‘The Most Speculative Market I’ve Ever Seen’

Jim Cramer, the boisterous TV host of CNBC's circus-like investment show, "Mad Money," rarely bad-mouths the stock market. You can count the number of times he has expressed concern about irrational investor exuberance on one hand. Today, however, Mr. Cramer described...

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Mind the Exuberance Gap

The investment community is not only willing to look beyond virus vaccination to economic nirvana, it is also willing to ignore extraordinary stock overvaluation. Consider the price-to-revenue metric. At 2.7x corporate sales, stocks have never been frothier. Another...

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Do Profits Matter During Stock Bubbles?

What does it mean when a company has beaten earnings expectations? In theory, it implies that a public corporation is performing extremely well, justifying a higher price for its stock shares. The reality? Market analysts intentionally set the expectations bar near...

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Inflation, All You Ever Wanted

What if your family owed more than it owned? You could get by for a while. You could "rob Peter to pay Paul." Eventually, though, persistent negative net worth would likely result in a declaration of bankruptcy. The same holds true for corporations. The Federal...

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Could a Game-Changing Vaccine Pop the Stock Bubble?

Federal Reserve intervention is the reason that stocks defied a protracted bear market in 2020. The central bank of the United States immediately intervened in March, slashing overnight borrowing rates to 0%. The Fed also printed trillions of dollars to buy bonds,...

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What the Election Failed to Fix

Election outcomes tend to provide clarity. Even contested ones. For example, would one party in the U.S. control the executive branch as well as the legislative branch? At the moment, it would appear that this will not come to pass. One party is going to control the...

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Election Euphoria

One might have anticipated that risk assets would trade sideways on the day of the election. After all, unusual levels of uncertainty tend to keep investors in a wait-n-see mode. However, stocks immediately rocketed more that 2% out of the morning gate. And that...

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Stocks are Desperate for ‘More Cowbell’

What might the 2020 stock bubble be telling us? When mega-cap tech stars handily surpass earnings expectations, but still plummet? Perhaps there is some recognition of effervescent valuations. Warren Buffett's indicator, market-cap-to-GDP, shows the disconnect between...

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Did the Tech Stock Bubble Burst on 9/2/20?

In March of 2000, nobody rang the bell at the top of the infamous dot-com disaster. And very few people believed that the 21st century's original tech bubble had actually burst. Dip-buyers were plentiful in 2000. In fact, six months later in September of that year,...

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Six Stocks Rule the World

The AEI’s Weekly Index tracks how many people go to places of commerce (e.g., restaurants, hotels, stores, movie theaters, airports, offices, etc.). In layperson's terms, we're talking about foot traffic. The start of 2020 serves as the “Old Normal." That is the 100%...

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How Valuable Will Gold Become?

Talking heads are always imploring you to be a "long-term investor." Okay, let's play the long game. S&P 500 valuations have never been more obscene, even eclipsing the stock bubble highs from February of 2020. What's more, those valuations are uglier than those...

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Fools in the Reign of Free Money

How do you know that we're living in a monstrous stock bubble? Bullishness on ever-higher asset prices exists for every imaginable circumstance. For example, no matter who wins the election, stocks will surge. If it's Biden, gobs of fiscal stimulus will be sent to the...

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The 75% Economy

Small businesses employ roughly half of U.S. workers. What's more, small companies create nearly half of the new jobs that come into existence. Sadly, the small business community has lost 23% in revenue since the year began. In a similar vein, the number of small...

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Commodities Are Cheap

Small businesses are barely hanging on. Nearly 50% of them are on their way to visiting the small town of Schitt’s Creek. For example, a Lending Tree survey shows 43% of small companies have seen revenue drop by half or more. Half! Meanwhile, 6% have exited the stage...

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High Yield Minefield

The mainstream financial media narrative? Trump or Biden would be great for the stock market. Biden would be great for stocks because direct government stimulus should power consumers until the economy heals on its own. On the flip side, Trump would be great for...

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Here Comes the Sun

The current price-to-sales (P/S) ratio for the S&P 500 is 2.4. That is higher than it was at the peak of the 2000 stock bubble. I decided to screen large-cap U.S. companies for outrageous P/S valuations -- those that jumped the 15x revenue barrier. According to...

