Category Archives: Economy

Discussion about the state of the economy, social mood, economic signals and their relation to market tops and bottoms.

Where is Walmart Headed?

Walmart stock has dived throughout 2015 and is up from lows in 2016. Will the up-run continue? The era of “always low prices” no longer translates into always high profits. Learn what we think is behind the shift

By Elliott Wave International

Walmart founder Sam Walton said:

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Never were those words felt more acutely for those on the Walmart payroll than right now. Reason being: Over the last year, the eponymous Walmart “customer” has, indeed, taken his business elsewhere, fueling a series of epic setbacks for the retail giant:

  • Store closures, layoffs, and the shuttering of its entire fleet of smaller “Express” locations across the U.S.
  • A near 40% decline in its stock (WMT) before hitting bottom in November 2015
  • Losing its status as the world’s #1 retailer to Amazon
  • And — the sour cherry on top: The first decline in annual revenue since Walmart went public 45 years ago

In the words of a March 31 Bloomberg: It’s “the end of an era for Walmart.”

Which leaves one question: How the heck does a big-box behemoth go from retail victor to re-fail victim?

Well, according to the mainstream experts, the main cause of Walmart’s woes are many-fold, from falling oil prices – to – China’s flailing economy – to – the extinction of the brick-and-mortar store – to – the biggest baddest culprit of all, the brawny greenback:

“Walmart profits hit by strong dollar” (CNN Money)

Economists can always be counted on for providing endless explanations as to why a corporate king gets dethroned — after the fact.

But in our opinion, one’s time and energy is better served anticipating those turns. Which is exactly what our analysts did in regard to Walmart’s reversal of fortune — starting with our September 2013 Elliott Wave Financial Forecast’s bearish call for Walmart stock:

“We’ll stick with our contention that the economy is turning toward a deflationary depression. This long-term chart of Walmart is another under-the-radar clue to the unfolding debacle.

“It shows the world’s largest retailer completing a five-wave rally that dates back to the early 1980s. As consumers go on a buying strike over the next few years, Walmart’s stock should fall by at least 50%.”

From there, Walmart made one more new high at $90.97, after which the anticipated downside drama arrived in full force, with shares plunging 37% to end at a four-year low in November 2015.

Which brings us to the larger issue at hand: Walmart’s struggle to convert “always low prices” into always higher profits goes hand in hand with the underlying trend in the U.S. economy: that of deflation.


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This article was syndicated by Elliott Wave International and was originally published under the headline Woe-Mart: The Retail Giant Walmart Has Faltered. EWI is the world’s largest market forecasting firm. Its staff of full-time analysts led by Chartered Market Technician Robert Prechter provides 24-hour-a-day market analysis to institutional and private investors around the world.

After a decade of FED help, economy is not out of the woods and another leg down may be imminent despite the printing press. Can Walmart survive? Arm yourself with knowledge you don’t see in mainstream media.

Free Elliottwave Theorist

With the market action during the last few weeks, many investors have been operating in panic mode; subscribers to Robert Prechter’s Elliott Wave Theorist haven’t. Why?

Because they were prepared. Elliott Wave International prepared them for the 2007-2009 crisis, and they did it again. In fact, in the calm of Aug. 18, Bob wrote a sharp critique of the U.S. stock market in his newest Elliott Wave Theorist, in which he said to expect market “pandemonium.” (His commentary was published the following day.)

“as shown in this issue, time and price factors call for an immediate end to this dream state. When the alarm goes off and the dreamers awake, it will be pandemonium in the stock market. As the next few charts show, time and price have run out of room. Together, these time and price events seem finally to have cleared the way for a stunning decline in US stock prices.”

That’s just a taste of what Bob predicted in this critical issue. You need to see the rest for yourself, and now you can.

Our friends at EWI have given us permission to share Bob’s FULL August issue of TheTheorist. Free. Read all 10 pages and see all 15 charts!

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Volatility Shakes Bond Markets

Is the debt bomb about to go off?

The yields on U.S. Treasuries and European sovereign debt have risen sharply in a relative short time.

Bond prices trend inversely to yields — which means debt portfolios have suffered substantial losses.

From mid-April through May 6, yield on German 10-year bunds spiked 47 basis points. Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasuries jumped 29 basis points in just the past week.

Volatility in the bond market continued on May 7. In just a few hours, the yield on the 10-year bund jumped 21 basis points before pulling back. Bear in mind that sovereign bond yields rarely move more than a fraction of one percent in a day.

Long-term bonds have been hit particularly hard. The yield on 30-year U.S. Treasuries topped 3% for the first time this year.

“We’ve been hurt,” said [an] investment manager at Aberdeen Asset Management. “The movements of recent days have been extremely unusual … .” (Financial Times, May 7)

German government debt is regarded as a benchmark for European assets.

Take a look at this chart of Euro-Bund futures from our May 6 Financial Forecast Short Term Update:

Similar to the credit crisis in 2007-2009, the rout is starting in the bond market, where the pace of evaporating liquidity is quickening. Bids are pulled, prices crack, yields rise and it leaks out toward other asset classes. The turn in bonds in the U.S. and Europe is a sign that the “debt bomb” … is about to go boom.

The April Elliott Wave Financial Forecast warned subscribers about the insanity that pervades the world’s bond markets. Take a look at this chart and commentary:

Many bonds that are perceived to be the safest credit risks guarantee investors a loss. To our knowledge this has never occurred on such a widespread basis in the history of finance. Yields on nearly a third of the euro area’s $6 trillion of government bonds are below zero, which means that bond buyers are guaranteed to lose money if they buy these bonds and hold them to maturity.

The risk of widespread defaults also lurks in the world’s credit markets.

