Stocks Slide With Portugal Bonds as Treasuries, Gold Gain

European stocks fell and Portuguese bonds dropped as concern deepened over missed debt payments by a company linked to the nation’s second-largest bank. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures signaled a selloff earlier this week will resume, while the yen, Treasuries and gold gained.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost 1.3 percent at 8:35 a.m. in New York, led by a gauge of banks dropping to this year’s low. Financial bond risk increased in Europe for a fifth day. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures fell 0.9 percent. Portugal’s 10-year bond yield rose 11 basis points to 3.88 percent while Treasuries gained and the yen advanced against all but one of its 16 major peers. Indonesian stocks climbed to a one-year high as polls showed Jakarta’s Governor Joko Widodo won the presidency. West Texas Intermediate oil slid 0.3 percent to $101.62 a barrel while gold climbed 1.1 percent.

Bonds of Europe’s most-indebted nations declined as speculation resurfaced that the euro region remains vulnerable to shocks as it emerges from the sovereign debt crisis. The sell-off comes after minutes of the Federal Reserve latest meeting showed yesterday some policy makers were concerned investors may be growing too complacent. The value of global equities climbed to a record $66 trillion last week, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg
One-month rupiah forwards added 0.2 percent as unofficial counts showed Jakarta… Read More
“The concern of an event like this is always determining whether it’s occurring in isolation or whether it’s the first domino,” said Lawrence Creatura, a fund manager at Federated investors Inc. in Rochester, New York. His firm manages about $363.8 billion. “People will shoot first and ask questions later when news like this hits. It’s a classic flight to safety across the equity, commodities and bond markets. Portugal has been perceived as a weaker link so it’s not a particular surprise they’re encountering this kind of trouble now.”

Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign the labor market is strengthening, a government report showed today.

Peripheral Bonds

Portuguese bonds fell for a fourth day. The yield on 10-year Italian notes rose six basis points to 2.94 percent and Spain’s rate jumped six basis points to 2.82 percent. The Markit iTraxx Europe Senior Financial Index of credit-default swaps on 25 European banks and insurers rose two basis points to 71 basis points, the highest since June 4.

While Portugal’s central bank said Banco Espirito Santo SA, the nation’s second-largest lender, is protected after its parent missed debt payments, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded a company in the group citing a lack of transparency and links to other companies.

Banco Espirito Santo tumbled 17 percent before the Portuguese securities regulator said it stopped trading in the shares pending an announcement. Espirito Santo Financial Group SA, which owns 25 percent of the lender, fell 8.9 percent before the company suspended trading earlier in stocks and bonds, saying it’s “currently assessing the financial impact of its exposure” to Espirito Santo International, which has missed payments on short-term paper.

Fugro Tumbles

More than nine shares declined for every one that advanced in the Stoxx 600, with trading volumes 72 percent higher than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The gauge of banks tumbled 2.7 percent to the lowest since Dec. 18.

Banco Popular Espanol SA (POP) dropped 4.8 percent. The Spanish lender said it postponed a planned issue of the riskiest bank debt because of “heightened volatility” in credit markets.

Fugro NV (FUR) sank 20 percent, the most since November 2012, after the Dutch deepwater-oilfield surveyor forecast a drop in profit margin and writing off of as much as 350 million euros ($477 million). Skanska AB lost 2.5 percent after the Nordic region’s biggest construction company by global revenue said it will scale down operations in Latin America after booking 500 million kronor ($73.7 million) in project writedowns and restructuring costs.

Jobless Claims

The S&P 500 index (SPX) rebounded 0.5 percent yesterday following two days of losses.

Jobless claims declined by 11,000 to 304,000 in the week ended July 5, the fewest in more than a month, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 45 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 315,000.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said yesterday that a surprisingly fast decline in unemployment will fuel inflation and back the case for higher interest rates.

