Showing posts with label CPI. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CPI. Show all posts

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Weekend Wrap: The Fed Never Had Control, And What They Now Have Is As Fake As Fake News

What a week it was for equity holders and speculators!

Friday's very minor declines snapped five-day winning streaks for the major indices, with the exception of the NYSE Composite, which continued gaining for a sixth straight session.

Solid for the past three weeks, the current rally has managed to relieve the stress from steep losses incurred in December though the majors still have plenty of distance to travel. For instance, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 4034.23 from December 4 through Christmas Eve (Dec. 24), and has since gained 2203.75, nearly half of that amount regained the day after Christmas (Dec. 26), setting a one-day record by picking up 1086.25 points.

The other indices have exhibited similar patterns, with sudden acceleration in the final trading days of December and continuing smaller, albeit significant, positive closes on nine of the twelve sessions from December 26 through January 11.

Catalysts for the post-holiday rally continue to be diverse, the most significant strong data point coming from the BLS, which showed the economy adding 312,000 jobs for December in the most recent non-farm payroll report, released last Friday. So far beyond expectations was that number that it appeared to have kept sentiment positive for a full week after its release.

The week's most important data release was Friday's CPI number, which - thanks largely to the price of gasoline - declined 0.1% in December, and slowed to 1.9% in year-over-year measure. Core was +0.2% (mom) and +2.2% (yoy).

Slowing inflation, or perhaps, outright deflation, is anathema to the Federal Reserve, despite their all-too-frequent suggestions that they exist to keep inflation under check. The entire monetary scheme of the Fed and the global economy would disintegrate without inflation, thus the Fed will be diligent in regards to interest rates going forward. After hiking the federal funds rate at a pace of 25 basis points per quarter for the past two years, the Fed has received warnings aplenty, first from the cascading declines in the stock market, and second, from a squashing of inflation.

That CPI data, for all intents and purposes, killed any idea of a March rate hike, just as the market drop caused Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to frantically call in the Plunge Protection Team just before Christmas. The results from that plea for help have been grossly evident the past three weeks.

While the Fed believes it can control the economy, the truth is that it absolutely cannot. Bond prices and yields point that out in spades. The benchmark 10-year note yield dropped as low as 2.54% (1/3) in the face of all the recent rate hikes. As of Friday, the 2s-10s spread fell to 16 basis points. Already inverted are the 1-year and 2-year notes as related to the 5s. The 1-year closed on Friday with a yield of 2.58%; the 2-year at 2.55%; the 5-year at 2.52%, the 7-year at 2.60, and the 10-year at 2.60%.

The 2s-10s spread is the most cited and closely watched, but the 1s-7s are just two basis points from inversion, the cause, undeniably, the Fed's incessant pimping of the overnight rate.

If bond traders are acting in such a manner that they prefer short-dated maturities over the longer run, the signal is danger just ahead. Talk of an impending recession has tapered off in recent days, but the bond market's insistent buying patterns suggest that the Fed did indeed go too far, too fast with the rate hikes, spurring disinvestment and eventually, a recession.

What the Fed cannot control are human decisions. Noting the sentiment in bonds, the latest stock market gains have been contrived from the start and are certain to reverse course. As has been stated here countless times, bull markets do not last forever and Dow Theory has already signaled primary trend change twice in 2018 (in March-April and October).

The major indices have not escaped correction territory and all are trading below both their 50-and-200-day moving averages. Further those averages are upside-down, with the 200-day below the 50-day. The death crosses having already occurred, stocks will resume their reversion to the mean in the very near future.

Dow Jones Industrial Average January Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
1/2/19 23,346.24 +18.78 +18.78
1/3/19 22,686.22 -660.02 -641.24
1/4/19 23,433.16 +746.94 +105.70
1/7/19 23,531.35 +98.19 +203.89
1/8/19 23,787.45 +256.10 +459.99
1/9/19 23,879.12 +91.67 +551.66
1/10/19 24,001.92 +122.80 +674.46
1/11/19 23,995.95 -5.97 +669.49

At the Close, Friday, January 11, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23,995.95, -5.97 (-0.02%)
NASDAQ: 6,971.48, -14.59 (-0.21%)
S&P 500: 2,596.26, -0.38 (-0.01%)
NYSE Composite: 11,848.01, +8.70 (+0.07%)

For the Week:
Dow: +562.79 (+2.40%)
NASDAQ: +232.62 (+3.45%)
S&P 500: +64.32 (+2.54%)
NYSE Composite: +314.67 (+2.73%)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Despite Relatively Hot CPI, Stocks Rip Higher

What's that old saying?

It's something like... "don't wish too hard, you may get what you want."

Well, it applies to the Fed, ECB, BoJ and other central banks, which have been screaming for higher inflation ever since the Great Financial Crisis of 2008-09.

On Wednesday, they got some of the "good" news. The CPI for January came in with a gain of 0.54 month-over-month, the biggest increase since January of 2017. Being that both January of this and last year were the high points for CPI, it might be a statistical anomaly, though that thought seemingly hasn't crossed the minds of any economic reporters.

Higher consumer prices in January, however, didn’t substantially alter the overall picture on inflation. The increase in the CPI over the past 12 months remained unchanged at 2.1%.

After stripping out volatile gas and food, the more closely followed core rate of inflation rose 0.3% last month. The 12-month rate of core inflation was also flat at 1.8%.

So, once stock players digested the news, which was released an hour prior to the opening bell, futures nosedived, stocks opened deep in the red, but, within an hour, it was off to the races, despite interest rates - especially the 10-year-note - rising sharply.

The 10-year-note popped over 2.9% yield, while gold and silver - traditional inflation hedges - soared throughout the day.

Seems nobody really knows what will happen, though many profess to have deep inner knowledge of how economics actually works.

Maybe we're all just being played for fools.

Pull my finger...

Dow Jones Industrial Average February Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
2/1/18 26,186.71 +37.32 +37.32
2/2/18 25,520.96 -665.75 -628.43
2/5/18 24,345.75 -1,175.21 -1,803.64
2/6/18 24,912.77 +567.02 -1,236.62
2/7/18 24,893.35 -19.42 -1,256.04
2/8/18 23,860.46 -1,032.89 -2288.93
2/9/18 24,190.90 +330.44 -1958.49
2/12/18 24,601.27 +410.37 -1548.12
2/13/18 24,640.45 +39.18 -1508.94
2/14/18 24,893.49 +253.04 -1255.90

At the Close, Wednesday, February 14, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 24,893.49, +253.04 (+1.03%)
NASDAQ: 7,143.62, +130.10 (+1.86%)
S&P 500: 2,698.63, +35.69 (+1.34%)
NYSE Composite: 12,746.72, +172.35 (+1.37%)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Stocks Drubbed on Cool CPI

Stocks opened on the downside for the seventh consecutive session, only this time they did not manage a complete comeback by the close. What triggered the selloff was a tight CPI number, as the widely-watched index of US consumer prices inched up only 0.1% in October, the smallest gain in three months.