Here’s what well-known hedge fund manager Stanley Drunkenmiller recently said:

Back in 2006/2007, 28% of debt being issued was B-rated. Today 71% of the debt that’s been issued in the last two years is B-rated. So, not only have we issued a lot more debt, we’re doing so with much [lower standards].

All told, the world’s credit markets are on very unstable ground. Expect that ground to get even shakier in the months ahead.


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Is Unemployment Rate Really Getting Better?

The “Big Lie” About the U.S. Jobs Picture

Some 30 million people are either out of work or severely underemployed

The financial media heve been featuring stories with an upbeat outlook for the U.S. economy.

For example: The economy is on track for “the fastest growth in a decade” (Associated Press), and “Experts expect jobs aplenty in ’15” (USA Today).

This upbeat tone is related to December’s U.S. jobless rate of 5.6%, its lowest since June 2008.

But Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, offers a different perspective on the jobs data. His February 3 article on Gallup’s website was headlined, “The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment.”

Right now, we’re hearing much celebrating from the media, the White House and Wall Street about how unemployment is “down” to 5.6%. The cheerleading for this number is deafening.

None of them will tell you this … If you are so hopelessly out of work that you’ve stopped looking over the past four weeks — the Department of Labor doesn’t count you as unemployed. … Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. …

If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 … you’re not officially counted as unemployed … .

If you … are working 10 hours part time because it is all you can find … the government doesn’t count you in the 5.6%.

There’s no other way to say this. The official unemployment rate … amounts to a Big Lie.

A Federal Reserve chart shows that the civilian labor force has been shrinking for 15 years.

The February Elliott Wave Financial Forecast comments:

Why is [the U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate] falling when job growth is rising? The answer, we think, is the emerging force of deflation. Notice that the peak participation rate of 67.3% came from January to March 2000, as the major stock indexes topped, after which inflation first began to falter. When stocks rallied to their 2007 top, there was a mild bounce in the rate, but the latest stock market rally failed to generate any sustained rise in the rate of work force participation. Workers appear so discouraged that the pool of available employees is back to where it was in 1978. The opening chapter of Conquer the Crash …states, “The persistent deceleration in the U.S. economy is vitally important, because it portends a major reversal from economic expansion to economic contraction.”

What will the jobless picture look like at the bottom of an economic contraction?

The third edition of Conquer the Crash published in July 2014 and forecast:

The true unemployment rate in the U.S. and in most countries around the world will rise and eventually exceed 25 percent … .


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Why Expectations for Business Activity are Plunging

Editor’s note: This article is excerpted from “The State of the Global Markets 2015 Edition,” a comprehensive report by Elliott Wave International, the world’s largest independent market-forecasting firm (data through December 2014). You can download the full, 53-page report here — 100% free.

In its November issue, published on Oct. 31, EWI’s European Financial Forecast discussed the plunging 5-year/5-year forward swap, a market-based gauge that measures inflation expectations from five years to 10 years out, and stated, “Even the central bank’s preferred inflation metric shows nothing but flat or falling prices over the foreseeable future.”

In November, a “sharp deterioration in sentiment” (WSJ, 11/17/14) popped up in the economic surveys.

According to a poll conducted by Germany’s IW Economic Institute, nearly one quarter of the 2,900 companies surveyed (almost double the percentage from last spring) plan to cut investments in 2015. Likewise, the percentage of companies planning to increase spending fell from 44.1% to 29.8%.

In fact, the more officials seem to push the story of a great global recovery, the harder the deflationary evidence seems to push back.

Global Business Activity Expectations

Notice that the balance of companies expecting to increase business activity in the next 12 months just fell to its lowest level since the survey began five years ago.

Markit’s accompanying analysis presents many more lowlights (emphasis added):

Worldwide

  • Expectation of business activity weakened among both manufacturers and service providers.
  • Hiring and investment plans rest at post-crisis lows.
  • Price expectations deteriorated further.
  • Optimism in manufacturing fell to its lowest since mid-2013, while optimism in services slumped to the lowest in the survey’s five-year history.

In the United States

  • The most striking development was the extent of the downturn in the U.S., where optimism hit a new survey low, with the service sector seeing a particularly dramatic decline.”

In Europe and Emerging Markets

  • Business confidence in Spain and Italy was the lowest recorded since this time last year.
  • In Germany and France, confidence was far lower … with both ‘core’ countries seeing the lowest levels of optimism since June of last year.
  • Business expectations across the main emerging markets fell on average to the lowest seen in the survey’s five-year history.

To be clear, deeply rooted economic pessimism often precedes a low in stocks and social mood. But what exists today is something quite different: Namely, investors display excessive optimism toward stocks, while economic fundamentals only continue to deteriorate. We have noted, for example, that J.P. Morgan equity strategists just upgraded European stocks from underweight to overweight, believing that the region is “due a period of outperformance vs. the U.S.” (Reuters, 11/17/14) Yet, economists at J.P. Morgan just downgraded its GDP forecast, calling for world growth to come in at 2.6%. The International Monetary Fund likewise cut its forecast for global growth — for the sixth time in less than two years. At 3.3%, world growth will fall from 3.6% a year ago and from 4.1% a year before that.

We simply don’t buy any of these projections. The critically stretched position of the world’s major stock markets calls for economic downgrades to persist until the worldwide economy enters another full-blown contraction, which is likely sometime in 2015.

Editor’s note: This article is excerpted from “The State of the Global Markets 2015 Edition,” a comprehensive report by Elliott Wave International, the world’s largest independent market-forecasting firm. For a limited time, you can download the full report, for free, and use its year-in-preview insights to prepare, survive and prosper through the global investment landscape of 2015 and beyond. Download the full, free, 53-page report here.

