What Will Happen Next?

Change is inevitable. Political, social and economic change is often the result of crisis. We examine how our nation and world might change as a result of the crisis

Knock, Knock. It’s Deflation. Deflation Who?

(Video) Knock, Knock. It’s Deflation. Deflation Who?
The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast warns that the contracting U.S. economy signals deflation ahead

By Elliott Wave International


In June, the U.S. government, revising its previous number, reported that the economy shrank by 2.9% in the first quarter of 2014.

The steep plunge caught the bulls by surprise.

It was substantially worse than the preliminary forecast
for a 1.0% contraction, which itself was a far cry from the
initial 0.1% growth forecast in April.

As you can see on this chart, the last time the economy shrank was Q1 of 2011 (a 1.3% dip).

The [2.9%] decline was the sharpest since growth tumbled 5.4% in the first quarter of 2009 during the Great Recession. It was also one of the worst falloffs outside of a recession since 1960.

USAToday, June 25

The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast, the monthly
report issued by Elliott Wave International, the world’s largest
financial forecasting firm, which is well-known for calling
into question many mainstream forecasting methods, holds a
drastically different outlook from the government. If you
too don’t trust the government projections, EWI is a good
source of contrarian-minded research and analysis.

Financial Forecast co-editors Steve Hochberg and
Peter Kendall warn that investors are dangerously discounting
the potential for a market selloff. They say the economy is
slowly contracting and winding its way toward outright deflation,
and the recent government revision is evidence of deflation
in action. In their recent issues of the Financial Forecast,
they have documented more than two dozen measures of extreme
investor optimism, a classic reversal indicator for technical
analysts.

After the government’s Q1 revision, the stock market hovered in positive territory. What’s more, the Consumer Confidence Index registered a six-year high.

But Hochberg and Kendall believe, in spite of all the optimism, that this latest revision should raise concerning questions among investors about the sustainability of today’s exuberant psychology — especially now that economic growth is inconsistent with the prevailing psychology. When so many sentiment indicators align in one direction, it’s a good time to check in on what the opposite side of the trend might look like. After all, markets never go in the same direction forever, and they tend to reverse alongside extremes in sentiment. Investors who are aware of and prepare for such turning points dramatically increase their chances of surviving them.

For specific forecasts and analysis from Hochberg and Kendall’s latest, July Financial Forecast, click here. You will get free access to a big chunk from their latest issue, complete with labeled technical charts.

This
article was syndicated by Elliott Wave International and
was originally published under the headline (Video) Is That Deflation Knocking on the Door?.
EWI is the world’s largest market forecasting firm. Its staff
of full-time analysts led by Chartered Market Technician
Robert Prechter provides 24-hour-a-day market analysis to
institutional and private investors around the world.

Stock Market Update: Be Cautious

stock market bear 2014 got off to a rough start for stock market investors. January was a smack in the face as the markets decided to go for a five percent nosedive. But they recovered (again) in February and the indices have gone on to put up new all-time highs.

 

The current bull market has past its fifth birthday. It is on the verge of breaking the top three longest stock market rallies in history. With an increase of more than 150 percent for the Dow Jones index from its March 2009 low, the magnitude and momentum of this bull market is just as qualified for the history books as its duration. That is clearly visible on the following chart.

You can also see that we have seen better and longer bull markets in the past. In the ‘50s, we had a seven year bull market and the bull market of the ‘90s lasted for almost ten years! Just to be clear: a bull market remains theoretically intact as long as an index does not drop by more than 20 percent from a high. There is plenty of upside in other words, but the air does get thinner the higher we go. Naturally, the upward potential has decreased and as history has taught us, at one point the cable on this elevator will snap and we will go down a lot faster than we came up.

Bull-markets-duration-vs-magnitude

The question, of course, is when will the music stop? That has always been the $64,000 question. With regards to valuation, we are already in overtime at the moment. The markets are generously valued at this point, particularly when looking at market capitalization versus GDP (Warren Buffett’s favorite indicator).

Another indicator is also showing warning signs. The Tobin Q ratio measures the total market cap of non-financial listed companies in relation to the replacement value of the assets of these companies. The ratio is a good check to see if the fair value of these companies is deviating from their stock price. Above 1x, this ratio indicates that investors are prepared to pay more for expected performance and goodwill.

