Daily Gains Letter

Janet Yellen


Why a Soft First Quarter Offers Hope

By for Daily Gains Letter | Apr 3, 2014

Silver LiningThe first quarter, by all accounts, was a dud, especially if you were invested in blue chip stocks as the Dow Jones Industrial Average retracted 0.74% in the quarter.

Yet March also saw some shifting of capital from higher-risk assets into blue chips and large-cap stocks, as the NASDAQ and Russell 2000 underperformed with declines of 2.53% and 0.83%, respectively.

But the muted gains in the first quarter do offer some hope heading forward, especially if the stock market can attract some leadership and if the economic outlook and jobs numbers can improve. For instance, the S&P 500 led the way in the first quarter with a 1.32% advance (or a 5.28% advance on an annualized basis). By comparison, in 2013, the index had already surpassed this level of advance by March.

Given the muted results to date, we could see much better gains in the quarters ahead, but much will depend on several variables that currently cast a cloud over the stock market.

First, the Fed is continuing to cut its quantitative easing and the consensus is that the bond purchases will dwindle to zero by year-end. While this is discounted by the stock market, traders are more concerned about when the Federal Reserve will begin to increase interest rates. The early thoughts are for rates to rise sometime in the first half of 2015.

Yet Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen gave the stock market a lift on Monday after suggesting the central bank would do whatever is necessary to make sure the economic renewal and jobs growth continue unabated. Now, this could imply that the bond buying could continue … Read More


Three Ways to Combat a “Recovery” That Even the Fed Says

By for Daily Gains Letter | Apr 2, 2014

Federal ReserveFederal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen confirmed what we’ve been espousing in these pages for the last couple of years—that the so-called recovery feels an awful lot like a recession for most Americans.

Addressing a crowd in Chicago, the head of the Federal Reserve said the U.S. jobs market is still underperforming and will continue to need the help of an artificially low interest rate environment “for some time.”

Investors were, as you can imagine, afraid the Federal Reserve was going to raise short-term rates. A rate hike would elevate borrowing costs and pull the rug out from under stock prices.

But instead, the Federal Reserve said it was committed to keeping interest rates low in an effort to stimulate borrowing, spending, and economic growth. The artificially low interest rate environment is a welcome sign for Wall Street—which essentially ended the first quarter of the year where it began.

By committing to keeping interest rates low, the Federal Reserve is ensuring a steady flow of money into the stock market…which cannot help but raise the already-bloated indices higher. The S&P 500 continues to trade near record-highs, as does the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Even the NASDAQ’s all-time high is, all things considered, within striking distance.

With the current bull market now in its fifth year—all is well in the U.S.A.! That is, if you’re one of the fortunate few to even realize we’re in a bull market. There are far too many weak underlying indicators to suggest we’re on a stable—let alone sustainable—economic footing.

For instance, the U.S. unemployment rate has improved from 10% in 2009 to 6.7% today. On the … Read More


Should You Be Prepared for a Bullish Run in Gold Bullion?

By for Daily Gains Letter | Mar 26, 2014

Bullish Run in Gold BullionAfter 12 years, gold bullion’s glorious bull run ended with a thud in 2013, retracing 30% and locking in the biggest annual decline since 1981. Many speculate that gold bullion prices melted in 2013 as investors tried to figure out when the Federal Reserve was going to be cutting its generous $85.0-billion monthly bond purchases.

Investors lean toward gold bullion and other precious metals as a hedge against both a weak U.S. dollar and inflation. A tapering of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy suggests that the U.S. economy is getting stronger. While there was no real sign of sustained economic strength in 2013, just the idea that the Federal Reserve would have to start tapering at some point was enough to send gold bullion prices lower.

That coupled with a strong—but misguided—run on the S&P 500 also helped push gold bullion prices lower. I say “misguided” because quarter after quarter, more and more companies on the S&P 500 revised their earnings guidance lower. At the same time, companies masked their weak earnings and revenues with cost-cutting measures and near-record-high share repurchase programs.

That came to a crushing halt at the beginning of 2014, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported abysmal January payroll figures. Instead of adding the forecasted 196,000 jobs—the U.S. economy added just 74,000.

Weak January payroll data coupled with political tension in Ukraine helped send gold bullion prices higher. Between the beginning of January and the middle of March, gold bullion prices rebounded, climbing 15% year-to-date to around $1,390 per ounce.

The bullish run in gold bullion didn’t stop the bears from warning investors to avoid the … Read More


S&P 500 Approaching Inflection Point; How to “Insure” Your Portfolio

By for Daily Gains Letter | Mar 26, 2014

Stock Market's Volatile ShiftsThe winds are changing, my friends. For most of the past year, each time the S&P 500 sold off, it was a buying opportunity. I think we are at an inflection point this year, as we all know nothing lasts forever.

I believe it all began to emerge last week with the Federal Reserve meeting. As long-time readers know, over the past couple of months, I’ve been warning that once the Federal Reserve begins to adjust monetary policy, this will have a negative impact on the S&P 500.

With the Federal Reserve continuing to reduce its asset purchase program, investors are now calculating the length of time until it’s no longer. The reason for distress in the market is that Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen announced a tentative six-month timeframe upon completion of the asset-purchase program that the Federal Reserve will begin increasing short-term interest rates.

Why the concern?

Taking a quick look from several angles, this transition won’t be smooth. To begin with, there’s the old saying on Wall Street: “Don’t fight the Fed.” It is obvious that the Federal Reserve is dead set on reducing monetary stimulus and raising interest rates.

Very rarely does the S&P 500 increase during a period of monetary tightening. This is not to say that the S&P 500 will drop tomorrow; the Federal Reserve is continuing monetary easing for the moment. But investors in the market should be aware that once the Federal Reserve begins changing its monetary stance, the S&P 500 will be affected.

