Tag Archives: Consumer Price Index

Restaurants Stocks Are Vulnerable As Consumers Remain Cash Strapped

By Christopher Versace, Contributor

One of the sectors that I have been cool if not cautious on over the last few months has been the restaurant industry. That view stems quite simply form the fact that the consumer, while no longer hurting per se, continues to see his or her income pressured. Perhaps one of the more illuminating statics I have come across in recent weeks was the following from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – the median weekly earnings of the nation’s 104.2 million full-time wage and salary workers were $776 in the second quarter of 2013. While that figure climbed 0.6% year over year, it grew far less than the 1.4% gain in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers over the same period. In simple terms, we are making more but can afford less. …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Forbes Latest

Consumer Prices Driven Higher by Jump in Gas Prices

By Reuters

consumer prices gasoline june inflation cpi

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AP

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumer prices rose more than expected in June as gasoline prices jumped, but underlying inflation pressure remain benign against the backdrop of lukewarm domestic demand.

The Labor Department said Tuesday its Consumer Price Index increased 0.5 percent, the largest increase since February, after nudging up 0.1 percent in May. Gasoline prices accounted for about two thirds of the increase in the CPI.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected consumer inflation to increase 0.3 percent last month.

In the 12-months through June, consumer prices advanced 1.8 percent after rising 1.4 percent in May. It was also the largest increase since February.

Stripping out volatile energy and food, consumer prices increased 0.2 percent for a second straight month. That took the increase over the 12 months to June to 1.6 percent, the smallest increase since June 2011. The so-called core CPI had increased 1.7 percent in May.

While both inflation measures remain below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target, details of the report suggested the recent disinflation trend had probably run its course, with medical care costs rising.

There were also increases in the prices for new motor vehicles, apparel and household furnishings. That could keep on track expectations the U.S. central bank will start scaling back its massive monetary stimulus in September.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who last month said the central bank would start cutting back the $85 billion in bonds it is purchasing each month to keep borrowing costs low, has viewed the low inflation as temporary and expects prices to push higher.

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at DailyFinance

Inflation Worries? Fight Back with Dividend Stocks

By Chuck Saletta

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Inflation is back in the news these days, thanks to President Obama‘s new budget proposal. That proposal adjusts the way inflation gets calculated in an attempt to raise tax revenue and stem the rise of Social Security spending by slowing the rise in the Consumer Price Index.

No matter how it gets officially calculated, inflation is a real threat to your long-run ability to make ends meet. You need an effective way to fight that threat, especially now that potential changes to the official calculations are likely to slow the automatic benefits you’re used to getting from the old method.

Pick your Risk

In this era of abysmally low interest rates, there are no safe and surefire ways to protect yourself from the ravages of inflation. Even recent issues of TIPS bonds — the U.S. government’s Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, which are designed to help investors fight inflation — currently carry negative interest rates. That means investors will still lose money in real terms after those bonds adjust for inflation.

The real question these days isn’t whether you take risks with your money to try to keep pace with inflation — it’s what risks you take just to keep treading water in real terms.

In that light, owning the stocks of companies that pay dividends, have regularly increased their dividend payments, and look capable of continuing to raise their dividend payments just might be the best inflation fighter available to your arsenal.

Why Dividends May Be Your Best Bet

There are three key reasons to believe that successful companies can continue to raise their dividends at least as fast as inflation: accounting, real growth, and cost-cutting.

Accounting: Consider a company that likes to pay a dividend equal to 50 percent of its after-tax earnings to its shareholders as a reward for the risks of owning its stock. If its costs rise in line with inflation and it can pass a similar increase down the line to its customers (whose costs would also be rising in line with inflation), then it has an automatic gain in profits and dividends, in line with that inflation. The table below shows how it works:

First Year Second Year, After 3% Inflation
Costs $1,000,000 $1,030,000
Revenues $1,100,000 $1,133,000
Pre-Tax Profits $100,000 $103,000
Tax (35%) $35,000 $36,050
Profit After Tax $65,000 $66,950
Dividend (50%) $32,500 $33,475
Dividend Increase 3%

Data from author’s calculations.

