Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Stocks Continue to Soar; Dow Closing in on 23,000

Maybe, in some strange, new world not yet discovered, the spectacular gains in pieces of paper known as stocks is considered awesome and grand.

Oh, wait, that's this world.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed the 22,000 mark just over a month ago on September 11. Since then, there have been 18 sessions in which the Dow finished higher, as opposed to just seven in which it closed lower. Additionally, the down days were much smaller, percentage-wise, than the up days.

Party on!

At the Close, Monday, October 16, 2017:
Dow: 22,956.96, +85.24 (+0.37%)
NASDAQ: 6,624.00, +18.20 (+0.28%)
S&P 500: 2,557.64, +4.47 (+0.18%)
NYSE Composite: 12,359.52, +7.52 (+0.06%)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Markets Finish Week On Positive Note

Stocks shrugged off Thursday's minor descent with a ho-hum advance in Friday's session, the Dow ending the week at record highs and its fifth straight week of gains.

After PPI and CPI data showed inflation on the rise, market participants were content to trade upwards, as inflation expectations are supposedly a key to the Fed keeping their promise to raise interest rates again this year, purportedly by 25 basis points in December.

The Fed has been desperately seeking consumer inflation, targeting two percent, but prices have remained stubbornly low according to the widely-used government data.

So long as inflation continues to rise and unemployment remains at historically-low levels, the Fed sees a path to higher interest rates and a cushion against any economic headwinds.

Of course, the Fed needs to continue their narrative for normalization of interest rates, which have been one percent or lower for almost all of the 21st century and have been in that range continuously since the crash of 2008.

All of the major indices ended the week with gains, albeit small ones of less than 1/2 percent.

The level of complacency in the financial community is mind-boggling.

At the Close, Friday, October 13, 2017:
Dow: 22,871.72, +30.71 (+0.13%)
NASDAQ: 6,605.80, +14.29 (+0.22%)
S&P 500: 2,553.17, +2.24 (+0.09%)
NYSE Composite: 12,352.00, +13.26 (+0.11%)

For the week:
Dow: +98.05 (+0.43%)
NASDAQ: +15.62 (+0.24%)
S&P 500: +3.84 (+0.15%)
NYSE Composite: +34.31 (+0.28)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Stocks Take a Breather

Stocks did not close at record highs Thursday.

Shocking!

At the Close, Thursday, October 12, 2017:
Dow: 22,841.01, -31.88 (-0.14%)
NASDAQ: 6,591.51, -12.04 (-0.18%)
S&P 500 2,550.93, -4.31 (-0.17%)
NYSE Composite: 12,338.74, -23.32 (-0.19%)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Adam Smith, Grains, Silver, the PPI, and Deflation

For months, if not years, Federal Reserve officials have been harping on the absence of inflation during their era of unrelenting quantitative easing (money printing). This phenomenon has baffled the pointed heads of the Fed, since it would be only natural for prices to rise with the advent of scads of fresh money hitting the market.

The problem for the Fed is simple. Their transmission lines have been blunted for the past eight years, with their easy money stopped at the bank level, never actually reaching commercial or consumer participants in the general economy. Thus, stocks, bonds and various currencies have experienced outsize gains - those assets experiencing above average appreciation, i.e., inflation - while the more mundane elements of the vast economic landscape have wallowed in a regime of low inflation, disinflation or outright deflation.

As the Fed prepares to sell off assets from its enormous ($4.4 trillion) balance sheet, the matter of price inflation has once again become a major concern. Fed officials disingenuously mutter on and about wage growth, seeking to convey the impression that they are somehow concerned for the welfare of workers (labor). Wage growth, which has stagnated since the year 1999 if not earlier, is a false argument for inflation. what the Fed wants is price inflation for everyday goods, commercial mid-production products, and base goods.

It's not happening.

In his magnificent tome, "The Wealth of Nations," author Adam Smith takes pains - and many pages - in discussion of nominal prices, concerning himself in his writings with the price of corn. Scholars rightfully insist that Smaith's intention was to show how prices in base goods are more important a measurement of economic health than pricing in currency.

