Regular readers of mine will know that I used to be bullish on China; I thought the Chinese economy offered a good contrarian investment opportunity. Now, I’m turning my sights to the eurozone for the top potential investment opportunity outside the U.S.
Chinese Economy in 2015 Losing Steam
You don’t have to be behind the Great Wall of China to realize there are deeper issues brewing in the country of 1.3 billion people. Since assuming the role of the second-largest economy in the world, China’s economy has been caught in a downdraft, with weaker gross domestic product (GDP) growth and broad stalling across the board. There must be something about being number two. Prior to China, Japan held onto that position in 2010 and look what happened to its economy. Germany was third, but has been wallowing in the eurozone, as it spent its energy trying to save Greece and its poorer cousins in the PIIGS nations (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain).
As many of you know, I have long been a bull on China, but even my sentiment has been eroding. I expect my bullishness to continue to decline, too, at least for the foreseeable future, until the country can turn things around.
A few weeks ago, the Chinese government cut its GDP growth outlook for the country to seven percent, down from 7.5% in 2014. Now the real number is likely below seven percent, based on what we have been seeing in the Chinese economy. The two-month period of January to February pointed to more evidence of the slowing in China, with weaker-than-expected results in … Read More
Eurozone Still Messy, but Economic Recovery Has Begun
Europe is open for business. Well, kind of. The region—namely the 19-country eurozone—has recently been in the news with the Greece fiasco and its potential exit.
Greece now has a four-month reprieve in the form of an extension to its current bailout loans and terms, but the distressed country still has to convince eurozone finance ministers that its revised bailout plan for austerity measures makes sense.
For the time being, we are seeing some progress in the eurozone that points to growth. I had been worried about the negative impact from the Russian mess, but so far, it appears to be a non-issue. In the end, Germany, the strongest member of the eurozone, remains on solid footing and that’s what really matters.
What’s Behind the Eurozone’s Economic Progress?
The region is also being driven by the flow of easy money after the previous decision by the European Central Bank (ECB) to maintain near-zero interest rates and buy back about US$70.0 billion in eurozone bonds monthly. Sound familiar? It’s just like what the Federal Reserve did for years. The ECB’s similar actions will likely mean gross domestic product (GDP) growth and higher stock market prices ahead in the region.
Now the eurozone is not as strong in its recovery as the U.S., but I sense there will continue to be good investment opportunities to come, especially given the cheaper relative valuation of the eurozone.
Depending on whom you listen to, the eurozone’s GDP is expected to expand anywhere from 1.2% to perhaps as high as 1.5% this year. Again, not great, but it’s … Read More
There is yet another Greek tragedy playing out across the Atlantic, where legendary poets, mathematicians, scientists, and thinkers once roamed. Fast-forward several thousand years and the country once known for its proud history is cracking at its foundation, burdened by tens of billions in debt and fiscal chaos. (There is a way investors can profit from Greece’s potential demise, but more on that later…)
Syriza Party to Negatively Change Economic Outlook in Eurozone?
Making the situation even more uncertain for this poor cousin in the 19-country eurozone is the recent transformation in power with the left-wing Syriza party, under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, assuming control. The problem for the stability of the eurozone is that Tsipras’ party won on a platform to revise the country’s previous bailout requirements.
Greece wants to alter the austerity demands set by the previous government and lenders. Of course, the eurozone is refusing to do so and expects Greece to honor its original deal.
One of the revisions Greece wants is a cut in the country’s budget surplus to 1.5% of gross domestic product (GDP), rather than the set three percent. Simply put, Greece wants to spend more, which would impact the debt obligations to the eurozone.
Things like bringing back pensions, increasing wages, and other spending is clearly not what the eurozone wants Greece to do. The eurozone realizes that a steady return to lowering spending and debt in Greece is the way to reform and potentially strengthen the region.
Greece faces a big debt repayment this summer and all signs point to a refusal to play. This Greek drama could get messier, with … Read More
The energy sector was dismal in 2014 and it is looking like we could see more of the same for this year. If you are long on oil, you may want to read this, as oil prices could move lower and there are two strategies you can consider to profit from their drop: put options and futures.
Currently, we have the excessive supply overriding the declining demand as the global economy struggles along. China just announced its gross domestic product (GDP) growth would fall to seven percent this year; however, I think the real figure is likely already below seven percent, as there’s some fudging of the numbers. The eurozone could dwindle into another recession or see flat growth, and Russia is clearly heading for another recession in 2015, as long as President Putin continues to refuse to conform to global demands.
The lackluster demand will continue to pressure oil prices.
On the supply end, there’s the massive flow of shale oil that will ultimately help to make the country independent of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil, but will pressure oil prices in the foreseeable future.
OPEC is refusing to cut production, especially its largest member, Saudi Arabia. This is likely in an attempt to try to force the U.S. to cut its shale production and send oil prices higher. We are already beginning to hear about capital expenditure cuts by oil companies in the country.
In addition, non-OPEC oil producers Russia and Iraq have announced their intentions to increase oil exports, which will place further pressure on the price of oil. Of course, these two countries … Read More
The annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit started on Monday in Beijing, and I bet there will be a lot of discussion on the state of China and Asia in the global economy.
My readers all know the impact of China on the global economy, as I’ve written on its relevance before. If China fails, so will the global economy, including the United States and the fragile eurozone. Russia is already looking to extend its economic ties beyond the Great Wall.
Yet it’s clear the country that gave us spectacular double-digit gross domestic product (GDP) growth for years is now struggling. The Chinese economy has already seen its growth slow, coming in at 7.3% in the third quarter, the slowest pace since 2008. And it isnow threatening to fall short of the 7.5% target set by the government. At this point, it doesn’t look like the target will be met. In fact, there are whispers that the target could be cut to seven percent in 2015 if the global economy doesn’t experience a stronger recovery.
Pundits and China bears have been calling for the great collapse of China, specifically in the real estate and financial spaces. Yes, there is softness here, but we have yet to see a bigger crack form. You can bet the Chinese government will do whatever is necessary to reinforce its economy’s weak points. And China can definitely do this, given the fact that the country has about $3.0 trillion in reserves.
