Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: S&P 500 Index

Despite Stock Sell-off, Few See Recession

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, February 9, 2018: 

Barbara Friedberg must be feeling pretty good right about now. Last October she made “10 Bold Stock Market Predictions for 2018,” and already she is scoring five out of 10:

Value stocks will triumph;

Cash will be king;

Inflation will inch up;

Market volatility will return; and

Bonds will offer higher yields.

The jury is still out on her prediction that “the Bull Market [in stocks] will end in 2018.”

Friedberg is no lightweight. She is a former portfolio manager and has taught finance and investments at several universities. She authored a popular book in 2014, How to Get Rich Without Winning the Lottery.

Despite the mantra that stocks’ performance is often a harbinger for future economic performance, few at present agree with her about the bull market in stocks being over.

The sell-off (which appears to be continuing as this is being written) in stocks is impressive. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA, or The Dow) has lost 3,227 points since its high on January 26, or 12 percent, while the S&P 500 Index (SPX) has dropped by 290 points, or 10 percent, since then as well. This is into “correction” territory and should be drawing negative outlooks on the future of the U.S. economy from every quarter.

But they can’t be found. Aside from perma-bears Michael Snyder and David Stockman, few of the usual suspects can be found who agree with Friedberg. When the Wall Street Journal polled its economists, they remained adamant about the health of the economy: GDP will continue to grow and unemployment will continue to drop:

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Markets Move Higher Following Crash Instigated by Obscure Agency

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, February 7, 2018: 

English: Logo of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc....

With Wall Street regaining its footing following the decline that started last Thursday, commentators in the mainstream media are still searching for the decline’s cause. Initially they claimed that it was an unexpected surge in inflation evidenced by the rise in the yield of 10-year U.S. Treasury notes approaching three percent (in early September it was closer to two percent). This was followed by the jobs report that announced that wages increased 2.9 percent year-over-year, up from just over two percent previously.

Writers at the Wall Street Journal dug deeper: The selloff was caused by — ready? — “volatility sellers, risk-party funds and algorithmic trading.” They then went into mind-numbing detail about how these strategies work and how the crash cost people using in them in excess of $200 billion.

Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, told TheStreet.com that maybe it was the Federal Reserve’s unhappiness with The Donald:

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Americans Expect Booming Economy to Continue, Says Conference Board

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, January 31, 2018: 

The Conference Board’s January survey of consumer confidence came in at 125.4, beating December’s number and outperforming predictions of economic forecasters. Additionally, December’s number had to be revised upward as the original index of 122.1 understated consumer confidence that month as well.

As a measure of the strength of the economy, the Conference Board, which has been conducting similar surveys since it was founded in 1916, established its “baseline” for its consumer confidence index at 100 in 1985. Put another way,

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Tax-Reform Ripple Effect: Hundreds of Companies Recalibrating, Raising Employee Benefits, Investing in New Projects

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, January 26, 2018: 

Workers at Camp Construction, the construction giant headquartered in Houston with sites all across the southern United States, received a note along with their last paycheck. Signed by the company’s president, Roger Camp, it read:

Because of the reduction in corporate taxes we, as will all businesses, benefit from this tax cut. We believe that YOU are the reason for our success. And now that we will be giving less of our hard earned income to the federal government, we can share some of it with you.

 

Please look for a $500 tax cut bonus in your next payroll run.

There are now more than 240 companies who are doing the same for their employees. At current count this will brighten the paydays of more than three million workers.

And the ripple effect of the tax reform law is just starting to be felt.

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Dow Smashes Through 25,000; to Smash Dems in November?

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, January 4, 2018:

The surprising thing about the Dow’s volcanic eruption through the 25,000 level on Thursday is that it was matched by all-time highs in other key stock market indexes such as the S&P 500 Index, the NASDAQ, and the Russell 2000. Even more surprising is that this isn’t happening in an American vacuum: Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average hit a new 26-year high, rising above 23,000 for the first time since January 1992. The Hang Seng (Hong Kong) Index just touched a new 10-year high, while major stock market indexes in New Zealand, the Philippines, and Thailand also set new records on Thursday.

The reasons why aren’t surprising:

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The U.S. Economy is Built on Papier-mâché and Politicians’ Promises

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, November 1, 2017:

What a perfect definition of the American economy! Papier-mâché is defined as a “composite material consisting of paper pieces of pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive such as glue, starch, or wallpaper paste.” Add in a dose of political promises that everyone knows cannot be kept – not even close – and we have the American economy.

