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Pulling Forward Growth No Longer An Option.

Pulling forward growth over the last decade remains the Federal Reserve’s primary tool for keeping financial markets stable while economic growth rates…

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Pulling forward growth over the last decade remains the Federal Reserve’s primary tool for keeping financial markets stable while economic growth rates and inflation remained weak. From repeated rounds of monetary and fiscal interventions, asset markets surged, increasing investor wealth and confidence, which, as Ben Bernanke stated in 2010, would support economic growth. To wit:

This approach eased financial conditions in the past and, so far, looks to be effective again. Stock prices rose and long-term interest rates fell when investors began to anticipate the most recent action. Easier financial conditions will promote economic growth. For example, lower mortgage rates will make housing more affordable and allow more homeowners to refinance. Lower corporate bond rates will encourage investment. And higher stock prices will boost consumer wealth and help increase confidence, which can also spur spending.” – Ben Bernanke

That certainly seemed to be the case as each time the economy stumbled; Federal Reserve interventions kept the financial markets and economy stable. However, there is sufficient evidence that “monetary policy” leads to other problems, most notably a surge in wealth inequality without a corresponding increase in economic growth.

As noted in the previous articles, current monetary policy has its roots in Keynesian economic theory. To wit:

A general glut would occur when aggregate demand for goods was insufficient, leading to an economic downturn resulting in losses of potential output due to unnecessarily high unemployment, which results from the defensive (or reactive) decisions of the producers.”

In such a situation, Keynesian economics states that fiscal policies could increase aggregate demand, thus expanding economic activity and reducing unemployment. 

The only problem is that it didn’t work as planned because “monetary policy” is NOT expansionary.

“Since 2008, the total cumulative growth of the economy is just $4.05 trillion. In other words, for each dollar of economic growth since 2008, it required nearly $11 of monetary stimulus. Such sounds okay until you realize it came solely from debt issuance.

Government Interventions vs Economic growth

The question is whether pulling forward growth through monetary policy is sustainable.

The Unsustainability Of Monetary Policy

We have previously noted an inherent problem with ongoing monetary interventions. Notably, the fiscal policies implemented post the pandemic-driven economic shutdown created a surge in demand that created an unprecedented surge in corporate earnings.

GAAP earnings

Here is the problem. As shown below, the surge in the M2 money supply is now over. Without further stimulus, earnings must eventually revert to economically sustainable levels.

M2 vs GAAP earnings

While the media often states that “stocks are not the economy,” economic activity creates corporate revenues and earnings. As such, stocks can not indefinitely grow faster than the economy over long periods.

When stocks deviate from the underlying economy, the eventual resolution is lower stock prices. Over time, there is a close relationship between the economy, earnings, and asset prices. For example, the chart below compares the three from 1947 through 2021.

S&P 500 price, earnings, and economic growth

Since 1947, earnings per share have grown at 7.72%, while the economy has expanded by 6.35% annually. That close relationship in growth rates is logical given the significant role that consumer spending has in the GDP equation.

The slight differentials are due to periods where earnings can grow faster than the economy. Such a period occurs when the economy is emerging from a recession. However, while nominal stock prices have averaged 9.35% (including dividends), reversions to actual economic growth eventually occur. Such is because corporate earnings are a function of consumptive spending, corporate investments, imports, and exports. 

The market disconnect from underlying economic activity is apparent in the chart below. Since the peak in 2007, successive rounds of monetary interventions led to a cumulative increase of 219% for the stock market. However, real economic growth grew only 28% as corporate revenue rose by just 67%. In other words, stock prices rose nearly 8x more than the economy and 3.2x corporate revenue.

Cumulative market gdp sales growth

There is a problem in pulling forward economic activity.

The Fed Is Investors Biggest Problem

For investors, the most significant risk remains the Fed. Many hope the Fed will “pivot” from its battle against surging inflation to support stocks. However, such is unlikely in the near term, with inflation running at the highest level in 40 years.