The Jakarta Composite Index added 1.4 percent to 5,095.20, heading for its highest close since May 2013. The rupiah gained 0.7 percent to 11,555 per dollar, according to prices from local banks, after touching the strongest level since May 22.

Both Widodo, known as Jokowi, and his opponent Prabowo Subianto claimed victory in yesterday’s presidential vote. Jokowi had about a five percentage point lead in the poll, according to unofficial counts from two survey companies that declared him the winner. Official results aren’t due for about two weeks. Bank Indonesia will probably hold its reference rate at 7.5 percent today, according to the median of 21 estimates from economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland companies listed in Hong Kong advanced 0.3 percent, after losing 1.6 percent yesterday, its biggest decline in two weeks. The Shanghai Composite Index slipped less than 0.1 percent, extending yesterday’s 1.2 percent retreat.

China Exports

China’s overseas shipments fell short of the 10.4 percent expansion that was the median of 47 economists’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Imports grew by 5.5 percent in June, less than the 6 percent increase projected. The trade surplus fell to $31.6 billion for June, from $35.92 in May. Data yesterday showed producer prices fell last month at the slowest pace in more than two years.

“Extreme cautiousness towards China’s economy has receded overall, with the government showing signs it will step in to support growth when needed,” said Mari Oshidari, a Hong Kong-based strategist at Okasan Securities Group Inc.

West Texas Intermediate oil dropped to $102.01 a barrel. Gasoline inventories increased by 579,000 barrels last week as a measure of consumption slid, the Energy Information Administration said yesterday. Brent declined 0.2 percent to $108.10 a barrel, the ninth consecutive decline in the longest streak since May 2010. The crude closed at a two-month low yesterday amid signs that Libya, the holder of Africa’s largest crude reserves, will boost exports, while Iraqi production remains unaffected by an insurgency.

Treasury Sale

Gold for immediate delivery jumped to $1,342.23 an ounce, the highest since March 19. Palladium rose 0.3 percent to $876.25 an ounce, the 14th consecutive advance and the longest streak since June 2000. Cotton fell 0.4 percent to the lowest price since July 2012 on ample supplies.

The yield on 10-year Treasuries dropped five basis points to 2.50 percent. The rate on 30-year notes declined five basis points to 3.33 percent as the U.S. prepares to sell $13 billion of the debt.

Greece’s five-year note yield increased 11 basis points 4.33 percent. The government sold 1.5 billion euros of three-year notes via banks, priced to yield 3.5 percent. That’s higher than forecasts earlier this week for a rate of about 3 percent from HSBC Holdings Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

The yen strengthened 0.3 percent to 101.36 per dollar and gained 0.3 percent to 138.31 per euro.

Australia’s dollar retreated from the highest in a week, falling against all of its 16 major counterparts after the nation’s jobless rate climbed. The Aussie weakened 0.4 percent at 93.74 U.S. cents.

Bill Gross : U.S. Still Faces Permanent Slump

When the Federal Reserve meets this week, the Wall Street Journal reports the most challenging question won’t be where to push interest rates in the near term, but where they belong years into the future. The WSJ indicates policy makers have believed the benchmark interest rate — known as the federal-funds rate — should be about 4% in a balanced economy, but officials are now debating whether interest rates need to remain below that threshold long after the economy returns to normal (i.e. once inflation is stable at 2% and unemployment around 5.5%).

Pimco, the world’s largest bond manager with close to $2 trillion in assets under management, believes the federal funds rate will remain well below the “neutral” policy rate of 4% once the economy returns to full health. The firm is predicting a “new neutral” rate of 2% (nominal), given the highly leveraged economy. In the video above, Pimco founder and CIO Bill Gross says the difference is “critical” as the neutral policy rate “basically determines the prices of all assets.”

He tells us the biggest investment theme for the next five years will be, “how far does the Fed go in terms of their tightening and their journey back up, as opposed to down,” as the central bank moves to get out of the business of buying treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities, and begins to raise rates from near zero.

