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WVU partnering with industry to improve health, environmental outcomes for disadvantaged communities

A West Virginia University team of industrial engineers is looking to turn $800,000 worth of Environmental Protection Agency funding into direct support…

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A West Virginia University team of industrial engineers is looking to turn $800,000 worth of Environmental Protection Agency funding into direct support for local industry.

Credit: WVU Photo/David Malecki

A West Virginia University team of industrial engineers is looking to turn $800,000 worth of Environmental Protection Agency funding into direct support for local industry.

They are partnering with industrial facilities in disadvantaged communities statewide, providing free technical assistance to help those businesses improve their energy efficiency and minimize their waste streams, air pollution and carbon footprints.

“Many chronic health issues in West Virginia can be linked to exposure to industrial emissions and disadvantaged communities are often affected to a greater extent,” said project lead Ashish Nimbarte, professor and chair of the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. “We will help these facilities reduce their impact on environmental and community health through updates to processes or equipment. This project is about supporting our state’s businesses in making changes that will really benefit their communities while maintaining their profitability.”

The funding, authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, comes from the EPA’s Pollution Prevention Grant Program. That program advances the federal Justice40 Initiative, which is intended to direct 40% of certain federal benefits to communities overburdened by pollution and marginalized by underinvestment.

To identify industrial facilities in West Virginia, Nimbarte said his team will use data from the Council on Environmental Equality’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, which characterizes census tracts as disadvantaged based on a set of criteria related to climate change, energy, health, housing, legacy pollution and transportation. After that, they’ll begin the process of pre-visit assessments and outreach.

“Right now, we’re focused on identifying facilities with the largest impact on environmental and public health in disadvantaged communities,” Nimbarte said. “A majority of these businesses are busy running daily operations and may not have the resources to review the environmental and health impacts of the energy, water and materials they use. We want to partner with such businesses to assess their operations, to look at productivity improvement as well as resource conservation and waste minimization.”

Assistant Professor Avishek Choudhury said one of the biggest barriers facilities in disadvantaged communities face in developing and implementing source reduction plans is lack of technical support.

“That’s why we do onsite assessments — so our team’s recommendations can target each facility’s specific pollution, emissions and waste. Every assessment will be customized to the businesses, and we’ll develop highly collaborative relationships with the managers, who are often already aware of pollution prevention opportunities but may not have the resources to turn opportunities into operations.

“Our team will make sure managers have the sound technical knowledge they need to execute recommendations that can enhance their facilities’ environmental performance, competitiveness and profitability. Return on investment is a priority for them, so it will be an important measure in every write-up we provide,” Choudhury said.

The onsite technical assistance to facilities will include not only assessments and recommendations, but in-person trainings, videos, self-guided modules and interactive media.

Chris Moore, research associate, added onsite technical assistance isn’t the only form of support their team will offer businesses. They will also widely distribute information through online platforms such as e-newsletters, and they’ll organize a conference to present case studies and talk about ways technology and processes can prevent pollution through production reformulations, raw material substitutions, and improvements in maintenance, training or inventory control.

“In West Virginia’s most vulnerable communities, unemployment is high and incomes, education levels and life expectancies are low,” Nimbarte said. “Through this work, local businesses can serve as catalysts to improve the health and environment of struggling residents.”


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Stock Bull Market Might Just Be Getting Started, But…

Stock Bull Market Might Just Be Getting Started, But…

Authored by Simon White, Bloomberg macro strategist,

The rally in equities might…

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Stock Bull Market Might Just Be Getting Started, But...

Authored by Simon White, Bloomberg macro strategist,

The rally in equities might have much further to go, based on the positive outlook for liquidity.

It might not seem like it after a seemingly relentless advance and fevered speculation, but the new bull market is comparatively mild versus the postwar past.

Yet that could change. Excess liquidity - the difference between real money growth and economic growth - shows that the stock rally could have much further to go, turning a so-far historically below-par bull market into one that’s above the past average.

There are many reasons why this might not transpire...

As a natural cynic, I’m more comfortable when the outlook is pessimistic (no room for disappointment) versus when it is optimistic (plenty of opportunity to end up with egg on your face when things do go wrong after all). But sometimes the data just isn’t there to support a downbeat view.

