Small business is the backbone of America’s economy. While large multinational companies tend to get all of the attention, it’s the small companies that are critical to the country’s economy.
From your local “mom and pop” shop to the independent watering hole around the corner to the small manufacturing company making widgets, small companies are critical to the economy.
These are the companies that tend to fare better than other companies when coming out of a recession or a slowdown, due to their ability to make quick decisions in response to rapidly changing business variables.
While large companies could take months to adapt to a changing business environment, small companies could take only days or weeks to adjust, which is why their activity should be monitored.
An interesting measure on how well small companies may be doing can be linked to the amount of loans taken out. The thinking is: the higher the loans, the more the business is growing.
The Small Business Lending Index (SBLI), developed by Thomson Reuters and PayNet, is a good benchmark on small business lending. The SBLI is based on the volume of new commercial loan and lease originations from the major lenders in the U.S. given to small companies.
In March, the index fell to 98.5 from 105.4 in February.
The SBLI chart shows the pattern of the loans from 2005. You will notice the dip in loans when the recession surfaced, followed by the steady rise in loans to small companies up until the present time. Also note the recent big dip in loans to small companies.
This recent decline may prove to … Read More
George Soros knows a thing or two about making money from big bets. In 1992, Soros made a $10.00 short wager on the British pound and walked away with a billion dollars in profits.
Soros is now convinced Germany needs to rethink its strategy toward the sustainability of the eurozone and, in a draconian manner, believes the country should leave the euro.
Of course, should this happen, the 17-country eurozone would collapse, triggering a massive economic Armageddon and financial crisis in Europe that would ultimately generate chaos for the global economy.
Now, I doubt Germany or France—the two pillars integral to the eurozone—will exit the euro, but the reality is that the situation in the economic zone remains in a financial crisis with little hope of revival.
The problem is that the eurozone is firmly in a financial crisis and recession, trying to find its way out.
Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy are a drag on the ability of the eurozone to get out of its financial crisis. The unemployment rate in Greece and Spain is over 25% and worsening.
Italy just formed a new government, but there’s tons of work left for that debt-ridden country before it can exit its own financial crisis that has been building for years.
With all of this bad news, it’s not surprising to see people in the eurozone feeling the despair. According to the European Commission, economic morale in the eurozone remains weak after declining in March and April. (Source: Emmot, R., “Economic mood in euro zone sours again in April,” Reuters, April 29, 2013.)
And it appears that the solution will again … Read More
The eurozone and the euro are still around, but the more I see what is happening in that region, the more I think something must be done, given the financial crisis.
You have the eurozone in a recession and a financial crisis specifically driven by turmoil in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, and Ireland.
Greece is broke, and it could take decades to recover from its financial crisis. Heck, Greece may have to go and ask for another round of bailout money if the financial crisis in the eurozone holds.
The financial crisis in Cyprus is a red flag that needs to be watched. And despite the small size of Cyprus’ economy, the country is a mess, with no recourse but to seek more bailout funds or risk a default and exit the euro.
The two pillars of the eurozone, Germany and France, are stalling. Germany contracted 0.6% in the fourth quarter and is another negative quarter away from a recession. France is in a similar predicament and will need to wrench its way out of its potential financial crisis.
Even big-time investor George Soros, who knows a thing or two about economies in trouble having made a billion dollars shorting the pound decades ago, is pretty convinced that Germany needs to rethink its strategy and consider leaving the euro to avoid its own financial crisis.
The problem that arises is that Germany is the major reason why the eurozone is still intact, when it maybe should have looked at kicking out Greece and Cyprus.
But as long as Germany is staying in the eurozone, the probability of survival, in … Read More
Aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. (NYSE/AA) reported its earnings results on Monday, officially kicking off the first-quarter earnings season. While some in the media touted the fact that Alcoa beat earnings estimates, in reality, it’s nothing to get excited about. The stock market looks to be agreeing with me, as Alcoa was under some selling pressure after it reported.
Alcoa remains a key global company, but it probably doesn’t carry the weight it used to have on the market. However, the company does still offer some insight into the global economy.
The company only managed to narrowly beat earnings-per-share (EPS) estimates, reporting adjusted earnings of $0.11 per diluted share, above the Thomson Financial consensus estimate of $0.08.
It was a decent reading, but as I have said in the past, what I want to see is revenue growth to drive earnings—not cost control or some other variable.
Let’s take a closer look at Alcoa.
Revenues came in at $5.8 billion in the first quarter, down three percent year-over-year, which the company blamed on lower prices on the London Metal Exchange and some issues with its production in Europe.
That’s fair, but I want to see revenues grow in the global economy. Companies that expand revenues to drive earnings are what you want to see. In my view, those companies that are reporting solid revenue growth are important, especially given the somewhat stagnant state of the global economy. My thinking is that once the global economy begins to take off, especially in Europe and the emerging markets in Latin America and Asia, these same companies will likely be ready to deliver much … Read More
Central banks around the world have opened the floodgates with massive levels of quantitative easing in an effort to try to stimulate their respective economies. Turning on the quantitative easing tap is easy; putting the genie back in the bottle will be extremely difficult for central banks globally.
I am not alone in sharing this opinion, as the governor of Denmark’s central bank, Lars Rohde, has voiced similar concerns. In a recent interview, Rohde stated, “The risk is we stay in this climate too long and that the carpet bombing of liquidity spurs inflation… How do we exit this without killing whatever nascent recovery there might be at that time?” (Source: Levring, P. and Schwartzkopff, F., “Liquidity Carpet Bombs Fueling Asset Bubbles, Rohde Says,” Bloomberg, April 8, 2013.)
While central banks around the world are using quantitative easing in an effort to revive the global economy, the long-term consequences, as I’ve mentioned before, could prove to be extremely costly. I certainly welcome the honesty that Denmark’s central bank’s governor is displaying in voicing his concerns about how all of this quantitative easing might have serious long-term risks.
