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STOCKS AND BONDS
"Money...has often been a cause of the delusion of the multitudes. Sober nations have all at once become desperate gamblers, and risked almost their entire existence upon the turn of a piece of paper...Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles Mackay - 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds' 1852 edition
"Bull markets are born on pessimism, grow on skepticism, peak on optimism, and die on euphoria." - John Templeton
"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." - Irving Fisher - 1929 Five days before Black Tuesday.
"History does not deal kindly with the aftermath of protracted periods of low risk premiums," "Such an increase in market value is too often viewed by market participants as structural and permanent." Alan Greenspan, 2005
Mat 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
I am not a financial advisor or any other kind of professional person. Anyone who makes conclusions, or otherwise acts on any information presented here, without seeking professional help or advice, or especially without applying their own logic or common sense, would of course deserve to loose whatever they did, as a result. There has of late, however, been no shortage of investment so-called "professionals" with abismal track records offering advise.
12-2-08 Sadly, corporate earnings are sinking so much faster than the markets can adjust, that the PE of the S&P 500 is actually rocketing UPWARD as a result, making the price of stocks near historical HIGHS. In other words, today the market is priced higher than at any time in stock market history, except for a couple of mania peaks. From about a PE of 17 last year first quarter, to a PE of 25 at the end of the third quarter '08 (Chart BillandBearWise.com):*
This page, like most of the rest of this site, has had little update for two to four years, but the heads-up about the events we are BEGINNING to experience today (fall '08), is still germane.
STOCK MARKET MANIA AND THE FIRST BUBBLE BUST
For the last couple of years we have been beginning to reap the after effects of a financial bubble/mania that was a product of positive human emotion combined with irresponsible rates of fake money creation (what is a responsible rate at which to create fake money!) and easy credit. While a lot of people would like to blame 9-11 rather than their own greed, this monthly chart of the Nasdaq demonstrates that 9-11 was not a very significant event in terms of the stock market decline, except perhaps for the volume traded, but it was perhaps responsible for the turn-around and subsequent buying binge. History demonstrates repeatedly, however, that the corrections of manic markets are generally proportionate to the upsides. If history is a reliable gauge then we are at the very beginning of a bear market that is perhaps historically unprecedented. Robert Prechter believes we have completed the peak of a 200 year cycle. It would therefore not be surprising to find this bear market lasting for at least 15 or 20 years to merely equal others, taking real estate to 20% of today's values. Interestingly during the fall of '03 "bear market rally", or what some refer to as a "dead cat bounce" bullish investor advisor sentiment soared to levels not seen since 1987, with a longer run (25 weeks) than any other period since these records have been kept. Recently (Jan '05) investor advisor positive sentiment hit new highs. This new gush of positive sentiment will be one of the greatest factors working against any rise in the stock market going forward. In 1979 Business Week published a headline "Death of Equities". This kind of negativity produces the best kind of climate for long term investment in the stock market. Be fearful when other people are greedy and greedy when other people are fearful. - Warren Buffet A DJIA dividend yield of 6% didn't hurt either. Today American stock holders don't seem to care that ousted company CEO failures are making the money that investors should be.
"I've written a paper on 'The Financial/Economic Dichotomy' on the Stark difference between the Law of Supply and Demand, which causes equilibrium in prices for utilitarian goods and services, and the Law of Patterned Herding, which causes dynamism in prices for financial instruments. In economics higher prices deter buying, in finance, higher prices seem to attract buying." - Robert Prechter
IS THE STOCK MARKET EXPENSIVE?
"Don't gamble. Take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it til it goes up then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it." - Will Rogers
Does today's dividend yield indicate that we are near a stock market bottom? Consider this chart of the DJIA vs. dividend yield from 1915 through 2000 scanned from "At the Crest of the Tidal Wave". Mr. Prechter offers a well documented comparison of historical precedents that offer insight into what we might be able to expect ahead. Does this monthly chart of the Nasdaq portray a market that is heading for new highs? Even though it made almost a 100% gain in a little over 2 years it is still trading at little more than 1/3 of its 2000 peak. This market with accompanying sentiment appears to be setting itself up for further tragedy. These historical charts demonstrate hugely historical double tops.
