Showing posts with label economy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label economy. Show all posts

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Fed's FOMC Delivers Rate Cut; Markets Respond Positively

Following the Fed's FOMC announcement of another 25 basis point cut to he federal funds rate - the thrid in the last four months - stocks took off for new heights, with the S&P posting another new all-time high, just two days after breaking through to a record close.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the session 212 points off its all-time high, the NASDAQ just 36 points shy of a record, and the NYSE Composite closed less than 400 points from its January 2018 record.

With three-quarters of a point shaved off the key target interest rate for Fed watchers, the overnight lending rate stands in a range of 1.5% to 1.75% and the Fed's language suggests that it will not cut rates automatically at its next meeting (December) or any future meeting.

What the somewhat hawkish stance means for markets is that the flow of money is going to be stanched at some point, and that point may have already occurred, though adroit rate watchers expect further pressures on the economy that would force the Fed's hand in the first and second quarter of next year.

There are already signs that the economy is slipping, though the first estimate of third quarter GDP came in above expectations (1.6%) at 1.9% for the recently closed-out time frame, so it's not apparent that the US economy will be facing recession any time soon.

All of this makes for an interest final two months of the year for investors. Will we see a repeat of last year's December dive or are there enough animal spirits to keep the stock market churning higher?

Only time will tell.

At the Close, Wednesday, October 30, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,186.69, +115.29 (+0.43%)
NASDAQ: 8,303.98, +27.13 (+0.33%)
S&P 500: 3,046.77, +9.88 (+0.33%)
NYSE Composite: 13,244.01, +34.41 (+0.26%)

Monday, May 7, 2018

Index Divergence Not A Pretty Sight; Higher Dollar, Oil, Gas Prices To Kill Economy

Friday's across the board gains in stocks managed to get the Dow into positive territory for the month, but paradoxically, not the week, which included the last day of April, a 148-point decline.

Thus, three of the major indices took it on the collective chins, with only the NASDAQ allowing for gains on a weekly basis. This kind of divergence - often seen in bear markets - is just another signal to astute investors that all is not well in the land of unicorns and lollipops otherwise known as Wall Street.

There's a significant amount of panic on display if one know where to look for it, one the best locations being the dollar index, which has been staging a rather relentless rally since mid-April, rising from 89.42 to 92.89, which may not seem like much on the surface, but in real terms, it's a huge matter to international trade. Companies not nimble enough to adjust to sudden currency movements may be caught flat-footed, on the wrong sides of trades, with losses in capital amounting to staggering sums if not accordingly hedged.

A rising dollar does rather damaging things to trading partners and to the US itself. Most obvious is that a strong dollar makes imports cheaper, dampens commodity prices should cause oil prices to decline, but, since the United States has become the world's largest producer of crude, perversely, oil is rising in tandem with the dollar (by Monday morning it had crested above $70/barrel), a condition which is going to cause some considerable pain to Americans who use more distilled products (gasoline) than any other nation.

If there's anything that will put a lid on economic expansion, it's high fuel prices, and the current level, if it remains so, primarily threatens the budgets of small businesses and individuals, acting as an up-front tax on production and consumption.

Practically every recession in modern history has been tied to the price of oil and/or gas. The current runaway price surge, if not contained and reversed, is likely to send the economy into a vicious tailspin. Since consumer credit is at an all-time high, the average driver cannot afford to spend more on fuel, be it to power an automobile, heat a home, or run a small business.

Once again, nefarious forces are at work, spiking the dollar and the price of crude simultaneously, when there is oil sloshing around everywhere and dollars returning to their US home thanks to congress and the president's tax reforms.

Those dollars, upon return, are being used by corporations for more stock buybacks, boosting - temporarily - stock prices, and are not reaching the consumption level, keeping inflation somewhat in check. The good news is that consumer goods will not skyrocket in price, though getting to the stores (what few of them remain) to buy such will cost more and more.

Greed will go where greed wants, and it always seems to manifest itself most profoundly in the price of a gallon of gas. Thank Larry Kudlow for this windfall for the Exxons and Chevrons of the world as his "king dollar" theory will be tested on the world stage.

Dow Jones Industrial Average May Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
5/1/18 24,099.05 -64.10 -64.10
5/2/18 23,924.98 -174.07 -238.17
5/3/18 23,930.15 +5.17 -233.00
5/4/18 24,262.51 +332.36 +99.36

At the Close, Friday, May 4, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 24,262.51, +332.36 (+1.39%)
NASDAQ: 7,209.62, +121.47 (+1.71%)
S&P 500: 2,663.42, +33.69 (+1.28%)
NYSE Composite: 12,493.35, +100.84 (+0.81%)

For the Week:
Dow: -48.68 (-0.20%)
NASDAQ: +89.92 (+1.26%)
S&P 500: -6.49 (-0.24%)
NYSE Composite: -100.68 (-0.80%)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Trump Nominates Jerome Powell As Fed Chair; Goldman Sachs Execs Happy

Some equities responded with favor to President Trump's nomination of ultimate insider, Jerome Powell, to the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve.

Without so much as the batting of a single eyelash, Goldman Sachs (GS), Microsoft (MSFT), McDonald's (MCD), Boeing (BA), and JP Morgan Chase (JPM) led the Dow to yet another record high, mainly upon the notion that Powell would continue to easy money and lax regulatory environment so loved by Wall Street.

It would be easy to point the finger at Mr. Trump for appeasing the status quo, though it might not be an accurate assessment of the situation. The president is smart enough to know that keeping Wall Street happy and profitable has a profound effect on his standing within the business community and promoting a life-long lawyer (not an economist) and financier with multiple ties to various private and public money machines goes a long way toward keeping the Fed on its current track (Powell has not cast a dissenting FOMC vote in his five years as a voting member.

There could be worse environments than the current regime controlling the global economy, though it is difficult to think of one that could compare with the outright rigging and asset-prompting the central banks have engaged in over the past ten years. In case one was not in complete agreement and chose not to engage in one of the longest and best-maintained bull markets in history, the past is prologue and the nomination of Powell ensures a smooth transition to the Fed's top post. More of the same would seem to be the open dialogue of the day.

Keeping the rich rich and the middle and lower classes entertained, while not the optimal policy directive, has served to keep the system afloat, despite its various warts, bruises and open wounds.

Much of finance is done behind closed doors and it's probably a good thing, because were the wicked deals to be generally known by the public, riotous behavior might ensue. Keeping the Fed on an even keel will likely result in ever higher prices for stocks and a more complacent (if that is even possible with the VIX hovering around 10) investment community.

What could go wrong?

At the Close, Thursday, November 2, 2017:
Dow: 23,516.26: +81.25 (+0.35%)
NASDAQ: 6,714.9429, -1.59 (-0.02%)
S&P 500: 2,579.85, +0.49 (+0.02%)
NYSE Composite: 12,372.96, +10.08 (+0.08%)

Monday, June 6, 2016

Janet Yellen And The Fed Are Dangerous To Your Well-Being

Apologies for the blaring headline, but this is getting a bit ridiculous. Truthfully, the headline suggested by our ace writer, Fearless Rick, had a definite Donald Trump tone to it, so it was scrapped in favor of the watered-down version.