With Japan just now unveiling a massive new quantitative easing program in addition to the Federal Reserve’s asset purchase program, the floodgates continue to be wide open. However, central banks around the world have embarked on an aggressive quantitative easing policy since the great recession began, yet little has changed in terms of global unemployment.
Many nations around the world still suffer from extremely high levels of unemployment. It appears that quantitative easing did have an impact in certain asset prices, namely stocks … Read More
The world is going gangbusters, printing money to drive the economies and growth. Yet despite the bailouts in the eurozone and easy monetary policy in Europe, Asia, and the U.S., there’s a sense a financial crisis could surface down the road. China is facing a potential real estate crash that could implode, given the speculative buying and the rise in property values. The reality is that the world—not just America—is extremely busy printing money, especially due to record-low interest rates. The easy money is a pretty good short-term strategy, and it’s much needed—but what a potentially explosive national debt!
And there’s no guarantee all of this easy money will save the eurozone from a deeper recession. In America, the easy money has amounted to a massive national debt that will need to be increased and bankruptcy in many municipalities.
Japan just announced an extremely aggressive monetary policy last Thursday that could see the Bank of Japan pump up its money printing presses and double its government bond holdings within two years. (Source: Ranasinghe, D., “Bank of Japan Unveils Aggressive Monetary Policy,” CNBC, April 4, 2013.) This all sounds so familiar.
I hate to sound repetitive, but the easy money strategy could blow up as interest rates rise.
Japan is a great example of how low interest rates have done very little to help the economy. I’m not saying the United States is in a similar situation, but there’s an eerie resemblance.
The Japanese stock market may be the top-performing market in the world in 2013, but much of the upward push has been driven by government spending and the promise … 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
Following the global recession, many countries still lack resurgence in their economic growth levels. Many central banks around the world have used their primary tool, aggressive quantitative easing, to try and revive economic growth.
One issue with quantitative easing is that it can drive a currency downward in value. This can have some positive effects in improving economic growth by making that nation’s goods cheaper and driving exports; although it can hurt economic growth, as the price of imports rise, driving up inflation.
This is a tough goal to achieve, in trying to increase economic growth through a very blunt tool, that of quantitative easing. Whereas some initiatives have laser-like precision, quantitative easing is not one of them.
One nation that has recently embarked on a very aggressive quantitative easing program, and will continue to do so, is Japan. In November, Japan elected a new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who called for a very large quantitative easing program to jump-start economic growth. Since the election of Abe in Japan, the yen has fallen by approximately 15% against the U.S. dollar.
This has certainly helped Japanese car makers. Recently, the CEO of Ford Motor Company (NYSE/F), Alan Mulally, voiced his concerns that the Japanese yen’s decrease is increasing the level of competitiveness for Japanese car makers. According to the American Automotive Policy Council, Japanese car makers have a currency advantage worth approximately $5,700 per vehicle. (Source: Philip, S., “Ford CEO Says He’s Concerned About Effect of Weaker Yen,” Bloomberg Businessweek, March 26, 2013.)
The natural question is: if quantitative easing does help economic growth, why doesn’t every nation just do this? … Read More
One of the most dangerous situations is when an investor attains a false sense of confidence. With the Federal Reserve enacting such an aggressive monetary policy stance, this has led to reduced levels of volatility and an uncanny calm in the financial markets.
Because the Federal Reserve has stepped into the financial markets with such a large level of support through their monetary policy program, this has led to bond prices that remain elevated and yields that are at very low levels. Not much has occurred over the past few years in terms of shocks to the system.
The danger occurs when investors believe this situation will remain in place forever. Nothing lasts forever and one should always prepare for the future.
So far, the net result from the monetary policy action by the Federal Reserve has been higher home prices, an increase in car sales, higher asset prices in general, such as stocks, and a general calm in the financial system.
What happens when the Federal Reserve starts to reduce its monetary policy stance? I think it will hit many sectors, but it will especially affect the bond market.
The President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, William Dudley, recently stated that the accommodative monetary policy stance needs to remain for the time being, due to continued weakness in employment growth. However, he did add that the Federal Reserve should begin adjusting monetary policy as the economy improves. (Source: Zumbrun, J., “Dudley Sees ‘Very Accommodative’ Policy on Weak Job Market,” Bloomberg, March 25, 2013.)
The U.S. economy still has not employed all those who lost their jobs … Read More
Stocks are at their record highs, driven by a soaring stock market rally. The housing market is well off its lows, with sales and home prices edging higher.
The end result is that the overall wealth and optimism in America is higher.
According to the “CNBC All-America Economic Survey,” 33% of Americans felt the price of their homes will ratchet higher, up nine points since the previous survey in November 2012 and the high point since December 2007. The survey in March also suggested 48% of Americans believed it was a good time to invest, given the stock market rally; this number is up from 31% in November and it’s the highest since December 2009. (Source: Liesman, S.,“CNBC, American Dream Is Back; CNBC All-America Economic Survey,”CNBC, March 26, 2013.) So all is good, right?
As I previously commented, the stock market rally has made more people rich. A total of 300,000 newly minted millionaires werecreated from the current multiyear stock market rally, according to Spectrem Group. (Source: Frank, R., “CNBC, US (and Booming Market) Adds 300,000 New Millionaires,” CNBC, March 14, 2013.)
But hold on. The reality is that there continues to be a mass of Americans collecting food stamps, around 48 million, according to USDebtClock.org, and they don’t care about the stock market rally.
While the media’s headlines are commenting on how America is becoming richer, it’s a myth, of course—unless you don’t care about the other 95% of Americans who are just getting by and the bottom rung of this group who are considered America’s poor, making minimum wage.
In my view, the growing disparity between the rich … Read More
There is a potential financial crisis brewing in Cyprus, and no one in the U.S. really seems to be that concerned. Just like our out-of-control national debt, sequestration, and growing number of unemployed and poor. Stocks continue to move higher, and it appears as though nothing can stop them.
