Jeffrey P. Snider

Jeffrey Snider

Jeffrey P. Snider is the head of Global Investment Research of Alhambra Investment Partners (AIP). Jeffrey was 12 years at Atlantic Capital Management where he anticipated the financial crisis with critical research. His company is a global investment adviser, hence potential Swiss clients should not hesitate to contact AIP

Articles by Jeffrey Snider

The Curve Is Missing Something Big

What would it look like if the Treasury market was forced into a cross between 2013 and 2018? I think it might be something like late 2021. Before getting to that, however, we have to get through the business of decoding the yield curve since Economics and the financial media have done such a thorough job of getting it entirely wrong (see: Greenspan below).

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Far Longer And Deeper Than Just The Past Few Months

Hurricane Ida swept up the Gulf of Mexico and slammed into the Louisiana coastline on August 29. The storm would continue to wreak havoc even as it weakened the further inland it traversed. By September 1 and 2, the system was still causing damage and disruption into the Northeast of the United States.

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Inflating Chinese Trade

There was never really any answer given by the Chinese Communists for why their own export data diverged so much from other import estimates gathered by its largest trading partners. Ostensibly different sides of the same thing, it’s not like anyone asked Xi Jinping to weigh in; they report what numbers they have and consider them authoritative.

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For The Love Of Unemployment Rates

Here we are again. The labor force. The numbers from the BLS are simply staggering. During September 2021, the government believes it shrank for another month, down by 183,000 when compared to August. This means that the Labor Force Participation rate declined slightly to 61.6%, practically the same level in this key metric going back to June.

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Tapering Or Calibrating, The Lady’s Not Inflating

We’ve got one central bank over here in America which appears as if its members can’t wait to “taper”, bringing up both the topic and using that particular word as much as possible. Jay Powell’s Federal Reserve obviously intends to buoy confidence by projecting as much when it does cut back on the pace of its (irrelevant) QE6.

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What’s The Real Downside To Some of These Key Commodities?

Last night, Autodata reported its first estimates for September auto sales in the US. According to its own as well as those compiled by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (the same government outfit which keeps track of GDP), vehicle sales have been sliding overall ever since April.

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Surprise: It Isn’t Consumers Keeping American Factories Busy

US factories are humming along, constrained only by supply issues which might occasionally limit production. That’s the story, anyway. There’s too much business because of them, manufacturers taking in only more orders by the day leaving them struggling to catch up.But what kind of stuff is it that is being ordered from our nation’s factories?

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More About Less New Orders

The inventory saga, planetary in its reach. As you’ve heard, American demand for goods supercharged by the federal government’s helicopter combined with a much more limited capacity to rebound in the logistics of the goods economy left a nightmare for supply chains. As we’ve been writing lately, a highly unusual maybe unprecedented inventory cycle resulted (creating “inflation”).

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An Economy Dividing By Inventory And Labor

Is it delta COVID? Or the widely reported labor shortage? Something has created a soft patch in the presumed indestructible US economy still hopped up on Uncle Sam’s deposits made earlier in the year. And yet, there’s a nagging feeling over how this time, like all previous times, just might be too good to be true, too.

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Revisiting The Last Overhang

One reason why I still believe the US most likely would have entered a recession at some point in 2020 even without COVID wasn’t just the yield curve inversion that popped up several months before then. In August of 2019, the small part of the Treasury curve most people pay attention to (2s10s) did send out that dreaded signal, suggesting already to expect contraction in the intermediate term ahead of then. 

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August Avoids Zero In JGB’s

Central banks and their staffs have long been accused of trying to hide inflation. This allegation had been a staple of their critics, those charging reckless monetary policies for creating “too much” money that had allegedly been causing price imbalances all over the financial map.

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All Eyes On Inventory

You’ve heard of the virtuous circle in the economy. Risk taking leads to spending/investment/hiring, which then leads to more spending/investment/hiring. Recovery, in other words. In the old days of the 20th century, quite a lot of the circle was rounded out by the inventory cycle. Both recession and recovery would depend upon how much additional product floated up and down the supply chain.

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August Retail Sales Surprise To The Upside, Because They Were Down?

According to the movie The Princess Bride, the worst classic blunder anyone can make is to get involved in a land war in Asia. No kidding. The second is something about Sicilians and death. There is also, I’ve come to learn, an unspoken third which cautions against chasing down and then trying to break down seasonal adjustments in economic data.Some things are best left just as they are published.

