Dow Jones Industrial Average

Guest Post: This Time Is Different 2013 Edition

A small note on the frankly hilarious news that the Dow Jones Industrial Average smashed through to all-time-highs. First of all, while stock prices are soaring household income and household confidence are slumping to all-time lows. Employment remains depressed, energy remains expensive, housing remains depressed, wages and salaries as a percentage of GDP keep falling, and the economy remains in a deleveraging cycle. Essentially, these are not the conditions for strong organic business growth, for a sustainable boom. We’re going through a structural economic adjustment, and suffering the consequences of a huge 40-year debt-fuelled boom. While the fundamentals remain weak, it can only be expected that equity markets should remain weak. But that is patently not what has happened. With every day that the DJIA climbs to new all-time highs, more suckers will be drawn into the market. But it won’t last. Insiders have already gone aggressively bearish. This time isn’t different.

Chart Of The Day: The Minimum-Wage (Non) Recovery

Yesterday we showed all those key economic criteria (that get so little airtime for obvious reasons), which were prevalent the last time the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit an all time high, back in 2007, all of which reflected a far more vibrant economy, and more importantly, an economy, and market, not propped up by a $14 trillion global central bank liquidity tsunami. Today, our chart of the day comes from BloombergBrief, which shows yet another aspect of the "low wage" recovery, namely that while the bulk of the jobs lost heading into the "recovery" were of middle and higher paying jobs, the offset have been part-time and other low-paying jobs, which explains also why the purchasing power of the average American, in real terms, declines with every passing day.

Frontrunning: March 6

  • Kuroda to Hit ‘Wall of Reality’ at BOJ, Ex-Board Member Says (BBG)
  • Venezuelans mourn Chavez as focus turns to election (Reuters)
  • South Korea says to strike back at North if attacked (Reuters)
  • Milk Powder Surges Most in 2 1/2 Years on New Zealand Drought (BBG)
  • As Confetti Settles, Strategists Wonder: Will Dow's Rally Last?  (WSJ)
  • Pollution, Risk Are Downside of China's 'Blind Expansion' (BBG)
  • Obama Calls Republicans in Latest Round of Spending Talks (BBG)
  • Ryan Budget Plan Draws GOP Flak (WSJ)
  • Samsung buys stake in Apple-supplier Sharp (FT)
  • China Joining U.S. Shale Renaissance With $40 Billion (BBG)
  • Say Goodbye to the 4% Rule  (WSJ)
  • Traders Flee Asia Hedge Funds as Job Haven Turns Dead End (BBG)
  • Power rustlers turn the screw in Bulgaria, EU's poorest country (Reuters)
David Fry's picture

When you get this close to a record it’s just a matter of time before it gets taken out generally. Why today? Well, China reversed course psychologically by now stating it would expand “deficit spending by 50%” after just Monday putting the clamps theoretically on their housing bubble. That provided a big lift to Asian and European shares. With the latter more ECB talk about defending the eurozone and euro was fed bulls. Global markets also feasted on Fed Vice-Chair (the woman who would be king?) Janet Yellen that QEternity is not gonna change.

The Last Time The Dow Was Here...

"Mission Accomplished" - With CNBC now lost for countdown-able targets (though 20,000 is so close), we leave it to none other than Jim Cramer, quoting Stanley Druckenmiller, to sum up where we stand (oh and the following list of remarkable then-and-now macro, micro, and market variables), namely that "we all know it's going to end badly, but in the meantime we can make some money" - ZH translation: "just make sure to sell ahead of everyone else", just like everyone sold ahead of everyone else on October 11th 2007, the last time stocks were here...

