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  • 3Q GDP Report Came In Better Than Expected At 2.9%

    We will touch on several bases today. I must admit that it was so tempting to devote today’s E-Letter to a discussion about the presidential election one week from today, especially with all the recent twists and turns in this race.

    But the fact is, these are two of the worst presidential candidates I can ever remember. So I’ll spare you my political thoughts today. I do have an interesting section below on which US presidents have been best for the economy dating back to President Eisenhower in 1953. Hint: President Obama ranks dead last!

    Following that discussion, we’ll take a look at the global bond market which has taken a hit over the last couple of months. Bonds worldwide lost almost 3% in October alone, the largest monthly loss since May 2013. The question is whether this is just a “correction” or the beginning of a new trend?

    Before we get into those discussions, let’s take a look at last Friday’s stronger than expected GDP report for the 3Q. The advance report showed growth well above the pre-report consensus. Most analysts concluded that the door is now wide open for the Fed to raise short-term interest rates in December. I’ll give you my latest thoughts as we go along today.

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  • GDP Stunner: 2Q Growth Was Less Than Half of Forecast

    The Commerce Department reported last Friday that gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the US, rose only 1.2% (annual rate) in the second quarter. That was less than half the pre-report consensus of 2.6%. This was one of the largest misses by forecasters in quite some time. I'll break down the report as we go along today. I will also discuss what the Fed's reaction to the disappointing GDP report is likely to be.

    At the end of today's letter, I will give you a link to a WALL STREET JOURNAL article on Sunday which claims that while Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton compromised national security by urging US technology companies to fund Russian research for military purposes. Assuming it’s true as the Journal claims, it will easily be the most serious scandal ever for Ms. Clinton. And it couldn't come at a better time!

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  • Sub-3% GDP Growth: A Lost Decade For The US Economy

    Whew – January is finally over! Up until the last week or so, the downside carnage in January was the worst New Year’s stock market start in history. Thanks to last week’s rebound, it was only the worst New Year’s start since January of 2009 when the Great Recession was unfolding. Still, it was a hair-raising month for stock investors. And no one knows if the damage is over.

    There are many theories as to why equity markets around the world suddenly plummeted in January. I have written about several of them in the last couple of weeks. Most market commentators, including yours truly, have pointed to concerns about China’s economy, the collapse in oil/commodity prices, the strong US dollar, Fed interest rate hikes, etc., etc. as the likely causes for the January implosion.

    Rather than continue that discussion today, I want to point out a milestone that was reached with the end of 2015 and last Friday’s 4Q GDP report – and this milestone was not a good one. With 2015 behind us, it has been a decade since we have seen 3% yearly growth in the economy. The last year we had 3% growth was 2005. Call it America’s “Lost Decade.”

    Near the end of today’s letter, I will make some suggestions on how we could stimulate our now moribund economy – starting with a significant corporate income tax cut for businesses large and small. Republicans complain that they can’t override President Obama’s veto, so they do nothing. Yet with the economy now growing by less than 1%, I think the GOP would be surprised at how much support they could get from Democrats, especially in an election year.

    Before we get to that discussion, let’s take a look at last Friday’s GDP report for the 4Q. The advance report came in lower than expected with growth of only 0.7% for the final three months of last year. The sharply lower 4Q reading suggests yet another year of weak economic growth. And there is now a controversy over how much the economy expanded last year, which I will explain as we go along.

    And finally, I am very excited to announce our latest Special Report: UNDERSTANDING & MAXIMIZING YOUR 401(K). We have worked long and hard on this Report to help our many clients and readers not only understand how their 401(k)s work, but also how to maximize their benefits. If you have a 401(k), you definitely want to download our FREE Special Report.

    There’s a lot to cover in today’s E-Letter, so let’s get started.

