The worst things get, the more they stay the same.
As the stock market continues to set records, the latest Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey shows that the business outlook for manufacturing is weakening. Of course, that could help continue to boost the market, since it gives The Fed an excuse to continue its quantitative easing.
“I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air
They fly so high, nearly reach the sky
And like my dreams they fade and die.”
From “Forever Blowing Bubbles”
Bubbles are everywhere, according to Bill Gross, aka The Bond King.
According to Gross, there’s a bubble in Treasuries, a bubble in narrow credit spreads and a bubble in high-yield prices. The stock market appears to be in a bubble, too.
The problem with bubbles is that we won’t know we’re in one until it pops. And when it pops, it’s too late to do anything about it. A bubble can cause all sorts of problems, as you may recall from the dot-com bubble in the ‘90s and the housing bubble in 2008.
If baby boomers decide to postpone their retirement, it may not solve all of the country’s economic problems, but it will help address most of them.
So it’s good news that a growing number of boomers are postponing retirement. Today, almost 18% of people older than 65 are still working and the number is climbing. In 1993, only 11% of people older than age 65 were still working, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Of course, many boomers will be forced to keep working, because they have not saved enough or because the performance of their retirement portfolio has not met their expectations.
Others, though, will keep working simply because they want to work.
President Obama and the Federal Aviation Administration blamed recent flight delays on sequestration. Now the Federal Reserve Board’s Open Market Committee is blaming sequestration for the poor performance of the U.S. economy.
Both claims are equally frivolous.
As The Wall Street Journal noted, “The FAA’s all-hands furloughs managed to convert a less than 4% FAA budget cut into a 10% air-traffic control cut that would delay 40% of flights. The 6,700 flights that the FAA threatened to force off schedule every day is twice as many delays as the single worst travel day of 2012.”
With members of Congress among those affected by the flight delays, Congress acted with uncharacteristic quickness and approved a bill to revoke FAA’s politically motivated furloughs.
A tweet – 12 words, 140 characters – caused a selling frenzy last week, as the stock market dumped $134 billion in stocks in a minute and a half and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1 percent of its value, or 143 points.
The market recovered quickly, as the Associated Press announced that someone had hacked into its computer system and posted a fake tweet about two explosions in the White House.
But the hoax served as a frightening fire drill. If it had been real, the average investor would have been burned alive.
We’ve warned readers about the dangers of high-frequency trading before. This is an example of why we’re concerned. If the White House explosions had been real, the algorithms that make decisions for high-speed traders would have continued selling, leaving the average investor behind as stock values tumbled.
Rick Santelli, on-air editor for CNBC Business News, said high-frequency trading has turned the markets into “high-speed casinos.”
Like most promises made before an election, the promise of an economic recovery is beginning to look like a false promise.
Last fall, the housing market was showing signs of recovery and the unemployment rate was dropping. The stock market since then has been propelled upward by the artificial stimulus of quantitative easing.
Now, though, economic indicators are less promising. The Conference Board reported today that, after three months of gains, its index of leading indicators dipped 0.1% to 94.7 in March.
As of April 29, the U.S. government will have operated without a budget for four years. Based on the budget he proposed this week, President Obama intends to keep the streak going.
Even the smallest mom-and-pop businesses develop a budget each year and stick to it. Yet the world’s largest enterprise – the U.S. government – has operated without a budget for more than 1,400 days. Of course, the mom-and-pop business wouldn’t spend $1.4 trillion more than it takes in every year, either, but that’s another matter.
Nitpickers would say that the government is operating with a budget; Congress just has not passed a budget resolution since 2009. But it’s the job of Congress to pass and approve a budget – and it has not done so for four years.
As just one example of the absurdity of the Congressional budget process in recent years, consider that when President Obama proposed his budget for FY ’12, the Senate voted it down 97–0. Every Senator in the President’s own party – even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — voted against the budget, even though many had praised it when it was proposed.
Cyprus? Really? The population of Cyprus is just north of 1 million people.
In comparison, the Boston area has a population of 4.6 million. Greece has a population of about 10.8 million. Central Massachusetts has a population exceeding 800,000. Would a financial crisis involving two banks in Worcester shake the financial system the way the financial crisis in Cyprus has?
Of course not. Then again, Worcester is not a tax haven for Russian billionaires, who use Cyprus as their Cayman Islands. Russia has kept many Cypriots gainfully employed through the country’s two largest banks, Bank of Cyprus PCL and Laiki Bank.
“Bernanke said, in essence, that he wasn’t a magician.”
Heidi Moore, The Guardian
The number one movie in America today, “Oz, the Great and Powerful,” could be a metaphor about The Federal Reserve Board and its role in the American economy.
Oz, a likable scoundrel, is a master of illusion. There is no substance behind his tricks, but they give the illusion of strength, and, since people believe what they want to believe, he is able to overcome the forces of evil.
Likewise, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s prestidigitation relies on quantitative easing to create the illusion of strength. All appears well when the stock market rises and the unemployment rate drops, even if there is no strength behind the market’s rise and the drop in unemployment is by only 0.2%.
Of course, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has its own illusionists, as we’ve pointed out in the past, who are able to make a 14.4% unemployment rate look like a 7.7% unemployment rate.