oliver twistEat Up

“The performance of the US stock market is quite impressive considering that there isn’t much of a spring in the latest batch of economic indicators.  The winter’s ice patch is looking more and more like the spring’s soft patch.”  “It is one of the market’s paradoxes that soft economic growth can be a fine climate for stocks.  As long as the economy is advancing, corporations can increase sales and profits.  But in a soft advance, interest rates stay low, keeping costs down.  The uncertain economy keeps Federal Reserve monetary policy easy, one of the main bulwarks of a bull market…Severe bear markets usually occur when the Fed is raising interest rates sharply to cool off inflation…low inflation and low rates increase the present value of future corporate earnings.”  Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal says “core inflation readings would be even weaker but for the pace of gains in the BEA’s measure of housing costs, which counts toward about one-fifth of its core price index.  This was up 2.9% from a year earlier in February.  Absent that, core inflation would have been running at just 1%.  Housing counts for an even bigger chunk of the Labor Department’s consumer-price index, which is a big reason why its core measure has been running ahead of the BEA’s…The rental vacancy rate fell to 7% in the fourth quarter from 8.2% a year earlier…the lowest level since 1993.”  Meanwhile, “Japanese life insurers — some of the world’s largest institutional investors — plan to keep pouring money into U.S. debt this year as the list of countries able to meet their thirst for yield shrinks…Even though the roughly 2% current yield on 10-year U.S. Treasurys is a far cry from yields of 5% or better before the global financial crisis, it is still light-years better than the current 0.16% yield for German bunds with the same maturity or the 0.29% yield for 10-year Japanese government bonds…’Considering current yield levels, liquidity, hedging of currency exposure, the U.S. is likely the primary destination.’”  So inflation and rates are low, which means there’s a lot of “stocks are expensive, BUT” going on at the moment: “stocks are expensive but while rates stay low, and earnings avoid a serious collapse, money flows into them.  A strong catalyst — really bad earnings, a bad geopolitical event, or a surprise from the Fed — is needed before the market can jolt out of its steady ascent.”  Speaking of surprises, the “Make my day, Janet Yellen” crowd is eating their last free lunch: “what the market never worried about was whether the statement would include the most dreaded news: a rate hike, and because of that, every meeting was something of a free lunch for the market.  That is the case this week, too.  The Fed’s signals have been very clear: there won’t be a rate hike at the April meeting.  However, this is the last meeting at which that certainly presides.  After this, higher rates are firmly on the table.”

 

China

“There are two main routes through which the slowdown could develop into something much worse…investment could slow sharply…[and] there could be a rise in household savings in response to concerns about falling household wealth, which is what happened during the US housing crash.  Given the bubble-like surge in equity prices, this may seem improbable, but it would become more likely if the equity surge ends in a crash.  The second route, also reminiscent of events in the US in the last decade, would be a financial crash led by stressed loans to the real estate or manufacturing sectors.”  Meanwhile, “Chinese companies are increasingly tapping the equity market for funds to pay down liabilities and invest in growth.  They’ve announced $82 billion of secondary stock offerings in 2015, a figure UBS Group AG predicts will increase to a record $161 billion by December.”  Also, “authorities have pledged to move toward a so-called ‘registration system’ where markets, rather than regulators, determine most aspects of an offering, including pricing and timing.”

 

WM: Consensus Expectations

Also, Why International Diversification Matters.

 

Greece: He Who Shall Not Be Named Shall Not Be In Negotiations

 

What: Socialist Muslim Slash Deflationary Force

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