US economy feeling the pinch as lines of credit are squeezed

Businesses treading water as banks tighten standards relating to applications for creditBusinesses treading water as banks tighten standards over applications for credit

A survey recently conducted by the Federal Reserve reveals indications that lines of credit are harder to come by, with loans to businesses on commercial and industrial (C&I) and commercial real estate (CRE) facing tougher criteria over the second quarter of 2016 than in the past three quarters. Companies in search of C&I loans for new inventory or relocation are facing tougher credit standards as banks continue to tighten lending, particularly in the case of medium- and large-sized companies. Read more…

Federal Open Market Committee holds interest rates steady

US interest rates remain on hold as the Fed looks for more certainty before signalling a hikeUS interest rates on hold as the Fed looks for certainty

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) made the decision to hold US interest rates steady in July. Market analysts had predicted the hold as the continued threat of economic uncertainty coupled with the upcoming presidential election prevented the Federal Reserve from the announcing a rate hike in the short term. It’s the fifth time the Fed has stuck to its guns since nudging the rate up last December for the first time in nearly a decade. Many believe that it could be the end of the year before a further change is contemplated. Read more…

Are US interest rates set to rise again?

The Federal Reserve looks set to hike US interest rates in the coming monthsThe Federal Reserve looks set to hike US interest rates in the coming months

It seems increasingly likely that the Federal Reserve will impose further interest rate hikes this year, six months after it increased rates for the first time in almost ten years. At the Fed’s review in April, members voted strongly to keep interest rates unchanged, pointing to fears over the sluggish growth of US economy in Q1, Britain’s potential exit from the EU and uncertainty over China. Four hikes were forecast for 2016, but it’s a figure that’s been revised down to two in the light of flat economic conditions globally. Read more…

US economic recovery slows

Economic slowdown New figures show the US economy slowed at the end of 2015

Fresh Commerce Department figures show that the US economy slowed significantly in the final three months of 2015 amid signs of a global economic slowdown. Spending by businesses and customers alike was cut and US exports reduced. The disappointing 0.7% growth rate raises concerns about the resilience of the US economy against the backdrop of global stock market turmoil which, in turn, is fed by fears of continued economic slowdown in China and plummeting oil prices. Read more…

Fed rate rise looks to be on the cards

Signs of economic recovery raise expectations of December rate hikeSigns of economic recovery raise expectations of December rate hike

The buoyancy of the US economy will be tested if the rate rise indicated by the Federal Reserve goes ahead in December. The Commerce Department recently reported that GDP grew at an annual rate of 2.1% over the July-September period, up from a previously estimated figure of 1.5%. While this may still represent a slowing in growth from the previous quarter, it is likely to influence decision-makers at the Federal Reserve as they consider their first rate rise in 9 years. Read more…

Fed resists early interest rate rise

Low interest rates continue as the Federal Reserve eyes sustained economic recoveryRate rise ruled out

Speculation over an early rise in US interest rates has been quashed following a spring statement from the Federal Reserve. The Fed has indicated that significantly stronger economic performance would have to be demonstrated before it could agree an increase in borrowing costs, in the wake of news that growth has stalled in the first quarter of 2015. Pundits are now betting on rates staying low well into autumn, so what’s dragging the figures down? Read more…

The Market Speaks… Listen Up

Watching stocks daily is a loser’s game, but as we come to the end of September, it’s high time to pay attention.  Study after study shows individual investors time their buy and sell decisions poorly, buying high and selling low.  There are, however, those moments when a decision can change the long-term course of portfolios.  

Equities and commodities may be sending a signal not to be ignored for the rest of 2011.  Recession fears are the wrong reason to sell any portfolio holding now – this is the oldest news around.  The US was somewhat insulated from declines in Europe and emerging markets so far this month, but we are retesting August’s lows.  Even gold is making new lows.  The market may be giving a signal that a sharp drop is ahead and risky assets could drop 1.5-3x more than the broad market. 

US stocks, especially our favorite technology names, enjoyed some level of insulation this month from worries over the health of the Euro currency and the survival of European banks.  Investors may be concerned about US banks now too after the Fed shared its innermost thoughts with us common folk today.  Bernanke’s crew fears it has no more tools left to fix the economy aside from long-term bond purchases.  Such purchases mean lower long-term bond yields and that can mean a heap of trouble for banks.  Banks make money by borrowing near zero now at the short end of the yield curve and lending at the long end.  When the long end falls, so do banks’ profit margins.  Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats are very publicly fighting over tax increases and markets hate that regardless of the eventual outcome.  Whether taxes on millionaires and government program cuts matter or not, nobody wants to go out and spend while their income and benefits sit on a giant chopping block. 

Should’t gold be going up now?  Investors who profited from gold’s rise may be freeing up cash to meet future potential margin calls or make quick investments as a rare opportunity presents itself at some point in the intermediate future.  Another theory is that gold is reflecting future relative dollar strength to a basket of global currencies.  Either way, it probably makes sense ot get out of its way.

Poor stock market performance in the fourth year of a President’s term is rare as can be.  And there is no reason to panic over 2012 just yet.  But it’s time to make prudent decisions about the remainder of 2011.  Taking 25-50% of your risky assets (financials sector, non-US equities, gold, commodities) off the table is probably wise.  This may be accomplished with inverse ETFs that go up when markets drop, index put options, or simply holding more cash.