For seven years - since the great collapse of 2008-09 - we've been listening to the babble coming out of the mouths of various Federal Reserve governors, and none of it was believable nor helpful. The US economy is circling the toilet drain, and various economies around the globe have already been flushed down the sinkhole of fetid monetary policy.

Here is just one quote from Janet Yellen in her address to the World Affairs Council (another bunch of clueless monetarists) that speaks volumes about what she knows and doesn't know:

I see good reason to expect that the positive forces supporting employment growth and higher inflation will continue to outweigh the negative ones.

If Mrs. Yellen would care to elaborate on just what those positive forces could be, it's expected that almost nothing would come out of her mouth, because she's doing what she does best, spout nonsense, in the best tradition of the Maestro himself, the venerable former Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan. In all honesty, just what positive forces are there supporting employment growth after last week's disastrous non-farm payroll report for May, in which the US economy created a paltry 38,000 jobs when 164,000 were expected.

Additionally, Chair Yellen believes inflation is good for the economy, when most people in the real world would like to see some softening of prices and/or an increase in their wages. On the one hand, deflation in consumer prices stretches one's money; on the other, wage hikes usually occur when the economy is growing robustly. Since Americans can't have both at once, it is supposed that we'll get the former, and like it.

Naturally, the bozos on Wall Street took all of it in stride and just bought more overpriced stocks:

S&P 500: 2,109.41, +10.28 (0.49%)
Dow: 17,920.33, +113.27 (0.64%)
NASDAQ: 4,968.71, +26.20 (0.53%)

Crude Oil 49.69 +2.20% Gold 1,247.70 +0.39% EUR/USD 1.1362 -0.02% 10-Yr Bond 1.72 +1.12% Corn 426.75 +2.03% Copper 2.12 +0.31% Silver 16.49 +0.73% Natural Gas 2.81 +1.41% Russell 2000 1,176.62 +1.07% VIX 13.61 +1.04% BATS 1000 20,677.17 0.00% GBP/USD 1.4455 -0.14% USD/JPY 107.6200 +1.10%

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Yellen Spikes The Punch Bowl With Dovish Comments

In a midday speech before the Economic Club of New York, Janet Yellen's comments included comments concerning weak growth abroad, low oil prices and uncertainty over China, saying that the Federal Reserve would proceed "cautiously" on further rate hikes this year.

At their March meet two weeks ago, the FOMC of the Fed lowered the number of expected rate hikes from four to two for 2016, and Yellen's speech today was the first public commentary form the Fed Chair since that time.

Other members had voiced opinions which could be considered mildly hawkish, but Yellen was decidedly dovish in today's prepared remarks.

Obviously, Wall Street was rather pleased with the Fed Chair's stock market elixir, sending the S&P 500 to its highest level of 2016. Stocks ended a five-week streak of positive gains with a lower close last week, but Yellen and her friends at the Fed apparently didn't want the market to turn down again.

With the kind of policy the Fed has been brandishing for the past seven years, stocks should be headed back toward all-time highs in due time, likely within the next few months. With the Dow running up a spectacular 2000 points in the last six-plus weeks, the DJIA stands just more than 700 points from the record set last year (May: 18,351.36).

The S&P needs to gain another 80 points to surpass the all-time high of last May (2134.72).

Party on, Janet!

S&P 500: 2,055.01, +17.96 (0.88%)
Dow: 17,633.11, +97.72 (0.56%)
NASDAQ: 4,846.62, +79.84 (1.67%)

Crude Oil 38.49 -2.28% Gold 1,242.50 +1.84% EUR/USD 1.1293 +0.87% 10-Yr Bond 1.81 -2.99% Corn 372.25 +0.47% Copper 2.21 -1.49% Silver 15.36 +1.12% Natural Gas 1.98 +2.38% Russell 2000 1,109.08 +2.67% VIX 13.82 -9.32% BATS 1000 20,682.61 0.00% GBP/USD 1.4387 +0.92% USD/JPY 112.6685 -0.69%

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Turnaround Tuesday Displays Classic Bear Market Pattern

Up strong at the open and down on the day was how all the major indices took in Tuesday, a massive reversal beginning around 2:45 sent the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P into negative territory, calling into play one of the more obvious chart patterns, based mostly on rumors and fear.

The idea that WTI crude can continue to levitate above $50 per barrel for long is a rigger's pipe-dream and the kind of speculative plays that have been in play on the crude front seem ill-advised and doomed for failure.

In the dim afterglow of Friday's non-farm payroll disaster and the general under-performance of macro data for most of the year so far, stocks aren't looking exactly like the sure bet they've been the past six years running. The pattern, seen today, of a high rise at the open only to be finished off with unbridled selling pressure into the close would lead even the most bullish players searching for answers.

If the US economy is really on its knees - a view taking on more and more supporters - there is no turning back for most of the gamblers and speculators who have driven equities close to all-time highs. What may be even more puzzling, or troubling, is the fact that the major indices have fallen and flat-lined since their record closes in late February, and April hasn't provided any catalysts to send stocks back to those lofty levels.

That there is a creeping sentiment of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in the market should not come as a surprise. Most of the S&P 500 has been treading water in terms of real earnings, their EPS growth fueled by massive buybacks instead of capital investments, growth and taking market share, except in exceptional circumstances.

Today's action could be nothing more than advanced day-trading by pure speculators. Then again, we've been saying something is seriously wrong for months now, and yet, the markets have maintained an aura of invincibility.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

And Now Comes the Crash

Money Daily stopped being a daily post blog in March, 2014. While the name remains the same, the posts are now on an intermittent basis, as conditions warrant, though it is advised to read the archives (from 2006-2014) regularly, even daily, for insights and historical perspective.

Writing this morning as Dow futures are down around 275-300 points, market participants are reacting negatively to any number of factors, not the least of which was the truly ugly print of December durable goods orders, which came in at -3.4% against expectations of +0.3%.

Also revised lower were November's durable figures, from an already disappointing -0.7% to a dismal -2.1%.

The stock market crash, yes, the one that's been delayed since 2009 thanks to QE from the Fed, then Japan, and now, supposedly, from the European Union (EU), is upon us. The bull market that began when mark-t-market became mark-to-fantasy in March of 2009 has overstayed its welcome, and those who have not already jumped ship on tech stocks, income stocks, growth stocks (there's a real laugher for you; most companies' earnings for 2014 were lower than 2013 and 2015 will be lower still), or blue chip stocks, are about to get creamed, rapidly, starting today, but, when the Dow Industrials close below 17,068.87 (the close on December 16, 2014), for certain.

One only has to look at a recent chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and have a cursory understanding of Dow Theory to realize that the primary trend is about to change. Now, if it doesn't - if the Dow doesn't close below 17,068.87 and subsequently makes new highs, or, if it does close below that level and then makes new highs - then the market is being purposefully and blatantly manipulated. Besides the fact that most, if not all, markets have been manipulated since the crash of 2008, and probably well before that, a massive nosedive in stocks should come as little surprise to anybody, save those who hold out hope against hope that the Federal Reserve and the federal government, in all their wisdom, will save markets no matter what, which, in fact, is the core of manipulation itself.