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Silver Bells

Household equity exposure has rarely been as high as it is today. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Historically, the higher household stock exposure is, the lower the 10-year forward returns tend to be. In fact, the 25% demarcation heading into the 2000 stock...

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The Stock Bubble’s Precious Opportunity?

For the last four months, the Federal Reserve has maintained its balance sheet rather than electronically print additional money. It would seem, then, that $3 trillion of monetary "stimulus" earlier in the year was enough to stop COVID's Q1 bear crash in its tracks....

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Debt-stricken Small Stocks

Is taking on more and more debt at lower and lower interest rates a good thing? Well, it does not seem to be helping the bulk of public companies on the U.S. stock exchanges. Consider the premier benchmark for small stocks, the Russell 2000. Their very existence may...

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No Country For Old Bank Stocks

Bank stocks around the globe dramatically underperformed respective stock markets in 2007. And by 2008, a global financial collapse punished every economic sector. Here in 2020, bank stock troubles are resurfacing. Year-over-year differences between 'Big Finance' and...

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Zombie Nation

Zombie companies are those that cannot generate enough profits to cover their debt payments. And according to the researchers at Deutsche Bank, the 'walking dead' comprise nearly one out of five publicly listed corporations in the United States. The Leuthold Group...

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Tech Tail Risk

An investor can look at return on equity (ROE) to determine how well a company is using its assets to generate profits. Additionally, one can calculate ROE by dividing net income by shareholder equity. Is there a good ROE percentage? Acceptable ROE percentages tend to...

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Three-Sigma Valuation Warning

When it comes to understanding the wackiness of the 2020 stock bubble, it may be instructive to look at valuation indicators that correlate highly with future investment returns. For instance, one might combine the data from the Q Ratio, Crestmont P/E, PE10 and...

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‘Risk-On’ Reversal

Even in 2000, investors did not fall in love with far out-of-the-money calls on tech shares to juice gains. In 2020? The indefatigable upsurge in call options relative to put protection has been unrivaled. Naturally, this is the sort of nonsensical bullishness that...

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Ketchup or Blood on the Street?

Extended periods of overbought conditions in relative strength (RSI) typically lead to market pullbacks. Equally telling? The RSI for the S&P 500 has hit 81 -- a relatively rare feat in and of itself. In a similar vein, at 3567, the S&P 500 is trading 15%...

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Panic Buying

Daily gains of 5%-10% on mega-caps as if they are penny stocks? The price action for August of 2020 has been positively bonkers. For instance, Tesla (TSLA) witnessed 60% month-over-month gains. 60% in August alone! Even the 17th century's 'Tulip Mania' may have made...

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20 Years in the Making

In late August of 2000, the median stock in the S&P 500 hit its highest Forward P/E level ever. A 12-month Forward P/E of 26. For the better part of the last two decades, investment gurus routinely rebuked the foolishness of paying 26 times estimates of corporate...

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Should’ve Seen It Coming

Late in 2005, my wife and I cashed in our two properties and decided to rent. We were a year early when we walked away from the real estate bubble that eventually destroyed tens of millions of families nationwide. Fifteen years ago, the math on ownership failed to add...

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The Nasdaq Bubble Speaks ‘Volumes’

In what type of stock universe is there exponential intrigue in the "New Economy" Nasdaq with very little interest in the "Old Economy" of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)? Welcome to the 2020 Pleasure Dome. Perhaps ironically, corporate executive insiders have...

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Exponential Price Insanity

One of the features of a stock bubble? Staggering price gains over relatively short periods of time. Apple (AAPL), for example, is a phenomenal company. Its smartphone, music and television platforms are addictive to hundreds of millions of people. Should it really be...

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Five Stock Steps Beyond?

During stock bubbles, market participants abandon bargains to chase the hottest trends. And this bubble is no different. For example, during periods of relative equanimity, there may not be much of a difference between the pursuit of high-flying momentum and the...

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George Soros Abandons the Stock Bubble

Despite a worldwide pandemic, astronomical stock valuations, the deepest recession since the Great Depression and a contentious U.S. election in November, the S&P 500 has rallied back to within 0.25% of a record high. As I type, in fact, the S&P 500 could...

