Results 551–600 of 619 found.
Stay Positive - It's The Right Thing To Do
The gloom is hard to miss: Libya, oil prices, budget battles, a pull-back in stock prices, or downward revisions to GDP?and about how these will cause weaker growth (or even a recession) ahead. But the world is always full of potential events that could cause a panic, recession, even a depression. The world is never perfectly ?safe.? If nuclear war broke out or if Saudi Arabia got into a nasty civil war, the risks to the US economic environment and the stock market would rise immeasurably.
Debt Limit Brinksmanship
Don?t get us wrong. The budget is a total mess. The equivalent of a financial root canal is necessary. We fully support newly elected lawmakers who want to maximize the political leverage created by the debt limit issue to move in this direction. In fact, we?d like to see only short-term increases so the issue can be revisited time and time again, to hold the spenders? feet to the political fire. But ripping all the teeth out at once is not the answer.
The Federal Budget: It's a Mess
If the US federal government were a bank, the FDIC would close them down this Friday night. Earlier today, President Obama submitted next year?s budget. The new budget, despite ?cutting? the deficit by $1.1 trillion, will require Congress to pass a large increase in the ?debt ceiling.? Claiming budget savings by freezing spending at today?s levels is like an alcoholic who says he?s sober because he?ll never drink more than yesterday?s bender. Trouble is, this alcoholic doesn?t even pay his own tab.
FASB Surrenders - America Wins
The good news, which went virtually un-reported on January 25, 2011, was that FASB surrendered on fair value accounting for loans. In the face of overwhelming opposition, banks will be allowed to carry loans on their books at amortized cost, reflecting cash flow (payments), as well as reasonable estimates of likely loan losses. This decision is a huge win for the markets and the economy.
Egypt, Dollars and History
When the Fed prints too many dollars, the inflation that results often shows up in commodity prices first. When it lifts energy commodities, countries and regions of the world which export oil typically benefit and have largesse to throw around. Egypt is an oil producer and a large refiner. So, rising energy prices are neutral to slightly positive for the nation?s economy. Food prices are a different story.
Bring Back Hoenig
Get out your carbon paper. No matter how much evidence there is that both real economic growth and inflation are accelerating, the Federal Reserve is determined to issue policy statements that read like the pessimistic ones from prior meetings.
US Politics - Cage Match Or Pillow Fight?
The good news is that because of the elections last November, the politics have changed. Politicians in Washington, of both parties, are being forced to consider more free market solutions to problems and to address the growth in government. Time will tell whether a new leaf has really been turned, but for now, the direction of policy is much better for markets and the economy than it has been in many years. Politicians have pulled out their pillows and are now debating how to shrink government, not expand it.
As big proponents of owning stocks over the past two years, we are pleased to report that our sentiments have proven to be both accurate and lucrative. Believe us when we say that we caught our share of flack for being so optimistic. The S&P 500 posted a total return of 93.1% from the bear market bottom on March 9, 2009, through December 31, 2010. When you expand to include small- and mid-caps, the returns are even better. But here is the encouraging part: those investors who opted out of stocks and did not return after they bottomed have a chance to reconsider.
China and the Dollar
The US should not take this week?s visit as an opportunity to lecture the Chinese about the yuan. If we do, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke may find himself on the receiving end of a lecture about the importance of price stability and how to run a central bank. And he would deserve it.
Government, the Anti-Stimulus
After a strong ADP jobs report last Wednesday (297,000 new private jobs in Dec.), we raised our jobs forecast. Going into Friday, we expected the official report to show a net gain of 220,000 new jobs in December. When added to the weak November report (+39,000 jobs), the December rebound would bring the two month average back to about 130,000 per month.
2011: Dow 14,500, S&P 1575, 10-Year 4%
Seven weeks ago our Monday Morning Outlook was titled ?Stocks Are Cheap, Bonds Are Not.? We said, ?the bull market is still young?.and bond yields are headed higher.? Since then, the S&P 500 is up 6% and investors in the 10-year Treasury note have lost more than 4%. Our models tell us to expect more of the same in 2011. We use a capitalized profits model to value stocks. We divide corporate profits by the 10-year Treasury yield, compare the result to each quarter for the past 60 years and use it to find an average fair value for stocks.