  • GDP Growth: Then +2.5%; Now +1.6%
  • Regular Gas Price: Then $2.75; Now $3.73
  • Americans Unemployed (in Labor Force): Then 6.7 million; Now 13.2 million
  • Americans On Food Stamps: Then 26.9 million; Now 47.69 million
  • Size of Fed's Balance Sheet: Then $0.89 trillion; Now $3.01 trillion
  • US Debt as a Percentage of GDP: Then ~38%; Now 74.2%
  • US Deficit (LTM): Then $97 billion; Now $975.6 billion
  • Total US Debt Oustanding: Then $9.008 trillion; Now $16.43 trillion

Dow Jones Opens At All-Time Highs

On October 11th 2007, the 'old' Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its previous all-time high of 14,198.10 (with the all-time closing high of 14,164.5 on October 9th) as plans for the MLEC were rumored to save the world from the intensification of stress in the interbank funding markets. A week later, the Dow had dropped 5.5%; a month later it had dropped 8.5%; three months later it had slumped 18%. But, this time the 'wealth effect' will be different-er.

Gundlach Says Stocks "Obviously Overbought", Buys "More Long-Term Treasuries In Last Month Than In Four Years"

Doubleline's Jeff Gundlach must not be a GETCO algo because unlike the algorithmic programs who are all that's left of traders in this policy farce of a manipulated market and who are programmed to BTFD especially when there is a massive stop hunt program about to be unleashed on 10-20 ES contracts, he is not buying stocks. Instead the bond manager has closed his July 2012 call when he called the top in Treasurys, and told Reuters that he has bought "more long-term Treasuries in the last month" than in the last four years." And this coming form the so-called new "bond king." Gundlach said he started buying benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes in the last month after yields popped above 2 percent, because he sees value there relative to other asset classes, including stocks, which he said are "overbought."

The Devil In The Details Of The Dow

It looks like the Dow Jones Industrial Average will be the first major U.S. equity benchmark to breach new highs, so ConvergEx's Nick Colas breaks down this closely watched measure of domestic stock prices noting that the Dow is a quirky “Index” – price weighted (not market capitalization), compact (30 names) and fundamentally global (lots of brand-name multinationals).  Change just one name in the index, and the outcomes vary considerably.  If Google had been added at the end of last year, we’d be at 14,330 – well over the old high of 14,165.  But if the Dow committee had added Apple instead, the index would have closed at 13,475 yesterday, up less than 3% on the year.  And if Netflix had been the lucky company added for 2013, well…  We’d be saying hello to Dow 15,000, and then some. The point here is that the notion of a “New High” for the Dow is a little arbitrary, by virtue of the price weighting function and stock selection process.

Consumer Taps Out As Income Plunges By Most In 20 Years: Savings Rate Crashes To 2007 Levels

When the US income and spending figures for December came out, the punditry couldn't contain their exuberance following the massive surge in income which as we explained was merely a function of the pulled forward wages and bonuses in December due to fears of what the Fiscal Cliff and the expiration of the payroll tax cut would do to incomes in 2013 (nothing good), as well as a surge in stock dividends to avoid a dividend tax hike resulting in yet another boost in income. The spike in personal income without an offset in spending sent the savings rate to the highest in three years. Today it's payback time as moments ago we learned that the US consumer gave back all the December gains and then much following news that while spending did nothing, and came in as expected at 0.2%, personal income imploded by 3.6% on estimates of a modest 2.4% drop. This was the biggest drop in personal income in 20 years just as the US consumer's confidence was soaring at least according to such manipulated aggregators as UMich. What this also led to was that not only is the stock market back to 2007 levels, but so is the personal saving rate, which crashed from 6.4% to 2.4%, the lowest since November 2007, and leaving Americans with the least purchasing power just as the full impact of a government that is flirting with austerity is starting to be felt.  And just as bad was the material 4% pullback in real disposable personal income or adjusted for inflation.  "Consumers can’t spend what they don’t have, and they don’t much much,” summarized Bloomberg economist Rich Yamarone.

Bill Gross Goes Searching For "Irrational Exuberance" Finds "Rational Temperance"

The underlying question in Bill Gross' latest monthly letter, built around Jeremy Stein's (in)famous speech earlier this month, is the following: "How do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values?" He then proceeds to provide a very politically correct answer, which is to be expected for the manager of the world's largest bond fund. Our answer is simpler: We know there is an irrational exuberance asset bubble, because the Fed is still in existence. Far simpler.