At another time in the pantheon of stock market momentum and movement, the soft inflation figure might have spurred a buying spree, as investors could gain confidence that the Fed would not raise rates in December, as is widely anticipated, but that was not the case today. The mood has changed significantly and there's a persistent pessimistic undertone that there soon could be blood in the streets.

Bonds may be calling the next move via the curve (or non-curve as the case may soon be). The spread between 5s and 30s plunged to 73 Basis Points today, the flattest since November of 2007, a key point in time, as it was then that the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) was about to unfold.

The 10-year note remains mired in the 2.30-2.38 range. A break in yield below 2.28 could be a triggering event prior to the December FOMC meeting at which the Fed is poised to raise the federal funds rate for the third time this year.

Credit is being squeezed as are margins in various industries, especially consumer retail. Amazon's foray into the grocery business via its Whole Foods acquisition may be the defining deflationary event of the decade.

As far as the indices are concerned, all eyes are on the Dow Industrials, which, after breaking to an all-time high last Tuesday, have done nothing but drift lower, though the flight path has been gradual... until today.

At the close today, the blue chips have shed 331 points, or about 1.4% since the high reached on November 7.

At the Close, Wednesday, November 15, 2017:
Dow: 23,271.28, -138.19 (-0.59%)
NASDAQ: 6,706.21, -31.66 (-0.47%)
S&P 500: 2,564.62, -14.25 (-0.55%)
NYSE Composite: 12,220.34, -59.77 (-0.49%)

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)

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.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Dow Posts New All-Time High; Retail Sales Miss, Inflation Higher In August

With a 45-point gain on Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average set a new all-time closing high (22,203.48), putting an exclamation mark on what has been an incredibly fruitful week for investors.

With a small gain last Friday, the Dow has now gone five straight sessions without posting a loss. The blue chip average is up 405 points for the week (1.86%) and despite some discouraging data prior to Friday's open, it appears set to finish the week on a healthy note.

The data Friday morning that sent futures lower was a pickup in inflation according to the CPI figures for August, showing a 0.4% increase, due largely to a spike in retail gas prices and a 0.5% increase in the rent factor. On a year-over-year basis, the index is up 1.9%, closing in on the Federal Reserve's two percent target rate.

Retail sales were down 0.2% in August, with the largest contributor to the decline the drop in auto sales which slumped 1.6% for the month after being flat in July.

With inflation up slightly (and understandably) and sales down, the Fed will find itself once again in a box on rate increases and likely do nothing when the FOMC meets next week. Some mention of the winding down of their enormous, $4.1 trillion balance sheet is expected and that could move markets, although the Fed has been extremely cautious to commence the wind-down as it could spark inflation, a market selloff or other unforeseen consequences.

Nonetheless, stocks are poised for another solid week while the economy appears to be slowing gradually during the third quarter.

At the Close, Thursday, September 14, 2017:
Dow: 22,203.48, +45.30 (+0.20%)
NASDAQ: 6,429.08, -31.10 (-0.48%)
S&P 500: 2,495.62, -2.75 (-0.11%)
NYSE Composite: 12,062.62, +7.44 (+0.06%)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Something To Do While Awaiting Speaking By Janet Yellen

Stocks were briefly lower, then higher, but finished split, almost even, for the day.

This is part of the effect of having globalists like Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve controlling global economics. ON Monday, all of Wall Street is apparently waiting for the Fed Chairwoman's speech before congress on Wednesday and Thursday, or the release of the Fed's Beige Book of economic conditions on Wednesday.

Or the market is waiting for something else. Earnings, CPI, Industrial Production. It's always something, and it seems that the market is always waiting.

Over the past eight years this strategy has worked out pretty well for stock investors. Waiting has resulted in massive market gains over time, even though data has been less-than-splendid and often outrightly bad. That's where the "bad news is good news" meme came about: even though economic conditions were seen as negative, it was good for stocks because interest rates would remain low (making sure that stocks were the only game in town) and the free money from the Fed fountainhead would continue to flow.

Seriously, nobody is actually waiting for anything, no matter how much the TV and newspaper financial pundits like to propound on the topic. Investment decisions aren't exactly made based on data, at least not since the GFC. Stocks, and to a large extent, central banks and the Federal Reserve, have become disconnected from reality.

By almost all generally-accepted measures, stocks are overvalued. However, they remain the principal product of the Wall Street hucksters in terms of return. Bonds are returning little, and, if there is any appreciable inflation, they will return nothing in nominal value.

Stocks go up. They also go down. Some do better than others, but, to believe that the entire market is making a conscious choice to wait until Janet Yellen drools and stutters her way through her annual congressional hearings, is a monumental fraud in thinking.

Those who are buying are buying. The sellers are selling. Mostly, it's computers doing all the work and there's no good reason, presently, to make any meaningful changes in any meaningful portfolio.

At least that's what it looks like, but we'll wait and see.

At the Close, 7/10/17:
Dow: 21,408.52, -5.82 (-0.03%)
NASDAQ: 6,176.39, +23.31 (0.38%)
S&P 500 2,427.43, +2.25 (0.09%)
NYSE Composite: 11,751.79, -1.19 (-0.01%)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Four Straight: All Major US Indices Close At Record Highs

Shades of the Weimar Republic, as all financial assets are becoming ridiculously overpriced.

As was the case in the Weimar, this may not end well. Inflation statistics from this morning's CPI reading showed January up 0.6% and the core CPI higher by some 0.3%. Meanwhile, capacity utilization fell 0.3 from December, to 75.3%.

Retail sales figures were also positive, showing a gain of 0.4%, after December's numbers were magically improved, revised from 0.6% to 1.0%. This as holiday sales gains from major retailers were modest or unreported, and large chains such as Sears and Macy's announced mass store closings coming throughout the year.

Global stock indices have also been ramping higher of late, an indication that the inflation, so often promised by endless rounds of quantitative easing (money printing) and an extended period (8 to 15 years) of low interest rates (some below zero) is finally occurring. What the globalists have been touting and predicting to happen can only lead to one logical conclusion: higher prices for consumers, a condition that will prove to impoverish the average citizenry of nearly every country in the world.

All of this may have something to do with the globalists running scared that their era of "free trade" and fiat money is about to meet its logical conclusion.

But it's all good for Wall Street, and that's what counts, to Wall Street.

