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Gangbuster Growth Still AWOL

Thursday, July 30, 2015
Money and Markets
You can also access this issue on our website.
Gangbuster Growth Still AWOL
Market Roundup
Dow -5.41 to 17,745.98
S&P +0.06 to 2,108.63  
NASDAQ +17.05 to 5,128.78
10-YR Yield -0.011 to 2.268%
Gold -$5.20 to $1,087.40
Oil -$0.32 to $48.47

By Mike Larson

Another quarter, another three months where gangbuster growth remains AWOL.

That’s what I thought when I looked at this morning’s GDP report. It showed the economy grew 2.3% in the most recent quarter. While that was an improvement from the first quarter’s revised 0.6% rate of growth, it missed forecasts for around 2.5%.

Not only that, but annual benchmark revisions show the economy has been growing less than expected ever since the Great Recession. Annualized growth between 2011 and 2014 was revised down to 2.1% from 2.4%. It also turns out 2013 was the worst year since the recessionary slump in 2009.

Consumer spending has been one relative bright spot – with growth of 2.9% in the second quarter. But business spending stunk up the joint, with ex-housing investment falling by 0.6%. That was the worst since 2012. Federal government spending also dropped 1.1%, restraining growth, while inventories basically remained flat.

Consumer spending was one of the bright spots in the U.S. economy.

These aren’t the kinds of figures we got used to in the 1990s, or even the early 2000s. They underscore how weakness in overseas economies, the stronger dollar, and the drop in oil prices are all working to hold the U.S. back.

That’s why I believe the Federal Reserve will have to get more aggressive in the global currency war, even as it lays the groundwork to normalize interest rates. Yesterday’s post-Fed statement acknowledged the international and dollar-related problems, for instance, even as it sounded sanguine about the job market’s progress.

What does all this mean for investors like you? Increased caution is warranted. We don’t have all the world’s economic horses pulling together any more, nor do we have all the globe’s central bankers on the same page. That means we’re facing more “Bloody Wednesday” risk now than we have at any point since the last recession. I hope you’re prepared, and I’ll do my best to make sure you are.

Now, let me know what you think of the latest GDP results. Is the U.S. economy on the right or wrong track? Why can’t we get 1990s-style growth several years after the official end of the last recession?

Moreover, what can be done about it in Washington or elsewhere – if anything? And how should you modify your portfolio strategy to reflect the lack of gangbuster growth? Share your opinions at the Money and Markets website.

Our Readers Speak

Interest rates and Iran – they were the latest topics to grab your attention and spark fresh comments.

Reader Cliff E. weighed in on the Federal Reserve, saying “Our interest on debt is $450 billion-plus, and every basis point rise is more costly. Yellen is not going to raise interest rates until the market speculators and buyers of Treasuries force her hand.

“When the banking interests and monopolies gain control of a nation’s currency and production, there is hell to pay. There is no good end.”

Reader Phil added that “Yellen is supporting the current administration, basically saying all is well. Wait ’til things start rolling and Yellen will be ‘yell-in’.”

Finally, Reader Carl said: “I expect the Fed will work feverishly with other U.S. financial agencies to prop up the economy (on paper) until the end of the current Presidential term. The ugly mess will blow up on the next President.”

Meanwhile, with regards to the Middle East, Reader Frebon said: “This agreement with Iran only serves to show what feckless politicians always do — kick the can down the road. It allows Iran to be a nuclear power and to build a bomb, but let our children and grandchildren worry about that. However, we will now finance Iran’s true ambition, to build a Shia caliphate with the $150 billion we will give them.”

There’s a lot to dislike about the Iran deal for sure, but the only way it fails is if Congress votes it down and then overrides an Obama veto. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of months.

As for the Fed, the markets, and the economy, things definitely look shakier now than they have in a long time. I’ve shared some thoughts on that in my last several Money and Markets columns. I’ll have much more in this month’s Safe Money Report, which goes to press next week.

Any other thoughts? Then go to the website and share them with me and your fellow investors.

Other Developments of the Day

BulletInvestigators may finally have a breakthrough with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the one that vanished over the Indian Ocean in March 2014. A piece of what appeared to be a Boeing 777 wing was found on a French Island off the coast of Madagascar. Now, officials will try to verify if it belonged to the airplane.

BulletInitial jobless claims filings rose 12,000 to 267,000 in the most recent week. But that was still less than expected, and the previous week’s result was revised down to 255,000. That was the lowest in any week going all the way back to November 1973.

BulletThe carnage in “Big Oil” continues, with Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) becoming the latest global giant to slash jobs, cut spending, and otherwise react to low petroleum prices. The company is cutting 6,500 jobs, and starting very few new projects. That’s just another brick in the wall that will ultimately reduce the supply glut in oil and send prices higher over time.

BulletWell, this is an interesting result: Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump is both the most and least popular candidate. More specifically, a Quinnipiac University poll found 20% of Republican voters favor Trump … but another 30% put him at the top of their “no way” list.

So do you think Trump is the best candidate the Republicans can put up for election? Are the Big Oil layoffs a sign the bottoming process is moving further along in energy? Do you take encouragement from the latest jobless claims figures? Hit up the website and let me know.

Until next time,

Mike Larson  

Mike Larson
Mike Larson graduated from Boston University with a B.S. degree in Journalism and a B.A. degree in English in 1998, and went to work for There, he learned the mortgage and interest rates markets inside and out. Mike then joined Weiss Research in 2001. He is the editor of Safe Money Report. He is often quoted by the Washington Post, Reuters, Dow Jones Newswires, Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and Sun-Sentinel, and he has appeared on CNN, Bloomberg Television and CNBC.
The investment strategy and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of any other editor at Weiss Research or the company as a whole.

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