Which is right: Stocks or economy?

The difference of opinion between Wall Street and Main Street is growing as equities soar but growth stalls.

By Anthony Mirhaydari Jan 25, 2013 3:53PM

Businessman reading newspaper copyright A. Chederros, ONOKY, Getty ImagesThe stock market and the economy have always maintained a tenuous link. Equities are prone to periods of extreme fear and greed, pulling valuations around what the economic fundamentals suggest is "fair value." It gets really bad near major turning points, such as the exuberance and the "subprime is contained" falsehoods of 2007 to the terror and "the bailouts won't work" panic of 2009.


I think we're seeing another turnaround point right now as the major averages go vertical and gauges of investor sentiment reach levels not seen since the 2000 dot-com bubble; even as the economy, by some measures, shows signs of falling back into recession.


So, which is right about where we're headed?


The driver of the disparity is central bank intervention, with the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, and Bank of England, and the Bank of Japan all flooding the financial system with cheap cash. Much of the impetus for the market rally of the past two months has been indications the Bank of Japan is about to throw conservatism to the wind and indulge in even more aggressive monetary stimulus.


While hedge fund types love this, and a liquidity starved economy loved it in 2008 and 2009, there is just simply too much money floating around to make a difference now. The Fed's balance sheet has swelled past $3 trillion, up from $800 billion before the financial crisis, $1.4 trillion of which is simply sitting at the Fed's vaults as commercial banks have nothing to do with the money but hold it as deposits.


Moreover, as the deterioration of the economic data suggests, all this cheap money isn't preventing the natural business cycle from working its will, resulting in new recessions in Europe and Japan, with another one headed for the United Kingdom.


Things aren't looking good here at home.



The bulls Thursday ignored a terrible Kansas City Fed activity survey, which featured an employment index that sliced into recessionary territory. When joined with similarly weak results from the other regional Fed Surveys, thaw overall picture is clear: With more tax hikes and spending cuts on the way, possibly spiked with a government shutdown, the economy is already in trouble.



If all this is making your head hurt, just know it all boils down to this:


  • Sentiment is excessively bullish at levels seen near major market turning points.
  • Fiscal policy will be a growing drag on growth, but here and overseas, this year.
  • Technical indicators remain weak with breadth, volume, and options market activity suggesting caution is warranted. 
  • Economic fundamentals are still deteriorating and have fallen into recessionary territory.
  • With gas prices rising again, the energy market remains vulnerable to the rise of Islamic terrorists in North Africa and simmering tensions in the Middle East.
  • Most of Europe, including Germany, is either in or is falling into a recession. Japan is in recession. And the United Kingdom is falling into recession as well.

Add it all up, spiked with the big price swings, market dislocations, and other drama, and this feels like a major, historical moment for Wall Street and the economy at large. A moment when the belief that central bank intervention can paper over deeper, structural issues by giving hedge funds and investment banks more money to play with about to be shaken.


We're seeing the evidence of that play out in real time.


Since the Fed launched QE3 and QE4 late last year, the economy has lost serious momentum.


And now, with the inflation hawks worrying about the destabilizing effects of all that cheap money, the clock is ticking on the "don't worry, the Fed will save us" meme that has driven this bull market. When it ends, amid political rancor over gun control and the budget in the months to come, it won't be pretty.



Just like the shattering of the illusion that profit margins at Apple (AAPL) were impenetrable -- amid increasing competition, a saturated smartphone market, and a tapped out American consumer -- has been ugly.



In response, I'm adding new short positions against industrial materials via Cliff's Natural Resources (CLF), AKSteel (AKS), and the ProShares UltraShort Basic Materials (SMN) to my Edge Letter Sample Portfolio.


Disclosure: Anthony has recommended CLF short, AKS short, and SMN long to his clients. 


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Jan 26, 2013 9:35AM
It is confusing but just about the time the economy will start to improve, stocks will take a dip -
Jan 26, 2013 8:54AM

"I'm still waiting for the "epic bear market" that Anthony predicted a few weeks ago."


You've been in it for several years now, Whitey... the markets gains are predicated on infusions of fiat money, not growth. Haven't you seen the routine Monday contributions? Banks lend to baby mommas and other unsustainable people and put them into homes they previously foreclosed on and repossessed. The Note is swapped at the Fed for it's face value. The Note on the swap favors the bank, borrowing us further into debt but it gives the bank new cash to inflate the markets with. Rinse. Repeat.

Snap out of it... retailers reduce inventory by clearing it out at 90% less than the MSRP on the tag or- less than it's cost with no consideration for overhead. Where do you think that shortfall credit comes from? Same place as the loss-differences in the bank swaps. Everyday we sustain a crafted, controlled and manipulated market, our Dollar dilutes as stupes like you think you are making money. Do the math... if the Dollar deteriorates daily because of the scenario described above, how much are you gaining while the economy is draining away? Answer-- absolutely nothing. And that's the genuine value of your stock portfolio!

Jan 26, 2013 8:18AM



It's a Chinese Curse. "May you live in interesting times."