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  • Is The U.S. Economy Really In Trouble? A Debate

    Today we’ll take a closer look at last Thursday’s disappointing GDP report for the 3Q. It turns out that the report was not quite as bad as the headline 1.5% growth suggested. Following that, we’ll look at some polls which show that about two-thirds of Americans are worried about the direction the country/economy is headed.

    Along that line, I have reprinted a very interesting column from The New York Times’ senior economics writer, Neil Irwin. In a debate with himself, Mr. Irwin discusses the many pros and cons regarding the economic outlook, and suggests that maybe we worry too much. While you might not agree with him, he quotes a lot of economic stats and the article will make you think.

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  • China & Fed Lift-Off Dominate Market Trends - Why?

    Is it just me, or does it seem like the global markets are preoccupied with two things: China’s economy and when the Federal Reserve will raise US interest rates? Sure, there are other things going on, but these two topics seem to be driving the financial markets more than any others this year.

    In that light, we will begin today with a look at China’s latest economic report last week which received mixed reviews among economists. While China’s economy is slowing, growth is still officially near a 7% annual rate. Even if it’s only 5-6%, as many believe, a recession is not likely in China anytime soon.

    Following that discussion, I will touch briefly on the Fed’s policy meeting that began today and ends tomorrow. Most Fed-watchers, including me, don’t expect any surprises tomorrow, but you never know. On the subject of the Fed, there is increasing talk about short-term interest rates going below zero. I’ll briefly explain what that’s all about.

    While China and the Fed seem to dominate the headlines and financial market trends, there is a very important report coming out this Thursday. That’s when we get the government’s first estimate of 3Q GDP. The pre-report consensus is at 1.7% with some estimates as low as only 1.0%. If correct, that means the strong growth in the 2Q (3.9%) did not carry over during the summer.

    Finally, I will close out today’s letter by summarizing the most interesting article I read last week.

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  • The Economy Surges Higher, But Is It For Real?

    Today we look at last Friday’s better than expected final report on 2Q GDP, which was revised from 3.7% to 3.9%. Best of all, this increase was largely due to increased consumer spending which accounts for almost 70% of GDP. Following the paltry 0.6% increase in GDP in the 1Q, this means the economy grew by 2.25% in the first half of this year.

    While a 3.9% jump in economic growth in the 2Q was welcome news, there is a growing consensus that such reports from the government may not be remotely accurate. The problem is, many agree, that the government’s “seasonal adjustments” to the monthly and quarterly data have gotten out of control, and the numbers reported are no longer reliable. We’ll talk about this below.

    Next, we’ll look into what many are calling a “flip-flop” on the part of Fed Chair Janet Yellen in the last two weeks on the subject of when short-term interest rates are likely to be raised. At the Fed’s latest policy meeting on September 17, they decided to postpone the first rate hike in nearly a decade, seemingly indefinitely. But then last Thursday, Yellen said lift-off will happen before the end of this year, and this sparked the latest selloff in the equity markets. So, what gives?

    I will close today with a few thoughts about the SuperMoon, BloodMoon and lunar eclipse we saw on Sunday night. I hope you got to view it.

    And finally, our latest WEBINAR with ZEGA Financial is now available for viewing on our website. ZEGA’s strategy for using options is one of the most interesting I have ever seen.

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  • Population Growth & Productivity Headed in Wrong Direction

    Today we’ll focus on some longer-term economic data which shows, unfortunately, that the US economy is in a multi-decade slide that will be very difficult to reverse. Population growth and worker productivity – the keys to sustained economic growth – are both in decline, trends that are not likely to change anytime soon.

    US Gross Domestic Product averaged 3.74% annual growth from 1950 to 1990, but has since  slowed dramatically to average only 2.21% from 2010 to 2014. Even worse, worker productivity that averaged 2.5% annual growth from 1948 to 2007 has been slashed by over 50% to only 1.2% annually from 2010 to 2014.

