Investment Contrarians

Unemployment Rate

Unemployment Rate 2013

The unemployment rate represents the percentage of the total workforce, between the working ages of 15-64, who are unemployed, but who are actively seeking work, in a specified period (monthly or yearly usually). It is calculated by dividing the number of unemployed individuals by those currently working, in a specified period. This is a closely watched measure for governments around the world, because it is a key gauge of how economies are performing.

A very low unemployment rate signals a strong economy and is used as a barometer for wage inflation and capacity utilization. A very high unemployment rate is a sign of a weak economy, including slacking capacity and falling wages.

Why What’s Happening in the Bond Market Now Is So Important to Stock Investors

By for Investment Contrarians | Dec 10, 2013

Stock InvestorsTaper or no taper? When? How much? These are the worries that are currently driving tensions in the stock market on a daily basis. As I wrote in a previous article, no one seems to care that corporate revenue growth is muted and consumers aren’t spending.

Last week, we saw jobs market data that helps support the Federal Reserve’s reasons to begin tapering its bond buying program.

The non-farm payrolls reported the generation of 203,000 new jobs—better than the consensus estimate of 180,000 for the month of November. This represented the second straight month that more than 200,000 jobs were created, and while the jobs market has a long way to go, this is positive news. Jobs numbers were revised upwards in September and October.

Now it may be true that the quality of jobs created could be improved upon, as much of the increase in the jobs market continues to be driven by the service sector and other lower-skilled jobs. However, the results do suggest some action may be taken by the Federal Reserve.

The unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of seven percent, much better than the consensus 7.2% and October’s 7.3%. The rate appears positive on the surface.

The Federal Reserve had said it wants to see the unemployment rate fall to around 6.5% before it considers raising interest rates, but with a seven percent rate, you have to wonder if the Federal Reserve is thinking hard about when to rein in its monthly bond buying and reduce the stock market’s dependency on cheap money.

Yet I don’t think the Federal Reserve will begin tapering until … Read More

Should You Stay in Stocks When Fed Finally Tapers?

By for Investment Contrarians | Dec 6, 2013

Fed Finally TapersFor me, trading has always revolved around economic fundamentals and stock market analysis. And if you’re like me, you’re getting somewhat irritated with the recent trading in the stock market by investors who seem more inclined to trade on what economists at the Federal Reserve do with their quantitative easing strategy than on what’s really important—the underlying fundamentals of the economy and corporate America’s financial health.

The reality is that corporate America is struggling to grow revenues. This means that companies and consumers aren’t spending at levels that make me comfortable with the economy. Of course, the stock market doesn’t really seem to care; it simply wants the flow of cheap money to continue.

In my view, it’s the same old thing that continues to engulf the trading in the stock market, and it’s annoying. For instance, if we see strong non-jobs economic data, the stock market edges higher. If we see signs of strengthening in the jobs market, the stock market sells off.

Of course, that’s because the Fed has made it clear that jobs creation is the focal point that will dictate when the central bank will begin to taper its monthly bond buying program, an unprecedented policy that has added trillions of dollars of debt to the bank’s balance sheet.

While all eyes will be on the non-farm payrolls reading today, November’s ADP Employment Change reading released last Wednesday showed that 215,000 new jobs were created last month, which is well above the consensus estimate of 173,000 and the upwardly revised 184,000 jobs created in October. How did the stock market react to the good news? Negatively, … Read More

Why America May Be Fabricating Its Jobs Numbers

By for Investment Contrarians | Nov 21, 2013

Fabricating Its Jobs NumbersMany accuse China of manipulating its economic data to fit what the market wants to see, yet this kind of behavior doesn’t appear to be isolated to China. It even occurs here—if you believe what the New York Post reported in a recent editorial. If it were true, to be honest, I wouldn’t be that surprised.

According to the article, there are allegations that the Census Bureau fabricated jobs market data reflected in the non-farm payrolls reading in 2010 and that this continues to occur. (CNBC, “Faked data may have boosted 2012 job reports: NY Post,” CNBC web site, November 19, 2013.)

But whether there may or may not be manipulated data within the monthly jobs market reading, I’m not here to determine that. All I can say on the matter is that how the jobs market data is reported and what is reported has always been suspect to me.

The government tells us there are about 11.3 million Americans unemployed in the jobs market, representing an unemployment rate of 7.3% in October. Now think about it; what does the reference “unemployed” really mean? The government seems to let you think it implies the number of individuals looking for work in the jobs market—but that’s not the case.

There are millions of workers not included in the unemployed numbers because they have dropped out of the workforce or have given up looking for work four weeks prior to the report. The problem is these people should still be considered unemployed regardless of the criteria used by the U.S. Department of Labor. But we all know that the number of unemployed … Read More

Why a Closer Look at October Jobs Numbers Paints Anything but a Rosy Picture

By for Investment Contrarians | Nov 12, 2013

2013 October Jobs NumbersIn my previous commentary, I discussed the third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth and how it was really weaker than it appeared. The Federal Reserve should realize the underlying weakness in personal spending, business investment, and export sales.

The nonfarm payrolls reading released on Friday was also suspect. On the surface, the creation of 204,000 new jobs in the jobs market in October seemed spectacular, given the U.S. government shutdown during that period. Apparently, the impasse didn’t impact the October jobs market, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Source: “Employment Situation Summary,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 8, 2013.)

But then there are other numbers that shed some light on October’s count. Given the estimate of 120,000 new jobs, the October jobs market reading appears to be spectacular. An average of 190,000 new jobs have been created each month over the past 12 months. The stock market appears to be scared by the numbers (fearing a drop in quantitative easing), but the reality is the economy needs to see about 400,000 to 500,000 new jobs created each year to maintain a healthy jobs market. The average jobs growth is supported by the weak revenue growth by corporate America. It’s clearly time to take some money off the table on stocks now.

There also continues to be 11.3 million unemployed in the jobs market, and that figure is likely much higher if you count the workers who have dropped out from the workforce and those who are employed full-time but working at jobs that are well below their experience level and skill set. About 8.1 million were working … Read More

How Growing Chinese Credit Signals Long-Term Opportunity in Gold

By for Investment Contrarians | Nov 11, 2013

Chinese Credit SignalsI think it’s interesting how people, including the mainstream media, discuss an issue without truly understanding what it really means. It seems that skimming the surface is good enough these days, as no one seems to want to dig a little deeper.

One example is the recent reports from Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who stated that the Chinese economy must grow at least 7.2% per year in order to limit the unemployment rate at four percent. (Source: “China Premier warns against loose money policies,” Reuters, November 5, 2013.)

As we all know, the Chinese economy is extremely important. As the second-largest nation in the global economy, its ability to manage the Chinese economy and prevent it from weakening further is quite important.

China’s Premier warned against creating even easier monetary conditions within the Chinese economy, as additional money printing could lead to even higher levels of inflation. Currently, the total credit supply is now in excess of $16.4 trillion (or 100 trillion yuan), approximately twice the size of its entire Chinese economy.

With the global economy still quite weak, China has had trouble exporting. It is now trying to transition the Chinese economy from export-led to domestically oriented, reducing its reliance on the global economy.

At least, that’s the story on the surface…

Here’s what troubles me: the Chinese economy is slowing, we all know that, yet all of its money printing so far has led to a total amount of credit supply twice the size of its entire economy.

So, what has all of this money printing really done?

It’s caused people in the Chinese economy to react by … Read More