Friday, March 13, 2015

Week Ends Poorly for Stocks, as PPI Indicates Deflation, Euro Falls, Dollar Rallies

Since stocks are close to all-time highs, there isn't much in the way of analysis to explain marginal moves in one direction or another, except along the lines of anticipatory buying/selling in the face of a potential Fed rate hike in June... or September... or never.

That's why it was a little surprising to see stocks fall on news that the PPI registered an outsize negative number this morning, indicative of outright deflation, the one thing of which the Fed and the government are deathly afraid.

PPI had dropped 0.8 percent in January. In the 12 months through February, producer prices fell 0.6 percent, the first decline since the series was revamped in 2009. February PPI, measured on a month-t-month basis, fell 0.5 percent.

Falling prices mean less spending, and less spending begets lower prices in a competitive environment (according to economics 101) and lower prices, as part of the spiral, means lower wages, or, at least no raises in wages, but it's what has been occurring, more or less, since the last financial crisis in 2008-09. One need only know where to look for deals and bargains; they are out there.

But, lower prices cause all kinds of problems for the Fed, already at the zero-bound on rates, because the have no tools to fight deflation, since the entire banking regimen depends on at least some inflation, all the time and everywhere.

Lower oil prices were just the first symptom of the deflation problem, or, maybe the second, following stagnant wages and a lack of job growth (forget the unemployment figures - they're a sham) and now the decline in the price around which everything else revolves has gotten the vicious cycle working overtime. The dollar rising is another ancillary symptom of a moribund economy, one which is about to keel over and die for good, something it should have done in 2009. The other shoe is dropping, and the Fed isn't going to be able to catch this one before it hits the floor with an awful thud. Imports are becoming cheaper, due to just about all our trading partners desperately devaluing their currencies.

The Dollar Index shot up over 100 today, closing at 99.41, a twelve-year high. The euro dipped below 1.05 again. It is rapidly approaching parity with the dollar, and will likely be worth less than a greenback within mere months.

Without inflation, people save instead of spend, pay down debt instead of incurring more, and generally speaking, life gets better for the average Joe or Jane consumer. The honest truth is that banks - at the heart of our global economic malaise - don't want people out of debt, they want them deeper and deeper in debt.

And, if wages stagnate or decline, and people get laid off, the government collects less in taxes and - boo-hoo - they can't service the debt (they can't anyhow, that's proven by our $18 trillion national debt, but that's another story) or provide needed (or unneeded) services.

So, rock, meet hard place. And that's why even if a stinking bad economy keeps Wall Street flush with fresh money from the Fed printing press, it's still a bad economy that is, in the end, unsustainable.

That is about the best guess as to why stocks sold off today, even on BAD news, which was supposed to be GOOD.

Stocks were also down for the week. The Dow fell 107.47 (-0.60%); the S&P shed 17.86 (-0.86%) and the NASDAQ led the downside move, losing 55.61 (-1.13%). It was the second straight weekly loss for the NASDAQ and the Dow, the third in a row for the S&P.

Closing Prices (3/13):
Dow Jones 17,749.31, -145.91 (-0.82%)
S&P 500 2,053.40, -12.55 (-0.61%)
NASDAQ 4,871.76, -21.53 (-0.44%)

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