President Xi Jinping, who is in his second year of his 10-year term, knows the country needs to spread its wings globally. That is … Read More
The Federal Reserve made it official on Wednesday, announcing it would be cutting the remaining $15.0 billion from its monthly bond-buying program, also known as QE3.
So with that, the period of easy money flowing into the pockets of investors is over. Remember, it was the Federal Reserve’s relaxed easy monetary policy that helped to drive the S&P 500 up nearly 200% since 2009—and now it’s over, folks.
The stock market reacted with stocks heading lower, as there was a slight sliver of hope the Federal Reserve would decide to hold back on eliminating QE3. Investors will now have to deal with bond yields that could begin to move higher on the Federal Reserve’s move.
The Federal Reserve didn’t give a timeframe for when interest rates will begin to move higher from their near-zero levels, but the consensus is calling for the rate increase to begin sometime in mid- to late 2015. As you know, higher rates by the Federal Reserve will drive up yields and carrying costs for both companies and personal debt. Just think about the more than $17.7 trillion in national debt and how the higher interest rates will impact the government’s out-of-control carrying costs.
We are at what I would call a crux.
Stocks want to go higher but need a fresh catalyst to do so. The advance reading of the third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth came in at a healthy annualized growth rate of 3.5%, which while down from the booming 4.6% in the second quarter, is nonetheless indicative that the economy is expanding.
At the end of the day, a strong economy, continued … Read More
In 2013, when it was announced that the eurozone had emerged from its double-dip recession, the European stock market was optimistic and drove stocks higher.
Yet there was a sense the route to higher gross domestic product (GDP) growth was not clear due to the massive debt still on the books of many of the eurozone’s weakest members, widely known as the PIIGS nations (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain). Yes, the countries have shown some recovery, but they continue to be plagued by massive debt and abnormally high unemployment.
Unemployment across the region continues to run in the low double-digits, around 12%. For the youth under the age of 25, it’s much worse, with the unemployment rate around 40% in some of the PIIGS countries.
The problem is that a weak jobs market in the eurozone doesn’t reflect positively for the economies.
We are now seeing growth issues with the two pillars of the Eurozone, Germany and France, which are widely credited with helping to save the eurozone from a financial Armageddon.
The effects of the economic sanctions placed on Russia for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis appear to finally be filtering their way through to the eurozone and Europe, specifically Germany. One of Russia’s biggest trading partners, Germany saw a 5.8% decline in its exports in September alone.
The reality is that a weaker Germany doesn’t bode well for the eurozone.
In addition, with more than 800 million inhabitants in Europe, the market is significant. Slowing in this market will surely have an impact on growth in China and the United States, as well as the global … Read More
Don’t let the new records by the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 trick you into thinking everything is fine in the stock market.
Just take a look…
We have the rising military actions against ISIS in Syria and Iraq that involve five Arab countries, which could really increase the geopolitical risk worldwide.
China is continuing to deliver muted economic results and suggested there would be no additional monetary stimulus at this time. Meanwhile, the slowing in the eurozone and Europe, given the economic sanctions on Russia, will impact the demand for Chinese-made goods.
And while the domestic economy is holding, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently cut its gross domestic product (GDP) growth estimates for the United States to below two percent this year.
The Federal Reserve is helping to support the stock market via the likely extension of its near-zero interest rate policy into mid- or late 2016, but this will help only so much.
The stock market risk is evident on the charts.
Technology and small-cap stocks are attracting the most selling, with investors dumping high-beta stocks as overall stock market risk rises.
The small-cap Russell 2000 lost 1.6%, moving back below its 50-day and 200-day moving averages (MAs) on Monday. The index is now down nearly four percent in September. Considering the risk, I would be careful when looking at small-cap stocks in the stock market at this time.
Technology is also at risk in the stock market despite the NASDAQ continuing to lead the major indices this year with an advance of close to nine percent. Higher-beta stocks are generally the … Read More
The Federal Reserve has spoken and to no one’s surprise, there was really nothing new from Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who did as was expected after shaving off another $10.0 billion in monthly bond purchases. The Federal Reserve will cut the remaining $15.0 billion in October, bringing its third round of quantitative easing (QE3) to an end.
What the stock market here and around the world also heard was that the Federal Reserve will likely maintain its near-zero interest rate policy for a “considerable time” after the QE3 cuts.
The problem is that the stock market is focusing so much on when interest rates may begin to ratchet higher.
The consensus is calling for rates to move higher by mid-2015, but some feel it will not happen until 2016 if the economic growth stalls. The downward revisions in gross domestic product (GDP) growth around the world could extend the time before the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates.
In the eurozone, the European Central Bank (ECB) is adding more monetary stimulus to jump-start the economy that is faltering due, in part, to the mess in Ukraine.
The news release from the Federal Reserve says the economic growth is moderate but also warns the labor market still has work ahead of it, which appears to be the main focal point.
“To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee today reaffirmed its view that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy remains appropriate,” read the press release by the Federal Reserve. “In determining how long to maintain the current 0 to 1/4 percent target range for the federal … Read More
Not too long ago, the European Central Bank (ECB), to fight the economic slowdown in the eurozone, lowered its benchmark interest rates. The hope with this move was the same as it was in the U.S., England, Japan, or other countries that are facing economic scrutiny: lowering interest rates will eventually increase lending and eventually bring in economic growth. In addition to this, the ECB also announced that it will be taking part in an asset purchase program—something similar to what was implemented by the Federal Reserve.
When I look at all this, it creates a very interesting situation. The ECB is lowering its interest rates as the Federal Reserve and others, like the Bank of England, are building grounds to raise their benchmark interest rates.
For example, the Bank of England is hinting at raising interest rates by spring of 2015. The governor of the central bank, Mark Carney, recently said that if interest rates were to rise in the spring as the markets expect, this move would allow the bank to meet its mandate regarding inflation and jobs creation, according to its forecasts. Simply put, the bank is prepared to raise interest rates early next year. (Source: Hannon, P., “Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney Signals Spring Rate Rise,” The Wall Street Journal web site, September 9, 2014.)
