Every time I drive my SUV, especially when I have to fill up the tank with premium gas, I quiver and think about downsizing to a smaller gas-efficient vehicle or some sort of hybrid.
I remember back more than a decade ago when Canadian upstart Ballard Power Systems Inc. (NASDAQ/BLDP) was all the rage on Wall Street, with traders driving up the stock price to above $100.00 in early 2000 on anticipation the company could develop the first hydrogen-powered cell for vehicles. Of course, as my stock analysis indicates, that failed, as Ballard was unable to develop a battery small enough to power the everyday car. The rest is history. Ballard is still hanging around, but it’s a non-factor in the alternative power sector for vehicles, based on my stock analysis.
As many of you already know, my stock analysis favors Tesla Motors, Inc. (NASDAQ/TSLA) as the big winner in the alternative power sector for vehicles. In a few short years, Tesla has become the next big technological innovation with its fully electric-powered vehicles. The Tesla vehicles look sharp and sporty and are gaining a wide acceptance based on the sales we are seeing.
I drove by a Tesla charging station the other day, and it looks impressive and innovative. Tesla is aiming to build a “Supercharger” network to cover about 98% of the United States by 2015. The Supercharger network can charge up a Tesla car via the changing of the battery pack and is free if you buy the more powerful battery. The whole process to automatically change the battery takes less than 90 seconds, according to the … Read More
We see there’s a significant amount of economic news mounting against the argument that key stock indices will go higher this year. We see major companies on the key stock indices reporting corporate earnings that are dismal to say the very least. We see indicators of prosperity suggesting the opposite is likely going to be true for the U.S. economy. Lastly, we also see troubles developing very quickly in the global economy.
First on the line are the corporate earnings of companies on the key stock indices—which is hands down one of the main factors that drive these indices higher. We see companies showing signs of stress. Consider General Motors Company (NYSE/GM), for example; the company’s corporate earnings declined 22% in 2013 from the previous year. (Source: “GM reports lower-than-expected 4Q earnings,” Yahoo! Finance, February 6, 2014.)
Some might call this a story of the past; we need to look at what the future looks like instead. Sadly, going forward, companies on the key stock indices and analysts look worried as well. Consider this: so far, 57 S&P 500 companies have issued negative corporate earnings guidance, while only 14 have issued positive guidance. At the same time, analysts’ expectations are coming down as well. On December 31, the consensus estimate expected S&P 500 earnings to grow by 4.3%; now, these expectations have come down to 1.5%. (Source: “S&P 500 Earnings Insight,” FactSet, February 7, 2014.)
Looking at the broader U.S. economy, it’s not moving in favor of the key stock indices, either—the economic data isn’t looking very promising.
Industrial production in the U.S. economy declined in January from the previous … Read More
The price of light crude oil recently broke through the $100.00-per-barrel mark for the first time this year. Oil prices had been on the decline since early September 2013 when they touched a high of $110.00 per barrel. By early January, oil prices had dropped more than 17%, hovering around $92.00 per barrel.
Thanks to the frigid weather blanketing much of the U.S. and improvements in the country’s oil infrastructure, oil prices have since climbed more than nine percent.
In late January, a new oil pipeline opened that connects Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast refineries and export terminals. The pipeline is made up of a combination of the original Keystone pipeline running from Alberta to Cushing, Oklahoma, where it then connects with the new Keystone XL South pipeline, which carries on to Texas. (Source: Philbin, B., “Oil Pipeline Opens, Prices Surge,” Wall Street Journal, January 26, 2014.)
Cushing is the pricing point for the New York Mercantile Exchange’s West Texas Intermediate (WTI) contract, North America’s benchmark oil price. It is also America’s biggest oil storage hub. The southern extension of the contentious Keystone XL pipeline is expected to help eliminate the glut of oil in Cushing that has artificially skewed U.S. oil prices for three years, keeping it trading well below crude oil prices based on the European Brent benchmark.
Interestingly, the abundance of oil and increased flow of crude oil from Cushing to the Gulf Coast does not translate into a drop in oil prices. That’s because some of the so-called “extra” oil making its way to the Gulf Coast is being processed into fuels and shipped to … Read More
There are a significant number of concerns regarding the emerging markets at this time. Investors are asking if emerging market stocks are a good buy right now; are the troubles over or are there still more to come?
As it stands, it seems further troubles are brewing in the emerging markets, as the Federal Reserve tapers its quantitative easing program. We have seen currencies in countries like Turkey, South Africa, Russia, and Argentina decline significantly.
You see, when the Federal Reserve first started to lower its interest rates and initiated quantitative easing; it gave birth to a trade. The idea behind this trade was simple: you borrowed money from a low-interest-rate country—the U.S.—then invested that money in a high-interest-rate-paying country—the emerging markets, like Turkey—and banked the difference. The Federal Reserve tapering its quantitative easing is drying up the liquidity—the money that went to high-interest-paying countries has to come back now. This is what’s creating troubles.
Before I go into further detail, I want to restate my opinion on the emerging markets and their stocks: in the long run, they can be very profitable. My main reason for this belief is that emerging markets need infrastructure, meaning construction companies and utilities companies will be profitable. These markets also have massive populations and the middle-class is on the rise, meaning consumer discretionary stocks and companies in the service sector will see growth as a result.
Where are the opportunities in the emerging markets now?
One rule of thumb is that when there’s a broad market sell-off, even companies with great fundamentals and solid track records get punished. Investors sell these stocks in … Read More
With the markets selling off, many may not think now is the best time to consider discretionary stocks. But it’s because the markets are selling off that beaten-down stocks selling non-essential products and services (what people want, not need) might be worth a second look—not just because many discretionary stocks are beaten down, but rather because consumer spending fuels the majority of economic growth in this country.
Normally, when consumers have the money to spend, they do so on discretionary items like travel, electronics, cars, and luxury brands. But, as virtually all of us can contest, this isn’t always the case. Credit card purchases may not be the same as having discretionary income, but they accomplish the same short-term goals.
