Showing posts with label employment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label employment. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Credit World May Become A Battlefield If FICO and Square Butt Heads; Silver on the Move; ADP Fairy Tales

A couple of stories from the world of personal credit are noteworthy as the world enters the third quarter of 2020 hoping for improvement but fearing a repeat of the second quarter from the same enemy which ran roughshod over the world economy.

It's not the virus that people fear, but government response to it in terms of restricted mobility, business operations, and general closures of everything from schools and churches to bars and hair salons.

While the planet and government managers struggle with the virus and their chances in the upcoming US elections in November, credit issues are popping up like daffodils in Springtime. Huge numbers of Americans are foregoing rent and mortgage payments, citing unemployment as the main cause for a diminished cash flow, and delinquencies are piling up not only on mortgages (which are vitally important), but on car loans and leases, student debt, credit cards, and personal loans.

It's because of these issues, or perhaps in spite of them, that FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) wants to rate your resilience and ability to pay back borrowed money in a recession or economic downturn. The company and its affiliate credit scorekeepers - Experian, TransUnion and Equifax - are looking back at credit histories from the GFC in 2007-09 for hints of riskiness in borrowers.

Their findings, which won't be relevant for at least a few more months, could affect how consumers are judged when applying for any kind of credit, from mortgages to car loans. If economic conditions remain below par, many people with poor resilience scores could find themselves out of luck getting credit.

Countering FICO's foray into past performance of borrowers, Chime continues to innovate in the banking and credit space with the launch of the Chime Credit Builder Visa Credit Card.

Actually a debit card that works like a credit card, users can transfer funds from a secure Chime account to a Visa card, and use that money to charge anything, including everyday items like food, gas, clothing or general expenses. The charges are paid by the card automatically, and the results reported to the credit bureaus. The goal is to improve credit scores for mainly younger folks, who favor debit cards over credit, but who need to establish or improve their credit history.

If it sounds like cheating, it very well may be. This is reporting of purchases made with essentially a debit card being reported as a credit card. The credit bureaus are likely to balk at this methodology. A clash between the old standard bureaus and the upstart Chime might make for some interesting developments in how credit and individual risk are measured down the road.

Tuesday's hands-down big winner was silver, which rocketed up by more than two percent in the futures space, vaulting over the psychologically-challenging $18 mark and holding around $18.20. Gold's little sister has a lot of catching up to do and if this price maintains, should signal that a run up to resistance in the $20-21 range is imminent. Correlated closely to the S&P index (for God only knows what reason), if stocks falter and silver holds or goes even higher, that would qualify as a major development. Keep eyes peeled on that space.

Stocks continued their rally from Monday into Tuesday, which was the final day of the month and of the second quarter, an important milestone, since GDP for the quarter - heavily affected by the coronavirus and state-by-state lockdowns and business closures - is expected to check in with a very negative number on a scale likely never seen before. Estimates for second quarter GDP range between -25% to -52%.

Current stock valuations seem to be suggesting that investors are leaning toward the upper end of that range. A decline of 30-35% might actually be seen as a positive for markets because it will be viewed as a one-off event followed by a rapid recovery, though the jury is still out on whether economic recovery will look like a "V", "W", or an "L".

Any view of the stock market indices over the past five months clearly show a "V" shape, with stocks declining and rising at the same frenetic pace. The recovery pattern for stocks can hardly be taken as definitive by any measure of economic activity. Stocks were skyrocketing off their lows as millions of people were losing their jobs, the government and Federal Reserve exercising emergency measures, and the general economy entering a recession.

A "W" pattern goes along with the "second wave" theory of the virus, already being engineered by increased testing and renewed calls for shutdowns, lockdowns, face masks, social distancing and all the assorted recommendations which were successful only in wrecking the Main Street small business economy.

The "L" pattern is the one most despised by money managers, banking executives, and financial central planners because it offers no realistic hope for the immediate future. The "L" concept implies that the economy falls and stays down for an extended period. Like just about everything else the experts at the biggest banks and financial institutions predict, contrarian view has the slow recovery "L" pattern front of mind and it is actually the most likely pattern - not for stocks or any other asset classes - for the general economy in terms of GDP, personal income, and employment.

Finally, queueing the start of the third quarter in the typical doublespeak manner, ADP's June Employment Report showed a gain of 2,369,000 jobs in the non-farm private sector. This follows a decline of 2,760,000 in May, with June just about covering all those job losses. ADP saw 19.5 million people lose their jobs in April, another 2.8 million lost jobs in May (which has now been revised to +3.065mm!). It's almost as if many of those 20 million people filing continuing unemployment claims don't exist, which is fine, since we're all living in bizarro-world now.

At the Close, Tuesday, June 30, 2020:
Dow: 25,812.88, +217.08 (+0.85%)
NASDAQ: 10,058.77, +184.61 (+1.87%)
S&P 500: 3,100.29, +47.05 (+1.54%)
NYSE: 11,893.78, +116.69 (+0.99%)

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Why An Hourly Wage Is Such a Bad Idea

Let's talk about money, your work experience, and taxes, just what you want to think about this morning, right?

It is an important topic, however, just because so many people avoid thinking about their work and its relation to taxation and general well-being.

Right from jump street, if you're working for an hourly wage, everybody's getting cheated. You, your employer, even the government which takes part of your pay before you even see it is getting a raw deal, though it could be argued that the government, which has little to no "skin in the game" when it comes to your income, your employment, and your work habits, has nothing to lose and so much to gain.

By taking a job or a position in exchange for so form of compensation based on time, you've rendered yourself about as useful or resourceful as a drone. You show up, you punch the clock, you perform your duties, you go home. Nothing more, nothing less. It's a dreadful condition, draining the life force out of you on a regularly scheduled basis. Making matters even worse, your boss probably thinks you aren't working hard enough and the government takes a percentage of everything - before you even see it - and wants more.

The concept of hourly wages is a relatively recent development in the great pantheon of civilization and labor. Prior to 1900, workers were paid by the day, week, or month, or by the task, which, being that much of the labor of the era was performed on farms, often included lodging and/or meals. This made sense because the world was a hard-scrabble place, weather took its toll on the amount and quality of work performed over days and even weeks, and it was generally well-known that workers wore down after six to eight hours on a particular job and the quality might suffer as the day wore away at their muscles and bones.

It wasn't until the industrial revolution and the great immigration from Europe to America that hourly wages became established. Employers and unions established scales of wages and requirements for work-weeks (a typical week of work was from 50 to 60 hours). In the early days of industrialization, unions became necessary because naturally, employers wanted to pay as little as possible, but workers needed to earn a decent living, provide for their families, and maybe have a little left over for savings.