At the Close, 2/15/17:
Dow: 20,618.98, +114.57 (0.56%)
NASDAQ: 5,821.62, +39.05 (0.68%)
S&P 500: 2,351.15, +13.57 (0.58%)
NYSE Composite: 11,510.34, +41.47 (0.36%)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pre-FOMC Forecast: Stocks Steady, Sell Bonds, Buy Silver And Gold

There's an interesting set-up to today's expected FOMC 25 basis point (0.25%) hike in the federal funds rate.

The Yen has collapsed 19% in the last few months, the $USD is now at a 13-year high and stocks are at one of their most overbought levels in 100 years.

If that last statement about stocks being wildly overvalued doesn't give one pause, consider the situation the last time the Fed raised interest rates. It was a year ago, last December. On the day of the rate increase, December 16, the Dow Industrial Average closed at 17,749.09. The index dipped and dodged for two weeks, re-rallying back to close at 17,720.98, December 29, never quite getting back to previous highs.

But, when the new year dawned, the floodgates opened as sellers emerged from the shadows, many of them likely taking advantage of tax rules on profitable trades, mostly allowing those profits from 2015 to float tax-free until April of 2017 (the future) if sold in 2016. Tricky, allowable, rational and fully legal was this tactic which in effect dropped the Dow by a shade over 11 percent to a closing quote of 15,766.74 on January 20.

That was officially correction territory, and, while the rest of the trading community was wondering if this was going to be a 2008 redux, the Fed and its central banking brethren quietly began undermining market fundamentals (again, surprise!) by surreptitiously buying equities through proxies, particularly, the Bank of Japan, notorious for market meddling in everything from auto parts to currencies to yes, Virginia, stocks.

As it turned out, the trade was a worthwhile one for those central banking and insider trading folks. The Dow is now hurtling headlong towards 20,000, so, depending on which stocks the proxies were buying, they may have profited upwards of 25%.

Is the market rigged, or is it ready to face the awful reality of a federal funds rate at 0.50-0.75% The horror! One is amazed at not only the audacity of the central banking cartel, but also its awesome good fortune on all matters regarding their (your) money.

Getting back to the set-up from last year, the yen was down only 10% from September through December of 2015, about half of its decline this year. Can history repeat, and with even better results? That's one heck of a bet, if one is so inclined. For the rest of us, it looks like sitting on the sidelines for the rest of 2016 might turn out to be a profitable move.

It's of dubious probability that stocks are going to stage any kind of dramatic rally, so, what's the play, and when.

It's not often that Money Daily offers specific investment advice, but, taking a gander at what's happened to gold and silver the past few months (gold dropping from above $1300 to below $1160 and silver dipping from near $20 per ounce to around $17 currently), the opportunity is available to not necessarily make a killing, but to preserve some wealth in precious metals, you know, those things that have been considered money for thousands of years, gold and silver.

Being that Money Daily is more of a silver surfer than a gold bug, the recommendation is for silver at any price below $16.00. The market will not likely tolerate downside below $14.50, and the potential is there for a fabulous move upside, without the prerequisite dip.

So, here's the scenario. Stocks will remain steady or turn upwards for the remainder of December. After all, what's Christmas without a Santa Claus rally? Remember, stocks are wildly overpriced and overdue for some corrective medicine. The dollar should get a good, hard beating, but it probably won't because other major economies are in much worse shape.

It gets more complicated, because a strong dollar makes US goods more expensive overseas, and, if our newly-elected president has his way, imports are going to be heavily taxed, and soon. A trade war is likely to erupt by mid-2017.

Bond yields should benefit from rising interest rates, whereas gold and silver should see further price deterioration.

The wild cards are many, but the obvious one is inflation. If the Fed continues resolutely on course to foment inflation above two percent (impossible, say some, though the PPI came in today with a surprising gain of 0.4% for November, at the same time industrial production dipped 0.4% and capacity utilization also fell, to a six-month low of 75.0%.

While the majority of mainstream idiot economists pay scant attention to the latter two data points, CEOs and real economists take these numbers seriously. How is there going to be inflation when industrial production is slowing or stagnant and utilization is only 75% when the norm for growing economies is closer to 85%? Yet, there it is, with producer prices advancing at an annualized rate of 4.8%. Tomorrow's release of CPI for November will be the final nail in the coffin of controlled destruction economics engineered by the Fed and foreign central bank proxies.

Sorry if there's hardly anything positive in this report, but the era of central bank meddling, manipulating and needling intervention is in need of departure. They've managed to create an economy that benefits only those in the know, at the expense of taxpayers and citizens worldwide. It's like a giant plantation, with a healthy portion of worker paychecks - via taxes, fees, inflation and other theft - as the harvest.

You're being fattened and groomed for the slaughter or shearing, in a world which allows most to gain marginally but not substantially. Those without an escape hatch like a side business or secret gold vault are victims of mediocrity, though most will never notice and hardly ever complain.

So, off we go to FOMC land, with the big announcement (that's sarcasm, friend) fewer than two hours away.

Reiterating the call for silver surfing, WAIT. It's difficult with silver at such bargain levels, but it's almost sure to go lower, especialy if it goes a little higher. The central bankers - who hate competition from other forms of money - simply won't have it, and, since they have complete control over the paper silver market, they'll crush the price. If silver spikes above $19, it's a missed opportunity, but, bonus, your holdings are now worth more of those teeny-weeny Federal Reserve Notes.

The best timing may be the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, when nobody is paying much attention, or within the first three weeks of January. After the inauguration on the 20th, it's possible that markets will experience some serious turmoil, so there may be more time available to stock up on the stuff that powers solar panels and is the best electrical conductor in the universe, besides being the money of gentlemen.

“Gold is the money of kings; silver is the money of gentlemen; barter is the money of peasants; but debt is the money of slaves.”
-- Norm Franz in his book Money and Wealth in the New Millennium (2001).

More after the market close.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Stocks Finish Week Mixed to Flat, as CPI Confuses Markets

Odd for a day of options expiration, the day on Wall Street was marked by light volatility and a narrow trading range, the tone set for confusion prior to the open when CPI showed a spike in January to 0.3%, the biggest jump in more than four years.

On a year-over-year basis, excluding food and energy, CPI grew by 2.2%, the highest inflation rate since June 2012. While on the one hand, the data was supportive of further hikes in the federal funds rate, investors were concerned that such a data-driven move by the Fed might cause further declines in stocks.

With that, equities got stuck in cautious trading, ending just about where they started the day.

The minor moves did little to derail the mini-rally that comprised the better part of the holiday-shortened week.

The Dow finished ahead for the week by 418.15 (+2.62%); the S&P added 53.00 points (+2.84%); the NASDAQ ended ahead by 166.92 (+3.85%). The gains were the best of the seven weeks of trading this year, though the indices remain mired in the red zone.

With no FOMC meeting in February, investors will have to ride along until March 15-16, the dates of the next Open Market Committee, though odds are still in favor of the committee keeping rates at 0.25-0.50%, considering the poor performance of stocks following the first rate hike in December.