Granted, there is a mountain of evidence to suggest investors should shun discretionary stocks. Unemployment is high, wages are stagnant, and, for the first time ever, working-age Americans are the primary recipients of food stamps. On top of that, median household income (adjusted for inflation) has declined for five straight years. (Source: DeNavas-Walt, C., et al., “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012,” United States Census Bureau web site, September 2013.)
That hasn’t stopped us from spending. At $3.04 trillion, consumer credit is up 22% over the last three years. Total household debt is more than $13.0 trillion, close to its 2007 pre-recession level and just below the $17.0-trillion government debt load. (Source: Cox, J., “It’s back with a vengeance: Private debt,” CNBC, October 12, 2013.)
During the last quarter of 2013, the U.S. economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.2%. During the third quarter, … Read More
By Sasha Cekerevac for Daily Gains Letter | Feb 7, 2014
Well, that didn’t take long! Just a few weeks ago, I wrote an article stating that investors should begin to worry about the lofty level of the stock market. Since that time, the S&P 500 has dropped by more than five percent in less than two weeks.
This market correction won’t be a surprise to my readers, as I have been suggesting investment strategies that can help prepare your portfolio for a large downswing in the market for some time now.
When I wrote the article in late January, the S&P 500 was surging, even though the preliminary Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment dropped month-over-month. Since then, we have seen additional data coming from China showing that its economy is beginning to slow.
The Markit/HSBC China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for January was 49.6, much weaker than expected. (A PMI data point below 50 denotes a contraction in activity.) While many analysts have been expecting China to begin accelerating, this recent data is a dose of reality, as manufacturing jobs in China dropped for the third consecutive month. (Source: “HSBC China Manufacturing PMI,” Markit Economics, January 30, 2014.)
I know what you’re thinking; “Why should investors in the S&P 500 care about what happens in China?” A market correction doesn’t occur based on a single event. When you’re trying to develop investment strategies, especially if you are considering the potential for a market correction in a large index, such as the S&P 500, you have to take many factors into account, as if you’re working on a jigsaw puzzle.
First ask yourself, what are the positive … Read More
After years of easy money and a failure to secure a well-executed exit plan, it looks as though the emerging markets are getting a taste of the Federal Reserve’s economic tapering. Over the last five years, the emerging markets have benefited from low interest rates and listless growth in developed countries.
But, with the U.S., Japan, and Europe—the three biggest economies globally—all expanding for the first time in four years, the tables are turning and the sheen is beginning to wear on the emerging markets.
In an effort to help kick start the U.S. economy after the financial crisis in 2008, the Federal Reserve enacted it’s overly generous bond buying program (quantitative easing). All told, the Federal Reserve dumped more than $3.0 trillion (and counting) into the markets and has kept interest rates artificially low.
The ultra-low interest rates might have been great for home buyers, but income-starved investors had to look elsewhere to pad their retirement portfolio. Many retail and institutional investors went to the emerging markets, where the interest rates were higher and there was a real opportunity for growth.
In December, the Federal Reserve said it was going to begin tapering its $85.0-billion-per-month quantitative easing strategy to $75.0 billion a month in January. Just yesterday, the Fed announced it will be reducing that number to $65.0 billion a month in February. While the amount is negligible, it signals the eventual end of artificially low interest rates. The cheap money that propped up asset prices in emerging markets, like India, China, and Indonesia, is beginning to crumble.
The Argentinean peso, Indian rupee, South African rand, and Turkish lira … Read More
Troubles in the global economy look to be strengthening, suggesting an economic slowdown may be following. Not only are the major economic hubs of the global economy showing signs of stress—something I have mentioned in these pages many times before—but we see demand slowing down as well.
The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) gives us a general idea about how the demand in the global economy looks. At the very core, this index tracks the shipping price of raw materials. If the shipping prices increase, it suggests there’s increased demand in the global economy. If they decline, it’s not really a good sign. Please look at the chart of the BDI below.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
The BDI is outright collapsing. Since the beginning of the year, the BDI has declined more than 42%. This shouldn’t be taken lightly because it suggests demand in the global economy is slowing down very quickly. Looking at the average change in the BDI in January since 2003, this decline in 2014 is the second-biggest on record—in 2012, the BDI collapsed 58% in January.
Another indicator of demand in the global economy I look at is the Chinese economy. It has been known as the manufacturing hub of the world, and the country exports a significant amount of its goods to the world. If we see manufacturing activity in that country slow down, it gives us a hint that a global economic slowdown may be following.
Consider this: In January, the HSBC Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)—an indicator of manufacturing activity in China—plunged to a six-month low. It was registered at 49.6 in … Read More
By Sasha Cekerevac for Daily Gains Letter | Jan 29, 2014
Just the other day, I was talking to a friend of mine who seemed extremely cheerful. I asked why, and he said that his investments have performed well over the past few months and he saw no reasons to worry.
This is a common problem with investor sentiment; people tend to become complacent and only look to the recent past as an indication of what tomorrow will bring.
This is quite dangerous. Investor sentiment is often wrong and can be used as a contrary indicator, buying when others are dumping their stocks and taking profits when others are blissfully unaware of the changing landscape around them.
Americans need to be careful of becoming too complacent in their bullish investor sentiment, because the U.S. is not isolated from the rest of the world.
When the real estate bust and financial crash occurred here in America several years ago, the effects spread to many nations around the world, including the emerging markets.
With the Federal Reserve pushing the gas pedal on money printing here in the U.S., it has created a shock absorber to some extent, temporarily keeping global pressures at bay, especially in relation to the emerging markets.
However, investors do need to be aware that there is much uncertainty around the world. Investor sentiment for global institutions has been aware of these potential issues and is now running for the exits.
Last week this began in Asia, as economic growth appears to be slowing and reports of a financial crisis in China are beginning to grow. With the Chinese shadow-banking sector showing signs of cracking, this is creating negative investor … Read More
We expect American consumers to do a lot in this country; not least of which is to be the nation’s economic engine, after all, 70% of our gross domestic product (GDP) comes from consumer spending.