It wasn't until 1938 - in the throes of the Great Depression - that minimum wage laws were established, at the time, a necessary evil, because not just workers, but employers as well, were suffering from the maladies of slack demand and massive deflation. During that developmental period and since then, the hourly wage became the standard compensation for menial tasks and the government didn't miss the opportunity to get its unfair share, beginning in the early 1940s, when they imposed payroll deductions as a means to fund the war effort incurred during world War II.

When the war was over, the feds didn't stop there, they just kept taking part of everybody's pay, increasing their percentage over the years. States jumped on that bandwagon as well, many imposing their own income taxes. Many still believe that income tax or any tax on wages is unconstitutional. They're actually right, and why the IRS calls income tax "voluntary," but try not paying your share and see what happens. There's nothing voluntary about wage taxes and deductions from your paycheck. It's theft on a grand scale.

It's a crying shame that somebody making $15 per hour only gets to take home about $12 of that hourly rate after the feds take their withholding amount, Social Security (FICA) and Medicaid "contribution" and the state piles in for another piece of your pie. People making more are penalized even further. That's the government side of the equation. Making it all the more unbearable, the various governments waste what they take from you and have to borrow even more and still can't manage to balance their budget. It's like throwing money down a black hole, this one lined with $26 trillion in federal debt which will never be repaid.

Getting back to the hourly wage and why it makes everybody a crook, you're probably not happy about the government taking 12-20% or more right out of your paycheck. You may decide to work 12-20% less or slow your productivity because of that unfair practice. That, in effect, steals from your employer, who isn't at fault for the government's intrusion into an agreement made between you and your boss' company, but it is he who pays for lost productivity, slack standards, theft, and the other unintended consequences of hourly wages.

Because, like you, the employer feels threatened by both sides - workers and the government - he cuts hours, or lays off unproductive employees, putting more strain on those that remain. He or she might also makes use of accountants and any other tricks available to limit his contributions to the government. It's the employer who writes the checks after all, and it is the employer who must remit to the government. Many have tried to cheat the government. Many have failed. Many are out of business, but the point is that the hourly wage and payroll deductions have spawned all sorts of bad behavior by employees and employers alike. More often than not, it's payments made to the "silent partners" - governments - that bankrupt businesses and put people out of work through no faults of their own.

The other major problem with a hourly wage it that it stifles productivity and efficiency. Maybe you can produce six widgets an hour, but everybody else on your shift can only produce four. If you're all making the same wage, there's absolutely no upside for you to work more efficiently than your peers unless you believe you'll get a raise, which, in a union setting, would be impossible. Even then, if you were to get a raise for your more efficient use of time, when your fellow workers find out, they'll castigate you and tell you you're making their lives more difficult. It's a no win condition.

If you get paid $15 an hour to do a job in five hours, but you could do it in four, why would you? The hourly wage not only does not encourage efficiency, it retards it. Or, would you rather make $60 instead of $75 for the same job?

The hourly wage is one of the worst inventions ever created in terms of labor effectiveness and efficiency. It stifles creativity, encourages bad behavior and spawns more government rules, regulations, and taxes. It reduces an erstwhile valuable human being to little more than a punch-press machine. It's degrading and demoralizing and nearly universal. Anything that becomes that widespread without competition - like a monopoly - should be done away with, the sooner the better.

As much as we'd all like to believe that everybody is created equal, it just isn't the case. In the eyes of the law, maybe. Hours and days are not created equally either. It's a proven fact that less work gets done after two o'clock than before noon; Fridays are radically different from Mondays.

Maybe some good will come from the lockdowns and stay-at-home impositions caused by the coronavirus. If anything, it's given people the opportunity to work from home, unsupervised, and maybe given everybody a chance to ponder the value of work versus an hourly wage. Hopefully, this time will encourage people to do their own thing, to start a home-based business, or at least look into alternatives to the time-worn nine-to-five practice.

The main beneficiaries of standardized hourly wages seem to be governments and their tax regimes. Might a return to the sanity of daily or weekly wages, piece work, or by-the-job work become reasonable alternatives?

We can only hope.

The Markets:

Gold futures soared on Monday, peaking at $1765 before being knocked down to just under $1755 an ounce at the New York close. Silver reached out above $18 an ounce prior to a late-morning smackdown, closing at the regrettable - an utterly unrealistic - price of $17.68.

While goldbugs continue to cry about manipulation, it seems obvious that any continuing control over precious metals markets is about keeping the gold to silver ratio near the historical absurdity of 100 and the forces in opposition to real money at the futures windows. After all, silver is more plentiful, more affordable to everybody and much more divisible than gold. Remember, prior to the Crime of 1873, silver was money, but the banking elite of the day wanted to establish a gold standard, and did, impoverishing many independent businesspeople and farmers in the process.

Now that the entire planet is on a fiat standard, which is no standard at all, it's time for silver to take its rightful place as the money of gentlemen and of the world. It can start with a readjustment to a reasonable gold:silver ratio of 20, eventually to 16 or 12. If gold is to persist at $1750 or higher, silver should be at least $85 an ounce. Market forces are at work. Prices for single ounce coins and bars on eBay are routinely over $30, and dealers are charging $23 and upwards for the same, if they can get their hands on it.

With eBay charging a ten percent fee on all bullion sales, the actual price of physical silver in one ounce increments is realistically approaching $32 to $35 per ounce. That's Troy ounces, and Troy approves (joke).

Silver may be kept down in the spot and futures markets, to the detriment of dealers and paper-pushers worldwide. In the meantime, the actual, true, honest, real physical market is exploding and will continue to until such a time that silver holders will be satisfactorily compensated.

Fight the Fed. Buy silver.

Bonds: eh, who needs them? The Fed wants to control the curve to keep short term rates near zero forever. Let them. It can only serve to hasten the return to real money.

Oil prices continue to be inflated, serving only the needs of drillers, shippers, and distillers. When the price of WTI crude falls back to realistic levels around $24-30 a barrel and states begin reducing their onerous gasoline taxes, the economy can begin recovering. Until then, we're stuck in an artificial stagflationary environment.

Stocks gained. They always do. Shares of public companies have never been as expensive.

At the Close, Monday, June 22, 2020:
Dow: 26,024.96, +153.50 (+0.59%)
NASDAQ: 10,056.47, +110.35 (+1.11%)
S&P 500: 3,117.86, +20.12 (+0.65%)
NYSE: 12,028.91, +48.79 (+0.41%)

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Is Another October Surprise Developing for US Stocks?

On the opening day of trading for the fourth quarter, stocks were beaten down, with all of the major US averages losing more than one percent on the day.