That’s the case today. One of the best medium-term drivers of stock returns is excess liquidity. It’s an intuitive measure: when money, which is created by banks and central banks, is growing faster in real terms than GDP, liquidity is left which is “excess” to the needs of the real economy, and which thus tends to find its way into risk assets.

After beginning to rise in the first half of last year, and supporting the equity rally that began in March, excess liquidity has continued to rise. It is difficult for markets to sell off significantly when there is plenty of risk-asset-supporting liquidity sloshing around the system.

Fiscal and monetary policy are conspiring to keep excess liquidity climbing despite the cumulative impact of higher rates coursing through the economy.

First, what has been driving excess liquidity so far?

It has three main elements: inflation, economic growth and narrow money, with the latter responsible for most of the measure’s rise over the last year.

But that’s not the full picture.

Excess liquidity is a global measure, made up of the money and economic growth of countries in the G10, in dollar terms. That means a weaker dollar boosts non-US excess liquidity.

As the chart below shows, it’s the weaker dollar - down over 9% from its September 2022 highs - that has been the biggest driver of excess liquidity.


 
We can blame fiscal policy here. The US’s expansive deficit has been one of the most important longer-term negative influences on the dollar. There is little sign the deficit is about to improve by much, based on (no doubt conservative) Congressional Budget Office forecasts. Government finances are also unlikely to be straitened whoever the next president is, meaning the primary trend in the dollar (DXY) is likely to remain down.

We can also blame monetary policy for the dollar’s malaise and excess liquidity’s buoyancy. The latter looked like it was about to start turning lower last year, but was saved in the nick of time by the Federal Reserve’s pivot in December.

How? On a shorter-term basis (6-9 months), the dollar is led by the real yield curve. The US currency is driven at the margin by the real return of foreign investors in long-term US assets. In the latter months of 2023, the real yield curve had been steepening, as longer-term real yields were rising more than shorter ones.


 
Then the Fed came with its still unfathomable pivot. Shorter-term real yields fell, but their longer-term counterparts fell by more, and the curve re-flattened. What was a strong supportive sign for the dollar returned to being a weight on it – and thus a continued tailwind for excess liquidity.

It’s not just liquidity that could charge the bull market further. The absence of a US recession, which continues to look off the cards for the time being, also bolsters the case that equities should not soon face a steep selloff. Traditional recession indicators have been misleading in this pandemic-addled cycle, but it has become increasingly clear a downturn in the US is now less likely than not.

Furthermore, the rally might be on shakier legs if sentiment and technicals were overly bullish, but they are not yet historically stretched. The net number of stocks making new 52-week highs, the number trading above their 200-day moving average or their upper Bollinger band, and the advance-decline line are all high but have been higher. Moreover, sentiment is net bullish but not at extremes, while retail allocation to stocks is only at its 5-year average.

Leadership is narrow, with only a handful of stocks driving the advance, but there is little historically to show that this leads to sub-par returns. And when markets eclipse new highs, as the S&P did a few weeks ago, it acts as a psychological all-clear that we are indeed in a new bull market. Whether you agree that’s justified or not, the catch-up money that floods the market creates its own momentum.

No bull market comes without risks and this one is no different. The biggest is a recession. While, as mentioned above, that does not look likely in the near term, a sudden and unanticipated economic slump (either endogenous or due to an exogenous shock) would decimate returns. Also, a bull market that does not begin either during a recession or within 18 months of one is unusual, with only one postwar example (1966).

Equities experience their largest drawdowns in recessions, and given there is little ex ante to indicate one is coming in the current environment, it would likely be particularly devastating.

A blow-off top is another risk. Even then, despite the upset one would cause, it might not be enough to kick-start a new bear market. Inflation, too, will pose a risk to stocks, but to their real returns, unless price growth’s revival is particularly abrupt or steep (bull and bear markets are, sub-optimally, based off nominal returns). A persistent bear-steepening of the yield curve would be the sign the rally is at risk.

To misquote John Templeton, bull markets are born on pessimism, but they grow on liquidity. As long as excess liquidity is supported, the market is primed to keep grinding higher, regardless of how cynical you might be.

