We can certainly "hope" that the markets will continue to march endlessly higher. However, "hope" has never been an effective portfolio management strategy. Considering that the decline in oil prices is supposed to good for the consumer, even though personal spending declined in the most recently reported period, the decline in dividends will certainly have a negative effect on those depending on those dividends. The current detachment between spending and the stock market will likely be corrected rather harshly at some point.
You know Merkel, Draghi, Dijsselbloem et al. have a problem when... More than one in three Greeks (35%) in 2014 approved of Russia's leadership, while fewer than one in four (23%) approved of the EU's leadership.
"There’s no other way to say this. The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie. And it’s a lie that has consequences, because the great American dream is to have a good job, and in recent years, America has failed to deliver that dream more than it has at any time in recent memory. I hear all the time that “unemployment is greatly reduced, but the people aren’t feeling it.” When the media, talking heads, the White House and Wall Street start reporting the truth -- the percent of Americans in good jobs; jobs that are full time and real -- then we will quit wondering why Americans aren’t “feeling” something that doesn’t remotely reflect the reality in their lives. And we will also quit wondering what hollowed out the middle class." - CEO of Gallup
In November of last year, Mikhail Gorbachev first warned "the world is on the brink of a new Cold War." Then around the turn of the year he escalated his warning, fearing "a war of this kind could lead to a nuclear war," hoping that no one "loses their nerve in this overheated situation." Today, in an interview with Russian news agency Interfax, the 83-year-old former Soviet leader, asks "have they lost their minds?" raging that "the U.S. has already dragged us into a new Cold War, trying to openly implement its idea of triumphalism," warning that "the 'cold' war will "lead to a 'hot' war," concluding "The U.S. has been totally 'lost in the jungle' and is dragging us there as well."
Is the BLS overstating employment growth? I guess it depends on whose data set you choose to believe. However, there is little denying the fact that with over 60% of the population living paycheck-to-paycheck, stagnant wage growth and declining net worth over the last five years, there is something that simply does not add up. If employment growth were indeed growing as strongly as in the late 90's, it would seem logical to expect that many of the disparities in the economic landscape should be starting to equalize somewhat. Unfortunately, that has yet to be the case.
In the early 1970s, there were about 200,000 new US businesses created each year (net of closures). Now, the number is negative. Why are Americans getting poorer? Look no further. No new businesses (net). No new jobs (again net). No new wealth. Under Obama and Draghi, crony capitalism flourishes. Real capitalism dies.
What we see now is the recovery of price discovery, and therefore the functioning economy, and it shouldn’t be a big surprise that it doesn’t come in a smooth transition. Six years is a long time. Moreover, it was never just QE that distorted the markets, there was – and is – the ultra-low interest rate policy developed nations’ central banks adhere to like it was the gospel, and there’s always been the narrative of economic recovery just around the corner that the politico/media system incessantly drowned the world in. That the QE madness ended with the decapitation of the price of oil seems only fitting.
The majority of the jobs "created" since the financial crisis have been lower wage paying jobs in retail, healthcare and other service sectors of the economy. Conversely, the jobs created within the energy space are some of the highest wage paying opportunities available in engineering, technology, accounting, legal, etc. In fact, each job created in energy related areas has had a "ripple effect" of creating 2.8 jobs elsewhere in the economy from piping to coatings, trucking and transportation, restaurants and retail. Simply put, lower oil and gasoline prices may have a bigger detraction on the economy that the "savings" provided to consumers.
The U.S. now ranks not first, not second, not third, but 12th among developed nations in terms of business startup activity as Gallup CEO Jim Clifton rages, for the first time in 35 years, American business deaths now outnumber business births. Wall Street, Clifton explains, needs the stock market to boom, even if that boom is fueled by illusion. So both tell us, "The economy is coming back." Let's get one thing clear, he exclaims, "this economy is never truly coming back unless we reverse the birth and death trends of American businesses."
It took Wall Street's "best and brightest"to admit what we said would happen back in October. In retrospect, we are amazed it only took them three months...
For all the endless media buzz pitching the bullish spin of plunging gas prices, namely that while crude capex spending and energy company earnings are both crashing, high-paying shale jobs are about to suffer pervasive layoffs and energy HY bonds are entering mass default territory leading to who knows what unexpected downstream effects, the average US consumer will spend substantially more to offset all the adverse side-effects of the plunging oil price. Or rather, was supposed to spend more. Because as Gallup finds, this did not happen. Here is what did happen.
The American people are feeling really good right about now. For example, Gallup’s economic confidence index has hit the highest level that we have seen since the last recession. In addition, nearly half of all Americans believe that 2015 will be a better year than 2014 was, and only about 10 percent believe that it will be a worse year. And a lot of people are generally feeling quite good about the people that have been leading our nation. Unfortunately, when things seem to be going well common sense tends to go out the window. Sadly, what we are experiencing right now is so similar to what we witnessed in 2007 and early 2008. The stock market had been on a great run, people were flipping houses like crazy and most people were convinced that the party would never end. But then it did end – very painfully.
ConvergEx's Nick Colas quarterly review of “Off the grid” economic indicators tells a story somewhat less sanguine than the typical government data. Confidence is returning, yes. But consider just how low it got: the top 3 Google autofills for “I want to sell my …” featured “kidney” for the first 3 quarters of this year. It was replaced in the current quarter with “Laptop”. Progress, of a sort...
As we prepare for the annual food fest, and post-Thanksgiving tryptophan-induced food coma; we thought this weekend's reading list should be a bit of a smorgasbord of interesting topics to stimulate your brain cells between naps and football.
While the media continue to just about exclusively paint a picture of recovery and an improving economy, certainly in the US – Europe and Japan it’s harder to get away with that rosy image -, in ordinary people’s reality a completely different picture is being painted in sweat, blood, agony and despair. Whatever part of the recovery mirage may have a grain of reality in it, it is paid for by something being taken away from people leading real lives.