Following Monday's end-of-quarter window dressing session, the losses on Tuesday were unexpected, but not to any extreme extent.

Could the indices be entering an October surprise, not dissimilar to that which occurred in 2018, when the stock markets retreated en masse from all-time highs and then took further flight in December?

It's a real possibility, since, despite making new all-time highs during the summer months, stocks have been relatively flat for the past year. On October 1, 2018, the Dow stood at 26,447.05, which is just 126 points shy of where it closed on Tuesday. Economic conditions haven't really improved. In fact, many might posit that they have degraded.

The World Trade Organization (WTO), which in April 2018 projected global growth at four percent, recently downgraded all of 2019's growth to a paltry 1.2%. Employment, at least in the US, has peaked, with average monthly non-farm payroll data down from last year and September's figures are likely to come in soft.

ISM Manufacturing in the US fell to its lowest level in a decade, registering a 47.8, down from 49.1 points in August and the lowest level since June 2009. Two straight months below 50 indicates not only contraction, but an acceleration in the level of decline. That, in addition to the inverted yield curve, suggests that a recession is due in the US, as Europe is on the brink of recession as well and the condition has a tendency for global contagion.

Thus, stocks get sold, bonds - in a flight to relative safety - get bought and the result is depressed moods all around.

If general chaos is what one desires, this would seem like the perfect opportunity to impeach a sitting president on little more than hearsay. And that is precisely what House Democrats are attempting.

At the Close, Tuesday, October 1, 2019:

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,573.04, -343.79 (-1.28%)
NASDAQ: 7,908.68, -90.65 (-1.13%)
S&P 500: 2,940.25, -36.49 (-1.23%)
NYSE Composite: 12,835.35, -169.39 (-1.30%)

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%)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

WEEKEND WRAP: The Week The Wheels Fell Off

Was this the week that everything fell completely apart?

The answer is a matter of perspective and speculation, but it sure looked pretty bad. Stocks, with no significant deviation between the Dow, NASDAQ, NYSE Composite, and S&P 500 companies took a major hit, or, rather, a series of heavy blows. Stocks were bludgeoned with regularity, flogged within an inch of their lives, only to be flayed again the following day without respect to any particular sector or class.

Monday was the only positive day of the week, with all the major indices closing nicely in the green. Tuesday was a nightmare, with the Dow dropping nearly 800 points and the other indices dragged down the same abyss. By virtue of the death of former president George H.W. Bush, current president, Donald J. Trump issued an executive order, closing all federal offices for a day of mourning, thus shutting down not just mail service and other government functions, but the financial markets as well.

After the surprise day off, traders got right back to selling again, whacking away with the same ferocity as on Tuesday, but, by mid-afternoon, a suspicious rally emerged, sending the S&P and NASDAQ into positive territory by the close, leaving the Dow with a minor loss of 79 points after it had been down more than 700 during the session. As many expected, the lift late Thursday was either short-term short covering or some button-pushing by the PPT (President's Working Group on Financial Markets... remember them?), setting up Friday for a major collapse of another 558 points on the Dow with the other indices following the lead lower.

What actually was behind the carnage was difficult to discern, as a convergence of events helped shape the worrying. Wrapping up the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires on Sunday, President Trump and China's president, Xi Jinping, announced a 90-day calling off period on new tariffs that were supposed to go into effect and increasing the percentages on others already in force on January 1. Those changes were postponed until March 31, with the intent of the two leaders to work out a framework for trade policy going forward. Markets were obviously pleased on Monday, but by Tuesday felt that a mere 90 days would not be enough to develop long-term policy for either nation.

Politics also is playing a role in the background, as Special Counsel Mueller's bogus "Russia collusion" investigation drags onward with the expectation that a final report will is forthcoming in the very near term. The corrosive political climate in Washington is not only a worry for those involved or tangentially aligned, but it's also having a somewhat chilling effect on investments. Nobody likes uncertainty, but especially so, Wall Street, and when it involves the highest levels of the federal government, the fear gauge goes bonkers and skepticism reigns.

On top of that, there's still a general perception that stocks are not just fully valued, but some are significantly overvalued. More than a few analysts have maintained that the effects of the Trump tax cuts are wearing thin, the federal government is running enormous deficits and a profits squeeze will be apparent by the end of the first or second quarter of 2019.

A minor inversion of the treasury yield curve occurred - almost without notice - on Monday, when the yield on the three-year bill rose above that of the 5-year note. On Tuesday, the 2-year joined in, and both the 2-and-3-year yields ended the week above that of the five. The 2-year closed out Friday at 2.72%, the 3-year the same, and the five-year at 2.70%. The 10-year note was last seen with a yield of 2.85%, and the 30-year down to 3.14%. Bond vigilantes were out in force, and the flight from stocks sent both short and longer-dated bonds soaring. While not quite the textbook inversion of the 2s-10s that have preceded every recession since 1955, the indications are not at all rosy.

Finally, on Friday, November's non-farm payroll data came in woefully short, with expectations of 198,000 jobs met with the reality of just 155,000 new jobs for the month.

The short explanation is that the bull market is getting awfully long in the tooth, the economy is set to slow down a bit in 2019, and the big money on Wall Street is heading for the hills, i.e., bonds and cash or cash equivalents. Dow Theory is about to signal a bear market. The Dow has already sent the signal with its close at 24,285.95 on November 23. Confirmation will come if the Dow Transports close below 9,896.11. It closed Friday at 9,951.16.

With the Fed's FOMC meeting scheduled for December 18-19, and the widely-accepted view is that the Fed will raise the federal funds rate another 25 basis points, there's more than one good reason to be getting out of stocks and those in the know - or at least those who think they know - have been scurrying like rats off a sinking ship.

With the S&P now in correction and the NASDAQ, NYSE composite and Dow Transports already having been there, only the Dow remains above the magic mark of -10 percent. All the major indices show losses for the year and the Dow is just a few hundred points from correction.

Elsewhere on the planet, the number of countries in which their stock markets are already down more than 10 percent continued to grow, with Germany's DAX just a shade above bear market status. That's a huge issue, since Germany is Europe's strongest economy. Given the angst over Brexit, the unwinding of the ECBs massive balance sheet, and Japan's upcoming announcement about the end of QE measures, the focus could easily be on Europe, as it will almost certainly be headed for a recession in 2019. Since Japan's been in something of a recessionary decline for the past 25 years, any slowing of growth on the island nation will barely elicit more than a yawn.

If Europe is about to fall over, the US will almost certainly follow. So much for Making America Great Again (MAGA). The disassembly of the globalist power structure, the rise of populism (marches and violent riots in France) and a global economy on its knees after 10 years of fake stimulus may all be leading to a recession that will have long-lasting and severe consequences.

