Home About Archives RSS Feed

@theMarket: Economy Sputters, Stocks Stutter

Bill Schmick

The markets were so oversold by Friday that even a hint of positive news was enough to send stocks higher. The trigger was the revision downward of the nation's gross domestic product to 1.6 percent for the second quarter. The initial GDP reading had been 2.4 percent.

"Why is that good news?" asked a perplexed client from Long Island.

"The revision could have been worse," I explained.

Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke also helped push stocks higher by throwing the market a few straws of reassurance. He said he would consider another large scale investment in the markets if the economy deteriorated further or if deflation became a problem. At the same time, he said it might not be necessary because he still sees the economy growing next year.

The Fed has three options to further add liquidity to the system. They could buy more government bonds and possibly mortgage backed securities and drive mortgage rates even lower than they are now. A 30-year, fixed rate mortgage is now below 4.5 percent. In this atmosphere of uncertainty, they could further clarify exactly how long they expect to keep interest rates near zero. To date, they have only said rates would be low for an "extended period."

Finally, they could cut to zero the interest rates the Fed pays banks to park their reserves at the Fed. Right now they are paying 0.25 percent. That might seem a nominal sum to most, but when you have billions of dollars sitting there, that quarter of a percent adds up. This last option, I believe, is the key to getting out of the liquidity trap we find ourselves in.

For the last year and a half, the Federal Reserve has been dumping mountains of money into the financial system, hoping that the banks and corporations will in turn lend it to consumers and use it to hire workers, build new plants and buy equipment. Instead, financial institutions have been hoarding the cash and getting paid by the Fed to do so.

Why? Given the uncertainty of the recovery, the high unemployment rate and the risk of even more bad debts coming through the door, the banks believe it is better to keep the cash then risk losing it on future bad loans or, in the case of corporations, on hiring workers that they won't need in a double-dip recession. Fear is the name of that game.

"Play it safe, after all," they say, "a 0.25 percent return is better than no return at all."

This monumental timidity in the face of 9.5 percent unemployment and a housing market that is tipping precariously back into a downward spiral should be unacceptable to all of us. So how do we get the banks to lend again?

Simple, instead of reducing the rate the Fed is paying to zero, make it minus 1 percent or 2 percent. That's right; in order to park your cash at the Fed instead of lending it out, it's going to cost you. I believe faced with losing 1 to 2 percent on their money or risking it by lending to you and I at 5 to 6 percent, fear will turn to greed. This good ole American financial system will begin to work for us again instead of against us.

In the meantime, we are bouncing around the 1,050 level on the S&P 500 Index. I still maintain that 950 is in the cards. It's simply a matter of time before that occurs. I know this five-month trading range is frustrating to investors but patience will be rewarded, possibly as soon as September. The doom and gloom is building but has not yet built to a crescendo. We may well get another bounce this coming week but once again it will be on low volume and will simply be another bear trap, so don't be fooled.

1 Comments
Tags: stocks, GDP      

Support Local News

We show up at hurricanes, budget meetings, high school games, accidents, fires and community events. We show up at celebrations and tragedies and everything in between. We show up so our readers can learn about pivotal events that affect their communities and their lives.

How important is local news to you? You can support independent, unbiased journalism and help iBerkshires grow for as a little as the cost of a cup of coffee a week.

News Headlines
Trail Conservancy Cautions Pandemic Care When Hiking
BHS Honors Employees With Donation to Berkshire COVID-19 Fund
BArT Grad: 2020 Not a Dream Year, Not 'a Freak Show'
Berkshire Immigrant Center Celebrates National Immigrant Heritage Month
Cultural Pittsfield This Week: May 29-June 4
MCLA Innovation & Entrepreneurship Challenge Announces Three Winners
Williamstown Moving Ahead With Month-to-Month Spending Plan
North County High Schools Make Graduation Plans
BCC Graduates Recognized in Remote Commencement
Crane Stationery Leaving North Adams for New York
 


Categories:
@theMarket (331)
Independent Investor (447)
Archives:
May 2020 (8)
May 2019 (1)
April 2020 (9)
March 2020 (5)
February 2020 (7)
January 2020 (10)
December 2019 (7)
November 2019 (8)
October 2019 (9)
September 2019 (7)
August 2019 (5)
July 2019 (5)
June 2019 (8)
Tags:
Jobs Stock Market Rally Wall Street Selloff Japan Federal Reserve Commodities Fiscal Cliff Taxes Recession Housing Congress Metals Energy Currency Europe Banks Debt Economy Stocks Deficit Election Debt Ceiling Crisis Retirement Oil Europe Bailout Markets Interest Rates Pullback Euro Stimulus Greece
Popular Entries:
The Independent Investor: Don't Fight the Fed
@theMarket: QE II Supports the Markets
The Independent Investor: Understanding the Foreclosure Scandal
@theMarket: Markets Are Going Higher
The Independent Investor: Does Cash Mean Currencies?
The Independent Investor: General Motors — Back to the Future
@theMarket: Economy Sputters, Stocks Stutter
The Independent Investor: How Will Wall Street II Play on Main Street?
The Independent Investor: Why Are Interest Rates Rising?
The Independent Investor: Will the Municipal Bond Massacre Continue?
Recent Entries:
The Independent Investor: The Culling of America
@theMarket: Memorial Day Markets
The Independent Investor: Chinese Checkers
@theMarket: Something Off in Bond Versus Stock Market Outlooks
The Independent Investor: Gold, the Bug, and You
@theMarket: The Stock Market Is Not the Economy
The Independent Investor: Workers face a serious dilemma
@theMarket: Earnings Fail to Support Stock Market
The Independent Investor: If You Are Laid Off, Read This
@theMarket: Economy Craters as America Attempts to Reopen