financial crisis.
If too much spending is cut, the impact on the fragile economic recovery could be enough to send America back into another recession and … Read More
Investors bid up stocks prior to the presidential election on Tuesday, when President Barack Obama won his second term. Investor confidence was due to some uncertainty eliminated with the election, but the nervousness quickly resurfaced on Wednesday morning, impacting investor confidence; stocks plummeted on the realization that Obama still has many hurdles to overcome and the fact that the global economy, namely in Europe and China, may be prone to more weakness that will negatively impact investor confidence.
I’m sure President Obama is relieved that the election is over; but I can tell you, it’s only the beginning of some difficult times ahead that will challenge his patience and fortitude, while also impacting investor confidence.
While the uncertainty of the election is over, there is a lot of work ahead for Obama, as he now needs to immediately deal with the pending fiscal cliff. This will not be an easy feat, but it must be done to instill some investor confidence in the equities market.
The major problem is that President Obama must be careful, as he will need to cut and control the deficit and national debt of over $16.0 trillion, while at the same time not allowing the full extent of the $607.0 billion in broad budget cuts to take place on January 1; if he doesn’t balance the two, he will likely kill the economic recovery, 2013 and 2014 gross domestic product (GDP) growth, and investor confidence.
Moreover, any agreements or decisions made by President Obama will need to be agreed upon by the House. This will be problematic, given the continued political gridlock, as the Republicans … Read More
By the time you are reading this, either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will have won the race to be the 45th President of the United States.
Yet I will remind the winner that there’s not much time to rejoice in the victory, as there’s plenty of work ahead, which will dictate the direction of America over the next four years in relation to debt, job creation, economic growth, and foreign policy.
Whoever has won, they need to work on job creation at a much stronger rate than the current pace. All those promises that were made during the election campaign must now be acted upon. We need to create strong job creation and sustained jobs growth, while lowering the unemployment rate. The Federal Reserve is cautious about job creation into 2013. Obama and Romney have different strategies for lowering the unemployment rate and increasing job creation. But the reality is that unless Americans are put back to work, the economic recovery will likely stall and add to a possible financial crisis.
The most immediate concern for the next president will be what to do about the pending fiscal cliff on January 1, 2013, which calls for $607.0 billion in automatic budget cuts to avert a financial crisis. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently warned that the U.S. economy could contract in 2013 if the spending cuts are allowed, which would impact job creation. (Source: Congressional Budget Office, last accessed November 6, 2012.) I expect the same.
At a round table meeting of the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (G-20), there was talk of the U.S. … Read More
In a week’s time, we will know who the next President of the United States will be; this will be critical, giving us an indication of where America is heading as far as policy and the impact on the economic recovery. The latest poll by CNN has the race to the White House in a dead heat, with Governor Mitt Romney slightly ahead at 48% of the votes and President Obama at 47%. In the key Ohio race, support for Obama has fallen from 52% on October 2 to the current 48%, according to CNN.
At this point, based on my unbiased view, I don’t really care who wins, but I do want something to be done about job creation, the $16.2 trillion in U.S. debt, and the pending “fiscal cliff.”
Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, there is a commonality: we need to get the country fixed and get it going on the correct path to the economic recovery and jobs for all. The unemployment rate fell below eight percent in September, but the reading is well below the four percent level we saw in 2006 and 2007. The unemployment rate has improved from the recession high of 10.0% in October 2009, but needs to work its way lower for a sustained economic recovery.
What concerns me is the current lack of focus on the pending fiscal cliff on January 1, when the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 are scheduled to go into effect, resulting in automatic spending cuts across the board and tax increases that will threaten the economic recovery.
Of course, there … Read More
Watching the presidential debate on Tuesday, one thing was clear: both President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney were focusing on the jobs market. This was not a surprise.
Wall Street is not hiring, technology companies are firing, and the manufacturing sector is losing jobs to cheap overseas plants in China and Mexico, where wages are dirt cheap.
We are seeing more college graduates work at low-level jobs just to pay the bills, never mind their massive student loans. The reality is that given the dire situation in the jobs market, it will likely take years to resolve, and the mounting student loans will take decades to pay off.
Whether you sided with Obama or Romney, there is one common enemy, and that is the lack of strong and sustained jobs growth in America’s jobs market.
Obama is telling us about the surprise decline in the unemployment rate to 7.8% in September; while encouraging, the rate is well below that of the previous year.
Let’s take a closer look at the unemployment rate, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The reading was the lowest since a 7.3% unemployment rate in December 2008, but the number remains well below the four percent level we saw during 2006 and 2007. The unemployment rate has improved from the recession high of 10.0% in October 2009, which was the highest level since the 10.8% in the December 1982 recession.