    Throughout its history, the US has been a productivity powerhouse. US worker productivity growth averaged around 3% annually during the period 1996-2004, but fell to 1.5% in 2005-2012, and more recently has slipped even further to just above 1%.

    What’s at stake is the very future of America. Without faster growth, the US can’t create enough jobs for those who want them, and Americans will have to get used to much smaller increases in their paychecks. The middle class will likely shrink even more, and the poor would be even worse off. Are we doomed to a dimmer future?

    The question is, what can be done to reverse these troubling trends? The answers are not simple, nor politically correct in most cases. Another question is, do any of the politicians running today have the knowledge and/or conviction to tackle these critical problems?

    That’s what we will talk about today. But before we get to that discussion, let’s look at the Fed’s latest prediction for the economy in the 3Q. The latest GDPNow forecast will surprise you.

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  • Thursday’s GDP Report May Hold Big Surprises

    The next few days should be an interesting time in the markets. The Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC) is meeting today and tomorrow and will release its latest policy statement at the conclusion of the meeting. While it is not expected that the Committee will vote to raise the Fed Funds rate at tomorrow’s meeting, Fed Chair Janet Yellen has been talking hawkishly about a rate hike of late.

    Friends, business associates and clients increasingly ask me: Why is the Fed so intent on raising interest rates? The US economy is not that great, the global economy is slowing down, inflation is practically nonexistent and commodity prices are signaling deflation. So why on earth is the Fed hell-bent on raising rates when much of the world is doing just the opposite? I’ll tell you why as we go along today.

    Then on Thursday, we get the first estimate of 2Q GDP from the Commerce Department, and there is an unusually wide range of pre-report estimates. While there is broad agreement that the economy bounced back after the disappointing 1Q rate of -0.2%, some forecasters believe the 2Q estimate will be less than 1%, while others believe it will be north of 3%. That’s a huge spread! The Atlanta Fed’s rolling “GDPNow” indicates 2Q growth of 2.4%.

    Yet perhaps the most important news of this week will be the Commerce Department’s annual revisions to its GDP numbers going back several years on Thursday. While such revisions happen every year, this year’s revisions and changes are expected to be more significant than usual as the government tries to smooth-out “seasonal adjustments.” Many expect that the 1Q GDP estimate of -0.2% could be revised to a slightly positive number. This will be big news.

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  • China Surpasses America As World’s Largest Economy

    For the first time in history, the People’s Republic of China’s Gross Domestic Product exceeded the GDP of America, as measured by purchasing power, in 2014. According to the International Monetary Fund, China’s purchasing power GDP hit $17.6 trillion last year versus $17.4 trillion in the US.

    This was an important milestone for both countries, and China will almost certainly expand its lead over the US in the coming years and decades. Yet that is not necessarily a bad thing for the US, as I will explain below. You probably didn’t hear about this in the media, and that’s why we will talk about it today.

    But before we get to our main topic, let’s look at a few recent economic reports of interest. The US economy has largely disappointed this year, with weaker-than-expected growth in sales, spending and production, with most of reports showing scant momentum.

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  • On The Economy, The Environment & Income Tax Time

    The combination of topics for today’s E-Letter might seem unusual, and it is – the economy, the environment and income tax time. How do those fit together? They don’t really, but I think you will find today’s discussion on each to be interesting.

    The economy has been in a slow recovery for the past five-and-a- half years. It’s the weakest post-recession rebound in generations. The Commerce Department’s latest revision of 4Q GDP shows that nothing much has changed. Meanwhile, winter economic reports for retail sales, manufacturing and capital investment point to a weaker 1Q, perhaps only around 1% growth in GDP.

    Today we will look at several recent economic reports, most of which were (you guessed it, unless you didn’t read last week’s E-letter) disappointing. That includes last week’s final Gross Domestic Product report for the 4Q, Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index and February durable goods orders and housing starts.