And the Federal Reserve may do the very same.
With this in mind, I question where the next big trade is going to be.
Remember what happened during the financial crisis, when the Federal Reserve and other central banks lowered their interest rates? In search of yields, the easy money … Read More
Simply put, if Russia is held accountable, the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight ML17 in eastern Ukraine could destabilize the situation in the region and filter into the eurozone and Europe. That’s bad news.
When the conflict first surfaced regarding the possible annexation of the Crimea region and the influence of Russia, there were concerns after economic sanctions were levied on Russia. The following vote in Crimea that indicated a desire to leave Ukraine has further raised the geopolitical stakes in the volatile area and intensified the fighting between the pro-Russian rebels and Ukraine.
It’s a mess, and the shooting down of ML17 made the situation much worse. We are seeing increased economic sanctions on Russia, and this will likely impact the eurozone and Eastern Europe. There is also news of a Russian steel company selling some properties in the United States.
Of course, we are also hearing that the rich Russians who count on business in Russia and the global economy are also feeling the economic pinch and are not happy. The problem is that they won’t say anything towards the situation, assumedly due to their fear of President Putin and the Kremlin.
And while Europe is intensifying the pressure on Russia to do something, there’s also a need for the flow of oil and natural gas to continue into the eurozone and Europe, which gets about 40% of its energy needs from Russia.
While the impact on the Russian embargo has yet to be fully felt by the eurozone and Europe, it could worsen if the Ukraine conflict intensifies. In the first quarter, gross domestic product (GDP) growth … Read More
The situation in Crimea should be closely monitored as it pertains to Europe and the eurozone. Russia is a major trading partner with the eurozone as well, supplying about 40% of the energy requirements in the area. That is why an escalation in Crimea could devastate the region, especially at a time when the economy is finally growing in the eurozone.
I’m carefully watching the stand-off in Crimea and, more importantly, what Russia is doing. Whether it’s simply geopolitical posturing or a plan to enter into Crimea is unclear. The Russians really don’t want a conflict, as it would likely push the country into a recession.
And a recession in Russia would also impact Europe and could drive the region’s economies down. Now, Russia is currently setting up meetings with the United States and United Nations (UN), so there’s some optimism that a peaceful resolution could emerge from the crisis.
The reality is that a healthy Russia also means better times for Eastern Europe, including some of the area’s strongest economic regions, such as Poland.
I view Europe and the eurozone as a potential investment opportunity if the Russia-Ukraine situation is resolved.
The market in Europe and the eurozone is massive and includes more than 800 million people who demand goods and services.
The eurozone’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded at a rate of 0.3% in the fourth quarter, according to Eurostat. The eurozone is estimated to report GDP growth of 1.2% this year and 1.5% in 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Of course, these numbers could decline if a conflict surfaces in Ukraine.
A look at … Read More
While the U.S. economy is hardly on solid footing, the fact remains that as the world’s biggest and most influential economy, the U.S. doesn’t have to be running optimally to keep the global economy chugging along. Though, it would be nice if the U.S. economy would gain sustainable traction. Until then, we will have to be content with its glacial pace of recovery.
And it is slow. In 2012, gross domestic product (GDP) growth was 2.8% and in 2013, it slowed to just 1.9%. Things are expected to get better over the next two years. U.S. GDP growth is forecast to hit 2.8% in 2014 and an even three percent in 2015.
The rest of the world will be playing catch-up. Well, save for the Chinese economy, which has a 2014 growth forecast of 7.5%. GDP growth in the eurozone picked up 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2013—the third quarter of growth since the end of an 18-month recession. (Source: “Eurozone GDP growth gathers speed,” BBC News web site, February 14, 2014.)
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that India’s GDP growth will hit 4.6% this year and climb to 5.4% in 2015. Brazil recently revised its 2014 GDP growth rate from 3.8% to 2.5%—which is still higher than analysts’ GDP growth forecasts of 1.79%. (Sources: Mishra, A.R., “IMF says India needs more rate hikes to bring inflation down,” Livemint.com, The Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2014; “Brazil cuts 2014 budget, GDP estimate,” Buenos Aires Herald web site, February 21, 2014.)
For investors who have been waiting for a broadly based global recovery, these are encouraging signs. It also … Read More
When troubles first started in the eurozone years ago, they stemmed from the credit market. The amount of bad loans increased and as a result, banks needed to be bailed out. Greece and Ireland were the first in the eurozone to come under scrutiny, followed by Spain and Portugal; concerns later grew over whether Italy needed a bailout, as well. In 2012 and 2013, we saw a little calm in the eurozone. One of the main factors behind this was the European Central Bank (ECB). It said it will do whatever it takes to save the eurozone. This sent a wave of optimism through the global economy.
Now, we are starting to hear the problems—bad loans—remain in the common currency region…and they’re increasing.
The Bank of Spain’s data showed that bad loans in the country grew to a record-high in November. They stood at 13.08% then, compared to 12.99% just a month earlier. Month-over-month, bad loans in the fourth-biggest eurozone economy grew by 1.5 billion euros. (Source: “CORRECTED-Spain’s bad loans ratio reaches new record high at 13.08 pct in Nov,” Reuters, January 17, 2014.)
This isn’t all for Spain. Recently, after posting a loss in its fourth quarter, the Banco Popular S.A.—the biggest bank in Spain—said that at the end of 2013, 6.8% of all loans at the bank were 90 days overdue. In 2012, this rate was 5.1%. (Source: Neumann, J., “Spanish Banks Still Battling Bad Loans,” Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2014.)
Banks in Italy—the third-biggest economy in the eurozone—are going through something similar. Standard & Poor’s expects bad loans at the Italian banks to increase to 310 … Read More
There’s an investment opportunity in the making at one of the eurozone nations for U.S. investors, and it’s becoming more compelling each passing day.
We know the eurozone still burns. The economic slowdown in the common currency region still prevails. We have heard from the European Central Bank (ECB) that it’s still trying to work very hard to break the strength of the economic slowdown. The central bank has lowered the benchmark interest rate and hinted that it might go ahead with a form of quantitative easing. In the past, we also heard the ECB say it will do whatever it takes to save the eurozone.
