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A race to the bottom

Faced with slowing economies and sluggish employment, more and more countries throughout the world are devaluing their currencies, slashing interest rates and stimulating growth wherever they can. That should be a recipe for further global growth in the years to come. read more…

The Grecian Drama

Greece is once again on center stage as the world looks on, wondering if this time the country’s finances will finally implode. It is a play we’ve seen before and its outcome fairly predictable. read more…

The labor market is on fire

Non-farm payroll employment increased by 257,000 jobs in January and the gains for the preceding two months were revised upward as well. Even better news was hourly wages that jumped 0.5% in January to $24.75 after declining in December. That’s the biggest gain in six years and bodes well for the economy overall.
Wall Street has been debating just how fast or slow the U.S. economy is growing for months now. The faster the growth, the more likely the Fed will raise interest rates. Why is this so important?
One school of thought says interest rate hikes are ‘bad” for the stock market. In times past, when rates rose the stock market has sold off, sometimes a lot, other times not so much. Since June is supposedly the target date for a rate hike, and markets usually discount such events by six months or more, we are in ground zero–if you believe in this scenario.
Weighing in on the other side of this argument are those who believe the Fed won’t raise rates for a variety of reasons. Number one, the U.S. economy is not as strong as many think it is (thus the debate over every data point). Even if growth in America does grow a bit more, it won’t be enough to pull the rest of the world out of the doldrums. As proof, they point to the decline in oil prices.
In slow or potential recessionary economic climates, the demand for oil dries up as fewer goods and services are demanded. Most often the decline in the price of oil almost always heralds a slowing of the economy, not only here, but worldwide. In that kind of environment, the Fed would be crazy to hike rates. Some say they should actually restart the QE program before it is too late. No wonder the markets are as volatile as they are given these diametrically opposing views.
Which view is accurate, or are they both wrong? Clearly, the energy issue may have much more to do with the explosion of new energy sources brought on by breakthroughs in technology over the last decade. Weakening energy demand may not be the case at all. It may simply be that this new supply has overwhelmed demand in the short term and price declines are the adjustment vehicle to once again bring the oil market into equilibrium.
There is no question economic growth is slowing around the world, however, various governments are doing their utmost to stimulate their economies as the U.S. has done over the past several years. Their efforts should bear fruit if we use our own QE programs as a guide.
One might wonder that the fear of the unknown, of change, may be at the bottom of these issues. We have been in a low to non-existent interest rate environment for so long in this country that even a small uptick in rates makes us uncomfortable. All you need to do is look back in history prior to the financial crisis to understand that rising interest rates in a growing economy has actually been a good thing for stocks.
In any case, the markets this week have actually turned positive for the year. The oil price was the trigger for three straight days of one percent or more in gains. Unfortunately that means that oil is still the tail that is wagging this dog. I have no idea whether we actually have seen the “bottom” in oil prices, but if we have then we can expect markets to continue higher from here.

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Snap, Crackle and Pop

Chiropractors are seeing more patients than ever and that trend is expected to continue as Baby Boomers grow older. The popularity of alternative medicines and Americans newly-found caution towards pain killers only increase the demand. But the real question is can the industry get paid for it? read more…

Sequestration Takes Center Stage

Will Washington cut spending?

Here we are less than two weeks from the March 1 deadline implementing $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts and suddenly investors are getting concerned.  How convenient is that? read more…

Trade Schools versus College

When was the last time anyone seriously considered a choice like that? Over the last fifty years, most Americans considered a college education as the only ticket to their slice of the American dream. The high cost of that education, coupled with declining incomes and fewer openings for today’s college grads make me wonder if there isn’t a better way forward for a large portion of our work force. read more…

Inch by inch

Markets continue to grind higher with several averages, like the small and mid-cap indexes, hitting record highs.   What little profit-taking occurs is met by buyers anxious to get into the market. I suspect this stage will continue for a bit longer. read more…

America, the Battered

On the eve of what is supposed to be one whopping big snow storm here in the Northeast, one can only wonder if Mother Nature is preparing us for yet another horrendous weather year. Last year was one of the costliest on record. read more…

Boring is good

Over the last three weeks or so the averages have been hovering around the same levels. That’s made it tough for the talking heads and the rest of the financial media to hold your attention. I’m hoping for more of the same. read more…

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About Bill

Bill Schmick was born in a blue-collar neighborhood of Philadelphia, just a few blocks north of “Rocky Balboa” territory where most of his Catholic schoolmates grew up to be either cops or criminals. He narrowly escaped both professions by volunteering to fight in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine... Read More

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