After years of strong stock market gains, America is still being bogged down with stagnant wages, high unemployment, and near-record-high food stamp usage—not the best formula for a nation that relies on consumers to spend, spend, spend. However, it is also contingent upon us being able to continually pay our bills. It’s the ebb and flow of consumerism.
But that flow is becoming more and more constricted. While banks are more than willing to increase high-interest credit card and loan limits to maxed-out consumers, they’re beginning to fear that this money might never be paid back.
According to the latest quarterly survey, American and Canadian bank managers’ expectations for delinquencies on auto sales loans have hit their highest level since the end of 2012; expectations for delinquencies on credit cards reached a two-year high; and 34% of respondents expect auto sales loan delinquencies to climb in the next six months, while 28% expect delinquencies on credit cards to rise.
Despite these findings, the report also found that consumer borrowing (and spending) shows no signs of slowing down! In fact, 58% of bankers said they expect the average credit card balance to increase over the next six months—only six percent expect balances to go down. On top of that, 44% of polled bankers say they expect the amount of credit extended to consumers to increase—only 14% think it will decrease.
These findings run in step with … Read More
By Sasha Cekerevac for Daily Gains Letter | Jan 17, 2014
When it comes to big-cap stocks, very few are larger than Apple Inc. (NASDAQ/AAPL).
But there’s one question many investors may be asking: is there an investment opportunity in Apple’s stock at current levels? I believe there may be, even after a strong move up since hitting a 52-week low in April at $385.10.
You have to be careful when looking at big-cap stocks and whether or not there is a strong investment opportunity going forward. Just because a stock has moved up over the past year, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily overvalued.
There is one key question that you must ask yourself as an investor: can the big-cap stocks you’re considering continue growing their corporate earnings?
At the end of the day, an investment opportunity will only pay off if corporate earnings are generated in the future. I believe that Apple is still a great value at current valuations because the company will continue to drive corporate earnings higher.
Naturally, as with all big-cap stocks, the law of large numbers comes into play. Obviously, a company that is small can grow at a much faster rate than big-cap stocks such as Apple, which has a market cap of just over $500 billion.
However, don’t discount the ability of Apple to utilize its skills at innovation and marketing in generating corporate earnings. Apple, too, sees an investment opportunity in diversifying its customer base and introducing new products.
The big news recently has been the move by Apple into China.
Apple has signed a deal with China Mobile Limited (NYSE/CHL), which has approximately 760 million subscribers. Following the announcement of the … Read More
Are emerging markets worth looking at in 2014? Not too long ago, emerging market equities witnessed a pullback—when the taper talk came on the horizon. As a result, investors are asking if this has now created some value in these markets.
Before going into any details, investors have to keep one very important aspect of investing in mind: cheap doesn’t mean good value. Investors shouldn’t be interpreting falling prices as “value coming back to the market.” In some cases, this may be true, but in other cases, if the prices are falling, there’s a reason.
You see, emerging markets are going through some troubles, and as a consequence, their equity prices are a little vulnerable.
For example, India, the third-largest economy in Asia, reported a decline of 9.6% in 2013 auto sales. This was the first decline in auto sales since 2002. This well-known emerging market is struggling with high inflation and low economic growth—or a period commonly referred to as “stagflation.” In the fiscal year 2013, India’s economic growth was the lowest in almost 10 years, and inflation is running at 10%. (Source: Choudhury, S., “Indian Car Sales Slump for First Time in a Decade,” Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2014.)
China, another major emerging market, has been seeing its fair share of trouble as well. This year the country is expected to post growth that’s nothing like its historical average. In December, the HSBC China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)—a gauge of manufacturing activity in the country—declined to a three-month low. (Source: “HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index Press Release,” Markit Economics web site, January 2, 2014.)
Brazil, a common … Read More
Everyone has an opinion. Unfortunately, opinions are just that…opinion; they aren’t truth. So you have to take opinions with a grain of salt. That said, some opinions hold more weight than others. More specifically, I tend to sit up and take note when someone close to the source has something interesting to say.
On the back of an improving U.S. economy, more and more Americans will be looking for places to spend their newly found disposable income. And when it comes to parting with your money, there’s no better place to go than Las Vegas; at least not if you’re in North America.
If, however, you’re not all that much into plunking your money down on a system designed to benefit the host, but like the idea of making money off those that lose, then gaming stocks might be up your alley. It also might be a good idea to look beyond Las Vegas for some big growth gaming stock opportunities.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal recently reported that the gaming industry in Macau, China dwarfs the Las Vegas strip…and is ripe for North American investors. In 2013, Macau’s gaming revenues soared 18.6% year-over-year, reaching a record $45.2 billion, blowing away expectations. (Source: Stutz, H., “Macau gaming revenues reach record $45.2 billion in 2013,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, January 2, 2014.)
Most analysts expected the Macau, China gaming market would grow by 12% to 15%. Those kinds of numbers are more striking when you consider that this small region in China now collects seven times the annual gaming revenue generated by the Las Vegas strip.
Macau, better known as the “Monte Carlo … Read More
By Sasha Cekerevac for Daily Gains Letter | Jan 10, 2014
As the stock market continues moving higher, it becomes that much more difficult to find value stocks. They’re still there, but one needs to dig a bit deeper to find attractive valuations as part of one’s investment strategy.
One company that I’ve been researching lately is Sony Corporation (NYSE/SNE). Everyone is aware, I’m sure, of Sony, as it’s been around for decades. While the stock had a relatively strong performance in 2013, I believe there is potential for a very good year in 2014, in terms of corporate earnings growth.
When people think of Sony, I’m sure it might surprise them that the company is only worth approximately $18.0 billion. These days, when social media companies that don’t generate any income or, in cases such as SnapChat, don’t have any revenue are worth billions of dollars, the valuation of Sony certainly appears interesting.
But when you’re looking at an investment strategy for a company, there needs to be a catalyst for the stock to move higher. I believe that 2014 will present several important drivers that will propel the stock upwards.
My first point is the weakening of the Japanese yen. I believe that we will continue to see the Japanese yen weaken, which will have a positive impact on Sony’s corporate earnings. By incorporating this macro viewpoint into one’s investment strategy, it will help provide a diversified approach to generating returns.