Bear market publications have always found that negativity sells well, even in bull markets. If you have been to the home page, and remain unhedged in the stock or bond market, I wish you the best of luck. If the Fed continues the fiat money blizzard it may be true that "cash is trash" and you might gain a minor risk-filled advantage in stocks. With Nasdaq PE ratios at 50 times earnings and S&P PE ratios at 30 times earnings (9-20-03) it could hardly be described as an inexpensive market. These PEs do not even address serious problems like pension underfunding etc. Historical PEs at market tops have been around 22 times earnings. At market bottoms PEs run as low as 6 or 7 times earnings. If you believe that Americans aren't borrowed out and spent out, or will somehow be able to squeeze a little more equity out of their overvalued/over-leveraged homes, in the face of rising interest rates, to buy more goods and services that they don't need, then maybe businesses will grow into their PEs. I, for one, am not holding my breath.
I wonder how many "investors" are even aware that some mutual funds can legally prevent fund holders from redeeming their money for up to 30 days. Imagine a global financial panic while fund holders can only stand there and scream as their "investment" evaporates over 30 days. CHECK YOUR PROSPECTUS. CALL YOUR MANAGER to find out if this applies to your fund, and then decide how comfortable you are with it. Of course banks can also withhold funds in non-demand deposits such as savings accounts for 30 days as well. Non-interest bearing checking accounts are "demand deposits" and the bank is under obligation to provide your money on request.
One possible indicator of a market bottom, and favorable investment climate in the future, might be when investor revulsion, apathy and resignation result in CNBCs ratings causing it to go off the air.
On 4-5-'05 Moody's downgraded GM debt to junk status.
If the stock market shills and hucksters of today, are discovered to be personally not "all in" the stock market at the depths of the next major downward leg, without their having announced at least months in advance their departure therefrom, they should be tarred and feathered and paraded through the streets of our cities and towns, beginning with Wall Street, in cages affixed to hay wagons pulled by some of the nation's REAL WEALTH PRODUCERS, that is farmers.
ARE BONDS REALLY SAFE?
The talking head term "flight to quality" regarding "safety" in bonds has always perplexed me. The fact is that it is nearly as easy to loose money in the bond market as it is in the stock market. It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of bond investors do not even know the effect that the ups and downs in interest rates will have on the value of the very instrument that they hold. Simply put, if interest rates rise and you then decide you want to sell your bond, who would want to buy yours when they can buy one that pays a higher rate of interest? In order to peddle your lower yielding bond you are going to have to reduce the principle value (the money you paid) to attract someone into earning a lower interest rate over a long period of time. In just the summer of 02 more than a trillion dollars was lost in the bond market this way in less than 6 weeks, and that was with a minor increase in rates. Consider this interest rate chart and you don't have to wonder why the financial community is complacent about risk in the bond market, since rates have been falling for the last 20 years. I would suggest that this is the best reason to be very concerned about the bond market. If you want to invest in bonds because you trust that the government won't default (I believe that when they do they will default on domestically held bonds first), you may want to invest in various lengths of maturity and rotate them as time progresses. If interest rates go up and the value of your bond goes down you can always wait until maturity to recover your principle and interest. If you are invested in a bond fund and rates go up, the value of the fund will go down and you do not have the advantage of waiting until maturity to recover the loss, and you well may never recover considering we are at 40 year lows in interest rates. Average issued debt maturity is just 55 months with over 51% of that debt being held by foreigners.
'08 update: Skip this section.* If you didn't buy them it's too late. You can only invest $5,000 annually now.