Tobin-Q
The above chart from clearly shows that the actual position of the Tobin Q ratio, as well as the adjusted version, has been living north of the 1x level since the fourth quarter of 2013. In the past, namely in the seventies, the current position would have been enough to cause turmoil. Naturally, there are exceptions as evidenced by spike around the dot com boom, but still…

Still, it feels like the 2000-period on the stock market. Just have a look at the chart below, which compares the S&P 500 to the Rydex Asset Ratio (Bears versus Bulls). It’s been 13 years since the ratio dropped this low. Investors are pouring massive amounts of cash into equity funds (long only) and liquidating their short / hedge funds and money market funds. This again is huge warning sign for the markets.

Rydex-Asset-Ratio-2014
That is the problem investors have today. On the one hand, valuation and duration are above average, but that does not necessarily mean that we are at the dawn of a big stock market correction. This stock market rally could last for a few more years and valuations have a lot more room to grow before we can even start talking about a bubble.

That is why vigilance is in order. Indeed, investing is making an estimation regarding the future, taking healthy probabilities into account. As the market rally persists, its effective life span decreases, that makes logical sense. Unfortunately, logic is not always what governs the stock market. Nevertheless we have become more cautious in 2014.

 

The Never Ending Recession — Should I Trust the Government?

We know the BEA has deflated GDP by only 32 percent since 2000. We know the BLS reports the CPI has only risen by 37 percent since 2000. Should I trust the government or trust the facts and my own eyes? Americans know what it cost for food, energy, shelter, healthcare, transportation and entertainment in 2000, but they unquestioningly accept the falsified inflation figures produced by the government. The chart below is a fairly comprehensive list of items most people might need to live in this world. A critical thinking individual might wonder how the government can proclaim inflation of 32 percent to 37 percent over the last fourteen years, when the true cost of living has grown by 50 percent to 100 percent for most daily living expenses. The huge increases in:

  • property taxes,
  • sales taxes,
  • government fees,
  • and income taxes

aren’t even factored in the chart. It seems gold has smelled out the currency debasement.

Living Expense

You should not trust government statistics – any government statistic. They have systematically under-reported inflation. The reality that we remain stuck in a fourteen year recession is borne out by:

  • the continued decline in vehicle miles driven (at 1995 levels) due to declining commercial activity,
  • the millions of shuttered small businesses,
  • and the proliferation of Space Available signs in strip malls and office parks across the land.

The fact there are only 8 million more people employed today than were employed in 2000, despite the working age population growing by 35 million, might be a clue that we remain in recession. If that isn’t enough proof for you, than maybe a glimpse at real median household income, retail sales and housing will put the final nail in the coffin.

The government and their media mouthpieces expect the masses to believe they have advanced their standard of living, with median household income growing from $40,800 to $52,500 since 2000. But, even using the badly flawed CPI to adjust these figures into real terms reveals real median household income to be 7.3 percent below the level of 2000. Using a true inflation figure would cause a CNBC talking head to have an epileptic seizure.

household-income-monthly-median-since-2000

The picture is even bleaker when broken down into the age of households, with younger households suffering devastating real declines in household income since 2000. I guess all those retail clerk, cashier, waitress, waiter, food prep, and housekeeper jobs created over the last few years aren’t cutting the mustard. Maybe that explains the 30 million increase (175% increase) in food stamp recipients since 2000, encompassing 19 percent of all households in the U.S. The increase credit card, auto and student loan debt over the fourteen year period 2000 to 2014 is likely an attempt by households to maintain their standard of living via debt.

household-median-income-by-age-bracket-2012-table

When you get your head around this unprecedented decline in household income over the last fourteen years, along with the 50 percent to 100 percent rise in costs to live in the real world, as opposed to the theoretical world of the Federal Reserve and BLS, you will understand the long term decline in retail sales reflected in the following chart. When you adjust monthly retail sales for gasoline (an additional tax), inflation (understated), and population growth, you understand why retailers are closing thousands of stores and hurdling towards inevitable bankruptcy. Retail sales are 6.9 percent below the June 2005 peak and 4 percent below levels reached in 2000. And this is with millions of retail square feet added over this time frame. We know the dramatic surge from the 2009 lows was not prompted by an increase in household income. So how did the 11 percent proliferation of spending happen?

Retail-Sales-ex-gas-adjusted-for-population-and-inflation

The up swell in retail spending began to accelerate in late 2010. Considering credit card debt outstanding is at exactly where it was in October 2010, it seems consumers playing with their own money turned off the spigot of speculation. It has been non-revolving debt that has skyrocketed from $1.63 trillion in February 2010 to $2.26 trillion today. This unprecedented 39 percent rise in four years has been engineered by the government, using your tax dollars and the tax dollars of future generations. The Federal government has complete control of the student loan market and with their 85 percent ownership of Ally Financial, the largest auto financing company, a dominant position in the auto loan market. The peddling of $400 billion of subprime student loan debt and $200 billion of subprime auto loan debt has created the illusion of a retail recovery. The student loan debt has been utilized by University of Phoenix MBA wannabes  to buy iGadgets, the latest PS3 version of Grand Theft Auto and the latest glazed donut breakfast sandwich on the market. It’s nothing but another debt financed bubble that will end in tears for the American taxpayer, as hundreds of billions will be written off.

