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  • China’s Stock Markets Imploded In June - Why?

    While the mainstream media has been obsessed with Greece over the last month or so, there has been scant attention paid to the fact that China’s high-flying stock markets unexpectedly have plummeted in June and were down around 30% through the end of last week.

    China’s exploding economy in recent years has made it the hotspot for global investors. Mutual fund families and ETFs have rushed to add exposure to the Chinese markets. China’s two major stock exchanges have seen their share indexes surge over 100% in the last year, drawing ever more investors to jump in. This includes many middle class Chinese who have never invested in anything before (many of whom have borrowed money to invest).

    Yet as noted above, in the last month, share prices on China’s stock exchanges have plummeted by around 30% as of the end of last week, to the surprise of just about everyone. The decline continued overnight (Tuesday).  Many investors don’t even know it yet since they have not seen their June account statements.

    With the world’s attention focused on Greece over the last couple of weeks, the China story has not made its way onto the media’s radars for the most part. For that reason, I will focus on the latest disturbing developments in the China story today.

    But before we get to the troubling news on China, let’s take a look at a few of the latest US economic reports – including the June unemployment report, the big jump in consumer confidence last month and the Gallup Job Creation Index which is at a new record high.

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  • Consumer Confidence Hit a 7-Year High in October... But

    The two most widely-followed indicators of consumer confidence jumped to the highest levels in seven years last week. The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index climbed to 94.5 in October, the strongest reading since October 2007 before the economy entered the Great Recession.

    Then on Friday, the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index rose from 84.6 in September to 86.9 in October, the highest level since July 2007. Respondents to both surveys cited expectations of better economic growth and job gains in the coming months, along with falling gasoline prices, as reasons for their optimism.

    Yet at the same time, the latest polls on the Direction of the Country show that a whopping 66.0% of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, with only 27.8% who believe the nation is moving in the right direction. There is a huge disconnect between these measures of consumer confidence versus how Americans feel about the direction the country is headed. Today I’ll take a shot at trying to explain how and why this dichotomy exists.

    Before we get to that discussion, let’s take a closer look at last Thursday’s advance report on 3Q Gross Domestic Product which came in at a better than expected 3.5%. I also have some further thoughts on the Fed's policy meeting last week and the decision to end its massive quantitative easing program.

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  • Consumer Confidence Hits a Seven-Year High… But

    Last week, the Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to a near seven-year high in mid-August. It was the fourth consecutive monthly rise in the Index and handily beat the pre-report consensus.

    While I have no reason to doubt the validity of the latest Consumer Confidence Index reading, there are several other indicators which suggest that consumers are not so optimistic in reality.

    When it comes to the direction the country is headed, 66% believe we are on the “Wrong Track,” with only 26% who believe we’re headed in the “Right Direction.”

    Recent polls on the question of whether the next generation’s life will be better than our own have been decidedly pessimistic. For example, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of adults found that only 21% believe life will be better for their kids, while a whopping 76% feel it will be worse, the highest negative reading in the poll’s history.

    I will cite other examples of statistics that challenge the latest soaring Consumer Confidence Index as we go along today. The question is: How, in the face of all these negative indicators, can consumer confidence be at a near seven-year high?

    Before we get into the discussion of the latest consumer confidence reading, let’s take a look at a few other recent economic reports.

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  • Consumer Confidence Hits 7-Year High - Really?

    Today we’ll look at several key economic reports over the last week or so. Most have been better than expected. The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index surged to the highest level in seven years in July. However, a couple of other reports we’ll look at below paint a very different picture.

    The advance report on 2Q GDP came in well above pre-report estimates. Last Friday’s unemployment report for July was disappointing, but at least new jobs were over 200,000 for the sixth consecutive month. The Fed’s favorite inflation indicator (PCE) climbed to the highest level since 2011 last month. And the ISM manufacturing index surged to a three-year high in July. We’ll analyze all of these reports as we go along today.

    Finally, a recording of our latest WEBINAR with YCG Investments is now available on our website. You’ll definitely want to hear Brian Yacktman and his team discuss their very successful “value investing” strategy.

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  • The US Economy – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

    As is true more often than not, there are mixed signals in the economy. There are indeed some “green shoots” emerging that suggest the economy is finally gaining some momentum. Yet there are also continued troubling signs that, while not warning of an impending recession, suggest we could be stuck in a structural period of continued below-trend growth.

