Gold under pressure as investors await Fed for US rate outlook

Gold bars are stacked in safe deposit boxes room of the ProAurum gold house in Munich

Gold added to overnight losses to hover near $1,180 an ounce on Wednesday as investors waited for a Federal Reserve statement for clues on the timing of a U.S. interest rate hike.

Spot gold had eased 0.2 percent to $1,179.01 an ounce by 0655 GMT after dipping 0.4 percent in the previous session. Platinum fell to a six-year low of $1,068.75, while palladium dropped to its lowest since March 31.

All eyes will be on the Fed’s statement due at 1800 GMT after the Federal Open Market Committee’s two-day policy meeting. Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s news conference will also be monitored for pointers to the timing of the coming rate rise.

Also out after the meeting will be the committee members’ latest forecasts for economic growth and interest rates, both of which might be nudged lower.

Bullion has not made much headway in recent months because of uncertainty over the timing of the rate rise, which would reduce demand for non-interest-paying assets.

“Gold may find support at $1,165 if Yellen proves to be unambiguously hawkish tonight,” said Howie Lee, an analyst at Phillip Futures.

“The dollar is likely to be the beneficiary tonight,” he added.

A stronger greenback would hurt the dollar-denominated metal, making it more expensive for holders of other currencies while also curbing safe-haven demand.

The continuing Greek debt crisis is not spurring much safe-haven demand.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused Greece’s creditors on Tuesday of trying to “humiliate” Greeks with more cuts as he defied a growing drumbeat of warnings that Europe was preparing for his country to leave the euro. [ID:nL5N0Z21I7]

The unrepentant address to lawmakers after the collapse of talks with European and IMF lenders at the weekend was the clearest sign yet that the leftist leader has no intention of making a last-minute U-turn and accepting austerity cuts needed to unlock frozen aid and avoid a debt default within two weeks.

Gold is typically seen as a good bet at times of financial and economic uncertainty, but bids have failed to emerge in a robust way as expectations of a U.S. interest rate rise this year are weighing on the market.

The metal’s technical picture was also bearish, ScotiaMocatta analysts said.

Gold appears increasingly vulnerable to a break towards a recent low near $1,160 reached last month, they said.

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Stock Market Top ? : The Q Ratio Indicator Says Watch Out Below

 

If you sold every share of every company in the U.S. and used the money to buy up all the factories, machines and inventory, you’d have some cash left over. That, in a nutshell, is the math behind a bear case on equities that says prices have outrun reality.

The concept is embodied in a measure known as the Q ratio developed by James Tobin, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Yale University who died in 2002. According to Tobin’s Q, equities in the U.S. are valued about 10 percent above the cost of replacing their underlying assets — higher than any time other than the Internet bubble and the 1929 peak.

Valuation tools are being dusted off around Wall Street as investors assess the staying power of the bull market that is now the second longest in 60 years. To Andrew Smithers, the 77-year-old former head of SG Warburg’s investment arm, the Q ratio is an indicator whose time has come because it illuminates distortions caused by quantitative easing.

“QE is a very dangerous policy, in my view, because it has pushed asset prices up and high asset prices, we know from history, are very dangerous,” Smithers, founder of Smithers & Co. in London, said in a phone interview. “It is very strongly indicated by reliable measures that we’re looking at a stock market which is something like 80 percent over-priced.”

Dissenting Views

Acceptance of Tobin’s theory is at best uneven, with investors such as Laszlo Birinyi saying the ratio is useless as a signal because it would have kept you out of a bull market that has added $17 trillion to share values. Others see its meaning debased in an economy whose reliance on manufacturing is nothing like it used to be.

Futures on the S&P 500 expiring next month slipped 0.1 percent at 9:36 a.m. in London.

To Smithers, the ratio’s doubling since 2009 to 1.10 is a symptom of companies diverting money from their businesses to the stock market, choosing buybacks over capital spending. Six years of zero-percent interest rates have similarly driven investors into riskier things like equities, elevating the paper value of assets over their tangible worth, he said.