With that knowledge, variations in currencies and base grains - wheat, corn, rice - can serve as an impressive measurement of real inflation, since the cost of producing marketable grain from hectares of farm land is somewhat non-variable, considering that the labor and fuel costs are relatively static.

In other words, since farmers are paying their hired hands roughly the same wage and the cost of operating the machinery to harvest the grains is also somewhat static, the price of finished grain in terms of currencies of choice - in his case, silver, can determine whether the environment is inflationary, deflationary, or neutral.

This morning's release of PPI data showed an increase of 0.4% month-over-month and a rate of 2.6% year-over-year. The increase puts the PPI at a level last seen in 2012. CPI (Consumer Price Index) remains mired in mediocrity, at a rate of 1.9% annually. That is the final inflation number, though it is hardly a reliable one.

Since the US economy is so vast and dynamic, it's difficult to get a grip on the overall flow of anything, though it's fairly certain that the inflation rate is higher than what the government is reporting.

On the other hand, taking into account Adam Smith's famous measurements, grains - the basis for much of what Americans and animals of husbandry eat - have crashed in recent weeks and months, along with silver, which has been rangebound for the past four years and is thus a benign measurement, useful in actual discussions of nominal prices.

On that basis, the Fed is likely to be disappointed in their inflation expectations. Since their data is so badly maligned, it cannot be trusted, while Adam Smith's has stood the tests of time.

It's deflation, as far as the eye can see, no matter what the Federal Reserve officials - who have proven, time and again, to be nothing more than dunces with degrees - try to squeeze out of the economy. The deflation is especially evident considering the levels of price suppression in silver. Were silver to rise to somewhat more realistic levels, the cost of buying a bushel or wheat or corn or rice would fall substantially.

Stocks made new all-time highs on Wednesday, but are pulling back in early trading Thursday morning.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Economics - and Nobel Prizes - Aren't What They Used To Be

In 1946, with the world recovering from the devastation of a global war, Henry Hazlitt wrote Economics in One Lesson. It's become a classic of Austrian Economics.

There's a free PDF HERE, that would be a good place for the 98% (probably more) of the population that has either never even heard of Henry Hazlitt nor read any of his material.

Since then, the study and application of economics has taken a path which mirrors that of the value of the US dollar. In other words, it's taken a fairly precipitous decline.

So it is that this year's winner of the Nobel Prize for economics is one Richard Thaler, a pop psychologist masquerading as an intelligent person. Thaler's prize-winning contribution to the field stems from a 2015 book he had published, called Misbehaving. Thaler's enormous discovery was that people don't always react to economic conditions in the ways Keynesian economists expect.

That revelation is so deep (sarcasm) that Thaler is being mocked in the comments section of an article in that bastion of higher learning, Yahoo! Finance.

It's not necessary to go into how insipid and uninspiring Thaler's work is. All that is necessary to understand the superficial nature of his "scholarship" is that he has been bestowed with the title of father of behavioral economics, whatever that's supposed to mean.

Now wonder central banks control the world. The rest of us are stupid.

At the Close, Monday, October 9, 2017:
Dow: 22,761.07, -12.60 (-0.06%)
NASDAQ: 6,579.73, -10.45 (-0.16%)
S&P 500: 2,544.73, -4.60 (-0.18%)
NYSE Composite: 12,293.95, -23.74 (-0.19%)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Payroll Loss Means Nothing As Stocks Recover to Close Friday Flat

Weekend Wrap: Even a horrible September jobs report couldn't slow down the runaway freight train that is the US stock market.

After the BLS reported on Friday a net loss of 33,000 jobs in the month, stocks were lower for most of the session, though investors shrugged off the data as the result of hurricane that hit Texas and Florida and continued to buy as the afternoon wore towards the closing bell.

The late-day surge left the markets mostly flat for the session, with the NASDAQ the only major index to post a gain.

For the week, however, stocks put in one of their best performances of the year, led by the Dow Industrials, which ramped up 1.65%. The laggard was the broad-based NYSE Composite, which posted a gain of just under one percent.