The head of the International Monetary Fund on Monday said the Fed should move rates up only gradually when it finally begins to lift borrowing costs, Reuters reports.

While tightening may be the next phase of the monetary policy story, what does Gross think about the impact of the Fed’s easy money policies and how successful they have been over the last five years — with rates held near zero and the balance sheet expanded by trillions of dollars?

 

He says, “so far, so good.” Gross credits the Fed for over five years of “beautiful deleveraging,” as hedge fund titan Ray Dalio calls it. Gross also sees success in other factors, including real economic growth of 2%, institutions being shored up, the stock market being close to record highs and employment growing at 200,000 a month. He says it remains a legitimate question what the central bank can do when it stops buying bonds and starts raising rates, though, conceding that things could get ugly.

And while 2% growth is less than stellar considering a historical norm of 3.5% to 4%, the lower growth is inline with what Pimco dubbed the “new normal” for the economy back in 2009. More recently, economists such as Larry Summers have advanced the idea that the U.S. may be facing secular stagnation — a permanent slump, with the economy hindered by structural issues such as demographics and the automation of jobs.

Related:  Has the U.S. Economy Entered a ‘Permanent Slump’?

In the video below, Gross says he agrees we are in a secular stagnation period and says it is difficult to get out of. He jokes that Summers “took our [new normal] idea and called it secular stagnation,” adding, “come on, Larry … give Pimco some credit!” Check out the bonus video for more.

 

 

 

Goldman on High Frequency Trading

There’s only one bank that’s come out publicly against high frequency trading, and that’s Goldman Sachs.

It’s not an easy thing to do. Banks work with high frequency trading firms to execute orders, they also have their own dark pools — private, anonymous exchanges that have become a part of the new market ecosystem synonymous with HFT. Goldman’s dark pool is called Sigma X.

So why would a bank take on HFT?

Because Goldman bank believes it’s hurting their equities trading business, which has been on the decline for some time now. And as the WSJ’s Justin Baer and Scott Patterson point out, the bank would rather have a healthy stock trading business that can make it billions of dollars than a dark pool that only brings in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Thursday morning’s first quarter earnings numbers say it all. Goldman is losing stock trading share to its rivals. In Q1 2014, the bank made $416 million trading equities for clients. That’s down 49% from the same time in 2013 when the bank made $809 million.

In 2013, a year when the price of stocks exploded, Goldman’s client stock trading revenue fell from $3.2 billion in 2012 to $2.6 billion.

Arch rival Morgan Stanley, on the other hand, has seen it’s equity sales and trading rise 16% over the last year, and 24% over the last quarter.

Obviously for the biggest baddest bank on Wall Street, this is worrisome. The bank is not only losing market share in equity sales, but also its dark pool has lost its share of the market as rivals from Barclays, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley have entered the market.

So once big institutional clients — the mutual funds and hedge funds that HFT firms love to pick off when they notice the institutionals’ big block trades in the market — started complaining about HFT, Goldman knew it was time to change their strategy.

Patterson and Baer reported that at a meeting in London several weeks ago, Goldman’s institutional clients voiced concerns that are now familiar thanks to Michael Lewis’ book, ‘Flash Boys‘.  They said that they felt HFT firms were given an unfair advantage and that the market was too opaque, complicated and dangerous.

That’s when Goldman started sending around internal memos asking for commentary on market structure, and COO Gary Cohn wrote the anti-HFT op-ed that shocked people across the Street.

In the op-ed, he mentions one more issue that has Goldman worried about HFT. The bank is known for having some of the best technology in finance, but last August a glitch in its software sent erroneous quotes into the market and cost the bank $100 million. And Goldman doesn’t lose $100 million.

From Cohn’s op-ed:

The economic model of the exchanges, as shaped by regulation, is oriented around market volume. Volume generates price discovery and liquidity, which are clearly beneficial. But the industry must recognize how certain activities related to volume can place stress on a market infrastructure ill-equipped to deal with it.