There is clearly a financial crisis in the eurozone, which I feel traders in the U.S. have largely pushed aside during the American stock market rally.
In Cyprus, we all know the government tried to place a tax on all bank deposits in an attempt to raise $7.6 billion in capital as part of the country’s bailout deal. The strategy was turned down; so here we have the tiny island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea where the estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of $22.45 billion in 2012 (source: International Monetary Fund) would be ranked dead last amongst the U.S. states, finishing behind Wyoming with just over $25.0 billion in GDP in 2011 (source: U.S. Department of Commerce).
So what’s the deal with Cyprus, and why should you be concerned?
While Cyprus is tiny and pretty well insignificant as far as its economic clout goes, a financial crisis, especially within the country’s fragile banking system, could drive widespread mistrust and confidence issues throughout the eurozone. This is the concern; that Cyprus could foreshadow a deeper financial crisis in the problematic regions of Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
Greece went through its financial crisis roller coaster, including two bailouts, and it is currently surviving on loans and credit. It’s going to take decades for Greece to recover from its financial crisis.
The fear … Read More
The Dow is at a record high, and there is rejoicing on Wall Street in reaction to the stock market rally. In fact, the stock market rally appears to have made more people rich. A total of 300,000 newly minted millionaires were created from the current multiyear stock market rally, according to Spectrem Group. (Source: Frank, R., “US (and Booming Market) Adds 300,000 New Millionaires,” CNBC, March 19, 2013.) This is great news for the new members of the $1.0-million club (excluding primary residence), but the reality is that there continues to be a mass of Americans collecting food stamps—around 48 million according to USDebtClock.org—and they have not reaped any rewards from the stock market rally.
The headlines commenting on how America is becoming richer are myths; that is, unless you don’t care about the other 95% of Americans who are just getting by and the bottom rung of this group who are considered America’s poor, making minimum wage.
What is also alarming is the low saving rate, which shouldn’t be a surprise, given that income levels have flattened out and declined over the past decade. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), a staggering 57% of workers surveyed said they had less than $25,000 in combined household savings and investments, aside from their homes. (Source: Greene, K. and Monga, V., “Workers Saving Too Little to Retire,” Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2013.) The survey also reported that 28% of respondents expressed no confidence that they would have sufficient money to retire in a comfortable manner. Trust me when I say this group doesn’t care about the stock market … Read More
One of the more common economic topics to be discussed recently has been the possibility of a global economic recovery. The lack of job creation is not only a problem for America, but it’s also a problem globally. The economic recovery has been extremely slow for many parts of the world, leading to an international void in job creation.
Recent data have offered contradictory information regarding the possibility of a global economic recovery. But what worries me is that after so many years following the Great Recession and after trillions of dollars in monetary stimulus, the world still cannot achieve an economic recovery, and millions remain unemployed due to a lack of job creation.
Recent data from France show that industrial production fell far more in January than was expected. Expectations for France’s industrial production in January estimated a 0.2% drop; yet it came in at -1.2% from December, according to Insee, France’s national statistics office. (Source: Deen, M. and Riecher, S., “French industrial output tumbles as recession looms,” Bloomberg Businessweek, March 11, 2013.)
For the three months ended January 31, 2012, factory output fell by 4.6% in France. This is a serious decline, and it clearly shows a lack of economic growth. Job creation is nowhere in sight, as unemployment in France was 10.6% in the fourth quarter—a 13-year high.
Why does this matter for Americans?
Of course, America is not France; however, recent policy decisions here worry me tremendously. In fact, it’s the lack of policy decisions that worry me. Washington is quick to raise taxes, as were the French, yet they can’t make structural reforms that can … Read More
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is firing on all cylinders, trading at a record high. The S&P 500 is also close to its all-time record. Technology and small-cap stocks are blazing along. The amount of new stock market wealth created in the first week of March and in 2013 has been great. Add in the better-than-expected jobs numbers and a decline in the unemployment rate to 7.7%, and you would think that the U.S. economy is back, loaded and ready to go. But we may be closer to a financial crisis than most think.
Here’s the problem: the creation of stock market wealth is heavily weighted with the institutional money and the top one to five percent of the wealthiest Americans. (I use the wider range of the top earners, since you have to be doing fairly well to be in this group.)
There’s an old saying—“Money makes money.” But let me put it another way: making money on $1.0 million is a lot easier than making money on $1,000. Earn two percent on $1.0 million, and you’d have an extra $20,000. Make two percent on $1,000, and you only have $20.00, just enough for a dinner for two at McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE/MCD). All I’m saying is don’t be fooled by the new headlines talking about how well America is doing, as a financial crisis is still possible.
The housing market is booming, but we all know that the rally in prices is partially due to rich investors and institutions buying cheap properties from those who had to sell or be foreclosed on due to a lack of funds to … Read More
There’s talk of hedge funds dumping gold. Despite its attractiveness as a safe haven to stash your money, there is a lack of buying interest across the board, as the sentiment toward gold is declining fast. Some are even saying the bulls should pack it in. While I agree the short-term risk is high and prices could move down toward $1,500, I continue to like the longer-term outlook, as I believe that any major decline in gold should be viewed as an opportunity to accumulate the precious metal as a contrarian investment.
We are hearing more whispers predicting prices could spiral lower, but while I’m neutral at this point, I continue to be convinced that gold will rally higher in the long term.
The jury is still out on the potential of gold. The situation in the eurozone remains fragile, but there have been some signs of improving sentiment, which is what traders want to see.
In early January, Marc Faber, also known as “Dr. Doom,” in an interview with CNBC suggested gold could correct 10% or more to as low as $1,550–$1,600. (Source: Belvedere, M.J., “‘Dr. Doom’ Faber Sees Possible 10% Gold Correction,” CNBC, January 8, 2012, last accessed February 25, 2013.)
In my view, gold continues to be a place to park some capital; and for this reason, I feel the metal will continue to attract support above $1,500 after 11 straight up years.