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The Invincibility of Apple

Apple is a phenomenal company. From smart phones to tablets, from music to television, the world loves what this corporation offers. And it loves the stock. In fact, Apple (AAPL) may soon hit a market capitalization of $2 trillion. On the flip phone side, are market...

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How Skewed is the Stock Market?

Large-scale bankruptcies have been slamming the U.S. economy. Worse yet, the expectation is that many companies, particularly in energy, retail, and tourism, will not be able to outrun the slow-growing economy going forward. How can one tell that the economy is still...

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For Whom The Bubble Bursts

One can decide to chase a stock bubble for the potential windfall. Yet only investors with sell disciplines have any chance of coming out unscathed. Consider the relationship between growth stocks and value stocks. Over time, one tends to receive more affection than...

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Lighten Up on the Nasdaq 100 (QQQ)

On Wednesday (7/29/2020), the Federal Reserve left its overnight lending rate at the zero-bound range of 0.00%-0.25%. The Fed also reasserted its commitment to a wide array of lending and asset purchasing programs via digital money printing. No surprises there. There...

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Big Tech No Longer Requires Downside Protection

When you combine the technology sector with the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon, you're defining the mega-cap space. Some refer to it as "Big Tech." The parabolic move higher for Big Cap Tech in 2020 is extraordinarily similar to what investors experienced in...

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Are Permanent Business Closures Good For Stocks?

You will not hear the media talk about unemployment at 20%. Nevertheless, nearly 20% of the labor force (160 million) currently receives jobless benefits. Some would like you to see an improving jobs picture. Yet key data points throughout May, June and July beg to...

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For What It’s Worth (Or Not Worth)

The comparisons between the 2020 stock bubble and the 2000 stock bubble are striking. For example, you have to go back 20 years to the dot-com disaster to find a time when the Nasdaq 100 (QQQ) traded this far above its 100-day moving average. Executive insiders at...

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Mark Cuban and the ‘Cubes’

Mark Cuban is a billionaire. He's also an enigmatic investor on the business reality television series, "Shark Tank." In a candid interview (7/20/20) regarding the comparisons between the 2000 dot-com bubble and the 2020 Nasdaq, Mr. Cuban said, "In some respects, it’s...

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Mega-Cap Stock Madness

There are times when one ought to look beneath the covers. For example, if you merely scroll the headlines (7/16/20), you’d read that initial jobless claims fell to a post-pandemic low of 1.3 million. Never mind the persistently high claims above one million. Things...

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The Other 490 Stocks in the S&P 500

One of the most startling features of the current stock bubble? An unquenchable thirst for exposure to mega-cap growth has masked extraordinary weakness in the rest of the market. In particular, the S&P 490 (S&P 500 ex mega cap growth) is down roughly 15% on...

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Debunking Phony Government Statistics

A whopping 23% of the US civilian workforce collects unemployment payments. These folks are not working, nor are they retired. Yet, somehow, the official government stat for the U.S. unemployment rate is a tick higher than 11%. What gives? Due to the pandemic, the...

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Could History Repeat or Rhyme?

Trillions upon trillions of dollars in central bank liquidity have ignited one of the biggest stock bubbles in U.S. history. But how exactly does the money get into stocks? The Federal Reserve dumped a mind-numbing quantity of digital dollars into Treasury bonds and...

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Are You Being Bamboozled?

Some experts pretend that the 2020 stock bubble has its roots in what companies are earning right now or what they will earn going forward. Is that even possible when half of those corporations have no ability to forecast their business profitability going forward? In...

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Greed’s Epic Comeback

Consumer confidence has bounced back from the lows seen during the depths of coronavirus despair. Conversely, business confidence continues to descend. Do businesses know something that consumers have yet to figure out? Possibly. For example, the jobs picture may be...

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The Nasdaq is a Crazy Train

Some analysts have resorted to rationalizing the stock bubble with never-before-seen valuation measures. To wit, if one ignores the past 12 months (Trailing P/E), and disregards projections for the next 12 months (Forward P/E), the 24-month forward “guestimate” for...