Tyler Durden Tue, 02/27/2024 - 14:40

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Fed And Treasury Ensure Dollar Downside Is Ahead

Fed And Treasury Ensure Dollar Downside Is Ahead

Authored by Simon White, Bloomberg macro strategist,

The Fed’s pivot in December and the…

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Fed And Treasury Ensure Dollar Downside Is Ahead

Authored by Simon White, Bloomberg macro strategist,

The Fed’s pivot in December and the Treasury’s willingness to run persistently large fiscal deficits will lead the dollar to resume its downtrend from 2022 highs.

Dollar strength seems to be in vogue again, but fiscal and monetary policy will conspire to make that trend unlikely to persist much longer. Running pro-cyclical fiscal deficits, not just in the US but across much of the developed world, has become the norm. Electorates’ expectations widened after the pandemic, and now there is an unwritten pact between governments and their voters that they will underwrite a growing itinerary of risks from job loss to disease – the Treasury put.

Large fiscal deficits are a long-term negative for the currency as they are inflationary, and considering the US deficit is one of the largest in GDP terms, it poses greater downside risk to the dollar versus other currencies. This will also be a tailwind for the new bull market in stocks.

But shorter-term leading indicators are also dollar negative. On this horizon, the real yield curve gives one of the best leads on the dollar, by about six-to-nine months. This is where the Fed’s pivot comes in.

The real yield curve had been steepening last year, as longer-term real yields were rising more than shorter-term ones, due in part to the influence of rising term premium. That would have anticipated a rising dollar. The real yield curve then began to re-flatten, which continued even after the Fed performed its verbal volte-face in December, as longer-term real yields have risen much less than short-term ones.

The DXY index is up ~2.3% this year, versus the average of 1.4% in the first two months of the year (data back to 1980). But the dollar typically sees all its net gains in the first three months of the year (1.7%) versus an average decline of 0.9% through the remainder.

Net positioning in the dollar is flat, leaving speculators free to move with or against it. They should favor the latter, and not be deterred by recent dollar strength (which is fairly unremarkable), and instead look to the seasonally negative latter three quarters of the year, given extra credence by fiscal and monetary policy that will continue to be a headwind.

Tyler Durden Tue, 02/27/2024 - 12:20

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This Is Nuts – An Entire Market Chasing One Stock

This Is Nuts – An Entire Market Chasing One Stock

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

“When you sit down with your…

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This Is Nuts – An Entire Market Chasing One Stock

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

“When you sit down with your portfolio management team, and the first comment made is ‘this is nuts,’ it’s probably time to think about your overall portfolio risk. On Friday, that was how the investment committee both started and ended – ‘this is nuts.’”

 – January 11th, 2020.

revisited that original post a couple of weeks ago as the market approached its 5000 psychological milestone. Since then, the entire market has surged higher following last week’s earnings report from Nvidia (NVDA). The reason I say “this is nuts” is the assumption that all companies were going to grow earnings and revenue at Nvidia’s rate.

Even one of the “always bullish” media outlets took notice, which is notable.

“In a normal functioning market, Nvidia doing amazingly is bad news for competitors such as AMD and Intel. Nvidia is selling more of its chips, meaning fewer sales opportunities for rivals. Shouldn’t their stocks drop? Just because Meta owns and uses some new Nvidia chips, how is that going to positively impact its earnings and cash flow over the next four quarters? Will it at all?

‌The point is that investors are acting irrationally as Nvidia serves up eye-popping financial figures and the hype machine descends on social media. It makes sense until it doesn’t, and that is classic bubble action.” – Yahoo Finance

As Brian Sozzi notes in his article, we may be at the “this is nuts” stage of market exuberance. Such usually coincides with Wall Street analysts stretching to “justify” why paying premiums for companies is “worth it.”

We Can’t All Be Winners

Of course, that is the quintessential underpinning for a market that has reached the “this is nuts” stage. There is little doubt about Nvidia’s earnings and revenue growth rates. However, to maintain that growth pace indefinitely, particularly at 32x price-to-sales, means others like AMD and Intel must lose market share.