However, even if the Fed does give up its fight against inflation in terms of hiking interest rates, it is unlikely they will immediately return to successive rounds of monetary policy without financial instability. So far, in 2022, markets are down, but not violently so. As we discussed previously, the Fed views markets very differently from investors. To wit:

“While the market has declined this year, the market remains higher than in 2020. To reduce excess market speculations, the Fed doesn’t mind some ‘disinflation’ in asset prices. Furthermore, the market decline also contributes to its tightening monetary policy to mitigate inflationary pressures.”

Fed Pause, Fed Pause? Markets Hope So, But Likely Not Yet.

Absent a disorderly meltdown; the Fed will remain focused on stocks being still above their pre-crisis peak. As BofA notes:

“Since in a typical consumption model, households react to sustained changes in prices over a period of three years or so, the Fed is convinced the wealth effect is still positive.”

As noted above, the deviation from long-term growth trends is unsustainable. Repeated financial interventions were the cause. Therefore, unless the Federal Reverse is committed to a never-ending program of zero interest rates and quantitative easing, the eventual reversion of returns to their long-term means is inevitable.

Cumulative change in profits vs S&P 500 index

Such will solely result in profit margins and earnings returning to levels that align with actual economic activity. As Jeremy Grantham once noted:

Profit margins are probably the most mean-reverting series in finance. And if profit margins do not mean-revert, then something has gone badly wrong with capitalism. If high profits do not attract competition, there is something wrong with the system, and it is not functioning properly.” – Jeremy Grantham

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Singapore holds lead position in Omdia Fiber Development Index

Singapore holds lead position in Omdia Fiber Development Index
PR Newswire
LONDON, Oct. 5, 2022

LONDON, Oct. 5, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Singapore has again emerged as leader in Omdia’s Global Fiber Development 2022 Index, with maximum scores in seven …

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Singapore holds lead position in Omdia Fiber Development Index

PR Newswire

LONDON, Oct. 5, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Singapore has again emerged as leader in Omdia's Global Fiber Development 2022 Index, with maximum scores in seven of the nine metrics. It is closely followed by South Korea, China, the UAE, Qatar, and Japan. All territories in the leading cluster benefit from strong national broadband plans with ambitious targets around ultra-high-speed services.

Historically, several otherwise highly developed broadband territories that rank lower in the fiber index tended to suffer from less clear or ambitious national plans, providing weaker incentives for operators to invest. However, due in part to the COVID-19 crisis demonstrating how important broadband networks are, governments are now strengthening their broadband targets and increasing their focus and investments in fiber-based infrastructure.

Research Director Michael Philpott said: "Fiber investment is an essential metric for government institutions and other stakeholders to track. As a broadband-access technology, optical fiber provides an optimized, highly sustainable, and future-proof quality service. This superior level of quality is essential for the development of future digital services and applications across all verticals.

"With increased efficiency stimulating greater innovation, high-speed broadband has been proven to drive not just consumer satisfaction but national economic indicators such as GDP and productivity. Only by maximizing investment in next-generation access can countries optimize their growth potential, and fiber-optic technology is key to that investment."

Omdia's Fiber Development Index tracks and benchmarks fiber a broad set of fiber investment metrics across 88 countries, including:

  • Fiber to the premises coverage
  • Fiber to the household penetration
  • Fiber to the business penetration
  • Mobile cell site fiber penetration
  • Advanced WDM technology investment

Based on Omdia's analysis of Ookla Speedtest data, the Index also quantifies the overall broadband quality of experience improvements driven by that investment, namely:

  • Median download speed
  • Median upload speed
  • Median latency
  • Median jitter

Michael Philpott and a team of Omdia analysts will be presenting and debating a wide range of upcoming telecoms issues and trends at Network X between 18-20 October 2022. Register for a media pass or request a virtual briefing here.

ABOUT OMDIA

Omdia, part of Informa Tech, is a technology research and advisory group. Our deep knowledge of tech markets combined with our actionable insights empower organizations to make smart growth decisions.

