Contributed by Sasha Cekerevac for Investment Contrarians: While the S&P 500 has continued moving higher, with investor sentiment in America cautiously bullish, over the past month there has been a huge increase in volatility; and stock and bond markets in the emerging nations have been hit significantly.
Entries in Economy (57)
Where German industrial companies plan to invest: a slew of losers out there, including Germany. But one country stands out ... and the reasons why!
Contributed by Terry Coxon, Casey Research. Year by year, government has become more present where economic decisions are being made. Through subsidies, tax breaks, regulation, and spending, government has claimed a virtual seat in the boardroom of most companies. In some cases, it holds a majority of the votes. And its involvement profoundly alters decision-making for investors.
We’ve all heard about Wall Street employees who lost their jobs and ended up doing something unrelated, chasing after a dream, starting up a software company, working on a crab boat, teaching English to immigrants, run a taco truck, become a pole dancer.... So there should be indices that measure the number of people undergoing sudden and unlikely career changes—to give us a better gauge of the real job market.
Contributed by Casey Research. In this excellent video from the Recovery Reality Check Summit, economics expert and author Harry Dent explains how shifting demographic trends lead to economic cycles and why the Federal Reserve is so afraid of deflation. “Demographics,” he says, “is destiny.”
The strongest and toughest creature out there, and maybe the smartest one, that no one has been able to subdue yet, the inexplicable American consumer has hit a wall. It showed up in a prosaic but ugly 8-K filing by Visa—a staggering and sudden shift that pundits tried to explain away somehow by referring to recent changes in debit card regulations. I mean, come on.
"Despite all of the rhetoric to the contrary, it looks like the air got let out of the balloon," commented the members of the Survey Panel of the ISM-Chicago Business Survey; the closely watched numbers had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. But the phenomenon wasn’t limited to the Chicago area. And now there are real reasons for concern.
“The US is one of two major beef-exporting countries with no comprehensive traceability system,” said Erin Borror, economist at the Meat Export Federation. The other country is India. The issue was Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or Mad Cow Disease. Humans contract it by eating contaminated beef. It’s always fatal. Lack of traceability “places the US at risk if an outbreak occurs in this country,” Borror said. That was last November.
I love beer. Particularly craft beer. I’m a sucker for a good IPA, or an amber, or a pale ale. For special occasions, there's the expensive stuff. If I’m traveling, I try to discover local brews. And the first swig is one of the simplest great pleasures in life. But I’ll stick to the numbers. And they’re morose for the US beer industry. Yet there is an astonishing winner.
Thousands of students from all over California snarled traffic during their march on the Capitol in Sacramento. Hundreds of them then flooded the Rotunda of the Capitol, a raucous affair. Eventually, the Highway Patrol cleared them out, and 60 were thrown in the hoosegow for trespassing and resisting arrest. Their problem: tuition increases—in a system that has become dysfunctional.
Hullabaloo broke out after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a surprisingly robust 243,000 jobs were created in January, and that the unemployment rate was 8.3%. Cynics, academics, BLS heretics, hype mongers, and politicians waged a media battle over these numbers that President Obama serenely trotted out as validation of his policies. Even Rush Limbaugh jumped into the fray. Alas, suddenly, there is a sharp deterioration.
We finally have statistical proof that CEOs are ... a confusing bunch. PWC’s survey shows that CEOs in 60 countries are exhibiting signs of gloom about the economy but not their own companies. German CEOs, facing the Eurozone debt crisis on a daily basis, aren’t feeling the pain, according to Ifo’s indices. The Empire State Manufacturing Survey points at spiking optimism. And all three show patterns of false hope.
There still are some economic numbers that aren’t seasonally adjusted or manipulated with fancy statistical footwork by governmental, quasi-governmental, or non-governmental number mongers. And they give us the true picture of the worldwide economy: beer, wine, mood, and San Francisco real estate—with more predictive power than is allowed by law.
Supercar enthusiasts went into a tizzy when Honda announced that it would bring its Acura NSX back to life. Design and manufacturing would be shifted from Japan to Ohio. And much of the production would be exported. It won’t add much volume to Honda’s production, but it will be a technology showcase. And a precursor that the math of manufacturing in America is changing.
Consumer optimism has been rising from the morose multi-year low in August and has reached levels not seen since, well, May. It whipped hope into a froth. Rising confidence would pump up consumer spending, which would pump up everything else. But the inexplicable American consumer, the toughest creature out there that no one has been able to subdue yet, had other plans.
150 factory workers in China threatened to jump off the roof of an iPhone factory unless they received a raise. Similar stories are accumulating. To make ends meet, desperate workers sometimes take drastic measures. These anecdotes underscore a major trend in China: skyrocketing cost of labor. But in the US, it’s the opposite—and now part of the official White House strategy.
It’s the kind of Medicare fraud that makes your skin crawl. And it’s part of a vast scheme. After investigative reporters detailed the case, the FBI finally got serious. But no insurance company would have fallen prey to it. Only Medicare cannot defend itself. It doesn’t even know when it’s happening because, inexplicably, it doesn’t analyze the bills. And so an industry has sprung up.
Among the “good” economic news today was private residential construction, up 2%, confirming trends in building permits and housing starts. Construction creates lots of jobs and contributes significantly to GDP. Everyone, from the President down to local politicians, wants it to grow. It gets them reelected. But for homeowners, banks, and tax payers, these trends are costly.
Practically every car or truck sold in the US today contains Chinese-made components, though Chinese-designed vehicles haven't made it yet. Chinese automakers scramble to move from nice-looking but shoddy copy-and-paste models to reliable products that would be competitive in the US. It’s a government priority. And they’re getting there through the back door.
The US trade deficit with China will hit a record $300 billion for the year, a big hit to the economy. It’s politically convenient to blame China, particularly its yuan policy. But the driver is a broad strategy by US corporations to shift an increasing range of economic activities to China. And now a trade war has broken out. Politicians, have a word with your corporate sponsors!