Bull markets do not last forever. Lying and misguiding the public does not work forever. The public, that nebulous, unintelligible mass of humanity that follows blindly like sheep led to shearing or slaughter, will understand little of this, if any of it, but, we've collectively been led down a garden path to economic slavery and destruction by lying lawyers, bankers, CEOs, media and politicians, whose only concerns are their own, and against sound public policy.

Globally, economies are in a shambles. A raging currency war is merely pretext for a coming deep depression. While the United States may be the "cleanest shirt in a dirty laundry basket" it is no doubt still dirty, and a cleansing is overdue.

For too long, the American public has listened to the media, bankers and politicians who promised what they could not deliver: economic prosperity for everybody. It's a pipe dream, a facade, a fallacy, a Fugazy. The reckoning is upon us, just in time for the Super Bowl.

Just wait for the number: 17,068.87. When the Dow closes below that, it's game over, and no jawboning by Federal Reserve governors, or politicians, or media mouthpieces, can change that. A long, painful bear market will take the Dow and other averages to places nobody can imagine. At first, it will be called a correction (unless it absolutely crashes - like down 1000 points - today), but, make no doubt, it will be a bear market, followed by a recession, and then a depression (which, many will claim we are already in, since 2008).

Trust your own judgement, but, if you have not prepared for the worst of times, you are certain to live through them. Your portfolio allocations should look something like this: 20% Precious Metals; 60% cash; 20% survival/tradable/salable goods.

Best wishes to all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SOTU 2015 Recap: Drink, Drink, Chug, Vomit; Oscar Wilde For The Win

Money Daily stopped being a daily post blog in March, 2014. While the name remains the same, the posts are now on an intermittent basis, as conditions warrant, though it is advised to read the archives (from 2006-2014) regularly, even daily, for insights and historical perspective.

Just to be fair, we didn't exactly keep pace with the president in our SOTU drinking game.

Having chosen the top four words from our Top Ten list - taxes, jobs, Middle Class, and, economy - President Obama brought down the house on the jobs number, using that specific word (either in the singular or plural form) 24 times before we stopped counting. Smartly, he only said "tax" or "taxes" five times, used the term, "Middle Class" four times, "economy" 13 times and never once used the word "rich."

Where the president excelled, however, actually overwhelming even our rosiest expectations, was in the bonus chugs segment, in which he mentioned ten countries specifically, not including the United States (or America), which technically didn't count, and was, obviously, one of the more frequently used words in his hour-long speech to the nation.

Obama got off early with mentions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and, though it took a while for him to come up with the third county, Japan, he took charge with a quick rattling off of Syria, Russia, Ukraine, Cuba, Iran, Israel and China in short order.

What took the whole drinking effort to new levels was the president's expert rendering of the terrorist naming bonus, in which we instructed that the mention of three terrorist groups would constitute a chug command. Though Obama specifically named only one group by name, he nailed the ISIS-ISIL bonus at 9:45 pm, 35 minutes into the speech, calling his favorite Mideast thugs by their pet name, ISIL, invoking the rule of our game to promptly end in a spellbinding, chug-til-you-puke crescendo.

So intent was the president on getting the nation massively inebriated that he intoned "ISIL" again just one minute later. Strangely enough, his wording was actually foreshadowed by Mrs. Alan Greenspan (aka, Andrea Mitchell), who mentioned ISIL just minutes before the president made his way to the podium. We applaud the otherwise droll Mrs. Greenspan for her literary bravado.

Aside from yet another successful SOTU drinking panacea - Obama's sixth - the president's rhetoric was little more than a rehash of his last two SOTU addresses, replete with promises that will be broken and high-minded principles to which congress and the administration will find difficult, if not impossible, to personalize.

Generally, while we agree in principle with a good deal of Obama's vision of America (though free community college and health care coverage for everyone are a bit too far out on the socialist agenda for our tastes), we have grown tired of waiting for either the president or the congress to come through with specific actions. Empty rhetoric becomes tiresome in short time. Repetition of such tends to be unbearable.

On the humorous, if not tragic, side, the president made the bold claim that inflation was at its lowest level in 50 years, at the precise time that the Federal Reserve is in a death match to avert outright deflation. While the president wishes to point out that low inflation is a grand intention - and it is - the pedals of public policy are being pimped and pumped by the pervicacious pedants at the Fed in exactly the opposite direction, with, thankfully, limited success.

Perhaps, in a perverse and fateful way, the wisdom and wit of Oscar Wilde is prescient:

"There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

By all appearances, neither the Fed, the president, nor the American public's aspirations will be satiated.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

State of the Union Drinking Game 2015: Multiple Choice, Top Ten Version, with Bonus Chug Words

Money Daily stopped being a daily post blog in March, 2014. While the name remains the same, the posts are now on an intermittent basis, as conditions warrant, though it is advised to read the archives (from 2006-2014) regularly, even daily, for insights and historical perspective.

By now, most of you know the rules about State of the Union Drinking Games, but, to briefly recap, it goes something like this:

We stole this image, but,
we liked it, so we kept it.
1. Prepare your favorite adult beverage, be it beer, wine, or a mixed concoction. Keep refills close at hand.

2. Settle into a comfortable chair or on your couch and get ready for the annual ritual monologue from whomever it is that has been selected (recall that elections are so 20th century, done away with the Supreme Court's decision in Gore v. Bush, circa 2000; now it's all managed by your black box friends at Diebold et. al.) to give the State of the Union speech, always this is the president, so we get Mr. Obama for the sixth or seventh time this year. Honestly, we've lost count because we've been so drunk most of the time.

3. Choose a word (or words) you think the speaker will utter a number of times, and prepare to take a swig or (dangerous, unless you're swilling peach brandy or some other fru-fru-umbrella-type drink) do a shot when the word (or words) is uttered. Those of you pounding 151 Rum or Rumplemintz, you are our heroes.

4. Turn on TV. Prepare to be bored, then angry, then drunk, and probably angrier.

For this year, we decided to list the top ten words we think will be the most popular ones to come off the teleprompter and then the lips of the President, and, no, we did not get an advance copy of the speech, though there have been leaks about the direction the president will be taking the speech.

Now, we are disappointed that the speech will be televised live on the major networks beginning at 9:00 pm ET, which is a little late for those of us in the working class or past middle age (seniors). As for the latter group, seniors, you should plan on eating a little later this evening, say, waiting until maybe 6:30 instead of the usual early-bird 4:25 pm.

If you're a working guy or gal who has to be up at 5:00 am or earlier, well, welcome to 21st century slavery. There are alternatives, you know, but, most of you are suffering from a severe case of normalcy bias, so we'll just let you alone, for now. In any case, many of you may want to warm up with a few cold ones or mixed ones or straight ones or neat ones beforehand. Whatever blows your hair back is fine by us. Warm-up drinks are advised, but just don't overdo it. President Obama is a verified crowd-pleaser when it comes to drinking games.