First Trust Sees 4% Real GDP Growth in 2011
In 2011, we expect 4% real GDP growth. The biggest difference between the First Trust forecast and the conventional wisdom is deleveraging. We do not view the deleveraging process in as negative a light as the conventional wisdom. Once deleveraging begins to slow, it will not hurt the economy. If a consumer (or a business) pays down debt but pays down less than she did the prior year, then her spending can go up faster than her income (or profits). Higher saving is not going to be a negative for the economy.
Elections Have Consequences - II
Two major developments over the past 24 hours poignantly highlight the fact that ?elections have consequences.? First, late last night the House passed the Senate version of the tax deal negotiated by Republicans and President Obama (see article). As we have expected for many months, but after some final tense moments of doubt, the Bush-era tax rates on incomes and investments have been extended for two years. Under pressure of an election, Congress has admitted that ?lower tax rates are better for the economy than higher tax rates.?
It's a Good Deal
Some analysts are trying to tie rising Treasury bond yields to fears about a bigger deficit and the ?cost? of the tax deal. This is a misreading of the markets. Treasury bond yields are rising because a tax hike has been avoided and economic growth is likely to be robust. The bottom line is that stocks remain cheap, while bonds are certainly not.
Tax Agreement is a Good Deal
We support the agreement reached with the White House late yesterday to extend the Bush tax cuts. While far from perfect, it enhances the incentive to work and invest and promotes economic growth. The deal says "lower tax rates are better than higher tax rates;" the deal says "certainty in policy is better than uncertainty."
Elections Have Consequences
Congress and the President are going to agree to extend all the income tax cuts enacted in 2001 for all earners, including the ones with the highest incomes. Washington has not yet become a bastion of libertarian thought, but elections have consequences and there is a huge shift in the direction of government policy underway right now. This shift is not yet as dramatic as the one following the 1994 elections, but it could become so given some time. This is great news for the economy and financial markets.
It's a Self-Sustaining Recovery
The Fed is easy, productivity is strong, the ?panic? is over, and government policy (in the US and abroad) has taken a turn for the better. As a result, economic growth will surprise to the upside. As this strength becomes more self evident, confidence in equity markets will grow. Look out above.
Something to be Thankful For
Certainly things are not perfect. Unemployment is still high and uncertainty is prevalent. And politicians are using economic weakness to argue for what they want. Republicans want tax cuts, while many Democrats (like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz) want more spending. This has created a ''vacuum of political optimism'' which is damaging to economic confidence. Nonetheless, individual Americans and their companies remain resilient and are still moving forward.
Stocks Are Cheap, Bonds Are Not
Stocks are still cheap and the bull market is still young. Bonds are expensive and bond yields are headed higher. Quantitative easing is under attack and better fiscal policy is on the way. Put it all together and the bearish (or ?risk aversion?) trade of recent years is losing ground.
No Soft Patch, No Excuse for QEII
The bottom line here is that QEII ? which we believe is ineffective anyway ? was unnecessary, especially when the ball and chain of fiscal policy is under attack. Not only will current tax rates likely be extended for two (possibly three) years, but the White House has made it clear it is willing to eliminate the 1099-reporting requirement for purchases over $600. This was a part of Obamacare and other parts of that law may also face the knife as well.
Fed Embarks on QEII
The Fed's new round of quantitative easing will have little to no impact on the larger economy. Banks already hold roughly $1 trillion in excess reserves. Adding to this pile of reserves will not influence the desire of financial institutions to lend, nor will it lead to any near-term increase in the supply of currency in circulation. All it will do is sit idle on the liability side of the Fed's balance sheet and on the asset side for the banks. More importantly, the economy is already accelerating.
Political spin is ubiquitous these days. But it's important for investors to know that it's still just spin. The underlying economy is doing much better than recent Republican rhetoric suggests. While a 2 percent growth rate in real GDP is not worth writing home about, it certainly masks an underlying strength in demand that investors should not ignore.