Sadly, it’s failing.
You see, when the eurozone crisis began, the problems were contained to a limited number of countries, but now we see the economic slowdown spreading through the region; now, the stronger eurozone nations are falling prey to it.
The opportunity? France.
France is the second-biggest economic hub in the eurozone. The economic slowdown in the French economy continues to gain strength. We heard that in the third quarter, the French economy contracted by 0.1%. In the second quarter, it showed growth of 0.5%. (Source: “French economy contracts 0.1 pct in third quarter,” Reuters, November 14, 2013.)
Unemployment in the French economy is also on the rise. In September, the unemployment rate in France reached 11.1%—that’s 3.26 million individuals who were out of work. In October, it declined to 10.9%, but that’s still higher than it was during the same period a year ago. In October of 2012, the unemployment rate in the second-biggest eurozone nation was 10.5%. (Source: “Euro area unemployment … Read More
The global economy looks to be in trouble, as there may be an economic contraction on the horizon. If all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, companies on key stock indices might face issues in delivering corporate earnings.
Major economic hubs in the global economy are witnessing an economic slowdown. Those economies aren’t marching ahead, and their growth rates seem to be stagnant. If this continues, then it wouldn’t be a surprise to eventually see the global economy cave in, resulting in a global economic slowdown.
The eurozone, one of the biggest economic hubs in the global economy, remains under severe scrutiny. In the third quarter, the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate for the common currency region declined to 0.1%, while in the second quarter, the GDP growth rate was 0.3%. (Source: “Second estimate for the third quarter of 2013,” Eurostat web site, December 4, 2013.)
The troubled countries in the eurozone, including Greece, Spain, and Portugal, are stuck in depression-like conditions, but major countries in the region also face economic pressures. For example, Germany’s third-quarter GDP growth rate came in at 0.3% compared to the second quarter, which saw 0.7% GDP growth from the previous quarter. (Source: Ibid.)
Australia, another major economic hub in the global economy, is facing headwinds as well. In the third quarter, the Australian economy grew by only 0.6% from the previous quarter. The annual GDP growth rate of Australia registered at 2.3%. In the second quarter, the Australian economy grew 0.7% and the annual growth rate was 2.4%. (Source: Kewk, G., “Australia’s economic growth falling short,” The Sydney Morning Herald web … Read More
Major economic hubs in the global economy are in outright trouble, and each passing day there’s more economic data suggesting the slowdown is holding its own. Investors need to be wary about what’s happening, because it can affect their portfolio significantly.
The eurozone crisis, which sent ripple effects into the global economy, is rising again. In the early days of the eurozone crisis, we heard how the economies of such nations like Greece, Spain, and Portugal were suffering. Now, the bigger nations in the euro region are showing signs of stress. Consider France, the second-biggest economy in the eurozone, for example. This major economic hub in the global economy witnessed contraction in the third quarter. On top of this, France’s unemployment rate continues to increase.
Germany, the biggest economy in the eurozone and the fourth-biggest economic hub in the global economy, slowed in the third quarter. The gross domestic product (GDP) of the country increased just 0.3% in the third quarter. In the second quarter, Germany’s GDP increased by 0.7%. (Source: “Gross domestic product up 0.3% in 3rd quarter of 2013,” Destatis, November 14, 2013.)
Similarly, Japan, the third-biggest nation in the global economy, continues to struggle, despite the extraordinary measures the central bank and Japanese government have taken to boost the economy. In the third quarter, the growth rate of the Japanese economy slowed down. The GDP grew 0.5% from the previous quarter. The annual GDP growth rate of the Japanese economy was 1.9% in the third quarter. (Source: “Gross Domestic Product: Third Quarter 2013,” Cabinet Office, Government of Japan web site, November 14, 2013.)
Adding more to the … Read More
Maybe I’m reading into the economy too much, but the current state of the U.S. economy and Wall Street isn’t adding up. The vast majority of people don’t think we’re in a bubble, including Federal Reserve chair nominee Janet Yellen. Granted, you can only really point to a bubble in retrospect, but still, it certainly looks and feels like we are in one.
Talking before the Senate Banking Committee during her first public appearance as Federal Reserve chair nominee, Janet Yellen said she plans to keep printing $85.0 billion a month and set no timetable for when the Fed will begin to taper.
Truth be told, the Federal Reserve has been, for the most part, pretty straightforward about when it will taper its quantitative easing policy: when the U.S. economy improves. For most, that means an unemployment rate of 6.5% and inflation at 2.5%.
At the same time, other scenarios have been floated about, including no tapering until the unemployment rate hits 5.5%, or better yet, the Federal Reserve begins to taper in early 2014, but continues to keep interest rates artificially low until, by some estimates, 2020. Really, what’s the rush?
And why should they? Since early 2009, the S&P 500 has climbed more than 160% and is up more than 25% year-to-date. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, on the other hand, is up 132% since early 2009 and is up 21.5% year-to-date. And it looks like the good times are going to continue to roll, because, in the words of Janet Yellen, “It could be costly to fail to provide accommodation [to the market].”
Take a few steps … Read More
Despite Congress miraculously pulling the U.S. back from the brink of destruction by temporarily raising the debt ceiling and ending the U.S. government shutdown, Americans continue to be a pessimistic bunch. But can you blame us?
According to Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index, consumer sentiment remains in negative territory. After falling to -39 during the recent standoff in Washington, U.S. economic confidence has improved to -36. To use the term “improved” is being generous; in late May, the index was at -3. (Source: “U.S. Economic Confidence Index [Weekly],” Gallup web site, October 14, 2013.)
While the brinksmanship in Washington is (temporarily) over, our pessimism isn’t. According to another poll, 71% said economic conditions right now are poor, while just 29% said economic conditions are good—the lowest level of the year. Now granted, it takes time for economic confidence to return; following the debt negotiations in 2011, it took economic confidence five months to recover. (Source: Steinhauser, P., “CNN Poll: After shutdown, America is less optimistic about economy,” CNN web site, October 22, 2013.)