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What’s Real Behind Commodities

Inflation is sustained monetary debasement – money printing, if you prefer – that wrecks consumer prices. It is the other of the evil monetary diseases, the one which is far more visible therefore visceral to the consumers pounded by spiraling costs of bare living. Yet, it is the lesser evil by comparison to deflation which insidiously destroys the labor market from the inside out.

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Taper *Without* Tantrum

Whomever actually coined the term “taper”, using it in the context of Federal Reserve QE for the first time, it wasn’t actually Ben Bernanke. On May 22, 2013, the central bank’s Chairman sat in front of Congressman Kevin Brady and used the phrase “step down in our pace of purchases.” No good, at least from the perspective of a media-driven need for a snappy one-word summary.

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CPI’s At Fives Yet Treasury Auctions

A momentous day, for sure, but one lost in what would turn out to be a seemingly endless sea of them. October 8, 2008, right in the thick of the world’s first global financial crisis (how could it have been global, surely not subprime mortgages?) the Federal Reserve took center stage; or tried to.

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A Real Example Of Price Imbalance

It’s not just the trade data from individual countries. Take the WTO’s estimates which are derived from exports and imports going into or out of nearly all of them. These figures show that for all that recovery glory being printed up out of Uncle Sam’s checkbook, the American West Coast might be the only place where we can find anything resembling Warren Buffett’s red-hot claim.

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The Two Big Anniversaries of August: The Lost Decade (plus) Of The ‘Fiat’ Half Century

As my esteemed podcast co-host Emil Kalinowski has already mentioned (recurrently), we have, this year, two major anniversaries during these dog days of summer circled on our calendar. Today is, obviously, August 9 and for anyone the slightest familiar with the eurodollar story, that date is seared into their consciousness for as long as it will take to rebuild from the ashes created by the monetary fire lit that day. It has been, sadly, fourteen long years and only incremental signs of progress are visible toward more completely understanding what happened on August 9, 2007, why what followed did follow, as well as how it came to be this way in the first place. Getting through those is required first before ever tackling what next to do to fix this mess.

In the latter’s regard,

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Sophistry Dressed (as) Reallocation

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: About US$275 billion (about SDR 193 billion) of the new allocation will go to emerging markets and developing countries, including low-income countries.

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Golden Collateral Checking

Dollar Correlations, 2018-2021

Searching for clues or even small collateral indications, you can’t leave out the gold market. We’ve been on the lookout for scarcity primarily via the T-bill market, and that’s a good place to start, yet looking back to last March the relationship between bills and bullion was uniquely strong. It’s therefore a persuasive pattern if or when it turns up again.

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Do Rising ‘Global’ Growth Concerns Include An Already *Slowing* US Economy?

Federal Reserve Nat'l Activity Index, 1970-2021

Global factors, meaning that the wave of significantly higher deflationary potential (therefore, diminishing inflationary chances which were never good to begin with) in global bond yields the past five months have seemingly focused on troubles brewing outside the US. Overseas turmoil, it was called back in 2015, leaving by default a picture of relative American strength and harmony.

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Lower Yields And (fewer) Bills

Back on February 23, Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell stopped by (in a virtual, Zoom sense) the Senate Banking Committee to testify as required by law. In the Q&A portion, he was asked the following by Montana’s Senator Steve Daines.

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Inching Closer To Another Warning, This One From Japan

UST Yield Curve, 2017-2019

Central bankers nearly everywhere have succumbed to recovery fever. This has been a common occurrence among their cohort ever since the earliest days of the crisis; the first one. Many of them, or their predecessors, since this standard of fantasyland has gone on for so long, had caught the malady as early as 2007 and 2008 when the world was only falling apart.

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And Now Three Huge PPIs Which Still Don’t Matter One Bit In Bond Market

U.S. PPI Commodities Finished Goods Core YoY, Jan 2001 - Jan 2021

And just like that, snap of the fingers, it’s gone. Without a “bad” Treasury auction, there was no stopping the bond market today from retracing all of yesterday’s (modest) selloff and then some. This despite the huge CPI estimates released before the prior session’s trading, and now PPI figures that are equally if not more obscene.

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Third CPI In A Row, Yet All Eyes On That 30s Auction

U.S. Core CPI, Jan 1990 - Jan 2021

Three in a row, huge CPI gains. According to the BLS, headline consumer price inflation surged 5.39% (unadjusted) year-over-year during June 2021. This was another month at the highest since July 2008 (the last transitory inflationary episode). The core CPI rate gained 4.47% last month over June last year, the biggest since November 1991.