The trend of the unemployment rate, as you can see in the graph below, shows the improvement since August 2011, when over nine percent of Americans were officially unemployed in the jobs market. … Read More
When you scroll through the pages of Investment Contrarians, you cannot help but notice the running U.S. national debt counter that sits at over $16.2 trillion and rapidly moves higher. With every passing second, America is growing poorer and will continue to unless major changes are made, but it will be difficult. At the core of the problem is the direction of the upcoming “fiscal cliff” and its impact on the economy and national debt.
Automatic and massive budget cuts are forthcoming in January, unless an extension is made. At first, this may sound like the correct strategy but, as many of you know, cutting government spending will impact the country’s already fragile economic recovery. And what concerns me more is where the cuts will be made.
The problem is that a significant cut in fiscal spending could make the economy worse, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO predicts the U.S. economy could contract by 0.5% in 2013 if the spending is curtailed. (Source: www.CBO.gov.)
While there is no indication of what areas will be affected, my feeling is that the cuts will likely be from Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, defense/wars, and federal pensions.
Whether President Obama extends his term in office or Mitt Romney takes over, the next government has major decisions to make, including what to do with the pending budget cuts.
The media continues to focus on the debt distress in Spain and the tough road ahead for Greece, but there is seldom any mention regarding the massive and runaway U.S. debt.
Spain has a national debt of around 758 billion euros, about US$988 billion, … Read More
The global economy is stalling, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; and unless the eurozone and Europe can recover from the financial crisis, my prognosis for the global economy is not good.
Judging from what I’m currently witnessing in the market action, unless the third-quarter earnings season provides abundant upside surprises, which I doubt, stocks could be set for a shock in the upcoming quarters. The reality is that I continue to feel traders are lackluster in their assessment of the current global risk and the potential impact on stocks.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank are warning us. China saw its gross domestic product (GDP) growth for this year reduced to below the key eight-percent threshold to 7.7% by the World Bank. In China, there are clear indications of slowing economic recovery resulting from the lower demand for copper, cement, and energy. The World Bank also cut its GDP growth estimate to 7.2% this year for the East Asia and Pacific area. (Source: “Growth to Slow in East Asia and Pacific in 2012,” The World Bank, October 8, 2012.)
We also have a potential letdown in China’s neighbor, India, after the IMF cut GDP growth in this emerging market to 4.9% for this year compared to the previous 6.1% estimate. (Source: International Monetary Fund)
And if you don’t believe the IMF or World Bank, take a look at what the multinational companies are saying, many of which source much of their revenue flow from the global marketplace. These companies with worldwide operations have firsthand accounts of the business conditions and, therefore, should not be ignored.
Bellwether Caterpillar … Read More
With yet another month of data, we’re seeing the continued recovery in the housing market. Research firm CoreLogic, Inc. (NYSE/CLGX) just reported that August home prices were up 4.6% from a year ago. This big increase in year-over-year home prices is the largest in six years.
Don’t get me wrong; the housing market will not reach the highs of the past decade anytime soon. But we are clearly off the bottom and that is a crucial development. To buy such a large asset, buyers need to feel somewhat secure that home prices won’t keep dropping. While no one is looking for massive returns, having a stable housing market is extremely important in this economic recovery.
While many believe the housing market is flooded with properties, the opposite is true; we’re seeing shortages of properties driving up home prices, not only in this report, but from the homebuilders themselves. That’s why homebuilder stocks have had massive moves this year, being one of the strongest equities to own.
According to the National Association of Realtors, the number of listed homes for sale was down 18.0%. I think this is partially due to the fact that the homeowners are seeing home prices increase; so they hold off until home prices get high enough for them to sell their properties. At that point, the housing market will reach some sort of equilibrium between supply and demand. For now, demand is clearly outpacing supply in many parts of the country.
When we add what the Federal Reserve just announced—keeping rates low for some time—they’ve certainly helped the housing market. Now that potential buyers are seeing … Read More
I hate that “R” word, but here we go—recession.
Don’t worry too much about the economic recovery in the U.S.; the real threat, as I have said on many occasions, will be the inevitable deterioration of the eurozone. What happens in the eurozone will have a domino effect on the rest of the industrialized and emerging markets worldwide.
Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s lowered its growth forecasts for the eurozone and suggested that the findings “paint a bleak picture” for the region. This shouldn’t be a surprise to you; I have long been bearish on the eurozone despite the bailouts and bond buying.
Standard & Poor’s estimates the eurozone will see its GDP growth contract by 0.8% this year, down from the previous -0.7%, followed by no growth in 2013, versus the previous estimate of 0.3% growth.