In reality, not all costs or prices rise exactly in line with inflation, but the general concept still holds.

Real growth: Of course, most companies wouldn’t be satisfied to just keep pace with inflation; they’re trying to grow their businesses in real terms, as well.

From: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/04/17/inflation-worries-fight-back-with-dividend-stocks/

What Is Inflation?

By Selena Maranjian

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April is Financial Literacy Month, and our goal is to help you raise your money IQ. In this series, we’ll tackle key economic concepts — ones that affect your everyday finances and investments — to help you make smarter choices with every dollar decision you face.

Today’s term: inflation.

You probably think you’ve got the term down pat: Inflation means prices rising over time. Well, yes, that’s pretty much right. But there’s much more to inflation, and it’s much more relevant to your life than you might think. Inflation can go in the opposite direction, for example, and it can spiral out of control.

First, a quick review.

Inflation is about purchasing power. It’s a way to measure the changing purchasing power of our currency by tracking changes in the prices of things we buy. The national banks of various countries try to keep inflation under control through their actions and policies (such as via the interest rates they set); many aim for an annual inflation rate of about 2 percent to 3 percent.

If inflation is at our long-term national average rate of about 3 percent, you can expect that something that costs you $100 today will cost you $103 next year, and $116 in five years. Plenty of online inflation calculators can give you a peek into the past, too. For example, per the U.S. Department of Labor’s calculator, it would cost you $62 in 1993 dollars to buy what costs you $100 today.

It’s not as simple as it seems

While the concept of inflation seems simple, as in the examples above, it’s actually a bit more complicated. For one thing, prices of various goods and services tend to grow — and sometimes shrink — at significantly different rates.

Think of college tuition, room and board, for example. Between the 2000-2001 and 2010-2011 school years, that cost has grown by an annual average of 5.5 percent overall, at both private and public schools combined. Meanwhile, the average selling price of a new vehicle rose just 1.7 percent, on average, annually between 2001 and 2011, and the price of gas averaged 8.9 percent annual growth during that same period.

Changes can be quite different in different time periods, for different items, and even in different regions — think of the housing market, for example.

Inflation is calculated in different ways, too. Its most basic form, as calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the Consumer Price Index or CPI, which reflects the changes in prices of a basket of goods and services, such as food, gasoline, newspapers, postage, lodging, furniture, dental services, socks, cigarettes, pet food and more. There’s also the “Core CPI,” which excludes energy and food prices, as they can be especially volatile.

Another key thing to understand is that each of

From: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/04/17/inflation-definition/

Falling Inflation Takes Gold Down With It

By Bob McTeer, Contributor This morning we learned that the Consumer Price Index declined at a 0.2% annual rate in March for an increase of 1.5% over the past year. Last week we learned that the Producer Price Index declined 0.6% in March for an increase of only 1.1% over the past year. The latest GDP price deflator, for the fourth quarter of 2012, was up at a 1.6% rate, for an increase of 1.7% for 2012. No wonder that gold, that great hedge against inflation, is under pressure. Wile E. Coyote finally looked down.

From: http://www.forbes.com/sites/bobmcteer/2013/04/16/falling-inflation-takes-gold-down-with-it/

How the Obama Budget Would Change Your Taxes

By Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool

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President Obama released his budget proposal yesterday, and as expected, it included a number of new provisions that would dramatically change the tax laws once more, with impacts on taxpayers up and down the income scale. The Obama proposal comes as a clear disappointment to anyone who believed that the resolution to the fiscal cliff crisis at the beginning of the year would prove to be the last word on the tax front, but for those who want to see further revenue increases as part of a broader solution to address the national debt, the budget’s tax provisions address some of their concerns.

Let’s take a look at some of the budget’s most important tax proposals and the impact they could have on both individual and corporate taxpayers, as well as the businesses that serve them.