The chart shows sideways trading with major support around $1,550 and upper resistance at $1,800, as indicated by the horizontal blue lines in the stock chart below. Within this trading band, there’s a downward … 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
In my previous commentary, I discussed the ongoing financial mess in the eurozone and its negative impact on the gross domestic product (GDP) growth of the 17 countries in the region. Yet, with the eurozone in a recession that could last another few quarters, the negative impact on the global economy should also be considered when you are looking at foreign investing opportunities.
The current stalling in China could be linked directly, in part, to the situation in the eurozone, and I expect this will continue to be the case as long as the eurozone struggles.
At the same time, the areas most at risk from the eurozone crisis will be the emerging regions in Eastern Europe; they will be much more at risk than Asia simply due to the proximity of the markets.
Russia, the largest economy in Eastern Europe, is estimated by the World Bank to report GDP growth of 3.5% in 2012, down from GDP growth of 4.3% in 2011. (Source: “World Bank Keeps Russia’s GDP Forecast at 3.6% in 2013,” RIA Novosti, January 16, 2013.) However, the report is estimating that the country’s GDP growth will slowly rally to 3.9% in 2014 and 3.8% in 2015, which is still below the five-percent-plus readings from 2003 to 2007. (Source: “Data,” The World Bank web site, last accessed February 20, 2013.) Of course, the actual rate of the recovery will largely depend on whether the eurozone can recover from its mess.
Poland, the second-largest economy in Eastern Europe, is really struggling. The negative impact from the eurozone has wreaked havoc on the Polish economy and its GDP growth. … Read More
Traders appear to have forgotten the massive economic mess happening across the Atlantic in the eurozone. Remember Greece? The European debt crisis took Greece down with two separate bailouts. It has been so dire for this beautiful country on the Mediterranean Sea that Greece required a second bailout to make the payments on its first emergency loan.
The reality is that the eurozone financial crisis is still around; the eurozone problem is not going away.
Consumer confidence in the eurozone came in at -23.9 in January, which was an improvement over the -26.5 in December, but the region has a long road ahead. (Source: European Commission web site, last accessed February 15, 2013.) The problem with the eurozone is not only tied to the massive debt loans that have impacted Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy; it’s also tied to the ongoing recession and high unemployment rate.
The eurozone has recorded three straight months of contraction in its economy, contracting 0.6%, or about 2.5% on an annualized basis, in fourth quarter 2012, according to data from Eurostat. What was also a red flag were the economies of the eurozone’s two largest members: Germany, which shrunk by a worse-than-expected 0.6% in the fourth quarter, and France, whose economy contracted by 0.3% in the fourth quarter. My major concern is that the mess in the weak countries is driving down growth and pushing up the unemployment rate in France and Germany, the two pillars holding up the eurozone. Capital Economics suggested France and Germany will face another recession in 2013.
At the same time, a major issue is the region’s super-high unemployment … 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
I’m not sure if you realize this, but the gasoline prices at your pumping station have been on the rise for the last 21 days, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Market watchers blame the rise on industry factors, but we all know that a major reason for the higher prices at the pumps is the greed of the big oil companies that are always looking for reasons to drive gas prices back upward, to make big profits. Isn’t that what America is all about? Screw the small guy!
The price of regular gasoline averaged $3.54 per gallon across the United States as of February 4, up nearly six cents from a year earlier, according to the EIA.
The price of regular gasoline was a mere $1.19 a gallon back on August 20, 1990, and it peaked at $4.05 on July 14, 2008. The low point for gasoline prices was $0.88 per gallon, last reached on February 22, 1999. (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration web site, last accessed February 11, 2013.)
In my view, the age of cheap gasoline is over—at least here in the United States. You can always move to Venezuela, where the heavily subsidized gasoline costs a mere $0.09 per gallon; instead of paying $120.00 to fill my SUV here, it would cost just over $3.00 for a fill-up in Venezuela, making for some great road trips that wouldn’t empty my bank account.
The oil companies are ripping us off, and it has little to do with the oil prices.
In July 2008, gasoline was priced at $4.11 per gallon. The WTI oil … Read More
We have nearly eight percent of Americans pounding the pavement, but it is more likely double that if you count the workers actually unemployed or underemployed. But the problem of high unemployment is not only an ongoing issue in America; it’s a problem that is found in pockets all around the world, from the rust belt in Ohio to the massive manufacturing plants in China.
Japan, which used to have an unemployment rate of about one percent, is currently struggling to find jobs for its citizens. The country’s unemployment rate stood at 4.1% in November 2012, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs & Communications. By comparison, Japan’s unemployment rate averaged a mere 2.7% from 1953 to 2012, which is why the current rate is a concern. (Source: “Japan Unemployment Rate,” Trading Economics web site, last accessed January 23, 2013.) Japan’s efforts to lower its unemployment rate continue to be hindered by the country’s stalled economic growth.
The unemployment problems are becoming a global issue. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the amount of unemployed in the world could set a record this year and could continue to rise higher until 2017. The report from the ILO estimates 202 million people will be searching for work this year, based on its Global Employment Trends report. (Source: Barnato, K., “World Unemployment to Hit Record High in 2013,” CNBC, January 22, 2013.)
Surging unemployment remains a thorn in Europe’s side, with a super-high unemployment rate encompassing the eurozone and the entire continent. In the eurozone, the unemployment rate was 11.8%, or about 18.8 million unemployed, in November, the highest number since … Read More
Recently, we have heard a lot about currency wars being waged by various nations around the world. To those who are unfamiliar, “currency war” is a term that refers to countries that are actively looking to devalue their currency to help stimulate export growth and their domestic economy.
Investing in stocks in this type of environment can be tricky, as one needs to add additional variables to the analysis. Having a strong market sector, solid long-term fundamentals of the individual stock, and a favorable currency direction can help when considering investing in stocks.
While many look to the Federal Reserve as being the most active in trying to devalue the U.S. dollar, I would point to Japan. Newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Abe has been vocal about demanding massive and unprecedented monetary stimulus by the Bank of Japan to help stimulate the Japanese economy.
