If the way to classify the September stock move as "a confounding ramp on disappointing economic news" gets you stumped, here is Rosenberg to provide some insight. Just call is "deflationary growth or something like that." And as for the NBER’s pronouncement of the recession being over, Rosie has a few words for that as well: "this recovery, with its sub 1% pace of real final sales, goes down as the weakest on record."
It’s a real commentary that the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) decision on the historical record mattered more than the actual economic data. The National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) housing market index is the latest data point in an array of September releases coming in below expected:
Philly Fed index: actual -0.7 versus 0.5 expected
Empire manufacturing index: actual 4.14 versus 8 expected
NAHB: actual 13 versus 14 expected
University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment: actual 66.6 versus 70 expected
It’s early days yet, and these are only surveys, but it would seem as though the economy remains very sluggish as we head towards the third-quarter finish line.
It is truly difficult to come up with an explanation for the breakout, which in turn makes it difficult to ascertain its veracity. If we are seeing a re-assessment or risk or a major asset allocation move, then why did Treasury yields rally 4bps (and led lower by the “real rate”, which is a bond market proxy for “real growth expectations”)?
If it was a pro-growth move, why did copper sell off and the CRB flatten? And where is the volume? Still lacking? So we have a breakout with little or no confirmation. All we can see is that many sentiment measures have swung violently to the upside in recent weeks and the VIX index is all the way back to 21x —- somewhat contrary negative signposts for the bulls.
But the price action is undeniable and the bulls are in fact winning the battle in September, a typically negative seasonal month, after a bloody August. The fact that bonds rallied yesterday is a tad bizarre and perhaps the explanation, if there is one, is that the equity market is enamoured with the cash leaving the corporate balance sheet in favour of dividend payouts and share buybacks and
On Tuesday, the 30-year fixed rate for mortgages plunged to an all-time low of 4.56 per cent. Rates are falling because investors are still moving into risk-free liquid assets, like Treasuries. It’s a sign of panic and the Fed’s lame policy response has done nothing to sooth the public’s fears. The flight-to-safety continues a full two years after Lehman Bros blew up.
Housing demand has fallen off a cliff in spite of the historic low rates. Purchases of new and existing homes are roughly 25 per cent of what they were at peak in 2006. Case/Schiller reported on Monday that June new homes sales were the "worst on record", but the media twisted the story to create the impression that sales were actually improving! Here are a few of Monday’s misleading headlines: "New Home Sales Bounce Back in June"--Los Angeles Times. "Builders Lifted by June New-home Sales", Marketwatch. "New Home Sales Rebound 24 per cent", CNN. "June Sales of New Homes Climb more than Forecast", Bloomberg.
The media’s lies are only adding to the sense of uncertainty. When uncertainty grows, long-term expectations change and investment nosedives. Lying has an adverse effect on consumer confidence and, thus, on demand. This is from Bloomberg:
The Conference Board’s confidence index dropped to a 5-month low of 50.4 from 54.3 in June. According to Bloomberg News:
"Sentiment may be slow to improve until companies start adding to payrolls at a faster rate, and the Federal Reserve projects unemployment will take time to decline. Today’s figures showed income expectations at their lowest point in more than a year, posing a risk for consumer spending that accounts for 70 per cent of the economy.
“Consumers’ faith in the economic recovery is failing,” said guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia, whose forecast of 50.3 for the confidence index was the closest among economists surveyed by Bloomberg. “The job market is slow and volatile, and it’ll be 2013 before we see any semblance of normality in the labor market." (Bloomberg)
Confidence is falling because unemployment is soaring, because the media is lying, and because the Fed’s monetary policy has failed. Notice that Bloomberg does not mention consumer worries over "curbing the deficits". In truth, the public has only a passing interest in the large…
From the beginning of May until late June, stock markets worldwide declined sharply, with losses surpassing 10%. The first weeks of July brought only marginal relief. Ominous voices began to warn that the weakness of stocks was a direct response to the stalling of an economic recovery that has lasted barely a year. Anxiety over debt-laden European countries — most notably Greece — combined with stubbornly high unemployment in the U.S. to create a toxic but fertile mix that allowed concern to blossom into full-bloom fear.