As of November 2005 I-bonds pay a tax deferred (for up to 30 years) 6.73% interest. The interest rate is variable and figured in this manner. All of the compounding is done on the principle plus untaxed profits. With tax deferred interest at 6.73% the yield is the equivalent of earning about 11% in a taxable product at max income tax rates of 39%, not to mention the advantage of complete exemption from state income tax. Principle is guaranteed regardless of what interest rates do, even in deflation. These may be purchased individually or through a trust, but not by a business or organization. I-bond purchases are limited to $30,000 paper, and $30,000 electronic per calendar year. A comparison of I-bonds and EE bonds can be found here. FAQ subjects and more. Why buy I-bonds?
'08 update: Skip this section.* If you didn't buy them it's too late. You can only invest $5,000 annually now.
(bookmark) Please verify the following for yourself with links provided. EE bonds are keyed to the rate of the 5 year note (pay 90% of the average rate of the prior 6 months) and currently pay 3.70% interest. Further, when redeemed anytime after the first year (must be held at least one year) the entire principle will be returned plus interest. However if they are redeemed between the first and fifth year the gov takes back three months interest, after the fifth year no penalty at all. Small price to pay when, after just one year at current rates, you would still take away 9 months interest at 3.20% (effectively 2.4% per annum), and if rates are higher after the first year you can sell your bond and purchase another locking in the higher rate. EE bonds are exempt from state and local income taxes. Federal income taxes may be deferred until redemption (up to 30 years) so this possible tax event should be taken into consideration before making any short-term trade to a higher rate. Purchases are limited to $30,000 per year paper bonds, plus $30,000 per year electronic direct bonds per individual SS# (both husband and wife), and a limit of $30,000 per year, in paper bonds only, for other entities such as corps, partnerships etc.. You can keep paper bonds in your possession and not depend on your bank remaining open or global electronic grid remaining intact. If they are lost or destroyed the government has a record of them and they can be replaced. The only apparent risk of holding EE bonds is government default which I, for one do consider a possibility. Deferral of income taxes at 39% maximum rate takes 3.5% x 139% = 4.86% equivalent taxable rate. Adding in exemption from state taxes such as a whopping Teddy Kennedy style 12% (line 23) in Mass takes it to a factor of x 151% = 5.28% return let alone local taxes in some areas! And Teddy NEVER gets his mitts on it. And in the Socialist State of Ohio 7.5% (page 32) or equivalent return of 3.5% x 146.5% or 5.13% Check my premise and math. They could both be wrong.
As a note of caution, I have heard U.S. bonds referred to as "guaranteed certificates of confiscation", and I suspect that if the U.S. does default on a portion of its debt it would do so with domestic, individual holders, first. Remember, the government prohibited citizens from redeeming their notes for gold, and even prohibited ownership of gold by Americans starting in the early 1930s, but kept the gold exchange window open to foreign central banks up until the Nixon administration.
COMPARE THE U.S. TO JAPAN
Japan has been in recession-depression for 15 years or so. Some major differences are that the Japanese began their bear market with their government being the world's leading creditor, and the Japanese people traditionally having one of the world's highest savings rates. We begin our journey as the world's leading debtor with 8 trillion dollars worth of national debt, and one of the lowest savings rates in the world, at 0% (has not been this low in the U.S. since the early 1930s). At the same time debt in private (2 trillion) and business sectors is unprecedented in world history.
"We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land. The poorhouse is vanishing from among us." - Herbert Hoover - 1928
INVESTING IN CHINA IS INVESTMENT IN GENDERCIDE
If you are tempted to invest in China or India you may want to investigate their human rights record first, especially in regard to treatment of female infants in orphanages and "dying rooms", where unwanted infants are basically killed through neglect. Do you really want to invest in a country where the government in-as-much-as requires women to kill their unborn children as well? Companies who decide to do business in China wind up having their assets stripped. The Chinese are good partners right up until the company finishes exposing their intellectual property and know-how and builds the business. Then wouldn't you know that another factory in China springs up, making the identical product at cut-throat prices and the U.S. company goes home licking their wounds.