OK, here's the recommended Top Ten list, from what we* here at Money Daily think the president will toss out of his mouth, in descending order, from the most frequent to the least. We've also included some bonus chugs for those of you who wish to get completely inebriated or fall into a deep trance or become comatized before bedtime.

  • 1. Taxes
  • 2. Jobs
  • 3. Middle Class (since it's two words and doesn't really exist anymore, we suggest taking two drinks whenever this term is used)
  • 4. Economy
  • 5. Russia
  • 6. Terror or terrorism
  • 7. Child or children
  • 8. Congress
  • 9. Education (always popular, but, in reality, a massive charade)
  • 10. Stocks or Stock Market

It's suggested that if you really want to get your swerve on, you use all these words, but, for the majority of us, picking three or four should be sufficient.

For bonus chugging we're throwing in a couple of caveat words. If the president mentions the "rich," in a negative connotation, as in, "the rich need to be taxed heavily because they've glommed up more than half of everything in the world..." then it's a bonus chug. Also, if the president names three  or more specific countries during his speech, that's a bonus chug on the third country mentioned and another bonus chug for each subsequent country mentioned (no cheating rule: if he says the same country over and over, as in, "Iran must not get nukes, Iran must not sell oil, Iran must not mess up our planned obsolescence in Syria, Iran must be bombed into submission, like Ukraine..." that (Iran) only counts as one country, not three or four, but, since he mentioned two other countries there, chug.).

So, if the president says, in one part of his speech, "I love Canada," then follows up later with "Syria's president, Assad, must be droned," and then goes on to say, "Russia, is, has been and always will be, our mortal enemy," that's three and you chug. If he goes onto say something like, "members of the European Union, France, Germany, Spain, etc.," well, we can only suspect that Mr. Obama has read this blog and is just trying to get everybody in America hammered before he gets to the really good lying about how "exceptional" America is and how he's going to work with congress and all that.

And, if he mentions any terrorist groups by name, like Hezbolla, or Boko Haram, and especially ISIS, which will no doubt get mentioned, one chug per group, per mention.

And, for the killer bonus, if the president calls ISIS by their favorite name, ISIL, it's game over, drink until you puke.

OK, make your choices carefully, and remember, drink, but don't drive, or, for that matter, use power tools, for God's sake.

And don't even think of posting your results in our comment section. We literally don't care.

*Actually, it's just me, Fearless Rick, but "we" sounds so much more officious and monumental and, well, bigger.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Biggest Bubble of All Time is About to Be Popped

Money Daily stopped being a daily post blog in March, 2014. While the name remains the same, the posts are now on an intermittent basis, as conditions warrant, though it is advised to read the archives (from 2006-2014) regularly, even daily, for insights and historical perspective.

The handwriting, so to speak, is all over Wall Street. What has been the biggest financial bubble in the history of the world is on the verge of busting, or, what could be better still, slowly deflating.

After the crash of 2008-09, the Federal Reserve, in conjunction with central banks around the globe, injected massive amounts of liquidity into the fiat world currency markets, bolstering everything from junk bonds to consumer credit, but especially equities, otherwise known as stocks.

Since March 9, 2009, the major equity indices in the US - and, to a large degree, around the world - have rebounded on the strength of the Fed's largesse, nothing else. Now that the Fed has begun unwinding QE, the "juice" is being withdrawn. There will be no backstop for equities in the guise of unlimited liquidity from the Fed. The plan - already underway - is to reduce the amount of asset (bond) purchases by the Fed from their high of $85 billion per month, to zero. While it is unlikely the Fed will ever get to zero without reversing course or, at least, slowing the pace of their withdrawal, the March FOMC meeting will mark the third consecutive lowering of the monthly purchase level, timed in accordance with the 10-per-year FOMC schedule.

The Fed first announced in December, 2013 that it would be reducing purchases in January, 2014, and did the same in their first meeting of 2014, in January, lowering their purchase level to $65 billion in February. Since there was no meeting in February, they are expected to announce another $10 billion reduction at the March meeting next week (March 18-19). If they carry through with this expected drop to $55 billion, the market cracks which first occurred in January of this year, may turn into wholesale breaks, sending index levels below their recent lows, highlighted by the January 31 selloff.

With the S&P recovering all of its January and February losses and making new all-time highs earlier this month (the NASDAQ also made new 14-year highs), the Dow Jones Industrials did not, setting up the scenario for a bear market, according to strict Dow Theory.

If the Dow, having fallen short of its most recent high (16,588.25), continues on its path lower, exceeding the interim low of 15,340.69 (Feb. 4), this will confirm that a change in the primary tend has occurred, and a secular bear market is underway. This bear market could last anywhere from five to 20 years, possibly longer, because the recent, primary bull market - the second longest in market history - was built upon a foundation of incredibly easy money, low interest rates and global fiat currencies, unprecedented in financial history.

The fallout could be severe, popping the biggest financial asset bubble of all time, in stocks, affecting everything from individual stocks to your pension, IRA or 401k to muni bonds. In other words, be prepared for the biggest financial collapse of all time, because the last five years have been nothing but pure financial fantasy, and it's all about to come crashing to an end.

There are sure signs that the global economy is shrieking and straining to remain relevant and above water, but after blowing bubbles recently in dotcom stocks (1997-2001) and real estate (2003-2007), the Fed has reflated the economy with trillions of paper dollars, augmented by similarly spurious activities in Europe, China and Japan. The financial bubble created by central banks is of a magnitude much larger - possibly four to six times larger - than the sub-prime-induced housing meltdown, putting the figure of financial assets seriously at risk somewhere between $20 and $40 trillion dollars, an amount so unfathomable that nothing short of pure currency collapses can sufficiently make account.

(As this post is being composed (March 13, 2014, 1:10 pm EDT), the Dow Jones Industrial average has broken through its 50-day-moving average, down 194 points on the day.)

Beyond just charts and the scary finances of the central banks, China is the linchpin by which the financial dam may be breached. For the past two to three months, data out of the world's second-largest economy has been trending lower, especially in the areas of industrial production and exporting. In fact, China actually released data that showed it suffered a current account deficit, with imports exceeding exports, a very frightening development for one of the world's few export economies and a major trading partner with the US and Europe.

What the China data underscores is the overall weakness in US and European (developed) markets. The fraud of financialization has finally produced a result incompatible with the ponzi-scheme-like mantra of the central bankers. Consumers have been and are strapped for cash, a result of over-exuberant government spending, massive income disparity between the rich and poor and stagnant or declining wages in the middle of a labor shortfall crisis.

There are signs everywhere that the global economy is about to be brought back to reality, including, but by no means limited to, recent poor US unemployment data, a false housing recovery (inundated with cash buyers, flippers and speculation), inability of the government to prosecute bankers and financial operatives for mortgage and other frauds, declining adherence to the constitution and the trampling of civil rights, bogus car sales data with channel stuffing rampant, blaming the weather for poor economic results (seriously, the holiday shopping season was a complete bust), and overvaluation of speculative IPOs, tech stocks and other momentum stocks, enterprise valuations of stocks in the billions of dollars, based on nothing but pure speculation.