Media Contact
Fasiha Khan / T: +44 7503 666806 / E: fasiha.khan@omdia.com
Visit www.omdia.com

 

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Three Infrastructure Investments to Buy as War and Inflation Rage

Three infrastructure investments to buy as war and inflation rage offer ways to overcome ongoing economic risks in pursuit of precious profits. The three…

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Three infrastructure investments to buy as war and inflation rage offer ways to overcome ongoing economic risks in pursuit of precious profits.

The three infrastructure investments to buy as war rains terror and destruction, inflation rampages and the Fed raises rates feature companies that appear well-positioned to succeed amid market mayhem. Stocks have advanced in the past couple of trading days, but the economic and geopolitical risks still leave many prognosticators warning that a new 2022 market bottom may yet lie ahead.

One of the three infrastructure investments to buy showcases a company whose unmanned drones have proven their value in Ukraine as the nation’s outnumbered defenders recently have begun to push back a Russian invasion of more than 120,000 troops that began Feb. 26. Another company on the list of three infrastructure investments to buy includes a producer of solar panels that could help alleviate a war-related energy shortfall in Europe due to Russia cutting its supply of gas to nations opposing its attack of Ukraine.   

Three Infrastructure Investments to Buy Look to Evade Financial Fallout

“Stocks have been beset with no shortage of problems in recent weeks,” wrote Mark Skousen, PhD, to subscribers of his weekly Home Run Trader advisory service. “The primary negative, of course, is that the Federal Reserve is determined to slow the economy, reduce demand, and thereby bring down inflation.”

Mark Skousen, Forecasts & Strategies chief and Ben Franklin scion, meets Paul Dykewicz.

However, too much tightening, too fast, risks pushing the United States into a recession, continued Skousen, an economist who uses his analysis of inflation, interest rates and monetary policy in recommending stocks and options to buy. Economic statistics are showing a slowdown in the economy, if not a recession, he added.

“Even though real gross domestic product (GDP) is slightly negative, second-quarter gross output (GO) — which measures total spending in the economy — grew by 1.7% in real terms,” Skousen stated. “GO includes the supply chain, which is still catching up from the lockdown-induced shortages.”

Three Infrastructure Investments to Buy Face ‘Super-Strong’ Dollar

Additional concerns include a “super-strong dollar,” sliding consumer confidence and a cooling residential real estate market, Skousen counseled.

Investors can consider an exchange-traded fund that offers broad exposure to companies providing automation infrastructure, said Bob Carlson, a pension fund manager who also leads the Retirement Watch investment newsletter.

Bob Carlson, investment guru of Retirement Watch, talks to Paul Dykewicz.

Carlson suggested Robo Global Robotics and Automation (ROBO), a fund that seeks to follow an index that is concentrated in robotics-related or automation-oriented companies. The fund had decent performance until 2022 when it plunged. The fund became caught in the downdraft that befell technology and industrial companies.

Both sectors have done poorly as interest rates rose in 2022, Carlson commented. The fund is down nearly 40% in 2022, while its three-year return is just shy of an annualized 6%.

The fund owns 81 stocks and has 17% of the fund in the 10 largest positions. ROBO’s top holdings recently consisted of Cognex (NASDAQ: CGNX), Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ: ISRG) and IPG Photonics (NASDAQ: IPGP).

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

Three Infrastructure Investments to Buy Buoyed by Unmanned Drone Stock

“Additive manufacturing technologies are at an inflection point in their ability to solve challenges faced by manufacturing companies, particularly with recent labor shortages and supply chain disruptions,” according to Chicago-based investment firm William Blair & Co. “Historically, additive manufacturing applications have been limited by productivity capabilities and lack of industrial strength materials.”

Executives of AeroVironment, Inc., (NASDAQ: AVAV), an Arlington, Virginia-based maker of unmanned drones and other multi-domain robotic systems, recently gave a presentation to William Blair analysts about how software from its Plank and Progeny acquisitions provided a key competitive advantage. Indeed, the success of AeroVironment’s “kamikaze drones” in Ukraine may extend into Asia.