ROBERT PRECHTER AND THE ELLIOT WAVE
One book that discusses our possible financial future is Robert Prechter's "Conquer the Crash". If you want to further risk changing the way you look at the world around you, you might consider studying the Elliot Wave Principle with Robert Prechter who heads Elliot Wave International (http://www.elliottwave.com). This is a fascinating study of how markets move in cycles as long as 200 years, and further shows how the same chart patterns play out in cycles as short term as 1 hour, 1 minute, or even tick charts. Prechter puts forward the case that we are completing a 200 year, what he refers to as Grand Supercycle. The crash and depression of the 1920s and 30s were merely a fourth corrective wave of the five waves up of the 200 year cycle that reached its zenith a couple of years ago. The correction will perhaps undo 200 years worth of accumulated excess and optimism. A fitting end to what he refers to as "The Great Asset Mania of the Late 20th Century". In 1979 Business Week published a headline "Death of Equities". This was the kind of signal that Robert Prechter needed to announce that it was time to beg, borrow, or steal the money to buy equities, like mad. As in back up the pickup truck. In 1987 he got his investors out of the market the day before the crash. He then got them back in at the very bottom of that correction. While he was a bit less accurate at calling an end to what he believes will be referred to as "the greatest asset mania in the history of mankind", he has also said that calling peaks in bubbles or manias is a rather elusive and imprecise art.
"The length and severity of depressions depend partly on the magnitude of the 'real' maladjustments, which developed during the preceding boom and partly on the aggravating monetary and credit conditions."
- Gotfried Haberler, Prosperity and Depression, 1937
Prechter has also recently written a book entitled "Pioneering Studies in Socionomics" wherein he makes the case that "social actions are not causal to changes in social mood, but rather changes in social mood motivate changes in social action". Consider the chart of the stock market against a chart of numbers of human conceptions. It demonstrates that when markets are waxing higher people feel sexually friskier and more positive about planning larger families. When markets wane, people appear to feel a lot less frisky and perhaps have concerns about their ability to raise a larger family.
For a fun and well written, however bearish, financial letter to arrive in your mailbox every day for free, go to The Daily Reckoning and sign up. Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin have written an excellent primer entitled "Financial Reckoning Day" offering an easy to read glimpse into your possible financial future. Wiggin and Bonner offer some excellent insights, however Bonner at times seems a bit too immersed in France to be in a position to be able to objectively criticize the U.S.. Jimmy Rogers wrote about our bubbles in the forward indicating that the Fed has simply exchanged our stock market bubble for a housing and consumption bubble.
SLOW-DOWN IN FOREIGN LENDING TO U.S.; DUMPING DOLLAR
1-9-04 The jig is up!!!!!! (check the item from 12-8 below) From the Daily Reckoning: "An ominous harbinger for U.S. financial assets," writes our friend Terry Reik of Clapboard Hill Partners, "has been the stunning collapse in foreign-capital flows... From a peak of $110.4 billion in May, net foreign flows have fallen to $90.6 billion in June, to $73.4 billion in July, to $49.9 billion in August, to $4.2 billion in September."
September's net inflow, Terry explains, is only 10% of the monthly minimum required to fund our $500 billion current account gap. Private interests overseas have forsaken the dollar in favor of other assets.
So far, only central bank buying of dollars - or, buying U.S. dollar assets, such as Treasury bonds, thus lending money to the Bush administration - has kept the dollar from destruction. In September, for example, while the rest of the world was dumping dollar assets, the Bank of Japan was spending $40 billion to support the dollar. "Without this Herculean effort by Japanese authorities," Terry continues, "foreign flows would have been an unthinkable negative $35.8 billion."
This apparent bout of sanity among foreigners comes at a bad time. For every passing day, Americans seem to need more credit just to stay in the same place. Again, Terry
reminds of the numbers: credit grew at a $2.2 trillion annual rate in the first quarter of 2003... and then exploded at a $3.3 trillion rate in the second quarter. Debt has reached $33 trillion, with annual interest of nearly $2 trillion - even at today's Eisenhower rates - and it's growing seven times as fast as the economy itself. (hit your back button if you arrived by link from another page).