The non-farm payroll report for September was the first since 2010 to show a loss in employment. Despite the three-month average declining sharply to 91,000 from 172,000, stocks were still the place to be.

As stated previously here at Money Daily many times, there is nothing to impede stocks from careening higher for what looks to be the remainder of 2017. with the Fed on hold until December conceding rate increases, and the Bank of Japan and the ECB buying stocks with both fists, passive investors need do nothing besides sitting back and waiting for their quarterly statements.

Making money has never been so easy.

At the Close, Friday, October 6, 2017:
Dow: 22,773.67, -1.72 (-0.01%)
NASDAQ: 6,590.18, +4.82 (+0.07%)
S&P 500: 2,549.33, -2.74 (-0.11%)
NYSE Composite: 12,317.69, -21.24 (-0.17%)

For the Week:
Dow: +368.58 (+1.65%)
NASDAQ: +94.22 (+1.45%)
S&P 500: +29.97 (+1.15%)
NYSE Composite: +108.53 (+0.89%)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Easy Money Fosters a World of Fatties, Free-Spending, and Fallacies

Easy Street.

It's where we all reside these days, as stocks reach new all-time highs on a regular basis, quarterly fund notices are eagerly awaited for the good news, and no calamity, disaster, data, or dictator can hope to stem the flow of money into the pockets of Wall Street brokers and their eager investors.

Easy Money.

That's the ticket to lifestyles of the rich and famous. What's known widely as the "wealth effect," has everybody giddy with the possibilities of bigger homes, faster cars, more lavish lifestyles. Why would anybody claim that these manufactured dreams are not for the best?

Because they're dreams, fallacies, shadow plays on the collective psyche of investors, which these days happens to include anybody with a decent job and a 401k retirement plan. TV ads show healthy retirees working on sports cars, opening wineries, bicycling along the shore of some deserted beach.

It's a facade for the real lives people live. More than a fair share of people are either in poor health, somewhat destitute, unable to decide between paying for medication or food, and the rents or mortgages on those "bigger homes" are increasing at an unsustainable rate.

Everything, from pickle relish to cell phone plans, is massively overpriced and planning on going higher. The very priests and priestesses of high finance = the governors of the Federal Reserve - tell us that they would like to see more inflation. Seriously. Higher prices... for everything.

Walk through any upscale supermarket and witnessed the blank stares of shoppers strolling and trolling the aisles, mesmerized by colorful labels and delicious deals. It's enough to make the whole country obese.

And it is. Nobody in the financial realm will admit it, but easy money is a leading cause of obesity. It's also a leading cause of mass stupidity. It takes no financial discipline nor anything more than basic math skills to suck up the profits from the font of Wall Street. It's intellectually dishonest and mentally disarming. It results in being massively unprepared for the present and especially, the future.

Easy money fuels the general degradation of society because of it's essential falsity. The money is conjured out of thin air - with a dabble of debt added for good measure - to buy minuscule portions of companies at prices one would have sneered at 20 years ago. Most people with investments don't even know which companies they own, how many shares of such or what the price to earnings ratio is of the underlying securities.

Is this rational? People have so much trust in money-changers that they don't even know what they own, or why. That's what's troubling. American investors have entrusted their futures to the same group of people who brought us the dotcom disaster, the sub-prime mortgage bubble and the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008-09. It's lunacy of a high order.

There's an old adage that goes, "you get what you pay for." Besides being an example of poor grammar (another sign of the times), there is the ring of truth to the expression. What people have paid for their stocks, their perceived riches, their assumed wealth, is small, yet they expect the returns to be great.

After fees, taxes and the great wealth destroyer of inflation, they're not likely to be very pleased when they cash out.

At the close, Thursday, October 5, 2017: (all record closing highs)
Dow: 22,775.39, +113.75 (+0.50%)
NASDAQ: 6,585.36, +50.73 (+0.78%)
S&P 500: 2,552.07, +14.33 (+0.56%)
NYSE Composite: 12,338.93, +34.26 (+0.28%)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

With September Non-Farm Payroll Data On Deck, Stocks Post Record Highs

Even though ADP reported the weakest jobs numbers in 11 months Wednesday, investors shrugged off the data and limped higher, with all major indices closing at fresh all-time highs.