The second point is the introduction of new gaming consoles. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Sony announced that it had sold 4.2 million “PlayStation 4” units as of December 31, 2013. With sales beginning … Read More
If the stock market is an indicator of U.S. economic health, then 2013 was a stellar year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed out 2013 with a 26% gain. The S&P 500 was up 29%, while the NASDAQ Composite was up 34%.
Despite a stellar 2013, the crystal ball for the U.S. economy and Wall Street in 2014 remains murky. That’s because investors might have to actually consider the health of the U.S. economy this year. Now granted, the U.S. economy kicked into high gear last January after the federal government avoided the dreaded fiscal cliff. Thanks to some recent economic indicators, the start of 2014 has been more subdued.
Factory activity in China hit a three-month low in December. While Germany and Italy reported healthy manufacturing numbers, British manufacturing growth eased and France hit a seven-month low of 47.0 (scores below 50 indicate contraction). Here at home, the U.S. economy got a boost after it was announced that manufacturing hit an 11-month high in December of 55.0, up from 54.4 in November. (Source: Weisenthal, J., “This Manufacturing Report From France Is Just Plain Ugly,” Business Insider, January 2, 2014.)
To show it believes the U.S. economy is improving, the Federal Reserve recently announced that it will begin to taper its quantitative easing efforts this month. Instead of pumping $85.0 billion per month into the U.S. economy, it is going to purchase just $75.0 billion in bonds.
And to quell investors’ fears, the Federal Reserve said it will continue to keep interest rates artificially low until the unemployment rate hits 6.5% or lower—a target that probably won’t be reached until … Read More
A friend of mine recently asked if he should invest in Bitcoin. He was astonished with its growth; he said, “I can’t believe it. You could get one Bitcoin for $100.00 not too long ago, and now that looks cheap!”
He asked if there will be growth in the digital currency in the long run, and if he will be able to make money for his portfolio. My response was simple: “I don’t know.” He didn’t like my answer at first, but when I explained further, his perspective toward Bitcoin changed.
You see, I am a big believer in investing in what I know. For example, I like to look at companies whose business I understand—I understand how they make sales and generate their profits. When it comes to foreign exchange, I look at currencies of countries that I know I can learn more about and the data sources are reliable.
But when it comes to Bitcoin, I am still uncertain about how it is priced. With stocks, you can get a general idea about where the stock prices might be headed. You can look at analysts’ expectations and the like. With Bitcoin, it isn’t mainstream just yet. There are some analysts who are saying the digital currency will skyrocket, while on the other side, there are those who are saying it will die as quickly as it became famous. At the very core, there’s too much noise.
On top of this, there’s too much volatility in Bitcoin’s value. I was watching a live chart of Bitcoin prices compared to the U.S. dollar not too long ago, and in a … Read More
The U.S. stock market rally has been on a solid run this year, thanks in large part to the Federal Reserve’s $85.0-billion-per-month quantitative easing policy—well, that and some solid economic indicators. But the question remains: will the momentum continue into 2014?
It all depends on whether or not the U.S. stock market rally follows the laws of physics. For example, when it comes to momentum, an object will continue unless force is applied against it, either a huge amount of force all at once or an applied force over a given period of time. On the other hand, the more momentum something has, the harder it is to stop.
The fuel that has helped propel the U.S. stock market rally over the last number of years could be flickering out. Thanks to better-than-expected employment and retail numbers and strong preliminary gross domestic product (GDP) numbers, many think the Federal Reserve will start to taper its quantitative easing strategy sooner than later.
The end of easy money, some think, could put a cramp in the stock market’s four-year-plus rally—or at least make it run a little more slowly in 2014 than it did in 2013. Whereas the S&P 500 is up roughly 25% year-to-date, analysts think it will grow by as little as six percent and as much as 11% in 2014. This means that the S&P 500 will experience another year of record-highs in 2014, but not quite as bullish as 2013. (Source: “Here’s What 14 Top Wall Street Strategists Are Saying About The Stock Market In 2014,” Business Insider web site, December 13, 2013.)
Those looking to outpace the … Read More
Back in March, a Canadian man listed his house for sale in exchange for Bitcoins—5,362 of them. At the time, the digital currency was exchanging hands at US$73.00, which means the house was available for about $395,000. (Source: “Canadian house first on sale for Bitcoin currency,” RT.com, March 25, 2013.)
The listing was considered a risky (and bizarre) idea; after all, the digital currency is experimental, decentralized, and can be transferred to anyone, anywhere in the world. Until recently, it was debatable as to whether or not this currency would even gain traction.
Because it is digital, the currency does not exist in a physical sense. It also isn’t issued by any central bank, and that might be part of the appeal; without a central bank, accounts cannot be seized or frozen. (That’s an attractive point for those in Cyprus who had 10% of all savings and deposits seized by the government.)
The lack of an intervening central bank also means the currency cannot be manipulated. While the digital currency is regularly being “minted,” there is a limit to how much can be created; this is to prevent inflation. There are currently around 12 million Bitcoins in circulation. After the year 2140, no more will be minted, and the total amount available will stand at a maximum 21 million.
Still, the price of a Bitcoin can fluctuate wildly. First introduced in early 2009, the digital currency floundered, coming in at about US$14.00 earlier this year. Now, the digital currency is “worth” around $1,080. Had the above-mentioned house sold for 5,362 Bitcoins, and had the owner held onto those coins, his … Read More
Emerging market equities have taken center stage these days because, according to some, the key stock indices in the U.S. economy are reaching the overpriced mark. Investors’ returns aren’t going to be as robust going forward; there’s a significant amount of noise about them taking the shape of a bubble.
With all this happening, investors are asking which emerging market economy they should invest in. Should they buy companies operating in India? Or is China still the best emerging market economy in which to invest?
The answer to this question is not as easy as it may seem to some. Investors have to keep in mind that each emerging market is unique—it presents different opportunities, risks, and rewards.