However, as shown, numerous companies in the S&P 1500 alone are trading well above 10x price-to-sales. (If you don’t understand why 10x price-to-sales is essential, read this.) Many companies having nothing to do with Nvidia or artificial intelligence, like Wingstop, trade at almost 22x price-to-sales.

Again, if you don’t understand why “this is nuts,” read the linked article above.

However, in the short term, this doesn’t mean the market can’t keep increasing those premiums even further. As Brian concluded in his article:

“Nothing says ‘investing bubble’ like unbridled confidence. It’s that feeling that whatever stock you buy — at whatever price and at whatever time — will only go up forever. This makes you feel like an investing genius and inclined to take on more risk.”

Looking at some current internals tells us that Brian may be correct.

This Is Nuts” Type Of Exuberance

In momentum-driven markets, exuberance and greed can take speculative actions to increasingly further extremes. As markets continue to ratchet new all-time highs, the media drives additional hype by producing commentary like the following.

“Going back to 1954, markets are always higher one year later – the only exception was 2007.”

That is a correct statement. When markets hit all-time highs, they are usually higher 12 months later due to the underlying momentum of the market. But therein lies the rub: what happened next? The table below from Warren Pies tells the tale.

As shown, markets were higher 12 months after new highs were made. However, a lot of money was lost during the next bear market or correction. Except for only four periods, those bear markets occurred within the next 24 to 48 months. Most gains from the previous highs were lost in the subsequent downturn.

Unsurprisingly, investing in the market is not a “risk-free” adventure. While there are many opportunities to make money, there is also a history of wealth devastation. Therefore, understanding the environment you are investing in can help avoid potential capital destruction.

From a technical perspective, markets are exceedingly overbought as investors have rushed back into equities following the correction in 2022. The composite index below comprises nine indicators measured using weekly data. That index is now at levels that have denoted short-term market peaks.

Unsurprisingly, speculative money is chasing the Mega-cap growth and technology stocks. The volume of call options on those stocks is at levels that have previously preceded more significant corrections.

Another way to view the current momentum-driven advance in the market is by measuring the divergence between short and long-term moving averages. Given that moving averages smooth price changes over given periods, the divergences should not deviate significantly from each other over more extended periods. However, as shown below, that changed dramatically following the stimulus-fueled surge in the markets post-pandemic. Currently, the deviation between the weekly moving averages is at levels only previously seen when the Government sent checks to households, overnight lending rates were zero, and the Fed bought $120 billion monthly in bonds. Yet, none of that is happening currently.

Unsurprisingly, with the surge in market prices, investor confidence has surged along with their allocation to equities. The most recent Schwab Survey of bullish sentiment suggests the same.

More than half of traders have a bullish outlook for the first quarter – the highest level of bullishness since 2021

Yes, quite simply, “This is nuts.”

Market Measures Advise Caution

In the short term, over the next 12 months, the market will indeed likely finish the year higher than where it started. That is what the majority of analysis tells us. However, that doesn’t mean that stocks can’t, and won’t, suffer a rather significant correction along the way. The chart below shows retail and professional traders’ 13-week average of net bullish sentiment. You will notice that high sentiment readings often precede market corrections while eventually rising to higher levels.

For example, the last time bullish sentiment was this extreme was in late 2021. Even though the market eventually rallied to all-time highs, it was 2-years before investors got back to even.

Furthermore, the compression of volatility remains a critical near-term concern. While low levels of volatility have become increasingly common since the financial crisis due to the suppression of interest rates and a flood of liquidity, the lack of volatility provides the “fuel” for a market correction.

Combining excessive bullish sentiment and low volatility into a single indicator shows that previous levels were warnings to more bullish investors. Interestingly, Fed rate cuts cause excess sentiment to unwind. This is because rate cuts have historically coincided with financial events and recessions.

While none of this should be surprising, given the current market momentum and bullish psychology, the over-confidence of investors in their decision-making has always had less than desirable outcomes.

No. The markets likely will not crash tomorrow or in the next few months. However, sentiment has reached the “this is nuts” stage. For us, as portfolio managers, such has always been an excellent time to start laying the groundwork to protect our gains.

Lean on your investing experience and all its wrinkles.” – Brian Sozzi

Tyler Durden Tue, 02/27/2024 - 08:11

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