So, yes, this was the week the wheels fell off.

Here's how the Traveling Wilbury's see it, with the cheery "End of the Line."



Happy Holidays!

Dow Jones Industrial Average December Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
12/3/18 25,826.43 +287.97 +287.97
12/4/18 25,027.07 -799.36 -511.39
12/6/18 24,947.67 -79.40 -590.79
12/7/18 24,388.95 -558.72 -1149.51

At the Close, Friday, December 7, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 24,388.95, -558.72 (-2.24%)
NASDAQ: 6,969.25, -219.01 (-3.05%)
S&P 500: 2,633.08, -62.87 (-2.33%)
NYSE Composite: 11,941.93, -202.48 (-1.67%)

For the Week:
Dow: -1149.51 (-4.50%)
NASDAQ: -361.28 (-4.93%)
S&P 500: -127.09 (-4.60%)
NYSE Composite: -515.62 (-4.14%)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Why Stocks Are Unlikely To Go Any Higher

Forget about today's Fed Minutes. Forget about corporate third quarter earnings lowing to markets this week and next, and for the next month.

Forget all the gains made over the past nine years. The market has peaked, and there's good reasons to believe that and data to back it up.

First of all, stocks are wildly overvalued. By many measures, US equities are priced at the highest point they've ever been. Higher than during the dotcom phase, higher than the subprime wildness, stocks today are carrying just plain stupid valuations, like they are darling growth stocks with improving bottom lines. Many are not.

As an example, take Coca-Cola (KO) a standard of the Dow Industrials for many long years. KO is not a growth stock. It's an income stock with a dividend of 1.56, yielding a healthy 3.46% on its share price of around 45. But, here's the kicker. The P/E of Coca-Cola is a whopping 82. That's a number usually reserved for hot tech start-ups, not globally-engaged, long-in-the-tooth mature companies. It's a ridiculous situation because as the price of the stock falls, the dividend yield will rise, making it the attractive investment it is today.

But it's not. If Coke goes from 45 to 35 in a year or two, the dividend yield will be in a higher range. Revenue is falling. Earnings may be stable due to stock buybacks, which is a hidden portfolio killer. Other stocks like Coke exist, like McDonald's, Home Depot, Goldman Sachs, or just about half of the Dow Industrials.

If the simple overvaluation isn't enough to keep people from dumping their money into stocks, then there's the economic data, like unemployment, currently at 3.7%, which is an historic low. Economists generally consider anything below five percent as full employment because there are always a certain number of people changing jobs, retiring, or otherwise out of the employment market.

Inflation is moderate, but interest rates continue to rise, thanks to the Fed. Their rate hikes are putting a much needed brake on what could be a runaway speculative stock market and maybe already is. The Fed isn't going to suddenly stop raising rates, so, as 2018 winds down as a very dull year for stocks, bonds, currencies, and commodities, 2019 is shaping up to be even worse.

IN many ways, President Trump's promise to "Make America Great Again" may already have been kept. America is pretty great already. Anything more would be Nirvana. We've reached a peak. It's time to slow down a little. Recessions are healthy because they clear out excess malinvestment, like Sears, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection. Or Toys 'R Us, which went belly up last year but had been a zombie company for many years prior to its implosion.

There are other issues as well, from political turmoil in Europe, to trade tensions, to the huge credit bubble that's affecting individuals, businesses, and governments. They're all over-leveraged and deeply indebted.

For these reasons, stocks can't really go much higher, if at all. The bull run is coming to an end, but that's not necessarily bad news, it just means that investors will have to be more disciplined if they hope to profit.

Dow Jones Industrial Average October Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
10/1/18 26,651.21 +192.90 +192.90
10/2/18 26,773.94 +122.73 +315.63
10/3/18 26,828.39 +54.45 +370.08
10/4/18 26,627.48 -200.91 +169.17
10/5/18 26,447.05 -180.43 -11.26
10/8/18 26,486.78 +39.73 +28.47
10/9/18 26,430.57 -56.21 -27.74
10/10/18 25,598.74 -831.83 -859.57
10/11/18 25,052.83 -545.91 -1405.48
10/12/18 25,339.99 +287.16 -1118.32
10/15/18 25,250.55 -89.44 -1207.76
10/16/18 25,798.42 +547.87 -659.89
10/17/18 25,706.68 -91.74 -751.63

At the Close, Wednesday, October 17, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 25,706.68, -91.74 (-0.36%)
NASDAQ: 7,642.70, -2.79 (-0.04%)
S&P 500: 2,809.21, -0.71 (-0.03%)
NYSE Composite: 12,613.05, -32.90 (-0.26%)








Thursday, August 30, 2018

Stocks Take A Breather As Tariff Talk Toughens; Underground Economy, Self-Employment Rising Rapidly

This was not completely unexpected.

Markets have been absolutely on fire the past two weeks, and a pullback was inevitable. The culprit, as usual, will be Donald Trump, and his threat to slap tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports.

While the additional revenue will no doubt aid the fiscal formula of the federal government, the merger impact will be in the form of higher prices, though the effect will be spread out among America's 325 million populace.

Another way of looking at it is that $200 billion worth of Chinese goods spread among roughly 200 million adult Americans comes to $1000 per person. If you whack the goods another 25% with tariffs, it's another $250 per person. Over the course of six months or a year, it's not much, say five to 10 bucks a week.

Chump change... or maybe, Trump change.

An article that caught the eye today focused on the burgeoning self-employment movement in the United States, which has been growing at three times the rate of regular employment over the past three years.

Credit American ingenuity. Work is changing and more than a few people are trading in the nine-to-five grind for making their own hours, especially among Millennials and older, healthy retirees or semi-retired folks. With the burden of Obamacare taken off the backs of Americans, the workforce is free to follow the money, be it as a Uber driver, seller of goods on eBay, pushing online services, or a myriad of other self-employment opportunities, many of which are unregulated, untaxed, and unreported.

The so-called "underground economy" which the US government gave up trying to track in the mid-seventies, is enormous. Its presence and size puts to shame all the government employment statistics, especially the low "persons in the labor force" numbers that plagued the Obama years. Americans come in all stripes and flavors, from welfare recipients who do side jobs, to baby boomers who mow lawns for cash. Most of all, Americans are resourceful and many of them are overtaxed and seeking ways to increase their incomes without notifying the IRS or state governments.

It's working, and the money generated goes all through the economic powerhouse that is the US domestic economy. Governments - local, state, and federal - are all too big and they all waste people's time and money. The US population moved on years ago. Only now, it's getting to be so large that it's hard not to notice.