Take China, for example. As key stock indices in the U.S. economy have increased this year—the S&P 500 is up more than 23% so far—the stock market in the Chinese economy hasn’t performed as well; in fact, the key stock indices there have declined. Please look at the chart below: the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index has declined more than 6.4% between January and October.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Does this mean there’s room for growth? Don’t be too quick to judge. The Chinese economy is going through a bit of an economic slowdown. This year, the country’s gross domestic product is expected to increase much less than its historical average; the growth of the Chinese economy is projected to be lower next year as well. At the same time, there’s noise stating that there may be a credit crisis in the country.
If all of the trouble growing in the Chinese … Read More
If you listen to mainstream media, the power struggle in Washington is over. The left and right came together valiantly, raising the debt ceiling and ending the U.S. government shutdown. At least, they temporarily did; they basically just put a glow-in-the-dark “SpongeBob SquarePants” band-aid on a compound fracture.
Washington voted to temporarily fund the government through January 15, 2014, and extend the $16.7-trillion debt ceiling through February 7. Then it starts all over again—and if it’s a repeat of the last three weeks, it isn’t going to be pretty.
The self-inflicted U.S. government shutdown, according to one estimate, took at least $24.0 billion out of the U.S. economy; this is after the Federal Reserve reported modest growth in September. (Source: Johnson, L., “Government Shutdown Cost $24 Billion, Standard & Poor’s Says,” Huffington Post web site, October 16, 2013.)
How the January/February deadlines will impact the U.S. and global economy is anyone’s guess in 2014. Or rather, it depends on who you ask; according to the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), the global economy is expected to turn a corner in 2014, thanks to economic improvements in the U.S. and Europe. World growth could accelerate more than four percent in 2014, while U.S. growth will climb to 3.2% in 2014 from 1.5% this year. (Source: Quinn, G., “Global economy set to ‘turn a corner’ in 2014, CIBC’s Shenfeld says,” Financial Post web site, October 17, 2013.)
This, of course, is in sharp contrast to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which said that, as a result of the U.S. government shutdown and slow international expansion, the global economy will grow at … Read More
When it comes to global energy production, the United States will be the top dog in a few short years. Back in November, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasted that the U.S. would overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by 2017.
Over the last week, two more reports have positioned the U.S. as an even stronger near-term energy giant. The IEA said the U.S. will surpass Russia as the biggest non-OPEC producer of oil and natural gas in 2014. (Source: Harrison, V., “U.S. to pump more oil than Russia in 2014,” CNN web site, October 11, 2013.)
Over the last two quarters, the U.S. has produced more than 10 million barrels per day—its highest output in decades. Thanks to increased production in the Bakken oil field in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford shale formation in South Texas, U.S. production of oil and natural gas liquids will exceed 11 million barrels per day by the second quarter of 2014.
Perhaps more interestingly, it was announced earlier this week that coal is expected to surpass oil as the world’s primary energy source by 2020. Despite President Obama’s best efforts to reduce U.S. carbon emissions and phase out our dependence on coal, it looks like the fossil fuel is going to continue to be a major energy source. (Source: “World Coal Consumption To Surpass Oil By 2020 Due To Rising Demand In China And India,” Huffington Post web site, October 13, 2013.)
In fact, global coal consumption is expected to rise by 25% by the end of the decade to 4,500 million tonnes of oil equivalent, surpassing oil at … Read More
The global economy looks to be in trouble, with the problems brewing quickly. Major economic hubs in the global economy are struggling for growth, but are failing—a fact that is largely ignored by the mainstream.
Long-term investors need to know that an economic slowdown in the global economy can deeply affect the key stock indices here in the U.S. economy. The reason for this is very simple: American-based companies operate throughout the global economy. As a matter of fact, in 2012, for the S&P 500 companies that provide data about sales in the global economy, 46.6% of all sales came from outside of the U.S. (Source: “S&P 500 2012: Global Sales – Year In Review,” S&P Dow Jones Indices web site, August 2013.)
Clearly, if there is an economic slowdown, the demand will decrease and the U.S.-based companies will sell less and earn less profit. As a result, their stock prices will decline.
So what is really happening?
In the beginning of the year, there was a significant amount of noise about how the global economy will experience growth. This did not happen.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the global economy to grow by 2.9% this year after seeing growth of 3.9% in 2011 and 3.2% in 2012. In 2014, the IMF expects the global economy to increase by 3.6%. (Source: Duttagupta, R. and Helbling, T., “Global Growth Patterns Shifting, Says IMF WEO,” International Monetary Fund web site, October 8, 2013.) Mind you, these estimates were much higher in July, but they have since been revised lower.
We all know how anemic the rate of growth of the U.S. … Read More
While the S&P 500 continues to perform well, the markets have been skittish since May 22, when the Federal Reserve hinted it might consider tapering its $85.0-billion-per-month bond-buying program. If Ben Bernanke begins to curtail Wall Street’s monthly allowance, there are fears the markets will not be able to stand on their own economic merit.
Granted, many don’t think the Fed will begin tapering in 2013; this may account for the S&P 500’s solid, yet volatile run. The same can’t be said for emerging markets.
Investors have pulled over $22.0 billion from emerging-market bond funds since the end of April. This has lifted emerging-market bond yields by 1.4 percentage points, almost the most in five years.
Borrowing costs have been on the rise from record lows as speculation swirls around when the Federal Reserve will begin to cut back its quantitative easing measures—this also means the end of artificially low interest rates. This matters to emerging markets, because it signals the end of cheap money that’s been propping up asset prices in countries like India, China, and Indonesia.
Those investors who diversified their retirement fund with emerging-market exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have been in for a rough ride. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index (NYSE/EEM) is down eight percent year-to-date.
One of the few places where the Federal Reserve’s sphere of quantitative easing influence is muted is in the world of frontier markets. Frontier markets refer to countries such as Argentina, Kenya, Qatar, and Vietnam—those markets that are in the early stages of development. Frontier markets are an attractive opportunity for investors, because they represent a long-term economic growth possibility. And there … Read More
Emerging markets seem to be gaining popularity these days when it comes to the “next big thing” for investors. The reason for this is very simple: emerging market equities have come down in value significantly from their recent highs, leaving investors asking if its time to jump in and buy to profit.