    Today, we’ll look into the latest economic indicators – good, bad and in between – and see if we can make any sense of where we are. My view is that the economy is most likely to remain in sub-par growth (i.e. – below 3%) for at least the rest of this year and maybe longer. Yet as we’ll see below, some others feel that the economy is nearing “breakout velocity.” We’ll see, but I am not so optimistic. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

    A new report finds that President Obama’s economy is the worst in over 80 years. You can read this story at the first link in SPECIAL ARTICLES below.

    Let’s start with the latest good economic news.

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  • Consumer Confidence Up, But Concerns Remain

    The Conference Board reported last week that its Consumer Confidence Index jumped to 82.3 in March (up from 78.3), the highest reading since January 2008. But the two underlying components of the Index provided two different perspectives, as we will discuss today.

    Basically, consumers as a group are feeling better and more confident about the economy and their present situation.  However, when asked how they feel about their financial situation six months from now, most consumers are much less confident. About as many expect their situation to get worse as those who expect it to get better. That’s not good.

    But before we get to that topic, let’s take a look at last week’s third and final estimate of 4Q GDP which showed a modest increase (2.6%) over the second estimate in February. We now know that the economy stalled a bit in the 4Q of last year, following growth of 4.1% in the 3Q. And it likely slowed even more in the 1Q of this year due to bad weather.

    Following that discussion, I want to introduce you to a new breakthrough economic statistic that we’ll be hearing about for the first time later this month.  It’s called “Gross Output” (GO) and is a measure of total sales volume at all stages of production. GO is much larger than GDP, the standard yardstick for measuring final goods and services produced in the economy. I’ll explain why GO is being introduced and why we investors need to pay attention to it.

    Finally, President Obama’s disapproval rating has soared to a new all-time high, and his approval rating is falling once again. Americans continue to blame him for Obamacare, and 57% dislike his handling of the Ukraine situation.

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  • Consumer Confidence Jumped in December, But Why?

    Today we’ll look at several economic reports, including a big jump in consumer confidence last month. That seems a little odd given that over 63% of Americans still believe the country is headed in the wrong direction as I reported last week.

    From there, we will consider some economic and market predictions for the New Year. Many forecasters believe the stock market will experience a downward correction sometime this year, which happens often in mid-term election years. We’ll look at a chart showing all of the mid-term year corrections going back to 1930. You may be surprised.

    Finally, despite President Obama’s plunging approval ratings, he still plans to proceed with an aggressive liberal agenda in 2014. Bill Clinton wisely moved to the center when his liberal agenda became unpopular. Not this president!

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  • Consumer Confidence Plunging – Recession Ahead?

    The stalemate in Washington continues, the government remains in partial shutdown and the debt ceiling looms on Thursday. A bipartisan deal to fund the government until January 15 and raise the debt limit until early February is working its way through the Senate and could be voted on later today or tomorrow. It is unlikely that the Senate bill would pass in the House, which is reportedly working on yet another bill (see link below) that is unlikely to pass in the Senate.

    The mindless gridlock continues and the Treasury Department warns that it will run out of “extraordinary measures” by the end of this week and the statutory debt ceiling will be eclipsed on Thursday or Friday. While this will technically be a “default,” the Treasury will continue to collect enough revenue each day to pay the interest on all of our outstanding debt. Still, things are likely to get increasingly crazy in the next few days.

    As a result of all the hype and anguish over the shutdown and the debt ceiling, consumer confidence has plunged since the beginning of this month. The confidence index, as measured by Gallup, has declined by the most since September 2008 when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt at the height of the financial crisis. And it continues to fall. This raises fears that consumer spending will drop significantly and a recession could unfold just ahead.

    Following that discussion, we’ll look at some interesting facts surrounding our national debt which now stands at a mind-boggling $16.965 trillion. Since our national debt is Issue #1 on the minds of most Americans, the discussion below should be very timely.

    Finally, today’s E-Letter will print longer than usual because we have lots of charts and graphs.

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  • Fed Advisory Council Drops A Bombshell

    Last Friday afternoon, the Fed released the minutes from a May 17 meeting of the Federal Advisory Council (FAC) – that you probably never heard of before today. The Council is a group of 12 influential bankers from across the country who meet periodically and give the Fed Board of Governors input regarding the economy, monetary policy, etc. To my knowledge, no one in the mainstream media has reported on what you will read here today.

    Following that discussion, I will review the latest economic reports over the last couple of weeks and let you know what we’re looking for in reports during the balance of this week.