In other words, exchange software is now so complicated that it is not something a firm can do as a side show — it has to be the main event. 

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-goldman-sachs-2014-4#ixzz2zFx4Mt9a

AMP Hedge Fund : Great Day

Symbol   Last          Chg

PNE          1.08+0.08

DSX          10.32+0.18

FRO         2.26+0.12

DRYS     2.01+0.08

CKG        3.51+0.11

BTO        2.58+0.03

ORIG     17.46+0.005

AAPL      433.32+3.01

DGC             9.62+0.12

CPLP          9.88+0.2199

DCIX         4.53+0.03

Minimum Investment  $50,000

Return to date  30 %

 

Mosaic Capital Corporation

M : TSX-V : C$7.31
BUY 
Target: C$9.75 

COMPANY DESCRIPTION:
Mosaic Capital acquires majority stakes in small industrial companies in mature market niches. The company currently controls six industrial and one commercial real estate investment company, all located in Western Canada.

Investment recommendation


We think Mosaic is an attractive investment opportunity for investors looking for an industrial acquisition story. The company has demonstrated an ability to acquire strong cash-generation firms at attractive prices. We believe the cash flows from the existing portfolio of companies supports the current share price, and Mosaic’s considerable “dry powder” capital provides the potential for $4.50/share additional growth. The story has the potential to grow considerably beyond that point as additional capital is deployed.
We are launching coverage with a BUY rating, given the strong 35.0% one-year potential rate of return to our C$9.75 one-year target (including a 1.6% dividend yield).
Investment highlights
We believe there are four good reasons to consider investing in Mosaic:
1. Solid track record – Mosaic roughly tripled its EBITDA from 2011 to 2012 while driving return on capital from 5.7% to 12.9%. Over the same period, the company returned more than $13 million to shareholders and has a trailing payout ratio of 63%.
2. Strong portfolio of niche businesses – Mosaic’s portfolio consists of small defensible niche businesses. The low capital requirements combined with strong, stable margins deliver solid (and we think growing) free cash flow.
3. Significant dry powder – We estimate Mosaic has $35 million of available capital to deploy towards future acquisitions. We estimate that the
deployment of this capital could add $4.50/share of value.
4. Aligned management – With 53% of the common stock held by management and insiders, we think the company’s interests are strongly aligned with investors.
Valuation
Our target is based on low-single-digit organic growth and a premium 6.5x Q1/15E EV to Q2/15E – Q1/16E EBITDA multiple for potential acquired EBITDA.
We believe the bulk of the valuation upside potential lies in the deployment of Mosaic’s already-raised capital on accretive acquisitions.

John Kaiser says Junior Resource Stocks Will Disappear

Kaiser & sons  (LOC)

Kaiser & sons (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

John Kaiser is the high-profile editor of the Bottom- Fishing Report and he created a lot of interest as he pointed out that 500 companies in the junior mining field have less than $200,000 in the bank. And in this ugly market, are in danger of disappearing.

Interesting because finding cheap mining stocks was his specialty.
Fresh from the massive PDAC Conference, we ask him to turn on his crystal ball for the future and tell us what he sees of interest. We have a long and rambling conversation so we hope we have got this all right!
1. Kaiser points out that there was 527 booths at the massive PDAC Conference, the biggest mining show in the world this past week. There were over 30,000 people that showed up, but he said the mood was a bit of a touch of reality. Kaiser points out that 114 of those booths were on his list of the companies that have less than $200,000 in the bank and how will they be able to fund themselves in these tough markets and to survive
is very much in doubt.

This correction Kaiser suggests, will separate the weak from the strong and there won’t be many companies around shortly.

