Atlas shrugged — and the U.S. economy is feeling the weight

Dimmer global outlook depressing U.S. growth as well

In normal times a steady pace of hiring and consumer spending would mean the economy is doing great. But these are not normal times.

American companies continue to hire workers at a rapid clip — more than 200,000 new jobs a month. All the people now working and earning paychecks helped to boost consumer spending in 2015 to the fastest rate in a decade.

That hasn’t translated into stronger U.S. growth, though. The economy expanded at a measly 1.4% rate in the 2015 fourth quarter and it could do even worse in the first three months of 2016. Continue reading

Billionaires Dumping Stocks, Economist Knows Why

Despite the 6.5% stock market rally over the last three months, a handful of billionaires are quietly dumping their American stocks . . . and fast.

Warren Buffett, who has been a cheerleader for U.S. stocks for quite some time, is dumping shares at an alarming rate. He recently complained of “disappointing performance” in dyed-in-the-wool American companies like Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and Kraft Foods.

In the latest filing for Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett has been drastically reducing his exposure to stocks that depend on consumer purchasing habits. Berkshire sold roughly 19 million shares of Johnson & Johnson, and reduced his overall stake in “consumer product stocks” by 21%. Berkshire Hathaway also sold its entire stake in California-based computer parts supplier Intel. Continue reading

Japan is about to dive off its own version of the fiscal cliff

If you thought the US’s fiscal cliff—that combination of rising taxes and slashed fiscal spending that scared investors and shook the economy in December 2012—was bad, have a gander at what Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, faces. He entered the job with a mandate to grow the economy and escape deflation. But before Abe took over, the government passed a tax hike on consumption to show that the Japanese government is serious about shrinking its ¥1 quadrillion ($10.3 trillion) in public debt. Continue reading

Billionaires Dumping Stocks, Economist Knows Why

Despite the 6.5% stock market rally over the last three months, a handful of billionaires are quietly dumping their American stocks . . . and fast.

Warren Buffett, who has been a cheerleader for U.S. stocks for quite some time, is dumping shares at an alarming rate. He recently complained of “disappointing performance” in dyed-in-the-wool American companies like Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and Kraft Foods. Continue reading

Jonathan Manthorpe: Fears grow of Japan’s stimulus provoking a currency war

As Japan sets out to double its money supply to $2.71 trillion in order to propel its economy out of two decades of stagnation there are growing concerns the program will ignite a currency war in Asia.

Among Asian manufacturers such as South Korea, China and the countries of Southeast Asia concern is building to alarm. The Japanese currency, the yen, has dropped by 25 per cent in value since the election of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party last November with a pledge to kickstart the economy. Continue reading