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Posts Tagged ‘Prudent Money’

This should be an interesting week in the markets.  We have the end of the quarter which typically produces some volatility for the market.  We also have the very important unemployment report that will be due out on Friday.  The unemployment indicator has become one of most important monthly indicators.  Although employment is considered a lagging indicator (an indicator that is one of the last to recover), its continued weakness might be signaling a bigger problem.  In his weekly newsletter John Mauldin wrote about the unemployment situation from another perspective.  To sign up for John’s free newsletter go to www.frontlinethoughts.com

He wrote that it takes the creation of 15 million jobs just to get us back to normal employment around 5%.  He makes that estimate by assuming the monthly job destruction will soon becoming to an end.  I think that he estimates another 500,000 jobs will be lost.  He writes, “that means that to get back to 5% unemployment within five years we need to see, on average, the creation of 250,000 jobs per month.  As an Average!!”   

Then he states these statistics:

“If you take the best year, which was 2006, you get an average monthly growth of 232,000. If you average the ten years from 1999, you get average monthly job growth of 50,000. If you take the average job growth from 1989 until now, you get an average of 91,000 a month. If you take the best ten years I could find, which would be 1991-2000, the average is still only 150,000. That is a long way from 250,000.”

I equate the destruction in employment much like a perfect storm.  The damage has been so great that it will take a long time to recover.  Both the Bush and the Obama Administrations allowed the unemployment situation to get this bad without doing anything about it.  In fact, I still don’t see anything in the works to fix this problem.  The stimulus bill will create mostly government based jobs.  However, I don’t think it will create enough to even put a dent in these numbers.

So, do you think that the market already expects the unemployment situation to remain this ugly?  Of course, there is the notion of a job-less recovery (which that has never made sense).  However, I think that this situation goes well beyond a typical unemployment problem.  Can the market continue to remain positive in the midst of so many people being affected by lack of employment?  I personally think that we see this problem manifest slowly and at some point the markets feel the impact. 

I know that this is far from positive but it is important to see all sides so that you can make prudent decisions with retirement dollars.

Levels to Watch on the S&P 500

From time to time, I like to point out important price levels on the S&P 500. 

Above 1080 – Positive

Between 1080 and 1043 – Neutral

Below 1041-Negative

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A recent article in the Dallas Morning News states that we just don’t have anything to worry about going forward regarding a “double dip” recession.  A double dip recession is one where you go through one recession, the recession concludes, and then it comes back again.  Of course, that would mean that the stock market would come tumbling down again as well.

September 14, 2009 edition

“I can now report that it’s time to lift up your melancholy spirits and go find something else to worry about.  Double-dip recessions are very rare events.”

“Since WWII, there are really no examples-except 1980-82….”

The writer also points out that, “you would think a 50% upside prance in the stock market would be met with some measure of confidence rather than such an undercurrent of distrust.”

The biggest mistake that the media is making in the reporting of this recession is comparing it to normal recessions and normal cycles.  The writer would need to go back further than 70 years to take a look at the full length of the Great Depression to get a better comparison. No, I don’t think that we are spiraling into a depression.  I do think that in the least a double dip recession is a high probability. 

People are distrustful regardless of the rise in the stock market.  There is rampant unemployment, a foreclosure crisis, and consumers faced with mountains of debt.  That is not even considering a Congress that is trying to ruin this country through socialistic policies. 

To get a good comparison, you can’t look at post WWII recessions.  It would be a lot like comparing apples to oranges.  This is what makes this situation so dangerous.  Yes, people are distrustful.  At the same time, people are also hopeful.  They are hopeful that the worst is behind us.  If that doesn’t turn out to be the case, confidence will be destroyed and that will be the biggest problem the markets and the economy face.  Today, at least confidence is on life support after a grueling 2008. 

Levels in the Market

I haven’t covered significant levels in the stock market in a long time.  (Click here for a description of what I mean by levels.) For the S&P 500, we are starting down a few key levels that are right in front of us.  It is a range of levels between 1042 and 1062.  The ability for the stock market to get above 1062 and stay there would be a very bullish event. 

Isn’t a rise of 55% in the stock market a bullish event in itself?  Only if the bear market is over.  Thus far, the levels necessary to declare the intermediate trend change from a bear to a bull have not occurred.  It would take the S&P 500 getting over and staying over the level of 1119 for that to occur.