Large institutions interested in investing in stocks certainly have jumped on the export-oriented market sector, as Japanese stocks are up approximately 24% since mid-November, when elections were announced, and the yen is down in value by approximately 10%.
However, this is not a short-term phenomenon. I believe the yen will continue to remain weak for a long time, and this will benefit the Japanese export market sector. Those interested in investing in stocks could look to equities in Japan that will benefit from the yen’s devaluation.
One market sector that also has strong fundamentals in the U.S. is vehicle sales. The U.S. had extremely strong car sales in 2012, and I expect 2013 to be just as strong. When combined with a further lowering of the … 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
Japan, under newly elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will aggressively try to get the country’s economy back on track after more than two decades of economic stalling, but it will not be easy. Armed with a new stimulus spending of $116 billion, the hope is that the stimulus spending will drive consumer spending and help revitalize an economy that has been in a comatose state. (Source: “Japanese government approves $116bn stimulus package,” BBC News, January 11, 2013.)
Abe is looking to add significant stimulus, including a whopping $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years to try to drive Japan’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth to spur its comatose economy. (Michael Schuman, “Will Japan’s New Prime Minister Start a Debt Crisis?,” Time, December 17, 2012, last accessed January 14, 2013.) But it will not be easy, as the past decades have shown.
Japan entered a technical recession in the third quarter of 2012, with its GDP growth contracting 0.9% and continuing to be impacted by decades of stagnant growth. In fact, from 1980 to 2010, Japan’s average GDP growth was a minuscule 0.6%.
The new stimulus sounds great, but there’s a problem, as the country’s debt levels represent some of the highest in the world and make the U.S. situation seem like a cakewalk.
Japan’s debt as a percentage of its GDP was a humongous 208% in 2011—the worst in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund. Greece, with its financial crisis, is comparatively better at 161%, and the U.S., with its crippling debt levels, is relatively strong at 103% in 2011. (Source: “List of Countries by Public Debt,” Wikipedia … Read More
There is a crisis in America, relative to the widening income gaps between the rich, the middle class, and the poor. This ultimately impacts consumer spending.
In the fiscal cliff talks, President Obama decided to compromise on the Bush-era tax cuts after raising income taxes on those individuals earning in excess of $400,000 annually and over $450,000 for married couples. These groups account for roughly the top one percent of income earners, according to the Tax Policy Center. (Source: “Fiscal Cliff Deal Will Raise Taxes On 77 Percent Of Americans: Tax Policy Center Analysis,” Huffington Post via Associated Press, January 2, 2013.)
The World Economic Forum suggested the widening of the income gap will have a global impact. (Source: “Income disparity, debt lead risk list,” Yahoo! Finance via Associated Press, January 8, 2012.)
The failure to achieve tax increases for all income earners making over $250,000 was a disappointment to President Obama, and it further increases the widening gap between middle-class America and the top one percent. With the income gap between the rich and poor widening, this is becoming more of a major issue that will need to be addressed, as it impacts consumer spending.
In my view, this is an issue that needs to be dealt with, as there is a societal need to help the less fortunate. Of course, paying higher taxes is a form of income distribution, but given the tax loopholes, the current system of taxes as an avenue for income distribution needs to be looked at. This concept of income distribution in America and other industrialized countries is becoming a real problem, especially with … 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
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
One of the most important sectors of the economy is the housing market. The housing market is crucial for several reasons. First, the housing market employs a lot of people, both directly and indirectly. This includes the direct employment of people in the housing industry, such as tradesmen and homebuilders, and the indirect employment of people in related industries, such as the automakers that build pickup trucks to be used by tradesmen and homebuilders.
Another crucial factor is the direction of home prices. We’ve now seen continued strength in home prices, which is a positive for the homeowner. Considering a house is the largest property many citizens own, to see its value continually decline is mentally and emotionally difficult. However, with month after month of steady gains, this will help alleviate some concerns about the future.
According to the latest report from research and analytics firm CoreLogic, Inc. (NYSE/CLGX), in October 2012, home prices, including distressed sales, jumped up 6.3% nationwide. This is the largest increase for home prices since June 2006. This was not a one-time jump for the housing market, but the eighth consecutive month of year-over-year nationwide increases in home prices. (Source: “CoreLogic Home Price Index Marks Eighth Consecutive Month of Year-Over-Year Gains,” CoreLogic, Inc., December 4, 2012.)
In regards to homebuilder sentiment for the housing market, which is correlated with home prices, confidence continues to rise. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), confidence by homebuilders in December rose for the eighth consecutive month. This is the highest level of confidence by homebuilders since April of 2006. (Source: “Builder Confidence Continues Improving in December,” … 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
Japan just elected in Shinzo Abe of the Liberal Democratic Party as Prime Minister, and based on what we are hearing, Abe is looking to spend significant stimulus, including a whopping $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years to try to boost the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth and drive Japan out of its comatose economy. (Michael Schuman, “Will Japan’s New Prime Minister Start a Debt Crisis?,” Time, December 17, 2012.) While this all sounds great, there’s a problem. Japan’s debt levels are some of the highest in the world and make the U.S. situation seem like a cakewalk.
Japan’s debt as a percentage of its GDP was a humongous 208.2% in 2011, the worst in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Greece, with its financial crisis, was comparatively better at 160.8%, and the U.S., with its crippling debt levels, was relatively strong at 102.9% in 2011. (Source: “Country Comparison: Public Debt,” CIA World Factbook, last accessed December 17, 2012.)
The problem is that the newly elected Liberal Democratic Party appears to want to spend the country into a financial abyss in order to pump up the country’s GDP growth.
Japan continues to be in an economic abyss, void of any GDP growth.
