Stocks and bonds have gotten to a point which indicate there won't be a rate increase to the Federal Reserve's most basic federal funds rate until at least September of this year and quite probably, beyond that.
Dependent upon data flows to determine whether the economy (or more specifically, the stock market and the 1% of the population that owns them) is strong and durable enough to withstand raising rates from the zero-bound to something higher, say, 0.25 percent or, as some have cynically put forth, 0.125 percent.
Data has been daunting to the Fed. Industrial production, durable goods and advance figures on first quarter GDP have all been short of expectations, adding to the pain which last week's March non-farm payroll figures presented. Of course, stocks, which have become the only game in town, loved the weak numbers, because it puts any thought of a rate increase on a semi-permanent hold, meaning free-or-nearly-free money and credit, with which it is an easy task to invest and make money.
So, we have the twisted dynamic of bad news on the economy being nothing but champagne and rose for players of stocks, and that was well reflected in this week's trading, with all the indices heading back toward all-time highs. This followed a brief respite in March, as speculators nervously sold out of equities, thinking that the Fed might increase rates in June.
The NFP data crushed that line of thinking, and sent stocks off like rockets this week, concluding with Friday's nifty rise, sending the Dow back over 18,000 once again and the NASDAQ within shouting distance of the magical 5,000 mark. The final day of trading for the week was bolstered by an announcement from General Electric (GE), stating that the company would sell nearly all of its GE Capital financing unit and real estate holdings (about $23 billion) to Blackstone and Wells-Fargo, two companies, which over the past seven years since the housing bust, have become the nation's new landlords. GE put forward a plan to repurchase some $50 billion worth of its own shares over the next three years.
Timing of the deal isn't very curious at all. GE has been stock in a range for the past fifteen years, and, with interest rates such a challenge by which to make profits, CEO Jeff Imelt and his executive team probably felt it was due time to return to its industrial roots. It does set precedent, however, by selling such a large chunk of real estate and real estate financing assets to companies that are already heavily entrenched in the sector, putting an exclamation point at the end of the boom-gone-bust that is damning to capitalism and competition.
GE's buyback provisions will not be put to scrutiny. Wall Street loves dilution, making shares more valuable to the fewer who hold them. With a market cap of nearly $298 billion, GE had room to maneuver, but the key question remains, by lopping off more than a quarter of its asset base, is the company going to generate better returns?
It's already at nosebleed levels, with a P/E of 19 and an annual divided of 0.92, meaning it will take the plunger who invests in the stock today nearly 31 years to double his/her money on the dividend alone. That's a long time, and, with arduous risk implanted.
Nonetheless, stock junkies loved the deal, boosting shares of GE by nearly 11% on the day and making the Dow the percentage winner among major indices.
For the week the Dow Industrials jumped 294.41 points (1.66%); the S&P added 35.10 (1.70%) and the NASDAQ was the big winner for the week, gaining 109.04 points (2.23%).
On the day:
Dow 18,057.65, +98.92 (0.55%)
S&P 500 2,102.06, +10.88 (0.52%)
NASDAQ 4,995.98, +21.41 (0.43%)
Editor's note: Due to unforeseen circumstances and largely, common sense, Money Daily will soon be converting to a weekly format - with the occasional daily post thrown in on major news developments - to present a more robust and well-reasoned approach to our readers. The daily noise and rigid schedule has made it difficult to offer a cogent, thought-provoking view, which is our purpose. In coming weeks, readers should be advised to seek out the weekly recaps, published on Friday evenings, or, more likely, Saturday afternoons.