Category

U.S. Economy

The Real Story Behind Last Week's Stock-Market Panic

Thursday's U.S. stock market trading session qualified as a genuine stock-market "panic." They're rare, fortunately, so they're memorable.

You can say you were there.

According to the volume analysts at Lowry Research Corp., this stock market panic was on par with the mini crash of October 1989, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 6.9% in a single day. But it wasn't on par with the famed session of October 1987, when the Dow plunged 22.6% in a day.

For an in-depth analysis of last week's U.S. stock market panic, please read on...

U.S. Dollar 'Extremely Overbought' Says Market Researcher

The euro, which made huge gains against the dollar in the wake of 2008's financial crisis, has come plummeting back to earth amid fears that the Greek credit crisis would spread and undermine the European Union (EU). The euro's decline has meant a sharp rebound for the dollar, which according to respected market researcher Bespoke Investment Group LLC, is now "extremely overbought."

The euro has plunged some 21% versus the dollar from its all-time high back in 2008, Bespoke says. And while it is still above its historical average of $1.183, it is currently less than 2% above its 2008 low.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Dollar Index has rallied over 14% since its short-term lows in November, and it is up 3.5% this week alone.

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U.S. Job Market Continue Upward Swing, Fueling Confidence in Employment Recovery

The U.S. job market exceeded estimates by adding 290,000 jobs in April, the Labor Department reported Friday. The biggest upswing in four years indicates a strong upward trend in private sector hiring and a positive outlook for the recovery.

Experts say the job data shows that the recovery is making progress and should erase fears of a double dip recession – even if that progress is slow.

"The jobs report underscores this is a resilience of the recovery," said Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of Economic Cycle Research Institute. "When the business cycle is in an upswing, it starts to feed on itself, and the economy can withstand a pretty big shock without being tipped into a new downturn."

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Thursday's Wild Stock Market Ride Spotlights 'High-Frequency Trading' as the Latest Worry For Investors

Back on April 14, U.S. stocks advanced for the fifth day in a row, causing the U.S. Standard & Poor's 500 Index to close above the 1,200 level for the first time in more than 18 months.

Traders said that a growing confidence in the strength of the U.S. rebound was a key rally catalyst.

But Money Morning's Shah Gilani was worried.

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Slower Productivity Growth May Force Businesses to Increase Hiring

U.S. productivity rose faster than expected in the first three months of the year, as employers continued to squeeze existing workers to boost output before hiring new ones, Labor Department figures showed today (Thursday). But the rate of growth slowed, which may force businesses to increase hiring in the coming months.

Separately, fewer Americans filed claims for unemployment benefits for the third consecutive week, in a sign the labor market is slowly recovering from the worst recession since the 1930s.

Productivity rose at a 3.6% annual rate in the first quarter, exceeding the 2.6% median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News but down sharply from 6.3% in the previous three months.

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Delay in Prudential's Deal for AIG's Insurance Unit Threatens U.S. Debt Repayment

Regulators in the United Kingdom threw a wrench into British insurer Prudential PLC's plan to buy American International Group Inc.'s (NYSE: AIG) Asian insurance unit, delaying its $21 billion rights offering until the two parties agree the combined company will have adequate capital.

The delay, or any disruption to the proposed takeover deal, could mean a major setback for AIG's efforts to raise funds to pay back its debts to the U.S. government.

Prudential had planned to issue a prospectus with details of the offering yesterday (Wednesday), including how many new shares will be issued and at what price to shareholders. But the British government's Financial Services Authority (FSA) put the deal on hold with a last minute request for further unspecified information.

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The Bull Market Will Pick Up Pace When Retail Investors Finally Climb Aboard

Data shows that retail investors have not yet bought into the bull market. But when they eventually do regain their confidence, the market will soar to new heights.

Consider this: Trim Tabs Investment Research, a boutique data analysis firm in the San Francisco Bay area that's popular with hedge fund managers, last week declared that it had turned fully bullish from cautiously bullish on U.S. stocks. The firm thus boosted its recommended equity exposure to 100% long from 50% long.

The reason for Trim Tabs' change of posture: Its unique blend of macroeconomic data shows the U.S. economy making a gradual recovery, corporate buybacks are picking up during earnings season, and demand indicators are increasingly bullish.

Let's spend some time understanding their point of view, as the firm is influential among large institutions.

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Question of the Week: Readers Respond to Money Morning's Corporate Profits Query

Corporate profits returned in full in the first quarter of the year, with company after company topping Wall Street estimates.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) raked in $3.33 billion in first-quarter net income. Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) beat analysts' estimates with a $2.1 billion profit. Apple Inc (Nasdaq: AAPL) brought in $3.38 billion.

"There is clear and broad-based improvement in the economic factors in the United States and around the world," said JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon. "It appears to be strengthening, not weakening. It is possible that they will strengthen enough to end up with a strong recovery."

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Government Reports Show Consumer Spending Fueling Economic Recovery

A string of government reports show that the American consumer is making more money and spending again, providing impetus for a sustained economic recovery.

Personal income jumped 0.3%, or $32.3 billion, in April following a 0.1% rise the month before. The Commerce Department said individual spending rose 0.6%, or $36 billion, last month, the sixth consecutive month spending has increased. Both figures matched estimates from economists surveyed by Briefing.com.

Consumer spending makes up about 70% of the U.S. economy. Economists are keeping a close eye on income and spending because so far, this has largely been a jobless recovery.

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Buy, Sell or Hold: Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) – The 'Sin Stock' You Have to Own

With more than 1 billion smokers worldwide, it is hard to conceive that companies selling cigarettes would not be extremely profitable.  In addition, the majority of people who are smokers also tend to be alcohol consumers. One company that services both of these vices is Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO)

Altria Group is a holding company; its wholly owned subsidiaries consist of Phillip Morris USA Inc., U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. (prior to 2001 it was known as United States Tobacco Inc.), John Middleton Co. and Phillip Morris Capital Corp.

On Jan. 6 2009, Altria Group purchased UST Inc. in a $10 billion deal that gave the maker of Marlboro cigarettes an entrée into the "smokeless tobacco" market, thanks to UST's ownership of the Skoal and Copenhagen brands.

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