Beating Bridgewater's Big Bear Bet
A prominent investment story in last Friday's Wall Street Journal said that so far in 2010 Bridgewater Associates, a Connecticut-based hedge fund run by Ray Dalio, had racked up a 38 percent return with a 'wager that the U.S. economy would be in worse shape than many expected.' Unfortunately, this entire premise ? that it pays to be bearish, especially about the U.S. ? is highly misleading. In reality, a 'bullish bet' on the NASDAQ would have provided even better returns than Bridgewater over the past two years. Believe it or not, bullishness has been more rewarding than bearishness.
Fed Ignores Gold, Targets Higher Inflation, and Plays With Fire
By ignoring rising gold and commodity prices and signaling that it won't quit applying monetary stimulus anytime soon, the Fed is trying to force banks to change their behavior. If it works, look out for inflation to reach multiples of 2 percent in the years ahead. The Fed hasn?t been successful yet when it ignores gold and commodity prices.
No More Steroids Needed
Three things are lifting the U.S. economy: productivity, easy money and the natural economic healing process. Two things holding back the economy: massive increases in government spending and heavy-handed government interference in economic activity. The U.S. could grow faster if it stopped spending and interfering so much, but it is growing nonetheless.
Emancipation From What... Capitalism?
In a speech last week, President Obama called belief in capitalism 'blind faith.' The real problem with the economy today, however, is not capitalism, but the fact that we have moved too far away from free markets. As government spending has increased, so has unemployment. This is not a mystery; the bigger the government is, the smaller the private sector gets and the less dynamic the economy will be. If there is any emancipation needed, it's from the government, not from capitalism.
The Myth and Mistake of Quantitative Easing
Last week the Federal Reserve signaled its readiness to engage in further quantitative easing. This would be a colossal mistake. Quantitative easing does not boost real economic activity or inflation - it is not an injection of new money, like traditional monetary easing. During quantitative easing the Fed borrows money from banks and the Treasury to buy assets. All this does is shift what would have been held in the private sector onto the Fed's books. This does not create new money and therefore does not create inflation or lift aggregate demand.
Be Careful of the New Normal
The consensus is forecasting 2 percent real GDP growth for the remainder of the year, with some of the 'double-dip' crowd shifting to a forecast of a 'growth recession' - whatever that means. First Trust, by contrast, is predicting an average growth rate of 3 percent in the second half of 2010. This combines a tepid growth rate of 2 percent in the current quarter and a 4 percent rate in Q4.
Unfunded Liabilities and Cheap Stocks
Despite cries of 'uncertainty' that reverberate through the financial markets, U.S. equities remain grossly undervalued. Risk premiums are exceedingly high. Relative to bonds, stocks are undervalued by a considerable margin. And with profits expected to continue their upward climb, this gap is highly likely to increase even more in the next few quarters. So, what's holding investors back? Why are bond flows continuing to outpace equity flows?
President Obama's Best Gift to Labor
Under current law, companies that buy plant and equipment have to depreciate these expenses over several years. This depreciation makes investment look less attractive, as inflation and the time value of money erode the value of depreciation year by year. Under a new proposal leaked by the Obama Administration, however, companies would be able to fully expense capital investment. This proposal would make it more attractive for companies to buy capital goods, simplify bookkeeping and make taxable profits more equal to cash flow. It is President Obama's best economic policy idea so far.
Odds Brightening for Tax Cut Extension
On January 1, 2011, the top income tax rate on ordinary income and dividends will go back to 39.6 percent, the top tax rate on capital gains will revert to 20 percent, and the top tax rate on estates will go back to 55 percent. Some in Congress want to extend the tax cuts for everyone, some want to extend them but not for the 'rich,' and others want to hold the dividend tax rate to 20 percent. Ultimately, all the current tax rates on regular income, dividends, and capital gains will likely get extended for another year, but precisely when this will happen remains a mystery.
We Knew Reagan... And He's No Reagan
No matter how many of Obama's economists say that stimulus has a positive multiplier, it's simply not true. Stimulus spending does not stimulate, is de-stimulates, because it takes resources from growing sectors of the economy and pushes them to shrinking sectors of the economy. It taxes and borrows from good business models to support bad business models. It?s simple math. The larger the government's share of GDP, the higher the unemployment rate.
