PhillyDeals: Trying to make sense of Wall St. rally

Posted: January 29, 2013

There's a disconnect between the pessimism that bosses have been showing since the election and this winter's tax hikes - as told, for example, in last week's First Niagara Bank survey of Pennsylvania firms - and the rising stock market, where the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index is back up near its 2007 high.

"You should not worry about a collapse in [executive] confidence when the reason for the change was politics-related," writes Joel Naroff, the Bucks County economist, who claimed to see "a surge in durable goods orders" and other encouraging news on Monday.

Not all the bean-counters are pleased. John Baliotti, industrial analyst at Janney Capital Markets, sampled the same data, backed out defense spending, and found "a weakening environment" and "negative trends."

And yet, Baliotti marveled, stocks keep going up: "Investors appear willing to absorb near-term risk as we wait to see a sustained turn in the manufacturing sector."

Why so happy on Wall Street? James Meyer, chief investment officer at $1 billion-plus Tower Bridge Advisors, sees the rally as a natural result of five years of Federal Reserve financial stimulus.

"Everyone is questioning the strength of this rally and whether it can continue," he told clients of brokerage Boenning & Scattergood in a note.

It's not the economy, Meyer says. Housing may have come back some. But sky-high corporate-earnings expectations are getting "pounded." Consumer confidence "is high, but disposable income remains under pressure," Meyer said.

It's the Fed, and the world's other pump-priming, bond-buying central banks, that have boosted stock prices lately by flooding the bond market, driving down yields, and finally pushing investors back to stocks.

That all sounds good: Higher stock prices, recovering home sales, more jobs. But the Fed can't keep buying bonds to keep interest rates cheap forever, Meyer adds. Interest rates will rise, the Fed will slow its bond consumption. Next will come inflation, and stalling stocks.

If you want to think longer term to the next concrete economic problem, consider President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

"Obamacare kicks in next year and not until late 2014 will we get the first hint of the program's true cost," Meyer said. "If it proves much higher than originally forecasted, as seems almost inevitable, then both parties are going to have to dig in and figure out how to control health-care costs."

New listings

A cool directory map of 318 Philadelphia-area tech start-ups, linking Web and physical addresses, has been posted by Christopher Cera of doc-sharing software-maker Vuzit at http://weworkinphilly.com/companies/map.

To get your shop listed, seek widget at http://phillystartupleaders.org/map/.

Cera built the open-source, community-edited map, hosted through Alex Hillman's WeWorkInPhilly.com, says Danielle Cohn, of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Deal?

Gov. Christie's planned outsourcing of the New Jersey lottery, which Matt Katz reported in Sunday's Inquirer, would give state business to two out-of-state billionaires:

Gtech Holdings, based in Rhode Island, is owned by Lottomatica Group S.p.A., which runs the Italian national lottery and is controlled by Italian billionaire Marco Drago, whose Lottomatica shares are worth around $2 billion.

Scientific Games Corp., of New York, whose major owner is Ronald Owen Perelman, the Elkins Park-raised billionaire investor. Perelman's 38 percent stake is worth around $300 million.


Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com, or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.

 

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