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The Long and Winding Stock Recovery

Occasionally, there are volatile sell-offs on renewed coronvirus fears and/or tensions with China. That happened here on Friday, June 26. Yet the Nasdaq still logged an all-time high time this week. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 is only 9%-11% off its February record....

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The Nasdaq Crazy Train

Here in 2020, market participants are willingly paying an enormous premium for profits. In particular, corporate profitability is roughly the same as it was nine years ago. In Q2 of 2011, however, the S&P 500 traded around 1300, not 3000+. The speculative risk...

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No Stock Price is Too High

Some analysts have resorted to rationalizing the stock bubble with never-before-seen valuation measures. To wit, if one ignores the past 12 months (Trailing P/E), and disregards projections for the next 12 months (Forward P/E), the 24-month forward "guestimate" for...

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Ree-coh-la… Nee-coh-la (NKLA)!

Today, Bloomberg News suggested that the CEO of wannabe electric truck maker, Nikola (NKLA), lied at a 2016 event about having a big-rig prototype that was "fully functional." The stock bubble barely blinked. In fact, NKLA actually rose 1.8%. The company has yet to...

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No Reckoning for Wall Street’s Worst

Wall Street is unabashedly loony at the moment. Stocks remind me of Clark Griswold's famous line in National Lampoon's Vacation, “This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy.” In every previous recession, corporations reduced their leverage to shore up their balance...

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“This is Crazy, This Is Crazy, This is Crazy”

In every recession, corporations reduce their leverage to shore up their balance sheets. Until now. US corporate debt is heading for 50% of GDP. That's not merely a new record... it's other-worldly. In 2000 as well as 2008, bubbly asset price excesses reversed course...

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No Jobs, No Profit Margins, No Problem

Roughly half of all U.S. employees work for small businesses. What's more, small businesses account for roughly half of net job creation. So the fact that small businesses anticipate starting 2021 with three-quarters of the head count that existed at the start of 2020...

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Way Beyond Overvalued And Extremely Overbought

Not only is the 2020 stock bubble trading at the most overvalued levels in U.S. history, but stocks are also extremely overbought on relative strength (RSI) indications. Investors would be hard-pressed to ignore the number of S&P 500 constituents that are trading...

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Irrational Stock Prices Meet Exuberant Investors

Reasonable estimates suggest that our consumer-based economy will not recover its 2019 GDP glory until 2023. Why stocks trade at 2023 levels in 2020 is bizarre. In truth, households continue to struggle to pay regular bills, with more than one third looking to delay...

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Reopening the Economy is Not Enough

Americans will surely spend some money when the economy "opens back up." Yet, how much will they consume? As it stands, households are dramatically increasing their savings. And according to a number of surveys, approximately 40% of savers are doing so because they do...

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The Higher They Climb…

Households continue to struggle to pay regular bills, with more than one third looking to delay rent, cell phone charges and other utility payments. That will put a strain on discretionary spending. They certainly don't seem to be in the market for new cars. And...

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Small Stock Fever

Suddenly, small caps are all the rage. Never mind the job losses or the unfathomable overvaluation. Investors are choosing to pay the highest price in history for small company exposure. Granted, small stocks are still down roughly 15% from all-time highs. And they...

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Stock Bubble Sidesteps the Tough Questions

The S&P 500 crossed back above the 3000 marker, despite extraordinary stock overvaluation and economic malaise. It is almost as if investors have decided that the hope for a vaccine can override the credit cycle's downturn. For example, when ratings agencies...

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The W-Shaped Recovery For U.S. Stocks

The notion that the bear market for U.S. stocks has ended is fanciful. For example, is it really the case that financial firms are on the mend? They're restricting access to credit, increasing reserves for loan losses and showing few signs of resilience beyond a...

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The Most Expensive Stock Market Ever

Many describe the U.S. as a consumer-oriented economy. That is because consumer spending, not manufacturing, accounts for two-thirds to three-fourths of economic growth. It follows that consumers need to spend for the economy to do well. Yet, at the moment, one-third...

