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Rainbows over Canyonlands - Dave Stoker

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Because it’s Friday

Financial Review

Because it’s Friday

DOW + 69 = 17,477
SPX + 8 = 2091
NAS + 14 = 5048
10 YR YLD + .01 = 2.20%
OIL – .10 = 42.13
GOLD + .10 = 1115.80
SILV – .18 = 15.34

For the week, the Dow rose 0.6 percent, the S&P 500 added 0.7 percent and the Nasdaq gained 0.1 percent.

Wholesale prices climbed at a slower pace in July, as energy prices dropped. The 0.2 percent increase in the producer-price index followed a 0.4 percent gain in June. Even with the recent increases, producer prices dropped 0.8 percent over the past 12 months. Wholesale prices excluding food and energy rose 0.3 percent for a second month, and those costs were up 0.6 percent from July 2014.

Industrial production climbed 0.6% in July; there were also upward revisions of 0.1% each in February, May and June. Capacity utilization for the industrial sector increased 0.3 percentage point to 78%. The auto sector posted a 10.6% surge in production.

Looking to capitalize on rising demand, General Motors has increased its rate of production on larger trucks and SUVs, and added Saturday overtime shifts at a Texas plant. The move could see 48,000 to 60,000 additional vehicles for the 2016 model year. Make hay while the sun shines.

The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index edged slightly lower to a reading of 92.9 in August from 93.1 in July.

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Havana, where he helped raise the flag over the US embassy in Cuba for the first time in 54 years. The flag was raised by three men who as US Marines lowered it when the US embassy closed 54 years ago.

The Eurozone’s economic recovery unexpectedly slowed in the second quarter, as expansion in its three largest economies fell short of estimates. First quarter gross domestic product in the 19-nation region rose 0.3%, which was just short of estimates. On an annualized rate, the Eurozone grew at a 1.3% pace. For the quarter Germany’s economy grew 0.4%, Italy’s 0.2%, while France stagnated. With oil prices sharply lower, the euro at multiyear lows and the European Central Bank on a $1.3 trillion bond-buying spree to keep market interest rates low, there were hopes that the Eurozone had turned a corner after years of crisis. You can’t really blame the weakness on Greece. The Greek economy grew 3.1 percent, from only 0.1 percent at the beginning of the year. They are not out of the woods just yet.

Greek legislators have approved a new €86 billion-euro bailout agreement, which is said to include sweeping economic reforms and budget cuts mandated by the country’s creditors. The deal is expected to be cleared by Eurozone finance ministers today, but may face a harder challenge when Germany votes on it next week.

Ukraine and a group of its largest creditors have agreed to continue debt discussions after holding two days of negotiations in San Francisco.

The yuan halted a three-day slide after China’s central bank raised its reference rate for the first time since Tuesday’s devaluation and said it will intervene to prevent excessive swings.

Fifteen US states, led by coal-producing West Virginia, are seeking a stay order, or injunction, against President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which calls for power plants to cut carbon emissions 32% (from 2005 levels) by 2030.

Earnings season marches on. JC Penney posted a smaller than expected second-quarter loss.

Nordstrom reported a better than expected second-quarter profit.

Chip equipment maker Applied Materials fell short of Wall Street expectation on both profit and revenue.

Restaurant chain El Pollo Loco missed Wall Street estimates on revenue for the quarter and same-store sales.

King Digital Entertainment posted a sharp slowdown in sales and bookings.

Aflac is increasing its stock repurchase program by 40 million shares, or about $2.5 billion.

Tesla Motors has boosted its stock offering to about 2.7 million shares, hoping to raise more than $640 million as it prepares to start selling its Model X sport-utility vehicle.

Nelson Peltz’s Trian Partners has taken a more than 7 percent stake in the food service company Sysco, worth around $1.6 billion, or about 42 million shares.

German prosecutors charged seven current and one former Deutsche Bank employees over a scheme to help the lender and clients evade taxes on carbon-emissions trades. The bankers are charged with being part of a group that tricked the authorities about value-added tax refunds on carbon-emissions trading in 2009 and 2010. If it’s not one thing it’s another; Bloomberg calculates Deutsche Bank’s bill for fines and legal settlements surpassed 11 billion euros in the second quarter.

