Results 451–500 of 639 found.
Fed Will Make Excuses About Inflation
Inflation is tame. For now. The CPI was flat in January and is up only 1.6% from a year ago. The PPI rose a small 0.2% in January and is up just 1.4% from a year ago. And even though energy prices spiked in February, the year ago comparisons are likely to stay tame. The consensus expects the February CPI to rise 0.6% - the largest in 44 months. Nonetheless, it would still show just 1.9% inflation in the past year, which is still below the Federal Reserves target of 2%. This wont last. With the Fed loose; we expect consumer prices to rise toward 3% during 2013.
There the Bears Go Again
The S&P 500 is up 6% since the start of the year and 12% from a year ago. On cue, the bears have started to claim this run-up in stocks is just plain crazy, based on unreasonable euphoria or "it's just technical." It cant possibly last because "the fundamentals are bad."
Closed-End Fund Review: Fourth Quarter 2012
Following a year (2011) when the average closed-end fund was up a respectable 5.37% on a share price total return basis, closed-end funds posted even better performance in 2012, with the average fund up 14.00% (according to Morningstar) on a share price total return basis. The strong performance was broad and deep with many categories posting double-digit total returns. There were many factors which contributed to the strong results posted in 2012 and while I have written and spoken about them before, I want to reiterate them here.
In the wake of the Facebook IPO last spring, and the ensuing public relations debacle, many investors have become more wary of newly minted stocks. Even before this event, the public perception regarding IPOs was heavily influenced by the IPOs of the late 1990s that helped fuel the dot-com bubble. For many, the primary motivation for investing in IPOs has been the potential to receive a short-term surge in price, irrespective of a stock's longer term potential for success or failure.
Top golfer Phil Mickelson became a social-media whipping boy last week for saying high taxes were forcing him to consider drastic changes, in his life. We suppose these could include moving away from California, or possibly quitting golf. Liberal bloggers had a field day, with some sarcastically saying we should all chip in to help the poor guy out with his burdens. But this criticism masks the facts.
Ignore the GDP Headline
Next week, Fourth Quarter Real GDP will be released. Our forecast of 0.9% annualized growth, if correct, will encourage the pessimists to continue fretting about the economy in the year ahead. But we will ignore that dour response. Beneath the surface of the report will be evidence that the plow horse economy is picking up some steam.
Greedy Innkeeper or Generous Capitalist?
Over the centuries, people have come to believe that because Jesus was born in a stable, and not in a hotel room, Mary and Joseph must have been mistreated by a greedy innkeeper. This narrative persists even though the Bible records no complaints at the time and there was apparently no charge for the use of the stable. It may be that the stable was the only place available. Bethlehem, like other small towns, was overflowing with people who were forced to return to their ancestral homes for the census - ordered by the Romans for the purpose of levying a tax.
Fed Talks Louder, To Little Avail
When someone doesn't speak your language, yet you must communicate, funny things can happen. At first, most just talk normally, hoping the message somehow gets through with a hand gesture or two. If that doesn't work, some people start talking really slowly. And if all else fails, how about saying it REALLY LOUDLY, and emphatically, to finally get our point across. That's where the Federal Reserve is today. In its own collective mind, it has a very important message to convey: that monetary policy is going to be as expansionary as necessary to get this economic recovery off the ground.
Temporary Weakness Won't Last
Hurricane Sandy knocked out electricity all over and is now causing some flickering in the economic data. Real consumer spending fell 0.3% in October, the steepest drop since cash-for-clunkers ended in 2009, while real income slipped 0.1%. The ISM manufacturing index fell to 49.5 in November. Considering that Sandy smashed the eastern seaboard and affected roughly 25% of the US population with the brunt hitting New Jersey and New York the economic damage will be spread out. Timing helped limit the impact on October data, given that the storm struck very late in the month.
President Obama won a second term as president by three percent of the popular vote, while sweeping the battleground states and winning the Electoral College. Meanwhile, Democrats gained two seats in the Senate and the GOP held onto a comfortable majority in the House.
Election Matters, But Stocks are Cheap
Tomorrow's election may be the most important one for economic policy of our generation. Years from now, we may look back at the choice Americans make as an inflection point leading toward either more economic freedom or less, with major effects on long-term economic growth and living standards.