Nothing will stop the wreckage that the Fed and global central banks working in collusion have set in motion. The numbers are ghastly and overwhelming and the warnings have been written about for years. The time to prepare was yesterday, though there is still time, but thought processes must change. Status and wealth should not be measured by the size of one's McMansion, the price of one's car or the depth of one's stock portfolio. True wealth consists of something along these lines: a fully-paid-for home on five or more acres of land, two-thirds of it arable, food and water storage to last at least a year, a horde of cash, gold and/or silver, absolutely ZERO DEBT, and the ability and weaponry to defend it all.

Ask yourself, who among you can make claim to that, because that is real wealth, not the paper promises from Wall Street or Washington.

It's coming. And it may be approaching even faster than anyone wants to consider (think Ukraine).

Good luck.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Why Stocks Were Down Today and Other Ramblings... and Links

Getting right to the point, stocks slipped a little bit more today, oddly enough, right around another 50 points were knocked off the Dow. why is that odd, you ask?

Well, if you were going to dismantle something and didn't want anyone to take notice, you'd do it a little bit at a time, right? So, after a 50-point drop yesterday, another 55 points today receives little fanfare. Anything over 100 on the Dow, in either direction, gets the attention of Bob Pisani and the other market-watching noobs on CNBC and Bloomberg, and you don't want them going around shouting, "hey, look at this!" but 50 points, not so much.

The point is that stocks went down today (and yesterday) because that's the way the Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch's roll. If there were any good reason to bid stocks up, they certainly would have, but, that all got taken care of on January 2nd, to the tune of a 300-point rally. Now it's profit-taking harvest time for the quick-traders out there making all the loot, but, you know, they don't want anyone thinking it's time to head for the hills because there's a flood of bad stuff coming our way.

Uh-uh. Can't have that. The muppets must not be allowed to understand anything that is really happening. Only the global elitists are privy to the inside baseball stuff.

So, what's that bad stuff heading our way? How about a nasty, well-orchestrated fight over the debt ceiling that leads directly to a government shutdown? It has been mentioned only a few dozen times just this week, though every political empty hat says they want to avoid that at all costs. (Rubbish: we all know how loathe the pols in Washington are to actually do any work and how much they relish leisure time.)

So, yes, get ready for that, and that would precipitate some selling of stocks. Once the big guys get their profits, then the little people can take losses, all the while the talking head analysts saying things like, "this is just a little correction," or "stocks will rebound in the second half" (like Notre Dame did last night? Let's hope not).

It's been almost two weeks since the latest market moving event - the fiscal cliff miasma - so, a new crisis can't really be far off. Things should start getting heated up in a few more days or maybe around the end of January, once the new members of congress are all schooled up on their new roles and understand the rules of the game.

Yep, the debt ceiling showdown should prove to be some of the best political theatre of the year, and maybe the most disruptive. The Republicans keep threatening it, and they don't want to look like the boy who cried wolf, so, this time, they'll probably do it, and it will last maybe two or three weeks before a compromise is reached. Naturally, such a compromise will solve nothing except to get most of the furloughed federal employees back on the job, slow down the "recovery" a little and provice cover for Wall Street's anticipated lousy earnings.

So, that's why stocks were down today, but they'll be up sooner or later, and trade sideways a bit before the real deal comes down. Then, they'll drop like rocks from a tower, and it will be YOUR MONEY losing value, not THEIRS.

BTW: Alcoa (AA) kicked off earnings season after the bell, posting in-line earnings per share of six cents, which says plenty about the health of this global giant and the world economy in general. Their outlook is for aluminum demand to increase seven percent this year, due to, get this, increased demand from the aerospace industry (read: defense contractors). Whether or not that hike in demand ever materializes, well, we will just have to stay tuned. In the meantime, Alcoa is still a sub-$10 stock, which it's been for close to a year now. There's a reason for that.

Yesterday, I (that being me, Fearless Rick) opined on these pages that something was broken, though I could not quite put my finger on exactly what "it" was that had gone amiss, ending with the gloomy prospect that maybe everything was broken.

Of course, there are innumerable things broken in America and around the world, but there are many more that work, like the Internet, for instance. You're reading this, after all, on the internet. That works.

What's not working, and hasn't been for a long time is the media, but the internet is beginning to take care of that. Most people under the age of 30 get the majority of their news and opinion-making articles from the internet, not mainstream TV, newspapers or (heaven forbid!) the radio, so there's hope on that front.

So, thinking that I must find out just what it is that's broken, research ensued, which consisted of a couple of adult beverages and some internet surfing.

Well, I was right. The entire global economic system is broken, and has been broken for a long time, but I already knew that. I just didn't know exactly how badly broken it was until I came across this exceptional piece of video (8 parts) by one Ann Barnhardt, and her aptly-titled dissertation, The Economy Is Going To Implode...And You Deserve to now Why.

Ms. Barnhardt breaks the complexities of the modern global economy down to a very understandable, though frighteningly-real level that just about everyone (including politicians and tin-horn local office-holders) can understand. One may or may not agree with her approach or her views, but nobody can argue with the math, which presents an unshakable case for economic calamity. This is must viewing for anyone who wishes to understand why everything seems to be heading downhill in America or to relieve - at least for a short time - that nagging feeling that something is broken. Here's part one of the video series.

Just in case you were busy watching the disgrace of Notre Dame at the hands of Alabama last night, and missed this, here's Alex Jones going ballistic over gun control on the Piers Morgan Show. And, in case you don't know who Alex Jones is, well, you're probably just another sheeple, or maybe a sleeple (that's people who appear awake but are actually sleeping). So, here's a link to Enjoy the video rant.

Dow 13,328.85, -55.44 (0.41%)
NASDAQ 3,091.81, -7.00 (0.23%)
S&P 500 1,457.15, -4.74 (0.32%)
NYSE Composite 8,604.38, -32.53 (0.38%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,743,272,375
NYSE Volume 3,757,457,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3003-3411
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 302-13
WTI crude oil: 93.15, -0.04
Gold: 1,662.20, +15.90
Silver: 30.46, +0.383

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Market's Cynical Response to a "Good" Economy

Just in case anybody (everybody) is having trouble understanding current market dynamics, today's response to the 2:00 pm EDT release of minutes from the last FOMC rate policy meeting in March should serve to middy matters even further.

Not to make too fine a point of it, but the Fed governors were fairly sanguine about the economy and hinted that if the economy continued to plod along at its current snail's pace there would probably be little to no need for further policy easing or, in the parlance of today's twisted environment, more quantitative easing (QE).

Upon hearing the news, the knee-jerk response would be optimistic and stocks would be expected to get a bit of a bounce, but, in this cynical environment, the exact opposite happened. The major indices had been meandering along the unchanged line, but sold off sharply when the Fed minutes were released.

Throw conventional thinking out the window. All that matters, apparently, to the wizards of Wall Street, is for the Fed to keep the printing presses well oiled and running, feeding more free cash to the banks and their brokerages, in order to keep this most unrealistic market rally ever witnessed rolling along.

The logic works thusly: if the Fed stops printing, Wall Street will no longer have the risk-free trading to which they've become so accustomed to over the past three years, so, any sign that the economy is actually improving, which would end the free money party, must be met with disdain.