From Faith to Failure: Abenomics

After decades of deflation in Japan, we thought there was hope and the deflating money supply and falling prices were gone. But during the last two quarters we once again witnessed relentless deflationary pressure in Japan despite record stimulus that promised inflation. Well, inflation is missing in action. Deflation still rocks the nation! Surprised?

Why the biggest monetary stimulus effort in the world did NOT stop deflation in its tracks

When Shinzo Abe became the Prime Minister of Japan in December 2012, he was regarded with the kind of reverence that politicians dream about. He was featured in a hit pop song (“Abeno Mix”), hailed as a “samurai warrior,” and featured on the May 2013 The Economist cover as none other than Superman.

But in the two short years since, Abe as Superman has been struck down by the superpower-zapping force of economic kryptonite. On November 17, government reports confirmed that Japan’s brief respite from a 20-year long entrenched deflation was over as the nation’s 2nd & 3rd quarter GDP shrank 7.2% and 1.6% respectively.

In the words of a November 20, 2014 New York Times article:

I’d say it’s time to call Abenomics a failure. All that is left is disappointment.

Why did Abenomics fail? That’s the one question “being asked in a shell shocked Japan,” observes the same New York Times piece.

Their shock is understandable. Shinzo Abe spearheaded the boldest and biggest economic stimulus campaign to revive growth and reduce debt not just in Japan’s history, but in the world’s. To give you an idea of its magnitude, consider this:

Abe greenlit daily quantitative easing interventions by the Bank of Japan equivalent to $15 billion per day.

— VS. —

At its peak, the U.S.’s QE program authorized “only” $85 billion a month.

Japan’s QE was three times larger than the Fed’s! According to the mainstream analysts, there was no way the strategy could fail:

“With Abenomics, Japan Catches a Sense of Revival… The architect of this resurgence is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. His plan reflects a breadth of vision and coordination that no leader until Abe seemed interested in.” (Washington Post, May 24, 2013)

But, despite its historic size and the widespread faith in its success, Elliott Wave International’s team of analysts foresaw an entirely different outcome — namely, Abenomics would not be the alchemical instrument of economic change:

January 22, 2013: The Bank of Japan ups its inflation target rate to 2% and makes an “open-ended commitment to buy assets until the target is in sight.”

February 2013 Elliott Wave Financial Forecast: “In the area of central bank intervention, the ‘juice’ continues to flow… The effort to escape gravity illustrates just how detached central bankers remain from the reality that their efforts are imprudent, unfair, and doomed to fail.”

February 2013: Abenomics is hailed as the catalyst for the yen’s collapse.

March 2013 Asian Pacific Financial Forecast: “Most conventional observers are convinced that Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s New Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) administration has caused the yen to plunge… simply by promising to do whatever it takes to stop Japan’s deflation.”

“Conventional observers are just doing what they always do: looking back to around the start of a financial trend, finding a significant event from around that time… and then assuming that the event caused the trend.”

Chart of JPY/USD shows, however, that the yen completed a large-degree fifth wave in November 2011, one year BEFORE Abe even took office!

May 18, 2013 The Economist cover of Abe as superman writes: “Mr. Abe is electrifying a nation that had lost its faith.”

May 2013 Elliott Wave Financial Forecast: “Faith in the power of central banks to stem the ebbing tide of [deflation] remains strong. Ultimately, however, all of these efforts will fail.”

June 2013 Elliott Wave Financial Forecast: “As Japan’s economy teetered, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instituted an unprecedented spending and monetary easing scheme despite a gross public debt that projects to a whopping 230% of GDP. It follows at least a dozen prior ‘stimulus’ efforts all of which failed. This effort is simply larger, so it will prove to be an even more spectacular failure.”

It’s been 2 year since Abenomics began, and the November 20 New York Times article confirms “its failure.” Since its inception:

  • Japan’s government debt has increased to 250% of GDP
  • The index of Japanese industrial output is 96.8, the exact same reading as 1989
  • Real household income has fallen by 6%
  • And Japan has an 11 trillion yen trade deficit –vs.- a 5 trillion yen trade surplus in 2010

Now, EWI’s educational resource team has put together a new, free report titled “What You Need to Know Now About Protecting Yourself From Deflation” that explains why

“The psychological aspect of deflation and depression cannot be overstated. When the social mood trend changes from optimism to pessimism, creditors, debtors, producers and consumers change their primary orientation fromexpansion to conservation. As creditors become more conservative, they slow their lending. As debtors and potential debtors become more conservative, they borrow less or not at all… These behaviors reduce the velocity of money, the speed at which it circulates to make purchases, thus putting downside pressure on prices. These forces reverse the former trend.”

A deflationary psychology has been entrenched in Japan for the last 20 years. It is now arriving in Europe. You will be inundated by news reports from all four corners of the globe on deflation’s progress, and what the world’s monetary authorities are doing to ensure it will remain a temporary, contained and manageable event.

The worst thing you could do is rest on their promises.

Our new, 11-page report “What You Need to Know Now About Protecting Yourself From Deflation” is 100% free. It takes your understanding of this complex economic shift to a radical level AND gives you the ultimate advantage of knowing how to thrive during economic downturns.

The best part is, the entire report is now available to you free — simply by joining Club EWI and its rapidly expanding community.Go ahead and click here for instant access!


This article was syndicated by Elliott Wave International and was originally published under the headline Abenomics: From Faith to Failure. EWI is the world’s largest market forecasting firm. Its staff of full-time analysts led by Chartered Market Technician Robert Prechter provides 24-hour-a-day market analysis to institutional and private investors around the world.