Velocity, Uncertainty & the Economy
Recently we lifted our recession odds to 25% from 10%. For some, this was worrisome. In recent weeks we've been asked, "If you guys get a little bearish on the economy, after being bullish for so long, shouldn't I get really nervous?" Our answer to this question is "no."
More Plow Horse
If we see any theme in the third quarter, it was that the consumer had growing purchasing power while businesses temporarily pulled back from investing in plant and equipment. Usually, that kind of retreat in business investment would have us more concerned. Almost every time machinery orders are down 10% from the year before, like they are now, we are near recession. But we think many companies are temporarily waiting until after the election to decide what to do.
The Romney Tax Plan
The US federal budget is a mess. Spending has soared, which has hurt economic growth and undermined tax revenues. The result is four consecutive years of trillion dollar deficits. Politicians are always tempted to hike taxes to fix deficits, but the US has reached the point where this is not possible.
ETFs for Tax Planning
Exchange-traded funds are often regarded as more tax-efficient than traditional mutual funds largely due to the fact that many ETFs have been able to avoid the annual capital gains distributions that often frustrate investors in traditional mutual funds. As we progress toward the end of another tax year, many investment advisors are also finding ETFs to be effective tools for tax planning purposes.
Recession Risk Rising
Economic forecasting was relatively easy from the end of World War II until the middle of the prior decade. Most of the time, you could just focus on monetary policy. But then came the last recession, which had nothing to do with the Fed being too tight. Instead, falling home prices and mark-to-market rules rendered some major banks under- capitalized. A pure financial panic ensued, the likes of which we had not seen for 100 years. But what if this was not a one-time event?
Housing Recovery Still Young
The turnaround in the housing market is perhaps the brightest spot in an otherwise tepid economic recovery. Home sales, home building, and even home prices are all headed up. In the past twelve months, sales of existing homes are up 9% while sales of new homes are up 25%. Housing starts are up 29%. The two most prominent home price measures, Case-Shiller and FHFA, are both up at about a 7% annual rate in the past six months.
Technology Dividends: Oxymoron No More
In recent years, equity income ETFs have gained in popularity, as investors seeking growth and income have poured billions of dollars into these strategies. While each of these ETFs takes slightly different approach for selecting and weighting stocks, there is one common characteristic shared by all: an underweight position in the technology sector relative to broad equity benchmarks. While this allocation may seem intuitive to some, we believe it's time to include technology stocks in equity income strategies.
QE3, For Now
As we all know by now, the Federal Reserve launched QE3 on Thursday, announcing an open-ended program of buying an extra $40 billion a month in mortgage-backed securities until it sees a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market. It also adjusted its guidance for when it thinks it will start moving up short-term interest rates to mid-2015 from a previous late-2014.
Fed Sets Sail on QE3
They did it. The Federal Reserve today announced a third round of quantitative easing, making an open-ended commitment to buy additional mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month. The Fed said it also will "closely monitor" the economy and financial markets and continue these purchases and possibly expand them until they see substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market.
Better Policy, Better Recovery
Politicians always shift the blame. So, hearing them say that "no one" could have cleaned up the so-called mess and fixed the economy in just a few years is not surprising. What else do you say when after three years of recovery the unemployment rate is still at 8.1% -- down only 1.9 points since the peak almost three years ago and real economic growth has averaged a tepid 2.2% for three years of economic recovery?
Still No Recession in Sight
Real GDP in the US has grown 2.3% in the past year, a mediocre rate of growth, little different than its 2.2% average since mid-2009, when the recovery officially began. It's what we call the Plow Horse economy and we expect it to continue plodding along, at least through this fall.
Still No QE3
The Federal Reserve is clearly ready to do something. In recently released minutes from the 7/31-8/1 meeting and a letter from Chairman Bernanke to Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), the Fed argued that its actions had helped the economy already and that the Fed was ready to do more.
Lengthen the Debt
The U.S. national debt has exploded, doubling over the past seven years. Everyone agrees that this is unsustainable. Meanwhile, interest rates have touched historic lows: the yield on the 10-year Treasury Note dropped as low as 1.4% back in July; the yield on the 30-year Bond as low as 2.5%. Under these circumstances, one would think the US Treasury Department would be turning lemons into lemonade.