Anyway, nice article. I read the comments. At some point somebody's gonna be right. I get a few stock market news letters and some of them are very dark reading and even the lighter newsletters offer warnings. And I read the Fed Reserve Board don't all agree with Helicopter Ben. Something's gonna pop!


I'm sticking with my idea Guns & Gold. 

Jan 26, 2013 8:00AM

FRIDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- They say money can't buy happiness, and a new study suggests that's true for even the most materialistic. Instead, the study found, these folks seem to be happiest right before they buy a coveted item. Once they have the purchase in hand, their joy fades quickly. The findings may not be all that surprising, experts say. But the notion that you're a lot happier before a big buy than after -- particularly if you're on the more materialistic side -- had not been "empirically tested" before, said Brent McFerran, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who was not involved in the new research.

In real life, you might be able to think of times when you've anticipated an important purchase, then felt let down after buying it. But whether you learn from that, and stop putting so much stock in "stuff" is another matter, McFerran said. "With big purchases, we're not making them that often," McFerran said. So you might not remember that last car did not actually bring you lasting joy.

"Or," McFerran said, "you might think, just because that car didn't make me happy doesn't mean this flat-screen TV won't. For some of us, there's always this hope -- a belief in 'retail therapy.'"

But based on the new findings, recently reported online in the Journal of Consumer Research, that therapy does not have lasting effects."



Suggests Wall Street and all the greedy grubbers who live by it are--- frickin' depressed out of their minds. We NEED to alleviate that condition for them. Close the banks, end the Fed and get RID of Wall Street. Open the roof exits on those ivory towers so the incurable can find permanent relief.

Jan 25, 2013 11:30PM


We'll finally have all the answers when Atlas Shrugged III comes out.


Hey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I'm going to be in Vegas in May for 5 days at the Eastside Cannery and then 2 days at the Quad.  Anybody want to hook up?  I'm buyin!



Jan 25, 2013 9:10PM

Anthony... you cannot ask your header question without also embracing two key aspects... $16 Trillion in phony electronic money in the markets and high-speed computers with worldwide access. For much of the 21st Century to-day, we haven't had ANY economy. In October 1998, banks pulled credit lines for America's mortgage lenders- collapsing them. The gross value of America's Residential Portfolio was $18 Trillion and 1998 finished off with $11 Trillion in mortgages made. Lop the top (mansions) and bottom (shacks) and cross out ineligible properties and borrowers. Essentially, we lent to 100% of the eligible properties. 1999 was a so-so year. 2000 was dismal and in April 2001 we had a stock market crash. We also had issues with gas prices and unit productivity. Between 2001 and 2007 was a Great Phony Credit Time. 2008... loans got called, 84% of men lost their jobs and half the small businesses got loans called and collateral repossessed. All of the debt payments delayed by Dubya now came due and we got TARP'd. Since then, the economy hasn't tangibly recovered, we've gone much further in electronic debt, had no family-sustaining job creation and band-wagon lifts of the major investment facets while choking off nearly all non-institutional or brokerage investing.


To answer your question... we are where no sensible economy has ever gone before and no, we don't know how to stop the corruption. Andrew Dickson White chronicled in his book: Fiat Money Inflation in France-- almost everything we are experiencing. It decimated France and they never really recovered. To know this and not react now KNOWING HISTORY, is crazy. We don't need old rich people ruling us, we need to step forward into the 21st Century and embrace it without markets and financiers telling us what to do. Abolish incorporation and make it so financier is not a career. It's not doom and gloom... it's Reality. Snap out of anything but... and figure out your best post-crash Plan B. Gold, guns, ammo, stocks, bonds, blonds and bombs won't matter. Think outside of your comfort zone.

Jan 25, 2013 8:47PM

It will be next to impossible for the market to go down with the Helicopter Ben printing 85  billion a month.  The market will move higher each month as it adjusts share prices for the increase in money supply.  I would expect the market to move 11% higher this year given the money creation rate. 


Now if the Fed were to stop the presses, the market could collapse as everyone heads to the exits at once.  


Commodities and Specie offer the same inflation protection from the Fed. 


Jan 25, 2013 8:42PM
I haved learned a while ago to do just the opposite of Anthony.  To short materials is to say the U.S. is not going to build anything.  How can the market go up if we are not building?  

Seems to me that Anthony has his own agenda.  Take his advice with a grain of salt.  He must be on the same payroll as Cramer.
Jan 25, 2013 8:04PM
There's no doubt, at the end of the day, the economy and stocks are forever linked.  However, there's been a disconnect going on for quite awhile.  The question really becomes, which drags which around by the nose. 

It seems that for the last few decades, everything has been engineered to where stocks drag around the economy.  If stocks are doing well, people have more money to spend, and our consumer-driven economy grows, or so the theory goes.  This worked well for awhile,  especially with the widespread use of the internet to trade stocks.  The average Joe no longer needed to have a huge account balance or make trades through an expensive broker, he could do it on his own, with very little cash.  The powers that be are doing everything they can to prop up stocks, because they believe this is the easiest and most efficient way to boost the economy.