Can Europe’s Deflation Be Like Japan?

While the stock market has recently seen all time highs in the the United States, despite Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing runs, inflation has been mute. In fact there is talk that FED may just keep printing money if deflation continues to be a concern! Across the ocean, money printing has continued for some years as well, but deflationary forces still cause enough worries. Late the mainstream media started to ask the taboo question: Can Europe go into a deflationary period like Japan had after 1990?

Europe: The ONE Economic Comparison That Must Not Be Named… Was Just Named

The Continent is now teetering on the edge of a “Japan-style” deflation. Here’s our take on it.
It’s happened. The one economic comparison Europe has dreaded more than any other; the name that’s akin to Lord Voldemort for investors has been uttered: “deflation.”

And it’s not just “deflation.” You can still spin that term in a positive light if you get creative enough. Say, for example,

“Falling prices during deflation actually encourage consumers to spend.”

But once you add the following two very distinct words, there’s no way to turn that frown upside down. And those words are“Japan-style” deflation.

Japan has languished in a deflationary cycle pretty much since the late 1990s, its once booming economy reduced to ‘lost decades’ of stagnation. Europe is now teetering on the edge.” (Sept. 19, Associated Press)

Which begs an obvious question: Weren’t Europe’s central banks supposed to prevent this very scenario from happening via their unprecedented, 4-year-long campaign of “money-printing,” bond-buying and interest-rate-slashing?

The answer to that question is… yes. Those actions were indeed supposed to boost inflation.

What’s more, no one can say the European Central Bank didn’t utilize every available tool in their arsenal to try and accomplish that end. The problem is they were fighting a losing battle.

And, we are both happy and sad at the same time to report that from the very beginning, when the first rate cut was loaded into the save-the-economy cannon, we at Elliott Wave International foresaw that Europe’s retreat toward deflation was unavoidable.

Here’s a quick recap of what led us to that conclusion.

— 2011 —

January 2011: The “D” word is way off the mainstream radar. Soaring oil, grain, and commodity prices has fueled widespread fears of runaway inflation. Writes one January 22, 2011 LA Times article:

“Around the world, many countries aren’t confronted with the debilitating forces of deflation, but the opposite — inflation. Annualized inflation in the euro zone rose above the 2% target rate for the first time in more than 2 years.”

February 2011: The European Central Bank unveils its brand-new Long Term Refinancing Operations (LTRO), extending nearly half a trillion euros in 3-year loans to banks at negligible interest rates — to stimulate the economy (and inflation).

July 2011: U.K.’s consumer price index declines, prompting a sigh of relief, not a shudder of fear from the Bank of England, who says “we can now breathe a little easier.”

(VS.)

Our August 2011 European Financial Forecast:

“We maintain our stance, however, that the looming threat is not inflation but deflation. Far from a sense of relief, the Banks’ paramount feelings should soon develop into an unrelenting dread.”

September 2011: U.K.’s consumer price index peaks at 5.2% and officially sets the downtrend in motion.

— 2012 —

January 2012: The Bank of England adds another 50 billion pounds to its asset purchase program, bringing its 3-year campaign of “money-printing” to 325 billion. The European Central Bank is less than 14 years old, yet total assets at the ECB breach 3 trillion.

February/March 2012: U.K. producer price inflation comes in higher than expected, prompting one U.K. economist to say: “PPI: Another wake-up call for apoplithorismosphobes,” the clinical term for those who fear deflation. The economist goes on to recommend that sufferers “seek therapy.” (March 12 Wall Street Journal)

(VS.)

Our July 2012 European Financial Forecast:

“Our models say that inflation rates will keep failing until they’re again measuring the rate of deflation as they last did briefly in 2009.”

August 2012 European Financial Forecast makes the first comparison of Europe to Japan:

“European leaders,” by slashing rates and printing money “seem determined to replicate Japan’s experience. Their efforts will not stop consumer price deflation.”

— 2014 —

May 2014 European Financial Forecast:

“The chart shows that British CPI accelerated lower after falling from a counter-trend peak of 5.2% back in September 2011, with year-over-year price growth just ticks above its late-2009 low.

“More than half of the 28 EU nations either teeter on the brink of deflation or have succumbed to falling prices already.

“The following chart shows that economic stagnation has reached even Germany, Europe’s most robust economy.”

September 2014 European Financial Forecast:

“In a related phenomenon, the press has now jumped on the slew of similarities between Europe’s flagging economy and Japan’s… Clearly, the parallel paths of the two regions have become impossible for the press to ignore.

“The central bank’s latest deflation-fighting contrivance is a €400 billion package of targeted LTRO loans, which are designed to compel banks to lend to ordinary business owners. Also like Japan, the ECB has slashed its main refinancing rate to 0.15% and now charges for banks’ overnight deposits. The result? Shown below, Europe’s largest economy, Germany, just contracted 0.2%; French economic output has ground to a halt; and Italy just entered its third recession since 2008.

The world has finally woken up to the possibility of a Japan-style deflation in Europe — years after the writing was already on the wall.

Now, you need to prepare for what’s to come.

The best part is, Elliott Wave International’s Founder and President, Robert Prechter, as written a book that can help you do just that. And you can read 8 chapters of Prechter’s bestseller, Conquer the Crash, free.


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How to be safe in an economic crash

People worry. Sometimes it helps, sometimes there is nothing we can do. I came across some research on the subject of worry. Here’s how it was presented:

Things People Worry About:

  • things that never happen – 40%
  • things which did happen that worrying can’t undo – 30%
  • needless health worries – 12%
  • petty, miscellaneous worries – 10%
  • real, legitimate worries – 8%

Of the legitimate worries, half are problems beyond our personal ability to solve. That leaves 4% in the realm of worries people can do something about.