Limited tax savings for itemized deductions and municipal-bond interest
The biggest revenue-raising part of the Obama budget would limit the value of itemized deductions, including the mortgage interest deduction, to 28%. That would impact only high-income taxpayers above the $200,000 and $250,000 income thresholds for single and joint filers, respectively, costing them as much as 11.6 percentage points in tax savings. Because of the high-end focus, the impact on industries like the homebuilding sector that benefit from customers taking advantage of those deductions would be limited, with luxury-oriented companies Toll Brothers and Ryland more at risk than homebuilders aimed at lower price points.

Implementing the Buffett Rule
The budget also wants to ensure that those with taxable income above the $1 million mark pay an effective tax rate of 30%. The mechanics of implementing what’s become known as the Buffett Rule would include a phase-in of the tax for incomes between $1 million and $2 million, representing a further increase for those highest-income taxpayers with extensive deductions other than charitable contributions.

Lower inflation adjustments for tax-related provisions
The same proposal to link Social Security benefits to the chained Consumer Price Index would also have an impact on taxes. The budget would use the chained CPI to adjust tax brackets, personal exemptions, and standard deductions, leading to slower increases in those figures going forward. Unlike the limits on itemized deductions, the inflation adjustment provisions would affect all taxpayers.

Maximum amounts in IRAs and other retirement accounts
The budget would limit IRA, 401(k), and other tax-favored retirement balances to about $3 million. Combined with increases on carried-interest tax rates, this provision would capture hedge-fund managers and other investors who’ve used retirement accounts as successful high-growth investing vehicles.

A new cigarette tax
The Obama budget would hike federal taxes on cigarettes by $0.94 per pack. Altria and other cigarette manufacturers would inevitably get hurt by such an increase, as it would add yet another impediment to cigarette demand that has already been falling sharply for decades.

Lower estate tax exemptions
The budget

From: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/04/11/how-the-obama-budget-would-change-your-taxes/

Critics Say Obama's Budget Breaks Campaign Promises

By The Associated Press

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Susan Walsh/AP

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER

WASHINGTON — Advocates for seniors say President Barack Obama is breaking his promise to protect Social Security, while conservatives say he is breaking his promise not to raise taxes on the middle class.

Obama’s budget proposal includes a mix of tax increases and benefit cuts in an effort to reduce government borrowing and spark the still-fragile economy. Obama says it is the kind of balanced approach that is necessary to tame runaway budget deficits.

But advocates from across the political spectrum are reminding the president of his past campaign promises.

“Clearly it will be up to members of Congress to set fiscal priorities that actually represent the needs of the average citizens they were elected to represent,” said Max Richtman, head of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “The president’s budget is not the balanced plan promised to Americans before November’s election.”

Obama‘s budget blueprint would increase taxes by $1 trillion over the next decade. Most of the tax increases would target wealthy households and corporations, though some, including a tax increase on cigarettes, would hit low- and middle-income families, too.

At the same time, Obama‘s plan would trim benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare while adding new spending on infrastructure and early childhood education.

The most sweeping proposal is to adopt a new measure of inflation for the government, which would gradually reduce benefits and raise taxes at the same time.

Called the chained Consumer Price Index, the new measure would show a lower level of inflation than the more widely used Consumer Price Index. The change could have far-reaching effects because so many programs are adjusted each year based on year-to-year changes in consumer prices.

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Starting in 2015, Social Security recipients, military retirees and civilian federal retirees would get smaller benefit increases each year. Taxes would gradually go up because of smaller annual adjustments to income tax brackets, the standard deduction and the personal exemption amount.

Most of the savings would come from Social Security. On average, the new measure would reduce annual cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, by 0.3 percentage points. This year, the COLA was 1.7 percent. Under the new measure, it would have been about 1.4 percent.

Obama rarely mentioned Social Security during his re-election campaign in 2012. But four years earlier, he was more forthcoming, and some liberal groups have been circulating the video evidence.

In a 2008 speech to AARP, Obama laid down this marker: “John McCain’s campaign has suggested that the best answer for the growing pressures on Social Security might be to cut cost-of-living adjustments or raise the retirement age. Let me be clear: I will not do either.”

