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S&P 500 recovers but Europe remains weak

By Colin Twiggs
August 16th, 2014 1:30 p.m. AEST (11:30 p:m EDT)

Advice herein is provided for the general information of readers and does not have regard to any particular person's investment objectives, financial situation or needs. Accordingly, no reader should act on the basis of any information contained herein without first having consulted a suitably qualified financial advisor.


S&P 500 and Europe

Summary:

  • Europe continues to test support.
  • S&P 500 recovers.
  • VIX continues to indicate a bull market.
  • China bullish.
  • ASX 200 recovers.

Dow Jones Europe Index continues to test its primary trendline and support at 315/325. 13-Week Twiggs Momentum below zero warns of a primary down-trend. Breach of primary support at 315 would confirm.

Dow Jones Europe Index

The S&P 500 recovered above 1950, suggesting another test of resistance at 2000. Recovery of 13-week Twiggs Money Flow above its July high would suggest that buyers have taken control. Reversal below 1900 is unlikely, but would warn that the primary trend is slowing.

S&P 500

* Target calculation: 1500 + ( 1500 - 750 ) = 2250

CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) remains low, suggesting a bull market.

S&P 500 VIX

Dow Jones Shanghai Index is testing resistance at 295. Breakout would confirm a primary up-trend. Respect of resistance, however, would indicate further consolidation.

Dow Jones Shanghai Index

ASX 200 recovery above 5550 also suggests another advance. Respect of zero by 13-week Twiggs Money Flow would strengthen the signal. Reversal below 5450 is unlikely, but would warn of another test of primary support.

ASX 200

* Target calculation: 5400 + ( 5400 - 5000 ) = 5800

Secular stagnation?

Economic recovery after the Great Recession has been disappointing.

Employment levels remain low. Official unemployment figures ignore the declining participation rate. Employment levels, in the 25 to 54 age group, for males remain roughly 6%, and females 5%, below their previous peaks. Using the 25 to 54 age group eliminates distortions from student levels and from baby boomers postponing retirement.

Employment levels

Manufacturing earnings, as would be expected, are also weak.

Manufacturing earnings

Sales growth remains poor.

Sales growth

And real GDP growth is slow.

Real GDP

US Headwinds

Stanley Fischer, Vice Chairman at the Fed, in his address to a conference in Sweden, attributed slow recovery in the US to three major aggregate demand headwinds:

The housing sector

The housing sector was at the epicenter of the U.S. financial crisis and recession and it continues to weigh on the recovery. After previous recessions, vigorous rebounds in housing activity have typically helped spur recoveries. In this episode, however, residential construction was held back by a large inventory of foreclosed and distressed properties and by tight credit conditions for construction loans and mortgages. Moreover, the wealth effect from the decline in housing prices, as well as the inability of many underwater households to take advantage of low interest rates to refinance their mortgages, may have reduced household demand for non-housing goods and services. Indeed, some researchers have argued that the failure to deal decisively with the housing problem seriously prolonged and deepened the crisis.

A slow housing recovery is unfortunately the price you pay for protecting the banks. By supporting house prices through artificial low interest rates, you prevent markets from clearing excess inventories.

Fiscal policy

The stance of U.S. fiscal policy in recent years constituted a significant drag on growth as the large budget deficit was reduced. Historically, fiscal policy has been a support during both recessions and recoveries. In part, this reflects the operation of automatic stabilizers, such as declines in tax revenues and increases in unemployment benefits, that tend to accompany a downturn in activity. In addition, discretionary fiscal policy actions typically boost growth in the years just after a recession. In the U.S., as well as in other countries — especially in Europe — fiscal policy was typically expansionary during the recent recession and early in the recovery, but discretionary fiscal policy shifted relatively fast from expansionary to contractionary as the recovery progressed.

Anemic exports

A third headwind slowing the U.S. recovery has been unexpectedly slow global growth, which reduced export demand. Over the past several years, a number of our key trading partners have suffered negative shocks. Some have been relatively short lived, including the collapse in Japanese growth following the tragic earthquake in 2011. Others look to be more structural, such as the stepdown in Chinese growth compared to its double digit pre-crisis pace. Most salient, not least for Sweden, has been the impact of the fiscal and financial situation in the euro area over the past few years.

Supply-side

Fischer also cites the weak labor market, declining investment and disappointing productivity growth as inhibiting aggregate production.

While I agree with his view of the labor market, we should not use the heady days of the Dotcom bubble as a benchmark for investment. Private nonresidential investment is recovering.

ASX 200 Corrections

Productivity is also growing steadily.

Productivity

Other factors

There are two factors, however, that Fischer did not mention which, I believe, go a long way to explaining slow US growth.

Crude oil prices

In the last 4 decades, sharp rises in real crude oil prices have coincided with falling GDP growth and, in most cases, recessions. Crude prices remain elevated since the Great Recession and, I believe, are retarding economic growth. The blue line on the graph below plots crude oil (WTI) over the consumer price index (CPI).

WTI Crude

Currency manipulation

China continues its aggressive purchase of US Treasuries in order to maintain a competitive advantage of the Yuan against the Dollar. Inflows on capital account — not only from China — include roughly $5 trillion of federal debt purchased since 2001. This keeps the US uncompetitive in export markets and places domestic manufacturers at a disadvantage when competing against imports.

Foreign Holdings of US Federal Securities

Recent purchases of federal debt are sufficient to drive 10-Year Treasury yields through support at 2.40%/2.50%.

10-Year Treasury Yields

Glass half empty or half full?

Bears will no doubt seize on the headwinds to support their prediction of another market crash. I am reassured, however, that the economy has recovered as well as it has, given the difficulties facing it. None of the headwinds are likely to disappear any time soon, but progress in addressing these last two issues would go a long way to solving many of them.

That's all from me for today. Take care.



Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self interest.

~ Napoleon Bonaparte

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