Unfortunately, it could be worse this time, thanks in large part to high unemployment and stagnant income and wages. And there’s also the fact that Washington only agreed to fund the government through to January 15, 2014 and extend the debt ceiling through February 7, 2014. Americans can’t get too optimistic about the economy knowing the government is just taking time to reload.
Fortunately, there are economic lands where optimism is blooming in light of real economic change. Economic optimism in the eurozone improved for the fifth straight month and hit a two-year high in September. The … 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
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
Consumers like to purchase stuff, whether they need it or not. In the United States, this tendency to buy is our economic engine, driving 70% of all U.S. economic growth. In 2012, $11.119 trillion of the $15.685 trillion produced in the U.S. went towards household purchases. (Source: Amadeo, K., “What Are the Components of GDP?” About.com, April 25, 2013.)
With that much at stake, it’s easy to see why consumer confidence levels are one of the best economic indicators we have. If consumers are optimistic, they’ll spend more, and the economy expands; if they’re pessimistic, they rein in their discretionary spending, and the economy grinds down.
While Wall Street may be riding high, most of Main Street isn’t, and you can see that reflected in the consumer confidence numbers. High unemployment, high debt levels, and the idea of higher interest rates and slower economic growth have put a damper on America’s desire to spend the country out of its recession.
U.S. consumer confidence levels fell in August, just one month after reporting a six-year high. According to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s preliminary reading, consumer sentiment slipped to 80.0 from 85.1 in July, the highest since July 2007. Wall Street economists, who clearly have their pulse on the heartbeat of the average American, were expecting August consumer confidence levels to actually increase to 85.5. (Source: “U.S. consumer sentiment weakens in August,” Reuters web site, August 16, 2013.)
It was a different story in the eurozone: consumer confidence levels there rose in August to their highest level in more than two years. During the second quarter, it was reported that the … Read More
No matter what the overarching economics are in the U.S., the fact of the matter is that you really can’t beat the Federal Reserve.
Sure, unemployment and underemployment are high, consumer confidence is down, personal debt is high, and housing prices are still 25% below their 2006 highs, but with the Federal Reserve dumping $85.0 billion per month into the markets and keeping interest rates artificially low, the markets can’t help but rejoice. And until those two dynamics change, the markets will continue to rally, with the odd pullback—which, for most investors, signals the perfect time to rebalance their portfolio.
And right now, it looks as if the winds on Wall Street are favoring the eurozone. After starting in the latter part of 2011, the longest ever eurozone recession has come to an end.
The economies of the 17-member eurozone grew by 0.3% during the second quarter, which is more than expected; the general consensus had the eurozone climbing at a rate of 0.2%. Some think the stronger-than-expected results provide further evidence that the worst of the eurozone’s debt crisis is over. (Source: “Eurozone comes out of recession,” BBC web site, August 14, 2013.)
But it might not be quite that cut and dry. The growth was driven mainly by business and consumer spending in Germany and France, the eurozone’s two largest economies. During the second quarter, Germany’s economy grew 0.7%, while France’s economy increased 0.5%.
Other countries in the eurozone have not been quite as fortunate. Spain and Italy are still struggling, Greece’s economy slipped 4.6% year-over-year, and the Netherlands and Cyprus are still in recession.
When the eurozone … 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 economic slowdown in the eurozone has become the topic of discussion lately. The reason for this is mainly because it is sending ripple effects into the global economy, and the growth is being stalled. We have seen countries like Switzerland and China face scrutiny as the economic slowdown picked up in the eurozone. As the demand in the common currency region declined, exports from those nations to the eurozone also deteriorated.
This caused concerns that the major countries in the eurozone, like Germany and France, will see a downturn, which could possibly take the region into another downward spiral.
Surprisingly, those concerns have shown some weakness in the most recent economic news.
Germany, the biggest economic hub in the eurozone and one of the only few countries to weather the economic slowdown in the region, had concerns that business will slow down. Fortunately, the indicators suggest this hasn’t happened yet.
The business confidence in the country has been improving, increasing for a third month in a row in July. In June, the Ifo Institute’s Business Climate Index increased to 106.2 from 105.9; the index is based on a survey of 7,000 business executives. (Source: Randow, J., “German Business Confidence Rises for a Third Month,” Bloomberg, July 25, 2013.) Keep in mind that businesses are the first to see changes in economic conditions; if they are optimistic, it’s considered a good sign for the economy.
But that’s not all: manufacturing in the eurozone also showed signs of relief, improving for the first time since July of 2011. The Flash Eurozone Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), reported by Markit, registered at … 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
It is becoming very evident that the global economy is marching towards a period of major turbulence. I see both established and emerging economic hubs in the global economy struggling, and if it continues, then economic slowdown becomes inevitable.
Consider the estimates of growth in the global economy by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It expects growth in the global economy to be as stagnant as 2012, forecasting a growth rate of a little over three percent. The IMF expects emerging economies to grow by five percent in 2013 and about 5.5% in 2014. (Source: “Emerging Market Slowdown Adds to Global Economy Pains,” International Monetary Fund web site, July 9, 2013.)
But with what we are already seeing, these estimates might just become obsolete, and the IMF might once again lower its forecast for the global economy.
For example, consider the Chinese economy, the second-largest economic hub in the global economy. It grew at an annual pace of 7.5% in the second quarter of this year from a year earlier—a decrease from 7.7% in the first quarter. The Chinese economy’s performance in the second quarter was the slowest in the last three quarters and marked the longest streak of growth rates below eight percent in at last 20 years. (Source: “China Growth Slows to 7.5% as 2013 Target Under Threat,” Bloomberg, July 15, 2013.)
China is performing well below its historical average. It wasn’t uncommon for the Chinese economy to grow at an annual pace of more than 10% in recent years.
The problems for the global economy don’t end there, as the troubles in the eurozone still continue. And … 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
Investors who are looking to profit from the ongoing crisis in the eurozone should really be looking at Italy. It may just be the next country in the common currency region to run into troubles after Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and Cyprus have already made their own headlines.