Standard & Poor’s 500 Index members last year spent about 95 percent of their profits on buybacks and dividends, with stock repurchases exceeding $2 trillion since 2009, data compiled by S&P Dow Jones Indices show.

In the first four months of this year, almost $400 billion of buybacks were announced, with February, March and April ranking as three of the four busiest months ever, according to data compiled by Birinyi Associates Inc.

Slow Spending

Spending by companies on plants and equipment is lagging behind. While capital investment also rose to a record in 2014, its growth was 11 percent over the last two years, versus 45 percent in buybacks, data compiled by Barclays Plc show.

With equity prices surging and investment growth failing to keep pace, the Q ratio has risen to 58 percent above its average of 0.70 since 1900, according to data compiled by Birinyi and the Federal Reserve on market and asset values for non-financial companies. Readings above 1 are considered by some to be too high and the ratio has exceeded that threshold only 12 percent of the time, mostly between 1995 to 2001.

That’s nothing to be alarmed about because the American economy has become more oriented around services than manufacturing, according to George Pearkes, an analyst at Harrison, New York-based Bespoke Investment Group LLC. Nowadays, companies like Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. dominate growth, while decades ago, it was railroads and steelmakers, which rely heavily on capital.

Mean Reversion

“Does that necessarily mean that the Q ratio should be as high as it is right now? I don’t know,” Pearkes said by phone. “With those sorts of long-term indicators, they can sometimes mean that the market is overvalued. But the reversion to the mean on them is usually going to take a lot longer than most people’s time frame.”

Any investors who based their investment decisions on the Q ratio would have missed most of the rally since 2009, according to Jeffrey Yale Rubin, director of research at Birinyi’s firm. The measure rose above its historic mean three months into this bull market and since then, the S&P 500 has climbed 131 percent.

“The issue we have with Tobin Q is that it does a very poor job at timing the market,” Rubin said from Westport, Connecticut. “The followers of Tobin Q never told us to buy in 2009, yet now we are warned that we should sell. Our response is sell what? We were never told to buy.”

Bond Yields

Everyone from Janet Yellen to Warren Buffett has spoken cautiously on stock valuations in the past month. Both the Fed chair and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said prices are at risk of getting stretched should bond yields increase. The rate on 10-year Treasuries slipped last week to 2.14 percent while the S&P 500 gained 0.3 percent.

“It’s probably a sensible configuration for the stock market to be overvalued because competing investments are so poor,” Robert Brusca, president of Fact & Opinion Economics in New York, said by phone. “As an investor, you’re not just looking at the value of the firm, but the value of the firm relative to other things you can do with your money.”

At 2,260 days, the bull market that began in March 2009 this month exceeded the 1974-1980 rally as the second longest since 1956. While measures such as price-to-earnings ratios are holding just above historical averages, the bull market’s duration is sowing anxiety among professionals who watched the previous two end in catastrophe.

“We’re still close enough to that prior experience and that hold-over effect is still there,” Chris Bouffard, chief investment officer who oversees more than $10 billion at Mutual Fund Store in Overland Park, Kansas, said by phone. “When you start to see prior cycle peaks on the chart like Tobin Q and any other valuation metrics that people are putting up there, it looks dramatic, stark and scary.”

Protect your Portfolio : Read more at http://www.youroffshoremoney.com

Oil price hasn’t hit bottom yet as surplus expands : Alan Greenspan

The slump in oil prices hasn’t curtailed output, and there is a huge amount bottled up in the U.S., former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday.

Associated Press 
The slump in oil prices hasn’t curtailed output, and there is a huge amount bottled up in the U.S., former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday.

 Inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for U.S. benchmark futures, will keep rising, he said.

“We are probably at the point now, where at the current rate of fill, we are going to run out of room in Cushing by next month,” he said. “Until we find a way to get out of this dilemma, prices will continue to ease because there’s no place for that oil to go except into the markets.”