Spain and Italy were highlighted as the trouble regions. Spain will see its economy contract 1.4% in 2013. The country is working on austerity measures that are expected to be introduced this week, as the country may be looking at resolving its own debt issues and recession before requesting money from the ECB and other lenders.
A tough austerity program would bind Spain’s spending and have an impact on its ability to climb out of this recession. The country’s economic strength is declining. The country’s economy has fallen to 12th in the world in 2011, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Previously, Spain’s economy was the ninth largest, but with its continued financial crisis, it has since been surpassed by Russia, Canada, and India. Regardless, a collapse in Spain would be … Read More
The Federal Reserve has spoken and the rich are applauding.
Don’t believe the Federal Reserve when representatives say the third round of stimulus (QE3) is aimed at helping middle-class America; in reality, QE3 will largely benefit the rich.
Yes, the rich will again get richer, and the Federal Reserve knows this.
Here’s what I mean. Across the pond in Britain, the Bank of England’s monetary policies aimed at making money more accessible (similar to the U.S. quantitative easing) are helping the rich get richer. The numbers show that in the aftermath of the monetary easing in Britain, the value of stocks and bonds have advanced about 26%, and 40% of these gains have, in turn, increased the wealth of the top five percent of British households, according to the Bank of England. All you have to do is think about who gets richer when stocks increase in value—if you guessed the rich, you’re right, and the Federal Reserve is aware.
At last Thursday’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, the Federal Reserve announced it would maintain super-low interest rates between zero and 0.25% into mid-2015, and it will maintain loose monetary policy even after economic recovery strengthens.
This is excellent, as it will help people who carry significant debt to lower their financing costs for another three years. But guess which class controls the brunt of America’s assets?
In the aftermath of the Federal Reserve announcement, stocks surged, which will largely benefit the top five percent who control the majority of the country’s financial assets.
The low interest rates mean cheaper cash is available for the rich to make more … Read More
The retail sector is showing some strong results as pent-up consumer spending is showing some encouraging signs of release. Yet, as a retail sector investor, do you stick with the discount and big-box stores, or should you invest your capital in high-end retailers?
The key is to buy the retail stocks that show growth along with the economic recovery, whether they are big-box stores, discounters, or luxury retailers. Investors want growth.
On the cheap end, I favor the leading discount bellwether retail stocks, as I feel consumers will continue to look for bargains regardless of the improving market conditions.
This includes large-cap stocks Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE/WMT), Target Corporation (NYSE/TGT), and Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ/COST).
For added growth, you should look at the smaller discount companies in the retail sector.
With superior growth to Costco, small-cap PriceSmart, Inc. (NASDAQ/PSMT) operates 29 warehouse clubs in 12 countries in Central America and the Caribbean.
A big winner last week was large-cap Dollar General Corporation (NYSE/DG), an operator of over 10,000 stores across 40 states. Dollar General beat on earnings for the fifth straight quarter. The stock has reasonable valuation and above-average, long-term price appreciation potential, a positive for investors looking at the retail sector. Currently, Dollar General is up nearly 50% from its 52-week low.
In the low-end area, I like Dollar Tree, Inc. (NASDDAQ/DLTR) and Family Dollar Stores, Inc. (NYSE/FDO).
And with the housing market ramping up, I expect spending in the retail sector to continue to increase, especially on non-essential goods and services reflected by durable goods. My favorites in the retail sector remain the discounters and big-box stores. The … Read More
With the U.S. economy still in a quagmire, many people are looking for solutions to help kick-start the economic recovery. We have seen trillions of dollars thrown at the U.S. economy by the Federal Reserve. Yet with this amount of stimulus, the economic recovery still appears to be quite a long way away. We should be looking at alternative measures to reinvigorate the U.S. economy, and all measures should be open for discussion.
We’re constantly hearing about the upcoming fiscal cliff that will severely hinder any possibility of an economic recovery over the short term. Naturally, with the U.S. economy in such a poor state, many people are asking themselves, who is going to pay the bill? An alternative measure that wouldn’t cost taxpayers any money would be to ease restrictions for the trillions of dollars held by American corporations overseas.
I am of the opinion that regardless of one’s political viewpoint, any initiative that helps the U.S. economy should be considered especially if taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill.
Corporations currently hold trillions of dollars of funds outside of the U.S. economy, because they are not taxed as long as the money resides overseas.
Basically, what this means is that trillions of dollars are available to be brought back into the U.S. economy by corporations if the environment gave them an incentive to do so. Not only have trillions of dollars been accumulating overseas, untaxed and unable to have any impact within the U.S. economy, but corporations have also made record amounts of profits over the last couple of years. This means that the cash pile overseas, sitting … Read More