    I also want to share with you some of the latest interesting polling results from Rasmussen Reports that I think you’ll find very interesting, especially regarding how most Americans feel about the IRS – given that income tax day is just two weeks away.

    But before we get to those topics, I want to share with you the findings of a couple of new Gallup polls which gauge Americans’ concerns about the environment and global warming. With so much alarmist rhetoric out there, you would think that the environment would be near the top of most Americans’ worry list. Let’s take a look.

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  • Americans Even More Pessimistic Ahead of Elections

    We cover a lot of ground in today's E-Letter. We begin with the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll which found that the Republicans have risen to an 11-point lead among “likely voters.” That’s up from only a 5-point lead a week earlier. Some 52% of likely voters want a Republican-led Congress, while 41% favor Democratic control.

    Voters’ excitement about the campaign hasn’t increased as Election Day approaches, defying the trend in recent years. The share of voters who see the country on the “wrong track” has reached the highest level ever in a midterm election year, at 65%,versus only 25% who believe the country is moving in the "right direction." With so many disillusioned voters out there, we could be in for a surprise on Election Day.

    The same WSJ/NBC poll found support rising for the use of US ground forces to fight the Islamic State terrorists. Some 35% in the new survey said military action against the group should be limited to air strikes, with 41% saying it should include combat troops as well. A month earlier, some 40% called for airstrikes only, with only 34% saying the US should use combat troops as well as air strikes.

    Recently, President Obama has been making some flowery speeches about how the economy is doing just great. To rebut the president's argument, I offer over 20 reasons why the economy is nowhere near as healthy as he claims. The American people know this, and it could have a big effect on the elections next Tuesday.

    The Fed Open Market Committee meets today and tomorrow. There has been talk that in light of the recent stock market meltdown, the Fed might decide to continue its QE bond buying program a little longer. I don't buy it, especially now that the stock markets have mostly recovered. I expect the FOMC will vote to end QE tomorrow.

    On Thursday morning, we get the first look at 3Q Gross Domestic Product. The pre-report consensus for the advance GDP report is 3% (annual rate), following the 4.6% rise in the 2Q.

    In my blog on Thursday, I will analyze the Fed's latest decision on QE and share my thoughts on the GDP report. If you haven't subscribed to my free weekly blog, CLICK HERE.

    Finally, Debi and I went to New York City recently to visit the 911 Memorial and Museum. Let me just say that they were both incredible! I have more details at the end of today's letter.

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  • How High US Corporate Tax Rates Hurt the Economy

    The US corporate tax rate is the highest among developed nations at 35% at the federal level. Tack on state and local taxes, which can add 5-7%, and US corporations are looking at a 40%-42% income tax burden. But the US takes it even another step further, unlike any other country in the developed world.

    Uncle Sam demands that American companies with offshore operations pay US taxes on all income earned abroad – if those profits are repatriated to the US – even though taxes have already been paid to the countries where the income was actually generated. Think of it as double taxation on profits.

    No wonder then that more and more US corporations with offshore operations are keeping those profits outside the US in order to avoid this double taxation. It is estimated that up to $2 trillion of those foreign profits are parked outside the US. That is a ton of money which, if brought home, could result in lots of new projects that could create many new jobs.

    With an obligation to their shareholders to maximize profits, large US corporations are increasingly taking additional steps to minimize taxes owed to the Treasury in a process that has been coined “tax inversion” as I will explain below. This involves US firms moving their corporate headquarters overseas to countries where the tax burden is lower.

    Today, we’ll explore how the extraordinarily high US corporate tax rate hurts the economy and why more and more large American corporations are moving their headquarters offshore. And we’ll look at why the Obama administration is trying to stop it – when all it would take to fix it is the US lowering its tax burden to a more reasonable level. But no, Obama wants to raise corporate taxes even more. This should make for an interesting E-letter.

    But before we get into that discussion, let’s take a quick look at last Friday’s third and final report on 2Q Gross Domestic Product.