Take a look at the equity market in India, for example—the country is considered one of the biggest emerging markets. The India Bombay Stock Exchange 30 Sensex Index is down more than 10% from its peak in late July.
India isn’t alone; stocks and key stock indices in other emerging market economies are in very similar conditions, if not performing worse. China’s stock market is lagging, Indonesia’s has recently plummeted, and the Brazilian equity market continues to show dismal returns.Please look at the chart below to get a more precise idea:
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Before adding companies involved in emerging markets or buying an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that gives them exposure to those economies, every investor should ask themselves: does the stock market declining in value really mean there’s value—or, in other words, an opportunity for profit?
The answer: not necessarily.
Investors should consider that emerging market economies are sometimes relied on by developed nations to buy their products, because they can make them at cheaper rates. So if the developed markets start to see some sort of economic slowdown, the emerging market economies could see ripple effects. This may just be one of the phenomena driving the stock markets in those countries lower.
The developed nations in the global economy aren’t showing robust growth. For example, … Read More
If investing is about taking advantage of opportunities, oil might be one of the best plays right now.
According to the International Energy Agency, the three most common reasons for disruptions in the global oil supply are technical problems (check), civil unrest (check), and seasonal storms (check—the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season is in full swing until the end of November). (Source: “How does the IEA respond to major disruptions in the supply of oil?,” International Energy Agency web site, last accessed August 29, 2013.)
Between Thursday, August 22 and Wednesday, August 28, the price of crude oil climbed five percent to a two-year high. Over the last two months, the price of crude oil has surged more than 17% on the heels of tighter supply due to disruptions in the North Sea and Libya, positive economic data out of China and the eurozone, and rising tension in Syria.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Now granted, Syria isn’t an oil powerhouse: its current daily output is less than 50,000 barrels a day (a significant decrease from 350,000 barrels in March), but that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the global output of 90 million barrels a day.
The real threat to the price of oil is a result of political jockeying. While the U.S. and its allies are considering a launch against Syria in response to its use of banned deadly chemical weapons on its civilians, China and Russia have weighed in, saying that would lead to “catastrophic consequences.”
Iran, of course, said any strike against Syria would lead to retaliation on Israel. Israel, for its part, said it was … Read More
Investors need to be careful, as the risks on key stock indices are continuously piling up. They need to keep a close eye on their portfolio, and maybe should consider taking some profits off the table.
Since the beginning of the year, key stock indices, like the S&P 500, have been constantly increasing in value and making new highs. Recently, we witnessed the S&P 500 reach above 1,700, and other key stock indices, like the Dow Jones Industrial Average, entering uncharted territory as well.
With these increases, investors are now asking: how high can the key stock indices really go?
Looking at the broader picture, the U.S. economy isn’t performing as well as the key stock indices are suggesting. In times of high economic activity, the stock market tends to perform well. This is not the case for the U.S. economy as it stands, as the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) only increased at an annual pace of 1.7% in the second quarter of this year. (Source: “Gross Domestic Product, second quarter 2013 (advance estimate),” Bureau of Economic Analysis, July 31, 2013.)
On top of this, the unemployment situation is still bleak in the U.S. economy, risking deterioration in consumer spending. The average American Joe is still facing many problems: look at food stamp usage and the amount of homes under negative equity, for instance.
Adding to the worries, the global economy is also showing signs of deep stress, with countries across the map showing concerns. For example, China is expected to show a significantly lower growth rate compared to its historical average this year, and the eurozone remains troubled … Read More
The global economy is showing traits that shouldn’t go unnoticed by investors. Instead, investors should keep a close eye on their portfolio and make sure they are managing their risk properly by not being overexposed to a certain region, having their assets allocated in different asset classes, and having stop orders in place for their doubtful positions.
Investors need to know that companies trading on the key stock indices have exposure to the global economy; this means their stock prices can suffer.
The global economy looks to be heading towards a period of stagnant growth or an outright economic slowdown. The reason behind this notion is very simple: countries across the board in the global economy are witnessing anemic growth, and the demand is declining.
For example, consider India, one of the well-known emerging markets in the global economy. The central bank of India expects the country to grow by 5.5% in the fiscal year ending March 2014. This was lower than the central bank’s earlier forecast of 5.7%. (Source: Goyal, K., “India Central Bank Holds Rates in Push to Stem Rupee Plunge,” Bloomberg, July 30, 2013.)
In June, industrial output in the third-biggest hub in the global economy, Japan, fell 3.3% from a month earlier. This was the first time in five months that industrial output in the country fell; it had increased 1.9% in May. (Source: “RPT-Japan June industrial output falls 3.3 pct mth/mth,” Reuters, July 29, 2013.)
In addition to this, in the same month, the country’s retail sales also didn’t register as expected. Retail sales in the Japanese economy increased only 1.6%, compared to the 1.9% … Read More
There’s a rush happening in the U.S. economy, but no one seems to have heard much about it. No, it’s not for gold, silver, or oil. This time around, it has to do with rare earth elements, or what are sometimes referred to as rare earth metals.
Before going into further details about how investors may be able to profit from this situation in the making, it is necessary to know what these rare earth elements are and what they are used for.
Rare earth elements, at the very core, have many different uses. They are used in technology like cell phones, televisions, and lighting systems. They are also used in aerospace, automotive, and energy industries. Note that these are just a few of the uses of rare earth elements; there are many other uses for them, as well.
How critical are rare earth elements? According to Ian Ridley, director of the U.S. Geological Survey Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center in Colorado, “without rare earths we’d be back to having black-and-white cellphones again.” (Source: “Gold rush trash is Information Age treasure,” USA Today, July 21, 2013.)
One must ask the question: why call it a rush?
As their name suggests, these elements are rare, found only in certain locations. This leaves them vulnerable to demand and supply shocks.
As a matter of fact, we saw something similar back in 2011. A rare earth element called neodymium, used in the automotive industry, could be purchased for $15.00 a kilogram in 2009. Fast-forward to 2011, and the price of this rare earth element reached $500.00 a kilogram; that’s an increase … Read More
Key stock indices are roaring higher—and this is making bulls happier, while bears are arguing the rise isn’t sustainable. Noise is at its peak. Regardless of this, investors shouldn’t lose sight of what is happening, and always manage their risk.
