@theMarket: Tech Stocks Rise From the Dead
The large cap technology sector bounced back this week as bond yields fell. It is a see-saw market filled with several cross-currents. But if you want to know where stocks are going, keep your eyes focused on the U.S. Ten-Year Bond yield.
In my last column, I explained how rising bond yields are like kryptonite to the continued performance of what I call "super tech stocks." Over the last two weeks, the NASDAQ 100, for example, experienced a 10 percent-plus down draft, as bond yields rose to 1.60 percent from 1.25 percent. Investors sold FANG stocks, and technology shares in new-era sectors, like solar and electric vehicles, and bought old economy stocks, like in energy, financials, and cyclicals.
This week, that trade reversed somewhat as bond yields stopped rising, drifted lower, and seem to be stabilizing around 1.50 percent -- until Friday. While the S&P and Dow Indexes pulled back a little in response, NASDAQ dropped 1.5 percent. The question is whether the rate rise in yields is coming to an end, or will we see yet another backup in yields as investors become even more concerned over future inflation.
There is no reason why the yield on the "Ten Year" couldn't rise further, in my opinion, maybe as high as 1.80 percent to even 2 percent later in the year. After all, that was where yields were on the Ten Year just before the pandemic. What could drive yields higher? Inflation concerns.
I believe the Federal Reserve Bank Committee is expecting the inflation rate to hit their long-term target of 2 percent in the next few months. Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, has already said they would be willing (and happy) to see that happen. That would be a textbook and natural occurrence in any recovering economy. But what the Fed expects, and what the markets are prepared for, may be two different things.
"As long as yields rise gradually, and not all at once," say the experts, then investors can and will adjust accordingly. That remains to be seen. In this world of instant price reactions and compressed time periods, I am not so sure "gradual" is in the dictionary of today's traders. To them, a 25-30 basis point rise in yields could mean the end of the world. I fear a mad exit for the door could occur all at once at some point. It is a possibility, so be on guard.
The good news is that the $1.9 trillion American Relief Bill passed in what amounted to a one-party rescue of the American people. Not one Republican voted for the rescue plan, despite the fact that between 65-80 percent of Americans approved of the plan. The ink was barely dry on President Biden's signature, however, before investor attention turned to the passing of a future infrastructure package.
Unlike the relief package, which was passed through the budget reconciliation process, an infrastructure bill of real substance would require bi-partisan support. If that turns out to be a non-starter, President Biden could still provide some money ($300 billion or so), but nothing like the $2 trillion that would be needed to really address the nation's decrepit highways, bridges, seaports, and airports.
An infrastructure bill would actually provide a needed stimulus to grow the economy, while providing a real need that is long overdue. But it would also take longer to thread its way throughout the economy and would require a year or two before we would really see the impact in the data.
In any case, the prospect of such a bill will be enough to occupy investors' attention over the next few months. I suspect "infrastructure plays" will be bid up in anticipation of this potential government spending program. This happened four years ago, you may recall, when the Trump Administration announced their intentions to pass similar legislation. We all know that effort hit a brick wall, despite a Republican-held Congress and White House.
Today, with countries like China breathing down our necks, the U.S. is falling further and further behind in so many areas. We fiddle in bitter partisan politics, while the rest of the world plows ahead. A substantial infrastructure program would be a first step in stemming our economic slide.
In any case, we have two weeks left of volatility, so use the time to employ any excess cash you may have on down days. I expect stocks to regain their luster in April, so hang in there.
|Write a comment - 0 Comments|
The Retired Investor: The Coming Economic Boom
The nation should have a lot to celebrate in the coming months. Most economists are busily raising their forecasts for growth for the remainder of the year. If their forecasts are accurate, Americans can expect a booming economy this year and into 2022.
The arguments for growth are straightforward. The number of Americans that are being vaccinated is now higher than the number of new coronavirus cases. By the end of May 2021, if government forecasts are correct, almost everyone in the U.S. that wants a vaccination should have one. As a result, we can expect to see a re-opening of most businesses no later than the second half of the year. That, in turn, should lead to a rapid hike in economic activity.
But what will really spark the coming boom for the nation's economy is the $1.9 trillion American Relief Plan. The bill has just passed Congress and, according to the Biden Administration, money will start flowing into the pockets of those Americans who have suffered the most in the past year.
As a result, economic growth is expected to be the strongest since 1984. The latest consensus numbers of 76 economists are looking for Gross Domestic Product to rise by an annualized 5.6 percent in the second quarter, followed by 6.2 percent in the third quarter. Some see the economy jumping by as much as 10 percent between April and June.
The engines of growth are expected to be a combination of business investment and consumer spending on everything from airlines to restaurants. Throughout the last year, Americans that could, have saved as much as 20 percent of their total income. That brings the total savings amount for the month of January to $4 trillion. Some of that savings is expected to find its way into the economy as pent-up demand comes to the forefront. If you combine that with additional fiscal spending, we have what could be a perfect storm of demand for goods and services.