On Wednesday, Obama said he was compromising.
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From: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/04/11/obama-budget-cuts/

Consumer Confidence Cools Dow

By Jeremy Bowman, The Motley Fool

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After 10 straight days of gains, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finally gave back ground today, falling 25 point,s or 0.2%. The blue chips never broke into positive territory, because a poor consumer sentiment report, and a higher-than expected Consumer Price Index dampened the optimism that’s fueled this month’s rally.

Consumer prices jumped 0.7% in February, in large part due to a 9% increase in gas prices during the month. Overall, it was the biggest increase in consumer prices in over three years. The core CPI, which excludes food and energy, rose just 0.2%.

Meanwhile, consumer confidence dropped to 71.8, from 77.6 last month, a figure economists thought would hold, according to a University of Michigan survey. The current mark is the lowest level since December 2011, as worries about sequestration and the layoffs that may result appear to have disquieted the average consumer. The survey reported a record percentage of unfavorable responses to government fiscal policies, and consumer expectation of conditions over the next few months dropped sharply.

As for individual stocks, banks were big movers today after the Fed released its decision on which of the 18 too-big-to-fail banks could return capital to shareholders. The Fed approved the plans of 14 of the lenders, asked JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs for resubmission, and outright rejected the plans of BB&T and Ally Financial. JPMorgan shares dropped 1.9% as a result, and the bank cut its share buyback plan in half, to $6 billion. It also raised its quarterly dividend from $0.30, to $0.38. Separately, in Senate hearings today, JPMorgan’s former Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew, who was in charge of the unit that lost $6.2 billion in the “London Whale” trade, denied wrongdoing as the bank continues to defend itself.

Bank of America shares shot up 3.8% today after the Fed approved its plan to buy back $5 billion worth of common stock and $5.5 billion in preferred shares. B of A did not submit plans to increase its dividend, which sits at just $0.01 per quarter. Still, the approval was a big step for the lender as it’s struggled to return to solvency following the financial crisis.

Boeing was also a big winner today, climbing 2.1% to a new five-year high after it said the 787 should be back in flight in just a few weeks, thanks to a fortified power pack that would negate the fire risk.

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…read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at DailyFinance

Executive Order — Amendments to Executive Order 12777

By The White House

EXECUTIVE ORDER

– – – – – – –

AMENDMENTS TO EXECUTIVE ORDER 12777

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Section 4 of Executive Order 12777 of October 18, 1991, as amended (Implementation of Section 311 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of October 18, 1972, as Amended, and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990) is further amended by striking section 4 in its entirety and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

Sec. 4. Liability Limit Adjustment. (a)(1) The following functions vested in the President by section 1004(d) of OPA are delegated to the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating, acting in consultation with the Administrator, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Attorney General:

(A) the adjustment of the limits of liability listed in section 1004(a) of OPA for vessels, onshore facilities, and deepwater ports subject to the DPA, to reflect significant increases in the Consumer Price Index;

(B) the establishment of limits of liability under section 1004(d)(1), with respect to classes or categories of marine transportation-related onshore facilities, and the adjustment of any such limits of liability established under section 1004(d)(1), and of any limits of liability established under section 1004(d)(2) with respect to deepwater ports subject to the DPA, to reflect significant increases in the Consumer Price Index; and

(C) the reporting to Congress on the desirability of adjusting limits of liability, with respect to vessels, marine transportation-related onshore facilities, and deepwater ports subject to the DPA.

(2) The Administrator and the Secretary of Transportation will provide necessary regulatory analysis support to ensure timely regulatory Consumer Price Index adjustments by the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating of the limits of liability listed in section 1004(a) of OPA for onshore facilities under subparagraph (a)(1)(A) of this section.