As was the case at the end of last year, the Fed is stuck in a serious spot, hoping to hike rates three more times this year, while the US and global economies continue to look ragged, worn out and teetering on the brink of recession.

About the best the Fed can offer in its assessment of US markets is that at least they're doing better than all other advanced economies, including France, UK, Germany, Japan, China, and Australia.

Friday's Totals:
S&P 500: 1,917.78, -0.05 (0.00%)
Dow: 16,391.99, -21.44 (0.13%)
NASDAQ: 4,504.43, +16.89 (0.38%)

Crude Oil 31.71 -3.70% Gold 1,232.10 +0.47% EUR/USD 1.1133 +0.01% 10-Yr Bond 1.7480 -0.63% Corn 365.00 -0.14% Copper 2.09 +0.58% Silver 15.44 +0.02% Natural Gas 1.80 -2.65% Russell 2000 1,010.01 +0.53% VIX 20.53 -5.13% BATS 1000 20,682.61 0.00% GBP/USD 1.4406 0.00% USD/JPY 112.5750 0.00%

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Are We Recovering Enough?

Editor's Note: Money Daily stopped being a daily post blog in March, 2014. Well, it's now March, 2015, and, after a year off, little has changed, but Fearless Rick is once again re-charged to begin making daily (Monday - Friday) posts. This is, with hope, the first of many...

The following list is courtesy of the good squids over at Goldman Sachs.

From the start of February through March 2, these are the misses and beats of various US macro data.


1. Personal Spending
2. Construction Spending
3. ISM New York
4. Factory Orders
5. Ward's Domestic Vehicle Sales
6. ADP Employment
7. Challenger Job Cuts
8. Initial Jobless Claims
9. Nonfarm Productivity
10. Trade Balance
11. Unemployment Rate
12. Labor Market Conditions Index
13. NFIB Small Business Optimism
14. Wholesale Inventories
15. Wholesale Sales
16. IBD Economic Optimism
17. Mortgage Apps
18. Retail Sales
19. Bloomberg Consumer Comfort
20. Business Inventories
21. UMich Consumer Sentiment
22. Empire Manufacturing
23. NAHB Homebuilder Confidence
24. Housing Starts
25. Building Permits
26. PPI
27. Industrial Production
28. Capacity Utilization
29. Manufacturing Production
30. Dallas Fed
31. Chicago Fed NAI
32. Existing Home Sales
33. Consumer Confidence
34. Richmond Fed
35. Personal Consumption
36. ISM Milwaukee
37. Chicago PMI
38. Pending Home Sales
39. Personal Income
40. Personal Spending
41. Construction Spending
42. ISM Manufacturing


1. Markit Services PMI
2. Nonfarm Payrolls
4. Case-Shiller Home Price
5. Q4 GDP Revision (but notably lower)
6. Markit Manufacturing PMI

OK, so the US economy is going backwards at a 7:1 ratio of Misses to Beats, but stocks, since the beginning of February, have been roaring (today excluded).

The point is that stocks are ignoring the somber truth that the US economy is running on fumes and Wall Street is running on pretty much less than nothing (kinda like the motto for the NY Lottery - a dollar and a dream).

There are collapsing scenarios unfolding everywhere, from the disgusting behavior of executives at Lumber Liquidators (LL), who were exposed on 60 Minutes this past Sunday. There, the CEO says he didn't now that the below-cost flooring coming out of China didn't meet California (and much of the rest of the US states) standards for toxic emissions, especially formaldehyde. Sad fact is that after being punched down on Monday, the stock rallied more than 5% on Tuesday, but, worry not, it was at nearly 70 about a week ago, and was punished well before the TV coverage, down to around 40 now. Somebody knew something and obviously was front-running. Nothing new there, move along...

The award for most disgusting public display over the past few days is split between three distinct candidates:

  • 1. The US congress, for cheering on the speech of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a joint meeting.
  • 2. The utter stupidity of millions on Twitter over whether some dress was white and gold or blue and black. Hasn't anyone ever heard of distortion?
  • 3. The cops who shot the homeless guy in Los Angeles.

Like I said at the outset, not much has changed over the past year (or five years, for that matter). We're still kicking the can down the road, entrapped in a senseless bout of normalcy bias which is allowing the elite segment of society (Wall Street and DC, mostly) to trample on our freedoms and steal every last cent from the middle and lower classes, along with every shred of dignity.

Yep, like I said when I stopped writing daily diatribes a year ago, nothing is going to change until the Fed stops pumping money into the system. Well, they actually did stop, in the third quarter of last year, but the QE baton was quickly raised by Japan, and will shortly be taken up by the ECB, so, don't expect much to change any time soon. We've got at least a year and a half before the federal funds rate (you know, that one that seems to be permanently stuck between 0 and 0.25%, the rate at which the TBTF banks borrow) gets anywhere close to one percent, and even that could cause a panic in stocks.

In the meantime, the Baby Boomers are trying to figure out how to retire without any interest income, and that's an increasingly difficult trick, since the only reasonable yield one can get is at the far end of the curve, in 30-year bonds, currently hovering around 2.75%. $100,000 invested at that rate returns a whopping $2750 a year, so, you have to put up (and tie up) a million bucks just to live barely above the poverty level. Not much fun when you're 70 years old.

Deflation... it's what's for dinner (after the cat food).

Dow: 18,203.37, -85.26 (-0.47%)
S&P 500: 2,107.78, -9.61 (-0.45%)
Nasdaq 4,979.90, -28.20 (-0.56%)

More tomorrow...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Stock Stories: Best Buy, Intel, Citi, more; What Does Friday Hold; Up or Down?

Markets reversed direction again on Thursday, evening out the week at two down, two up sessions with a weekly gain or loss for the major averages hanging in the balance, all coming down to Friday's closing bell.

The Dow Jones Industrials are 20 points below break even for the week, the S&P is already in the green, by a scant 3.52 points and the NASDAQ is defiantly 44.02 into positive territory, so unless Friday is dramatically lower, there's a very good chance that all three averages will finish the week with positive returns. Jolly good.

Interest rates, particularly the 10-year note, have been trending gradually lower through the first two weeks of 2014, with the lid fully on inflation expectations after this week's PPI and CPI nothing-burger-type data.

Making headlines was Best Buy (BBY), the remaining national electronics retailer, was absolutely bludgeoned, down more than 28% on the day, after reporting total holiday same-store sales dropped 0.8% from the previous year, while analysts so an increase of 0.5%. Total revenue declined to $11.45 billion in the holiday period from $11.75 billion a year earlier, and the company lowered its fourth-quarter guidance. With fourth-quarter and full-year results still forthcoming, investors took a quick exit, en masse, leaving many searching for answers to the retail conundrum that was the 2013 holiday season.