CHINESE CONVERT U.S. TRASH CASH INTO COMMODITIES & REAL ESTATE
12-05-03 Kudlow & Cramer basically announced the end game without realizing it last night. It is no secret that China has been spending our trash cash on, for example, 260 sea ports worldwide, control of the Panama Canal, building the world's second largest container port in Freeport Grand Bahama, and especially on purchases of physical gold. Tonight K&C said that the Chinese are now buying and hoarding as much of any and all possible physical commodities that they can get their hands on, which is no doubt another way they are disposing of our hot dollars. To top it off K&C said that the Chinese have now started dumping U.S. dollars. It is my opinion that they are feeling the heat from not floating their currency and are preparing to do so, and at the same time quit taking our dollars for goods, and also stop the financing our economy (debt). This would result in U.S. interest rates skyrocketing resulting in massive loan default. The Chinese can mop up our assets from the banks and buy our resources (that have been locked up by the "environmental" lobby) and real estate with their wealth, in gold and silver. They won't need to buy anything we have to sell after that. They will simply need to employ us and rent us back our homes. Perhaps they will be employing our grandchildren to build railroads in China. In other news the Arabs notified us that they are tiring of accepting our depreciating currency and I expect they will soon ask for payment for oil in gold. (hit your back button if you came here by link)
Nov. 11th, 03 from the Daily Reckoning comes one of the worst possible problems that the U.S. could face.
- "Here's some big news," Addison reported mid-week. "Foreign investors and central banks who have been propping up America's credit-bubble... have begun to lose faith. Figures released by the U.S. Treasury show net capital inflows to the U.S. fell more than 91% in September, from $50bn in August to $4.2bn.
- "The government took a hit, too, as foreigners bought just $5.6bn in Treasuries, down from $25.1bn the previous month. Drew Matus, an economist with Lehman, states the obvious in the FT: 'It appears foreigners may have tired of U.S. treasuries.'
THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES
by Kurt Richebächer
"The deficit country is absorbing more, taking consumption and investment together, than its own production; in this sense, it is drawing upon savings made abroad. Whether this
is a good bargain or not depends upon the nature of the use to which the funds are put. If they merely permit an excess of consumption over production, the economy is on the road
to ruin. If they permit an excess of investment over home savings, the result depends on the nature of the investment."
- Joan Robinson, "Reconsideration of the Theory of Free
Trade," Collected Economic Papers, Volume IV, 1973
America's economic recovery and its likely strength have been and remain the central preoccupation in economics around the world.
In the consensus view, the U.S. economy will record in this year's second half its strongest pace of growth since the late 1990s. According to a monthly survey of 53 economic forecasters conducted by the Wall Street Journal Online, its seasonally adjusted annual growth rate during the current quarter will be 4.7% and 4% in the fourth quarter.
While a few economists have been warning that this recovery's actual pace may disappoint, our own view is that the U.S. economy's higher growth rate in the second quarter
was totally deceptive. Focusing strictly on the hard economic data, like employment, personal income, production, business fixed investment and profits, we
completely fail to see any recovery at all in the United States.
Ever since 2001, the United States has been running monetary and fiscal stimulus of unprecedented largess. In July, the government's tax cut and rebate checks turned an
income gain of $19 billion into a $120 billion gain in disposable income.
In the bullish consensus view, the medicine is finally working. Above all the upward revision of the second-quarter real GDP growth rate from 2.4% to 3.1%, following 1.4% each in the two prior quarters, has caused virtual euphoria.
Knowing these are annualized growth rates is the first reason why we are still unable to see a sustained, let alone a self-sustaining, economic recovery in the United States. When American economists speak of 4% growth in the coming quarters, they really mean 1%, and that is a far cry from what used to rank as a cyclical recovery. Growth rates
of postwar recoveries in the United States averaged 5.4% over the first two years after recession - and that needed very little monetary and fiscal stimulus, as against less than 3% growth currently.
The second reason for our disbelief is that U.S. GDP has been heavily bolstered by government spending. In the fourth quarter of 2002, it accounted for 24.5% of nominal GDP growth, in the first quarter of 2003 for 40.7% and in the second quarter for 38.2%.