Politics and Pessimists
The forces underlying economic growth have turned positive. At the same time, the Fed is accommodative and unlikely to change its stance. These two factors alone will prove the pessimists wrong. In addition, the political winds are howling toward a divided government. The odds of putting off a tax hike in 2011, and possibly reversing healthcare legislation, cannot be ruled out. Add this to the mix, and the future could bring a sharp boost to the upside that makes short-sellers very uncomfortable.
The Fed Gives the Treasury a Gift
Tuesday's announcement from the Fed means that the U.S. Treasury will pay even lower interest rates to finance its burgeoning debt levels. By holding rates steady, the Fed will become more accommodative as the year progresses. As a result, Fed policy will cause both growth and inflation to accelerate throughout 2010 and into 2011. The bond market is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Fed policy on one hand is pulling rates down, while growth and inflation will push rates up. Easy monetary policy, however, eventually results in higher interest rates down the road.
Please - No More Stimulus
Canada has been cutting spending and tax rates for the past decade or so. If Keynesians are right, the U.S. economy should be outperforming the Canadian economy now and Canada should have done better back in the 1980s and 1990s, right? Wrong. It's the opposite. The unemployment rate in Canada is currently 8 percent and has been below the U.S. level since October 2008, when government spending started to go crazy. The lesson is clear: Less spending, less taxing and more freedom work. Let's not stimulate anymore. The U.S. economy just can't take it.
GDP Data - Better than the Spin Suggests
Even though the economy should be growing faster, to say it?s not growing at all is just wrong. Nor is it responsible to be overtly political about it and say it?s all Obama?s fault. Some are trying to say that the Bush stimulus and TARP were good, but what Democrats have done is bad. What a bunch of partisan malarkey! It's hard to do, but investors need to separate their politics from their economics. Staying positive is as important as fighting for what you believe in.
The Good, Bad and Ugly of Austerity
It doesn't matter where we look: National, state and local government budgets are in crisis. This cannot continue. Major policy shifts are underway. The time for austerity has come. The only question is what form that austerity will take. There are three types of austerity: Good, bad, and ugly. Good austerity puts the pain on the government sector. Bad austerity tries to spread the pain across the public and private sectors. Ugly austerity tries to put all the pain on the private sector.
'New Normal' Nowhere in Sight
With GDP scheduled for release next week, Brian Wesbury and Robert Stein's estimate for annualized second quarter real GDP growth is 3.5 percent. While this is a significant reduction from their 5.5 percent forecast made in March, it is still higher than what the 'new normal' camp is predicting. Productivity growth is strong, monetary policy is (and will continue to be) easy, inventories are razor-thin, and corporate profits are growing rapidly. For the next four quarters, ending in mid-2011, Wesbury and Stein thus again anticipate growth at around a 4 percent rate.
Trade Deficits As Far As the Eye Can See
As the trade deficit increases again in the next few years, and as manufacturing jobs disappear because of productivity increases, protectionism will once again become an issue. This fear about the deficit, however, ignores a major reason for it. Ultimately, the U.S. trade deficit is a by-product of an attractive investment climate. Foreigners, with assets to invest, often need to worry about the risks of exposing those assets to a local banking system that makes ours look like a pillar of strength.
Get Real - This is Not 1932
Want to be invited to 'A' list parties? Want people to think you are smart? Then don't smile and don't say anything positive - especially about the economy. Pessimism has become so pervasive that people will believe just about anything, as long as it is negative. The truth is that the U.S. is creating jobs, even if the rate of growth is slower than in previous recoveries. Profits are still rising. In fact, analysts are still raising earnings estimates. The market has so much negativity priced in that it is cheap on just about any basis.