Citigroup reported adjusted earnings of $0.82 a share which missed on estimates of $0.96. Revenue also missed coming in at $17.94 billion versus estimates of $18.18 billion, down from last year's $18.66 billion. The company also announced it will replace all customer debit cards involved in the Target data breach last month, sending shares down 2.39 to 52.60 at the close, a loss of 4.35%.

After the bell, Intel reported a slight miss at 0.51 cents per share on estimates of 0.52 and issued some downbeat guidance, sending shares lower by more than 3% in after-hours trading.

American Express (AXP) and Capital One (COF) each missed on their fourth-quarter reports, sending shares down in the after hours. American Express reported a one-cent miss (1.25 vs. 1.26), while credit provider misses by a solid dime - 1.45 versus expected 1.55 - prompting the question from investors, "what's in their wallet?" Clearly, it was not what they were hoping.

DOW 16,417.01, -64.93 (-0.39%)
NASDAQ 4,218.69, +3.80 (+0.09%)
S&P 1,845.89, -2.49 (-0.13%)
10-Yr Note 99.15, +0.91 (+0.92%) Yield: 2.85%
NASDAQ Volume 1.83 Bil
NYSE Volume 3.46 Bil
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3069-2613
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 382-38
WTI crude oil: 93.96, -0.21
Gold: 1,240.20, +1.90
Silver: 20.05, -0.08
Corn: 428.00, +2.25

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

When Three Strikes Is a Home Run

In the game of baseball, there are rules, immutable and unchanging. Three outs per inning. A caught fly ball is an out. Three strikes and you're out.

The world of high finance, as demonstrated daily on the trading platforms, carries no such rules, other than simple casino-style paradigms. Make the right bet, at the right time, and you're a winner, after the various parties to the trade take their respective cuts, of course. The broker gets theirs, the government, another. It's more about timing and luck, especially these days, when nothing much matters other than the directionality of the various computer algos plying and playing the indices.

So it is that in stocks, you have situations like today, wherein three strikes equates to hitting a home run. Prior to the opening bell, three different sets of economic data were presented, and, against expectations, all were swings and misses, except maybe the seasonally-adjusted building permits, which could be weighed as a foul tip into the catcher's mitt, a strike by any other name.

First came the May CPI, up 0.1%, on expectation of a rise of 0.2%, well short of the Fed's annualized two percent inflation target. Strike one. Next up, housing starts, which banked 914K, well below expectations of 950K. Strike two. As mentioned above, building permits, which mean nothing other than somebody is planning to do something, like put up a fence or remodel a bathroom, were just under the expected annualized rate of 975K - at 974K. Strike three.

The market response was as expected, with deference and possibly blissful ignorance toward the headline numbers, straight up all day, a veritable home run, even as auto sales in Europe reached 20-year lows and an agent of our very own secret police, the NSA (No Such Agency, to wise guys) testified to congress that the wholly unconstitutional massive spying program that filters every American's phone calls, emails and internet activity, prevented the bombing of the NY Stock Exchange by some nefarious, insidious suspect known only as "the doctor" in 2008. The NSA says more than 50 terrorist plots were uncovered by their spy programs since 9/11/2001. Not even the best Hollywood script writers could have come up with a better narrative to deprive citizens of their fourth amendment rights. Those NSA guys hire only the best, you know.

Thus stocks ended the day close to all-time highs once again. The Dow Industrials are within spitting distance - less than 100 points - of the May 28 closing high of 15,409.39 as the Fed ponders what to do next, wrapping up their two-day FOMC meeting on Wednesday. A policy decision is due out at 2:00 pm EDT, followed by a reading of the statement and press conference, by everybody's favorite "doctor," the dis-honorable Ben Bernanke, balding, bearded, wizened Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

With recent jawboning efforts pointing toward some tightening of Fed policy, the markets seem to be expecting no change in course for the every-easy Fed, and, while there's some nervousness over the wording of the statement, one might suspect that an even more important date - expiry of June options contracts on Friday - may be what's really driving the markets higher this week.

With baited breath we await the words of fearless leader the Chairman. Can't wait.

Dow 15,318.23, +138.38 (0.91%)
NASDAQ 3,482.18, +30.05 (0.87%)
S&P 500 1,651.81, +12.77 (0.78%)
NYSE Composite 9,399.63, +61.74 (0.66%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,593,283,375
NYSE Volume 3,392,735,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4430-2051
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 327-76
WTI crude oil: 98.44, +0.67
Gold: 1,366.90, -16.20
Silver: 21.68, -0.081

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stocks Have a Late-Day Reality Check (and reality wins)

After yesterday's golden sombrero (a baseball slang term denoting a player striking out four times in four at-bats) of economic data, today's market was welcomed with another 0-for-4 reading on economic data, that on top of Wal-Mart's (WMT) poor first quarter which was a miss on the revenue side, blamed, laughingly, on weather (we have it every day, dolts) and late income tax refunds (pure baloney).

Prior to the opening bell, initial unemployment claims came in at 360K, when the market was looking for a benign 335K, oops. At the same time, April CPI registered -0.4%, the worst showing (for inflationists) since 2007, and housing starts slumped rom 1021K in March to 853K in April, a massive fall-off and well below rosy expectations for 970K. So much for the "rebound" in housing which was supposed to be leading the recovery.

Topping off the list, at 10:00 am EDT, was the Philadelphia Fed's Manufacturing Index, expected to show modest growth to a humorous 2.5, but bolted out at -5.2, another sign that business activity is actually slowing down and doing so in a rather hasty retreat, not only in the US, but globally. France, apart from the farce that is Europe, is also heading deeper into recession, and China's growth is slowing considerably faster than anyone might have expected (except those who don't believe China's economic numbers in the first place).

Thus, stocks hugged the flat-line before caving in - around 3:00 pm EDT - to the pressure of eight straight missed on key economic data, a poor earnings season typified by revenue misses and the continuing crisis at the top of the federal government of not one, not two, but three separate scandals.

Market declines on the day were not exactly pronounced, but, checking the calendar and noting that this is the day before monthly options expiry, it all begins to make more sense. Nobody's yet brave enough to call this a top, but it sure looks like one, smells like one and has all the antecedent timing factors to actually be one.

We'll see if there's any carry-over to tomorrow's week-ending session. Today's late tape was bolstered by tape-painting and/or short covering, which lifted the indices off their lows.

Dow 15,233.22, -42.47 (0.28%)
NASDAQ 3,465.24, -6.37 (0.18%)
S&P 500 1,650.47, -8.31 (0.50%)
NYSE Composite 9,489.18, -62.24 (0.65%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,924,503,750.00
NYSE Volume 3,771,709,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2633-3851
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 607-62
WTI crude oil: 95.16, +0.86
Gold: 1,386.90, -9.30
Silver: 22.66, +0.001

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Amazing Stock Market Rally Rolls Along

One of the oldest adages of stock market investing is the time-honored, "the markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent," or something to that effect.

