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Rainbows over Canyonlands - Dave Stoker

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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Seven Straight

Financial Review

Seven Straight

DOW + 9 = 22,026
SPX – 5 = 2472
NAS – 22 = 6340
RUT – 7 = 1405
10 Y – .03 = 2.23%
OIL – .64 = 48.95
GOLD + 1.70 = 1267.90
BITCOIN – 0.03% = 2813.43 USD
ETHEREUM – 0.98% = 223.10

Another record close for the down – the seventh consecutive record high close. Back in February we had a string of 12 record highs, which broke a record going back about 30 years. A drop in oil prices dragged on the energy sector. Apple and Amazon were down about 1% each; that was a drag on the Nasdaq and the S&P.

And while the Dow Industrial Average hit a record high of 22-thousand yesterday, that is not necessarily a good barometer of a strong economy. First, the Dow Industrials are only 30 stocks. Whether it’s good for you individually depends on whether you own lots of shares or not. Most people do not own very many shares at all.

About half of all equity is owned by the richest 1 million or so families, and another 41% is owned by the rest of the top 10%. The bottom 90% of families own about 9% of outstanding shares. We joke about celebrating record highs on the Dow, and while that is better than seeing the market crash, it really isn’t much of a cause for celebration.

If you can walk into your backyard and pick a fresh tomato that tastes like a tomato instead of cardboard – be happy; if somebody in your family gets a good job – celebrate; if there’s a new baby in the family – rejoice.

And if you do have money in stocks, Dow 22-thousand means it is time to be nervous. There are two big reasons why stock market surges like this end: Either because the economic foundation they are based on changes, usually when a recession hits, or because investors temporarily bid prices up too high.

There’s no recession on the horizon. But stocks probably are too high. We’ve bet too much on an expansion that is too tepid to warrant it. The S&P 500 is trading at 19 times this year’s expected profits — by some measures 40% higher than traditional norms. Earnings news has been good, but much of that is due to serious weakness in the dollar rather than strong domestic growth.

The economy is growing, but probably around 2% on an annualized basis; not enough to justify valuations. Sure, the markets can go higher from here; markets can be irrationally exuberant for extended periods but they can also drop.

And individual securities or specific sectors could still deliver stellar returns. Apple hit a record high yesterday. Some people might think it is pricey. The price-to-earnings ratio for Apple is just 17.7, so it is a better value than the market. That is not intended as a buy or sell recommendation, rather it is a recommendation to plan.

Labor Department data showed weekly jobless claims fell last week, pointing to a tightening labor market, while a report from the Institute for Supply Management showed its non-manufacturing index fell to 53.9 last month from 57.4 in June.

The big economic report is tomorrow morning’s read on non-farm payrolls. The economy probably added about 175,000 new jobs in July, roughly the same amount the U.S. has created each month since the start of 2017; that’s the average and that’s the estimate from economists.

The U.S. only needs to create around 100,000 jobs to accommodate all the new people looking for work each month. The unemployment rate, now at 4.4%, is likely to retouch a 16-year low of 4.3% very shortly. Companies haven’t had such a hard time hiring since the late 1990s — and they constantly complain about it, but so far, they don’t seem willing to pay more.

Wage growth is sluggish at 2.5%, with little or no improvement expected in July. Typically wages rise 3% to 4% a year when the economy is at full throttle.

Generic drug-maker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. was the latest casualty this earnings season. Shares plunged 21%. Teva cited accelerated price erosion, decreased volume and more Food and Drug Administration generics approvals as among the factors that hurt its generics business performance. The sector also took a hit. Mylan dropped 5.2%. Teligent down 5.1%. A generic drug ETF dropped 4.7%

AmerisourceBergen reported a third-quarter profit beat and revenue miss, claiming generic deflation is a big headwind. AmerisourceBergen down about 7%. Cardinal Health said that it expects price deflation to continue through 2017, though to a less extreme extent than in the first half of the year. Cardinal down 3% today.

Kraft Heinz reported a 50 percent rise in quarterly profit, with net income of $1.16 billion, or 94 cents per share, in the second quarter, from $770 million, or 63 cents per share, a year earlier. Net sales fell 1.7 percent to $6.68 billion.

Shares in Tesla rose 6.5% after the electric-car maker posted a smaller-than-anticipated quarterly loss late Wednesday. That increase translates to a mark-to-market loss of roughly $600 million for traders who were shorting Tesla. Tesla shorts have lost about $3.6 billion in the last year and a half.

Microchip Technology reports its bottom line came in at $319 million, or $1.31 per share, beating estimates of $1.23 per share, and up 64% from a year earlier.  Revenue for the quarter rose 21% to $972 million.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has convened a grand jury in Washington to investigate allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. The Wall Street Journal reports the grand jury began its work in recent weeks and is a sign that Mueller’s inquiry into Russia’s efforts to influence the election and whether it colluded with President Donald Trump’s campaign is ramping up. Stocks fell to session lows after the report was announced.

Two high-profile insurers said they would make changes to their Obamacare-related business next year. Molina Healthcare said it would exit the Obamacare individual insurance exchanges in Utah and Wisconsin due to lagging financial performance. Aetna said it would not offer 2018 exchange plans in Nevada.

Weak financial performance has led to many major insurers to pull out of the exchanges over the past two years, raising doubts over the future of the marketplace. However, a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan healthy policy think tank, found that for the insurers that remain the markets are stabilizing and that profits should begin to materialize.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that this year’s “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is the largest ever measured. Stretching from the coast of Louisiana at the Mississippi River Delta westward to the shores of Texas, the area of severe hypoxia — when the water is so depleted of oxygen that it can’t sustain fish and marine life — encompasses 8,776 square miles. That’s roughly the size of New Jersey (or more than 4 million football fields, if that’s any easier to grasp).

The average size of the dead zones in the past five years is 5,806 square miles, according to NOAA. The dead zone in the Gulf has become a worrisome annual phenomenon mainly due to excess nitrogen and other nutrients that run off from rivers like the Mississippi into the Gulf and feed the growth of algae.

When the massive blooms of algae and phytoplankton die, their decomposition consumes all the oxygen in the ocean, creating a hypoxic area, or dead zone. Fish that can swim away do, but the organisms that can’t, including the plants that fish feed on, die.

These “biological deserts” are bad for fish and fish eaters alike. Hypoxia hurts the Gulf of Mexico’s commercial and recreational fishing industries, which are still recovering from recent hurricanes and oil spills. The Gulf produces more than 40 percent of the nation’s domestic seafood supply and generates billions of dollars a year in wages for the fishing and tourism industries across five states.

Almost every summer since 1985, NOAA has sponsored research and monitoring of hypoxia off the coast of Louisiana. It says the record-breaker this year is a result of higher rainfall in the Midwest and heavier river flows than usual.

The most problematic nutrients that end up in the Gulf and feed the algae are nitrogen and phosphorous. Farmers use the nutrients as fertilizers on their fields, but rain can then wash that fertilizer into nearby streams and rivers, and eventually into the mighty Mississippi.

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