West Texas Intermediate futures dropped 1.9% to US$46.17 a barrel as of 9:31 a.m. Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices are down almost 60% from their June peak.

U.S. crude stockpiles increased for nine weeks through March 6 to 448.9 million barrels, the highest in Energy Information Administration records dating back to August 1982. The nation pumped 9.37 million a day last week, the fastest pace in weekly estimates compiled by the Energy Department’s statistical arm since 1983.

FP0313_US_Petroleum_supply_940_AB

Stockpiles at Cushing rose by 2.32 million barrels to 51.5 million last week, the highest level since January 2013. Cushing has a working capacity of 70.8 million barrels, according to the EIA.

The surplus may soon strain U.S. storage capacity, renewing a slump in prices and curbing its output, the International Energy Agency said in a monthly market report Friday. The IEA boosted estimates for U.S. oil production this year as cutbacks in drilling rigs have so far failed to slow output.

Drillers have idled 653 rigs since the start of December, data from Baker Hughes Inc. show. The number of active machines seeking oil was 922 as of March 6, the lowest since April 2011, the services company said.

“The rigs that have been closing down have not been affecting the capacity to produce crude,” Greenspan said. “You are getting the inefficient rigs shutting down, but the capacity to basically build oil expansion remains there.”

and  we posted this inhttp://www.youroffshoremoney.com

JACK A. BASS MANAGED ACCOUNTS – YEAR END UPDATE AND FORECAST
November 2014 – 40 % cash position

Year End Review and Forecast

“Oil/ Energy

I am very happy for the call in natural gas prices – out at $12 and into oil. When oil was above $100 we lessened positions and that is our saving grace in the past two weeks. We are not bottom feeders and will wait for a turn in the market before reentering drillers or producers. “

No one – and I am not being humble here – can project the future with great accuracy but our clients continue to do very well and we offer that experience to you.

Fees : 1 % annual set up and a performance bonus of 20 % – only if we perform.

You can withdraw your funds monthly if you require an income stream.

Contact information:

To learn more about portfolio management ,asset protection, trusts ,offshore company formation and structure for your business interests (at no cost or obligation)

Email info@jackbassteam.com or

Call Jack direct at 604-858-3202

10:00 – 4:00 Monday to Friday Pacific Time ( same time zone as Los Angeles).

Gold Downside Risk Seen As : ‘Significant’

 The author of The Gold Investors Handbook says the worst isn’t over yet for gold after prices erased  this year’s gain.

“Risks are significantly skewed to the downside,” said Bass, who told investors to sell last year before gold’s biggest collapse since 1980. “Much of the support was coming from political uncertainty in Ukraine and what was going on in Middle East,” and those concerns have faded, he said in a telephone interview yesterday.

After bullion’s rally in the first half of the year beat gains for commodities, equities and Treasuries, the metal is heading for a quarterly decline to end out 2014. Demand for precious metals as a protection of wealth has been eroded by the outlook for a strengthening U.S. economy, which helped spark a rally in the dollar .

Gold fell to an eight-month low this week after the Federal Reserve  raised its outlook for interest rates, crimping demand for an inflation hedge. Money managers cut bullish holdings for five weeks, while holdings through global exchange-traded funds slumped to the lowest since 2009.

“Gold is more responsive to the near-term growth momentum in the U.S., rather than long-term inflation concerns,” Damien Courvalin, a Goldman analyst, said . “Interest is lower in gold than it was say 18 months ago.”

Dollar Rally

. The Bloomberg Commodity Index of 22 raw materials slid 5.2 percent in 2014, while the MSCI All-Country World Index of equities rose 3.7 percent. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index climbed 4.3 percent.

Bass isn’t alone in predicting the end to this year’s rebound that drove the best first-half performance for gold since 2010. Societe Generale SA’s Michael Haigh, who also correctly forecast 2013’s slump, said in a report this month that he expects the metal will drop more than 5 percent by 2015’s third quarter. Investors, who in June and July were adding to bullish wagers, may be starting to agree with analysts, taking their short holdings on the metal to the highest in three months.

