U.S. Unemployment

The Jobs Market May Look Bleak, But Your Investments Don't Have To

There's no getting around the fact that the U.S. jobs market is bleak. Ultimately, though, it's a stark reminder that as investors, we should be looking abroad for maximum profits.

Indeed, investors must turn to countries where the number of people working is rising along with standards of living and consumption.
But that's not all.

There are a few companies that have been performing exceptionally well and are poised to bring investors some joy this holiday season. Before we get to those, though, let's take a quick look at the job market.

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Question of the Week: Investors Seek Metals To Soften Blow of Global Currency War

The housing market remains in the dumper. U.S. stocks - despite a rally - are still 22% below their record highs of two years ago. And the "official" unemployment rate remains at a heart-stopping 9.6%.

With their knees almost ready to buckle under such burdens already, how will American consumers respond when clothes, computer accessories and other key consumer staples at their neighborhood Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) undergo an overnight price hike of 30% to 60%?

As the United States aims to increase exports by debasing the dollar, a global currency war is underway that could swallow consumers and investors if they don't prepare for the likelihood of a weaker dollar.

The United States, China, Switzerland, Brazil, South Korea, Australia, Japan have all entered the war, trying to bring down their currencies to boost exports and fuel growth. Countries are vying to win the "race to the bottom," as it's been called by Money Morning Contributing Writer Peter Schiff.

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Foreclosures Continue to Stymie Housing Recovery

Banks seized more homes in August than in any month since the housing bubble burst in 2007, even as the number of homes entering the foreclosure process dropped for the seventh month in a row, according to data compiled by RealtyTrac Inc.

In all, banks repossessed 95,364 properties last month, up 3% from July and an increase of 25% from August 2009, RealtyTrac said. August was the ninth month in a row that the rate of homes seized by banks increased on an annual basis. The previous high was in May.

Additionally, almost one-quarter of all U.S. home closing transactions involved properties that were in some stage of mortgage distress and sold at a 26% discount on average in the second quarter.

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Question of the Week: U.S. Government Spending the Wrong Way to Fix Job Market

The U.S. unemployment rate has hovered around 10% for months - with no real signs of improvement. As American workers grow increasingly impatient, the U.S. government is running out of options to help the job market. But with midterm elections approaching, U.S. President Barack Obama is trying to show voters there's hope in resolving the stubbornly high unemployment rate. Last week he unveiled a six-year infrastructure plan that would invest billions in transportation projects and create a "substantial" number of jobs.

The government would supply $50 billion off the bat to rebuild 150,000 miles of roads, 4,000 miles of rail and 150 miles of runway, plus modernize the air traffic control system. The plan also sets up a government-run infrastructure bank to finance the projects, combining tax dollars with private investment for funding.

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Obama Stimulus More About Politics Than Jobs

U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday (Wednesday) finished unveiling of a $350 billion stimulus package that the White House hopes will assuage the fears of troubled homeowners and create jobs. But with midterm elections looming and Congressional Democrats expected to sustain heavy losses, it's unlikely the plan will even get passed - much less generate any meaningful economic growth.

Indeed, the true aim of Obama's new stimulus is to put Republicans in a difficult position.

"The president has changed the conversation from whether to renew or terminate President Bush's tax cuts to his own tax-cut agenda, and is promoting a couple of business-friendly proposals that Republicans have previously promoted," David Wessel wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "So Republicans either oppose them, and look hypocritical, or back him: a win-win for Democrats."

Obama's new proposals employ a front-loaded approach with tax cuts to spur business spending and infrastructure projects to promote job creation.

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We Want to Hear From You: How Do You Feel About the U.S. Government's Proposals to Boost Employment?

The U.S. unemployment rate has hovered around 10% for months - with no real signs of improvement. As American workers grow increasingly impatient, the U.S. government is running out of options to help the job market.

But with midterm elections approaching, U.S. President Barack Obama is trying to show voters there's hope in resolving the stubbornly high unemployment rate. On Monday, he unveiled a six-year infrastructure plan that would invest billions in transportation projects and create a "substantial" number of jobs.

The government would supply $50 billion off the bat to rebuild 150,000 miles of roads, 4,000 miles of rail and 150 miles of runway, plus modernize the air traffic control system. The plan also sets up a government-run infrastructure bank to finance the projects, combining tax dollars with private investment for funding.

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Obama Floats $350 Billion Stimulus Package to Re-Ignite Economy

Faced with pre-election polls showing strong Republican support leading up to the mid-term elections in November, President Barack Obama is floating a $350 billion stimulus package designed to assuage the fears of troubled homeowners and create jobs.

In another move aimed at stabilizing a shaky economic recovery, the president today (Wednesday) will officially unveil a new $200 billion tax cut that gives businesses across the country incentives to buy new equipment, an anonymous administration official told CNN.

The proposal would be in addition to a $100 billion permanent extension of the business tax credit for research and development, as well as a $50 billion six-year program to fix roads, railways and runways and modernize the air-traffic control system.

