The third estimate for GDP growth in Q4 and on an annual basis for 2015 came in at an annual rate of 1.4 percent while “real” GDP increased 2.0 percent and reflected positive contributions from PCE, residential fixed investment and federal government spending.
The deceleration in real GDP in Q4 primarily reflected downturns in nonresidential fixed investment and in state and local government spending, a deceleration in PCE and a downturn in exports.
"Real" GDP increased 2.4 percent in 2015 (that is, from the 2014 annual level to the 2015 annual level), which was the same rate as in 2014.
Probably much more important was that profits from current production (corporate profits with inventory valuation adjustment (IVA) and capital consumption adjustment (CCAdj)) decreased $159.6 billion in Q4, compared with a decrease of $33.0 billion in Q4 and $242.8 billion lower than in Q4 of 2014 and at its lowest level since 2011, but, and that's also important, still well above the pre-crisis levels.
Summarizing the data we could say, GDP remains OK, but could be better, but with the direction where corporate profits are heading since Q3 of 2014 it will be very difficult for U.S. equity prices (overall) for keeping their current levels, while risks are tilted to the downside.
If the ongoing profits scenario doesn’t change direction rather sooner than later, U.S. equity prices “could” be headed for a "re-test" of their lows we've seen in H1 of 2014 in the not so far future and if this re-test should occur and these lows shouldn’t hold, it could become very nasty for many investors with a situation that’s sort of like the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote who remains suspended in midair for a few seconds before realizing he has run off the edge of a cliff.
With all what’s going on, I can’t help it, but I must think back to 1998 and onward when at that time the Fed had raised the Fed funds rates a few notches in 1998 and then it "backtracked" because of:
- The Asia financial crisis that started in July of 1997,
- The Russian financial crisis of the summer of 1998 and finally when
- Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM), which was a hedge fund management firm went bankrupt in 1998.
These 3 important disruptive historical events made the "effective" Fed rates starting to decline from 9.89 percent in April 1989 to 3.03 percent in February 1993, which helped fueling a boom in stocks that would only come to an unprecedented bust in modern times when the NASDAQ collapsed in February 2000.
As Mark Twain said “History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes,” and, of course I could be wrong, but I have something like a bad feeling there is a possibility, which doesn’t mean a “surety”, we could be headed for some kind of a similar scenario as the Nasdaq’s 2000 dive, and if that occurs it could stretch well into 2017 and even beyond.
Of course, time will tell…
Anyway, and as fundamentals don’t count that much these days we’ll see what Fed Chair Mrs. Yellen will be willing to tell us tomorrow Tuesday, March 29 when she speaks at the Economic Club of New York, at a moment in time when the Fed is handicapped by markets that close to exclusively only focus on central banks' monetary policies to the exclusion of practically anything else.
I this context it’s really interesting how the markets practically negated last week’s terror attacks in Brussels.
Yes, it was Napoleon Bonaparte’s mother who said “Pourvu que ça dure!” Let’s hope it will last!
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