Muted Inflation

After 12 straight years of gains, gold tumbled 28 percent in 2013 as an equity rally and muted inflation prompted some investors to lose their faith in the metal.

Bass on April 10, 2013, issued a sell recommendation, before a two-day 13 percent plunge that ended April 15, 2013, and left prices in a bear market. The slump wasn’t foreseen by most money mangers, who had increased their bullish bets by 11 percent the prior month. The investors cut holdings to a six-year low by December.

Now, Currie expects bullion to drop to $1,050 by the end of 2015, maintaining a forecast from the start of the year. SocGen’s Haigh sees prices at $1,150 in the third quarter next year, he said in a report e-mailed Sept. 12. The metal reached this year’s peak of $1,392.60 in March amid violence in Ukraine.

Citigroup Inc.  lowered its forecast for next year amid expectations of U.S. rate increases, while the “risk-related source of support has been diminished.” The bank cut its outlook to $1,225 from $1,365. UBS AG reduced it three-month outlook yesterday by 7.7 percent to $1,200.

Target Price

“Turbulence is still there, but is not escalating any further, which we believe will help gold decline to our target,” Courvalin said.

“Our inflation forecasts are pretty subdued,” Bass said.

Inflation expectations, measured by the five-year Treasury break-even rate, this week reached the lowest since June 2013.

 

“Ultimately, what drives fair value for gold prices is the U.S. real interest-rate environment,” Courvalin said.

 

It is human nature to look for bargains – and destroy your portfolio as you gather losers into what used to be a ” nest” egg.

Look at Seeking Alpha and count the ” analysts” saying Dryships ( DRYS) is going to turn – how none forecast the sub dollar level it now enjoys.

What To Do ?

Here is our recent letter:

Managed Accounts Year End Review and Forecast

November 2014 – 40 % cash position
Gold and Precious MetalsThe largest gains for our clients came from the exit from the gold producers at $18oo an ounce and continuing until we hold no gold and no gold miners . This from the author of The Gold Investors Handbook.2015 – We continue to be on the sidelines for this sector – regardless of the gnomes of Switzerland . As a safe haven gold simply wasnot there for investors despite turmoil in the Middle East, Africa and Ukraine.How much more frightening can the prospect for peace be than to have wars in multiple locations? Secondly the spectre of inflation – on which I have given numerous talks – simply failed to materialize. In fact economists and portfolio managers such as myself are now more concerned about deflation – and the spectre is a Japanese style decades long slide in the world economy.
Shipping Sector / Bulk ShippersYou can review our stock market letter athttp://www.amp2012.com to follow our profits in the shipping sector before our retreat as overcapacity has yet to effect continued overbuiding. In 2008-9 rates-  illustrated by the Baltic Dry Index – were at their peak. The BDI hit over 10,000. Today it is roughly 10 % of that benchmark and the sector slide continues. We have an impressive watchlist of former ” darlings” – but we are content to watch and wait.
Oil/ EnergyI am very happy for the call in natural gas prices – out at $12 and into oil. When oil was above $100 we lessened positions and that is our saving grace in the past two weeks. We are not bottom feeders and will wait for a turn in the market before reentering drillers or producers.On Friday November 27th, crude oil prices dropped to below $72 and the slide has continued into the weekend, with Brent crude oil at $70.15 as I write this post. Shares of major oil companies traded down on Friday. Our former energy sector holdings are down another between 4% and 11%, including SDRL, which dropped another 8% following Wednesday’s 23% plunge…

Have you avoided these sectors – you would have been better off to follow our advice in 2014 and now you have to decide for 2015.
No one – and I am not being humble here – can project the future with great accuracy but our clients continue to do very well and we offer that experience to you.

Fees : 1 % annual set up and a performance bonus of 20 % – only if we perform.

You can withdraw your funds monthly if you require an income stream.