Recent manufacturing data from the Institute for Supply Management revealed that the sector had logged its highest growth level since August 2018. Personal income surged 10 percent in January, while household wealth increased nearly $2 trillion for that month.
Recently, many market participants have jumped on the inflation bandwagon figuring that all this demand coupled with the central banks loose monetary policies will trigger a higher rate of inflation. The Federal Reserve Bank has already said that they would be willing to allow inflation to rise to something above their long-stated ceiling of 2 percent. I expect that 2 percent rate should be achieved sometime in the next few months if economic growth is close to the forecast. Unfortunately, it will take job growth much longer to recover. Full employment could take years to accomplish.
None of these economic forecasts consider the possibility of an infrastructure program later on this year. The numbers talked about today are about equal to the amount of the $1.9 trillion relief package. Estimates that, at the minimum, such a program could mean another $2 trillion or more would surely boost the economy further into next year.
But, unlike the Democrat-sponsored and passed American Relief Bill, a meaningful infrastructure effort would require a bi-partisan effort. Politics has been the death knell in just about every past attempt at fixing the nation's roads, bridges and airports. Given the present state of uncertainty and division within and between both parties, the chances of that happening are neutral at best. But for the nation's sake, we can always hope.
|Write a comment - 0 Comments|
@theMarket: The Ides of March and the Market
It was a rough week in the markets. Investors were whipsawed throughout the week and finished down once again. I expect more of the same for investors this month.
However, I don't expect stocks to go straight down, find a bottom and then rebound. This downdraft is occurring at about the same time that markets sold off last year, but I do not expect the kind of severe correction we suffered through then. Overall, I am anticipating a 10-15 percent decline as I mentioned last week. Actually, as of Friday (March 5, 2021) morning we have suffered a 6.3 percent decline from the top on the S&P 500 Index futures contract. The pullback, by the way, is long overdue. I am hoping it will flush out some of the speculation and froth that were rising to dangerous levels among certain stocks.
The small backup in interest rates we have been experiencing in the last three weeks has been an excuse for a sell-off, in my opinion, but not a reason to fear the future. My evidence: we are on the cusp of an additional $1.9 trillion in fiscal stimulus, which may be passed by the Senate as early as this weekend. An even larger government spending program in infrastructure may also be in the offing in the coming months.
Of course, as I have been saying for a year, the key element to the future health and well-being of the economy, and the stock market, will be the country's battle to vanquish the coronavirus. Right now, thanks to the vaccination, and rapid distribution of the drugs by the present administration, that battle looks winnable in the months ahead.
But investors have not been waiting around for that to occur. A re-opening trade has been ongoing since the beginning of the year. Airlines, cruise lines, hotels, and casino stocks, among others, have all been gaining. That is an area where I would add some money in this pull back.
All my recommended natural resource plays have also been booming, led by energy. The bull market in commodities has a number of tailwinds that I believe will propel that sector even higher this year, but runaway inflation is not one of them. The present belief by a growing group of Wall Street analysts, namely that "inflation is here to stay so buy commodities" is too simple.
There is a big difference between expecting reflation (my opinion) and inflation, (or worse, hyperinflation). As global economies re-open, the demand for materials and other commodities should rise. If you throw in some supply chain issues and other pandemic-related conditions, sure, prices are going to rise, some substantially, but that is simply textbook economics. That doesn't automatically translate into an inflationary problem as so many are predicting.
It has been so long since we have had any real inflation, that there are investors out there that have never seen inflation in their professional careers. If you throw in the two-thirds of professional investors and traders who have also never experienced a rising interest rate environment, you have the makings of a perfect storm of inexperience, ineptitude, and chaos. I believe that is what we are witnessing in today's financial markets.
The Ides of March is actually on the 15th of this month and I expect to see a continuation of this chop fest at least until then, if not longer. The best declines are those that are sharp, short, straight down, and over before you know it. Unfortunately, I expect this correction to be different. There will be relief rallies like the pre-market 1 percent gains in the markets on Friday mornings followed by sharper down days. This kind of action should keep us all biting our nails, and if you attempt to trade it, emotionally exhausted and stressed out. The time to take profits is in the past. Hopefully, you followed my advice last month and did just that, but it is still too early to employ those funds.
The good news is that once this month comes to a close, I expect stocks and the economy to explode in the third and fourth quarters. All we need do is get through this month.
|Write a comment - 0 Comments|
The Retired Investor: Supply Chain Chaos
Americans are used to purchasing products, either on credit or cash, and having them delivered within a week, at the latest. Repairing those products such as a household appliances may take a little longer, but not by much. The pandemic has changed all that.
Now, I am not talking about toilet paper. That was last year's problem. No, it's about some large appliances and the accessories and parts that are crucial to their inner workings. Take my 9-year-old refrigerator for example. The water dispenser on the outside door doesn't work. It's a problem that has been going on for a year now, and the part needed to fix it is "on back order.”
Then there are my broken gas fireplace fans. The fans gave up the ghost just in time for the winter season. Ordering the parts was easy, but here it is the beginning of March and maybe, just maybe, the fans will be delivered and installed just in time for summer.