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RRP No Collateral Coincidences As Bills Quirk, Too

Federal Reserve: Liabilities and Capital, Jan 2021 - Jul 2021

So much going on this week in the bond market, it actually overshadowed the ridiculous noise coming from the Fed’s reverse repo. Some maybe too many want to make a huge deal out of this RRP if only because the numbers associated with it have gotten so big.

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ISM’s Nasty Little Surprise Isn’t Actually A Surprise

U.S. ISM Non-Manufacturing PMI, Employment, Jan 2017 - May 2021

Completing the monthly cycle, the ISM released its estimates for non-manufacturing in the US during the month of June 2021. The headline index dropped nearly four points, more than expected. From 64.0 in May, at 60.1 while still quite high it’s the implication of being the lowest in four months which got so much attention.

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Anyone Remember That Whole SLR Cliff?

UST Yield Curve

Does anyone remember the SLR “cliff?” Of course you don’t, because in the end it didn’t seem to make any difference. For a few weeks, it was kind of ubiquitous if only in the sense that it was another one of those deep plumbing issues no one seems able to understand (forcing all the “experts” to run to Investopedia in order write something up about it).

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A Clear Balance of Global Inflation Factors

Europe HICP and Germany HICP, Jan 2007 - May 2021

Back at the end of May, Germany’s statistical accounting agency (deStatis) added another one to the inflationary inferno raging across the mainstream media. According to its flash calculations, German consumer prices last month had increased by the fastest rate in 13 years.

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Sure Looks Like Supply Factors

CME Random Length Lumber Futures, Jan 2020 - Jun 2021

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it must be inflationary overheating. Or not? As more time passes and the situation further evolves, the more these recent price deviations conform to the supply shock scenario rather than a truly robust economy showing no signs of slowing down.

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Copper Corroding PPI

Copper Futers, Continuous Frn Month, Jan 2002 - May 2021

Yesterday, lumber. Today, copper. The “doctor” has been in reverse for better than two months now, with trading in the current session pounding the commodity to a new multi-month low. Down almost $0.19 for the day, an unusual and eye-opening loss, this brings the cumulative decline to 9.2% since the peak way back on May 11.

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Another Round of Transitory: US Retail Sales & (revised) IP

U.S. Retail Sales, Jan 2016 - May 2021

Same stuff, different month. We can basically reprint both what was described yesterday about supply curves not keeping up with exaggerated demand as well as the past two months of commentary on Retail Sales plus Industrial Production each for the US. Quite on the nose, US demand for goods, anyway, is eroding if still artificially very high.

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The Inflation Emotion(s)

The Real GDP Problem, Jan 1988 - 2021

Inflation is more than just any old touchy subject in an age overflowing with crude, visceral debates up and down the spectrum reaching into every corner of life. It is about life itself, and not just quality. When the prices of the goods (or services) you absolutely depend upon go up, your entire world becomes that much more difficult.

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Rechecking On Bill And His Newfound Followers

The benchmark 10-year US Treasury has obtained some bids. Not long ago the certain harbinger of bond rout doom, the long end maybe has joined the rest of the world in its global pause if somewhat later than it had begun elsewhere (including, importantly, its own TIPS real yield backyard).

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Real Dollar ‘Privilege’ On Display (again)

Personal Income, 2014-2021

Twenty-fifteen was an important yet completely misunderstood year. The Fed was going to have to become hawkish, according to its models, yet oil prices crashed and the dollar continued to rise. Both of those things were described as “transitory” by Janet Yellen, and that they were helpful or positive (rising dollar means cleanest dirty shirt!), but domestically American policymakers’ clear lack of conviction and courage about that rate hike regime showed otherwise.

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JOLTS Revisions: Much Better Reopening, But Why Didn’t It Last?

JOLTS - Job Openings, SA 2017-2021

According to newly revised BLS benchmarks, the labor market might have been a little bit worse than previously thought during the worst of last year’s contraction. Coming out of it, the initial rebound, at least, seems to have been substantially better – either due to government checks or, more likely, American businesses in the initial reopening phase eager to get back up and running on a paying basis again.