The fake retail recovery pales in comparison to the wolves of Wall Street produced housing recovery sham. They deserve an Academy Award for best fantasy production. The Federal Reserve fed Wall Street hedge fund purchase of millions of foreclosed homes across the nation has produced home price increases of 10 percent to 30 percent in cities across the country. Withholding foreclosures from the market and creating artificial demand with free money provided by the Federal Reserve has temporarily added $4 trillion of housing net worth and reduced the number of underwater mortgages on the books of the Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks. The percentage of investor purchases and cash purchases is at all-time highs, while the percentage of first time buyers is at all-time lows. Anyone with an ounce of common sense can look at the long-term chart of mortgage applications and realize we are still in a recession. Applications are 35 percent below levels at the depths of the 2008/2009 recession. Applications are 65 percent below levels at the housing market peak in 2005. They are even 35 percent below 2000 levels. There is no real housing recovery, despite the propaganda peddled by the NAR, CNBC, and Wall Street. It’s a fraud.

MBAMar122014

It is the pinnacle of arrogance and hubris that a few Ivy League educated economists sitting in the Marriner Eccles Building in the swamps of Washington D.C., who have never worked a day in their lives at a real job, think they can create wealth and pull the levers of money creation to control the American and global financial systems. All they have done is perfect the art of bubble finance. Their policies have induced unwarranted hope and speculation on a grand scale. Greenspan and Bernanke have provoked multiple bouts of extreme speculation in stocks and housing over the last 15 years, with the subsequent inevitable collapses. Fed encouraged gambling does not create wealth it just redistributes it from the middle class to the elites. The Fed has again produced an epic bubble in stock and bond valuations which will result in another collapse. Normalcy bias keeps the majority from seeing the cliff straight ahead. Federal Reserve monetary policies have distorted financial markets, created extreme imbalances, encouraged excessive risk taking, and ruined the lives of working class people. Take a long hard look at the chart below and answer one question. Was QE designed to benefit Main Street or Wall Street?

sp-500-vs-federal-reserve-balance-sheet1

The average American has experienced a fourteen year recession caused by the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve. Our leaders could have learned the lesson of two Fed induced collapses in the space of eight years and voluntarily abandoned the policies of reckless credit expansion, instead embracing policies encouraging saving, capital investment and balanced budgets. They have chosen the same cure as the disease, which will lead to crisis, catastrophe and collapse. 

“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.” – Ludwig von Mises

Retail Money Market Funds Signal Reversal for the Stock Market

(Video) Retail Money Market Funds Signal Reversal for the Stock Market
Steve Hochberg on the state of retail money market funds vs. stock market capitalization, filmed at the 2014 Las Vegas Money Show

By Elliott Wave International

Editor’s note: The article below is adapted from the transcript of the live presentation above, originally recorded at the 2014 Las Vegas Money Show. It features Elliott Wave International Chief Market Analyst Steve Hochberg. Hochberg is co-editor of The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast, one of EWI’s flasgship market letters. Click here for a free excerpt from Hochberg’s latest issue.

This chart is a picture of retail money market funds as a percentage of market capitalization.

In other words, when people are super bullish, they don’t want to hold any money in money market funds. They want to invest it, right?

Because why hold money aside when you don’t think the market’s going down, when it can be in the market if you think it’s going up?

When people are super bearish, what do they do? They take money out of the market, and they put it into money market funds hoping to wait out what they view as a declining market.

Now look at the upward spikes in this chart.

You can see that there was a high percentage of money in money market funds as a percentage of market cap back in 1982 as the market was bottoming and starting that great bull market.

Shortly after the 1987 crash, people got really scared; and again in 2002 after the market had been down 38%, and also in 2009 after the market declined 58%.

We are now at a new all-time low in the percentage of retail money market funds relative of market cap at just 2.8%. In other words, people are fully invested.

Investors are so optimistic about the future, they see no reason to keep money in money market funds in case the market goes down.

This is a classic warning sign that a reversal is ahead.

For a free excerpt from Steve Hochberg’s latest, July Elliott Wave Financial Forecast, click here. For a limited-time, EWI is giving away free access to a big chunk from the latest issue, complete with specific forecasts, analysis and labeled charts.