2. Most companies in the mining sector Kaiser suggests, are in metals with supplies roughly in demand with demand. It would take an event such as a sudden increase or decrease in world economies, to alter current metal prices. Mines are starting up all over the world he suggests, helped by the past decade of good commodity prices and will meet any increase in demand. He uses the example of nickel, and notes that new mines coming on stream in places like the Philippeans and Indonesia, will meet that demand. These are not necessarily countries known for being big players in the mining sector.
3. The big problem with so many miners and developers Kaiser suggests is that mining costs and building new mines is simply out of control. He suggests that is one of the big problems of the day and that yes, they are aware of it and one has to be, as an investor, aware of operating costs.

 

AFLAC Is Still a Solid Long Term Buy

aflac

aflac (Photo credit: debaird™)

fter the close last Tuesday, AFLAC (NYSE:AFL) reported fourth-quarter earnings of $1.48 per share. Make no mistake: this was a solid quarter for the duck stock, and it was squarely in line with what they told us to expect. Three months ago, AFLAC said Q4 EPS should range between $1.46 and $1.51.

But here’s the issue for us: Since most of AFLAC’s business comes from Japan, their bottom line can be adversely impacted (or helped) by fluctuations in the yen/dollar exchange rate. Lately, the government in Japan has aggressively stated its intention of pursuing a pro-inflation policy. That’s caused the yen to tank against the dollar. In response, the Nikkei Index has soared.

AFLAC as a business is fine and dandy and as strong as it’s ever been. I want to make it clear that I’m not overly worried about the exchange rate, but I have to say that it’s an issue for investors. AFLAC said the falling yen cost dinged their Q4 by four cents per share. Not fun, but not a disaster either. Bear in mind that AFLAC’s full-year earnings for 2012 were actually helped by one penny per share, thanks to the exchange rate. So it works in both directions.

For all of 2012, AFLAC made $6.60 per share in operating earnings. The company said it sees operating earnings growth of 4% to 7% for this year. On a currency-neutral basis, that means operating earnings of $6.86 to $7.06 per share.

Now here’s the tricky part (warning: math ahead). Each move in the exchange rate of one yen from 78.5 will cost AFLAC 4.3 cents per share for the year. So if the exchange rate averages 90 for the entire year, that will cost AFLAC 49.45 cents per share (11.5 times 4.3).

That stings, but it’s roughly 50 cents per share out of $7 of earnings. It’s not enough for me to change my opinion that AFLAC is a very solid stock to own. And of course, I have no idea what the exchange rate will do this year. However, I suspect that most of the damage to the yen has already been done.

Shares of AFL pulled back after the earnings report, and stand right around $50 per share as of mid-day Friday,  but the stock is basically where it was three months ago.

AFLAC remains an excellent company. Due to the recent pullback, I’m going to lower my Buy Below to $54 per share.

The Debt Ceiling End Game

Citi FX guru Steven Englander has a new note out this evening titled: No coin + temporary debt ceiling extension + sequester = USD negative.

 

In it he notes that the rejection of the trillion dollar coin idea to avert the debt ceiling is not alone a market moving event, but that the hard language taken by the White House that the choices boil down to clean lift or default raises the odds of a debt ceiling breach.

His take:

So it is possible that we will get a technical default for a few days, but more likely that Congress will give in, vote the debt ceiling up temporarily, and let the automatic sequesters kick in. Mounting risk of a technical default was USD positive in 2011 because it led to cutting of long-risk positions and the USD/Treasury market remained safe havens.  However, it also occurred in an environment of slowing EM growth and intensifying euro zone sovereign risk pressure, so the USD support came from external forces as well. Given that investors are now somewhat long risk again, the position cutting is again likely to be USD positive, however, unattractive US assets were. As was the case in 2011, it is very unlikely that the Treasury will not pay its bills, although even a technical default could have very unforeseen consequences, given the multiple functions that Treasuries play in global financial markets. The more likely scenario of sequester plus grudging debt ceiling rise is USD negative.

It will put more pressure on the Fed to keep pumping liquidity into the US economy without giving any reassurance to investors that long-term fiscal issues are close to resolution.