It is the most cynical market response to good news that's been seen around these parts in many a year and yet another reason why most individuals have shunned stocks for so long. They simply do not make sense as sound investments when herd-like machinations can take them down in the face of good news.

Orwell would be proud, but only for a moment.

Dow 13,199.55, -64.94 (0.49%)
NASDAQ 3,113.57, -6.13 (0.20%)
S&P 500 1,413.38, -5.66 (0.40%)
NYSE Composite 8,216.54, -64.29 (0.78%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,791,503,250
NYSE Volume 3,790,125,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1841-3782
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 250-61
WTI crude oil: 104.01, -1.22
Gold: 1,647.00, -32.70
Silver: 32.62, -0.48

Friday, July 9, 2010

Forget Double Dip, the Next Bottom May be Deeper

Stocks continued their now four-day rally with the weakest volume of the week on Friday. Most of the buying - mostly positioning for earnings releases beginning next week - occured in the final two hours of the session.

Nonetheless, it was a stellar performance for the holiday-shortened span, with stocks rebounding sharply after two months of relentless selling.

Dow 10,198.03, +59.04 (0.58%)
NASDAQ 2,196.45, +21.05 (0.97%)
S&P 500 1,077.96, +7.71 (0.72%)
NYSE Composite 6,808.71, +52.90 (0.78%)

Advancers buried decliners, 4901-1497, and new lows were trampled by an onrush of new highs, 168-72. Volume was the lightest it has been in weeks, typical for summer trading, though potentially disconcerting to some trend-watchers who have noted many recent higher moves on inadequate volume. It's called speculation, and there's still plenty to go around.

NASDAQ Volume 1,601,902,625
NYSE Volume 3,999,371,000

Commodities were again positive for sellers, with oil up 65 cents, to $76.09, gold rocketing higher by $13.80, to $1,209.60 and silver tacking on 20 cents to the price of an ounce, at $18.05.

Following up on a recent post - June 1, US Markets the World's Laughing Stock; Second Great Depression Still Looming in which I compared current stock market conditions to those of the Great Depression, along come two esteemed commentators, Donald Luskin of Trend Macrolytics LLC, writing for the Wall Street Journal, and Daryl Guppy of to solidify my position and rationale.

Luskin's article, Why This Isn't Like 1938—At Least Not Yet, carries my argument about the similarities a step further and somewhat in another direction, comparing today's stock market, and economy, to that of 1937-38, a recession within the Great Depression which exhibits an eerily-similar pattern to the recent S&P 500. Offering an over-imposed chart of the two periods, it's difficult to argue against his analysis, especially when he mentions:
In 1937 the economy was in a strong recovery from a severe crisis, and there was complacency that the worst was over—much like the exuberance about a "V-shaped' recovery this April. But after 1937 the economy relapsed into what historians call "the recession within the Depression," a downturn so severe that in any other context it would qualify as a depression itself.

It was triggered by a set of very specific policy mistakes. The Fed tightened by raising reserve requirements. Consumers were hit with new taxes to pay for the then-new Social Security program. Worried about excessive deficits, Roosevelt cut government spending. At the same time, his administration accelerated antibusiness rhetoric and regulation.

Those conditions sound quite a bit like what is directly ahead for the US economy, some of the same policies already set in motion.

Guppy's point is that there's a head-and-shoulders pattern developing that looks just like the one at the start of the Great Depression, the period to which I referred in my June 1 post. His analysis was released on July 5, when most of us were still enjoying the tail end of a three-day weekend, so it's unsurprising that many missed it.

Whether or not anyone agrees with history repeating itself, charting or comparisons, it certainly seems worth considering what might happen over the next 6 months to 6 years. Using reasonable market assumptions being a key tenet of any sound financial plan, might it not be time for people to begin using models which predict lower rates of return, possible deflation - instead of inflation - and benchmarks taken from actual conditions rather than the rosy assumptions (7-9% y-o-y gains, 3% inflation) usually thrown around by "respected" financial planners and analysts?

Which brings up yet another point of contention. Bull or Bear, optimist or pessimist, everyone has to have some kind of time horizon for investments, and, there being no better time than the present to plan for the future, one wonders just how long it might be before stocks return to the all-time highs of October, 2007.

I'll toss out a number here, just for argument's sake. With the Dow right around 10,000 today, I'll say that the index won't return to the 14,164 number (October 9, 2007) for maybe thirty years. How's that for perspective? Too gloomy? Bear in mind that it took more than 25 years years from stocks to recover from get back to the previous pre-crash high. The Dow Jones Industrials closed at 381.17 on September 3, 1929 and didn't rise back to that level until November 23, 1954, when they closed at 382.74. Surely, conditions were dire during the Great Depression and through world War II, but, considering the massive amount of debt overhang (still growing) and unfunded liabilities of around $130 Trillion (unfunded and unresolved), one might suggest that economic conditions are far worse, by degree, than they were some 80 years ago.

Just using a simple formula of 7% gains, compounded annually, it would take five years to retake the 14,164 level, and is anybody predicting five straight years of 7% returns? None that I know of, and if you know of any, do yourself a favor and seek out other opinions. With the ten-year treasury hovering around 3% and the 30-year around 4%, we all should be well aware that explosive growth is not in the near-term cards.

That's why I keep saying that cash is king, because if stocks and other assets decline in value, your cash will buy more down the road. That's what deflation is all about.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why the FOMC Didn't Hike Rates; Tweet this. Or Don't.

I'm not going to win a Pulitzer Prize for this, but the reason the Fed did nothing again today is pretty simple.

1. The economy is being kept afloat by money being shoveled to banks, via nearly no interest loans, and people, via what the government likes to call "transfer payments," which are the usual, unemployment checks, social security checks, military and other federal retirement checks, disability checks, welfare checks.

2. The middle class pays most of their bills. They pay mortgages, taxes, utilities and they pay for necessities such as food, fuel, etc. Can anybody begrudge them the occasional splurge for a new shirt, car or iPad?

3. Private sector employment is becoming a myth and the more the government tries to tax every aspect of employment, the worse it's going to get. Private businesses must cut every imaginable corner just to stay in business.

Conclusion: the economy is still on the ropes. "Recovery" is an absolute joke. We are, as a nation, still scraping along the bottom. Public confidence in government is low and waning. Politicians grandstand for votes. Wall Street is still nothing more than a big casino. The Fed knows all of this and much more. They're scared to death. Eventually, the banks must give back all the money they stole from the middle class or the nation will never recover, probably splintering into a kind of new age Europe, which may, in fact, be the best thing that can happen.

Here's a plan: Expect the worst; enjoy what you have; don't pay retail for anything (including taxes; if you can get a deal on utilities, let me know how).

Dow 11,045.27, +53.28 (0.48%)
NASDAQ 2,471.73, +0.26 (0.01%)
S&P 500 1,191.36, +7.65 (0.65%)
NYSE Composite 7,499.72, +36.63 (0.49%)

Advancing issues, as expected, beat decliners, 3659-2857; there were 244 new highs (the lowest number in a month, at least) and just 48 new lows. Volume was solid.

