Not that it’s much of a recovery, as CBS Moneywatch analyst Anthony Mirhaydari points out in his warning to investors. Full-time work has fallen by 4.2 million full-time equivalents since the start of the technical recovery in June, and the civilian workforce participation rate has dropped to 36-year lows — with most of the decline coming well after that recovery, as this BLS chart from January covering 2009-2013 demonstrates:
Despite “ultra-easy” monetary policies at banks and financial institutions, job creation and economic expansion remain stalled. Up to now, the boom on Wall Street offered the only real success story from the past five years, and is Exhibit A in the White House’s economic policies that are trying to force corporations to pay more in wages to address stalled wage growth. However, Mirhaydari sees that success story coming to an abrupt end … and soon:
Like all things, the string of good luck will eventually end. Nonsense you say? Well, insiders are already running for the exits.
Consider that despite the push to new highs for most of the stock market in early March, fewer and fewer stocks have participated. The percentage of S&P 500 stocks in uptrends hit nearly 76 percent, well off peaks near 84 percent set at the end of 2013.
Translation: Buyers are finding fewer and fewer bargains at these prices.
Or consider what’s happening at the sector level: Only three remain in uptrends based on a percentage price oscillator analysis. One, transports, is the only pro-cyclical sector left with any strength. And the other two, consumer staples and utilities, are classic safe haven plays that do well when investors are worried about the future.
Corporate insiders and the Wall Street banks are bailing out too, dumping money-losing IPOs unto the market as fast as they can in what is classic late bull market behavior. According to the folks at SentimenTrader, 74 percent of announced IPOs have no earnings. That’s the second-highest ratio in history. One of the main drivers of this has been the activity in the super speculative biotechnology sector, accounting for 13 percent of all money-losing IPOs. That’s the second-highest ratio in 20 years. Over the past year, 20 money-losing biotech IPOs have been announced, returning to a high not seen since the summer of 2000.
Moreover, much of IPO activity has been driven by private equity and venture capital firms in what, in retrospect, could be a classic example of the “smart money” selling to the “dumb money” at the top.
Mirhaydari recommends that his clients take a defensive position on investments until the dust settles. This might seem a little alarmist at the moment, but it’s probably good long-term advice. The problem is that without the kind of explosive growth we usually see after sharp recessions, arbitrage can only take us so far. We need to generate real growth to get more resources into the economy, and we need monetary, regulatory, and tax policies that encourage that kind of investment to generate real growth and innovation. Unfortunately, as the past five years have shown, our tax and regulatory policies have benefited the largest players in the market at the expense of smaller innovators and competitors, while keeping capital on the sidelines and workers on unemployment. And nothing from Washington indicates that those problems will get better — and to the extent Barack Obama succeeds in his economic agenda, it’s likely to get worse.
Unless something dramatic happens, the coming correction will probably look a lot like the “recovery” — wan, dispirited, and stretched out long enough to keep the lows from getting too low. But no one looking at the growth and jobs numbers can have much optimism for Wall Street, let alone Main Street.