There probably aren't too many people who remember the years of Prohibition (1920-1933), when government over-reached, outlawing the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages. By the mid 1920s, the "underground economy" of the day had exceeded the "official" government-tracked economy. We're on the same path today. People want more control of their lives and their money, and they're taking both back, with a vengeance.

No pension? No problem. Little league umpires make $30-60 per game and most of it is paid in cash. That's just one example.

Dow Jones Industrial Average August Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
8/1/18 25,333.82 -81.37 -81.37
8/2/18 25,326.16 -7.66 -89.03
8/3/18 25,462.58 +136.42 +55.05
8/6/18 25,502.18 +39.60 +94.65
8/7/18 25,628.91 +126.73 +221.38
8/8/18 25,583.75 -45.16 +176.22
8/9/18 25,509.23 -74.52 +101.70
8/10/18 25,313.14 -196.09 -94.39
8/13/18 25,187.70 -125.44 -219.83
8/14/18 25,299.92 +112.22 -107.61
8/15/18 25,162.41 -137.51 -245.12
8/16/18 25,558.73 +396.32 +151.20
8/17/18 25,669.32 +110.59 +261.79
8/20/18 25,758.69 +89.37 +351.16
8/21/18 25,822.29 +63.60 +414.76
8/22/18 25,733.60 -88.69 +326.07
8/23/18 25,656.98 -76.62 +249.45
8/24/18 25,790.35 +133.37 +382.82
8/27/18 26,049.64 +259.29 +642.11
8/28/18 26,064.02 +14.38 +656.49
8/29/18 26,124.57 +60.55 +717.04
8/30/18 25,986.92 -137.65 +579.39

At the Close, Thursday, August 30, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 25,986.92, -137.65 (-0.53%)
NASDAQ: 8,088.36, -21.32 (-0.26%)
S&P 500: 2,901.13, -12.91 (-0.44%)
NYSE Composite: 13,039.93, -92.23 (-0.70%)

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Stocks Split As NASDAQ Soars; Jobs Report Disappoints

Stocks shrugged off a slow start on Thursday after Wednesday's sluggish session and finished split for the second straight day, with the NASDAQ and S&P posting gains while the Dow and NYSE Composite were held to small losses.

With the US congress mostly out of town for the month and earnings season winding down, the market is prone to swings in either direction at the slightest rumor or data dump.

The Dow has fallen back into the trading range that was prevalent after the February and March drop-off, while the NASDAQ gravitates near recent record closes.

The big news for Friday is the July non-farm payroll report from the BLS. Analysts were expecting 191,000 new jobs per the data, but had to settle for 157,000, well below the estimate. The unemployment rate fell one tenth of a percent to 3.9%.

Released at 8:30 am EDT, the jobs report comes as a disappointment for the bullish case. Stock futures had been strong and trending higher until the release, but fell sharply leading into the opening bell.

Dow Jones Industrial Average August Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
8/1/18 25,333.82 -81.37 -81.37
8/2/18 25,326.16 -7.66 -89.03

At the Close, Thursday, August 2, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 25,326.16, -7.66 (-0.03%)
NASDAQ: 7,802.69, +95.40 (+1.24%)
S&P 500: 2,827.22, +13.86 (+0.49%)
NYSE Composite: 12,898.07, -4.32 (-0.03%)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Going Nowhere Fast: Stock Churning a Wall Street Tool; Buy the Dip, Sell the Rip

Denial is NOT a river in Egypt, but, those who wish to traverse their world wearing blinders, colored glasses or even virtual reality goggles have been observed in the general vicinity of Wall and Broad Streets in lower Manhattan and their numbers are growing.

Stocks staged a strong dead cat bounce rally after three straight days of losses, the largest being Tuesday's nearly 400-point loss on the Dow Industrials that had the world shaking on stories of disunity and anti-EU behavior coming out of Italy.

Of course, in the United States, Italy, despite being the world's ninth largest economy (hard to imagine that) is taken as something of an outlier, as in "not our problem," so stocks were sent skyward by idle speculators, offsetting the mechanical smart money distribution that has been a feature of the markets since late January.

Just in case the recovery narrative is not taken seriously, the stock jockeys still have plenty of equities to alternatively pump, dump or hold, depending on the circumstance of the day. The bulls are attempting to extend the long bull market to ten years when in fact it ended - almost to the day - at nine years and one month, on April 9, 2018.

Since then, the Dow (and largely the other major averages) have travelled in a pretty tight range. On April 9, the Dow closed at 23,979.10, going as low since then to 23,924.98 (May 2) and as high as 25,013.29 (May 21). That 1088 point range (roughly 4%) has persisted for some seven weeks and shows no sign of breaking out anytime soon.

With May looking like a good bet to produce positive returns in the range of 300-650 points (Thursday is the final trading day of the month), the players in this Broadway-stlyed farce should be patting each others backs vigorously for a job well done, the losses of February and March now overshadowed by the plus signs for April and May.

All the bad stuff - like Wednesday's lowered first quarter GDP estimate to 2.2% from 2.3% or the weak ADP payroll report (178,000 May jobs) is, according to the churning crowd, behind us and it's roses and unicorns from here to eternity.

Naturally, anyone with a handful of functioning brain cells knows that the government and media are conspiring to deliver all manner of propaganda - from Russian collusion and election interference to "tight" employment conditions when 93 million Americans do not work for a living - so any mention of good times should probably not be taken too seriously.

The truth is somewhere in between what the government and media spoon-feed and wha tone sees and hears with one's own eyes and ears. The economy isn't great, nor is it about to collapse, though, admittedly, it's been 10 years since the last recession, so "bad times" are pretty much overdue. Unless one is conditioned to a Pavlovian reaction to headlines, such as the algorithms that drive market activity are, seeing the markets bouncing in a tight range should be cause for at least some caution, especially since that range is well below the last market high (26,616.71, Jan. 26).

The last trading day of the month shouldn't be anything notable as far as volatility is concerned, unless May's non-farm payroll numbers (due out Friday, June 1) are not pleasant and leaked. Even then, the rangebound Dow will remain.

And the deniers of a bear market will still be in denial.