Along with its minimal growth, the country is mired in a multi-decade-long comatose state that requires major resuscitation. Despite producing some of the top brands in the world in electronics and cars, along with an efficient workforce and technological innovation, Japan’s GDP growth contracted 0.9% in the third quarter, or 3.5% on an annualized basis; and it appears set for another recession, given … Read More
The major bank stocks are all near their respective 52-week highs and an upside break appears to be in the works, as the banking industry continues to assume less risky businesses while shoring up their balance sheets.
The subprime credit crisis that surfaced in 2008 and drove the U.S. and global economies 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, specifically the amount of risk that is assumed by a bank via sophisticated strategies. So far, the change coined the “Volcker Rule,” set in place by economist and ex-Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, appears to be capping the speculative trades made by the banks, which is good.
Banks have altered the way they do business and have shown positive strides along the way.
In my view, the operating results have been fairly good, and they indicate that the banks are able to grow their business volume across the board during an economic recovery in the U.S.
And with the housing market and economy continuing to improve, I feel that bank stocks will also gain altitude.
The majority of the big banks have paid back part or all of their government loans. Bank stocks are showing promise and delivering better results.
The bank stocks risk has declined, but there are still issues that could hamper the ability of bank stocks to deliver. According to Trepp, a real-estate research service, about one out of every eight bank stocks failed the stress test. (Source: “Q2 2012 Trepp Capital Adequacy Stress … Read More
We’re two weeks away from surviving the Mayan Doomsday and three weeks away from stepping over the fiscal cliff. But the unabated student loan debt is just getting warmed up. Instead of dealing with the problem, Washington’s policies continue to stoke the fire. And that economic strain spells continued misery for America’s ongoing credit crisis woes.
Outstanding student loan debt has surged 165% in just seven years, from $360 billion to $956 billion. Furthermore, the average loan balance for U.S. college students has increased more than 68% since 2005 to $27,000. (Source: “Student Loan Debt History,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York web site, last accessed December 11, 2012.)
On a more granular level, student loan debt jumped $42.0 billion, or 4.6%, over the previous quarter to $956 billion. During the same period, car loan balances increased for the sixth consecutive quarter to $768 billion. U.S. credit card debt held firm at approximately $601 billion.
Eleven percent of all student loan balances are 90 or more days delinquent, surpassing all other forms of debt. Credit cards, car loans, and mortgages are all in better shape than student loans, with 90-day delinquency rates of 10.0%, 4.3%, and 5.9%, respectively.
According to the Federal Reserve, student loan debt is the only form of consumer debt that has grown since the peak of consumer debt in 2008, and it is the largest form of consumer debt outside of mortgages. What’s more is that unlike credit card debt, student debt is not forgivable in bankruptcy.
And that is creating a nightmare scenario for graduates young and old. In fact, every age group is experiencing … Read More
The labor picture remains precarious. On one hand, Citigroup, Inc. (NYSE/C) announced it was cutting 11,000 jobs worldwide, as the financial services sector continues to be hard hit; while on the other hand, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ/AAPL) announced it would produce at least one of its computer products in the United States.
Wall Street was relieved last Friday after the much-anticipated jobs readings offered much-needed hope that job creation in America continues to be on track.
Job growth is showing signs of wanting to edge higher, as the unemployment rate made a surprising decline to 7.7% in November; 146,000 workers managed to find full-time work, which was well above the 80,000 jobs estimated by Briefing.com.
And while I’m pleasantly surprised with the drop in the unemployment rate and continued job creation, the decline in the unemployment rate was attributed to fewer people looking for work, according to the Labor Department. Many people during Hurricane Sandy did not search for work.
Let’s take a closer look at the unemployment rate based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The November reading was the lowest reading 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. On the plus side, the unemployment rate has improved from the recession high of 10.0% in October 2009, which was the highest level since the 10.8% during the December 1982 recession.
The trend of the unemployment rate shows the improvement since August 2011, when over nine percent of Americans were officially unemployed.
It took close to five years for the unemployment rate to … Read More
President Obama is on a fiscal cliff campaign to show why middle-class America really needs the help. Of course, Republicans want the Bush-era tax cuts to also apply to the top two percent of income earners. This is the major sticking point holding up a deal.
I love capitalism and the idea that you can generate unlimited wealth to drive consumer spending. This is the reason why the United States is one of the richest countries in the world, with its gross domestic product (GDP) growth driven by consumer spending. Yet despite the ability to create wealth, the income gap between the rich and poor has been widening, which ultimately impacts consumer spending. In my view, this is an issue that needs to be addressed, as there is a societal need to help the less fortunate. Of course, paying higher taxes is a form of income distribution, but given the tax loopholes, the current system of taxes as an avenue for income distribution may need to be fixed.
This concept of income distribution in America and other industrialized countries is becoming a real problem, especially with the Great Recession that began in 2008. Lower income levels impact consumer spending and economic growth.
The median family income plummeted to an inflation-adjusted $45,800 in 2010 compared to $49,600 in 2007, according to the Survey of Consumer Finances, a publication of the Federal Reserve. The survey also indicated that the top 10% of households made an average of $349,000 in 2010 and had a net worth of $2.9 million. This translates into less consumer spending by the middle class as income levels fade…. 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
The Federal Reserve has embarked on a path that is historically unprecedented in monetary policy initiatives, in the hope of reviving the U.S. economy from the depths of the most recent recession. Since 2008, the Federal Reserve has bought $1.0 trillion in long-term treasuries and approximately $900 billion in mortgage-backed securities, all in the hope of stimulating the American economy.
Everyone should know, at least by now, that there are definite limits to what monetary policy can do. It’s unfortunate that so much of the burden in reviving the American economy has been left to the shoulders of the Federal Reserve. A large amount of the blame for the current economic circumstances has to be placed on politicians in Washington. With the current fiscal cliff fiasco, once again, we are witnessing the ineptitude of our elected officials in their ability to resolve structural issues that are fundamentally crucial to the long-term economic stability and vitality of America.
Having said that, the Federal Reserve does have a dual mandate that must be met, and it is enacting monetary policy in a way in which it considers appropriate, considering the lack of action from Washington.
