Any speculation that U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had his finger on the "exit strategy" trigger has been silenced.
Bernanke yesterday (Wednesday) faced the House Financial Services Committee to instill public confidence in the Fed's ability to exercise a smooth exit strategy and quell continued fears of a tightening monetary policy.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) "continues to anticipate that economic conditions -- including low rates of resource utilization, subdued inflation trends, and stable inflation expectations -- are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the Federal Funds rate for an extended period," he said.
The Five Factors That Could Rescue U.S. Stocks
When the stock market is enduring as much trouble as it has been lately, it pays to remember that there are still many positive catalysts that are in place and working to buoy securities prices.
Let's take a few moments to consider the top candidates:
- A Friendly Fed: The current U.S. Federal Reserve under Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is the most accommodative in history and is likely to keep short-term interest rates at or near zero for the remainder of this year. Occasionally there will be rumblings of an increase - as there was in The Wall Street Journal last Monday, but they are likely just smoke screens.
Seven Signs of the Fed's Eventual "Exit Strategy"
Looking for an exact date when U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and his fellow central bank policymakers will raise interest rates?
Experts refer to this eventuality as Bernanke's "exit strategy" - a financial euphemism for the interest-rate increases that are certain to come ... at some point.
That's just it - those experts can't tell you when that exit strategy will begin. I can't tell you that, either (Sorry, loaned my crystal ball to Miss Cleo for her new infomercial).
But what I can give you that the pundits can't is a "Road Map to Higher Interest Rates," which spells out the specific events that should precede the most-heavily anticipated U.S. central bank interest-rate increase in history. Follow it and you should be perfectly positioned to profit when the time comes.
(Remember, a few months ago, I introduced Senior Secured Floating Interest Rate Bonds, or SSFRs, an investment that you'll want to own when interest rates rise.)
So, without further ado...
Europe-China Connection Could Rattle Stocks
I was watching the Asia Edge show on Bloomberg television Wednesday night when the lovely and smart Susan Li broke in breathlessly on her guest with news about China's consumer inflation numbers. Inflation was reported up just a touch in January, which was considered good news because if it was higher it would have made Chinese banking authorities more anxious to clamp down on interest rates and if it was lower it would have raised the awful specter of deflation.
The Shanghai stock market ended a fraction higher, so it was a bit anticlimactic. But the key thing to know is that the Chinese market still appears to be in a downtrend and that bodes ill for the rest of the emerging markets. The 50-day moving average of iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index (NYSE: FXI) has turned emphatically negative, as has the slightly longer 100-day average. The index fund also is already beneath its 200-day average, which tends to distinguish bull cycles from bear cycles.
Read more about the Europe-China connection...
Unemployment Report Set to Reflect the Bitter Face of a Jobless Recovery
New statistics from the Labor Department today (Friday) will likely confirm that the U.S. economy is in a deeper hole than previously thought.
Economists expect that the national unemployment rate rose to 10.1% in January from 10% in December. More importantly, however, the number of jobs lost from April 2008 to March 2009 will be revised upwards by 824,000 - the largest margin in 18 years, according to Bloomberg News.
Most of those losses came from companies that closed or went out of business, which would undermine the popular birth/death model for joblessness. That model is based on the assumption that hirings at newly formed companies generally offset the job losses associated with company closures.
Obama Deficit Brings Us Closer to the Brink of National Bankruptcy
U.S. President Barack Obama's budget for 2011, presented on Monday, shows a deficit of $1.3 trillion for the fiscal year that ends that September. That shortfall is actually $287 billion more than the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had projected less than a week earlier, when it had released a budget forecast of its own for that same fiscal year.
Granted, we're getting used to seeing budget deficits expand at a pretty quick pace these days. But even by government standards an increase of nearly $290 billion in less than a week is almost too much to bear!
All kidding aside, $105 billion of this $287 billion increase came about mostly because of a change in "assumptions." The CBO budget assumed that all the 2001 Bush tax cuts would be reversed, whereas the Obama budget reverses only those that applied to the rich (those with incomes above $250,000).
The CBO budget also made the ridiculous assumption that the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) would be allowed to revert to its 2001 level, forcing 25 million taxpayers to calculate their taxes twice - and to then pay the higher of the two estimates. That was never going to happen, and the Obama budget finally abandons that idiotic piece of fiction.
The disparity in deficit projections between the CBO and the Obama administration weren't limited just to fiscal 2011. For the period from 2011 to 2020, the CBO forecasted a budget deficit of $6.047 trillion, while the Obama budget released just days later projected a shortfall of $8.532 trillion - a difference of $2.485 trillion.
The difference in assumptions between the CBO and Obama projections explains nearly half of that difference. Of course, that still leaves the other half.
And a troublesome half it is.
To find out how these numbers may forecast a U.S. bankruptcy, read on...
Housing Market Still in Shambles as Obama's Loan Modification Program Falls Flat
Despite a concerted effort by the Obama administration to rebuild the housing market, it continues to languish. The government's Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) failed to stymie foreclosures last year, and 2010 may not be any better.
Instead of declining, the number of foreclosed homes in the United States last year increased to a record 2.8 million, a 21% rise over 2008 and 120% over 2007, according to RealtyTrac. Foreclosures in the fourth quarter jumped 18% over the same period last year.
Not helping matters is HAMP, which was designed as an incentive for banks to restructure mortgage payments for homeowners facing foreclosures. The Obama administration set aside $75 billion to subsidize lenders that successfully modify troubled loans by reducing interest rates, extending loan repayments, deferring principle payments for as long as five years and adjusting other mortgage terms.
Investment News Briefs
With our investment news briefs, Money Morning provides investors with a quick overview of the most important investing news stories from all around the world.
Dodd's Departure; Cybersitter Files Suit; ADP: Service Sector Added Jobs in Dec.; Harley's Hogs to Rumble in India; GMAC to Post Record Loss; Markman Calls Dow Surge
- U.S. Sen Christopher Dodd, D-CT, said yesterday (Wednesday) that he will not seek re-election in November, potentially altering the debate over financial reform. Dodd, who is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, in November released an 1,136-page draft bill for reform that would create several new protection agencies, increase regulation of credit agencies and derivatives, and alter the role played by the U.S. Federal Reserve in the financial system. However, analysts say that without having to worry about re-election, Dodd is likely to be more willing to compromise on objections raised by Republicans and the financial services industry." Even if Dodd wanted to get tougher, he does not have the votes to do it," Jaret Seiberg, an analyst with Concept Capital, told The Wall Street Journal. "That means compromising to get the Dodd-Shelby-Frank Financial Reform bill enacted."
Number of the Day: At 84,000, Private-Sector Job Losses For December Are Less Than Expected
Is the U.S. jobs market finally ready to move in the right direction? According to a national employment report released yesterday (Wednesday), that appears to be the case. The U.S. economy lost an estimated 84,000 private-sector jobs in December, the smallest decline since March 2009, the report said. Also good news: Service providers – the […]
Investment News Briefs
Senate Approves Bernanke Nomination; Commodities, Markets Fall as Dollar Gains; Citi Shares Fall After Lower-Than-Expected Price for Stock Sale; Weekly Jobless Claims Rise; Whitney Reduces EPS Estimates for Goldman, Morgan Stanley; Report: AIG Asian Subsidiary to Have Hong Kong IPO; RIM Beats Estimates on BlackBerry Shipments; Palm Q2 EPS Misses Wall Street Expectations