I thought about our gigantic national debt and weak economy. These seem to fit into both subcategories of “real” worries. You can’t do much as an individual to solve the nation’s debt and economic problems, yet you can prepare for a worsening economic downtrend.

Do we see evidence for an economic turn for the worse?

Well, consider that the evidence is so overwhelming that it took 456 pages of the second edition of Robert Prechter’s book, Conquer the Crash, to cover it. And since that book published, Prechter has consistently devoted his monthly Elliott Wave Theorist to the facts and evidence behind his forecast.

Here’s a chart from the book that was updated by Elliott Wave International in March 2012:

  • The downturn from 2008 is critically important, as it shows that after an almost unbroken 60-year climb, the contraction is underway. It surely has much further to go, because it is still a third higher than it was at the outset of the last debt deflation in 1929.
  • The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast, March 2012
  • The rating agencies are well aware of what the above chart means. You probably know that Standard & Poor’s downgraded U.S. debt from the nation’s long-standing triple-A to AA+. Now, another rating agency has taken their rating even lower:
  • Rating firm Egan-Jones cuts its credit rating on the U.S. government to “AA” from “AA+” with a negative watch, citing a lack of progress in cutting the mounting federal debt.
  • CNBC.com, April 5
  • Robert Prechter’s bestseller, Conquer the Crash, provides practical information about what you can do to protect your finances in the coming economic implosion. And right now, Elliott Wave International is offering 8 lessons from Conquer the Crash in a free 42-page report that covers:
  • What to do with your pension plan
  • How to identify a safe haven
  • What you should do if you run a business
  • A Short List of Imperative “Dos” and Don’ts”
  • And more

In every disaster, only a very few people prepare themselves beforehand. Discover the ways you can be financially prepared and safe.

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Jaguar Inflation

FED rate is at 0% and some people are worried about inflation that may come as the recovery takes hold. Some other people believe deflation is the problem and FED rate should stay at 0%. So, is it really the FED who sets the interest rates in an economy?

Utimately, FED does not control the interest rates. The market does. During inflationary boom, due to demand for money, interest rates rise. FED follow the market by adjusting the FED rate. Central banks simply follows the markets. Federal Reserve does not control the markets. Below is an analogy that explains why credit can deflate despite all the efforts of FED to re-inflate it. When it does happen, it’s timing is based on a shift in social mood, and not based on FED policy.

Jaguar Inflation – A Layman’s Explanation of Government Intervention

This article is part of a syndicated series about deflation from market analyst Robert Prechter, the world’s foremost expert on and proponent of the deflationary scenario. For more on deflation and how you can survive it, download Prechters FREE 60-page Deflation Survival eBook, part of Prechter’s NEW Deflation Survival Guide.

The following article was adapted from Robert Prechter’s NEW Deflation Survival eBook, a free 60-page compilation of Prechter’s most important teachings and warnings about deflation.

By Robert Prechter, CMT

I am tired of hearing people insist that the Fed can expand credit all it wants. Sometimes an analogy clarifies a subject, so let’s try one.

It may sound crazy, but suppose the government were to decide that the health of the nation depends upon producing Jaguar automobiles and providing them to as many people as possible. To facilitate that goal, it begins operating Jaguar plants all over the country, subsidizing production with tax money. To everyone’s delight, it offers these luxury cars for sale at 50 percent off the old price. People flock to the showrooms and buy. Later, sales slow down, so the government cuts the price in half again. More people rush in and buy.

Sales again slow, so it lowers the price to $900 each. People return to the stores to buy two or three, or half a dozen. Why not? Look how cheap they are! Buyers give Jaguars to their kids and park an extra one on the lawn.

Finally, the country is awash in Jaguars. Alas, sales slow again, and the government panics. It must move more Jaguars, or, according to its theory — ironically now made fact — the economy will recede. People are working three days a week just to pay their taxes so the government can keep producing more Jaguars. If Jaguars stop moving, the economy will stop. So the government begins giving Jaguars away. A few more cars move out of the showrooms, but then it ends. Nobody wants any more Jaguars. They don’t care if they’re free. They can’t find a use for them. Production of Jaguars ceases. It takes years to work through the overhanging supply of Jaguars. Tax collections collapse, the factories close, and unemployment soars. The economy is wrecked. People can’t afford to buy gasoline, so many of the Jaguars rust away to worthlessness. The number of Jaguars — at best — returns to the level it was before the program began.

The same thing can happen with credit.

It may sound crazy, but suppose the government were to decide that the health of the nation depends upon producing credit and providing it to as many people as possible. To facilitate that goal, it begins operating credit-production plants all over the country, called Federal Reserve Banks. To everyone’s delight, these banks offer the credit for sale at below market rates. People flock to the banks and buy. Later, sales slow down, so the banks cut the price again. More people rush in and buy. Sales again slow, so they lower the price to one percent. People return to the banks to buy even more credit. Why not? Look how cheap it is! Borrowers use credit to buy houses, boats and an extra Jaguar to park out on the lawn. Finally, the country is awash in credit.

Alas, sales slow again, and the banks panic. They must move more credit, or, according to its theory — ironically now made fact — the economy will recede. People are working three days a week just to pay the interest on their debt to the banks so the banks can keep offering more credit. If credit stops moving, the economy will stop. So the banks begin giving credit away, at zero percent interest. A few more loans move through the tellers’ windows, but then it ends. Nobody wants any more credit. They don’t care if it’s free. They can’t find a use for it. Production of credit ceases. It takes years to work through the overhanging supply of credit. Interest payments collapse, banks close, and unemployment soars. The economy is wrecked. People can’t afford to pay interest on their debts, so many bonds deteriorate to worthlessness. The value of credit — at best — returns to the level it was before the program began.