From a distance it looks pretty good. More than pretty good: to the untrained eye the American economy is setting world records, to wit:

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U.S. Economy Continues to Surprise to the Upside

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, October 31, 2017: 

One measure of how the U.S. economy continues to exceed expectations is the Economic Surprise Index published by Citigroup. It’s a tool that is used to measure how the economy compares to those expectations and, at the moment at least, it reflects the ebullience reported elsewhere. Any reading above zero indicates that the economy’s performance is exceeding projections. On Tuesday it hit 40 — its highest level since April.

That performance has repeatedly been reported in The New American and elsewhere, with these notable results:

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Dow Crosses 23,000 for the First Time in History

Performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Index ...

Performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Index during Black Monday

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, October 17, 2017:

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), colloquially called “The Dow,” crossed over the 23,000 benchmark level early Tuesday morning for the first time in history. The Dow, which tracks the stocks of 30 major corporations, has gained 25 percent since the election while the NASDAQ (which tracks the stock performance of a vastly larger and more diversified range of companies across the globe) is up 27 percent. The S&P 500 Index (which tracks the stock performance of 500 American companies) is up 19 percent.

The Wall Street Journal had no trouble finding money managers who were willing to comment positively on the news. Mark Freeman, chief investment officer and portfolio manager at Westwood Holdings Group (which invests $22 billion for its customers), told the Journal:

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Shiller’s CAPE, Harvey, Irma, and now Jose: How Much More is Needed for a Stock Selloff?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, September 8, 2017:

English: (left) and meeting shortly after the ...

Republicans Smoot and Hawley

Wall Street prognosticators have watched Robert Shiller’s CAPE – “cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings” ratio – for years for signs that stocks are becoming overvalued. It’s now at a nosebleed level reached just before the October 1929 crash. The good news is that CAPE has been at that level ever since Shiller said that stocks were overvalued earlier this year. It is not a market timing tool, but more of an early warning indicator.

Short sellers have gotten smashed as the stock market continues to defy gravity. Bets against the SPDR S&P 500 exchange-traded fund, the largest ETF tracking that index, fell to lows in July not seen since May 2013.

But Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and now possibly Jose may finally bring things back to earth. The jump in unemployment claims for the week ending September 2, caused by Harvey and reported by the Department of Labor (DOL) on Thursday, not surprisingly exceeded economists’ consensus. The increase of 62,000 for the week to

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Jump in Jobless Claims Following Harvey Is Just the Beginning

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, September 7, 2017:

View of the eyewall of Hurricane Katrina taken...

View of the eyewall of Hurricane Katrina taken on August 28, 2005 as the storm made landfall on the United States Gulf Coast.

The jump in unemployment claims for the week ending September 2, as reported by the Department of Labor (DOL) on Thursday, not surprisingly exceeded economists’ consensus of just 241,000. The increase of 62,000 for the week to 298,000 nearly broke a claims record that has been in place for 131 weeks: 300,000.

That record will surely be broken in the weeks to come. The unemployment claims are just beginning to come in, and they are a predictor — a proxy — for job layoffs. Some workers

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Has Janet Yellen Tripped the Bernanke Indicator?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, July 14, 2017:

Official portrait of Federal Reserve Chairman ...

Official portrait of former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

During a question and answer period following her talk at the British Academy in London on June 27, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen was asked if there could possibly be a repeat of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. She answered:

I think the system is much safer and much sounder [today]. We are doing a lot more to try to look for financial stability risks that may not be immediately apparent, but to look in corners of the financial system that are not subject to regulation, outside those areas in order to try to detect threats to financial stability that may be emerging….

 

Would I say there will never, ever be another financial crisis? You know probably that would be going too far but I do think we’re much safer and I hope that it will not be in our lifetimes and I don’t believe it will be.

Historians will remember similar assurances from then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke just before the real estate crash that led to the financial crisis back in 2007:

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Goldilocks Stock Market Making Forecasters Nervous

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, July 13, 2017:  

At the moment, Wall Street investors are enjoying a “Goldilocks” economy: not so hot that it pushes prices up and not so cold that it causes a recession. Translation: Unemployment is low, wages are rising, interest rates are still near record lows, the gross domestic product (GDP) continues to grow (although not as fast as President Trump would like), and inflation is under control.

It isn’t a perfect world, but to Wall Street investors it’s close.

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More “Fake News?” Trump Behind Wednesday’s Stock Market Dump

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, May 19, 2017:

Cover of "The Intelligent Investor: The D...

It’s almost too trite to say that the mainstream media engages in “fake news,” but its nearly unanimous claim that Wednesday’s selloff in stocks was due to Trump’s troubles borders on fake news. It certainly violates a primary rule of logic: post hoc, ergo propter hoc – after this, therefore because of this.

Here is a perfect, but certainly not the only, example. From Marketwatch one learns that “The sell-off came in the wake of a bombshell report in the New York Times that notes from fired FBI Director James Comey revealed President Donald Trump had asked Comey to stop the FBI’s investigation into fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia.”