Guest Post: Don't Worry; Be Resilient

At some point, absorbing more information about the unsustainability of modern society yields diminishing returns. It becomes emotionally draining and thus counterproductive. Part of this exhaustion results from recognizing our powerlessness within the Status Quo, where independent thinking and structural innovation are intentionally winnowed out as threats to existing institutions and industries. Another part arises from the burden of knowing that the supposedly permanent Status Quo is far more vulnerable than generally believed. This is the psychology of knowing what lies ahead in The Burden of Knowing. These 'burdens of knowing' can diminish the small but real joys of the present - anti-thesised by an attitude such as “don’t worry; be happy.” And it certainly makes sense when life is still comfortable and enjoyable. But the philosophy of “thinking about the future is a downer, so I live in the present” ultimately rests on a false confidence that the future will take care of itself. Though Keynesian economists argue that nations are not like households, in truth debt/financial fragility is scale-invariant, meaning that rising debt, a high cost basis, and zero savings/investment lead to fragility in households, enterprises, communities, and nations alike.

Frontrunning: February 11

  • Pope steps down, citing frailty (Reuters)
  • Japan’s economic minister wants Nikkei to surge 17% to 13,000 by March (Japan Times)
  • Venezuelan devaluation sparks panic (FT)
  • Rajoy releases tax returns, but fails to clear up doubts over Aznar years (El Pais)
  • Companies Fret Over Uncertain Outlook (WSJ)
  • Home Depot Dumps BlackBerry for iPhone (ATD)
  • Kuroda favors Abe's inflation target, mum about BOJ role (Kyodo)
  • A Cliff Congress May Go Over (WSJ)
  • U.S., Europe Seek to Cool Currency Jitters (WSJ)
  • Radical rescue proposed for Cyprus (FT)
  • Franc Is Still Overvalued, SNB’s Zurbruegg Tells Aargauer (BBG)
  • Northeast Crawls Back to Life After Crippling Blizzard (WSJ)

Remember 1994

Big round numbers always encourage reflection.  Turning 40 or 50, for example, or making (or losing) a million dollars.  Or a billion.  And so it is with “Dow 14,000.”  ConvergEx's Nick Colas has three critical observations as we traverse this particular “Big round number.”  First, it is clear that equity prices (and volatility, for that matter) are much more a direct tool of central bank policy than in prior economic cycles.  Second, the rally off the bottom in March 2009 has left the investing world with very few money managers who can legitimately claim the title of “Smart money.” Lastly, you have to consider the way forward.  The roadmap from Dow 6600 (March 2009) to Dow 14,000 was – in retrospect – clearly marked by signs labeled “Follow the central bank yellow brick road.”  Good enough signage to get us here, clearly.  But, as Nick notes, fundamentals – corporate earnings, interest rates, and economic growth – those are the metrics which will have to guide us as central banks inevitably reduce their liquidity programs. As he considers the way forward for U.S. stocks, he reflects on Spring 1994 - U.S. stock investors thought they had it all figured out as they exited 1993, just as they do now...

It's Deja Vu, All Over Again: This Time Is... Completely The Same

It was the deep of winter... CNBC was talking about "animal spirits", had just touted "the best January in 14 years", was quoting Raymond James' Jeff Saut as saying that "The market "is amazingly resilient, and is no longer overbought" and desperately doing everything it could to get retail back into stocks, and was succeeding: retail inflows into stocks were surging and seemed unstoppable... The Chicago PMI had just printed at its highest level in decades... the VIX was dropping fast... Stocks were soaring... Bonds were sliding... NYSE margin debt had just risen to the highest level since 2008... A few brief months earlier the Fed had unleashed a new, massive round of unsterilized bond buying...  Bank of America was blaring about the "great rotation" for stocks, and yes - just shortly prior "global currency warfare" had broken out. 

Name the year?