AeroVironment officials compared the Ukraine War-related Switchblade media coverage to “100 SuperBowl ads worth of press.” Before the war, AeroVironment was not even authorized to export the Switchblade.

“It was used in the Middle East for over a decade, but it was viewed as a niche offering,” William Blair analysts wrote. “Ukraine is providing a testing ground that proves the Switchblade 300 is incredibly valuable. Now it has U.S. State Department permission to sell to more than 20 countries. In mid-September, it was reported that Japan is evaluating purchasing several hundred kamikaze drones and is evaluating AeroVironment’s Switchblade.”

A recent Switchblade 600 contract for Ukraine valued at $2.2 million may be a tipping point. On Sept. 15, almost six months after an initial report that a contract was in the works, it came to fruition.

While Javelin, Stinger and TOW traditional missile systems have a three-mile maximum range, the Switchblade 600 has a 20-mile top range with similar effects. The Switchblade 600 has the same size warhead and can be launched without a visual lock on the target, William Blair analysts wrote in a recent research note.

AeroVironment Stands out Among Three Infrastructure Investments to Buy

William Blair rated AeroVironment to “outperform” the market and indicated it appears to be the favorite to win the Army $1 billion/10-year FTUAS program, but an executive at the robotics company estimated that the U.S. Navy addressable market may be larger than the potential market for the Army. Software from Planck, acquired by AeroVironment, enables the JUMP-20 military battlefield drone to perform vision-based autonomous landings onto moving platforms, such as maritime vessels.

The JUMP-20 is a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), fixed-wing unmanned aircraft used to provide advanced multi-sensor intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) services. AeroVironment’s systems “flourished” during Navy IMX 2022 exercises earlier this year, according to William Blair. 

Regarded as the largest unmanned exercises in the world, IMX 2022 showed how AeroVironment’s LEAP software received feeds from manned aircraft, unmanned aircraft, manned vessels and unmanned vessels. At IMX 2022, AeroVironment’s LEAP software was not supposed to be the hub, but when other software “was not executing.” AeroVironment’s LEAP software assumed the hub role on an ad hoc basis.

“We expect AeroVironment’s success at IMX 2022 to lead to contracts for its JUMP-20, Puma and Switchblade aircraft down the road,” the William Blair analysts wrote.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

Three Infrastructure Investments to Buy Include Standex International 

Standex International Corporation (NYSE: SXI), a multinational manufacturer of food service equipment, engravings, engineering technologies, electronics and hydraulics headquartered in Salem, New Hampshire, has many growth paths ahead of it. Rated by William Blair to “outperform” the market, Standex International could materially accelerate organic growth to 10% or more during the next two to three years, excluding its commercial solar panel production volumes for an innovative Gr3n joint venture with Italy’s Enel (OTCMKTS: ENLAY).

That partnership with a multinational manufacturer and distributor of electricity and gas has gained importance due to the suspected sabotage of both under water pipelines of the Nord Stream 1 from Russia to Western Europe, along with one line of Nord Stream 2. Seismologists in Denmark and Sweden suggest that sizeable explosions on the order of 100 kilograms of TNT occurred in both incidents.

With Russia’s President Vladimir Putin facing unexpected battlefield setbacks more than six months after he ordered a Feb. 26 invasion of neighboring Ukraine that the former KGB agent euphemistically called a “special military operation,” the pipeline sabotage seems targeted to hurt European nations as winter nears. Since Putin ordered troops into Ukraine in February, Russia has cut supplies of natural gas to Europe to heat homes, generate electricity and fuel factories.

European Leaders Complain of ‘Energy Blackmail’ by Putin

European leaders have accused Putin of using “energy blackmail” to weaken their support for Ukraine as the country seeks to repel Russia’s aggression.

