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Stocks On A Long Monetary Leash

M2 Money Stock – Weekly % Year-on-Year Change  Stunning to see the weekly monetary aggregates (M2) continue to grow at an unprecedented 25 percent year-on-year rate.  Not so stunning to see the stock market mania being led and fueled by … Continue…

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M2 Money Stock – Weekly % Year-on-Year Change 

Stunning to see the weekly monetary aggregates (M2) continue to grow at an unprecedented 25 percent year-on-year rate.  Not so stunning to see the stock market mania being led and fueled by the money supply growth.

Yet, it is stunning, actually frightening, to see stocks need the 25 percent money growth to sustain its momentum.   This is unprecedented and unsustainable as inflationary pressures are and will surely continue to build even in the flawed official measures.

The stock market’s momentum must continue or else.

“There Is No Plateau, No Middle Ground”

The economic situation in a country after several years of bubblelike behavior resembles that of a young person on a bicycle; the rider needs to maintain the forward momentum or the bike becomes unstable. During the mania, asset prices will decline immediately after they stop increasing—there is no plateau, no ‘middle ground.’ The decline in the prices of some assets leads to the concern that asset prices will decline further and that the financial system will experience ‘distress.’ The rush to sell these assets before prices decline further becomes self-fulfilling and so precipitous that it resembles a panic. The prices of commodities—houses, buildings, land, stocks, bonds—crash to levels that are 30 to 40 percent of their prices at the peak. – Charles Kindleberger 

S&P500 And M2 Money Weekly Year-on-Year Growth 

Inflationary Pressures Building 

We closely follow the manufacturing industry, especially the electronics sector, where inflationary pressures are increasing dramatically.

This from the latest global PMI. Some hoarding is actually breaking out in various sectors as producers are expecting higher input prices due to continued supply chain issues and strong demand.

Watch especially semiconductors.  Recall our post on how the long secular deflation in semiconductor prices may be coming to end.

…what we believe has been one of the largest factors, along with globalization to the disinflationary forces over the past 30 years. That is the secular decline in the price of semiconductor prices.  Semiconductors are the basic building block of today’s economy, as was oil during the industrial revolution.  – GMM,  Oct 2020

Inflation Expectations 

Inflation expectations are also rising across the board.

Stocks and corporate bonds aren’t the only markets that have been looking past the pandemic—the bond market’s gauge of inflation expectations has strengthened back to pre-Covid levels as well. – Barron’s

Surprised? 

After all,

Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output. – Milton Friedman

The FED 

We sense the Fed governors also sense and are growing increasingly concerned about all of the above and becoming reluctant to continue “carpet bombing” the economy with more monetary stimulus.

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans said Friday that although the latest job creation data is disappointing, he wasn’t yet ready to call for changes in central-bank monetary policy. – WSJ, Dec 4th

The economy as a whole is running pretty hot (GDP Now at 11.2% Q4 print) and even though the latest lockdowns as COVID cases spike could slow things a bit, economic output should be close to fully recovering its losses from the Q4 2019 peak by year-end.

Two Economies

It is better to think of A Tale of Two Economies, the super-hot economy, which has benefited from the COVID crisis, and the depressed economy, such as travel and hospitality, where employment is still 20 percent below February 2020 levels vs -6.2 percent for total nonfarm jobs.

Labor Market Lagging Economic Rebound 

The following chart illustrates the labor market is significantly lagging the economic recovery.  Not uncommon but the distance between the two economic indicators is a bit surprising.  We suspect automation and technology-led productivity increases are the main culprits, and we also suspect the pandemic has accelerated the disruptions and the technological-led structural economic change.

In other words, nobody knows what the future holds.  Us mere humans think linearly and extrapolate past and present to the future, society and the economy progress in a nonlinear fashion.

It’s unlikely the FED is going to slam on the breaks anytime soon but it does sound they are growing increasingly concerned that there is too much stimulus in such a hot economy.