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
5/7/18 24,357.32 +94.81 +194.17
5/8/18 24,360.21 +2.89 +197.06
5/9/18 24,542.54 +182.33 +379.39
5/10/18 24,739.53 +196.99 +576.38
5/11/18 24,831.17 +91.64 +668.02
5/14/18 24,899.41 +68.24 +736.26
5/15/18 24,706.41 -193.00 +543.26
5/16/18 24,768.93 +62.52 +605.78
5/17/18 24,713.98 -54.95 +550.73
5/18/18 24,715.09 +1.11 +551.84
5/21/18 25,013.29 +298.20 +850.04
5/22/18 24,834.41 -178.88 +671.16
5/23/18 24,886.81 +52.40 +723.56
5/24/18 24,811.76 -75.05 +648.51
5/25/18 24,753.09 -58.67 +589.84
5/29/18 24,361.45 -391.64 +198.20
5/30/18 24,667.78 +306.33 +504.53

At the Close, Wednesday, May 30, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 24,667.78, +306.33 (+1.26%)
NASDAQ: 7,462.45, +65.86 (+0.89%)
S&P 500: 2,724.01, +34.15 (+1.27%)
NYSE Composite: 12,625.87, +183.18 (+1.47%)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Markets Turn Ugly As Bond Yields Soar in Ground Hog Day Massacre

Even as January's non-farm payroll report painted a rosy employment picture, adding 200,000 jobs for the month, the 10-year note crested over the 2.80% level on Friday, sending stocks into as vicious tailspin in a mid-winter crash.

The nearly 666-point decline on the Dow was the sixth largest one-day point drop in market history, though in percentage terms was the mildest of the top ten, all of which have occurred in the 21st century.

The fact that all of the major point losses happened since 2000 is made obvious by the enormity of the index, still standing at more then 25,000, an epochal figure in market terms. Notably, the Dow Jones Industrial Average first passed the 10,000 mark in 1999, amid the notorious dotcom boom, prior to the dotcom bust, which took a full three-and-a-half years to fully play out.

Friday's drop was the largest since a 634.76-point loss on August 8, 2011 which sent the blue chips down 5.55%, to 10,809.85. Noting the relative percentage puniness of the Ground Hog Day Massacre, it may be wise to expect larger point and percentage losses in the near to mid-range future (three months to one year).

While it may be simplistic to point to the gaudy valuations placed on equities in the current market dynamic, it is nonetheless a significant factor in the current shaky environment and as good a reason to sell out of stocks as any, though the other major catalyst - rising bond yields - provides a more granular perspective.

The long end of the Treasury yield curve was extended on Friday as the 30-year bond smashed through the psychological 3.00% barrier, signaling to long-term investors that the aging bull market in stocks (and bonds) may be coming to a quick conclusion.

Bull and bear markets do not begin nor end in vacuums, which is why this most recent pullback should be regarded as a change of tone in market functioning. Nothing gos on forever, and empirical data suggests that while stocks have enjoyed salad days for years, the general economy and the welfare of millions of Americans has been less than a full meal.

It's easy to look at macro data and conclude that all is well and central banks have the markets and global economies under control, but sometimes one needs to look around and actually see the mountains of debt, stock buybacks, and central bank meddling which have fueled the gigantic recovery and historic stock gains.

Money is undoubtably becoming tighter and the labor market - according to government figures - is straining at full employment, but wages gains have not nearly kept pace with either inflation or taxes for at least the past 15 years. A breaking point is coming, wherein multi-national corporate behemoths are going to have to sacrifice the massive salaries bestowed upon top executives in exchange for pay increases for Mr. and Mrs. America.

With the Federal Reserve ready to hike the federal funds rate another 25 basis points at their upcoming March FOMC rate policy meeting, the world's central bank seeks to create a buffer against an almost certain recession, one which they, by their own reckless actions, will have caused.

If stock declines continue through February, expect the Fed to pause on their quest to raise rates and unload debt at the same time. The outward absurdity of their position is dangerous to the welfare of not only business entities, but individuals and governments as well.

What may have been the most telling circumstance from Friday's demolition of all asset classes, gold and silver also took precipitous drops, action which harkens back to the tumultuous days of the fall of 2008, when precious metals were slammed along with stocks. Notably, it was the metals which recovered first, but under the current conditions of mad money mindlessness, the shiny stuff may be suppressed even further, simply because central banks don't appreciate competition for their various fake currencies by real money.

The era of easy money is ending.

Real assets will endure.

At the Close, Friday, February 2, 2018:
Dow: 25,520.96, -665.75 (-2.54%)
NASDAQ: 7,240.95, -144.92 (-1.96%)
S&P 500: 2,762.13, -59.85 (-2.12%)
NYSE Composite: 13,085.35, -296.62 (-2.22%)

For the Week:
Dow: -1095.75 (-4.12)
NASDAQ: -264.83 (-3.53%)
S&P 500: -110.74 (-3.85%)
NYSE Composite: -551.67 (-4.05%)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Stocks Soar Through January; Big Week Upcoming

Stocks staged their best cumulative effort of the new year, as January equity returns continued to explode through the final full week of trading in the United States.

Making the gains all the more impressive is the fact that the month has seen only 18 out of a possible 20 trading days, due to the New Year and MLK holidays falling on Mondays. Three more sessions to start the new week will conclude January trading.

Stocks have been the major story of the year thus far, along with the continued decline of the US dollar against other major currencies, especially the Yen, Euro and British Pound.

President Donald J. Trump returned from Davos over the weekend, preparing for his first State of the Unions address to congress on Tuesday night.

Also of note this week is the FOMC policy rate meeting of the Federal Reserve. While the Fed is not expected to raise key interest rates at this meeting, there's general impetus for a planned rate hike at the March meeting. The FOMC meets on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 30 and 31. The March meeting is March 20-21.

The week concludes with the January Non-farm Payroll release by the BLS on Friday, Feb. 2. The data release includes publication changes related to the annual sample review and the conversion to NAICS 2017.. Expectations will be high, given the explosive nature of the stock market and recent touting of strong economic growth by President Trump.

At the Close, Friday, January 26, 2018:
Dow: 26,616.71, +223.92 (+0.85%)
NASDAQ: 7,505.77, +94.61 (+1.28%)
S&P 500: 2,872.87, +33.62 (+1.18%)
NYSE Composite: 13,637.02, +124.36 (+0.92%)

For the Week:
Dow: +544.99 (+2.09%)
NASDAQ: +169.39 (+2.31%)
S&P 500: +62.57 (+2.23%)
NYSE Composite: +252.56 (+1.89%)

Friday, January 5, 2018

Huge Miss on December Non-Farm Payrolls Won't Trigger Sell the News Event

Stocks ripped higher on Thursday on pure hope and fumes, in anticipation of Friday's BLS release of December non-farm payroll data.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, the market has set itself up for a "sell the news" event, having already bought the rumor in the form of an incredible 250,000 December private jobs gain from ADP.

Being a case of which numbers should be trusted, investors will probably accept the BLS, being that it is the "official" number, despite the wild swings, methodology and revisions for which the data set is so famous.