Confesercenti, Italy’s retail association, recently reported that each day in Italy, 143 businesses are closing. Since the troubles emerged in the global economy in 2008, 224,000 businesses have closed their door in this one eurozone nation. (Source: “Crisis is closing ‘134 retail outlets’ a day in Italy,” ANSA English, June 19, 2013.)
“It’s a massacre,” said Confesercenti president Marco Venturi. “Every day five grocers, four butchers, 42 clothes shops, 43 restaurants and 40 bars and catering businesses close down.” (Source: Ibid.)
And the economic miseries for Italy don’t end there. The economic slowdown in the country is deep in the roots of its economy and is taking a heavy toll.
The index tracking industrial production in Italy is in a continuous plunge. It stood at 80.80 in April, down 0.3% from March and at its lowest since April of 2009. The last time the index was that low was back in the late 1980s. (Source: “Production of Total Industry in Italy,” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, July 1, 2013.)
Making things worse, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services downgraded Italy’s credit rating to BBB from BBB+ after citing a negative outlook. This puts the sovereign rating of the eurozone country very close to the junk rating—speculative and with a higher risk of default. (Source: “ECB’s Noyer: S&P Italy Downgrade Underlines Priorities for … 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
The eurozone crisis has been haunting the global economy for a while.
Countries in the common currency region are deteriorating very quickly. Look at the Spanish economy, for example: in the first quarter of 2013, it contracted 0.5% after continuing its slide from the last quarter of 2012, when it declined 0.8%. The Spanish economy, the fourth-biggest in the eurozone, has been contracting for seven successive quarters. (Source: “Austerity chokes off Spanish economy,” Deutsche Welle, May 30, 2013.)
Other troubled countries in the eurozone, such as Greece, Portugal, and Italy, continue to take a toll on the region, as well. In April, unemployment in the eurozone reached another record-high, registering at 12.2%, compared to 12.1% in March; 19.3 million individuals were jobless in the euro area. (Source: “Unemployment statistics,” Eurostat web site, last accessed June 5, 2013.)
With the economic slowdown gaining a stronger grip on the region and with major economic hubs like Germany and France begging for growth, there are movements erupting across the eurozone demanding the abolishment of the economic bloc.
Germany has witnessed a rise of a new party called the Alternative for Germany party. According to a recently conducted poll, seven percent of Germans said they would “certainly” vote for this anti-euro party, while 17% said they would “probably” vote for them. (Source: Geiger, F., “New Anti-Euro Party May Enter German Parliament – Poll,” Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2013.)
But it’s not just Germany; other countries in the eurozone have the same kind of movement spreading. For example, there are political parties in Portugal that want out of the eurozone and two parties with … Read More
Despite the raft of negative economic news we’ve been seeing over the last umpteen months, additional sour news that backs up the prevailing negative winds on Wall Street still manages to shock even the most seasoned of analysts.
According to an article headline published by Dow Jones Newswires, “U.S. Factories Show Surprising Contraction.” I’m not sure why the editors at Dow Jones Newswires would be surprised—disappointed, perhaps, but not surprised—but apparently, they are. (Source: “U.S. Factories Show Surprising Contraction,” NASDAQ web site, June 3, 2013.)
They are surprised, in spite of high unemployment, falling median incomes, an increasing number of Americans receiving food stamps, high personal and student loan debt, and stagnant wages. Even Wall Street seems a little tepid. Of the S&P 500 companies that have issued corporate earnings guidance for the second quarter of 2013, almost 80% have issued a negative outlook.
So I’m not sure why anyone would be surprised that U.S. factories showed a contraction.
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of economic activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector contracted in May for the first time since November 2012, and only the second time since July of 2009. After flirting with the 50.0 level, the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 49.0 in May from 50.7 in April. A reading below 50.0 indicates a contraction in the manufacturing sector and, usually, ebbs and flows in step with the health of the economy. (Source: “May 2013 Manufacturing ISM Report On Business,” Institute for Supply Management web site, June 3, 2013.)
And it’s not as if the United States is an economic island. China, the … Read More
The recent decline in U.S. bond prices and the increase in yields have gotten a significant amount of attention. Some are saying the bond market is going to see a severe downturn ahead, while others are calling it a buying opportunity. Should investors jump in and short the bonds? Or should they buy even more?
Staying away from the noise, long-term investors shouldn’t just jump to a conclusion by looking at the short-term price movement. This behavior can cause a significant amount of damage to an investor’s portfolio.
Take a look at the chart below, which shows the yield on 30-year U.S. bonds:
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Without a doubt, the yield has increased, shooting up in just a month to 3.27% from below 2.85%. Last time the yield on 30-year U.S. bonds increased by a similar amount, it took about three months, from mid-December 2012 to March of this year.
What’s certain is that the short-term momentum is clearly headed towards selling, with investors running away from long-term U.S. bonds. Since mid-July of 2012, the 30-year U.S. bond prices have been declining and are in an apparent downtrend, making lower lows and lower highs; the price of a 30-year U.S. bond has declined from $153.00 to currently hovering close to $141.00.
According to the Investment Company Institute, long-term bond mutual funds witnessed inflows of almost $16.1 billion in March. Sadly, comparing this to the inflows of March of 2012, they were 47% lower. At that time, inflows in the long-term bond mutual funds were $30.8 billion. (Source: “Historical Flow Data,” Investment Company Institute web site, last accessed, May 30, … Read More
The stock market rally that began in March of 2009 is gaining attention once again. The key stock indices have surpassed the highs they registered before the U.S. economy was hit with a financial crisis and the ones made at the peak of the tech boom.
With all this, the direction in which the key stock indices are headed next has become a topic of discussion among investors: can they go any higher? Or we are bound to see another market sell-off, like the one we saw in 2008 and early 2009?
When looking at the state of the global economy, things are turning bleak. We have major economies outright worried about their future economic growth. For example, the Chinese economy is expected to grow at a slower rate compared to its historical average; the Japanese economy is still struggling with a recession, and efforts by the Bank of Japan to boost the economy haven’t really showed much success; and the eurozone is witnessing its longest economic contraction, with major nations falling prey to economic slowdown.