Since the beginning of the year, the S&P 500 has increased more than 18%. Other key stock indices, like the Dow Jones Industrial Average, have shown a similar pattern and have provided stock investors with profits.
Take a look at the chart of the S&P 500 below. At the very least it’s in a breakout mode. The S&P 500 broke above its long-term resistance, the price level where sellers dominate, around 1,550–1,575. It was tested twice—once in early 2000, and then in 2007—but failed to break above. Technical analysts would say what happened on the chart of the S&P 500 is simply bullish.
They would argue that when a resistance breaks, it becomes the support level—the price area where buyers dominate—and when the support breaks, it ends up becoming the resistance level.
Chart Courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
I’m not saying key stock indices will decline from here and the S&P 500 will come crashing down. The path of least resistance seems to be towards the upside, while I focus on risk management—knowing what kind of risks are present and what kinds of events investors can expect.
The first and most important thing investors need to note is that the key stock indices rising upwards of 18% in the first half of the year—for a 36% yearly move—may be too much to handle.
It wouldn’t be a problem if the U.S. economy … Read More
Switzerland is at a crossroads. On one hand, the country, long celebrated for its economic growth, saw its exports
hit hard in May. That’s not a good long-term indicator for a country whose exports account for 50% of the gross domestic product (GDP).
On the other hand, Switzerland recently signed a free trade deal with China. For investors looking to diversify their portfolio, all the pieces are in place for an excellent trading opportunity. (Source: “Switzerland Exports,” TradingEconomics.com, last accessed July 12, 2013.)
When most people think of Switzerland, they think of banking.
That tradition came from Switzerland’s political neutrality (it avoided both World Wars), which has translated into long-term political stability, strong monetary policies, and economic growth, making it an attractive safe haven for investors. In fact, it is estimated that almost 30% of all funds held outside their country of origin are kept in Switzerland.
More recently, Switzerland’s political neutrality meant that it has been able to enjoy economic growth while the rest of Europe was embroiled in economic turmoil. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union (EU), and only became a member of the United Nations (UN) in 2002.
As a result, trade is the foundation of Switzerland’s prosperity. Switzerland’s economic growth hinges on its main exports, including watches and clocks (TAG Heuer, Hublot, Zenith), medicinal and pharmaceutical products (Novartis, Roche), food processing (Nestle), and electronics and machinery (ABB Ltd., Sika AG).
For years, Switzerland’s economic growth has been helped, in large part, by Germany and the United States, its two largest trade partners. In 2012, Germany accounted for about 25% of Switzerland’s foreign trade. … Read More
What a difference 81 years can make. On July 8, 1932, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a Great Depression-era low, closing at 41.22, representing an 89.19% loss from its March 1929 peak of 381.17. Over the next 18 months, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 150%.
Over the last 81 years, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has climbed 3,700%, and closed at a record-high 15, 461 yesterday. Since hitting a Great Recession low of 6,705.63 in March 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has rebounded almost 130%.
What have we learned over the last 80 years of investing? Maybe that patience is an investor’s most important virtue. When the markets have been faced with wars, terrorism, and economic or political upheaval, they always rebound. Even when the markets are down, there’s always a bullish play waiting to be discovered.
After all, making money in the stock market is about taking advantage of opportunities. People run to and away from stocks for the wrong reasons. In the words of Warren Buffet, “A public-opinion poll is no substitute for thought.” (Source: BrainyQuote, last accessed July 11, 2013.) When it comes to investing, it’s more important to think for yourself than to follow the herd.
That is especially true today. With the Dow Jones Industrial Average hitting a new record, that exuberance has more to do with the Federal Reserve’s $85.0 billion-per-month quantitative easing policy and artificially low interest rates.
In essence, today’s growth on Wall Street can be attributed to Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, the world’s biggest sugar daddy.
This will become evident after the second-quarter earnings season is in … Read More
While the majority of Americans might not have passports, that doesn’t mean we should avoid investing in foreign countries—especially in this market. Since rebounding in 2009, the S&P 500 has climbed around 145%, peaking on May 22 at 1,687.18. And that’s when it all started to go wrong.
On May 22, the Federal Reserve hinted that since the U.S. economy seemed to be on the right track, it might begin to ease its $85.0 billion-per-month quantitative easing policy. Just the idea of losing out on free money sent the markets into a frenzy—over the following two weeks, the S&P 500 lost more than four percent of its value.
While the S&P 500 regained some ground, it continued to be volatile leading up to the Federal Reserve’s June 19 meeting. During that meeting, the Federal Reserve announced that while it would continue with its quantitative easing policy, it would still ease the $85.0 billion-per-month program by the end of the year, and could end it altogether in 2014. Over the following two days, the S&P 500 slipped almost four percent.
While many investors are worried the U.S. economy will not be able to sustain itself without the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying program, there are other markets that investors can turn to if they’re looking for protection and wealth creation.
But bigger is not always better in this economic climate. On June 19, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) said its preliminary monthly Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for China fell to a nine-month low in June of 48.3; a reading under 50 indicates a contraction.
Since May 22, the iShares MSCI … Read More
The world’s two biggest economies seem to be competing against one another to see which can be a bigger drag on the global economy.
In the U.S., the problem is the regulators. As the old saying goes, you can’t fight the Fed.
On Wednesday, June 19, the Federal Reserve announced it would continue its quantitative easing program—at least until America’s jobs market improves substantially. At the same time, the Federal Reserve also said it would ease the $85.0 billion-per-month program by the end of the year, and could end it altogether in 2014.
For a bull market rooted more in the Federal Reserve’s monthly alimony payment than sound economic numbers, this is bad news. After five years, the world’s largest economy might have to stand on its own legs in 2014; that’s not something it’s prepared to do.
The U.S. markets reacted to the news the following day in a sea of red. In fact, less than two percent of S&P 500 companies were trading up.
