Americans aren't feeling optimistic about the economy, yet the stock market is soaring. What gives? Is this an omen for a coming disaster?
Gallup's Economic Confidence Index, which reflects the sentiment of Americans as it pertains to the economy, is near 52-week lows. As the stock market makes new record highs and the housing bubble market soars, one would expect that the average American would be smiling from ear-to-ear. So why the divergence?
First off, half of all Americans do not even own one stock. Second, there are many U.S. companies making large profits overseas. That may be positive for the company but that does not necessarily translate into a better financial position for most Americans.
The stock market is fully decoupled as to how well Americans are doing, overall. The S&P 500 is up a stunning 220% since the lows that were reached in 2009 and U.S. economic confidence index shows more people simply do not trust the economic numbers and media.
A survey was recently released showing that more than a quarter of Americans do not even have $1,000 in their savings accounts; nearly half don't have savings accounts at all. Most Americans are only one small emergency expense away from being on the streets. What this means is that many will simply rely on credit cards, friends and/or family for their funding should a financial emergency arise. Is this meant to be our economic recovery?
The housing market is once again too expensive for most American families to afford. During the last housing bubble, many Americans were able to partake in the mania and enjoy equity gains although they were fleeting.
This time around, most of the gains are going to investors and large institutional buyers that have crowded out mainstream America. This is a first in history to occur, at least on this large of a scale. The homeownership rate is the lowest in a generation as many young Americans are saddled with unsurmountable student loans and consequently forced to return to living at home.
Inflated home prices coupled with decreasing incomes provide a recipe for disaster. Total wealth, in the U.S., is at a record high level, once again. Consequently, most of the gains are in the hands of a very few.
I continue to warn about a down turn in both the economy and stock market. The markets continue to mature and the leading indicators point to a sharp correction in the financial systems in the coming months.
Safe-haven investments have rocketed higher -- bonds, gold, silver, mining stocks -- as smart money positioned its self in preparation for a crisis. It's just going to take one bad event or piece of data to cause the tipping point for the market. The question is, when and what will it be?
Just like the 2008 bear market in stocks and subsequent financial downturn, this will be no different. Stock prices will fall, people will lose their jobs, companies will go bankrupt, housing defaults will increase, and personal spending will come to a grinding halt.
When it comes to our investment and trading capital, you can either ride the financial rollercoaster and do nothing, move to cash with some safe haven investments like bonds and precious metals, or bet against the U.S. economy and watch your net worth reach new highs during a time when everyone you know is losing money, jobs and confidence.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. Chris Vermeulen is full-time trader and research analyst for TheGoldAndOilGuy Newsletter.