And The Printing Presses Continue

December
17

Written by: Jon McGraw

Special Note: The horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School tugs at the heart of all of us. In the midst of a joyous season, we have another example of the fragility of life. We pray for the innocent victims and their families and hope they may find some measure of comfort and healing in their time of great pain.

The Markets

There they go again… Doing its part to keep the economy afloat, the Federal Reserve announced last week, “that it would enter 2013 with a plan to purchase $85 billion a month of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury securities, part of a continuing attempt to drive down long-term interest rates to encourage borrowing, spending, and investing,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

In other words, the money printing not only continues, but expands.

Prior to the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet stood at about $900 billion. Now, after previous rounds of securities purchases, it weighs in at about $2.9 trillion. With last week’s announcement, it’s on track to reach about $4 trillion by December 2013. And, based on the Fed’s guidance last week, it could hit $6 trillion before the Fed rests.

There are two schools of thought on the wisdom of this balance sheet expansion policy. One school says it will lead to massive inflation and destroy the value of the dollar. The other school says it’s necessary to keep the economy stimulated while giving fiscal policymakers time to fix the structural issues with the economy.

For its part, the Fed says it can manage its balance sheet without causing unwanted inflation.

So far, inflation is calm, the financial markets have stabilized, and the unemployment rate has dropped steadily over the past two years. By those measures, the Fed’s policy has been reasonably effective. Yet, as The Wall Street Journal points out, “Many critics of the central bank believe it has already gone too far in its quest to boost economic growth, and say it might be exposing the financial system to new risks of inflation or a financial bubble by pumping so much money into banks.”

We are concerned about the potential long-term consequences of the Fed’s unprecedented money-printing actions and we’ll continue to keep a close eye for any sign of the market “rejecting” it.

 


Data as of 12/14/12

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks)

-0.3%

12.4%

16.7%

8.3%

-0.8%

4.5%

DJ Global ex US (Foreign Stocks)

1.3

12.3

15.7

1.3

-5.3

7.4

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

1.7

N/A

1.9

3.6

4.2

4.1

Gold (per ounce)

-0.3

7.7

5.8

14.7

16.5

17.7

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

-0.7

-0.1

2.9

1.5

-4.9

2.4

DJ Equity All REIT TR Index

-0.6

16.2

23.8

17.6

5.1

11.5

 

THE BEST PERFORMING STOCKS BETWEEN ELECTION DAY 2008 AND ELECTION DAY 2012 in the S&P 500 index are quite a varied group. It’s interesting to see what companies performed well during this time because it encompassed a good chunk of the Great Recession and the stock market recovery that ensued. Without naming names, here are the industries represented by the top 12 performing stocks, according to a list from MarketWatch:

  1.       Leisure
  2.       Grocery Stores
  3.       Auto Dealers
  4.       Leisure
  5.       Lodging
  6.       Computer Systems
  7.       Restaurants
  8.       Auto Manufacturers
  9.       Footwear and Accessories
  10.       Software
  11.       Residential Construction
  12.       Data Storage

The cumulative return during the 4-year period for these companies ranged from 373 percent for company #12 to 1,107 percent for company #1. By contrast, the S&P 500 index rose 47 percent during the period, according to data from Yahoo! Finance.

Notice that only one industry – leisure – is represented by two different companies on the list. This suggests the top performers were indeed a diversified group.

Are you ready for a quiz?  See if you can name three companies on the list given the following hints:

Company #1 on the list: Their spokesperson has gone “where no man has gone before.”

Company #2 on the list: It’s sometimes referred to as “whole paycheck.”

Company #6 on the list: Their commercial, which aired only once on TV in 1984, was rated the 12th best ad campaign of the 20th century by Advertising Age.

Stumped? See below for the answers. Let us know how many you got right!

 

Weekly Fun – Think About It…

“(Holiday) gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness.  To an opponent, tolerance.  To a friend, your heart.  To a customer, service.  To all, charity.  To every child, a good example.  To yourself, respect.”

–Oren Arnold, novelist, journalist, and humorist

Answers to quiz:
Company #1 is Priceline.com  / Company #2 is Whole Foods Market / Company #6 is Apple