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  • Fed Forecasts Sub-3% Economy for the Next Three Years

    The Fed’s policy committee announced last Wednesday that it will end its massive QE bond buying program at the end of next month, thus paving the way for the first Fed funds rate increase sometime next year. This was not a surprise. The Fed’s gargantuan balance sheet will peak near $4.5 trillion in Treasury and mortgage-backed bonds at the end of October.

    What was surprising in the Fed’s data release last Wednesday was the downward revisions to its economic forecasts for 2014, 2015 and 2016. Furthermore, in its first-ever forecast for 2017, the Fed expects GDP growth of only 2.3% to 2.5% that year. In the wake of the Fed’s forecast downgrades last week, private economists are revising their estimates lower as well.

    On the bright side, Americans’ combined wealth posted a new high in the 2Q, a development that might shift the economy into a higher gear. The net worth of US households and nonprofit organizations rose about $1.4 trillion between April and June to a record $81.5 trillion, according to a new report released by the Fed last Thursday.

    This Friday, we get the latest estimate of 2Q GDP. In late August, the government estimated that the economy grew by a stronger than expected 4.2% (annual rate) in the 2Q. The pre-report consensus for Friday’s report suggests another jump to 4.6% in the final estimate. Most forecasters attribute the strong 2Q reading to the severe winter weather in the 1Q that pushed many activities into the April-June quarter. In other words, the 2Q was a “catch-up” period, and most economists expect slower growth for the second half of this year.

    Finally, I offer three recommendations to kick-start the economy at the end of today’s E-letter. I trust that most clients and readers would heartily agree with me. Unfortunately, the current occupant of the White House does not.

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  • Economic Outlook Dimming, Yet Fed Plans Rate Hikes

    The mainstream media was largely successful in convincing the public that the dreadful 1Q GDP number (-2.9%) was the result of the bitter winter in January and February. The media spin was that the economy would snap back strongly in the 2Q with growth of 4%, 5% or even 6%. While there were some encouraging economic reports in April, May and early June, the economy now appears to be losing momentum again.

    Predictions of 4-5% GDP growth in the 2Q have faded. A new Wall Street Journal poll last week found that forecasters on average expect 2Q GDP growth of only 3.1%, down from a 3.5% estimate a month ago. The same poll of 48 forecasters now expects the economy to grow by only 1.6% for all of 2014, down from 2.8% forecast earlier this year.

    Despite this dimming economic outlook, the media is now concerned that the Fed may begin raising interest rates sooner rather than later, and that the expected series of rate hikes will happen more rapidly than previously expected. But is there any real evidence that Janet Yellen and the Fed have changed their plans? I don’t think so. I’ll tell you why as we go along.

    Finally, we’ll round-out today’s discussion by looking at the latest Gallup poll that gauges what most Americans consider to be our biggest problems. For most of this year, Americans cited the economy as our biggest problem. However, in the latest poll a new concern has jumped to the top of the list and for good reason: Immigration/Illegal Aliens.

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  • 1Q GDP Plunges Nearly 3% - What Will The Fed Do Now?

    Today we take a closer look at last week’s very ugly 1Q GDP report and see if we can discern why it was so much worse than anyone expected (hint: it was more than the severe winter weather). Fortunately, it continues to look like 2Q growth will come in at +3.0% or better. But even if GDP for the rest of the year comes in strong, the devastating 1Q will ensure yet another slow growth year.

    The stunning 1Q GDP report immediately raised the question of what the Fed will do in response. Will the Fed slow down its methodical reduction of QE bond purchases? Will it put the so-called “taper” on hold? Or will it continue to taper as planned and end the program in the fall? I’ll share my thoughts as we go along today.

    Finally, one well-known financial writer – Mark Hulbert – believes that the recent decline in corporate profits spells the beginning of the end of the bull market in stocks. I have reprinted his latest article below, and I suggest you read it and give it some serious thought.

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