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Stock Bubble Ignores Consumer Discomfort

Correlation may not be causation. Nevertheless, there has often been a high correlation between the movement of the Consumer Comfort Index and the stock market (S&P 500). Until now. Despite Consumer Comfort plummeting more than 50%, the S&P 500 has rallied...

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Buffett and the Optionality of Cash

Can trillions of Fed liquidity overcome the probability of a deluge in corporate insolvencies? Fed Chairman Jerome Powell just acknowledged that additional government fiscal stimulus, not Fed stimulus, may be the only way to lessen this pain. “The passage of time is...

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The Stock Bubble’s Price-to-Book

In 2016, oil prices fell dramatically, sending shivers down and up the spines of energy bondholders. Investors worried that a slew of energy companies would go belly up. In 2020, weak demand for oil is only part of the economic concern. Fragile demand across a wide...

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Maximum ‘FOMO,’ Minimum Scrutiny

The most recent data on revolving consumer credit showed a record decline by $28 billion in March. That will continue to get worse as April and May data come in. Essentially, consumers will spend much less and lending standards will keep tightening. Of course, the...

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The Great Disconnect: Stocks Vs. Real Life

Leading into 2020, the economy was growing at a modest pace (1.9%). By the end of the 2nd quarter, the economy will have recoiled at its quickest clip (-25%+) since the 1930s. Similarly, at the start of the year, unemployment for working-aged individuals was 3.5%. By...

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Money Oversupply

During the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, the Federal Reserve began adding like crazy to the supply of money (M1) via quantitative easing (QE). The Fed effectively added trillions of dollars to M1 Money Supply over the 2008-2019 period, indirectly supporting stock...

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The Consumer Will Not Recover Quickly

Consumers who do not express confidence about economic prospects are likely to decrease their spending. Here in 2020, you'd have to go back to 1973's ugly recession to find more discouraging data. In the 2020 U.S. economy, where consumers account for three-fourths of...

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The Sickly Financial System

In 2008, we learned about the toxic debts on the books of financial firms. And for the most part, those toxic debts were synonymous with mortgage-backed securities. The financial sector via the SPDR Financial Sector ETF (XLF) weakened relative to the S&P 500...

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When Lenders Tighten The Reins

Lenders continue tightening their belts. For example, it's getting harder and harder to procure a jumbo mortgage loan, as its availability has cratered by 37%. Even if one qualifies for a jumbo, he/she will see higher rates than conventional loans for the first time...

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Is the Nasdaq Being Nasty?

The Nasdaq's unique status grows curiouser and curiouser. Here in 2020, the market capitalization value for Nasdaq-listed stocks surpassed the collective value of ALL foreign shares in existence. It's as if tech mania can do no wrong. During the raging stock bull, you...

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‘The World is More Than 15% Screwed Up’

Howard Marks is a billionaire investor as well as the top dog at Oaktree Capital Management. He views April's stock market rally as "inappropriately positive." Mr. Marks specifically pointed to the worst pandemic in 100 years, extraordinary recessionary pressures...

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Oil Prices and the Stock Market’s Reaction

Events that we have never witnessed before are coming to fruition in the current economic downturn. For instance, for the first time ever,  WTI crude oil futures traded at a negative price. Perma-bulls are already pointing out that the technical anomaly does not mean...

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Revisionist Market History

In the last three weeks alone, nearly 17 million made it to the jobless claims tally. There are likely another eight million coming over the next two weeks. Net result? Unemployment is likely to hit 20%. Think about the adverse impact on consumption. People will need...

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Retracement

Retracements represent short-term rallies against the primary trend. Yet once the retracement rally exhausts itself, it returns to the primary trend. (In this instance, we should see a return to the bear market downtrend.) The retracement rally to watch? 2811 on the...

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How Long Before the Fed Buys Stock ETFs?

Corporate debt downgrades are accelerating. The three-week tally for unemployment claims hit 17 million (4/9/20). And annual rate estimates for 2nd quarter GDP are circling around -30%. Yet the data points have not stopped the Federal Reserve's resolve to reflate the...

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Stock Market Bears Reward Patience

They call ’em, “Fallen Angels.” They’re bonds that the credit agencies demote from investment grade (IG) to high yield (HY). Unfortunately, there’s nothing angelic about a wave of downgrades happening all at once. And that’s what transpires in recessions. For example,...