The next Federal Reserve meeting will be held December 11–12, and it will be extremely important. At this meeting, the monetary policy program called “Operation Twist” will end. This monetary policy initiative involved selling short-term treasuries to fund purchases of long-term treasury securities at a rate of $45.0 billion per month.
For the Federal Reserve, one issue with an extension of this monetary policy program is that the amount of short-term treasuries left to sell will soon … 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
Greece finally received approval for its austerity measures and, in the process, will get another $70.0 billion or so in loans. The money is not earmarked for growing the Greek economy out of its deep recession; rather, it will be used to keep the lenders away as the country tries to get out of its financial crisis. What is happening in Greece and the eurozone is absolutely an economic farce that will likely take years to rectify. For Greece, the country will be stuck in its own economic abyss for years, even decades. The problem for Greece is that the deep budget cuts are occurring at a time of fiscal confusion, massive unemployment, and negative gross domestic product (GDP) growth. The deep cuts will hurt the country more in the short term, but they are needed to help Greece become a contributing member of the eurozone. As I said, it could take decades. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the two-decade drought in Japan.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) just suggested the global economy was on shaky ground again, with weakness in 31 of 34 member countries. (Source: Matt Nesto, “The Five-Year Funk: OECD Slashes Global Growth Estimates,” Yahoo! Finance, Breakout, November 27, 2012.) The report “Global Economy Facing Hesitant and Uneven Recovery” called for the eurozone to experience another two years of mild recession. GDP growth in the U.S. is estimated at a mere two percent for 2013, which is not unexpected, given the current conditions in America. Failure to resolve the fiscal cliff will make the growth worse.
The way I view it … Read More
Investors were pretty excited last week when it was announced that both existing- and new-home builds were up quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year.
U.S. builders broke ground on homes in October at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 894,000, up 3.6% over September and the highest rate since July 2008. New housing starts are also 87.0% above the annual rate of 478,000 in April 2009, the recession low. (Source: “US new home starts jump to fastest pace in 4 years,” Bloomberg Businessweek, November 20, 2012.)
Keep in mind, new-home sales only account for 20% of the housing market sales. So how did existing-home sales do?
In October, sales of existing homes, which investors tend to love, increased 2.1% month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.8 million. Existing-home sales are up 10.9% from a year earlier, representing the 16th consecutive month of year-over-year home-sales gains. (Source: “Existing-Home Sales Rise in October with Ongoing Price and Equity Gains,” National Association of Realtors, November 19, 2012.)
All evidence suggests the housing market recovery is in full swing! But not so fast—a recovery of some sort is in the oven; I’m just not sure it will benefit those who want to own a home.
In October, the median existing-home price was up 11.1% year-over-year at $178,000, marking the eighth consecutive monthly year-over-year increase. This is bad news for potential first-time homebuyers who face stricter lending rules from tight-fisted banks. And the cracks are beginning to show. First-time homebuyers accounted for just 31.0% of October purchases, down from 32.0% in September and 34.0% a year earlier.
While the number of existing homes on the market … Read More
The U.S. is still recovering from the Great Recession, which has substantially lowered America’s economic growth levels. This lack of economic growth is preventing job creation and leading to a persistent and sustained elevated level of unemployment. In spite of the current weak economy and the ineptitude of politicians to take concrete actions in building a solid economic foundation, I believe that one of the main drivers for economic growth over the next several decades will be a derivative of oil prices.
Let me explain. While politicians bicker on both sides, American ingenuity has led the world in technological innovation when it comes to energy extraction; so much so, that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has just come out with a report stating that by 2017, the United States will be the top oil producer in the world, replacing Saudi Arabia. In that same report, by 2015, the U.S. will be the top gas producer in the world. When people around the world think about gas and oil prices, they will look to America as the world leader in technological innovation that is driving this commodity sector. (Source: “U.S. to overtake Saudi as top oil producer—IEA,” Reuters, November 12, 2012.)
Economic growth is spurred by many factors. Two of the most important factors are the competitive advantage worldwide and technological advancements. The increase in oil prices we’ve seen over the past couple of decades has led American firms to develop world-leading, technologically sophisticated methods of extracting both oil and natural gas from beneath the ground. This has resulted in massive increases of both oil and natural gas production in America…. Read More
There is no question that the level of job creation currently in America is quite poor. While we have seen some improvement from the depths of the great recession, much more work needs to be done, not only for job creation, but also for a fundamental restructuring of the U.S. economy.
One point that every American, including the politicians, needs to be aware of is that the U.S. is part of the global economy. We cannot have job creation in isolation; we need to understand how America and its businesses fit into the global economy first.
The CEO of Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ/CSCO), John Chambers, has been quite vocal for the business community in terms of how tax policy is impacting domestic job creation. During Cisco’s current earnings quarter, in which the company did report solid numbers that beat expectations, what was interesting to me were his comments regarding job creation and how the company sees the global economy.
To begin with, 82% of Cisco’s large cash pile, which is approximately $45.0 billion, is not in America. The extremely high corporate tax rates are preventing this firm from being able to bring these funds into America to help job creation domestically. As Chambers states in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on CNBC, the company is looking around the world for the most attractive areas to conduct business. He specifically points out that Cisco will be spending its money in Canada, because that country has better corporate tax rates and is generally an easier place to conduct business. (Source: “Cisco’s Chambers: If No US Compromise We Will Invest Overseas,” video interview, … Read More
Japan continues to be in an economic abyss, void of any gross domestic product (GDP) growth. There’s minimal growth and the country is mired in a multi-decade-long comatose state; it requires major resuscitation. Despite producing some of the top brands in the world in electronics and cars, along with an efficient workforce and technological innovation, Japan’s GDP growth contracted 0.9% in the third quarter, or 3.5% on an annualized basis, and appears set for another recession since GDP growth is estimated to fall in the fourth quarter. (“Japan Economy Shrinks 0.9% in Third-Quarter, Points to Recession.” CNBC via Reuters, November 12, 2012.)