This is particularly poignant in the midst of the current Wall Street "melt-up" which has been ongoing since the middle of December and shows little sign of letting up.

While corporate earnings continue to flow, the latest being from two big banks, Morgan Stanley (MS) and Bank of America (BAC), both of which met or exceeded expectations, though the accounting tricks and tactics employed by the mega-banks leave much to the imagination.

As far as Bank of America is concerned, their beat of expectations of 13 cents per share with a reported 15 cents included a bunch of one-time items and useful reserve and loan loss calculations, embedded deep within their monstrous 110-page quarterly report. Despite the discrepancies in the quarterly, Bank of America bounced higher again today, closing at 6.95, a 15 cent gain, after popping above $7 per share for the first time since Warren Buffett invested $5 billion in the bank in early 2011.

Morgan Stanley actually lost money for the quarter, but lost quite a bit less than expected. The firm’s net loss was $250 million, or 15 cents a share, compared with profit of $836 million, or 41 cents, a year earlier. The consensus expectation was for a loss of 57 cents per share. Traders took the data in stride, boosting the stock to its highest level since October. In this case, even P.T. Barnum would be proud, noting that "there's a sucker born every minute." All the better for momentum chasers in this beat-up financial.

There was a dose of economic data that surprised some and annoyed others, notably bearish investors. Initial unemployment claims came in at a sparkling 352,000 - the lowest number in months - after last week's upwardly revised 402,000. The unemployment figures continue to be a topic of some debate, in that the "seasonally-adjusted" model used by the BLS seems to have forgotten that December was holiday season, chock full of part time and temporary hires. Whatever the case, traders seemed less-than-satisfied with the numbers, as the markets began slowly but ground slowly higher through the session.

December CPI came in flat, after yesterday's -0.1% drop in the PPI, sparking fears of "disinflation" (a Federal reserve governor term) or deflation, the bogey man that haunts Fed chairman Ben Benanke.

Housing starts and building permits were flat to lower, though new home builders have been leading this rally, up more than 10% as a group since the first of the year.

How much longer can the rally last? Tomorrow being options expiration, one would think a major sell-off is in the cards for either Friday afternoon or Monday, though, as stated at the top of this piece, rationality is generally not a hallmark of recent rallies.

If you've not already taken part in this wild market ride, it may be a little late. Stocks are getting extremely overbought, as the advance-decline and new highs vs. new lows figures have been telegraphing lately.

Adding to the upside has been the unusually quiet tones coming out of Europe, as opposed to the rather hysterical daily dispatches that typified the latter half of 2011. Nothing's really changed over there, except perception, perhaps. Europe is mostly headed for a recession, which will hit the middle classes, though Greece, in particular, in already in the throes of a fiscal straightjacket which some might say is emulating a full-blown depression. To the Greeks, most of europe is saying "pay up," to which the Greeks respond with "shut up" or some other suitable and more demonstrable phraseology.

The long and short of it, if one is of the camp that believes a strong stock market is a proxy for a strong general economy, 2012 is shaping up to be a banner year or at least a good effort at kicking the can of economic woes down the road until after the elections in November.

Throwing a bit of cold water on the rally parade, as expected, Eastman Kodak (EK) filed for bankruptcy protection today, and Republican presidential nominee hopeful Mitt Romney has been found to have a number of accounts and holdings in off-shore banks, notably in the Cayman Islands, setting the stage - if he's the nominee - for a battle of ideologies between him as the ultimate one percenter and President Obama as the champion of the 99%.

While that may make for great TV, it's hardly honest, as President O'banker is about as 1% elitist as one can get without actually admitting to it.

Dow 12,625.19, +46.24 (0.37%)
NASDAQ 2,788.33, +18.62 (0.67%)
S&P 500 1,314.50, +6.46 (0.49%)
NYSE Composite 7,819.36, +52.41 (0.67%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,974,862,250
NYSE Volume 4,442,754,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3454-2119
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 261-26 (yes, 10-1 is a bit extreme)
WTI crude oil: 100.39, -0.20
Gold: 1,654.50, -5.40
Silver: 30.51, -0.03

Friday, July 16, 2010

SMASHING! Stock Hammered as Banks, Google Disappoint

The first week of second quarter earnings season actually came to an abrupt end on Tuesday, when all the major indices topped out after a six day rally. Wednesday and Thursday were flat-lined, as nervous investors jockeyed in and out of equities. With options expiring on Friday, the stage was set for a near-panic sell-off, and it was a doozy.

When Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (C) followed JP Morgan Chase's lead with unsettling results prior to Friday's open, the trade was set and sellers pounded stocks in the opening minutes. Just before 10:00 am, the university of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index delivered another in a series of economic blows, as the gauge fell from 76.0 in June, to 66.5 for the current month. The rout was on, as the Dow soon dipped down 200 points from the previous close.

There was no relief for stockholders in a relentless grind lower which lasted through the end of the session.

For the week, all f the major indices ended with losses, as the Dow finished 100 points lower, the NASDAQ shed 17 points, the S&P 500 surrendered 13 points and the NYSE Composite dropped 99 points.

Dow 10,097.90, -261.41 (2.52%)
NASDAQ 2,179.05, -70.03 (3.11%)
S&P 500 1,064.88, -31.60 (2.88%)
NYSE Composite 6,709.51, -207.30 (3.00%)

As expected, internals told the same stark story. Decliners pounded advancers, 5321-1154, with losers beating winners by a 7:1 margin on the NASDAQ. New highs managed to stay ahead of new lows, 150-124, though that trend is weakening and about to roll over again. Volume was not spectacular, though it was far better then the previous three sessions.

NASDAQ Volume 2,183,108,750
NYSE Volume 6,016,648,500

Stock investors were not alone in their desperation. Commodities were also pummeled in concert with the CPI reading (0.2). Crude for August delivery fell another 61 cents, to $76.01. Gold continued its recent shaky form, losing $20.10, to $1,188.00. Silver followed that lead, dropping 57 cents, to $17.77.

Gold hit its lowest level since May, though it is still well above its 200-day moving average. Silver continues to flirt with its 200-day MA, touching it again today. Any further deterioration in precious metals prices might just spread the panic through the commodity space in a deflationary sell-off.

Bank of America was the Dow's worst performer, losing 1.41, to 13.98, a decline of 9%. Citigroup fell 26 cents, to 3.90, a 6.25% loss. Google, after announcing a slight miss on earnings per share Thursday after the close, was punished with a 7$ decline, off 34.41, to 459.61.