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Things That May Be Cheap Frequently Get Cheaper

It has been 20 years since the tech bubble burst. And it has been 12 year since the Bear Stearns bailout ushered in the Great Financial Crisis of 2008. Lost in the shuffle? Long-term investing results. Over 20 years, “risk-free” Treasury bonds have handily...

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Long Before COVID-19 Struck

The financial media would like you to believe that COVID-19 is the sole reason for economic hardship and financial market losses. Unfortunately, few outlets have been willing to dig deeper beneath the surface. For instance, before corona was a "thing," consumer...

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Stocks, Bonds or Gold?

It has been 20 years since the tech bubble burst. And it has been 12 year since the Bear Stearns bailout ushered in the Great Financial Crisis of 2008. Lost in the shuffle? Long-term investing results. Over 20 years, "risk-free" Treasury bonds have handily...

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Three Flies in the Stock Bubble Ointment

Quant funds, those that rely on algorithmic or systematically programmed investment approaches, account for roughly 25% of all all U.S. stock trades. Some estimates place that percentage closer to 50%. Either way, the quant fund impact is substantial. It follows that...

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“Bottom Timers… Start Your Engines!”

I have never understood the purpose of year-end price targets for the stock market. Every bank issues them. And each year, they offer eternally optimistic views on how the 365-day period will play out. (There’s never a bear in the picnic basket!) The banks are not...

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Bull and Bear Price Targeting

I have never quite understood the purpose of year-end price targets for the stock market. Every bank issues them. And each year, all of the banks offer eternally optimistic views on how the 365-day period will play out. (There's never a bear in the picnic basket!)...

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The 20-Year Stock Bear

U.S. investors tend to think in terms of what is happening stateside. Yet many of them have a fair amount of overseas exposure. Take the popular Vanguard Target Retirement Fund 2030 (VTHRX) with $40,000,000,000 under management. That's $40 billion with a "B." VTHRX...

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Trying To Call The Bottom

Popular media personalities wanted you to believe that this bear market would be "stick-saved" by the Q4-2018 bottom. Yet hope is not a bear market survival strategy. Even the idea that we'd see a miracle turnaround in 2020 the way that we did during Christmas in 2018...

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Well, That Escalated Quickly

Yes, I knew that the Federal Reserve had blown a massive stock bubble. And yes, I started this blog to bring more attention to the dangers of central bank efforts to create a wealth effect. Bubble specifics notwithstanding, I can't say that I anticipated the wealth...

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Classic Signs: Pot Stocks and Bitcoin

What did the markets require for a Friday bounce? A trifecta in stimulus. The Fed announced its formal intention to print electronic credits to buy Treasuries all across the Treasury bond curve (a.k.a. "QE"). Congressional reps as well as White House spokespeople...

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Stocks Give Back Several Years of Tax Cut Stimulus

Remember the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017? Small- and mid-sized corporations should have used the extra money on capital expenditures and debt repayment. Instead, most chose to spend on stock share buybacks. Profitability hopes soared in 2017. And through the magic...

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The Myth of a Strong Consumer

Theoretically, a strong consumer would be well-positioned to acquire a host of durable goods. They should be able to purchase everything from appliances to furniture, electronics to sporting goods, jewelry to medical equipment. Would it surprise you, then, that...

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Is The Stock Bubble in Danger of Exploding?

The 2020 stock bubble is in trouble. Here are several telltale signs: (1) The CBOE's VIX Volatility Index recently rocketed in ways that few could have imagined. (2) A zero-percent yielding precious metal has broken out to multi-year highs. (3) Due in large part to...

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Widening Spreads

The 2020 stock bubble has yet another hole to patch... widening credit spreads. In particular, the spread between investment grade bonds via LQD and junk bonds via HYG are expanding. High yield credit (HYG) outperformed investment grade (LQD) up until the 3rd quarter...

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Who Believes in Coincidences

During the "Great Financial Crisis" (GFC) of 2008, the S&P 500's dividend yield surpassed the 10-year Treasury yield. This relatively rare event has happened a few times since. In March of 2020, however, the S&P 500's dividend yield has started to...

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