Cruise Missiles, Not Carpet Bombing

We believe economic policymakers will have to resort to strategic precision strikes on the weak pockets of the economy by bringing out the cruise missiles of targeted fiscal policies rather than using the blunt tools of monetary policy.  Using monetary policy to fine-tune an economy, for example, especially an economy full of so many distortions, is tantamount to threading a needle with boxing gloves on.  Good luck with that.

Still,  the question remains how does Treasury finance another round of stimulus without resorting to the digital printing press as demand for its debt securities is so punk at these fake and repressed interest rates?

The Fed’s Dilemna

A 25 percent growth rate in the monetary aggregates is clearly unsustainable but the stock market is addicted and dependent on that liquidity emission, which is driving its forward momentum and keeping the bicycle rolling.   Therein lies the rub, folks.

We don’t see a way out and expect the term “inflation” to come back into the lexicon of the market geniuses much sooner than most think.

A further issue to consider is given the substantial imbalances that have built up in the economy and financial market over the years,  there is no middle ground on the inflation/deflation spectrum endgame but only what economists call a corner solution.   That is lots of inflation or deflation.

What is going to happen to the stock market, for example,  if the Fed normalizes monetary policy with the monetary aggregates growing only at their normal rates of, say, 5-8 percent year-on-year?   What if the Fed has to keep the monetary spigots on to keep the asset markets afloat?  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the rabbit hole monetary authorities have descended in to over the past 10 years.

The Carol K. Provisio 

Finally, we do have to give a shout out to Carol K.,  GMM’s crack stock picker, noting what she has pounded into us in 2020 — that the stock market is a market of stocks and some stocks, especially the tech stocks of the future, are in a secular bull market.  We are thankful that she is on board and acts as a check on our natural contrarian tendencies to bet against the market.

Permabulls automatically bat .700 as the stock market has risen 72 percent of the time on an annual basis over the past 70 years.  That’s too easy.

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Stay Ahead of GDP: 3 Charts to Become a Smarter Trader

When concerns of a recession are front and center, investors tend to pay more attention to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) report. The Q4 2022 GDP report…

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When concerns of a recession are front and center, investors tend to pay more attention to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) report. The Q4 2022 GDP report showed the U.S. economy grew by 2.9% in the quarter, and Wall Street wasn't disappointed. The day the report was released, the market closed higher, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($DJIA) up 0.61%, the S&P 500 index ($SPX) up 1.1%, and the Nasdaq Composite ($COMPQ) up 1.76%. Consumer Discretionary, Technology, and Energy were the top-performing S&P sectors.

Add to the GDP report strong earnings from Tesla, Inc. (TSLA) and a mega announcement from Chevron Corp. (CVX)—raising dividends and a $75 billion buyback round—and you get a strong day in the stock markets.

Why is the GDP Report Important?

If a country's GDP is growing faster than expected, it could be a positive indication of economic strength. It means that consumer spending, business investment, and exports, among other factors, are going strong. But the GDP is just one indicator, and one indicator doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. It's a good idea to look at other indicators, such as the unemployment rate, inflation, and consumer sentiment, before making a conclusion.

Inflation appears to be cooling, but the labor market continues to be strong. The Fed has stated in many of its previous meetings that it'll be closely watching the labor market. So that'll be a sticky point as we get close to the next Fed meeting. Consumer spending is also strong, according to the GDP report. But that could have been because of increased auto sales and spending on services such as health care, personal care, and utilities. Retail sales released earlier in January indicated that holiday sales were lower.

There's a chance we could see retail sales slowing in Q1 2023 as some households run out of savings that were accumulated during the pandemic. This is something to keep an eye on going forward, as a slowdown in retail sales could mean increases in inventories. And this is something that could decrease economic activity.

