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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Notes from the USA (Dec 2011) - a guest post

Of late, the US economy has been showing small but positive signs of stability. A double-dip recession seems to be off the table. Doom-sayers have been less prolific in their doom-sayings. No one is talking about a collapse of the dollar and revival of the gold standard any more. Gold bulls have stopped predicting levels of $6000 and $10000.

Even the noise about impending calamity emanating from Europe have been on very muted volumes. Every one seems reasonably satisfied that Europe may be heading into another recession, but the Eurozone is not going to disintegrate and the euro won’t collapse. This is what we are getting to read and hear from CNBC and Bloomberg.

But what is the reality? In this month’s guest post, KKP provides his measured opinion from Ground Zero, and advises investors to be cautious.

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All Green Light with the EU Crisis Over?

With all the moves being made in the last few weeks, and the latest punch by the ECB, is the crisis in Europe done with? The bailout of various governments by the ECB allowing them to borrow money super cheap might make it seem like that. These economies need the money to buy their sovereign debt at much higher yields and save a bundle. Sure, it is a big breakthrough in policy and a correct step towards savings these economies, but in my opinion it is far from convincing that this is a one step cure. Markets seem to believe some of it caused the yields to plunge.

The US dollar has reacted accordingly by going into a slight corrective mode, with gold, A$, C$ and Euro bouncing up a bit. Again, in my opinion, this is just a resting place for these currencies before they continue down against US$, since there is too much faith in the ‘least ugly’ (of the moment) i.e. US$.

The US economy seems to be showing typical seasonal strength. People are getting temporary jobs (seasonal jobs in retail, logistics and transportation industry) and hence the unemployment claims are lower. But, this is not going to last because come January, we will have many of those people back on the streets looking for jobs.

Again, 2012 is an election year, and hence we will see artificial moves made by the politicians to show improvement in the US economy so that they can ensure a win. It will again be temporary and not last long. The economy does seem to show some stabilization, but revenue and profits are ratcheting down for corporations, although the quarter to quarter comparison (from previous year) is looking positive, and hence giving a false sense of relief to investors. Net effect is that companies are cutting employees, cutting costs, and delaying investments to show those profits. Ultimately, the reduction in employment affects the supply chain of business that is inter-related, and inter-dependent on ‘jobs and employed folks’.

Housing is showing some stability although there is enough inventory out there (hidden) that keeps coming out slowly but surely. Banks are more lenient and allowing non-mortgage payers to stay in their homes for free based on government regulations. Until prices climb up, most of the purchases made between 2004-05 and 2008-09 are homes that potentially will come back out on the market as a foreclosure sale.

So, no, I do not believe EU is out of the red-light-zone, and neither is the US. Hence, times are still turbulent (with signs of positive turn in mobile computing marketplace) and keeping money safely on the sidelines or trading quickly (in and out) is the only thing we should be doing. This applies to India as well as US.

What are you doing with your money in India or in US?

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KKP (Kiran Patel) is a long time investor in the US, investing in US, Indian and Chinese markets for the last 25 years. Investing is a passion, and most recently he has ventured into real estate in the US and also a bit in India. Running user groups, teaching kids at local high school, moderating a group in the US and running Investment Clubs are his current hobbies. He also works full time for a Fortune 100 corporation.

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