There’s one point that I cannot stress enough in this column, and longtime readers are sure to know it: consumer confidence is extremely important for economic growth here in America.
It’s simple logic. Because so much of our economy is built on domestic spending, without an increase in consumer confidence, consumer spending will languish and we won’t have higher levels of economic growth.
Recently, new information from the Conference Board was quite disappointing. The Consumer Confidence Index dropped to a seven-month low in November to 70.4, following a decline in October as well. (Source: “Consumer Confidence Declines Again in November,” The Conference Board web site, November 26, 2013.)
Over the short term, consumer confidence declined due to people stating their concerns regarding a weakening of economic conditions. What’s more concerning is that the expectations for the next six months worsened, as people stated they were increasingly worried about their job prospects and earnings, which isn’t a surprise considering the data hasn’t been all that positive lately, especially when it comes to wage growth.
If consumer confidence is turning pessimistic over the stability of jobs or paychecks, how can we really expect the average American to increase their spending or businesses to feel more confident in expanding?
This type of uncertainty leads to slower economic growth. If you are unsure of your financial health over the next few months, chances are you won’t increase your spending, and a lower level of consumer confidence leads to muted economic growth.
Clearly, one market sector I am worried about is that of companies catering to the average American.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Target Corporation … Read More
The more I view this stock market, the more nervous I get. While Wall Street gets set for some terrific year-end bonuses and investors take some amazing gains off the table, I’m sensing some euphoric buying in numerous areas of the stock market.
We saw what happened to hydrogen-cell car maker Tesla Motors, Inc. (NASDAQ/TSLA), as the high-momentum stock rocketed to $194.50 on September 30. The euphoric buying was clearly overdone and set for a nasty decline as short-sellers jumped in. Fast-forward nearly two months, and the stock has plummeted 38%, sitting at the $120.00 level as of Friday. And while some are blaming multiple engine fires in several Tesla cars, the reality was the stock simply accelerated much too fast on the chart to levels that were clearly unsustainable. Even now, trading at 80 times (X) its estimated 2014 earnings and with a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) of 11, the valuation is obscene.
Areas that I view as having some excessive run-ups and valuation in the stock market include the Internet services and social media sectors, which include such stocks as Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ/FB), Twitter, Inc. (NYSE/TWTR), and Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ/NFLX). These high-momentum stocks are excessively priced by the stock market, so investors should be wary of chasing them higher. As an alternative investment strategy, wait for the stock to come to you; in other words, wait for weakness in the stock market and for prices to decline before jumping into these investment areas.
The cloud services area in the tech sector has also seen some massive advances to the point where there is so much hype built into the … Read More
After so many years following the Great Recession, it’s still quite astounding that job creation remains so slow. This obviously indicates the lack of economic growth, even after trillions of dollars have been pumped into the U.S. economy.
While there has been a lot of optimistic talk in the mainstream media, there have been an increasing number of data points indicating America’s economic growth is still very fragile.
Recently, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released the results of its November 2013 “Empire State Manufacturing Survey,” and they didn’t support the economic growth theory.
This report is an indication of the state of manufacturing in New York. The net result is that overall business conditions fell to their first negative reading since May. New orders also fell 13 points into negative territory at -5.5. Labor conditions worsened, indicating a decline in the average number of hours worked per week. (Source: “Empire State Manufacturing Survey,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York web site, November 15, 2013.)
It’s no wonder that job creation is still lagging: the manufacturing industry is still experiencing a lack of economic growth. In fact, these results indicate that manufacturing is beginning to weaken once again.
We can’t have economic growth if large sectors of the U.S. economy are experiencing a decline in business activity.
On top of the decline in manufacturing, the level of prices paid is beginning to increase to a level above what firms are able to charge clients.
In 2013, prices paid by manufacturing firms increased 3.4% on average, and they are expected to increase four percent in 2014. Manufacturing firms estimate that … Read More
As most readers know, I have been calling for a reduction in the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing (QE) program for some time. My worry has been that the current level of quantitative easing is not doing much to help Main Street, and it is building potentially dangerous risks to our economy over the long term.
I’m worried about the future of this country, and yes, even my investments. I don’t want my hard-earned wealth to disappear due to mistakes made by the Federal Reserve in continuing to pump quantitative easing.
And I’m obviously not alone in this sentiment, as recently the CEO of BlackRock, Inc. (NYSE/BLK), Laurence Fink, stated that the Federal Reserve’s current quantitative easing policy is creating bubbles in various markets. (Source: Bloomberg, October 29, 2013.)
Fink’s opinion that the Federal Reserve should begin tapering quantitative easing immediately comes from the long-term viewpoint of the overall economy and the damage that is being done. Even though money managers like Fink might benefit from quantitative easing over the short term from the boost in asset prices, if bubbles get bigger, the damage over the long term could be extremely serious.
This has been my viewpoint for some time. Sure, it’s great that the market has gone up recently, but if it’s not sustainable, what’s the point?
Much like real estate a decade ago, we all enjoyed the party on the way up, but the hangover has taken years to work off.
Because the Federal Reserve has been so aggressive in its quantitative easing policy, it’s not just the stock market that is going up. Investors who are desperate for … Read More