Overall, the recent GDP report indicates the U.S. economy is strong, although some economists feel we'll probably see some downside in 2023, though not a recession. But the one drawback of the GDP report is that it's lagging. It comes out after the fact. Wouldn't it be great if you had known this ahead of time so you could position your trades to take advantage of the rally? While there's no way to know with 100% accuracy, there are ways to identify probable events.

3 Ways To Stay Ahead of the Curve

Instead of waiting for three months to get next quarter's GDP report, you can gauge the potential strength or weakness of the overall U.S. economy. Steven Sears, in his book The Indomitable Investor, suggested looking at these charts:

  • Copper prices
  • High-yield corporate bonds
  • Small-cap stocks

Copper: An Economic Indicator

You may not hear much about copper, but it's used in the manufacture of several goods and in construction. Given that manufacturing and construction make up a big chunk of economic activity, the red metal is more important than you may have thought. If you look at the chart of copper futures ($COPPER) you'll see that, in October 2022, the price of copper was trading sideways, but, in November, its price rose and trended quite a bit higher. This would have been an indication of a strengthening economy.

CHART 1: COPPER CONTINUOUS FUTURES CONTRACTS. Copper prices have been rising since November 2022. Chart source: StockCharts.com. For illustrative purposes only.

High-Yield Bonds: Risk On Indicator

The higher the risk, the higher the yield. That's the premise behind high-yield bonds. In short, companies that are leveraged, smaller, or just starting to grow may not have the solid balance sheets that more established companies are likely to have. If the economy slows down, investors are likely to sell the high-yield bonds and pick up the safer U.S. Treasury bonds.

Why the flight to safety? It's because when the economy is sluggish, the companies that issue the high-yield bonds tend to find it difficult to service their debts. When the economy is expanding, the opposite happens—they tend to perform better.

The chart below of the Dow Jones Corporate Bond Index ($DJCB) shows that, since the end of October 2022, the index trended higher. Similar to copper prices, high-yield corporate bond activity was also indicating economic expansion. You'll see similar action in charts of high-yield bond exchange-traded funds (ETFs) such as iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG) and SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond ETF (JNK).

CHART 2: HIGH-YIELD BONDS TRENDING HIGHER. The Dow Jones Corporate Bond Index ($DJCB) has been trending higher since end of October 2022.Chart source: StockCharts.com. For illustrative purposes only.

Small-Cap Stocks: They're Sensitive

Pull up a chart of the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM) and you'll see similar price action (see chart 3). Since mid-October, small-cap stocks (the Russell 2000 index is made up of 2000 small companies) have been moving higher.

CHART 3: SMALL-CAP STOCKS TRENDING HIGHER. When the economy is expanding, small-cap stocks trend higher.Chart source: StockCharts.com. For illustrative purposes only.

Three's Company

If all three of these indicators are showing strength, you can expect the GDP number to be strong. There are times when the GDP number may not impact the markets, but, when inflation is a problem and the Fed is trying to curb it by raising interest rates, the GDP number tends to impact the markets.

This scenario is likely to play out in 2023, so it would be worth your while to set up a GDP Tracker ChartList. Want a live link to the charts used in this article? They're all right here.


Jayanthi Gopalakrishnan

Director, Site Content

StockCharts.com

 

Disclaimer: This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. The ideas and strategies should never be used without first assessing your own personal and financial situation, or without consulting a financial professional.

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Hotels: Occupancy Rate Down 6.2% Compared to Same Week in 2019

From CoStar: STR: MLK Day Leads to Slightly Lower US Weekly Hotel PerformanceWith the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, U.S. hotel performance came in slightly lower than the previous week, according to STR‘s latest data through Jan. 21.Jan. 15-21, 2023 …

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With the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, U.S. hotel performance came in slightly lower than the previous week, according to STR‘s latest data through Jan. 21.