And then there is the mystifying disappearance of one of my cooking staples of convenience, minced garlic. For years, it was a ubiquitous purchase that I rarely thought about, until suddenly it was no longer in its usual place above the potatoes and loose onions counter. The guy in the vegetable department said they were out of stock and were uncertain when or if they would be getting any more of it. I finally found a few small jars hidden away in a corner of another supermarket.
Those are just a few personal examples. I came to realize that the coronavirus has upended the world's supply chains in ways that we rarely think about. The pandemic forced certain changes in our habits. Many of us stayed at home. Few outlets existed to spend money, so we stayed at home and spent money on our home goods. Instead of restaurants, we had to learn to cook. That meant stocking up on food and the freezers and refrigerators in which to hold it. We didn't need dry cleaners because we are all wearing sweats and working from home. But we do need washers and dryers.
At the same time that demand for these appliances exploded, the factories in countries that produced them were forced to scale back or shut down production entirely as the coronavirus decimated their workforce. This has created shortages. Exactly what appliances and other products depends on the supply chain of the individual good. It becomes a question of who makes the individual parts that together comprise so many appliances.
The facts are that certain important parts, items such as magnetron tubes for microwaves, compressors for refrigerators and freezers, for example, are made by a mere handful of overseas manufacturers. Most of these companies are in Asia.
Some of the product categories that have been really hurt by supply chain disruption might surprise you. The FDA is monitoring certain medicines and prescription drugs, especially some generic brands, since certain ingredients are manufactured in China and India. A number of consumer electronic products, solar panels, auto parts, air conditioners, toys and games, vaping devices, and even T-shirts and socks are included.
As for my beloved minced garlic, 70 percent of the garlic consumed in the United States is imported from China. Prices have risen by more than 30 percent since the pandemic began, so I'm guessing that minced garlic is getting too valuable to simply mince and stuff into a jar. To tell the truth, I'm finding that while convenient, the canned flavor lacks the pungency of mincing garlic myself. I guess that might qualify as a silver lining in the present supply chain chaos.
|Write a comment - 0 Comments|
@theMarket: Higher Interest Rates Clobber Stocks
In the grand scheme of things, a small, upward blip in the yield of the U.S. 10-year Treasury bond should be of little concern to equity investors. But sometimes, when the conditions are ripe, even the tiniest spark can cause a conflagration within a speculative stock market.
As readers are aware, interest rates have been trading at historically low levels for some time. The onset of the coronavirus forced our Federal Reserve Bank to pin them even lower. Essentially, it is why the stock market has been having such a great run. Investors have been conditioned to just assume that, if anything, interest rates might trend even lower but not higher. However, during the last few weeks, the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury bond has been moving higher. Since the beginning of the year, it has gained roughly one-half percent. But real interest rates (minus the inflation rate) are still yielding nothing.
In just about every economic recovery, one should expect to see longer-term rates begin to rise somewhat. Economists have been arguing that a moderate rise in this benchmark bond's yield should be good news for the stock market. That may be true, but skittish investors — accustomed to low rates, for longer, and imbued with so much speculative fever — are finding it difficult to accept that concept.
Investors are concerned that all the stimulus that the government has poured into the economy, plus all the trillions of dollars that the Biden Administration is planning in the near future, will spark inflation. That, in turn, could force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and tighten monetary policy prematurely.
It doesn't matter that just this week, Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Jerome Powell, in testifying before Congress, once again reiterated that the central bank has no intention of doing that. In fact, he said just the opposite. That calmed down investors for about a day, but it didn't last. Suddenly, the yield shot up to above 1.50 percent on the benchmark bond, and bond traders panicked. It was as if some magic level of interest rates was unearthed that would suddenly put an end to the entire economic recovery. The bears appear to be betting we are at the doorstep of that level.
It is the main reason why technology shares, especially the large-cap favorites, have been taking it on the chin all week. Higher rates are considered the "Achilles Heel" for that group. It is why the NASDAQ has suffered far greater declines than the S&P 500 Index this week. But these large cap companies are now also in so many equity indexes that investors cannot escape them. If stocks like Apple and Google decline, they will (and are) take the whole market down with them.
This week, we have seen the increasing volatility I have been expecting throughout the stock market. We have also seen another uptick in speculation, both to the upside and to the downside. Bitcoin has had some enormous swings, while gold has dropped to six-month lows. The U.S. dollar was first in a free fall and then soared higher. On top of all this, the Reddit/GameStop crew has returned with a vengeance.
For weeks, I have been advising readers to raise cash gradually while the markets climbed to new highs after new high. If you had followed my advice, you should have a nice pile of cash available at this point in the event that markets take a real tumble. That time could be almost upon us.
As I write this, the markets are battling with an important technical level. A sustained move below 3,830-3,840 on the S&P 500 Index would signal to me that a correction is already unfolding. If so, my potential target would be around 3,550. It hasn't happened yet, but it could. In any event, whether it happens now or sometime in March, that correction is coming. Stay tuned.
|Write a comment - 0 Comments|