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Rising Asset Prices Cannibalize U.S. Growth

Simon Maierhofer

Rising asset prices are bad for investors! At first glance this statement makes no sense at all. Upon closer examination, however, there is much truth to this statement. Bear with me for a couple of minutes and you'll see what I mean.Rising Oil Prices - Good or Bad?Perception seems to have a bigger influence on news coverage than facts. A recent Wall Street Journal front-page headline read that: 'Oil back at $90 as growth gains pace.'According to the WSJ reporter, 'the recovery in oil prices is an encouraging sign of world growth.' Wait a minute. Since when are rising oil prices (NYSEArca: USO - News) good for the economy?In early 2008, when oil prices were rising, economists were in agreement that the ripple effect of rising crude would sap the American consumer of precious discretionary funds.Obviously, the concept of cause and effect is subject to interpretation. The same cause (rising oil prices) had a different effect in 2008 than it has today. In 2008 it stifled the economy; in 2011 it's viewed as a sign of improvement.Because rising oil prices affect everybody, they are often compared to a flat tax - like a sales tax. More money spent on taxes means less money spent on items that help improve the economy. In fact, some economists argue that rising crude negates much or all of the monetary benefits of the tax cut extension.Rising Commodity Prices - Good or Bad?If you've had your money in any single commodity like gold (NYSEArca: GLD - News), silver (NYSEArca: SLV - News), agriculture (NYSEArca: DBA - News) or broad commodity funds (NYSEArca: DBC - News), count yourself happy, but don't get greedy.Commodities had a great run, but similar to high oil prices, high commodity prices cannibalize economic growth. Why? The more money needed to spend on food staples, the more careful you have to be with your discretionary (NYSEArca: XLY - News) spending.In a still battered real estate market, homebuilders (NYSEArca: XHB - News) have to pass on the extra cost of rising timber, iron and copper prices. What this economy needs is an uptick in real estate prices, not a bigger price tag for building or remodeling homes.Major Growth Engines in TroubleDespite rising commodity prices, inflation has been a non-issue domestically, largely because retailers don't have much pricing power.According to Dr. Jim Walker, Founder of Asianomics Limited, higher commodity prices are already impoverishing large parts of emerging markets (NYSEArca: EEM - News) and are sucking the demand from the poor and middle-income class of society.Demand from the middle-class is the growth engine of a healthy economy. Stifling the growth of the world's largest consumer base - China (NYSEArca: FXI - News) - can't be good for business.The 'New Economy'Many readers remember a time when the U.S. was a production powerhouse, when General Electric earned profits with items of tangible value not TV stations and financial products; a time where GDP was built on ingenuity, hard work and sweat.The ingenuity portion of the equation is still alive, but look at its transition. The country's biggest and most successful company - Apple - manufactures and assembles nearly all of its products in China.The country's newest and most powerful companies - Groupon and Facebook - were created out of thin air. No disrespect to Mark Zuckerberg and Andrew Mason - they came up with the right concept at the right time - but what role does Facebook and Groupon play in the 'new economy?'Facebook is valued at $50 billion, that's more than triple the market cap of Alcoa. How and what does Facebook contribute to U.S. gross domestic products (GDP) and real organic economic growth? Yes, Facebook employs about a thousand people, but what else?How about Groupon? Groupon is an ingenious business model and has changed (or is about to change) the way Americans shop. Wall Street is cheering Groupon and can't wait for the IPO. However, the new way of buying nurtures frugality and robs restaurants and retail stores of their pricing power. Consumers just won't buy unless they get a 50%+ discount.Don't get me wrong, I have an above average appreciation for coupons - probably because there was no such thing when I grew up in Germany - but Groupon is the antidote to inflation. My guess is that even Bernanke would agree.Air-pocket ProtectionI often hear that technical indicators don't work in an environment where the Fed controls the market and inflates prices at will.If you believe the Fed is pumping up major indexes like the Dow (DJI: ^DJI), S&P (SNP: ^GSPC) and Nasdaq (Nasdaq: ^IXIC) you must be wondering how long that will work. If this rally isn't value driven - which in my humble opinion it isn't - stocks have nowhere to go but down, eventually.In essence, the Fed is creating a new bubble in an attempt to mop up the spill left behind by the previous bust. It doesn't take an investment wizard to figure out that this bubble will also burst, eventually. When it does, it will probably get ugly.How do you invest in a market where another potential meltdown lurks behind every correction? You monitor the markets vital signs. How? Technical indicators are the best way.Technical Analysis - More Valueable than Ever Using purely technical gauges, the ETF Profit Strategy Newsletter has identified various long-risk entries (to the upside) since the S&P broke above its 200-day moving average (at the time at 1,115).Technical analysis includes, but is not limited to, interpreting the effect candle formations, chart patterns (such as the ascending triangle or W pattern), acceleration bands, Fibonacci levels, and trading brackets have on prices.A technical approach to the market takes the bias out of investing. Personally, I am bearish on the market, but have learned to trust technicals and wait for high probability set ups, long or short.Despite the recent sentiment extremes, which rivaled or exceeded readings recorded at the 2007 highs, the ETF Profit Strategy Newsletter has been expecting prices to reach 1,285 for the S&P.      On December 12, the newsletter commented as follows on the W pattern: 'The W pattern (opposite of the bearish M pattern) is a bullish pattern. The upside target is calculated by the difference between the left side of the W and the bottom of the W (1,227 - 1,173 = 54). The difference is then added to the right breakout of 1,227 (1,227 + 54 = 1,281).'Markets tend to reverse around major resistance points, one of which surrounds the 1,281 area. What happens when stocks (or other asset classes) change direction from up to down? Will it be a temporary correction or a protracted decline?Only technical analysis - in particular support levels - stands a chance to find the answers to make the right moves. The ETF Profit Strategy Newsletter outlines support levels that once broken will lead to further declines and resistance levels likely to repel stocks.