Jan. 15-21, 2023 (percentage change from comparable week in 2019*):

Occupancy: 54.2% (-6.2%)
• Average daily rate (ADR): $140.16 (+11.3%)
• evenue per available room (RevPAR): $75.97 (+4.4%)

*Due to the pandemic impact, STR is measuring recovery against comparable time periods from 2019. Year-over-year comparisons will once again become standard after Q1.
emphasis added
The following graph shows the seasonal pattern for the hotel occupancy rate using the four-week average.

Click on graph for larger image.

The red line is for 2023, black is 2020, blue is the median, and dashed light blue is for 2022.  Dashed purple is 2019 (STR is comparing to a strong year for hotels).

The 4-week average of the occupancy rate is below the median rate for the previous 20 years (Blue), but this is the slow season - and some of the early year weakness might be related to the timing of the report.

Note: Y-axis doesn't start at zero to better show the seasonal change.

The 4-week average of the occupancy rate will increase seasonally over the next few months.

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American Express Numbers Show What Still Gets People to Spend Money

American Express stock jumped nearly 12% since earnings dropped.

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American Express stock jumped nearly 12% since earnings dropped.

Even though American Express  (AXP) - Get Free Report earnings announced Friday afternoon fell somewhat short of expectations for the quarter, shares still soared to highs unseen for many months due to a number of strong metrics -- quarterly revenue growth of 17%, plans to raise its dividend by 15% from 52 to 60 cents and an annual revenue that surpassed $50 billion for the first time ever.

At $52.9 billion, the latter is driven primarily by an increase in quarterly member spending. Last year, that number was at $42.4 billion. 

According to American Express Chairman and CEO Stephen J. Squeri, the increase can be attributed to higher numbers of millennials gaining in earning power and using their AmEx above other cards to tap into rewards as many approach milestones like marriage, career advancement, and homeownership.

"Millennial and Gen Z customers continue to be the largest drivers of our growth, representing over 60% of proprietary consumer card acquisitions in the quarter and for the full year," Squeri said in an earnings call discussing the results.

People Are Using Their AmEx Cards a Lot

The $52.9 billion number is up 25% from what was seen last quarter and reflects a number of different factors also having to do with post-pandemic spending.

"We ended 2022 with record revenues, which grew 25% from a year earlier, and earnings per share of $9.85, both well above the guidance that we provided when we introduced our long-term growth plan at the start of last year, despite a mixed economic environment," Squeri said.

AmEx further reported that 12.5 million new members signed up for cards in 2022 while existing members used their cards frequently. Fourth-quarter sales at AmEx's U.S. consumer services and commercial segments rose by a respective 23% and 15%.

But higher expenses also led to falling below analyst expectations. The fourth-quarter income of $1.57 billion, or $2.07 a share, is down from $1.72 billion ($2.18 a share) in the fourth quarter of 2021. FactSet analysts had predicted $2.23 a share.

"I'm not sure what that's really a function of right now -- whether it's a function of the economy or of confusion on where to advertise right now," Squeri told Yahoo Finance in reference to lower spending on the part of small business and digital advertisers. "We're going to watch that, but the consumer is really strong, travel bookings are up over 50% vs pre-pandemic."

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It's a Good Time to Be Tracking Credit Card Companies

Immediately after the earnings dropped, AmEx stock started soaring and was up nearly 12% at $175.24 on Friday afternoon. This is a high unseen in months -- the last peak occurred when, on September 12, shares were at $162.45. 

Whether due to or despite analyst threats of a looming recession, people have been using their credit cards very actively throughout the end of 2022.

When it posted its earnings earlier this week, Mastercard  (MA) - Get Free Report surpassed Wall Street expectations of $5.8 billion and $2.65 per share in fourth-quarter earnings. Visa  (V) - Get Free Report also saw revenue rise 11.8% to $7.94 billion in the same quarter. The numbers also reflect higher numbers of people traveling and using their credit cards in different countries.

"Visa's performance in the first quarter of 2023 reflects stable domestic volumes and transactions and a continued recovery of cross-border travel," outgoing CEO Al Kelly said of the results during a call with financial analysts.

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