A third reason is that the recovery completely fails to show in the current-dollar data. In these dollars in which all economic activity takes place, GDP grew 0.99%, after 0.94% in the first quarter, an acceleration hardly worth mentioning. But measured in chained dollars, it more than doubled from 0.35% to 0.775%. Taking the big boost from
government spending into account, it was more slowdown than acceleration.
The fourth and most important negative point is that the trumpeted recovery in business fixed investment, in particular in high tech, is just another statistical mirage. In the second quarter of 2003, overall business fixed investment in structures, equipment and software,
measured in current dollars, amounted to $1,119.9 billion, slightly down in comparison with $1,126.8 billion in the first quarter of 2002.
Measured in real terms, chained dollars, it was up $64 billion, or 0.5%.
I hardly need remind you that a true economic recovery essentially must come from a balanced rise in consumer spending and business investment spending. But what really
happened to the two during the first half of 2003, being generally hailed as the start of the U.S. economy's final recovery?
Let us look at the changes in aggregate GDP. Measured in current dollars, it grew by $99.6 billion in the first quarter and by $105.5 billion in the second quarter, hardly an acceleration.
Looking at the demand components, growth of consumer spending, its biggest component, slowed between the two quarters from $87.1 billion to $83.1 billion. Nonresidential fixed investment dipped in the first quarter, but recovered in the second quarter to its earlier level. From first to second quarter, the growth of government spending slowed from $40.7 billion to $33.6 billion, and that of residential investment from $21 billion to $6 billion. Not one single GDP component rose. The sharply rising trade deficit subtracted $11.1 billion from GDP growth in the first quarter and $23.8 billion in the second.
But this dismal picture, measured in current dollars, radically changed for the better after the statisticians had treated the numbers with their price indexes. GDP growth, measured in chained dollars, surged from $33.8 billion to $73.5 billion. Growth in consumer spending, down in current dollars, went steeply up from $33 billion to $62.4 billion, and growth in government spending even shot up from $1.7 billion to $31.7 billion.
Yet by far the single biggest contributor to this sudden surge in real GDP growth from the first to second quarter came from the calculation of the price deflator for
computers. Measured in current dollars, this investment inched up by $0.8 billion in the first quarter and by $6.3 billion in the second quarter, but the hedonic deflator boosted the two numbers in real terms to $15.3 billion and $38.4 billion. Hedonic pricing of computers in the first quarter accounted for 43% of real GDP growth and for 44% in the second.
The bullish consensus, flatly disregarding the overwhelming hedonic component, immediately hailed the sharp rise in computer investment as the rapid comeback of high-tech investment. Wall Street celebrated with the NASDAQ up 56% since March.
In its absence, nonresidential investment remained dead in the water across the board.
for The Daily Reckoning
Nov. 7th stats from John Mauldin's free e newsletter:
In regard to the "blistering" pace of growth at 7.2%,
Consumer credit grew by almost $10 billion over expectations in October.
Estimates were $5.9 billion and actual was $15.1. Does anyone think debt did not play a big role in the third quarter GDP? (Of course, I suppose you could also say that means consumers are more confident.)
Thus, consumer spending grew at a 6.6% pace, while income barely budged.
I watched the market sell off on this news that came in the afternoon. Debt drove the supposed "amazing" growth.
WHAT ABOUT GOLD AND SILVER IN THE "LONG TERM"
As a long term investment I defer to Ezekiel as we move into the latter days and stand on the verge of the second coming of Christ, Eze 7:19 They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumblingblock of their iniquity.
INVEST IN YOUR SPIRITUAL FUTURE
Our life on this earth is but a vapor. Given that, where do you want your treasure stored? Matthew 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The most important market tip anyone could give in general is to sell optimism, and buy pessimism graphed here for the stock market.
Go here for the put/call ratio and other measures of market sentiment. Scroll down and click on "chart".
Here is a link that I use for getting stock charts.
Here is a link that I use for commodity charts.