Alternate Guaranteed Income Payments

Private client funds Minimum $10,000 Maximum Loan $500,000

Our client is seeking funds to expand their tanker fleet .

Interest 12 % compounded – paid 1% per month

Floating charge of the full $500,000 against the fleet – valued at  more than $ 1 M

 

Contact information:

To learn more about portfolio management ,asset protection, trusts ,offshore company formation and structure for your business interests (at no cost or obligation)

Email

jackabass@gmail.com OR

info@jackbassteam.com  OR

Call Jack direct at 604-858-3202

10:00 – 4:00 Monday to Friday Pacific Time ( same time zone as Los Angeles).

Similar to wise buying decisions, exiting certain underperformers at the right time helps maximize portfolio returns. Selling off losers can be difficult, but if both the share price and estimates are falling, it could be time to get rid of the security before more losses hit your portfolio.

Tax website  Http://www.youroffshoremoney.com

 

Lor Loewen's photo.

WTI – and Gold – Drops on Date – as Global Manufacturing Misses Estimates

West Texas Intermediate crude fell amid speculation that weakening manufacturing from Germany to China will cap global oil demand. Brent declined in London.

Futures dropped as much as 1.2 percent from the Aug. 29 close. Floor trading in New York was shut for the Labor Day holiday, and transactions will be booked for settlement purposes today. Purchasing manufacturing indexes for Germany, Italy, the U.K. and China all came in below estimates for August, while OPEC’s output increased to the highest level in a year.

“All eyes are on the demand side, and weaker statistics for example in China are bearish,” Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodity analyst in Oslo at SEB AB, said by telephone. “The increase in tension between Russia and Ukraine is bearish for oil” because economic sanctions on Russia may eventually result in a slowdown in Europe, he said.

WTI for October delivery declined as much as $1.19 to $94.77 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $94.88 at 1:46 p.m. London time. The volume of all futures traded was more than double the 100-day average for the time of day. Prices decreased 2.3 percent last month and are down 3.6 percent this year.

Brent for October settlement was $1.11 lower at $101.68 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark crude traded at a premium of $6.83 to WTI, compared with a close of $7.23 on Aug. 29.

Factory Output

China’s manufacturing slowed more than projected last month, joining weaker-than-anticipated credit, production and investment data in indicating that the economy is losing momentum. The nation is the world’s second-largest oil consumer.

Markit Economics’ euro-area gauge slid more than initially predicted, with the index for Italy unexpectedly falling below 50, signaling the first contraction in 14 months. In the U.K., manufacturing expanded by the least in more than a year.

A final reading of Markit’s U.S. manufacturing PMI is due today, along with the Institute for Supply Management’s factory index for August, which economists forecast will drop to 57, from 57.1 in July.

“There are slowdowns occurring,” Jonathan Barratt, the chief investment officer at Ayers Alliance Securities in Sydney, said by phone. “OPEC is producing enough oil to placate any issues.”

Production from the 12-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries rose by 891,000 barrels a day to 31 million in August, according to a Bloomberg survey of oil companies, producers and analysts. Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Angola led supply gains as new deposits came online, security improved and field-maintenance programs ended. Iran and Venezuela were the only members to reduce output.

Ukraine warned of an escalating conflict in its easternmost regions as U.S. President Barack Obama headed to eastern Europe to reassure NATO members. Ukraine’s army will take on Russia’s “full-scale invasion,” Defense Minister Valeriy Geletey said on Facebook, a shift away from the government’s earlier communication that focused on battling insurgents.

Dollar Strengthens Before Data as Bonds Decline With Gold

The dollar strengthened to a seven-month high against the yen, government bonds tumbled and gold fell before data that analysts forecast will show expansion in U.S. manufacturing.

The dollar climbed 0.6 percent to 104.93 yen at 8:42 a.m. in New York and gained 0.4 percent to $1.6535 per British pound. Yields on 10-year Treasury notes increased four basis points to 2.38 percent. Futures (SPX) on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 0.1 percent after the index rallied the most since February last month. Gold dropped 1.5 percent.