See how it works?

Is the analogy perfect? No. The idea of pushing credit on people is far more dangerous than the idea of pushing Jaguars on them. In the credit scenario, debtors and even most creditors lose everything in the end. In the Jaguar scenario, at least everyone ends up with a garage full of cars. Of course, the Jaguar scenario is impossible, because the government can’t produce value. It can, however, reduce values. A government that imposes a central bank monopoly, for example, can reduce the incremental value of credit. A monopoly credit system also allows for fraud and theft on a far bigger scale. Instead of government appropriating citizens’ labor openly by having them produce cars, a monopoly banking system does so clandestinely by stealing stored labor from citizens’ bank accounts by inflating the supply of credit, thereby reducing the value of their savings.

I hate to challenge mainstream 20th century macroeconomic theory, but the idea that a growing economy needs easy credit is a false theory. Credit should be supplied by the free market, in which case it will almost always be offered intelligently, primarily to producers, not consumers. Would lower levels of credit availability mean that fewer people would own a house or a car? Quite the opposite. Only the timeline would be different.

Initially it would take a few years longer for the same number of people to own houses and cars – actually own them, not rent them from banks. Because banks would not be appropriating so much of everyone’s labor and wealth, the economy would grow much faster. Eventually, the extent of home and car ownership – actual ownership – would eclipse that in an easy-credit society. Moreover, people would keep their homes and cars because banks would not be foreclosing on them. As a bonus, there would be no devastating across-the-board collapse of the banking system, which, as history has repeatedly demonstrated, is inevitable under a central bank’s fiat-credit monopoly.

Jaguars, anyone?

To learn more on deflation, it’s causes and effects, download Prechters FREE 60-page Deflation Survival eBook or browse various deflation topics like those below at www.elliottwave.com/deflation.

Robert Prechter, Chartered Market Technician, is the world’s foremost expert on and proponent of the deflationary scenario. Prechter is the founder and CEO of Elliott Wave International, author of Wall Street best-seller books Conquer the Crash and Elliott Wave Principle. He is the editor of The Elliott Wave Theorist monthly market letter since 1979.

What Can Movies Tell About the Stock Market

What Can Movies Tell You About the Stock Market?

The following article is adapted from a special report on “Popular Culture and the Stock Market” published by Robert Prechter, founder and CEO of the technical analysis and research firm Elliott Wave International. Although originally published in 1985, “Popular Culture and the Stock Market” is so timeless and relevant that USA Today covered its insights in a Nov. 2009 article. For the rest of this revealing 50-page report, download it for free here.

This year’s Academy Awards gave us movies about war (The Hurt Locker), football (The Blind Side), country music (Crazy Heart) and going native (Avatar), but nowhere did we see a horror movie nominated. In fact, it looks like Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was the most recent to be nominated in 2008, for art direction (which it won), costume design and best actor, although the last one to win major awards for Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress was The Silence of the Lambs in 1991.

Whether horror films win Academy Awards or not, they tell an interesting story about mass psychology. Research here at Elliott Wave International shows that horror films proliferate during bear markets, whereas upbeat, sweet-natured Disney movies show up during bull markets. Since the Dow has been in a bear-market rally for a year, now is not the time for horror films to dominate the movie theaters. But their time will come again.

In the meantime, to catch up on why all kinds of pop culture — including fashion, art, movies and music — can help to explain the markets, take a few minutes to read a piece called Popular Culture and the Stock Market, which Bob Prechter wrote in 1985. Here’s an excerpt about horror movies as a sample.

From Popular Culture and the Stock Market by Bob Prechter

  • While musicals, adventures, and comedies weave into the pattern, one particularly clear example of correlation with the stock market is provided by horror movies. Horror movies descended upon the American scene in 1930-1933, the years the Dow Jones Industrials collapsed. Five classic horror films were all produced in less than three short years. Frankenstein and Dracula premiered in 1931, in the middle of the great bear market. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde played in 1932, the bear market bottom year and the only year that a horror film actor was ever granted an Oscar. The Mummy and King Kong hit the screen in 1933, on the double bottom. These are the classic horror films of all time, along with the new breed in the 1970s, and they all sold big. The message appeared to be that people had an inhuman, horrible side to them. Just to prove the vision correct, Hitler was placed in power in 1933 (an expression of the darkest public mood in decades) and fulfilled it. For thirteen years, lasting only slightly past the stock market bottom of 1942, films continued to feature Frankenstein monsters, vampires, werewolves and undead mummies. Ironically, Hollywood tried to introduce a new monster in 1935 during a bull market, but Werewolf of London was a flop. When film makers tried again in 1941, in the depths of a bear market, The Wolf Man was a smash hit.
  • Shortly after the bull market in stocks resumed in 1942, films abandoned dark, foreboding horror in the most sure-fire way: by laughing at it. When Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein, horror had no power. That decade treated moviegoers to patriotic war films and love themes. The 1950s gave us sci-fi adventures in a celebration of man’s abilities; all the while, the bull market in stocks raged on. The early 1960s introduced exciting James Bond adventures and happy musicals. The milder horror styles of the bull market years and the limited extent of their popularity stand in stark contrast to those of the bear market years.
  • Then a change hit. Just about the time the stock market was peaking, film makers became introspective, doubting and cynical. How far the change in cinematic mood had carried didn’t become fully clear until 1969-1970, when Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre debuted. Just look at the chart of the Dow [not shown], and you’ll see the crash in mood that inspired those movies. The trend was set for the 1970s, as slice-and-dice horror hit the screen. There also appeared a rash of re-makes of the old Dracula and Frankenstein stories, but as a dominant theme, Frankenstein couldn’t cut it; we weren’t afraid of him any more.
  • Hollywood had to horrify us to satisfy us, and it did. The bloody slasher-on-the-loose movies were shocking versions of the ’30s’ monster shows, while the equally gory zombie films had a modern twist. In the 1930s, Dracula was a fitting allegory for the perceived fear of the day, that the aristocrat was sucking the blood of the common people. In the 1970s, horror was perpetrated by a group eating people alive, not an individual monster. An army of dead-but-moving flesh-eating zombies devouring every living person in sight was a fitting allegory for the new horror of the day, voracious government and the welfare state, and the pressures that most people felt as a result. The nature of late ’70s’ warfare ultimately reflected the mass-devouring visions, with the destruction of internal populations in Cambodia and China.