The company said last month that the cost of litigation will “remain a burden in the coming quarters.” The lender has yet to resolve investigations into its role in attempts to manipulate foreign exchange markets as well as a probe of whether it broke US laws on processing payments for countries subject to trade sanctions. It also faces lawsuits that claim the company didn’t make adequate disclosures about US mortgage-backed securities. The bank said last month that it is cooperating with regulators in these matters.

After previously aiming for a fall launch, Apple is now looking to bring its Web TV service to market in 2016. The delay is blamed on slow-moving licensing talks with TV networks and the need for capacity upgrades. Sources suggest Apple wants to charge about $40/month for its service, in comparison to Dish’s Sling TV (which provides a limited number of channels) for $20/month and Sony’s more expansive PlayStation Vue service for $50-$70/month.

A US administrative judge has ruled that BP manipulated the Texas natural gas market in 2008 and then conducted an inadequate internal investigation, opening the possibility of more fines against the company.

US crude futures have lost 30 percent since the start of June, set for the biggest drop since the West Texas Intermediate crude contract started trading in 1983. That beats the summer plunges during the global financial crisis of 2008, the Asian economic slump in 1998 and the global supply glut of 1986. It even surpasses the decline of 2011, when prices fell as much as 21 percent over the summer as the US and other large oil-importing nations released 60 million barrels of oil from emergency stockpiles to make up for the disruption of Libyan exports during the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi. It looks even worse when you consider that summer is supposed to be peak season for oil. Total gasoline supplied to the US market rose to an eight-year high of 9.7 million barrels a day last month.

So, why is the price at the pump so high? One reason is that we export gasoline. In January 2010 the US exported 6.8 million barrels of gasoline. By January 2011 it had doubled. In January 2015 the US exported 16 million barrels of finished motor gasoline. Still, in 2004, the average price of oil was $37.66 a barrel.  In 2004, the average price of gasoline was $1.85 a gallon. So, if you think the price at the pump should be a bit lower, you are probably right.

Domestic equity funds surrendered $20.4 billion in July alone and have seen $158.6 billion in redemptions over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, international equity funds have attracted $179.3 billion. Don’t confuse international funds with emerging market funds. Depositors may be looking forward to an increase in Federal Reserve interest rates and the commodity bulls may be fearing it, but what about all those emerging markets that are heavily exposed to commodities as their principal export and heavily exposed to overseas borrowings in US dollars.

For them, the fall in commodity prices has been dramatic and damaging while the rise in the US dollar has started to increase debt repayments just when they can least afford it. The emerging markets have been clobbered over the last month. In July, China dropped 11.2%, Brazil tumbled 12.2%; South Africa, Colombia, Chile, Thailand, Taiwan, Turkey, Peru, and Korea all dropped by more than 5% on the month.

You might not have noticed but the junk bond market is looking a bit dicey. Average yields for low-rated companies have jumped to 7.3 percent and spreads between such debt and comparable duration Treasuries have widened dramatically. The average yield is the highest since mid-December and has risen 120 basis points, or 1.2 percentage points, just since June. Spreads are at 580 basis points, a level hit only twice in the last three years. Since the most recent lows in June, spreads have widened a full percentage point. Then again, maybe you have noticed; retail investors have been pulling money from US focused mutual funds – $155 billion in outflows over the past 12 months, and high yield corporate funds have watched billions walk out the door.

And it’s not just the junk; investors yanked $1.1 billion from US investment-grade bond funds last week, the biggest withdrawal since 2013. Dollar-denominated company bonds of all ratings have lost 2.3 percent since the end of January.

Once upon a time, Treasuries paid a high yield; 30 years ago to be precise. The last Treasury bond with a coupon above 10 percent was issued on August 15, 1985.

Social Security turns 80 today. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on Aug. 14, 1935. Last year, Social Security paid benefits of nearly $850 billion— about a quarter of all federal spending. The average monthly payment is $1,221. That comes to about $14,700 a year. For most retirees, Social Security accounts for the majority of their income.

Two Cows, because it’s Friday.

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