But looking at the U.S. economy, it portrays a different image; it appears things have improved. Unemployment is lower and consumer spending has increased since it edged lower in the financial crisis—both possible good signs of a stock market rally.
To no surprise, the noise is getting louder and louder as the key stock indices are moving higher. The bears are calling for the end of the bull market, while the bulls are cheering for the key stock indices and believe that they are bound to go much higher. Estimates are being thrown out; … Read More
The eurozone has sent waves of confusion through the global economy, and investors are concerned about what it could do to their portfolio. To say the very least, investors have all the right to be worried—bulls and bears are creating noise, making investment decisions even more difficult to make.
The eurozone is in recession for the second time since 2009.
Back then, the problem was the debt-infested nations like Greece, Spain, and Portugal that swept the region with a slowdown, but now things appear to be different. The strongest nations like Germany and France are showing bleak performance. Similarly, other smaller nations that didn’t even make the news before are now in the headlines—just look at Slovenia and the Netherlands, for example.
Why is this a concern? The problem at the very core is that there are America-based companies that operate in the eurozone. If the region suffers through severe economic slowdown once again, the demand from consumers will decline due to high unemployment. As a result, the U.S. companies will see their sales decline, and eventually, their portfolio will deteriorate.
To fight this economic slowdown in the region, the European Central Bank (ECB) has taken some major steps. For example, to reduce the risks of the region dissolving, the ECB said it will “do whatever it takes” to save the region. (Source: “Verbatim of the Remarks Made by Mario Draghi,” European Central Bank web site, July 26, 2012, last accessed May 7, 2013.)
On May 2, the ECB announced a cut in its interest rates, lowering them to 0.50% from 0.75%. In addition, while … Read More
“Risk” is a four-letter word.
It’s the kind of thing you wish you spent a lot more time thinking about before a shock actually happens.
Right now, the Federal Reserve is re-inflating assets while sovereign debt skyrockets. It’s been doing so for a number of years now, and the stock market is moving.
Stock market action illustrates that it doesn’t pay to fight the Fed. But one of the biggest trends in the stock market’s performance over the last few years is the strength in blue chips that pay dividends. You don’t need a highflying technology stock in this kind of market.
With so much sovereign debt growth and uncertainty that continues unabated, I think all investors need is to take a fresh look at their portfolios and re-evaluate all holdings related to risk.
The sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the U.S. is ongoing. There is a failure on the part of policymakers in many countries to be more public and more aggressive in dealing with this issue.
The stock market is at risk. All market participants, including investment banks, individual investors, and institutions, need to be more vocal in talking about debt and its consequences for individuals and countries.
News of massive new monetary stimulus from Japan, a copycat strategy in a sense, is just totally irresponsible. Japan’s gross government debt as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) is now over 230%, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Greece’s performance has actually improved, now sitting somewhere around 170%. And the IMF estimates the U.S. economy’s total sovereign debt as a percentage of GDP at approximately 107% … Read More
There are a lot of great stocks out there with proven track records for making money. These are retirement stocks—brand-name stocks that pay dividends to create wealth. With dividend reinvestment, you can effectively compound this wealth in an easy, costless manner.
One blue chip company that I’d like to highlight is Johnson & Johnson (NYSE/JNJ), which has an outstanding track record of increasing its dividends to shareholders and achieving capital gains on the stock market.
I couldn’t get data for before 1972, but Johnson & Johnson has increased its annual dividends every year since then. Since 1972, the company’s stock has split three-for-one on two occasions, and two-for-one on four occasions. The company’s last share split was on June 12, 2001, and the stock is definitely due for another split.
On the stock market, Johnson & Johnson recently spiked 10 points higher. And that’s just since the beginning of January. The company’s long-term stock chart is featured below:
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Track record-wise, the stock is up well over 10-fold within the last 20 years, and that’s just capital gains; that doesn’t include dividends paid.
Everyone knows Johnson & Johnson’s consumer products; the company’s baby shampoo is for sale virtually everywhere. But Johnson & Johnson is much more than that. It’s dozens of popular healthcare brands, skin creams, and medicines. The company’s pharmaceutical research in oncology, contraceptives, immunology, and vaccines is extensive. Finally, Johnson & Johnson manufactures implants, diabetes care products, and joint replacement products. It’s a company with hugely favorable exposure to demographic changes and an aging population.
Of course, this is why Johnson & Johnson is rarely … Read More
Most components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average are doing well—some exceptionally well. Alcoa Inc. (NYSE/AA) is one of the laggards, and really, all the position has done on the stock market is return to its historical norm. The company reports in a couple of weeks, and it is currently richly valued on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio.
The opposite of Alcoa’s position is 3M Company (NYSE/MMM), which is trading at an all-time record high on the stock market and is not expensively priced. This Dow Jones component has basically been ticking higher since the beginning of 1962. It traded sideways between 2005 and 2012, but it’s a consistent winner for sure.
The Dow Jones Transportation Average and the Dow Jones Industrial Average have been leading the stock market in recent history. The strength in transportation stocks is highly significant in terms of a leading indicator for the rest of the stock market. And the strength in the Dow Jones Industrials isn’t as much an expansion of valuations for these specific old economy stocks; it’s because business conditions for these companies are pretty decent.
Institutional investors have been buying safer names, which is why Dow Jones component companies like The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE/PG) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE/JNJ) have traded up so strongly since the beginning of the year. These companies are appreciating like fast-growing technology stocks. It is a bull market signal.
We’re on the cusp of a new earnings season, and the numbers, so far, have been decent, peppered with a few disappointments. In order for the stock market to keep advancing, it needs greater leadership from … Read More
Two big trends are about to collide: global warming and global re-inflation. And the result is going to create a lot of shocks and opportunity. I’ve heard people refer to the recent tsunamis, rising temperatures, floods, and droughts as the “weather apocalypse.” Whatever you call it, the re-inflation in prices combined with global warming is going to create a new super cycle in agriculture and agribusiness.