The tortured logic is this: Trump’s controversies, including those concerning Comey, are going to distract him and his administration from accomplishing many of the policy goals upon which the stock market was banking. Hence, the market will be disappointed.

Other MSM outlets lined up:

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Trump Didn’t Cause Stock Market Decline

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, May 18, 2017:  

According to nearly every major news outlet, Wednesday’s 372-point decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average was Trump’s fault. CNN Money said “Trump drama rattles market” while CNBC blamed the selloff “on Trump fears.” NPR said the decline was because “Trump remains embroiled in controversy” with CBC News saying it was due to “uncertainty around Trump.”

Precious few deviated from their mission to blame everything on Trump to look at the real reason behind Wednesday’s modest selloff:

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Stock Market’s Complacency Index Highest in 24 Years

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, May 8, 2017:  

Wall Street’s “complacency index” — a measure of confidence that stock prices will continue to rise — hit the highest level since 1993 on Monday. Alternatively called the VIX (for volatility index), it is often referred to as Wall Street’s “investor fear gauge.”

Translation: Investors presently appear to have no fear. The index compares investors betting, through their purchases of options, that the market will go up, to those betting to the contrary. When investor fear is high, the VIX will move above 30 or even higher. When fear declines, the VIX trades below 20. During the day on Monday the VIX touched 9.72, a level not seen in 24 years.

So complacent have investors become that the VIX has dropped by 45 percent just since April 13. By comparison,

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Pew Research: Gap Between Promises and Assets Widens for State Pensions

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, April 24, 2017:

A RETIRED COUPLE FROM CALIFORNIA STOP TO FISH ...

After reviewing the investment results for 230 public pension plans for the last two years, Pew reported last Thursday that, despite strong recent stock market performance, the gap between liabilities (promises) and assets for those plans widened by 17 percent, to $1.4 trillion. Put another way, those plans should have nearly $4 trillion in assets to enable them to keep their promises. The latest data shows them with just over $2.5 trillion instead.

Said Greg Mennis, director of the project,

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Three Stock Market Indicators Spell Trouble for Pension Fund Managers

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, April 24, 2017:

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...

Warren Buffett

Michael Lombardi is a bear. Canadian-born, Lombardi has been dishing out investment advice for decades. He is getting nervous. And so should pension fund managers trying to make up for lost time.

In his March newsletter, Lombardi looked at the Warren Buffett Indicator:

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Wall Street Facing Headwinds as Boomers Forced to Liquidate Their IRAs, 401Ks

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, March 28, 2017:

New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in New ...

Under the law those reaching age 70 and a half must start taking their “required minimum distributions” (RMDs) from their various tax-deferred accounts. These include IRAs, 401Ks, profit-sharing plans, and SEPs. The trouble is that there are so many of them, and they control so many assets, that their RMDs are going to put enormous pressure on the stock market, according to Chris Hamilton, writing at his Econimica blog.

The Baby Boom population cohort is nearly 80 million people, and those born in 1946 are now 71, with millions following right behind. The top one percent own or control about one-third of that cohort’s assets, while the top 10 percent own more than two-thirds, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The real question, according to Hamilton, is this:

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Update on Warren Buffett’s “The Bet” (or How Your Money Finds Its Way to Wall Street)

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, March 1, 2017:

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students from the Kansas University School of Business (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the latest shareholder letter just released by Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett brought his fans up to date on “The Bet.” On its face it seems simple: Buffett was willing to bet good money that any S&P 500 index fund would beat, over a period of time, the performance of the best money managers in the business. But no one took him up on his wager:

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Harvard’s New Endowment Manager Shakes Things Up After Dismal Performance

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, February 28, 2017:

English: Harvard University Harvard Yard Harva...

Harvard University Harvard Yard

The new CEO of Harvard Management Company (HMC), N.P. “Narv” Narvekar, fired half of his staff last December, and in a letter announcing the moves, stated:

Major change is never easy and will require an extended period of time to bear fruit. Transitioning away from practices that have been ingrained in HMC’s culture for decades will no doubt be challenging at times.

 

But we must evolve to be successful, and we must withstand the associated growing pains to achieve our goals.

To each of those approximately 115 staffers who were let go, Narv offered his condolences: “It is exceptionally difficult to see such a large number of our colleagues leave the firm, and we will be very supportive of these individuals in their transition. We are grateful for their committed service to Harvard and wish them the very best in their future endeavors.”

Narvekar is the eighth permanent or interim chief executive in the last decade at the helm of HMC as returns from its $35 billion endowment continue to under-perform not only the stock market in general but its peers at Yale, Columbia, and other Ivy League schools, as well.

The company’s performance was so bad that

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.