On Friday morning, the BLS announced a gain of a mere 148,000 net new jobs in December, on expectations of 190,000, the lowest print since July 2017. [full release here]

The unemployment rate remained moored at 4.1%, a rather humorous figure, given that the BLS counts part-time jobs and working more than one day a week as a "job."

As of this writing, roughly 15 minutes prior to the market open, stock futures are higher, but well off the levels seen earlier this morning.

The expectation for stocks to sell off throughout the session, given that valuations have been stretched to unsustainable levels, will likely not materialize since prognosis is as much the stuff of smoke and mirrors as the algo-driven market itself.

At the Close, Thursday, January 4, 2018:
Dow: 25,075.13, +152.45 (+0.61%)
NASDAQ: 7,077.91, +12.38 (+0.18%)
S&P 500: 2,723.99, +10.93 (+0.40%)
NYSE Composite: 13,028.46, +71.18 (+0.55%)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Caution Thrown To (Bitter Cold) Wind, As Investors Ignore Tech and Weather Threats

Across the board gains were the order de jour on the second day of trading in the new year.

As on Tuesday, the NASDAQ outpaced the other major averages, continuing its meteoric rise beyond the 7,000 mark with tech stocks leading the way despite an admission from Intel (INTC) that their chips have a serious flaw, affecting nearly all chips made by the company over the past ten years.

The world's largest chipmaker was not immediately taken to the woodshed and whipped, though shares of the company were down more than three percent and are off another one-and-a-half percent in pre-market trading on Thursday.

Rival chipmaker, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), was the main beneficiary of the Intel news, its stock advancing more than five percent on the day, though it appeared that AMD chips are also vulnerable, though not to the same extent nor by the same exploits as Intel chips.

While the immediate impact may be slim, the long-term repercussions of this revelation may be significant. The world's major chip manufacturers may be facing a black swan event once hackers devise attacks that could legitimately effect computers and servers worldwide, for years.

Traders were not on the defensive, however, as the lure of early gains overwhelmed any concerns for troubles ahead, such as the massive snowstorm and bitter cold that is expected to affect most of the Northeast in days ahead. The storm - being called a Bomb Cyclone - is primarily focused off the Eastern coast of mainland North America, though New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts were making preparations for a major winter weather event which has already bettered Southern cities such as Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA.

The apparent complacency of equity speculators is somewhat confounding, given the potential for severe disruptions from weather and technology in coming days.

On the other end of the asset spectrum, precious metals responded to a slight rise in the dollar index, blunting a strong run for gold and silver over the past three weeks, though the selling seemed to be transitory, with the metals recovering early on Thursday morning as the dollar fell to fresh lows (91.933).

On Thursday morning, prior to the opening bell on Wall Street, ADP private payroll data for December showed a massive 250,000 job gain for the final month of 2017. While the AMD numbers are preliminary and subject to revision, they are sending a strong signal in advance of Friday's BLS non-farm payroll dataset for December.

With caution being thrown largely to the (bitterly cold) wind, Friday and/or Monday could be a day of "selling the news," or, as has been the case for the past nine years, the stock market rally will not be impeded by facts nor insinuations of negativity.

At the Close, Wednesday, January 3, 2018:
Dow: 24,922.68, +98.67 (+0.40%)
NASDAQ: 7,065.53, +58.63 (+0.84%)
S&P 500: 2,713.06, +17.25 (+0.64%)
NYSE Composite: 12,957.28, +54.55 (+0.42%)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Payroll Loss Means Nothing As Stocks Recover to Close Friday Flat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making money has never been so easy.

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

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life goes on, new jobs or not.

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Janet Yellen Admits She May Not Know What She's Talking About

As Janet Yellen dispensed more gibberish about labor markets and inflation in a speech at the annual conference of the National Association for Business Economics, stocks drifted aimlessly, seeking some sense of direction from congress, the president, the Fed Chair, anybody.

The problem for the markets is that there isn't any other direction but down. In just the past few weeks, Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have been wracked by hurricanes, NFL protests became more important than the games themselves, Kim Jong-un and President Trump continue to trade insults. These are not exactly headlines or stories that make people confident about buying stocks, mutual funds, ETFs or any of the other wealth-enhancing products offered by the Wall Street swindle machine.

In fact, since the FOMC meeting came to a close last Wednesday, stocks have done nothing but go lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down four straight days since the Fed confirmed that it would begin shrinking its balance sheet in October. Though the losses have not been great, they have been consistent. The blue chip index is off 128 points since closing at a record high of 22,412.59 on September 20.

The S&P 500 snapped a three-day losing streak, but only by 18 cents, finishing green for the first time since the Fed announcement. The NYSE Composite bucked the trend by making new highs on Friday, but has posted losses both days this week, and the NASDAQ finished higher on Tuesday, but is still down 42 points from FOMC day.

Yellen's remarks aren't of any help to markets seeking guidance. In here address today, she said the following:
"My colleagues and I may have misjudged the strength of the labor market, the degree to which longer-run inflation expectations are consistent with our inflation objective or even the fundamental forces driving inflation."
Essentially, statements like those are not going to inspire much confidence. Parsing the quote, she's basically saying all of the Fed's assumptions about the labor market, inflation and even the fundamentals of the economy itself may be wrong.

Wow. Just wow. And people actually listen to this witch doctor of finance for guidance and direction?

What's amusing, or scary, depending on your point of view, is the current madness is just the warm-up act to the Fed's actual sales of MBS and treasury bonds in upcoming months, a global garage sale that will commence over at least three to five years. Anything less would rapidly throw markets into a death spiral because of the number of assets, the size ($4.4 trillion) of the balance sheet and the lack of quality in the offerings.

For now, markets are taking it in stride, slowly adjusting to the new paradigm of rising interest rates in an environment of low inflation, slack wage demand and slow to no growth in GDP, globally.

If anything, the officials at the Fed should trade in their accountant vizors for dunce caps because they're sending the economy down a black hole with experimental policies and solutions to problems that don't already exist. Judging by past performance, the Fed will find a way to assure the business cycle is complete by plunging the economy into recession.

You can almost count on it.

At the Close, Tuesday, September 26, 2017:
Dow: 22,284.32, -11.77 (-0.05%)
NASDAQ: 6,380.16, +9.57 (+0.15%)
S&P 500: 2,496.84, +0.18 (+0.01%)
NYSE Composite: 12,127.93, -13.64 (-0.11%)

Friday, September 1, 2017

Great News! August Jobs Numbers Miss; Stocks Aim For Moon Shot

Bad news is still good news on Wall Street.

According to the impeccable source of all financial excitement, Yahoo! News,

The August jobs report is out and it’s a miss.