That seems reasonable. A debt ceiling hike + a full sequester, which would equal a weaker economy and more pumping.

With Europe healing and China rebounding, USD would be the big loser.

Bank of Nova Scotia BUY Target $62

English: The Bank of Nova-Scotia at 125, Spark...

English: The Bank of Nova-Scotia at 125, Sparks St. in Ottawa. Français : La Banque de Nouvelle-Écosse au 125, rue Sparks à Ottawa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bank of Nova Scotia 
BNS : TSX : C$55.53
BNS : NYSE
BUY Target: C$62.00

Q4/12: INTERNATIONAL AND ACQUISITIONS SUPPORT ABOVE AVERAGE EPS GROWTH
BNS reported Q4/12 core cash EPS of $1.21 (up 24% YoY) versus our estimate and consensus of $1.17 and $1.19, respectively.
We estimate that tax recoveries and a credit adjustment in the International segment added $0.03-0.04 to EPS, suggesting that run rate EPS for the quarter should be closer to where consensus stood this quarter.
International earnings of $401 million were up 11% YoY, reflecting the benefit of acquisitions, particularly in Colombia, and solid loan growth. Retail loans were up 21.6% YoY and 3.5% QoQ. Commercial loans were up 12.7% YoY and down a disappointing 1.1% QoQ (up 1% on a constant currency basis). Management pointed to declines in Asia and softer growth in the
Caribbean as the reasons for the weaker commercial growth.

This was the second consecutive quarter of disappointing commercial loan growth in this segment. Management guided to high single-digit, low double-digit loan growth in International in 2013. To accomplish this growth range, retail loans will likely have to grow in the low- to mid-double-digit range.
Domestic P&C earnings were up 15% YoY on 6% revenue growth and operating leverage of 3.0%. On a YoY basis, NIM in Q4/12 was flat and up 1 bp QoQ. The bank’s domestic P&C business reported industry leading earnings growth and operating leverage in 2012. Strong loan growth and surprisingly stable NIMs drove particularly good domestic retail earnings.
The acquisition of ING Direct should allow BNS to outpace its peers in 2013 and importantly, narrow the funding gap.
Over the last five years, the bank’s better earnings stability and momentum has earned Scotia an average premium of 5-7%. On our estimates, the stock currently trades at a 5% premium to the group.

For the reasons outlined below, we set our target price on BNS based on the stock trading at a 6% premium. Our target P/E premium drives a target P/E of 12.2x appliedagainst our 2013E EPS. This compares to TD at a 2% premium and RY at a
4% premium.

Economic Bears Turn Positive

English: Mohamed A. El-Erian, Managing Directo...

English: Mohamed A. El-Erian, Managing Director of the Pacific Investment Management Company, speaking at the World Economic Forum Summit on the Global Agenda 2008 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three prominent bears — David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates, Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive officer at Pacific Investment Management Co., and David Levy, chairman of the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center — separately see some hopeful signs. These include a housing market that is healing, a more competitive manufacturing industry and technological breakthroughs that could boost productivity.

“More so than at any time in the past three years, I’m doing whatever I can to identify silver linings in the clouds,” Rosenberg said.

None of the three is ready to declare the all-clear. While the chances the economy could perform better than expected are “somewhat” higher than before, the downside risks are bigger, said El-Erian, who oversees $1.9 trillion at Pimco in Newport Beach, California. These include the so-called fiscal cliff, which all three agree would trigger a recession if nothing is done to avert its spending cuts and tax increases.

The continued caution of the three economists is reflected in advice they are giving investors. Rosenberg recommends gold- mining stocks and shares of utility companies, the latter as part of a strategy he’s dubbed “Safety and Income at a Reasonable Price.”