Learn what’s really behind trends in the stock market, music, fashion, movies and more… Read Robert Prechter’s Full 50-page Report, “Popular Culture and the Stock Market,” FREE

Popular Culture and the Stock Market

By Robert Prechter, CMT

Popular Culture and the Stock Market

Both a study of the stock market and a study of trends in popular attitudes support the conclusion that the movement of aggregate stock prices is a direct recording of mood and mood change within the investment community, and by extension, within the society at large. It is clear that extremes in popular cultural trends coincide with extremes in stock prices, since they peak and trough coincidentally in their reflection of the popular mood. The stock market is the best place to study mood change because it is the only field of mass behavior where specific, detailed, and voluminous numerical data exists. It was only with such data that R.N. Elliott was able to discover the Wave Principle, which reveals that mass mood changes are natural, rhythmic and precise. The stock market is literally a drawing of how the scales of mass mood are tipping. A decline indicates an increasing ‘negative’ mood on balance, and an advance indicates an increasing ‘positive’ mood on balance.

Trends in music, movies, fashion, literature, television, popular philosophy, sports, dance, mores, sexual identity, family life, campus activities, politics and poetry all reflect the prevailing mood, sometimes in subtle ways. Noticeable changes in slower-moving mediums such as the movie industry more readily reveal changes in larger degrees of trend, such as the Cycle. More sensitive mediums such as television change quickly enough to reflect changes in the Primary trends of popular mood. Intermediate and Minor trends are likely paralleled by current song hits, which can rush up and down the sales charts as people change moods. Of course, all of these media of expression are influenced by mood changes of all degrees. The net impression communicated is a result of the mix and dominance of the forces in all these areas at any given moment.

Fashion:

It has long been observed, casually, that the trends of hemlines and stock prices appear to be in lock step. Skirt heights rose to mini-skirt brevity in the 1920’s and in the 1960’s, peaking with stock prices both times. Floor length fashions appeared in the 1930’s and 1970’s (the Maxi), bottoming with stock prices. It is not unreasonable to hypothesize that a rise in both hemlines and stock prices reflects a general increase in friskiness and daring among the population, and a decline in both, a decrease. Because skirt lengths have limits (the floor and the upper thigh, respectively), the reaching of a limit would imply that a maximum of positive or negative mood had been achieved.

Movies:

Five classic horror films were all produced in less than three short years. ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Dracula’ premiered in 1931, in the middle of the great bear market. ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ played in 1932, the bear market bottom year, and the only year that a horror film actor was ever granted an Oscar. ‘The Mummy’ and ‘King Kong’ hit the screen in 1933, on the double bottom. Ironically, Hollywood tried to introduce a new monster in 1935 during a bull market, but ‘Werewolf of London’ was a flop. When filmmakers tried again in 1941, in the depths of a bear market, ‘The Wolf Man’ was a smash hit. These are the classic horror films of all time, along with the new breed in the 1970’s, and they all sold big. The milder horror styles of bull market years and the extent of their popularity stand in stark contrast. Musicals, adventures, and comedies weave into the pattern as well.

Popular Music:

Pop music has been virtually in lock-step with the Dow Jones Industrial Average as well. The remainder of this report will focus on details of this phenomenon in order to clarify the extent to which the relationship (and, by extension, the others discussed above) exists.

As a 78-rpm record collector put it in a recent Wall Street Journal article, music reflects ‘every fiber of life’ in the U.S. The timing of the careers of dominant youth-oriented (since the young are quickest to adopt new fashions) pop musicians has been perfectly in line with the peaks and troughs in the stock market. At turns in prices (and therefore, mood), the dominant popular singers and groups have faded quickly into obscurity, to be replaced by styles which reflected the newly emerging mood.

The 1920’s bull market gave us hyper-fast dance music and jazz. The 1930’s bear years brought folk-music laments (‘Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?’), and mellow ballroom dance music. The 1932-1937 bull market brought lively ‘swing’ music. 1937 ushered in the Andrews Sisters, who enjoyed their greatest success during the corrective years of 1937-1942 (‘girl groups’ are a corrective wave phenomenon; more on that later). The 1940’s featured uptempo big band music which dominated until the market peaked in 1945-46. The ensuing late-1940’s stock market correction featured mellow love-ballad crooners, both male and female, whose style reflected the dampened public mood.

Learn what’s really behind trends in the stock market, music, fashion, movies and more… Read Robert Prechter’s Full 50-page Report, “Popular Culture and the Stock Market,” FREE.

Robert Prechter, Chartered Market Technician, is the founder and CEO of Elliott Wave International, author of Wall Street best-sellers Conquer the Crash and Elliott Wave Principle and editor of The Elliott Wave Theorist monthly market letter since 1979.