Feds Spin Wheels on Financial Regulation
'Later this week, President Obama will sign an overhaul of the financial industry, the biggest change required by law since the Great Depression. For all the legal change it brings, it won?t prevent the next crisis but also won?t do much harm. This bill will force existing firms to restructure their operations in order to comply, which may hit profits.' Wesbury and Stein point out the many shortcomings of this bill to fully address certain issues which include monetary policy, Fannie or Freddie, and 'too big to fail.'
China just decided it will once again let its currency - the yuan - get stronger against the U.S. dollar. Yuan appreciation will do two things. First, it will lower Chinese inflation relative to U.S. inflation. Second, it will raise the living standards of Chinese citizens. Where previously the Chinese government might have wanted the peg in order to encourage export growth, now the political calculus is starting to favor expanding the purchasing power of its workers. This is a sign of maturity for both the economy and Chinese policymakers.
Disagreeing with Laffer About 2011
Economist Arthur Laffer recently fretted about the economic impact of the expiring 2003 Bush tax cuts, writing that the tax hikes would lift growth in 2010, but cause a double-dip recession in 2011 when the rates actually went up. The problem with economics, however, is that there are always multiple things happening at once. Back in 1993, the Federal Reserve was holding the federal funds rate at 3 percent - a clear policy of easy money. This helped offset the impact of the tax hikes and kept the economy growing.
Has America Forgotten the Fruits of Freedom?
Between 1970 and 1979, there were an average of 25 oil spills per year of 700 tons or greater. Between 2000 and 2009, there were just 3 per year on average. Oil companies lose money and soil their image if oil spills. They therefore have a huge incentive to invest in better safety controls. There is no way to take the risk out of life. When government tries, all it really does is transfer that risk elsewhere. And without the growth and advancement that freedom brings, the system breaks down and wealth creation is undermined.
FASB Fanatics At It Again
The Financial Accounting Standards Board wants to force banks to use 'fair value or 'mark-to-market' rules not only for the securities they own, but also the loans they make. The number one problem with fair value accounting is that market prices for assets are forward-looking. In good times, prices reflect a positive outlook. In bad times, they reflect a negative outlook. And when markets freeze up, financial institutions must use prices that do not reflect actual cash flow. This creates a vicious downward cycle of losses, bank failures, more fear and lower 'observable' prices.
Dr. Copper and the Pessimists
Government is too big and too intrusive and it will harm the economy over time. But it will not kill the economy today, or even next year. Productivity is booming. New technology is lifting wealth, and living standards are rising. Some might say that it is not the Great Depression we should worry about, but the 1970s all over again. This, Wesbury and Stein can agree with. However, during certain periods of that decade, particularly during 1975-76, the economy and the stock market both boomed. That?s what we are experiencing right now ? a boom amidst an uncertain future.
A Shift in Our Fed Rate Outlook
Early this year, it seemed that the Federal Reserve would start lifting interest rates from their current level of near zero by mid-year 2010. It seemed that zero percent interest rates would be too low, that the economy would be in recovery and that inflationary pressures would continue to increase. Even though all of this is still true, the Fed has made it clear in recent months that they are willing to hold interest rates down for a period of time that is much more 'extended' than people realized. Indeed, the Fed could continue holding rates at current levels through the end of 2010.
Wall Street Dips, Main Street Turns the Corner
We may never know exactly what caused last week's Wall Street drop, but the lack of an uptick rule didn't help. Nonetheless, at the bottom on Thursday, the market experienced its first true 10 percent correction in 14 months. Short-sellers were basically gleeful and many politically motivated pundits took the drop as a sign of economic trouble. This correction, however, came just when economic data took a very visible turn for the better. Friday's employment report provided a huge 'thumbs up' for the V-shaped recovery. The fundamentals of Main Street are improving.
Triumph of the Euro?
Because Greece uses the euro, devaluation is not an option to solve the country's budget problems. As a result, Greece?s pain will be concentrated in the sector that is causing most of the problem: government. The conditions of the bailout, decided by the EU and IMF, require Greece to freeze government salaries, eliminate bonuses, and lift the retirement age to 60 for government workers, as well as raise value-added and excises taxes. While the tax hikes are disappointing, the focus on restraining government spending, rather than using devaluation, represents a triumph of the euro.
Results 551–600 of 619 found.