Without presenting any evidence, Russian officials are attempting to blame the United States for the apparent sabotage, even though the affected nations are among America’s closest allies. President Biden countered the accusations were the latest in a continuing Russian campaign of “disinformation and lies.”

Biden also described the explosions of the Nordstream pipelines as acts of “sabotage” and discussed sending divers to examine the pipelines to find evidence that could be brought to light. Russia’s audacious move to “annex” Ukrainian territory in a Putin-led ceremony last Friday, Sept. 30, was declared illegal by Ukraine, the United Nations, the United States and many other Western allies who said it violated Ukrainian and international law.

Solar Panel Design Aids One of Three Infrastructure Investments to Buy

Standex further plans to benefit from significantly higher research and development (R&D) investments for new product development to “materially increase organic sales growth,” William Blair opined. New product launches are expected across all five of Standex’s businesses in fiscal 2023, including high growth end-markets such as renewable energy, electric vehicles, human health, commercialization of space and sustainable products.

Standex’s Gr3n joint venture could attain full commercialization by mid-decade, potentially becoming Standex’s sixth business segment. The result could boost Standex’s “organic sales growth” to the low teens in the next three to five years, the William Blair analysts wrote.

The joint venture has developed and tested a prototype for a highly innovative, extremely efficient and 100% recyclable new solar panel design that is 30-35% more efficient and weighs 38% less than traditional glass solar panels. With interest in solar panels rising as the European Union (EU) scrambles to replace the 40% of its energy previously sourced from Russia, Standex is expanding electronics’ production capacity in Germany, China and India, the investment firm reported. 

“If the new recyclable, highly efficient solar panel can be cost-effectively produced, it could become the largest new product in Standex’s history,” according to the William Blair analysts.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

U.S. CDC Halts Its Country-by-Country Travel Notices

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dropped its country-by-country COVID-19 travel health notices on Monday, Oct. 3. Those warnings began early in the pandemic as COVID-19 cases and deaths climbed.

COVID risks affect supply and demand for infrastructure stocks, but not as much as cyclical companies whose share prices can soar when economic conditions are favorable but fall fast when inflation, a potential recession and Fed interest rate hikes imperil stock prospects. Savvy investors monitor COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns to forecast how certain stocks and sectors, such as infrastructure, are affected.

Another encouraging sign occurred when Canada announced on Sept. 26 that it would remove all remaining COVID-19 entry restrictions, such as testing, quarantine and isolation requirements. That development could boost trade and tourism between that country and the United States.

China’s strict zero-tolerance COVID policy continues to be controversial and recently sparked a rare protest in its technology hub of Shenzhen, social media video showed. The dissent came after government officials ordered a sudden lockdown due to 10 new infections on Sept. 27 in the city of more than 18 million people. Officials ordered residents in three districts there to stay home.

China has locked down more than 70 cities fully or partially to preserve its zero-tolerance policy of COVID. However, 27 people were killed and 20 more were injured when a quarantine bus overturned on a mountain road on Sept. 20.

U.S. COVID-19 deaths ticked up by nearly 4,000, up about 1,000 compared to roughly 3,000 the previous week. Cases in the country totaled 96,481,081, as of early Oct. 5, while deaths jumped to 1,060,408, according to Johns Hopkins University. America stands out dubiously as the nation with the most COVID-19 deaths and cases.

Worldwide COVID-19 deaths in the past week rose by more than 11,000, up about 2,000 from the prior week. The number of deaths totaled 6,550,203, as of Oct. 5, according to Johns Hopkins. Global COVID-19 cases reached 619,211,562.

Roughly 79.5% of the U.S. population, or 264,112,767, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as of Oct. 5, the CDC reported. Fully vaccinated people total 225,284,115, or 67.9%, of the U.S. population, according to the CDC. The United States also has given at least one COVID-19 booster vaccine to almost 110 million people.

The three infrastructure investments to buy can be repurchased at reduced prices after a rough 2022 market wide. Despite high inflation, Russia’s continuing war in Ukraine and recession risk after 0.75% rate hikes by the Fed in June, July and Sept. 21, the three infrastructure investments to buy offer some insulation compared to cyclical stocks with government budgets less economically sensitive than the private sector. 

