Opinion: U.S. stocks riding a bull market in corruption

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[Wall Street banksters await the pay-off from their investment in the POTUS. Rally rooted in greedy hopes, not grounded fundamentals. *RON*]

Tim Mullaney, Market Watch, 4 January 2017

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I’m an American, full of pride for President-elect Donald Trump and his big, big, 10% stock market rally since the election!

Now imagine my pride if that had actually happened. Or if the 5% gain in the S&P 500 SPX, +0.51% that has happened, or even the 8% climb in the narrower Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.25% — which has failed for the 15th day to gain the last 250 points needed to cross 20,000 — were based on fundamentals.

Instead, this recent rally is rooted mostly in corruption — now and in the future. And a rally built on corruption is bound to fail. Here’s why:

Financial stocks are responsible for much of the U.S. market’s recent move, and the rally in financials is rooted in hopes for government deregulation of the industry. Financial stocks represent about a third of the S&P and are up around 17% since the election. Take them out and there is no rally, Trump or otherwise.

There's the hope that higher interest rates will finally boost banks' interest income. There's even some fantasy belief that higher interest rates will spur loan volumes — except dramatically higher rates for business means less investment, not more.

Except that interest rates aren’t behind most of the rally. Instead, the enthusiasm for financials is more about prospects for repeal of the Dodd-Frank bank reform bill, as well as the Obama administration fiduciary rule that requires financial advisers, brokers, and asset managers to put clients’ financial interests ahead of their own. Just look at how shares of investment managers have performed lately. Giant asset managers such T. Rowe Price Group TROW, +1.06% and Alliance Bernstein HoldingAB, +1.04% rose as much as 22% post-election. Clearly, asset managers aren’t interest-rate plays, dispensing of the notion that rising rates are what’s pumping the financials.

Similarly, banks have been moving on Dodd-Frank hopes, but looser rules won’t spur loan demand and could bring back a litany of practices that helped cause the 2008 financial crisis and the loss of 9 million U.S. jobs.

Much of the rest of the rally is due to energy stocks. The money on oil now is a bet that recent OPEC production quotas will hold up. That bet has failed repeatedly — crude prices only keep up with inflation, since 1973, during brief fits of effective manipulation. Eventually, kleptocrats always choose stable home fronts over stable prices, and cheat on quotas to achieve it. They will again. Soon. Energy stocks are about 8% of the S&P 500 and are up 9.4% since the election.

Health care, too, sees investors betting on corruption in that industry. Drug stocks account for all of the gains in health-care stocks since Election Day. Meanwhile, hospital shares including HCA Holdings HCA, +2.98% are down, as are medical-device stocks such as Medtronic MDT, +1.13% and ACA-exposed Molina HealthcareMOH, +4.05% The industry caterwauled about a device tax helping to finance the Affordable Care Act, but prospective ACA repeal and Medicare cuts are apparently worse.

Drug stocks’ appeal is no mystery: The market was afraid that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would let Medicare negotiate drug prices with drugmakers, as other nations do.

There's no mystery about why Republicans won't allow it, either, forbidding negotiation since passing Medicare Part D in 2003. The drug industry spends $250 million a year on lobbying and its campaign contributions run 3-2 in favor of Republicans. The drug rally may be small-C corruption, but it's corruption still — the kind of corruption that favors Martin Shkreli over grandma, while 82% of Americans favor Medicare negotiations.

President-elect Donald Trump's vow to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act has created uncertainty in the health-care sector. Here's what Trump's policies mean for the future of health care.

The Dow is likely to cross 20,000, but that doesn't validate Trump. U.S. stocks tripled under President Barack Obama. They went up under former President George W. Bush, too — until they didn't — and have risen about 10% a year since 1928. They'll rise in 2017 too if corporate profits beat expectations built into prices already.

The market is usually one of many things that makes you, to borrow Trump's Twitter wording, hopeful to be American, because it's typically a monument to the creativity of our Elon Musks and Steve Jobses. Right now, something else is happening. It's ugly, it’s cynical — and it won't work.

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