How Punk Rock and Pop Music Relate to Social Mood and the Markets

March 10, 2011

By Elliott Wave International

We can now add the recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East to the category of life imitating art — specifically, music lyrics. Those who lived through the 1980s might be forgiven for hearing an unbidden snatch of music run through their heads as they watched first Hosni Mubarak and now Moammar Gadhafi try to hold onto power — “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash. In Libya, where Gadhafi has used air strikes and ground forces against the rebels, The Clash’s other huge hit from 1981, “Rock the Casbah,” describes the current situation so well it’s almost eerie:

The king called up his jet fighters
He said you better earn your pay
Drop your bombs between the minarets
Down the Casbah way

Punk rock played by bands like The Clash, X, The Ramones, and the Sex Pistols had that in-your-face, defy-authority attitude that crashed onto the scene in Great Britain and the United States in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s interesting that the lyrics can still ring true 30 years later, but even more trenchant is how the prevailing mood is reflected by the music of the times, as seen in this chart that Robert Prechter included in a talk he gave last year.

Stocks and Social Mood

Popular culture reflects social mood, and the stock market reflects that same social mood. That’s why we get loud, angry music when people are unhappy with their situation; they want to sell stocks. We get light, poppy, bubblegum music when they feel happy and content; they want to buy stocks. In a USA Today article about music and social moods in November 2009, reporter Matt Frantz made clear the connection that Elliott Wave International has been writing about for years:

  • The idea linking culture to stock prices is surprisingly simple: The population essentially goes through mass mood swings that determine not only the types of music we listen to and movies we watch, but also if we want to buy or sell stocks. These emotional booms and busts are followed by corresponding swings on Wall Street.
  • “The same social elements driving the stock market are driving the gyrations on the dance floor,” says Matt Lampert, research fellow at the Socionomics Institute, a think tank associated with well-known market researcher Robert Prechter, who first advanced the idea in the 1980s. [USA Today, 11/17/09]

In the talk he gave to a gathering of futurists in Boston, Prechter explained how the music people listen to relates to social mood and the stock market:

  • When the trend is up, they tend to listen to happier stuff (see chart). Back in the 1950s and ‘60s, you had doo-wop music, rockabilly, dance music, surf music, British invasion — mostly upbeat, happy material. As the value of stocks fell from the 1960s into the early 1980s, you had psychedelic music, hard rock, heavy metal, very slow ballads in the mid-1970s, and finally punk rock in the late ’70s. There was more negative-themed music. [excerpt from Robert Prechter’s speech to the World Future Society’s annual conference, 7/10/10]

Which brings us right back to punk rock. Although there’s lots of upbeat music in the air now, we can assume that after this current bear market rally, we will hear angrier music on the airwaves as the market turns down. It might be a good time, then, to pay attention to what the markets were doing the last time punk rock blasted the airwaves. Here’s an excerpt from “Popular Culture and the Stock Market,” which is the first chapter of Prechter’s Pioneering Studies in Socionomics.

  • The most extreme musical development of the mid-1970s was the emergence of punk rock. The lyrics of these bands’ compositions, as pointed out by Tom Landess, associate editor of The Southern Partisan, resemble T.S. Eliot’s classic poem “The Waste Land,” which was written during the ‘teens, when the last Cycle wave IV correction was in force (a time when the worldwide negative mood allowed the communists to take power in Russia). The attendant music was as anti-.musical. (i.e., non-melodic, relying on one or two chords and two or three melody notes, screaming vocals, no vocal harmony, dissonance and noise), as were Bartok’s compositions from the 1930s.
  • It wasn’t just that the performers of punk rock would suffer a heart attack if called upon to change chords or sing more than two notes on the musical scale, it was that they made it a point to be non-musical minimalists and to create ugliness, as artists. The early punk rockers from England and Canada conveyed an even more threatening image than did the heavy metal bands because they abandoned all the trappings of theatre and presented their message as reality, preaching violence and anarchy while brandishing swastikas.
  • Their names (Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Nazi Dog, The Damned, The Viletones, etc.) and their song titles and lyrics (“Anarchy in the U.K.,” “Auschwitz Jerk,” “The Blitzkrieg Bop,” “You say you’ve solved all our problems? You’re the problem! You’re the problem!” and “There’s no future! no future! no future!”) were reactionary lashings out at the stultifying welfare statism of England and their doom to life on the dole, similar to the Nazis backlash answer to a situation of unrest in 1920s and 1930s Germany.
  • Actually, of course, it didn’t matter what conditions were attacked. The most negative mood since the 1930s (as implied by stock market action) required release, period. These bands took bad-natured sentiment to the same extreme that the pop groups of the mid-1960s had taken good-natured sentiment. The public at that time felt joy, benevolence, fearlessness and love, and they demanded it on the airwaves. The public in the late 1970s felt misery, anger, fear and hate, and they got exactly what they wanted to hear. (Luckily, the hate that punk rockers. reflected was not institutionalized, but then, this was only a Cycle wave low, not a Supercycle wave low as in 1932.)
  • In summary, an “I feel good and I love you” sentiment in music paralleled a bull market in stocks, while an amorphous, euphoric “Oh, wow, I feel great and I love everybody” sentiment (such as in the late ’60s) was a major sell signal for mood and therefore for stocks. Conversely, an “I’m depressed and I hate you” sentiment in music reflected a bear market, while an amorphous tortured “Aargh! I’m in agony and I hate everybody” sentiment (such as in the late ’70s) was a major buy signal.

Popular Culture and the Stock Market. Read more about musical relationships to social mood and the markets in this 40-page-plus free report from Elliott Wave International, called Popular Culture and the Stock Market. All you have to do to read it is sign up to become a member of Club EWI, no strings attached. Find out more about this free report here.