NYSE Volume 7,046,415,500
NASDAQ Volume 2,728,942,500

Oil gained 78 cents, to $83.22. CNN Money ran a headline touting, Oil rises on Fed rate decision as if the two are somehow co-aligned. Maybe they are, but one has to really stretch imagination to figure out how that is.

Gold added $9.60, to $1,171.30, while silver fell a penny, to $18.11.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

More Stocks Making New Highs

For the fifth consecutive day, new highs have exceeded new lows, today, by 91-69.

To some, that may sound like fairly mundane news, but to readers of this blog, it's an important turning point. Daily new lows have outnumbered new highs every day for some 21 months (with the exception of about 6 days) until last week.

So, has the spell been broken? Is the economy on the verge of recovery? Are we headed for a new bull market?

The answers, in order, are: YES, NO, and PROBABLY NOT.

Until the economy begins showing real signs of strength, such as, home prices increasing instead of declining, month-over-month; new jobs being created; corporate profits showing real improvement, not just "beat the (watered-down) street numbers"; and maybe getting the national debt under control, the US economy is in for a rough ride. While the solitary new lows-new highs indicator may be turning green, it's more likely because the new highs set in 2008, much like earnings forecasts, are of the low-bar variety. The new highs in '09 are likely well below the previous highs in '07 or '06. and, since the market was hammered so badly both in the fall of '08 and the first quarter of '09, there aren't many more new lows to be had. Some of the real losers have been delisted (see GM, etc.), while others are resting comfortably in the single digits.

As for a new bull market, well, such is the stuff of dreams and fairies. It would be more in the realm of Harry Potter to conger up a new bull market than for the economic conditions to present such a scenario. Stocks are currently overvalued, as will be seen some time later this summer or into the fall. Some selling would indeed be healthy right about now, though there is a general push-back from Wall Street, the federal government and mainstream media against any show of weakness. It's very odd, but much akin to the Japanese (or is it Chinese?) concept of "losing face," wherein one puts on the best show possible in order to appear wholesome, vibrant and strong.

Naturally, that's not what investing in equities is supposed to be about. It's supposed to consist of discounting future value, dividends and solid profitability, product lines and market share. Fundamentals of business and economy, dear Watson.

Dow 8,770.92, +31.90 (0.37%)
NASDAQ 1,862.37, +9.29 (0.50%)
S&P 500 944.89, +5.74 (0.61%)
NYSE Composite 6,163.13, +65.07 (1.07%)

As far as this week is concerned, the movement of the stock market has been kind of like a bad joke, or, watching paint dry. It's been a near-total waste of time. The big winner has been the NYSE Composite, up a whopping 80 points. The NASDAQ has put on 13 points; the S&P almost 5, and the Dow a miraculous 7 whole points!

Index traders are falling asleep at their desks, the excitement is so rare.

On the day, advancing issues outnumbered decliners, 4164-1405, though, while the disparity was large, the actual movement was tiny. You already know the score on the new highs vs. new lows, and volume was a little better than Wednesday's, which really doesn't say much. Investors worldwide are still awaiting some kind of pull-back, though it may be a long time in coming, if at all.

NYSE Volume 1,223,187,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,501,569,000

Oil hit a new high for the year, to nobody's surprise, rising $1.35, to $72.68. Gold was up as well, gaining $6.80, to $961.50, and silver added 27 cents, to $15.49. Commodity prices, outside of crude oil, have been trading up and down without much direction for the past three to four weeks, much like the stock market. The entire globe has been engulfed by an acute condition of indecisiveness, worse than any H1N1 Pandemic.

Tomorrow, we're hoping the market will be up, or down. Something to hang one's hat on would be welcome after a week of dullness.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Game Over! Stocks Swoon on Stress Test Suspicion

Stocks opened higher despite more sour economic news, but ended the day in the red as the reality that Treasury's "stress test" for the ailing banking sector was more smoke, mirrors, politics and PR than an actual remedy.

Secretary Tim Geithner's "plan" to resolve the banking and financial crisis has good probability to extend the recession by not addressing the core problems. (See earlier post below for details on Treasury's plan.)

Blow by blow, here's how the day went, as interpreted by Wall Street's desperate price discovery process (at least somebody's working).

8:30 am: The Commerce Dept. issues monthly Durable Goods Orders report for January, citing a deep decline of 5.2% from the previous month, the sixth straight monthly drop. It's evident that Americans have their wallets and purses closed tight. Some even have forsaken carrying such.

The Labor Dept. announces 667,000 new weekly unemployment claims nationally. The 5.1 million currently receiving benefits is the highest since the department began keeping records in 1967. The federal government celebrated the occasion by adding $25 to the weekly benefit. Each week, an additional $127,500,000 of taxpayer money will be spent, beginning immediately.

9:30 am: The markets open with sharp gains, ignoring the dire economic reports. The Dow is up 80 points in the first ten minutes. the other major indices are up more than 1%. Bank of America is up 0.69 at 5.85.

10:45 am: The Dow reaches what will eventually be the high of the day - 7400 - up 130 points. 26 of 30 Dow stocks show gains. Bank of America peaks at 5.89, up 0.73.

1:13 pm: Having given up all of the day's gains, the Dow briefly falls into negative territory. Bank of America is up only 0.24 at 5.40.

3:15 pm: Stocks are in full retreat, with the Dow lower by 97 points. Bank of America is down 0.05 at 5.11. There are now only nine Dow components with gains. Most have completely rolled over.

4:00 pm: Markets close with all indices near the day's lows. It's the 8th losing day in the last 10. The Dow closes below 7200 for the second time this week. 22 Dow components close with losses, 8 with gains. Bank of America finishes with a cheerless win of 0.16, at 5.32.

Dow 7,182.08, -88.81 (1.22%)
NASDAQ 1,391.47, -33.96 (2.38%)
S&P 500 752.83, -12.07 (1.58%)
NYSE Composite 4,713.02, -40.15 (0.84%)

Market internals verified the session's finish. Declining issues outgunned advancers, 3755-2761. New lows: 460; new highs: 4, the lowest number of new highs I have seen since October of 2007. Volume was high once again, as investors alternately test and flee from equities.

NYSE Volume 1,482,993,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,348,150,000

Commodities were split. Crude oil for April delivery was up $2.72 to an unsustainable $45.22. Gold continued to correct on profit-taking, losing $23.60, to $942.60. Silver tumbled 94 cents, to $12.98, an excellent buying opportunity for long term investors.

Today's results were startling, stunning, unprecedented in the level of pessimism on display, expressing a remarkable distrust of government and overwhelming lack of confidence in the economic future. There is little doubt among investors that the government has failed to offer reasonable solutions to stem bank losses, job losses, income deterioration and revive - or even stabilize - the economy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Well-greased Skids

If the price of oil goes up much more, the Dow and other US equity indices will readily slide down that slippery slope. The traders know this, investors know this, even the oil executives know this is true and that's the #1 reason the price of oil isn't going to go through the roof.