(b) The following functions vested in the President by section 1004(d) of OPA are delegated to the Administrator, acting in consultation with the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Energy, and the Attorney General:

(1) the establishment of limits of liability under section 1004(d)(1), with respect to classes or categories of non-transportation-related onshore facilities, and the adjustment of any such limits of liability established under section 1004(d)(1) by the Administrator to reflect significant increases in the Consumer Price Index; and

(2) the reporting to Congress on the desirability of adjusting limits of liability with respect to non-transportation-related onshore facilities.

(c) The following functions vested in the President by section 1004(d) of OPA are delegated to the Secretary of Transportation, acting in consultation with the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating, the Administrator, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Attorney General:

(1) the establishment of limits of liability under section 1004(d)(1), with respect to classes or categories of non-marine transportation-related onshore facilities, …read more
Source: White House Press Office

Will JPMorgan Sabotage the Dow's Record Streak?

By Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool

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At some point, the string of record highs that the Dow Jones Industrials have posted must end. Early on, it looks like today may prove to be that day, as the Dow is down 44 points, or 0.3%, just before 11 a.m. EDT, dropping back below the 14,500 level. With consumer confidence falling to its lowest level in more than a year and the Consumer Price Index having spiked upward 0.7% as expected in February due to higher gas prices, today may prove to be the day on which the Dow says eight is enough and gives up some ground.

Within the Dow, JPMorgan Chase has fallen the most, dropping 2.2% after the bank came under fire on multiple fronts. The Federal Reserve approved its plans for dividends and stock repurchases but also said it would need to submit new plans for dealing with a potential future recession within the next six months. Moreover, Senate lawmakers attacked the bank for bad risk-management, arguing that it misled investors and regulators in connection with the now-infamous “London Whale” scandal. JPMorgan has overcome controversy before, but at some point investors may lose confidence in its ability to handle repeated attacks on its reputation.

Elsewhere, VirnetX dropped another 7.6% following yesterday’s 28% loss after the company lost a key patent suit against Cisco Systems . VirnetX had enjoyed great success in winning similar cases and obtaining settlements in the past, and most investors thought Cisco would join the ranks of those paying substantial damages. With the jury having found no infringement, VirnetX will miss out on a major potential source of revenue. Cisco, meanwhile, has risen 0.5%.

Finally, Ulta Salon plunged 14.4% after providing disappointing guidance in its quarterly report last night. The company beat earnings estimates for the fourth quarter but said its first-quarter sales and earnings would fall short of what analysts had expected. Given the stock‘s high multiple, investors aren’t inclined to cut it much slack when it comes to threats to its future growth.

JPMorgan has been controversial for a while, but its shares are still arguably bargain-priced. Will the bank bounce back? To help you figure out whether JPMorgan is a buy today, I invite you to read our premium research report on the company today. Click here now for instant access!

var FoolAnalyticsData = FoolAnalyticsData || []; FoolAnalyticsData.push({ …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at DailyFinance

How the Dow Chalked Up Another Win

By Jeremy Bowman, The Motley Fool

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Stocks gained for the seventh day in a row, and the S&P 500 closed 10 points shy of its all-time high just a week after the Dow Jones Industrial Average set a record of its own. The Dow gained another 50 points, or 0.35%, to finish at 14,447.

Despite some bearish news out of Europe and China, the momentum from last week’s jobs report and record-setting optimism seemed to carry over. First, in China, inflation grew much faster than expected in February as the Consumer Price Index jumped 3.2% from a year ago, and industrial production and retail sales fell sharply. The jump in inflation was driven by a 6% increase in the food prices, which now rival prices Americans pay in the supermarket. Food inflation has surged because of the country’s urbanization, leaving farmland and labor in shorter supply, and a ban on beef imports from all but three countries, because of mad-cow disease, has only exacerbated the problem.

Meanwhile, in Italy, which roiled markets just two weeks after its elections pointed to what will probably be a weak coalition government, investors were confronted with more bad news. On Friday, Fitch downgraded Italy‘s credit rating to BBB+ with a negative outlook, and today, the country reported that its GDP shrank by 2.8% in the fourth quarter over a year ago. Based on yields, Italian bonds are now as risky as Spanish treasuries.