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Back in March of this year when the stock market found a bottom, I posed a question that I felt would be “the” question for investors. Is this a bear market rally or is this the beginning of a bull market?

I have felt all along that this is nothing more than a bear market rally. A bear market rally is a pause in the bear market where the stock market goes up for a period of time.  Think of it as the bear resting and gathering energy for the next big decline. 

Of course, if it is a new bull market, then the March low of this year was the worst that it will get. 

I believe that we might be getting close to finding out.  Many of the indicators are stating that the moment of truth is here.  If this were a healthy normal market, we would at least see some type of market decline in the course of a new bull market.   I think that we might have already started that process.  If this is a bear market rally, then this decline will morph into something serious.  This should be a big test. 

For this stock market to change from a bear to a bull, the important level for the S&P 500 to reach would be 1121.  The S&P 500 would have to surpass that level and stay above that level.  If that were to occur, the evidence would support a major change for the stock market trend.

The unemployment numbers came out again this past Friday and showed more disturbing news for the economy.  Remember, if they cannot fix unemployment, this economy is going to have a tough time getting going again.  Unfortunately, Obama’s answer to more jobs is Government jobs through the stimulus program.  That is not the type of solution that will solve this problem.   

According to the Government’s “version” of the unemployment report, we lost 216,000 jobs. Of course, that was after they “added” back in 118,000 jobs that they created out of thin air.  As a review, each month the Government “estimates” the number of jobs created each month that they “feel” the Department of Labor misses.  It is such a farce. 

The number of those jobless as well as the overall unemployment rate is much higher than reported.  It is an absolute joke that they continue to report this garbage. 

I wanted to give you a link to an article about Robert Prechter.  He is a well regarded market analyst that has called major tops and bottoms of the market.  He uses a discipline called the Elliot Wave Theory. According to Elliot Wave, we have again hit a major top and it is about to get ugly.  Who knows if this is right or not?  I do know that he has a very strong track record and warrants some attention. 

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I just got back in town yesterday from a trip with my wife Cheri.  We were celebrating 10 great years together.  So, I am a little out of touch with the economic data that has come out last week.  Plus, this is a slow time of the year.  The real action in the stock market should kick into gear following Labor Day.  I wanted to share with you something that I wrote in my letter to my clients this morning.

It wasn’t until last night that I realized how fortunate we were in going to Cabo last week versus this week.  I discovered that a monster hurricane, Hurricane Jimena, is barreling towards Cabo. This could actually be a Category 5 hurricane by the time that it makes landfall. 

While in Cabo we took an excursion into the city.  People were having a great time in Cabo.  In fact, there was not even a mention of the Category 4 hurricane heading their way.  Residents acted as if there was not a care in the world.  One tourist commented to a reporter, “Are you saying it would be a good idea to stock up?  No fear. I’ve been through tornados and earthquakes and everything else, but never a hurricane.”  There was almost an arrogance that came with that reply.  I don’t believe that there is anything to joke about when it comes to Category 4 or 5 hurricanes. 

It is a common attitude with people who are facing the arrival of a hurricane.  There is the notion that it will miss us or it will not be a big deal.  It is almost as if it could never happen.  These things are always forecasted as potentially being bad and they never turn out to be.

I think that the general attitude about the stock market is the same right now.  The attitude is that there is no way we are going to see a steep decline in the stock market.  There is no way that we are going to decline back down to where we were in March of this year.  There is no way that the worst is yet to come.  Don’t you look at history?  Plus, all of the financial press says that the worst is behind us.  These are the types of things that you hear these days.

This is a big bet to make against this financial crisis.  Just like a Category 5 hurricane, there are enormous penalties for those who blow this off and don’t take precautions.  As an investor, I think that it is prudent to face the upcoming months as if a Category 5 financial hurricane were brewing and potentially heading our way.  After all, we are heading into the particularly dangerous months of September and October.  These are two months that have not historically been kind to investors.

I think that Proverbs 22:3 says it best:

 A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.  The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

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What motivates the stock market to go up?  Well, lately it doesn’t take anything of real substance. A great consumer confidence number could be the reason (even though the consumer confidence report gets the consensus of only 5,000 households), a reduction in the loss of jobs for a month(even though the Government accounting method greatly distorts the actual loss of jobs),  positive earnings reports that surprise the analysts (even though most of those profits came as a result of extreme cost cutting)…Then there are the times that  Ben Bernanke speak.  Yes, his words can move a market.  He did so just last Friday.