All of this in the middle of earnings season does not bode well for bulls. The next two weeks will be interesting, to say the least, and challenging to see where any support might appear.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Late Rally Lifts Stocks; Volume Pathetic

There were any number of good reasons for stocks to take a breather on Thursday, but, a vicious late-day rally sent all of the indices into positive territory, a place none of them had been since the opening minutes of trading. The Dow itself gained 84 points in the final 35 minutes, after having been down all day. The major indices closed right at their highs of the day.

While the markets have been buoyant of late, pressures continue to build as measures of the strength of the US economy increasingly show that any recovery is going to a slow, bumpy and uneven process. More and more economists are lowering forecasts for the remainder of 2010 and trimming projections for 2011 in the face of increased taxation and regulation on a wide swath of industries.

New unemployment claims totaled 472,000, well above consensus estimates of 450,000 and an increase of 12,000 from the prior week, confirming that labor markets remain soft.

Another deflationary signal was flashed by the May Consumer Price Index (CPI), which declined 0.2% month-over-month while core prices improved 0.1% month-over-month.

There's also a very basic measurement known as valuation, something most stocks are now testing the upper ranges of. With earnings season still three to four weeks in the distance, the Wall Street insider swindlers are making as much of a quick buck before reports begin to flow from the board rooms to the street.

One can be relatively assured that stocks will begin another leg to the downside no later than Tuesday of next week, barring any unforeseen, spectacularly-positive events.

Stock investing is quickly becoming more a process of timing and luck than fundamental analysis. Traders are in and out of stocks with blinding speed as compared to the old buy-and-hold days, which now seem just a quaint memory of a time when financial markets were heavily regulated, and wealth accumulation was a slow and relatively safe process.

Today's traders face more challenges than at any time in memory. Between insider knowledge, pre-and-post-market maneuvers and the advent of push-button trading via computer or cell phone, investors have to be quick on their feet and use tight stops just to stay even.

Thinking along these lines, it may be time for pension fund managers to reassess their strategies and convert more assets out of stocks - at least US and European ones - and into more stable investments as these traders are unable to move the huge blocks they hold with any kind of price assurances.

Dow 10,434.17, +24.71 (0.24%)
NASDAQ 2,307.16, +1.23 (0.05%)
S&P 500 1,116.03, +1.42 (0.13%)
NYSE Composite 6,982.02, +5.94 (0.09%)

Advancing issues narrowly beat back decliners, 3220-3183; new highs continued their recent string of wins over new lows, 141-60, but volume on the day was absolutely pathetic - the lowest in well over a month's time - especially considering that Friday is an options expiration quadruple-witching day. Normally, volume is very high leading into these events, so something is not right about this entire set-up.

NYSE Volume 4,973,262,000.00
NASDAQ Volume 1,654,591,250.00

Oil slipped 88 cents, to $76.79, but the precious metals showed strength, which only amplifies the discordance in equities. Gold gained $18.20, to $1,247.50. Silver added 34 cents, to $18.77.

Gold and stocks have generally been trading in opposite directions, though in recent months, that relationship has faded. Eventually, the two will collide, though, with the value of the Dow equal to anywhere from one to four ounces of gold. Currently, the ratio stands at 8.36 ounces to one unit of the Dow. Within 18 months, expect two things to occur: Gold will reach $1.500 per ounce and the Dow will smash through to the downside of 6000. It's almost an inevitability. Here's a little story about how to trade the gold and the Dow over the very long term, by Gary North, a guy who knows a thing or two about stocks and gold.

Tony Hayward, BP CEO, was grilled and pilloried on Capitol Hill this afternoon, as he should be. The remains of the Deepwater Horizon continue to spew thousands of barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, the situation growing worse every day. Correcting our story from yesterday, it's being reported that BP will not pay dividends for the remainder of the year, not just the upcoming quarter. That's three quarters of British pensioners going without their dividend checks, but, as is the case with stocks, that risk was always there. While some may call the BP situation a "Black Swan" event, they've literally created any number of black pelicans and other specie of the region and should not survive as a going concern.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Markets Regain Positive Tone on Fed Rate Decision

It may not have been just what the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee did or said so much as a general mood that they wouldn't do anything to upset the rather delicate balancing act currently underway in world markets.

The Fed, as expected, kept the Federal Funds rate at 0 to .25%, and the discount rate at .50%, said more about improvements in markets than deterioration and slipped in a line or two suggesting that there was no more need for further quantitative easing - they've pledged to buy up to $300 billion in Treasury notes - after the end of October.

For a change, markets were markedly higher prior to the 2:15 pm announcement and changed little afterwards, with stocks more or less drifting at sustained levels into the close. This shows that Fed chairman Ben Bernanke understands the fragility of the situation and is very cautious about how Fed actions are explained to the markets and general public. Nearly a year after the worst financial shock since the Great Depression, Bernanke's Fed has provided leadership and persistence to bring the US and world economies back from the brink of disaster. Whether it's black magic or shrewd understanding of economics, he deserves credit for at least righting a ship that had gone seriously off course.

The next step is to bring back GDP growth, and jobs, no easy tasks, though today's response on the financial markets seem to indicate that the mood of investing professionals has definitely turned the most positive since September of 2008.

Dow 9,361.61, +120.16 (1.30%)
NASDAQ 1,998.72, +28.99 (1.47%)
S&P 500 1,005.81, +11.46 (1.15%)
NYSE Composite 6,538.87, +75.25 (1.16%)

Bolstering the optimistic tone was a return to advancing issues dominating decliners, 4690-1770, More new highs than new lows, 126-53, and a slight uptick in volume.

NYSE Volume 1,306,697,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,154,837,000

Commodities seemed to appreciate the mellow tone of the Fed announcement. Oil gained 71 cents, to $70.16; gold marked $4.90 higher, to $952.50, and silver gained 24 cents, to $14.59.

The Fed decision was crucial for the market to retain confidence. Next up is a broad survey of retail sales on Thursday, with preliminary CPI figures due out Friday, along with Capacity Utilization and Industrial Production reports for July.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Slow Death Torture for Investors

Another down day for stocks on Friday ends just the the first negative week in the last 10, but it's the beginning of a trend which investors would be prescient to note. Stocks, in the past 10 weeks, went from falling off a cliff to overvalued. They are reverting to something resembling fair value in an orderly fashion, though nobody really has a grip on what "fair value" really means today.

In more sensible times, fair value may have been something along the lines of a stock which returns a 4-5% dividend, a price-earnings ratio of anywhere from 6-12 and a reasonably good chance at appreciating in value over time. These, however, are anything but sensible times. The US economy is on its deathbed, being kept on life support by fresh injections of capital, government entitlements (welfare, social security, disability benefits, government and military pensions, unemployment insurance, etc.) and a steady infusion of fresh capital from the Federal Reserve.

