Friday, October 26, 2012

Once Bullish, Leon Cooperman Grows Wary of Stock Valuations

For years famed investor Leon Cooperman has talked up stocks. But on last night’s show, he sounded the alarm.

Cooperman, who is a widely followed investor and chairman of the hedge fund Omega, has made headlines for quite some time calling stocks 'the best house in the financial asset neighborhood.'

Back in 2011, Cooperman outlined his pro-stock market thesis at length on CNBC.

But on 
The Kudlow Report, Cooperman made a surprising statement that presumably reflected a shift in his outlook. He told Larry, “I think the stock market presently is fairly valued. I believe the profit cycle is peaking.”

Cooperman went on to say that the market multiple may be too high.
“Historically the market multiple is around 15,” said Cooperman, but over the past 50 years or so the growth rate has been much more robust. If we’re moving into a period of slower growth than the premium investors are willing to pay for stocks will probably decline. 

That’s not to say Cooperman is a seller – he’s not. “I’m not aggressively bullish or bearish,” he explained, “I’m simply saying I think the market is now fairly valued.”

And he reiterated something he’s said many times before. 

“If you must put money to work I still don’t think there’s a better alternative than common stocks – the Fed has made all the alternatives very unappealing."

Nonetheless, his commentary suggests his outlook is shifting.

Cooperman also told Larry Kudlow that he thought all the concerns about the fiscal cliff or the confluence of tax hikes and spending cuts that could go into effect as soon as January 1st
 – are overblown.

“They’ll kick the can down the road,” he said. “There’s no way a politician will allow the cliff to hit.”

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Does the Fed Have Grave Concerns About the Economy?

On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve re-affirmed its commitment to using unconventional efforts to stimulate the economy.

In the latest Fed statement, the central bank said it would keep buying $40 billion in mortgage-backed debt per month to push interest rates lower.

The Fed also repeated its vow to keep interest rates near zero until mid-2015.

Although that may seem like the Fed is sending a signal to markets that they’re intent to drive the economy, no matter what the cost – that may not be what the Fed is really saying.

According to former Fed Governor Kevin Warsh the move isn’t a show of strength – it’s something far more ominous.

“I think the Fed revealed in their actions just how grave they think the economy is,” he said on The Kudlow Report.

The statement shows, “just how concerned they are about the economy’s prospects – just how concerned they are about the 'fiscal cliff' and Europe.”

Warsh served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 2006 to 2011. From 2002 to 2006, Warsh was Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and Executive Secretary of the National Economic Council.

His take on the Fed – as someone who was once on the inside – is that the Fed feels they’re the only institution standing between the nation and a terrible downturn.

“The central bankers feel their doing it all by themselves – that they’re not getting help from Congress or the administration.”

It seems Wall Street may share the skepticism expressed by Warsh. Again both the Dow and S&P closed lower.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

AUTO-ENROLMENT ENDS THE 20TH CENTURY now provides records of parliamentary debates in the future – prospective Hansard – as well as historic Hansard from the past. A quick search finds this interesting insight into how auto-enrolment will end means-testing, and see the state pension and National Insurance phased out.

Wednesday 11 December 2052, 2.30pm.

The Secretary of State for Savings and Longer Life (Mr. John Potter): Mr. Speaker, may I first pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Webb of West Bromwich, who is still, I believe, an active member of the other place, and whose foresight and vision led us to the happy situation we are in today. The latest Real Time Information from His Majesty’s Revenues show that in 2051/52 90% of all eligible people in work are paying in to a workplace pension scheme. And that of those retiring last year three quarters had a workplace auto-enrolment pension worth an average of £1083 a month.

At this time of year it is traditional for the Secretary of State for Savings and Longer Life to stand here and tell this House how much he – or, more often, she [hon. Members: Hear, hear] – plans to increase the state pensions paid to the generation who suffered greatly in the early 21st century recessions and whom, we will all agree, deserve our gratitude for the hardships they bore to pull us out of the quagmire of deficit and debt which was left – and I say it quite frankly – by successive governments of all colours and of none.

That is why the state pension on which many older pensioners relied has been raised of late – after years of neglect by other parties – by more even than the 2.5% a year guaranteed by the triple lock, originally introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Webb and cleverly inverted by the Rainbow Alliance government in 2033.

But today I am pleased to announce that this ancient safeguard is no longer needed. The auto-enrolment system has been so successful that I can call a halt to these yearly, unfunded bonuses paid by hardworking families. And Mr. Speaker I can go further. The strength of the auto-enrolment scheme and the more than £1000 a month it provides – and for many it is of course a lot more than that – the £1000 and more a month it provides means that the Government can maintain the state pension at its current level of £1512 a month without decreasing the real incomes of pensioners overall. And those aged 72, now looking forward to their first pension payment, can do so knowing that they will be getting more in total than their older siblings got last year.

I can also announce that means-tested help with rates, rents, living costs, travel, prescriptions, 6G comms, and winter fuel, will also be phased out. Now that most pensioners rely on their own thrift, it would be unfair on them to provide a similar income for those who deliberately chose again and again to un-enrol from the pension opportunities first provided forty years ago.

At the same time I can announce a reform which has been many years – too many years for some – in the making. The old-fashioned and so 20th century National Insurance scheme is to be wound up and its funds passed to the Chancellor to absorb in the national accounts. ….I give way to my hon. Friend

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Ms Eloise Transom): If it is helpful Mr. Speaker I can inform the House that from 6 April 2053 the 14% National Insurance contributions paid by employees will be added to the general rate of income tax and the 15% paid by employers will be similarly subsumed into corporation tax.

The Secretary of State for Savings and Longer Life: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that timely intervention. Because, Mr. Speaker, I can go further. In future years the increasing income of pensioners will be provided by the growth in the average auto-enrolment pension. By 2062 – in ten short years – that pension which they have proudly earned for themselves will exceed the value of the state pension until now generously provided by others.

Mr. Speaker, by the end of this century, which I hope I, if not Lord Webb himself [hon. Members: hear, hear, hear], may live to see, we can look forward to the time when the crushing and humiliating dependency on the state of our older people is but a distant 20th century memory and the pension system of our great country is ready for the second half of the 21st century pride and self-reliance. A time in which our older people can stand tall and retire on an income which, even when it is less than they have now, they will at least know is all of their own making and not paid for by younger hard working families.

Mr. Speaker, my officials tell me that on the 200th anniversary of the state pension, in 2108, this House – though probably not even I! – will also be able to celebrate its burial. That will be the ultimate achievement of auto-enrolment and the Noble Lord, Lord Webb [Hon. Members: hear, hear, hear. Cheers. Rowdy stamping].

Mr. Speaker: Order. The Motion is that in view of the success of self-reliance and auto-enrolment the state pension be frozen forthwith with a view to phasing out by 2108; the National Insurance Fund be wound up and the surplus absorbed in the national accounts; and National Insurance contributions be added to general taxation at their present rates from 2053/54.

Question put and agreed to.