On the Dow today, Boeing led all components with a 2.1% gain as investors reacted to statements from one executive who said the company’s solution to the Dreamliner battery fires will be a “permanent fix.” The airplane maker also said it will increase its production rates of commercial planes to keep up with rising demand. Production of its 737 jets, for instance, will go from 38 a month this year to 42 a month in 2014.

General Electric was the index’s biggest laggard today, falling 0.6%, as CEO Jeffrey Immelt cited political uncertainty and regulatory constraint as reasons that may limit corporate spending this year. The company plans to continue focusing on dividend increases and share buybacks and nominated former SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro to the board. GE also said it will explore the possibility of expanding its cleanup of an area of the Upper Hudson River, which was designated as a Superfund site.

Late in the session, a judge in New York overruled Mayor Bloomberg‘s soda ban, which had been set to go into effect tomorrow. The ban would have fined any vendors selling cups of soda larger than 16 ounces. Today’s suit was brought in part by the American Beverage Association and is a win for beverage companies, symbolically and financially. Stocks of companies that stand to benefit, however, such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and McDonald’s, were mostly unaffected.

With great opportunity comes great responsibility. For Boeing, which operates as a major player in a multitrillion-dollar market, the opportunity is absolutely massive. However, the company’s execution …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at DailyFinance

Skepticism Surrounds Big Days on Wall Street

By Eamon Murphy

Hugo Chávez Wall Street

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The past 36 hours should have been a moment of unbridled celebration for cheerleaders of American capitalism. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had two successive record-breaking closes, and Hugo Chávez, Uncle Sam‘s most prominent hemispheric antagonist, died after a two-year illness (which his vice president blamed on the machinations of enemies domestic and foreign).

And yet reactions have been muted, conflicted. As the Dow scaled previously unknown heights on Tuesday, “the record went largely uncelebrated,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “There’s no massive sense of euphoria,” one high-ranking trader told the paper. “Years ago, there was more excitement.”

It’s not a mystery why this should be so: The disparity between the bull market on Wall Street and the actual U.S. economy is awfully wide. On Tuesday morning the financial news site Zero Hedge posted a sobering then-and-now comparison entitled “The Last Time the Dow Was Here…,” looking back at where some key economic indicators stood on October 11, 2007. A few striking data points:

  • GDP Growth: then +2.5%; now +1.6%
  • Americans Unemployed (in Labor Force): then 6.7 million; now 13.2 million
  • Americans On Food Stamps: then 26.9 million; now 47.69 million
  • Size of Fed’s Balance Sheet: then $0.89 trillion; now $3.01 trillion

That last point helps explain what’s going on. The trillions of dollars of mortgage bond and U.S. Treasury purchases made by the Federal Reserve have artificially stimulated markets, boosting investor confidence even in the absence of fundamental economic recovery. And with interest rates near zero, people looking for a decent return on their money have been driven back into a market that burned them badly in very recent memory.

In the words of the editorial board of USA Today, stocks are acting as though they’re “on steroids,” and the withdrawal process could be painful indeed (drastically diminishing bond returns, for instance). Better start clarifying now how the Fed plans to extricate itself, the editors advise: “The longer the Fed’s easy-money policies go on, the greater the risk they will distort markets, create new bubbles and set the economy up for another fall.”

To some economists, the Dow’s record-breaking performance isn’t just asterisk-worthy because the market‘s been juiced, but because the actual high-water mark has yet to be topped. As CNNMoney points out,

The record that everyone is talking about is in nominal terms and doesn’t take into account the impact of inflation, which has increased more than 10% in the past five years, according to the government’s Consumer Price Index. If you factor that in, the blue chip index is actually still about 11% below its all-time inflation adjusted high, which was set in January 2000, according to data from Ned Davis Research.

And, as The New York Times notes, the companies that comprise the Dow have in fact fared unevenly since the index bottomed out four years ago (at 6,547.05): “12 of the 30 stocks in the Dow are still down from their peaks, some …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at DailyFinance