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Question of the Week: Readers See Failures in Fed's Policies During U.S. Economic Recovery

The U.S. Federal Reserve last week said it would take a small "easing" step - what Fed watchers described as a largely symbolic move designed to show the central bank is "concerned" with the nation's economic outlook. The central bank's policymaking Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said it would hold interest rates at record-low levels and announced it would reinvest maturing mortgage-backed securities back into the market so that its balance sheet does not shrink.

However, Analysts think the Fed will have to do more to help the economy move along, and are expecting more announcements of policy easing in coming weeks.

"I suspect that the Fed will, within time, purchase more longer-dated government securities" than is required by reinvesting the principal payments from agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in the Fed's portfolio, said veteran Wall Street economist Henry Kaufman to Reuters.

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Moribund Housing Market Threatens to Kill Economic Recovery

The weak housing market, which has traditionally led the U.S. economy out of recent recessions, this time may put an end to the economic recovery.

Existing home sales plummeted by a record 27% to their lowest level in 15 years in July and inventories soared, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported yesterday (Tuesday). Home re-sales, which account for 90% of the total market, dropped to an annual rate of 3.83 million in July. And inventories rose to 12.5 months from 8.9 months in June, putting them at their highest level in more than a decade.

"Historically, July is the peak inventory month in any given year," NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun told The Wall Street Journal. "The question is whether this pause is a temporary pause."

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What to Expect on Wall Street as Nervous Investors Navigate a Slowing Economic Recovery

Wall Street was hit hard last week with gloomy data that has kept buying interest stalled and investors spooked over a slow economic recovery.

Stocks slipped over the past week after investors learned from government reports that jobs are getting scarcer than straw hats in a wind tunnel, and it isn't always sunny in Philadelphia. 

The big-cap indexes lost around 1%, while safe haven assets like gold and the U.S. dollar were buoyant. The best investment around for the week was the U.S. long bond, up 2%.

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To read what’s in store after last week’s gloomy data, click here

Investing Strategies: How to Protect Yourself if the U.S. Economy Catches the "Japan Disease"

Grim unemployment figures, growing worries about crushing debt loads and the apparent absence of any inflation are causing many investors to ask a tough question: Is the U.S. economy catching the "Japan disease," the dreaded and dreadful malaise that has left the onetime Asian powerhouse in a stagnant state since 1990?

It's a crucial question.

And the answer will guide your investment decisions for the next 20 years.

To find out the best investments to be making right now, please read on...

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Three Ways to Brace for a Double-Dip Recession: Going Global

The last time the U.S. economy suffered through a double-dip recession, this country was struggling to overcome the fallout from an Arab oil embargo, Vietnam War-era deficits, and an inflationary spiral that just wouldn't let go.

That 1981-82 double-dip downturn - the result of an economic "shock treatment" aimed at curing those ills - consisted of two recessions that were separated by a single quarter of growth.

The current backdrop is very different from the one that was in place back then, but the threat of a double-dip recession is no less real.

The world's No. 1 economy lost 8.4 million jobs during the recession that got its start in December 2007, making it the worst national downturn since the Great Depression and the biggest loss of employment since the end of World War II.

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Three Ways to Brace for a Double-Dip Recession: Going for the Gold

The last time the U.S. economy suffered through a double-dip recession, this country was struggling to overcome the fallout from an Arab oil embargo, Vietnam War-era deficits, and an inflationary spiral that just wouldn't let go.

That 1981-82 double-dip downturn - the result of an economic "shock treatment" aimed at curing those ills - consisted of two recessions that were separated by a single quarter of growth.

The current backdrop is very different from the one that was in place back then, but the threat of a double-dip recession is no less real. Indeed, with each passing week, and with every new economic report that comes out, the possibility that the U.S. economy will backslide into a double-dip recession seems to become more of a probability - or even a likelihood.

"For me a 'double-dip' is another recession before we've healed from this recession [and] the probability of that kind of double-dip is more than 50%," Robert Shiller, professor of economics at Yale University and co-developer of Standard and Poor's S&P/Case-Shiller home price indexes, told Reuters. "I actually expect it."

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Question of the Week: Investors Preparing for Double-Dip Recession

The "pause" button has been hit on the U.S. economic recovery, fueling worries that we're headed for a double-dip recession.

"We're in a pause in a recovery, a modest recovery, but a pause in the modest recovery feels like a quasi-recession," Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" broadcast last Sunday.

Greenspan touched off speculator interest in a double-dip downturn when he announced that a further decline in home prices could push the economy into a new recession.

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An Anemic Economic Recovery Keeps the Fed From Focusing on Inflation

With interest rates near zero and a balance sheet that's in excess of $2 trillion, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would be very glad to offload some of the Fed's obligations. But so far he's has been unable to do so, as an anemic economic recovery continues to monopolize his attention.

The central bank yesterday (Tuesday) announced that it would reinvest the proceeds from expiring mortgage-backed securities into longer-term U.S. Treasuries. The move should help a weakening economy by keeping mortgage rates low. And while it also may boost inflationary pressures, the central bank feels it had little choice.

"Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in June indicates that the pace of recovery in output and employment has slowed in recent months," the Federal Open Market Committee said.

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