The Romney-Ryan Achilles Heel
When Mitt Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate he guaranteed that the 2012 presidential race will be about two opposing economic philosophies. It will be clear to voters which side the candidates are on and, as a result, this election could determine the direction of the American economy for decades to come.
Why the Long Face?
Back in early 2009, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Business teamed up to create the Financial Trust Index. The latest readings from July 2012 show that just 21% of Americans trust the financial system and only 15% trust the stock market. For many, this negativity is understandable.
Heads, I Win, Tails, You Lose
Up, down, sideways...it's all bad, all the time. Take oil, for example. Between September 2011 and March 2012, oil prices rose about 20%. This generated all kinds of "sky-is-falling" stories about consumers having less money to spend. But, recently, as oil prices headed south in May and June, do you think the negativity went away? Not! The Pouting Pundits of Pessimism said falling oil was a bad sign, signaling weak global demand. It's all bad, all the time. The glass is always half empty.
Wesbury vs. Krugman
Today, on Bloomberg with Tom Keene, Brian Wesbury was asked about Paul Krugman. Wesbury said Krugman was wrong - government spending does not boost growth, if it did there would be no poverty in the world. This was reported on BusinessInsider...BusinessInsider then reported that Krugman fired back...quoting his New York Times blog. In it, he claims it all "depends on the situation."
Slow in Q2, But No Recession
We estimate real GDP grew at only a 0.9% annual rate in Q2. The Plow Horse Economy hit a tough spot, but it hasn't hit the wall. In Q1-2011, real GDP grew at just 0.4% at an annual rate, but then accelerated again. In other words, this is not the end of the world. It's not a recession.
Quarterly Market Overview
While it is nice to get the news in real time, the need for speed on the information superhighway can lead to incomplete or erroneous reporting. Look no further than the current election campaign season where the finger pointing has already started between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Good thing the Internet has also brought us some fact-checkers to help sort things out. Helping to sort things out is what we strive to do for our clients, as well.
Stocks Are Really Cheap
America's equity markets have rallied sharply since last October, with the S&P 500 up 22%. Nonetheless, the stock market has been stuck in a range for 18 months, with the Dow Jones Industrial's Average trading between 10,650 and 13,280, well below the October 2007 high of 14,165. Financial markets have priced in all kinds of bad things a fiscal cliff, slower earnings growth, a potential recession, and big government. But, we think these markets are overly pessimistic.
Unemployment a Secular Problem
Last Fridays employment report was a Rorschach test for economists. (You know, show an inkblot and find the obsession.) Its not a surprise that the response to the report was pessimistic. We heard all kinds of rhetoric, including a new one - Zombie Economy.
Business Investment Dwarfs Housing
Since 2008, the market punditry has focused on housing, housing and housing. Business news channels have housing experts who report on every housing number as if it were the golden key to all economic activity. People say we cant have a recovery without housing. Conventional wisdom has an obsession with housing.
Freedom and Health
Lets be absolutely clear: the health care system in the United States is excellentjust inefficient. No one lacks care. Stories of people being kicked out in the street have proven to be fabrications. Nonetheless, the system is politically untenable. Its a patchwork of third-party payers both private and public and the population is aging. The result is rapidly rising costs, surging anxiety, and a desire to do something.
Step Two - Going Backward - Election More Important Than Ever
In one of the least likely outcomes in Supreme Court history, Chief Justice Roberts, who was widely considered a conservative voice on the Court, proved to be the swing vote in one of the largest expansions of US government involvement in the economy ever.
The Second Step: Supreme Court
Step Two of our Four Steps to Recovery will happen sometime this week. The wait for the Supreme Court to issue its decision on whether President Obamas health care reform law is constitutional is almost over.
Fed Does the Least
In the past few days, news outlets have breathlessly reported that the Federal Reserve would today launch into another round of quantitative easing, probably including major purchases of mortgage backed securities. Instead, the Fed did the least that was expected, extending Operation Twist until the end of the year, but not altering the size of its balance sheet at all and not as some analysts suggested it might changing when it thinks it will start raising rates (still late 2014).
Should Germany Leave the Euro?
The weekend victory for the center-right keeps the Greek austerity plan alive and makes it less likely Greece will try to leave the Euro. Leaving the Euro would be an unmitigated disaster for Greece and a problem for the Eurozone, but the odds of this happening are priced into the Euro already. What isnt priced into the Euro is the exit of another country. No, not Spain, Portugal, or Italy. Were talking about the inner-most core of the Euro-zone: Germany.