There is very little left of the private sector, and even less opportunity for new business ventures. Taxes and regulations have crowded out innovation, and that condition will only worsen as the current crop of legislators in Washington work to codify everything from health care to working conditions in every business with more than five employees. More than half of the country's GDP is a product of government spending, much of it on borrowed money. And the money being borrowed is probably not going to be paid back.

As for the social programs - Social Security and Medicare - if you are under 50 years of age, you might as well kiss that money you contribute every week goodbye, because there is absolutely no way on earth that the government will be able to fulfill those obligations. As the economy shrinks, less tax revenue will be collected and these programs will be cut back severely. America is being purposely devolved into a third-world nation, complete with unpayable debts, widespread poverty and a gap between rich and poor wider than the Grand Canyon.

For those of you still investing in corporate America via stocks or mutual funds, we wish you only the best of luck. You would be better served playing the horses or betting on sporting events. At least there you have a fighting chance. Once the summer is over and it becomes clear that the economy is mired in a semi-permanent state of stagnation, the stock market will fall like dandruff from a bum's locks. After the slow decline back to the 6500 level on the Dow, the plunge to below 5000 will be swift and fatal.

Some companies will survive, but a wave of bankruptcies will make the current hilarity of GM and Chrysler look like a summertime picnic.

Dow 8,268.64, -62.68 (0.75%)
NASDAQ 1,680.14, -9.07 (0.54%)
S&P 500 882.88, -10.19 (1.14%)
NYSE Composite 5,662.89, -70.56 (1.23%)

On Friday, declining issues outnumbered advancing ones, 5017-2392. New lows: 65; New highs: 16. Volume was poor. Everybody wants to hold here, though some are taking profits. Faith in the markets is a very dangerous virtue.

NYSE Volume 1,480,708,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,214,244,000

Finally, the market is beginning to reawaken to the new reality of slack demand. Oil fell $2.28, to $56.34, which is still probably $10-20 higher than what the real price should be. Gold advanced again, gaining $2.90, to $931.30. Silver slipped a bit, down 3 cents, to $14.01. Most other energy and food commodities were lower on the day.

The feds offered more bailout money to a variety of insurance companies, though a few say they don't want the money. Still, how many more companies involved in the dirty money dealing is the government going to give taxpayer funds? The bill is already too high, but the feds seem to know no limit to America's largess. The absurdity continues to amaze fundamentalist economists.

To get a grip on where we're heading, one need look no further than April's CPI numbers, which fell by 0.7% year-over-year, the largest decline since the mid-50s. The deflationary spiral which began at least 18 months ago (don't believe the government numbers) is now gathering momentum. Pricing power for companies is kaput. Deflation, hated by the Fed, may be the only true salvation for the nation.

A sign of the times comes from the Buffalo News, in a story about billionaire Tom Golisano, who made his fortune by founding and running Rochester-based Paychex, Inc. (PAYX). Golisano, long a critic of NY politics and unions, announced that he was leaving the state and moving to Florida, saying he will save $13,000 a day in taxes. That amounts to a revenue loss of $4,745,000 over a year's time.

Golisano is not alone. Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has already stated that he too would leave the state. Truth of the matter for Mr. Limbaugh is that he spends little time in the state, but has various businesses registered there. With the exodus of rich folks from the state, one might as well throw budget estimates out the window.

Enjoy the Preakness tomorrow. That filly is a good one.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

CPI Shows Inflation, Fed Lowers Growth Forecast, PPT Pumps Stocks

A somewhat expected rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) roiled investors prior to the opening bell and stocks drifted in negative ranges in early trading. The reading of a rise of 0.4% in January (4.8% annualized) spooked even the most ardent supporters of Fed and administration policies.

By noon, the Plunge Protection Team had seen enough selling to convince them to pump stocks higher and in a 20 minute span, the Dow Jones Industrials gained 120 points and the other indices followed into positive territory.

As the day wore on, the market meddlers of the PPT goosed stocks even more, pushing them to the highs of the day, up more than 125 points, shortly before 3:00 pm.

The obvious manipulation by the PPT (aka President's Working Group on Financial Markets) were in response to more somber news via the January FOMC meeting minutes in which the Fed lowered its 2008 growth forecast from a range of 1.8-2.5% in November to 1.3-2% in January.

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The Fed and their agents in the PPT are fooling nobody. The economy is clearly headed for - if not already in - a recession, and stocks remain grossly overvalued relative to aggregate earnings. But, it is an important election year, and the purveyors of power simply cannot stomach the idea that their reign of terror over the American public is at an end.

Nothing short of miracles (Mike Huckabee, anyone?) will salvage the US economy and the Fed is in desperate straits. The pure futility of lowering interest rates to an unsustainable 3% or lower is beginning to manifest itself in higher prices for everything from gas to bread to appliances.

Under its current framework, the Fed is on a path of destruction of the US dollar and with it will go any last vestige of respect and confidence in equity markets. Of course, the Fed continues a tradition of hampering real growth by denying that excesses need to be liquidated, instead relying on market massages and wrong-headed rate cuts.

The real culprit is the absolute seizure of credit markets, especially at money center banks. Merger and acquisition activity is going in reverse, with many deals having been canceled, and until the Fed and the banks take responsibility for their follies over the past seven years by liquidating themselves, the economy will slowly and surely continue to deteriorate.

Dow 12,427.26 +90.04; NASDAQ 2,327.10 +20.90; S&P 500 1,360.03 +11.25; NYSE Composite 9,073.96 +50.92

Advancing issues outpaced decliners, 3752-2614, though new lows continued to overwhelm new highs, 257-99. With the exception of two days in December 2007, new lows have had the edge over new highs since October 31, approaching four months.

If there is any indicator that the economy is in trouble, it is the continuing readings of new lows over new highs. The stock market is clearly struggling for every gain, and most of them have been helped along by the PPT. Sooner or later, these phony gains will be eviscerated and stocks will plunge to more sensible, sustainable, reasonable levels. It's widely assumed that without meddling from the PPT, the Dow would already have touched down at the 11,000 mark or lower.

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The more nudging by the Fed and the PPT, the more disastrous will be the inevitable crash. It's coming, and it won't be pretty, though anyone who has been paying attention won't be at all surprised.

As for the rest of the clueless sheeple out there... keep watching and listening to the perma-bulls like Larry Kudlow and flag-wavers like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and see what good that does you.

The price of crude oil closed at another record high on Wednesday, gaining 73 cents to $100.74. Yes, my friends, George Bush and his Republican administration has succeeded in making $100/barrel oil a reality. (sick bastards)

Gold was up $8.00 to a new record, $937.80. Silver was higher by 25 cents, to $17.76.

NYSE Volume 3,835,300,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,293,634,250