The most common refrain was that stocks are weak because global economic activity is sagging. A July 12 report by investment bank Credit Suisse was titled Are the Markets Forecasting Recession? With no more stimulus spending on the horizon in the U.S., Europeans on austerity budgets and consumer sentiment best characterized as surly, the sell-off in stocks was explained as a simple response to an economy on the ropes.
It’s a good story and a logical one. But it distorts reality. Stocks are no longer mirrors of national economies; they are not — as is so commonly said — magical forecasting mechanisms. They are small slices of ownership in specific companies, and today, those companies have less connection to any one national economy than ever before.
As a result, stocks are not proxies for the U.S. economy, or that of the European Union or China, and markets are deeply unreliable gauges of anything but the underlying strength of the companies they represent and the schizophrenic mind-set of the traders who buy and sell the shares. There has always been a question about just how much of a forecasting mechanism markets are. Hence the saying that stocks have…
Double-dip risks in the U.S. have risen substantially in the past two months. While the “back end” of the economy is still performing well, as we saw in the May industrial production report, this lags the cycle. The “front end” leads the cycle and by that we mean the key guts of final sales — the consumer and housing.
We have already endured two soft retail sales reports in a row and now the weekly chain-store data for June are pointing to sub-par activity. The housing sector is going back into the tank – there is no question about it. Bank credit is back in freefall. The recovery in consumer sentiment leaves it at levels that in the past were consistent with outright recessions. Last year’s improvement in initial jobless claims not only stalled out completely, but at over 470k is consistent with stagnant to negative jobs growth. And exports, which had been a lynchpin in the past year, will feel the double-whammy from the strength in the U.S. dollar and the spreading problems overseas.
Spanish banks cannot get funding and another Chinese bank regulator has warned in the past 24 hours of the growing risks from the country’s credit excesses. A disorderly unwinding of China’s credit and property bubble may well be the principal global macro risk for the remainder of the year. Indeed, perhaps the equity market finally realized yesterday that allowing China more control to defuse an internal property and credit bubble may well be a classic case of “be careful of what you wish for.”
The Bond Cycle and Deflation
I was at an event recently where I was able to see two legends among others – Louise Yamada and Gary Shilling. Louise made the point that while secular phases in the stock market generally last between 12 and 16 years, interest rate cycles tend to be much longer – anywhere from 22 to 37 years; and she has a chart back to 1790 to prove the point! So while all we ever hear is that this secular bull market in bonds is getting long in the tooth, having started in late 1981, it may not yet be over. After all, the deleveraging part of this cycle
U.S. consumer sentiment dipped in early March, according to media reports on Friday of the Reuters/University of Michigan index.
Amid signs that the labor market is approaching a trough but remains frail, the consumer sentiment index declined to 72.5 in March from 73.6 in February. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had been expecting the sentiment index to hit 74 in March.
Yet, Still Shopping
Retail sales showed strength in February. Per the AP:.
For February, sales rose 0.3 percent, the Commerce Department said Friday. That surpassed expectations that sales would decline 0.2 percent.
The overall gain was held back by a 2 percent decline in auto sales, reflecting in part the recall problems at Toyota. Excluding autos, sales rose 0.8 percent. That was far better than the 0.1 percent increase excluding autos that economists had forecast.
If you’re going to stay home (unemployed), perhaps that is cause for the new flat panel TV or laptop?
Calculated Risk does point out that while the trend is improved, the overall level is actual less than what was reported just one month ago:
January was revised down sharply. Jan was originally reported at $355.8 billion, an increase of 0.5% from December.
February was reported at $355.5 billion – a decline without the revision to January.
In other words, reports got ahead of themselves (no surprise), but the actual trend remains moving in an upward trajectory even though things quite frankly suck for the average consumer.
Nothing mind blowing to report this morning. In fact, more of the same – weak consumers, signs of deflation and “better than expected” earnings. Consumer sentiment came in essentially flat this morning at 65.7. This was a slight drop from the last reading, but nothing significant.