The problem is that Japan’s government has pushed expansive fiscal and monetary policy to try to re-ignite what used to be the pearl of the orient; but so far, it has probably helped to prevent a deep recession, rather than drive GDP growth.
The country’s interest rates are already at zero, so there’s little space to maneuver. Given that interest rates have been at zero percent since 2010, the failure of the country to rebound is puzzling. Consider that the high point for interest rates since 2005 was a rate of just over 0.5% in 2007. (Source: “What is the Japanese yen (JPY)?,” GoCurrency, last accessed October 22, 2102.) That’s seven years with extremely low interest rates and not much has improved with the country and GDP growth.
Some argue that Japanese banks could be looser in their lending policies, but this could lead to some potential credit issues down the road. Just think of what happened here.
The Markit/JMMA Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) came in … 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
One of the most important things for all investors to remember is that the global economy is tightly tied together. Gone are the days when one country could, in isolation, remain immune to the effects of the global economy. With the problems that America has endured following the Great Recession, we certainly can’t look to the rest of the world to help our economy accelerate.
In addition to weak organic economic growth, the stimulus plans implemented by nations around the world have created massive levels of government debt. This government debt is pervasive throughout the global economy. While I’ve commented many times about U.S. government debt and the problems we will incur in the future, America is not alone. From Europe to Asia, the global economy is awash in huge levels of government debt.
The real trouble is that in spite of trillions of dollars of government debt, the global economy can’t accelerate. New data regarding the Japanese economy is quite clear in this matter. Japan’s economy decreased during the September quarter by 0.9%, which is an annualized rate of decline of 3.5%. (Source: “Japan’s economy shrinks, recession looms,” Reuters, November 12, 2012.)
The Bank of Japan has a policy meeting next week and another on December 19–20. Considering the trillions of dollars Japan spent over the last 20 years trying to revive its economy, the only result has been a massive increase in government debt. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Japan’s government debt as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated for 2012 to be approximately 230%. This compares to the government debt as a … Read More
It would appear that Spain is still somewhat delusional regarding its ability to avoid having to ask the European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency capital. I previously discussed this issue after Spain’s finance minister, Luis de Guindos, said, “Spain doesn’t need a bailout at all.” (Source: “Spain FinMin’s ‘No Bailout’ Remark Causes Laughter,” CNBC, October 5, 2012, last accessed November 12, 2012.) Yet, the country is still being unrealistic in its view and is now facing a financial crisis that will likely worsen.
Maybe Spain doesn’t realize that when one of every four of your citizens has no job to go to, there’s a problem. The ECB’s buying of troubled and overpriced Spanish bonds in an effort to reduce the financing charges represents a bandage solution to a financial crisis. Spain talks about the lower yields. Yes the 10-year yields on Spain’s bonds are no longer over 10.0%, but at the current 5.9%, these yields are still comparatively high and not sustainable. Now, if Spain can get its yield down below three percent, then maybe the bond-buying will help; but until that happens, I’m not convinced, and Spain will continue to walk on a tightrope and see its financial crisis deepen.
Spain doesn’t want money, as it knows that emergency funds also come with strings attached: being told what to do with its budget, spending, and austerity measures.
Yet something must be done or Spain’s financial crisis will worsen. The problem is that Spain, like the United States, is facing muted growth, and a tough austerity program would bind Spain’s spending and would impact its … Read More
The doom and gloom on this side of the Atlantic is focused on the country’s pending “fiscal cliff,” but in Europe, it’s focused on the continent’s own financial crisis and how to escape it. You have six eurozone countries in a recession, with the whole region threatening to collapse into a recession in 2013. There’s barely any gross domestic product (GDP) growth while debt levels surge. You also have high unemployment and rallies on the streets of Athens and Madrid in response to the tough austerity measures put forth by Greece and Spain. You kind of wonder if Americans would flood the streets here if wages and pensions were suddenly axed.
Yet what makes the slowing of GDP growth in the eurozone a significant concern is its negative impact on the non-eurozone countries, including the Asiatic countries, such as China and Japan, which have seen their GDP growth affected.
We are seeing more cuts in GDP growth rates across the board for 2013. GDP growth in the United Kingdom (U.K.) was slashed to a mere 0.9% in 2013, down from the prior estimate calling for growth of 1.3%, according to research by the European Commission. The reality is that GDP growth could be even worse should the eurozone fail to sufficiently recover.
The European Commission is predicting a gloomy outlook, with the eurozone’s GDP growth contracting 0.4% this year and growing a muted 0.1% in 2013. Add in the massive debt loans and pressure to cut spending, and you’ll realize why I’m deeply concerned.
Of course, the problem is that the spotlight on the massive debt and bailouts of Greece … Read More
When it comes to the latest presidential election, the central focus for many U.S. citizens has been the lack of gross domestic product (GDP) growth for America. Since the Great Recession began several years ago, GDP growth has remained far below potential, leaving millions of people unemployed and looking for work. During this time, the global economy has also slowed. While President Barack Obama has made large claims about what he can do to help increase GDP growth, let’s take a look at the most likely scenario.
During a presidential campaign, all politicians will make grandiose claims about how they can solve all of the country’s problems and kick-start GDP growth. Of course, we all know that the president does not create jobs in the private sector, but creates a structure that can either help or hinder job creation. With the global economy continuing to slow, many Americans are hoping that President Obama’s second term is far more business-friendly than his first.
Because the president faces a House of Representatives that is controlled by the Republican Party, the fear of political gridlock is now becoming a reality once again. With the fiscal cliff issue looming on the horizon, this divided political structure will surely slow the decision-making process. All hurdles to GDP growth should be avoided by both political parties. As much as it is rare to see, both sides should come together to help create the foundation for America’s GDP growth to increase to acceptable levels. With a sluggish global economy, America cannot look to other nations to help pull it out of this trough.
This is the reason … Read More