‘Be Defensive’

“This is a time to be defensive,” said Levy of the Mount Kisco, New York-based economic forecaster. “We are still in a rocky period.” He has been bullish on Treasury bonds for more than five years and eventually sees yields falling even further. The yield on the 30-year bond was 2.78 percent as of 5 p.m. yesterday in New York, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader data.

El-Erian suggests investors look outside the U.S. for economies that are growing faster and put money in companies and nations with strong balance sheets, includingBrazil’s and Mexico’s local bonds. He said investors also should “actively” manage their portfolios to protect against downside risks and take advantage of upside surprises that might materialize through the use of puts, calls and other trading strategies.

El-Erian and Rosenberg recommended a defensive stance on financial markets about a year ago in separate interviews on Bloomberg Television. Toronto-based Rosenberg said investors should look at dividend-paying health-care, utility and consumer-staples stocks, which are least-tied to changes in economic growth.

Worst Performance

Drugmakers in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index are up 16 percent and producers of household goods have risen 9.7 percent in 2012. Utilities have fallen about 2 percent for the worst performance among the 10 major industries in the gauge.

El-Erian said Dec. 19 that the first part of 2012 would be “risk off” as Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis encouraged demand for safety. Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasuries rose to 2.21 percenton March 30 from 1.88 percent at the start of the year, while theStandard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPXL1) jumped 12 percent. For the year to date, the stock index also is up 12 percent.

The U.S. economy will grow 2 percent next year and 2.8 percent in 2014, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said last month. That is faster than the average for the OECD’s 34 members of 1.4 percent in 2013 and 2.3 percent in 2014.

Both Rosenberg and Levy foresaw the bursting of the housing bubble in 2007, the former when he was chief economist for North America at Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York. They’ve generally been more pessimistic than the consensus of economists since then, with Levy saying the U.S. is experiencing a “contained depression,” and Rosenberg incorrectly forecasting the U.S. would relapse into recession at the start of this year. The previous slump began in December 2007 and lasted 18 months.

More Downbeat

El-Erian and his colleagues at Pimco also have tended to be more downbeat. The 54-year-old former International Monetary Fund economist first used the term “new normal” in May 2009 to describe the probable medium-term path of the global economy. For the U.S., that meant annual growth of about 2 percent.

Since the recovery began in the middle of 2009, GDP has expanded by an average of 2.2 percent, in line with the Pimco forecast and short of repeated projections for faster growth by the Federal Reserve and the White House.

Pimco’s Total Return Fund, the world’s largest mutual fund, is up 10.3 percent this year, beating 95 percent of similarly run mutual funds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

‘A Stinker’

It has attracted about $17 billion in net new money in 2012, according to Chicago-based research firm Morningstar Inc., after losing $5 billion to withdrawals in 2011, when it suffered what William Gross, the company’s co-chief investment officer with El-Erian, called “a stinker.” It eliminated U.S. Treasuries early in the year and missed a rally when investors rushed to the safety of government-backed debt.

One reason Rosenberg, 52, is trying to look on the bright side is because many other economists have turned more bearish.

“That’s raised my contrarian antenna,” he said.

GDP probably will grow 2 percent in 2013, down from a projected 2.2 percent this year, according to the median forecast of 74 economists surveyed by Bloomberg last month.

Among the more hopeful signs, Rosenberg said, is the bottoming out of the housing market. New-home construction rose 3.6 percent to a four-year high in October, according to the Commerce Department.

‘Strong Phase’

“We’re in a strong phase of the recovery,” Martin Connor, chief financial officer of Toll Brothers Inc. (TOL), a Horsham, Pennsylvania-based luxury homebuilder, said during a conference presentation on Nov. 15. “It’s a function of five years of pent-up demand being released.” Affordability and rising prices also are “spurring people to buy.”

The banking industry also is on the mend, Rosenberg said. “The banks are certainly in better position and more willing to lend money than they have been for years,” after buttressing their balance sheets.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank by assets, provided $15 billion of credit for small businesses in the third quarter, up 21 percent from a year earlier, Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said in an Oct. 12 press release.