The U.S. economy added 156,000 nonfarm payrolls in August while the unemployment rate rose slightly to 4.4%, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Economists were looking nonfarm payrolls to grow by 180,000 in August while the unemployment rate was expected to hold steady at 4.3% near a post-crisis low. The BLS noted in its report that Hurricane Harvey had “no [discernible] effect” on the employment data for August.

Wage growth was also a disappointment, with average hourly earnings rising 0.1% over the prior month and 2.5% over last year. Earnings were expected to rise 0.2% over the prior month and 2.6% over the prior year. A rise in wages is seen by economists as portending an uptick in inflation, which has disappointed this year.

The rest of the story is here.

After ten years of the most tepid "recovery" on record, and despite $14 trillion of magic money creation by the central banks of the developed countries (adding in China, it's more like $18 trillion), poor employment data is still greeted with smiles by stock jockeys, because it means the economy is not really recovering and the Fed and other globalist central banks cannot realistically raise interest rates.

That means the punch bowl will be refilled with easy credit and the bubbly stock market can advance to every higher levels of insanity.

Forget that the average P/E of S&P 500 stocks is four standard deviations above the norm, that government pension shortfalls threaten the retirement of millions of aging Americans. Forget that wages have been stagnant for 17 years running. Just buy more stocks and everything will turn out just fine.

It's madness. Nothing, absolutely nothing will change until the day comes when it all changes at once. But that day may still be years away because the central banks and government number crunchers will see to it that the veil is never removed from the eyes of ordinary people who will be taxed and regulated into the ether.

There are no jobs. Party on!

At the Close, 8/31/17:
Dow: 21,948.10, +55.67 (+0.25%)
NASDAQ: 6,428.66, +60.35 (+0.95%)
S&P 500: 2,471.65, +14.06 (+0.57%)
NYSE Composite: 11,875.69, +70.62 (+0.60%)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Dow Set To Rise Over 22,000; ADP Report Shows 178,000 July Jobs

For a change, all of the major indices moved in the same direction on the day. While the Dow set a new closing all-time high, it fell short of the 22,000 milestone, though the NYSE Composite squeaked by the 12,000 mark by a mere 0.02 points.

With earnings news continuing to come out in fairly rosy fashion, the latest from Apple (AAPL), reporting better-than-expected iPhone sales, revenue and earnings per share.

As August rolls along, there appear to be few impediments to further gains in stocks. Earnings reports will begin to slow to a trickle, but there is no FOMC meeting this month, and congress is likely to take at least two weeks off after wasting the first two weeks of the month posturing and posing over health care and/or tax reform.

It's unlikely that congress will accomplish anything of import, as their record of accomplishments since Donald Trump became president is shallow and thin.

Of some significance is Friday's release of July non-farm payroll numbers. Wednesday morning, ADP released their proprietary payroll data for the month, showing 178,000 new private sector jobs created in July. Expectations were for 185,000, after June disappointed with just 158,000 jobs created.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes its data on the first Friday of the month, at 8:30 am ET.

Whether the jobs data is good or bad may be immaterial, as the market has a tendency to take either without much pause. Just about everybody knows the economy is stuck in low gear, with the Fed and other central banks' backing and active in the markets.

22,000 on the Dow is a no-brainer. Unless war is launched against North Korea or some other great geo-political development occurs, nothing significant is likely to happen until congress reconvenes in September and attempts to craft a budget and hurdle the debt ceiling.

If there's ever been a time to break out the "all clear" foghorn, this could be it.

Still, it's advisable to keep close stops on positions because surprises routinely occur when complacency is high.

At the Close, 8/1/17:
Dow: 21,963.92, +72.80 (0.33%)
NASDAQ: 6,362.94, +14.81 (0.23%)
S&P 500: 2,476.35, +6.05 (0.24%)
NYSE Composite: 12,000.02, +32.35 (0.27%)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Stocks Split, But Down On The Main; Valuation Could Be At The Root

Something is upsetting the markets, but it's difficult to find an appropriate culprit for the current nausea.

Maybe it's an overhang from tax filing day, even though that is now two days in arrears, still, the amount of taxes Americans pa to federal, state, and local governments has probably never been higher. If taxes rates are not the largest they've ever been, they're certainly close to being so.

It takes 113 working days for the average American worker to earn enough money just to pay off the taxman. That day arrives - for most people - around mid-May, so perhaps the realization that one hasn't yet worked enough just to stay even with the bloated governments that regulate every conceivable activity might be a cause for upset.

Falling stock prices cannot be attributable to the current employment situation because we've been told over and over again that there are plenty of jobs in America. What we're not told is that many of those jobs are part time,
or low-paying, or otherwise dissatisfying. So, maybe it could be that.

One doesn't see to many corporate CEOs suffering, so there is virtually no possibility that these titans of industry are panic selling their shares.

What could it be?

Maybe the idea that stocks are currently trading at some of the highest valuations in history is giving some with more savvy investing skills than the average fund manager cause for concern. These people have seen tops and bottoms before, so they might just be looking for an exit and these high prices seems like a good place to take one's leave, or, as the case may be, profits.

If that's all there is to the sideways trading since mid-March, then it's probably not much to worry about, unless one is looking for a place to invest. In that regard, buying would be quite out of the question, thus solving our quandary: there are more sellers than buyers.

It could be that simple.

At the Close, Wednesday, April 19, 2017:
Dow: 20,404.49, -118.79 (-0.58%)
NASDAQ: 5,863.03, +13.56 (0.23%)
S&P 500: 2,338.17, -4.02 (-0.17%)
NYSE Composite: 11,342.42, -36.16 (-0.32%)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Stocks Finish With Small Gains On Tuesday, But ADP Jobs Report Could Change The Narrative

Stocks finished with small gains on Tuesday, but the recent squeamishness of investors may be about to change, as ADP reported job growth of 263,000 for the month of March, the largest gains seen in the small business sector, characterized as businesses with fewer than 50 employees, which gained by 118,000 during the month.

Making note of the increasingly positive tone of business and employment, stock futures were set to explode higher, with Dow futures up by more than 50 points roughly a half hour prior to the opening bell on Wall Street.

The ADP report - which covers private sector employment - is generally seen as a guide to the highly-anticipated monthly Non-Farm Payroll (NFP) report, generally released the first Friday of each month. The BLS is set to issue the report for March on Friday, April, 7.

At the close, April 4, 2017:
Dow: 20,689.24 +39.03 (0.19%)
NASDAQ: 5,898.61 +3.93 (0.07%)
S&P 500: 2,360.16, +1.32 (0.06%)
NYSE Composite: 11,470.54, +6.62 (0.06%)