Paul Dykewicz, www.pauldykewicz.com, is an accomplished, award-winning journalist who has written for Dow Jones, the Wall Street JournalInvestor’s Business DailyUSA Today, the Journal of Commerce, Seeking Alpha, Guru Focus and other publications and websites. Paul, who can be followed on Twitter @PaulDykewicz, is the editor of                                  StockInvestor.com and DividendInvestor.com, a writer for both websites and a columnist. He further is editorial director of Eagle Financial Publications in Washington, D.C., where he edits monthly investment newsletters, time-sensitive trading alerts, free e-letters and other investment reports. Paul previously served as business editor of Baltimore’s Daily Record newspaper. Paul also is the author of an inspirational book, “Holy Smokes! Golden Guidance from Notre Dame’s Championship Chaplain,” with a foreword by former national championship-winning football coach Lou Holtz. The book is great as a gift and is endorsed by Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Ara Parseghian, “Rocket” Ismail, Reggie Brooks, Dick Vitale and many othersCall 202-677-4457 for multiple-book pricing.

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Nearly Half Of Americans Making Six-Figures Living Paycheck To Paycheck

Nearly Half Of Americans Making Six-Figures Living Paycheck To Paycheck

Roughly 60% of Americans say they’re living paycheck to paycheck -…

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Nearly Half Of Americans Making Six-Figures Living Paycheck To Paycheck

Roughly 60% of Americans say they're living paycheck to paycheck - a figure which hasn't budged much overall from last year's 55% despite inflation hitting 40-year highs, according to a recent LendingClub report.

Even people earning six figures are feeling the strain, with 45% reporting living paycheck to paycheck vs. 38% last year, CNBC reports.

"More consumers living paycheck to paycheck indicates that many are continuing to lose their financial stability," said LendingClub financial health officer, Anuj Nayar.

The consumer price index, which measures the average change in prices for consumer goods and services, rose a higher-than-expected 8.3% in August, driven by increases in food, shelter and medical care costs.

Although real average hourly earnings also rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2% for the month, they remained down 2.8% from a year ago, which means those paychecks don’t stretch as far as they used to. -CNBC

Meanwhile, Bank of America found that 71% of workers say their income isn't keeping pace with inflation - resulting in a five-year low in terms of financial security.

"It is no secret that prices have been increasing for everyday Americans — not only in the goods and services they purchase but also in the interest rates they’re paying to fund their lives," said Nayar, who noted that people are relying more on credit cards and carry a higher monthly balance, making them financially vulnerable. "This can have detrimental consequences for someone who pays the minimum amount on their credit cards every month."

According to an Aug. 30 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, credit card balances increased by $46 billion from last year, becoming the second-biggest source of overall debt last quarter.

And as Bloomberg noted last month, more US consumers are saddled with credit card debt for longer periods of time. According to a recent survey by CreditCards.com, 60% of credit card debtors have been holding this type of debt for at least a year, up 50% from a year ago, while those holding debt for over two years is up 40%, from 32%, according to the online credit card marketplace.

And while total credit-card balances remain slightly lower than pre-pandemic levels, inflation and rising interest rates are taking a toll on the already-stretched finances of US households.

About a quarter of respondents said day-to-day expenses are the primary reason why they carry a balance. Almost half cite an emergency or unexpected expense, including medical bills and home or car repair.

The Federal Reserve is likely to raise interest rates for the fifth time this year next week. Credit-card rates are typically directly tied to the Fed Funds rate, and their increase along with a softening economy may lead to higher delinquencies. 

Total consumer debt rose $23.8 billion in July to a record $4.64 trillion, according to data from the Federal Reserve. -Bloomberg

The Fed's figures include credit card and auto debt, as well as student loans, but does not factor in mortgage debt.

Tyler Durden Tue, 10/04/2022 - 20:25

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