Fed Continues to Punish the Dollar, Blind to Inflation

Apr 11, 2011, 5:12 pm EDT

At the last minute Friday night, the federal government dodged a bullet and avoided closing down. The market was flat last week, so it’s safe to say that the impending shutdown was not as scary to Wall Street as it was to those expecting their regular government services. Of course, nothing was solved for the long-term, and the U.S. dollar will continue to slide — based on Washington’s inability to control spending — while the U.S. economy has been humming along just fine, with or without federal government help. Dollar Sinks to the Bottom of the Currency Ladder

The euro hit a 15-month high to the U.S. dollar last week after the European Central Bank (ECB) raised its key rate by 0.25% to 1.25%. The People’s Bank of China also raised its key rate last week, up 0.25% to 3.25%. Meanwhile the Fed continues to maintain its 0% interest rate policy and quantitative easing.

The euro-zone is a mixed bag of good and bad news. On the positive side, Germany’s factory orders rose by 2.4% in February. That helped to strengthen the euro. On the other extreme, Portugal had to pay six-month interest rates of 5.11%, up from 2.98% just a month ago, so a bailout of Portugal (similar to the previous rescue plans in Greece and Ireland) may be necessary, pushing the euro-zone deeper into debt. Read 

Gov’t Careening Towards Shutdown. What’s Next?

Apr 7, 2011, 11:37 am EDT

Obama, Reid and Boehner just came out of another emergency budget meeting to head off a government shutdown … but STILL no agreement!

Will they finally make a deal when they meet AGAIN at 7 p.m. tonight?

Maybe they will; maybe they won’t. Either way, we — the American people — will continue to pay the price for our leaders’ incompetence and cowardice. Read 

Fed Shutdown May Put Defense Stocks in a Funk

Apr 7, 2011, 11:18 am EDT

Top defense contractors are bracing for turbulence if Congress fails to reach a deal to fund the federal government by a midnight Friday deadline.

While shares of many of the top 10 U.S. defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC), Boeing (NYSE:BA), and Raytheon (NYSE:RTN), holding steady on Thursday, it could be the calm before the storm. Federal government contracts generated more than $65.5 billion in revenue for the top 10 U.S. defense companies in 2010.

That means any government shutdown that lasts for more than a few days is likely to throw a monkey wrench into the contractors’ second-quarter revenue. Read 

Are Fed Fears and Inflation Expectations Just Hot Air?

Apr 7, 2011, 5:31 am EDT

One of the criticisms we hear from bearish investors is that the Federal Reserve has set us up for massive inflation. Personally, I tend to be pragmatic on these issues. If there is inflation coming, it’s certainly hiding itself well. While commodity prices are on the rise, we have yet to see a large surge in consumer prices. That may change soon.

But I’m not concerned with the political implications of inflation — hyper or not. I’m much more concerned with inflation’s impact on equity prices.

The danger of inflation is that it hurts bond prices and that, in turn, hurts stock valuations. Generally speaking, inflation doesn’t impact the stock market until it reaches a 5% annualized rate. Read 

Health Care Reform: One Year Later, a Reversal of Fortune

Mar 31, 2011, 1:05 pm EDT

Following last year’s sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system, many pharmaceutical industry followers predicted Big Pharma would be one of the key winners.  Conversely, experts predicted ObamaCare would have dire consequences for insurance industry stocks.  

While it’s still early in the game, just the opposite has occurred.

In the case of the health insurance stocks, the reality of the law’s impact has proved to be far less onerous than expectations.  The fact is, passage of the law removed the uncertainty hanging over shares of the insurance stocks. Once the dark clouds dissipated, investors saw an opportunity and jumped aboard. Their enthusiasm is reflected in the collective 15% increase in the industry’s shares during the past year. Read 

Natural Gas Stocks Get Boost from Obama

Mar 31, 2011, 11:18 am EDT

The natural gas industry got a big bounce on Wednesday as President Obama said its potential as a clean energy alternative to oil is “enormous” and federal incentives to expand the use of natural gas in vehicles are “an area of broad bipartisan agreement.” 

It didn’t hurt that Obama also vowed to slash U.S. oil imports one-third by 2025.

Natural gas shares jumped on the news: Range Resources (NYSE:RRC) gained nearly 3%, as did Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK). Cabot Oil & Gas (NYSE:COG) rose 5.5%, Southwestern Energy (NYSE:SWN) added 1.7%, EQT (NYSE:EQT) rose 1.7%, and Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) rose 1.4%. Read 

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