U.S. investors return after the Labor Day break with manufacturing and construction spending reports. Gauges of factory output in Europe and China signal slower growth, boosting speculation that policy makers will need to boost stimulus measures. European money markets are pricing in about a 50 percent probability that the European Central Bank will cut interest rates by 10 basis points this week, according to BNP Paribas SA.

“In the U.S. across the board we have had strong data,”said Niels Christensen, chief currency strategist at Nordea Bank AB in Copenhagen. “That will keep growth momentum going. We have had a positive dollar trend for the past two months. I find it difficult to see this trend is going to disappear in the short term.”

U.S. Reports

The Institute for Supply Management’s August factory gauge probably held last month near the highest since April 2011, according to the median of 70 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Another report probably will show U.S. construction rebounded in July, a Bloomberg survey showed. Reports yesterday signaled manufacturing slowed in China, the U.K. and the euro area.

The yen fell to its lowest level against the dollar since Jan. 16 amid speculation Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will appoint an ally to head the ministry in charge of reforming the Government Pension Investment Fund, potentially boosting investment overseas. The currency weakened to 105.44 on Jan. 2, a level not seen since October 2008.

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index, which tracks the U.S. currency against 10 major peers, climbed 0.3 percent to 1,033.71 and touched 1,034.16, the strongest since January.

The pound weakened after a YouGov Plc poll showed growing support for Scottish independence before this month’s referendum. One-month implied volatility on sterling versus the dollar jumped by the most in almost six years.

Government Bonds

European government bonds fell as Germany’s 10-year yield increased four basis points to 0.91 percent and the U.K.’s rose five basis points to 2.43 percent.

The euro overnight index average, or Eonia, which measures the cost of lending between euro-area banks, fell to a record minus 0.013 percent yesterday.

Corporate borrowing costs fell to a record in Europe, with the average yield demanded to hold investment-grade bonds in euros dropping to 1.28 percent, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data. The gauge declined 19 basis points in the past month on stimulus speculation.

The Stoxx 600 of European shares fell 0.1 percent after increasing 0.5 percent in the past two days.

Vallourec SA climbed 4 percent after UBS AG advised investors to buy shares of the French producer of steel pipes for the oil and gas industry. Weir Group Plc gained 2.9 percent after Credit Suisse Group AG raised its recommendation on the British supplier of pressure pumps to outperform from neutral.

S&P 500 Tops Record Level

U.S. stocks climbed, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index above a closing record, as investors speculated the Federal Reserve will continue to support the economy as central bankers meet in Jackson Hole.

The S&P 500 added 0.1 percent to 1,988.94 at 9:34 a.m. in New York, above a closing high of 1,987.98 reached July 24.

“Markets are looking for some indication from Yellen as to what happens once quantitative easing stops,” Peter Dixon, a global equities economist at Commerzbank AG in London, said by phone. “I suspect she’ll say that it depends on the data. The U.S. economy is in reasonable shape. The task for central banks, and Yellen is at the forefront, is how to wean markets away from almost unlimited liquidity provisions when the economy is recovering but remains fragile.”

The S&P 500 rose 0.3 percent yesterday, closing within two points of a record. The benchmark index has rebounded 4 percent from a three-month low on Aug. 7 as investors speculated central banks will keep interest rates low even as the economy shows signs of recovery.

Fed Minutes

Minutes to the central banks’ July meeting released yesterday showed that officials raised the possibility that aggressive stimulus will end sooner than anticipated, even as they acknowledged persistent slack in the labor market. The central bank will probably wind up its asset-purchase program at its October meeting, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Data today showed fewer Americans than forecast applied for unemployment benefits last week. Yellen has highlighted uneven progress in the labor market in making the case for further accommodation.

The Fed minutes showed “many participants” still see “a larger gap between current labor market conditions and those consistent with their assessments of normal levels of labor utilization.” At the same time, “many members” noted that the “characterization of labor market underutilization might have to change before long,” particularly if the job market makes faster-than-anticipated progress, the minutes also said.