The more important news this morning is the personal income and outlays. Personal incomes were flat for the month and fell 2.4% year over year. Consumer spending was up 0.2% for the month and 1.1% year over year. It’s nice to see that people are making less and spending more. All joking aside, the boost in spending was due almost entirely to cash for clunkers which we all know is about the most fiscally irresponsible program this government has ever put together. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this program has the potential to be highly destructive. Taking out a loan from China to finance a program that encourages consumers to take out a loan to purchase a depreciating asset they likely don’t need….The effect on retail sales should be large, but the government just wants to see the near-term boost in GDP.
The market is rising on good earnings news, however (at least it was when I started writing). Intel raised their guidance, Dell posted horrible (though “better than expected”) numbers and Tiffany’s and J. Crew both posted terrible, but “better than expected” quarters. The analysts are still playing catch-up here and that alone is enough to give the market a reason to jump.
It would appear Gazprom has once again come knocking for payment - or else. As Bloomberg reports, Ukraine is pressing the Obama administration to provide political support, as much as $3b in financial aid and “non-lethal weapons,” with the goal of some progress by the end of February, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko says. Of course, given Europe's agreement to further sanction Russia (asEU agrees more "punitive" steps are now possible) President Obama will be happy to lend Ukraine more American taxpayer money (despite the market's perception that Ukraine's default probability is over 80% - six year highs).
Alan Greenspan, Former Fed Chairman, Testifying to the House Oversight Committee on How He Got It Wrong, October 23, 2008
There is growing unease in stock and bond markets around the world that the current Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, has retrieved former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan’s blinders out of the mothballs in some musty old closet at the Fed, thus setting the U.S. economy up for more epic convulsions.
Yesterday, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released its policy statement and rattled markets here and abroad overnight. The statement contained a number of economic absurdities. The first sentence argued that “econ...
Suppose you had the technical ability and raw materials to print up counterfeit dollars, euros or yen that were identical to the real things. Assume you could spend them as fast as you could create them with no fear of any repercussions.
Would you prudently print up only as much fresh currency as you needed for your current lifestyle? Would you create just a bit more than that to help relatives or those in need?
It is most likely you’d have your printing press running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Becoming the richest person in the world would confer great power upon you.
You could rationalize this action because you plan to use the money for good purposes. Imagine the warm feeling you’d get by giving every person in America one million do...
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Last week, the S&P 500 put an end to its streak of weekly losses, despite giving back some gains on Friday. Thursday provided the big catalyst, with the ECB’s announcement of its bold new monetary stimulus plan. Investors were cheered and soothed for the moment. And U.S. fundamentals still look strong. But with Greece trying to turn back time, with volatility elevated (and likely to continue as such), and with the technical situation still dicey, the near term outlook is still worrisome.
In this weekly update, I give my view of the current market environment, offer a technical analysis of the S&P 500 chart...
So as I was saying yesterday (Bitcoin: The Biggest Clown Show In History?), Bitcoin has several obstacles on the path to potential success as an alternative currency. But I forgot to mention hacking and theft at Bitcoin exchanges and other technical problems. This is related to the lack of government backing and the fact that the value of Bitcoins is based entirely on confidence.
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PSW Members - well, what a year for biotechs! The Biotech Index (IBB) is up a whopping 40%, beating the S&P hands down! The healthcare sector has had a number of high flying IPOs, and beat the Tech Sector in total nubmer of IPOs in the past 12 months. What could go wrong?
Phil has given his Secret Santa Inflation Hedges for 2015, and since I have been trying to keep my head above water between work, PSW, and baseball with my boys...it is time that something is put together for PSW on biotechs in 2015.
Cancer and fibrosis remain two of the hottest areas for VC backed biotechs to invest their monies. A number of companies have gone IPO which have drugs/technologies that fight cancer, includin...
Stocks got off to a rocky start on the first trading day in December, with the S&P 500 Index slipping just below 2050 on Monday. Based on one large bullish SPX options trade executed on Wednesday, however, such price action is not likely to break the trend of strong gains observed in the benchmark index since mid-October. It looks like one options market participant purchased 25,000 of the 31Dec’14 2105/2115 call spreads at a net premium of $2.70 each. The trade cost $6.75mm to put on, and represents the maximum potential loss on the position should the 2105 calls expire worthless at the end of December. The call spread could reap profits of as much as $7.30 per spread, or $18.25mm, in the event that the SPX ends the year above 2115. The index would need to rally 2.0% over the current level...
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Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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