But if you look at the volume, it's in the basement.  Much fewer people are actively trading, and institutional buys make up most of the volume.  IMHO, the era of stocks leading the economy is over and tapped out.  Unfortunately, if this is the case, most are well behind this curve, including the Fed.  Ultimately, we need a balance, where the economy drives stocks and where stocks drive the economy. We need for them to feed off of each other, instead of constantly relying on one to drive the other.  But as long as the Fed insists on creating bubbles, this will not be the case.  Rest assured, stocks cannot continue to lead the way forever.  And the farther ahead they run, the tighter the rubber band gets.  We know it's going to snap back, it's just a matter of when and how violently.
Jan 25, 2013 6:54PM

Valuations are good and so are earnings.Yes, I expect a short term profit taking.After

that we go higher.It1s not an accident markets go higher with Dems in the Wh and

lower with Repubs in the Wh.It`s brains with the economy.

Jan 25, 2013 6:41PM
I very seldom read Mr. Mirhaydari's column and I have never subscribed to his investment newsletter, "The Edge."  I believe, however, contrary to many MSN Money followers, that he is "right on" target with his analysis of both the economy and the stock market!  I would like nothing better than for Mr. Mirhaydari to be WRONG; my heart says he's wrong, but my head tells me that he is absolutely RIGHT!  Most investors, including myself, are just too emotional; their investment decisions (and mine) are usually based on FEAR and GREED.  Unfortunately, in our exuberance to make up for lost time and profits, we lose sight and sense of the lessons taught by our economy and the stock market in the recent past -- "The Great Recession."  Realistically, what has changed?  If you and I ran our household budget like the Federal Government, and many State Governments, our creditors would force us into bankruptcy!  So, why hasn't the US Government declared bankruptcy?  It controls the US currency -- the almighty $dollar$ -- if it needs more money, it just prints more money!  The value of the US Dollar is quickly becoming worthless, fiat money.  I certainly hope and pray that Mr. Mirhaydari is wrong, but barring some unforeseeable  miracle , I really don't believe he is.
Don Moore
Jan 25, 2013 6:31PM
If the stock market were down almost every day and the Dow reached 10000 level'people specially Republican and Conservative blame Obama for'now the Dow is reahing 15000 and nobody gives a damn.
Jan 25, 2013 6:25PM

I would like to think the Markets and the Economy are Inter-mingled at some point,,Some say NO..

I'm not really buying that..

Markets can be over exuberant, in a short-term mode, but with long term trending, I believe it is foolish to think that the Economy isn't getting better...

Recessions historically have terms to them...

But this is not your Daddy's or Grand Daddy's Recession...A totally different Animal...IMO.

Jan 25, 2013 6:06PM
 Hi, as long as Mr, Doom and Gloom keeps saying bad things are coming, the stock Market keeps getting better and better !

Pretty much 2013 is the last year of anywhere near normal for the USA economy. Soon and it could be as soon as Valentines Day the whole US economy is going to crash and burn as the world rejects the US dollar as the world reserve currency.


Pretty much most of the world has already agreed with China to trade with China in yuan and not dollars.


It is going to take about a year for this reality to set into the minds of the western banking system but it will start to show up very quickly.


In fact the response of the central banks of the USA, Japan and Europe is to flood the market with dollars and yen and euros but that is just going to make the collapse ever so much faster.


Already there is wide spread panic as Bernanke and others at the top now realize that the Death Spiral of the US economy is spinning more and more out of control and the world every day is relying on the dollar less and less.


We think the US fiscal cliff crisis is over with , the European debt crisis is over with and the total collapse of the Japanese economy is over with. The only trouble is printing more fake monies has made things worse and worse.


Which is why no one in the world is trading in dollars now.


There is a new slogan now --




Jan 25, 2013 5:37PM

The balancing act is just this:


When all the money is moving in with exuberation (bubble), we should move out, right?  But when, we don't want to miss all the upswings...


Especially when it isn't fundamentals based any longer, it's Fed based.  That messes up the individual investor.  Plus, the most exhuberant reactions in the market come when bad expectations don't happen, rather than when something good does... 

Jan 25, 2013 5:36PM
Neither. They are both artificially propped by Fed  QE. Can you hear the printing presses churning..cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching.
Jan 25, 2013 5:28PM
I believe the Fed is soon to slow down its easing efforts. It said so already, when QE3 was launched. It´s supposed to end when projected inflation reaches 2.5% and unemployment 6.5%. With all the money  that has been printed worldwide, it seems to me that we will reach one of those targets pretty soon.
Jan 25, 2013 5:09PM
The stock market doesn't have to reflect the economy.  What you're seeing is wealth & cheap moeny that has to go somewhere & since fixed income is so expensive & yields so low, money is moving into stocks, which people have been avoiding since the 2008-2009 meltdown.  As long as the Fed keeps th punch bowl out, the party will continue.
Jan 25, 2013 5:02PM

How do we get updated information on the above noted 2013 Real Time Survey Graph ?   This is very useful. 


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