Another concern is that economic growth in America isn’t exactly on fire. While it’s true that we aren’t … Read More


Two Retail ETFs to Get Your Portfolio Through the Last of This Winter

By for Daily Gains Letter | Mar 10, 2014

retail sectorEveryone is blaming the poor economic numbers we have been seeing on the misery of the horrific winter.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen suggested that the winter was to be partly blamed for the somewhat lousy economic readings in December through to February. With the fierce winter, people are hesitant to venture out to look for work, buy groceries, eat at restaurants, go and watch a movie, or even travel.

While I do agree the harsh winter has impacted the economy somewhat, you can’t blame everything on the weather. If this were true, then we would be starting to witness pent-up demand for goods and services in the upcoming months as the snow and cold dissipate.

Or maybe it’s just because the economy is stalling to some degree.

The jobs market is lousy and will need to pick up some momentum. Maybe with the warmer weather to come, job seekers will venture out and look for work, or perhaps companies are just not hiring as much as the government wants to see, given all of the monetary stimulus that has been spent on driving consumer spending in the country.

The one area that looks pretty fragile at this time is the retail sector. Consumers simply appear to be holding back on expenditures and waiting for deep discounts.

In January, the retail sector reported a 0.4% decline in sales, representing the second straight month of declines on the heels of a revised 0.1% decline in December, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. It’s likely the extreme bad weather conditions in January and February contributed to the soft results—at … Read More


Top-Yielding Stocks to Combat Low Interest Rates

By for Daily Gains Letter | Feb 13, 2014

Low Interest RatesFederal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has confirmed what most already knew. The recovery in the U.S. jobs market is far from complete. Yellen noted that the unemployment rate has improved since the Federal Reserve initiated its last round of quantitative easing in late 2012, falling from 8.1% to 6.6%. Curiously, in 2013, the U.S. economy grew just two percent.

That said, against the backdrop of a so-called improving U.S. economy, the numbers of the long-term unemployed and part-time workers are far too high. In fact, 3.6 million Americans, or 35.8% of the country’s unemployed, fall under the “long-term unemployed” umbrella—that is, those who have been out of work for more than 27 weeks. The underemployment rate (which includes those who have part-time jobs but want full-time jobs and those who have given up looking for work) remains stubbornly high at 12.7%.

The improving unemployment numbers come on the heels of two straight months of weak jobs numbers. In January, economists were expecting the U.S. to add 180,000 new jobs to the U.S. economy; instead, just 113,000 new jobs were added. In December, economists were projecting 200,000 new jobs would be added—instead, the number was an anemic 74,000.

For the head of the Federal Reserve, this translates into more money being dumped into the bond market ($65.0 billion per month) and a continuation of artificially low interest rates.

Once again, bad news for Main Street is good news for Wall Street. After Yellen’s speech, the S&P 500, NYSE, and NASDAQ responded by surging higher. Again, the Federal Reserve’s ongoing bond buying program and open-ended artificially low interest rate environment is great … Read More


The Contrarian: Why I Think Stocks Will Rise in 2014

By for Daily Gains Letter | Jan 6, 2014

Stocks Will Rise in 2014Now that New Year’s has come and gone, as we look forward into 2014, the big question will be how the stock market performs this year, especially following an impressive advance in 2013 that was beyond my estimates.

The past year was seen as the year of the Fed-induced market rally that resulted in some strong gains across the board from blue chips to technology and growth stocks. It was one of the best years to make money on the stock market in recent history.

At this stage, the economy is looking better and will need to strengthen in order for the stock market to advance higher toward more record gains. A strong January would be positive and would suggest an up year for the stock market.

My early view is that the stock market will head higher in 2014, but not at the same rate as we saw in 2013, which was out of whack.

The key will be how fast the Federal Reserve, under Janet Yellen, decides to taper its bond buying. A slower taper is supportive for the stock market. However, the flow of money will depend on the rate of economic renewal and, more specifically, the jobs market and whether job creation continues to move along at a steady pace. If we see growth and more jobs created, the Fed will continue to cut its bond buying, though it has said that it will keep interest rates near record lows until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5% or lower, which could happen sometime in mid- to late 2014.

I see another up year for the stock … Read More


Why Fed’s Change of Plans Doesn’t Mean a Change in the Stock Market

By for Daily Gains Letter | Dec 20, 2013

Change in the Stock MarketIs it an early Christmas present or a really early April Fools’ Day trick?

In a somewhat surprise move, the Federal Reserve decided the U.S. economy was doing well enough that it could start to cut back on its generous $85.0-billion-per-month quantitative easing (QE) strategy.

I say “surprise” because the Federal Reserve initially said it wouldn’t consider tapering until the U.S. economy was on solid, sustainable economic ground, which meant an unemployment rate of 6.5% and inflation of 2.5%. Today, unemployment sits at seven percent and inflation is near historic lows at below one percent.

Against a weak economic backdrop, the Federal Reserve made a brave and daring decision to slash its monthly QE policy by a paltry $10.0 billion. That means that instead of pumping more than $1.0 trillion into the U.S. economy next year, it is only going to inject $900 billion. In other words, the U.S. national debt is going to increase by $900 billion. (Source: Press release, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System web site, December 18, 2013.)

If the U.S. economy really was on solid footing, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke would have made a bigger dent in his monthly bond-buying program. Instead, he made a token gesture as he gets ready to hand the baton to Janet Yellen early next year.

Yup, after injecting $4.0 trillion into the U.S. economy, the country is little (or no) better off than it was before the Fed initiated quantitative easing. U.S. unemployment is down from its Great Recession high of 10% in October 2009, but it has yet to break the seven-percent level. Meanwhile, the underemployment … Read More