The business cycle is changing in financial markets. Currencies are being devalued. The bull market in bonds is over. Central banks are repatriating their gold. There’s massive monetary stimulus, and now there are rising prices, which should help boost earnings initially. The stock market could go a lot higher this year.
The re-inflation cycle has staying power, even through the next U.S. recession. An inflationary business cycle, product scarcity, increasing demand, and the weather represent a fundamental, long-term uptrend for agriculture—the final leg of the commodity price cycle.
The stock market’s recent breakout was very powerful. Wall Street is now ahead of first-quarter earnings season. Before the next big crash, I think the stock market will have one final push higher—a lot higher than current levels.
I absolutely agree with Jim Rogers’ view about agriculture. But hey, even Jim has something to sell you. The re-inflation definitely has consequences, but global monetary stimulus is on a tear. And as an investor, it doesn’t pay to fight it.
The stock market is holding firm ahead of first-quarter earnings season. Its performance is very similar to the strength experienced during the first four months of last year. “Sell in May, and go away?” I think it’s … Read More
The stock market is absolutely where it should be, given current earnings—and it’s across the board; from large-cap to small-cap, valuations are fair. But the real telltale sign will be first-quarter earnings season. The stock market wants to see growth, and it actually doesn’t need much of it in terms of the bottom line. This market wants to see revenue growth or stocks will go into correction.
Corporations, especially large ones, have done an exceedingly good job of maintaining their earnings through the last recession and the modest economic recovery. They’ve done this through diligently controlling costs, doing little in the way of new hiring, ensuring productivity gains per existing worker, and using technology. The health of U.S. corporations is very good; for individuals, it’s a whole other story.
Corporations have also been very conservative with their earnings outlooks, making it easier to outperform or beat the Street. With the large cash hoards that corporations have been built up by not investing in this economy, companies are keeping investors happy with increased dividends, even with the prospect of no earnings growth.
This stock market is due for a correction; but it’s still unclear whether there will be decent buying opportunities when this correction occurs. If this upcoming earnings season disappoints, then new buyers will be better off holding out for future weakness.
The S&P 500 has to show more breakout strength in order for the rest of the stock market to follow. We need technology stocks to further accelerate, along with the industrials. But in reality, what the stock market is doing now is really more of an expansion in … Read More
The U.S. economy is going to be low and slow for quite a long time. Cuts to government spending, persistent unemployment, and stagnant incomes all make for a real age of austerity at both the sovereign and individual levels. And there is inflation in this economy, and it’s keeping disposable incomes down. In an economy that is about 70% based on consumer spending, this is not good.
I’ve never been bearish on the U.S. economy, because no other country on the planet is able to pull up its bootstraps and move forward as quickly. But times have changed and after experiencing persistent financial crises (savings and loan, tech bubble, subprime mortgage crisis) and unreasonable government spending, I fear the system can no longer recover from these shocks like it used to. The reason for this is the lack of financial flexibility caused by too much government spending and a lack of will on the part of policymakers to enact ongoing, practical solutions to keep the ship sailing.
And the lack of financial flexibility is present in all the levels of government, particularly following the troubles in the real estate market after the subprime mortgage bubble had burst. I hate to say this, but government spending is a large part of gross domestic product (GDP) in all Western countries. This is why the eurozone is in such trouble, and it’s also why that region is destined for economic mediocrity for years to come.
I fear that the U.S. economy is going down the same path, and breaking out of this cycle is going to be extremely difficult. The single greatest strength … Read More
Corporate earnings are still pouring in, largely from smaller companies that take longer to put their financial results together. The numbers continue to be generally good, and if there is a trend, it’s that earnings are beating consensus, but revenues are coming in just slightly short. For the most part, companies are confirming existing earnings guidance for 2013.
In terms of portfolio strategy, I’m still very hesitant about buying this stock market. We’re at five-year highs and general economic conditions are still pretty slow. But there’s one thing I’m not and that’s bearish. The stock market is appropriately valued, considering current earnings and forecasts for a great number of blue chips are for high single-digit growth in revenues and earnings for 2013. Combined with dividends, this should produce another decent year.
While stock market investment risk is high, a lot of risks in global capital markets are actually priced into the stock market, bonds, and currencies. The sovereign debt crisis and economic weakness in the eurozone is still very pronounced, but the market knows this. U.S. fiscal problems and the inability of policymakers to deal with them decisively are priced into this market. Investors are looking beyond the previous trading catalysts and are now focusing (finally) on what corporations are saying about their businesses. Revenues and earnings are now the big catalyst.
The key, leading index for the stock market remains to be the Dow Jones Transportation Average. Its breakout late last year led the broader market to a new upward trend, and many component stocks within the index are doing great. And corporate earnings from this group came in … Read More
With the global economy in disarray, it probably doesn’t sound like the best time to add an infrastructure company to your investment portfolio. But it is.
In spite of a weak U.S economy, record debt, the eurozone slipping back into recession, and a weak outlook, pressure continues to mount for countries around the world to build and upgrade their infrastructure (i.e., hospitals, toll roads, airports and ports; utilities and communications infrastructure) in an effort to help stimulate the economy.
And the timing couldn’t be better. In spite of the dramatically changing environment, the global infrastructure has not kept pace. In fact, the world faces an infrastructure deficit estimated at $20.0 trillion over the next two decades, with Brazil, China, India, and the U.S. leading the way. The U.S. infrastructure deficit totals $40.0 billion a year in the roads sector alone. (Source: Thompson, C., et al., “The problem is more than money: Global Infrastructure Crisis,” Deloitte web site, last accessed February 26, 2013.)
Ultimately, the development of a strong infrastructure is essential to manage growth and drive productivity. To achieve this, cash-strapped governments around the world have turned to the private sector for help.
Aecon Group Inc. (TSX/ARE) provides international construction and infrastructure services to customers in the private and public sectors worldwide. The company operates in three of the most lucrative sectors: transportation, energy, and natural resources. The company’s infrastructure branch constructs public and private infrastructure, including roads and highways, hydroelectric power projects, office buildings, airports, marine facilities, and transit systems. The company’s industrial segment engages in the construction of alternative and fossil fuel power plants; in-plant construction at nuclear … Read More