    Finally, I’ll give you my take on the escalating IRS scandal that is now being investigated in Congress. I will suggest to you that the roots of this scandal go all the way back to the landmark Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission decision made by the Supreme Court in January 2010. For whatever reasons, the media hasn’t seemed to make that connection.

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  • The Economy - Consumers Still in the Dumps

    IN THIS ISSUE:

    1.  Weak Economic Growth to Continue

    2.  Consumer Confidence Remains in the Dumps 

    3.  Unemployment Rate Continues to Disappoint

    4.  Fortunately, Not All the News Was Bad

    5.  2010 Federal Budget Deficit Hits $1.3 Trillion

    6.  Don’t Forget the “Debt Commission”

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  • The Slowing Economy & the Fed’s Dilemma

    IN THIS ISSUE:

    1. The Economic Slowdown Continues

    2. Confidence & Employment Remain in Retreat

    3. Bernanke Announces Fed's Latest Plan

    4. Is Obama Planning a "September Surprise"?

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  • Headed For a Double-Dip Recession?

    This week, we focus on the latest outlook for the US economy. As you are no doubt aware, the consensus view of the economic recovery has dimmed over the last month, especially with the latest disappointing 1Q GDP report on Friday, June 25. While consumer spending increased very modestly in May (latest data available), bank lending remains in the tank. Unless lending improves, the economic recovery will be disappointing at best, and a double-dip recession is clearly a possibility in 2011.

    Following that discussion, we will look into the new financial regulatory bill which is expected to be passed by Congress any day now. While I have been an outspoken advocate for financial regulatory reform (see my April 20 E-Letter), the huge new reform bill is lacking and even negative on several fronts. It will not eliminate 'too-big-to-fail' and it will not preclude an even more serious financial crisis in the years ahead. About all it does is to greatly increase the size of government. Surprise, surprise!

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  • Consumer Confidence & Bank Lending Plunge

    Two economic/financial reports last week were shockers and support my view that we may be facing a double-dip recession. First, consumer confidence unexpectedly plunged in January - no analysts that I read saw this large a drop coming. Second, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) released its quarterly report which showed that lending by US banks plunged last year in the sharpest decline since 1942. We also saw new unemployment claims spike higher for the week ending February 20.

    What does this all mean? For one, the economy is not improving and more and more Americans are coming to know this. And banks are still not lending - what else is new? Are we indeed headed for a double-dip recession? Maybe, maybe not, but the odds are increasing. This week, we go over the latest reports, and try to come to some conclusions. And we end on a personal note from me. Let's get started.

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  • Economic Recovery vs. Rising Unemployment

    This Thursday, all eyes will be on the 'advance' estimate of 3Q GDP, and most analysts expect it to be positive and confirm that the US economy emerged from the recession in the July-September quarter. Yet even if the GDP report is positive on Thursday, we all know that the unemployment rate (currently 9.8%) continues to rise and is likely to go up for at least several more months.

    If the government counted everyone who is unemployed, or is working part-time because they can't find a full-time job, the real US unemployment rate was 17% as of the end of September. So even if the recession 'officially' ended in the 3Q based on this Thursday's GDP report, this economy is far from out of the woods. And if the dollar continues to fall, even more dire consequences (ie - a double-dip recession) are likely to follow. It's a lot to cover in one letter, so let's get started.

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  • When Will The Bull Market Return?

    I'm going to be out of the office most of this week spending time with my son who is home from college on Spring Break. Since we live on Lake Travis near Austin, I'm sure he'll have me driving the boat while he and his buddies ski and wakeboard. That being the case, I'm going to reprint an excellent article by David Henry entitled "When Will the Bull Return?" David brings some good insights in to how stock market cycles work, and just how long it might be before the current bear market comes to an end.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Henry's note of caution is not being heeded by Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) climbed just over 9% last week, prompting many bull market cheerleaders to proclaim that the stock market has hit the bottom and its now on the way back up. While this may be true, it is also a fact that there have been many "market bottom" calls over the course of this bear market and, so far, they have all been wrong. After the article reprint, I'll briefly discuss why I think Wall Street so desperately needs a new bull market.

    Then, I'm going to share with you a way to begin introducing active management strategies into your own portfolio. By making "half a decision," you can test the waters of active management without totally abandoning other strategies that you may now employ. Buy-and-hold strategies are fatally flawed, so maybe its time you tried something else....