And in China, the problem is disappointing manufacturing news, and it suggests the global economy is in worse shape than anyone thought.
The HSBC Flash China Purchasing Managers’ Index hit a nine-month low of 48.3 (49.2 in May). The Flash China Manufacturing Output Index came in at 48.8 (50.7 in May), a new eight-month low. A measure below 50 indicates contraction. (Source: “HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI,” Markit Economics, June 20, 2013.)
Here’s a quick summary of the China Flash Manufacturing Index: output is decreasing at a faster rate, new orders are decreasing at a faster rate, new export orders are decreasing at a … Read More
The economic slowdown in the eurozone continues to take a toll on the global economy. It’s causing major economies like China to suffer severely due to anemic demand. Sadly, looking ahead, there’s really no light at the end of the tunnel. Despite the bailouts and the European Central Bank (ECB) taking a tougher stance, countries at the epicenter of the crisis continue to suffer and show dismal economic data, and others are starting to follow their lead towards economic scrutiny.
The Bank of Spain, the central bank of the fourth-biggest economy in the eurozone, reported that the total amount of bad loans in the country had increased to 167.1 billion euros in April from 162.3 billion euros in March. Month-over-month, the amount of bad loans in the Spanish economy has increased by 2.9%. (Source: “Spain’s mortgage crisis lingers on as bad loans soar,” Deutsche Welle, June 18, 2013.)
The ratio of bad loans to all the credit in the country increased to 10.87% from 10.47%. This means that out of every 100 loans in Spain, almost 11 were considered “bad” or default loans.
The situation in Italy, the third-biggest economic hub in the eurozone, is very similar. The Italian Banking Association reported that bad loans in the country increased by 2.3 billion euros to 133 billion euros from March to April. Year-over-year, the bad loans in this eurozone country have grown 22%, making up 3.5% of the total loans. (Source: “Bad loans at Italian banks still growing in April,” Reuters, June 18, 2013.)
What’s even more troubling is that industrial production in the eurozone is declining. It decreased by 0.6% … Read More
For much of last week, the global markets were taking a beating on growing concerns that the central banks will start easing their economic stimulus. Before the markets opened Friday morning, Reuters boldly announced that the rout was over, and U.S. markets opened trading up. (Source: Jones, M., “GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares pick up, dollar steady after bruising selloff,” Reuters, June 14 2013.)
Two hours later, though, Wall Street was singing a different tune. The U.S. markets slipped after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced it cut its 2014 growth outlook for the U.S to 2.7% from three percent. The unemployment rate for 2014 is projected to decrease slightly (on average) to 7.2 %. (Source: “Concluding Statement of the 2013 Article IV Mission to The United States of America,” International Monetary Fund web site, June 14 2013.)
Time will tell if these projections will come true. After initially predicting U.S. 2013 growth of 2.2%, the IMF revised it downward to 1.9%; the IMF continues to maintain that lowered projection. This tepid growth is expected to keep unemployment hovering around 7.5% for the remainder of 2013.
The IMF noted that the Federal Reserve needs to carefully plan its exit strategy to avoid hurting financial markets. The best way to do this, it maintains, is to continue its $85.0 billion a month bond-buying program until at least the end of 2013.
In addition to continued economic stimulus, the IMF also said Washington wasn’t doing enough to cut long-term budget deficits—though it would seem that higher deficits go hand-in-hand with money printing—and that Washington needs to cut entitlement spending and generate higher revenues.
What this … Read More
So this is what it looks like when global investors take their eyes off the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policy and focus on the real economy instead! As I’ve been predicting, the global sell-off of stocks looks like it’s beginning in earnest.
And you can pinpoint the exact moment investors and economists around the world began to get jittery. It was on May 22, right after the Federal Reserve hinted it might start tapering off its $85.0-billion-per-month quantitative easing policy as early as Labor Day.
The global markets haven’t been the same since.
Japanese stocks have entered bear market territory, tanking more than six percent last Thursday to a nine-month low on the threat of reduced economic stimulus from central banks. South Korean shares slipped 1.4%, hitting their lowest close in seven months.
Concern that China’s economic growth is grinding down has seen the Shanghai Composite Index trading at its lowest levels since mid-December 2012 and has dropped 12% from the year’s high on February 6.
One of China’s biggest trading partners may also be feeling the pinch. Australia’s economy expanded just 2.5% in the first quarter, below projected forecasts of 2.7%. While the country’s economy had been chugging along due to increased demand for natural resources, it is beginning to sputter thanks to the slowdown in China. Couple this with the country’s underperforming non-mining sectors, and you can see why Goldman Sachs and others think Australia could, after 22 years, slip into recession. (Source: “Australia’s economic growth rate misses forecasts,” BBC web site, June 5, 2013.)
On top of that, the World Bank cut its global 2013 growth forecast … Read More
In just a matter of a few months, the S&P 500 is up more than 14%. To say the very least, these gains are nothing short of amazing—much better than what investors can get with the long-term U.S. bonds that currently yield less than 3.5%.
Consider this: on average, in the first five months of this year, the S&P 500 went up by about 2.8% per month (14% divided by five months). Assuming the stock market keeps the same pace, the S&P 500 will gain way more than 30% this year (12 times 2.8%).
Now, one must ask the question: is this sustainable? Can the S&P 500 keep going at this pace?
Since at least 1968, the S&P 500 has gone up more than 30% only three times: in 1975, when it increased by 31.55%; in 1995, when it climbed 34.11%; and in 1997, when it climbed 31.01%. (Source: “History of The S&P 500 Index,” The Standard, last accessed June 11, 2013.) Even with a massive turnaround in the stock market in 2009, the S&P 500 only increased return to 28.04%. (Source: “SPDR S&P 500,” Morning Star, last accessed June 11, 2013.)
Just looking at the economic performance of the U.S. economy when the S&P 500 increased more than 30% in the past, it was exuberant. For example, between 1975 and 1976, the gross domestic product of the U.S. economy grew 5.3%. (Source: “Real Gross Domestic Product, 1 Decimal,” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed June 11, 2013.)
Looking at the economic conditions now, they are not as great. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the … Read More