Oil executives are not fools. They realize that in a slowing economy, they can't be out there greasing the skids with higher fuel costs (well, not too high, anyway), because there's a breaking point and we're getting pretty close to it. The big oil companies charge higher than market prices because they can. Congress and our lax regulatory agencies allow them to effectively rig prices so as to effectively maximize profits. They are not, however, the only corporations with skin in the game. After a while, some of their corporate brethren might want a piece of the greed gravy train as well. If the oil companies siphon off all of the disposable income in the economy, there's little to nothing left for the Wal-Marts, Citigroups and Microsofts of the world because the Exxon-Mobils are taking more then their fair share.

Big oil has been getting fat at the public trough for a long time, but they've really beefed up recently. And they've done so at considerable expense to everyday consumers, governmental bodies and other corporations. It's time for the oil companies to make a little less money and act a little more like responsible corporate citizens for a change (I know, it's very wishful thinking.).

The handwriting is on the wall, and has been for some time. The US economy would be in much better shape if people were spending 20% less for fuel (and not just gas, but home heating oil and natural gas, too) than they are now. The oil companies in the US are an effective monopoly or cartel and Congress should have taken action long ago to curtail their illegal price-fixing operations. Big oil can profess all they like that the refineries aren't operating at full capacity or that they have no control over the price of oil. Unfortunately for them, nobody's buying that argument any more, but it's going to take a pretty big scare on Wall Street for them to mend their ways, and that scare has begun.

Today's trading was more of what we've become accustomed to over the past six weeks: sluggish and lower, pessimism abounding, plenty of rational reasons. The elephant in the room still remains big oil. They're a drag, both in real terms and euphemistically. High fuel prices are getting old and stocks are taking a beating on it. Wealth is not very evenly distributed and there's little new money coming into the markets. Big oil is sucking the life out of the economy.

Whether the oil execs are smart enough, visionary enough, to understand how they'll be damaged in an outright recession remains to be seen. Keep an eye peeled on oil prices, which shot up another $1.15 to $64.08 today. That's now about $6-8 per barrel higher than the economy can handle. Forget about a crash in housing prices. That's a fait accompli. $3.00 per gallon gas will just be more fuel on the fire and will, without a doubt, drag the nation into a recession. While it may already be too late, some relief at the pump would be more than just welcome, it may be necessary.

Dow 12,300.36 -96.93; NASDAQ 2,417.10 -20.33; S&P 500 1,417.23 -12.38; NYSE Composite 9,218.54 -70.25

After Monday's negligible trade, Tuesday and Wednesday have cost the Dow and the other indices anywhere from 1 to 1.5% for the week. After rocketing up 370 points last week, the Dow's given back more than half, 180 points, this week, but still 225 points ahead of the March 13 low point of 12,075.96. There's little doubt that number will be tested again, and soon. First quarter earnings are due to make their way to the street in a week's time, and the trickle down could easily turn into a deluge. Corporate profits have been solid, maybe too good, because companies have some tough numbers to exceed from a year ago. Many will not make the grade.

Wednesday's market internals were nearly a carbon copy of Tuesday's. declining issues were ahead of advancing ones nearly 2-1, with 207 new highs versus 91 new lows. Pessimism is spreading, however, as down volume was 3 times up volume. Traders are getting very picky and that's not generally a sign of a healthy market. The remainder of the week could turn out to be very discouraging indeed.

Today's economic events - a 2.5% rise in durable goods orders and a slackening of crude inventories were just enough to keep buyers on the sidelines. Tomorrow, the government finalizes 4Q '06 GDP, and the tepid pace of 2.2%, if confirmed, will only serve to dampen attitudes. Initial claims may have some effect, but only if it's very much a negative. Friday's miasma of reports, from Personal Income to the Chicago Purchase Manager's Index, may just tip the markets over the edge.

Of course, much more of the now non-stop nonsense emanating from our nation's capitol may prove to be the unseen straw that breaks the camels back. We have a dysfunctional executive branch being hounded by an impatient Congress, all of it heading for a nasty cataclysm. There are a lot of angry, bitter, upset people out there who are certainly not in any kind of mood for any more distasteful news. The American people are fed up and the discontent is growing.

Be prepared for some very unsettling days and weeks ahead.

Friday, December 29, 2006

2007 Predictions (part 2)

Management will be key in 2007. Those companies which can outperform their rivals and adjust to changing economic and market conditions will appreciate dramatically in 2007, while the bulk of publicly-traded companies will skirmish with health care, distribution and marketing issues.

Stocks in general will perform poorly, however, and some will fail outright. A correction is fairly due in the near term, most likely in the first two quarters of 2007, though either sharply rising prices or range-bound fluctuations are equally possible. There has not been a 10-15% correction in the Dow for the entire length of the current bull market, which has now extended to 51 months.

The Dow has just completed its 4th consecutive year of positive returns and 2006 was the best year in the past three. It's not surprising that stocks have accomplished such sparkling gains considering the healthy profit scenarios and rather loose policy guidelines over recent years.

What is surprising is how the markets have behaved with rigid resolution during a time of high deficit spending, a poor balance of trade and the general malaise associated with the conflict in Iraq and the poor US foreign relations policy. Falling currency values must have contributed to higher share prices over this period. Foreigners have, in relation to dollar-denominated assets, more money to boost stock prices, and they certainly have. One could assert that stocks must rise just to stay even with the falling value of the US dollar.

Continued loose policy on many fronts, including the Fed's rate policy could lead to a hyperinflationary environment, but that's all about to change. The shifting politics in Washington should foment positive movements on fiscal policy, foreign relations and spending. A conclusion in Iraq is overdue and calls for an end to US military involvement in the Middle East will only grow louder if the conditions remain the same or worsen.

It's going to be a year of transition in which strong internal management will not only profit but lead into a more balanced and dynamic market. With that in mind, a 15% rise on the Dow would put the average at 16,675, a number that not only seems unrealistic, and probably is. Don't expect the Dow to cross much higher than 16,000 at some point in 2007, but be reminded that a pull-back in the first half will make such a move all the more daunting.

To say that every rally climbs a wall of worry is to speak loudly of this current bull. Sustaining the edge during a transition will not be easy for traders or investors. Expect a cyclical change in sector leadership, and small emerging technology companies in computing, agriculture, medicine and energy will perform very well and many will be takeover targets.

Large value companies, like those comprising the Dow, will continue to diversify to meet changing demands and become even more entrenched in their respective business sectors. That's all positive news for US stocks and 2007 will present quality buying opportunities. The underground, or unseen, economy will continue to thrive and feed into the mainstream at an unprecedented rate. Cash and credit are circulating and growing remarkedly; a condition that must be approached and understood to be cautionary.

2007 will experience political disruptions more often than economic ones. The world's currency exchange system, precarious as it is, has now interpreted globalization effects and accommodated. While areas of fragility will persist, no cataclysmic events can be seen looming and those problem areas such as inflation and disparities in markets will be met with policy action. Areas outside the US will almost certainly afford better returns, though with the associated higher risk. Established foreign firms based in stable nations should be given a hard look.

Expected gains are 7% on the Dow, 12% on the Nasdaq and 5% on the S&P 500 at year end, though the range, especially the lows, could be dramatic.