Rosenberg also is encouraged by what he calls a “secular renaissance” of the U.S. manufacturing industry — with output rising 16 percent during the recovery, according to the Fed — and a surge in American energy production.

Net Exporter

U.S. oil output is poised to surpass Saudi Arabia’s in the next decade, making the world’s largest fuel consumer almost self-reliant and putting it on track to become a net exporter, the International Energy Agency said last month.

Even so, problems remain. Rosenberg said he is particularly worried about continued high unemployment – 7.9 percent in October, up from 4.7 percent five years ago — and its impact on worker earnings.

“This will go down as a wageless recovery,” the Canadian economist said.

Average hourly earnings for production workers rose 1.1 percent in the 12 months to October, the weakest since Labor Department records began in 1965.

The bottom line for Rosenberg: The economy still is “stuck in the mud.”

Pimco’s El-Erian predicts GDP probably will grow 1.5 percent to 2 percent during the next year as President Barack Obama and Congress strike a “mini-bargain” to avoid the fiscal cliff and moderately reduce the budget deficit.

‘Sputnik Moment’

The economy could do better if policy makers can pull off what El-Erian calls a “Sputnik moment” — a critical mass of reforms that restores corporate confidence and unleashes pent-up investment, hiring and demand. Such steps might include measures to tackle youth and long-term unemployment, as well as cutting the deficit.

“There’s tremendous cash on the sidelines,” he said.

David Cote, chief executive officer of Morris Township, New Jersey-based Honeywell International Inc. (HON), says a budget deal alone could do wonders for the U.S.

“There is a prospect for a robust recovery, something bigger than I think most economists are forecasting,” if the White House and Congress can reach a credible agreement to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, he told Bloomberg Television on Nov. 28.

El-Erian, who re-joined Pimco in 2007 after being in charge of managing Harvard University’s endowment, also sees a chance that technological breakthroughs could give the U.S. a productivity-driven boost. At the top of the list is digitalization: the conversion of pictures, sound and other information into a form computers can process.

Economic Impact

“The whole trend is having an impact on very many sectors of the economy,” he said.

The trouble is that while the potential for such pleasant surprises is bigger than before, it isn’t “meaningfully” bigger, according to El-Erian. And the downside dangers are greater, he said. Besides the fiscal cliff, they include the debt crisis in EuropeChina’s challenge in overhauling its export-driven economy and the risk of continued instability in the Middle East.

Levy said the U.S. private sector is in the middle of a prolonged period of cleaning up its balance sheet after decades in which debt grew faster than income.

“We’ve been at this for five years,” he said. “If we’re lucky, it might take a tiny bit less than a decade.” He added he’d be surprised if the U.S. is able to avoid a recession in the next few years.

More Progress

America, though, has made more progress than Europe and Japan in dealing with its debts, Levy said.

“The U.S. will do generally better in this rocky period than much of the rest of the world, because the risks are higher and the problems are bigger in many places overseas,” the 57- year-old economist said. That includes China, where new leaders face decisions on how — and whether — to curb state enterprises, boost access to credit for private companies and raise consumption.

Levy, who served on the board of the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, from 1986 to 2001, said America also will benefit from a “secular improvement” in its trade balance. Driving that improvement: the manufacturing revival, boom in domestic energy output and increased demand for U.S. agricultural exports as developing nations grow richer.

“By the end of this decade, we might be looking at trade surpluses,” he said. The U.S. ran a$415.5 billion trade deficit through the first nine months of this year.

Future business investment also is being stored up as companies put off capital expenditures because of depressed demand for their products, he said. Eventually, such spending will surge, boosting productivity and profits.

“While the U.S. is going through a long-term, rough adjustment period,” Levy told Bloomberg Radio Nov. 13, “we are weathering it.

‘‘We are going to come out the other side,’’ he added. ‘‘And there is a very bright long-term.’

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