Jackson Hole

Fed Chair Janet Yellen will speak tomorrow at the Fed Bank of Kansas City’s economic symposium that starts today in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will also speak.

The S&P 500 has almost tripled since its March 2009 low, helped by three rounds of Fed stimulus, coupled with better-than-projected corporate earnings. The gauge has not had a decline of 10 percent in almost three years. It trades at 17.8 times the reported earnings of its companies, near the highest level since 2010.

Soft Touch

Investors are betting that a soft touch on monetary policy will continue to suppress stock volatility, pouring a record stretch of cash into an exchange-traded note that rallies as calm returns to equities. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, the gauge known as the VIX (VIX), has lost 31 percent this month, closing at its lowest level since July 23.

Among other economic reports today, data at 9:45 a.m. may show a preliminary gauge of manufacturing slipped to 55.7 this month from 55.8 in July. Another report may indicate existing-home sales expanded at a slower pace in July while the Conference Board’s index of leading indicators, a measure of the outlook for the next three to six months, rose 0.6 percent in July, economists forecast.

Gap Inc. and Salesforce.com Inc. are among eight S&P 500 companies reporting earnings today.

One of the worst trading days this year has even market bulls warning investors to brace for sharper pullbacks and volatility in days to come.</p>
<p>   Fears over Argentina’s default sent equity markets tumbling Thursday, as analysts say that investors are becoming less forgiving of worrisome economic and geopolitical news, warning that a stock correction could be looming. The S&P 500 fell 39.4 points or 2%, or to close at 1,930.67, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average saw its gains for the year erased after falling 317.06 points or 1.9% to 16,563.30. The S&P/TSX Composite slid 194.08 points or 1.3% to 15,330.74. “We are witnessing … classic signs of an impending correction,” said Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch who was once seen as the biggest cheerleader of the current rally. “We expect volatility will rise in coming months. TORONTO — North American stock markets had their biggest one-day tumble since early February on Thursday but analysts were hard-pressed to identify a single reason for the drop. The S&P/TSX composite index in Toronto fell 194.08 points to 15,330.74, as a number of big Canadian corporations missed earnings forecasts, but the index remained up about 1,736 points since the beginning of the year. New York’s Dow Jones industrials plunged 317.06 points to 16,563.3, leaving the index below where it started the year by about a dozen points. The Nasdaq lost 93.13 points to 4,369.77 and the S&P 500 index declined 39.4 points to 1,930.67.   The loonie closed down 0.02 of a cent to And volume is less than usual with many market participants on holidays. But the stock market declines also come at a time when many investors have registered substantial gains. “You get thinner markets and it doesn‘t take much to move things around,” said Wes Mills, chief investment officer Scotia Private Client Group. “Clearly everyone has made good money and there is no evidence that people are taking money off the table yet. It‘s probably just an overdue correction in a thin summer market with a combination of factors.” Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., which is making a hostile takeover bid for Botox maker Allergan, posted a quarterly net profit of $126 million or 37 cents a share. Adjusted income was $651 million, or $1.91 per share, missing estimates of $1.98 a share, and its shares fell $9.59 or 7% to $127.83. Barrick Gold Corp. delivered a US$269-million quarterly net loss and $159-million of adjusted earnings in the second quarter, missing analyst estimates on both counts. The adjusted profit amounted to 14 cents US per share, two cents below estimates. Barrick shares dipped 44 cents to $19.70. 91.71 cents US. The U.S. Federal Reserve indicated Wednesday that it will keep short-term interest rates low “for a considerable time” after it ends its bond purchases, likely in October. The Fed is expected to start hiking rates mid-2015, but stronger than expected economic growth in the second quarter has investors concerned that the Fed could raise rates sooner. Argentina moved into a debt default for the second time in 13 years after a deadline of midnight Wednesday night came and went without a deal with bondholders.