Ben Bernanke said what investors wanted to hear – that the economy is indeed on the verge of recovery – and they responded with a rally that sent the major indexes to new highs for the year (yahoo.com). 

Did it sound something like the following?

“Our forecast is for moderate but positive growth going into next year. We think that by the spring, early next year, that as these credit problems resolve and, as we hope, the housing market begins to find a bottom, that the broader resiliency of the economy, which we are seeing in other areas outside of housing, will take control and will help the economy recover to a more reasonable growth pace.”

As John Hussman points out in his weekly writing, this was what Bernanke said in November 2007 right at the beginning of the bear market.  If you are stock market invested, these shallow reasons are why the market continues to go up. 

I know that my bearishness on the stock market is probably getting old by now.  In fact, I feel a lot like I did back in 2007 when it seemed like you couldn’t find anyone who is bearish.  The market welcomes any positive economic news as the worst is behind us and everything is great going forward.    The headlines are looking better.  However, the fundamentals behind the headlines are awful.  You might even get some positive economic growth numbers here in the near future.  Growth as a result from printing money and the Obama stimulus package is not real good health growth. 

The Bottom Line – As we continue to go up in the market, the risk continues to increase.  Caution is still warranted.

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In 2006, I was writing to my clients in my private client letter about what I felt was occurring in the financial markets.  I described what I felt was coming as a Category 5 hurricane.  I think that I even named it Hurricane Greenspan at the time.  Although he is a distant memory, he had a lot to do with the problems that we are facing today.

It feels like we were hit with a category 5 hurricane last year.  Unfortunately, I think that another one is brewing and might even be getting very close to shore.

Every Friday it seems another bank fails.  Last Friday we saw a sizable bank fail.  The Failure of Colonial Bank marks the 6th largest bank failure in U.S History.  It is a bank of $25 billion and 346 branches in 5 states.  Besides the troubling nature of this story and the fact that the Government cannot bail all of them out, the FDIC insurance pot takes another big hit.  It looks like the 13 billion dollar fund will lose another $2.8 billion because of this bank failure. That insurance fund designed to protect you and me is quickly dwindling.

Another hurricane indication would be the Government’s sale of Government Bonds. The Treasury Department sells bonds to raise money for Government spending.  It is the way the Government borrows money.  Last week the Treasury Department sold 75 billion dollars in bonds.  Do you really think that China and other countries are lining up to lend us money?  No, you would be correct.

So, who is buying these treasury securities and lending money to the United States?  Ok, if you have high blood pressure or a weak heart, please stop reading.

Our own Federal Reserve Board is buying many of those securities and lending money to the US. For a great expose on this, read this article.  I don’t need to tell you how desperate that is and how much trouble we are in considering that is occurring.

I hate to say it but this is going to end badly.  All of this is going on at the same time we are facing an unemployment crisis and a whole list of problems in this country.  Once again, I advise you to watch your risk and don’t fall for the notion that this is just a normal cycle.  In other words, don’t drink the kool-aid.

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The recession is declared to be over or over soon states many media outlets on Friday.  Unemployment was not as bad as expected and it appears that we are starting to lose less jobs. All of that is good news and it took the media and Wall Street no time at all to react positively. 

 

I really do regret taking the opposing view on this one.  I would like for it to be true.  There are just a few problems.  We have 14.462 million people unemployed.  The number is likely higher. This is the estimate from the Department of Labor.  Where are these people going to get jobs?  Unless you are ready to pick up a shovel and get on the Obama job creation bus, you might just be out of luck.  Once again, the Obama administration does not have a plan in place to fix the job situation. 

 

Looking back to 1948 (as far back as records take us), there has never been as big of a spike in the number of those unemployed.  The closest spike that you can find was between 1979 and 1982.  In 43 months, the unemployment numbers jumped 106% to a high of 12.051 million people. Today, in just 33 months the unemployment numbers jumped 125% to 14.462 million.  The following is a chart from www.freelunch.com that illustrates this dramatic rise.

I think that the monthly unemployment numbers could continue to look better.  However, that doesn’t mean that companies are hiring. I think that it means that companies have cut as far as they can cut.  Those lay-offs might start to slow.  Until there is a solution to the problem that over 14 million people are facing, we will continue to have this crisis. 

 

Regarding the market…the 1929 comparison that I wrote about still tracks very closely.  I would still suggest that there is extreme risk on the table.  As long as we stay below 1020 on the S&P 500, that will remain the case.

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