Bet Against QE3
Since the financial crisis in 2008 the Federal Reserve has done extraordinary things lowered interest rates to essentially zero, increased the size of its balance sheet by $2 trillion and announced Operation Twist. With unemployment still relatively high and real GDP growing at a 2% rate in the past year, there are many on (and off) the Fed who think more should be done. If we thought liquidity was a problem, we might agree, but its not.
Speeding Up the Plow Horse
We call it a Plow Horse Economyit aint gonna win the Belmont, but it aint gonna keel over and die, either. And there is nothing in the latest data or market action that changes our mind; the economy is not in recession and we highly doubt it will fall into one anytime soon.
Is Obama a Big Spender?
Last week, Rex Nutting, a reporter for MarketWatch, became famous when the White House used his analysis of government spending. He wrote that there has been no huge increase in spending under the current president. We like Rex Nutting. He seems like a fair-minded analyst. But we emphatically disagree. This is not personal, heck, its not even political. Data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows President Obama has been a huge spender.
The Case for Community Banks
The most difficult decisions for investors often involve overriding the emotional residue of past mistakes, and reconsidering the merits of a stock or industry with which one has had negative experiences. This was the case for many investors following the bursting of the technology bubble in the early part of the last decade, as they avoided or severely underweighted tech stocks, and ultimately missed out on the tremendous growth experienced by the sector over the last decade.
The Plow Horse Rolls On
Turn on the television, pick up the newspaper, search the Internet and you will find story after story about Greece, JP Morgan, austerity, the labor force, student loans, California, the G-8, or the Facebook IPO. Just about every bit of the coverage is negative. And yet, amid all this, our plow horse economy keeps moving forward through the stumps and rocks and mud. Its certainly not Ill Have Another, who, with one more win, can take the Triple Crown a measure of strength, courage and greatness. But it aint headed for the glue factory either.
Let's Stress Test Governments
Several years ago, Treasury Secretary John Snow was testifying to Congress about the federal budget. He worked for President Bush and, after a long career of opposing deficits, was trying to justify a deficit of about 3% of GDP. Representative Barney Frank was incredulous. He asked Snow how he could now justify deficits. Frank then came up with a theory: He said Snow was opposed to deficits when the president was a Democrat, but didnt care about them when the president was a Republican. Frank was being sarcastic, but he had a good point.
Dead Cat Bounce for Socialism
The Social Welfare State is dying. Like the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, the cradle-to-grave social welfare experiment must eventually collapse. A system of taxing work and profits, while subsidizing leisure, sloth, and retirement, must eventually fail. The end of the Social Welfare State is painful for many, and it will not end quickly or quietly as the elections of this past weekend prove. Francois Hollande, a Socialist, was elected president of France, while Greece saw a surge in votes for anti-bailout political parties in parliament.
Here We Go Again
We are not saying the negative data is meaningless. Its not. But some of the reaction is, once again, overdone. Debating the worry-warts has become a full-time job and we cant prove them wrong until the future becomes the present. So, lets look back to last year when we said in a few months we will be looking back at recent reports as just statistical noise. Sounded good then, so lets not mess with success. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Plow Horse Economy
Like a plow horse, the US economy just puts one hoof after the other. It aint gonna win any races, but it aint gonna keel over and die either. After slogging through the mud last year, and slowing down to just 1.2% annualized growth in the first three quarters of 2011, things have improved. In the fourth quarter last year, real GDP grew a solid, work-horse-like, 3%. We expect that continued in the first quarter of 2012. If anything, other indicators suggest real GDP growth might be even stronger. Nonfarm payrolls rose 635,000 in Q1, the largest gain since 2006.
"On Your Own" Economics
The genius of capitalism is that it harnesses self-interest to get people to cooperate. Most observers, including us, describe capitalism as a system of competition. But on a day-in, day-out basis, this competition is not direct hand-to-hand combat to find a victor; its a race to see who can provide the best products at the best price. Its about service to others, not finding ways to force others to bow to our will. More importantly, we work in cooperative effort with others to accomplish these tasks. Government has a role, but economic growth is always strongest where it governs least.
Results 451–500 of 639 found.