ADP private employment figures for September showed a gain of 135,000 jobs, with the most damage done to firms with less than 20 employees, which registered a loss of 11,000 jobs. The firm, which tracks private payrolls, was quick to point out that hurricanes Harvey and Irma accounted for 50-60,000 fewer jobs created, noting that many mom-and-pop-like outfits were forced to close during and after the disasters that covered much of Florida and the Houston metropolitan area.

Without doing the requisite math, October's figures are likely to be higher by an order of magnitude, unless Mother Nature unleashes more of her wrath on America's southern states.

The data which ADP provides usually presages the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Non-farm Payroll release, due out on Friday, October 6.

Wall Street will likely remain unfazed with a low NFP number, taking the easy way out by blaming storms and natural disasters for the poor showing.

Life goes on, new jobs or not.

At the Close, Wednesday, October 4, 2017:
Dow: 22,661.64, +19.97 (+0.09%)
NASDAQ: 6,534.63, +2.91 (+0.04%)
S&P 500: 2,537.74, +3.16 (+0.12%)
NYSE Composite: 12,304.67, +1.79 (+0.01%)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Stocks Race to All-Time Highs... Again

It's getting to be like a broken record. All of the major indices leapt to all-time closing highs on Tuesday.

Presented without comment, because, really, what is one to say?

At the Close, Tuesday, October 3, 2017:
Dow: 22,641.67, +84.07 (+0.37%)
NASDAQ: 6,531.71, +15.00 (+0.23%)
S&P 500: 2,534.58, +5.46 (+0.22%)
NYSE Composite: 12,302.88, +38.21 (+0.31%)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Stocks Start Fourth Quarter Off Like Rocket Launch

Borrowing a phrase from Buzz Lightyear from the Pixar movie, Toy Story, US equity markets are on a trajectory to "infinity and beyond," blasting off the fourth quarter with massive gains based entirely on the notion that it's the beginning of a new quarter.

That mindset alone - that there's always a good reason to follow the herd and buy, buy, buy, has propelled stocks for the better part of the last nine years. While that has been a boon to monied investors and the big brokerages, it's also been a gentle salve to the collective psyches of pensioners, at least those of the present and future beneficiary class.

This is a familiar cry during manias, booms, and bubbles which eventually become scorned, busted and bursted. The laws of physics and the loose interpretations of economics cannot be unilaterally undone by the stock markets, no matter how much help is - or has been - given by the Fed and other central banks.

Increases in the prices of stocks at the tail end of a long bull market - and this is the second longest in history - need to rationale. To a large degree, they are driven by their own momentum and the rush to "get in" or "get more" by the captains of fantasy known widely as investment advisors.

At this juncture, prices will probably continue to rise until something finally snaps. What the snap will be, or when it will occur, is the great unknown. For the time being, there still seems to be nothing to derail the freight train to wealth and riches that is the US stock market.

Nothing.

At the Close, Monday, October 2, 2017:
Dow: 22,557.60, +152.51 (+0.68%)
NASDAQ: 6,516.72, +20.76 (+0.32%)
S&P 500: 2,529.12, +9.76 (+0.39%)
NYSE Composite: 12,264.84, +55.68 (+0.46%)

Stocks End Third Quarter with Solid Week

Stocks were up nicely for the final week of the third quarter, posting solid gains for the period from July through September.

At the Close, Friday, September 29:
Dow: 22,405.09, +23.89 (+0.11%)
NASDAQ: 6,495.96, +42.51 (+0.66%)
S&P 500: 2,519.36, +9.30 (+0.37%)
NYSE Composite: 12,209.16, +29.85 (+0.25%)

For the week:
Dow: +55.50 (+0.25%)
NASDAQ: +69.04 (+1.07%)
S&P 500: +17.14 (+0.68%)
NYSE Composite: +57.37 (+90.47%)