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What Gold Says About UST Auctions

US Treasury & Auction Rates, 2018-2021

The “too many” Treasury argument which ignited early in 2018 never made a whole lot of sense. It first showed up, believe it or not, in 2016. The idea in both cases was fiscal debt; Uncle Sam’s deficit monster displayed a voracious appetite never in danger of slowing down even though – Economists and central bankers claimed – it would’ve been wise to heed looming inflationary pressures to cut back first.

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Deja Vu: Treasury Shorts Meet Treasury Shortages

UST Yield Curve, 2013

Investors like to short bonds, even Treasuries, as much as they might stocks and their ilk. It should be no surprise that profit-maximizing speculators will seek the best risk-adjusted returns wherever and whenever they might perceive them.

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There’s Two Sides To Synchronize

The offside of “synchronized” is pretty obvious when you consider all possibilities. In economic terms, synchronized growth would mean if the bulk of the economy starts moving forward, we’d expect the rest to follow with only a slight lag. That’s the upside of harmonized systems, the period everyone hopes and cheers for.

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Nine Percent of GDP Fiscal, Ha! Try Forty

Japan CPI, 2006-2021

Fear of the ultra-inflationary aspects of fiscal overdrive. This is the current message, but according to what basis? Bigger is better, therefore if the last one didn’t work then the much larger next one absolutely will. So long as you forget there was a last one and when that prior version had been announced it was also given the same benefit of the doubt.

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For The Dollar, Not How Much But How Long Therefore How Familiar

US Dollar / Brazilian Real, 2020-2021

Brazil’s stock market was rocked yesterday by politics. The country’s “populist” President, Jair Bolsonaro, said he was going to name an army general who had served with Bolsomito (a nickname given to him by supporters) during that country’s prior military dictatorship as CEO of state-owned oil giant Petróleo Brasileiro SA. Gen. Joaquim Silva e Luna is being installed, allegedly, to facilitate more direct control of the company by the federal government.With the economy still gripped by the latest recession, and oil prices rising worldwide as supplies continue to be squeezed, Brazilians have been caught in the vise between fuel prices and unemployment – pure misery for a nation still reeling from Euro$ #3’s (2014-16) crushing impacts. A depression for years before COVID…and now this.

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What Might Be In *Another* Market-based Yield Curve Twist?

Pro forma CES Private Payrolls, 2020-2021

With the UST yield curve currently undergoing its own market-based twist, it’s worth investigating a couple potential reasons for it. On the one hand, the long end, clear cut reflation: markets are not, as is commonly told right now, pricing 1979 Great Inflation #2, rather how the next few years may not be as bad (deflationary) as once thought a few months ago.

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Uncle Sam Was Back Having Consumers’ Backs

US Retail Sales, NSA 1993-2021

American consumers were back in action in January 2021. The “unemployment cliff” along with the slowdown and contraction in the labor market during the last quarter of 2020 had left retail sales falling backward with employment. Seasonally-adjusted, total retail spending had declined for three straight months to end last year.

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The Endangered Inflationary Species: Gazelles

BLS National Business Employment Dynamics, 1993-2020

Nevada is, by all accounts and accountants, in rough shape. Very rough shape. An economy overly dependent upon a single industry, tourism, in this case, is a disaster waiting to happen should anything happen to that industry. Pandemic restrictions, for instance.

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Permanent Jobs And Permanent Job Losses

Consumer Credit, Levels NSA 1990-2020

Even the feds haven’t been able to keep up. Without the government having taken over student loans in the wake of 2008-09’s Great “Recession”, there’d have been almost no additional consumer credit extended during the decade since.

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Even The People ‘Printing’ The ‘Money’ Aren’t Seeing It

Inflation Europe, 2007-2020

Everyone in Europe has long forgotten about what was going on there before COVID. First, an economy that had been stuck two years within a deflationary downturn central bankers like Italy’s new recycled top guy Mario Draghi clumsily mistook for an inflationary takeoff. Both the inflation puzzle and ultimately a pre-pandemic recession have taken a back seat to everything corona.Whereas Draghi spent those years howling for inflationary conditions that were nowhere in sight – and plenty which unambiguously dictated its opposite – this supposedly virus-driven recession has provided official cover. As a result, official numbers and commentary surrounding them have become more honest. With no one else to blame back then, inflation they said was guaranteed without the slightest trace. Nowadays,

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Consumers, Producers, and the Unsettled End of 2020

U.S. Retail Sales, NSA, Jan 1993 - Jul 2020

The months of November and December aren’t always easily comparable year to year when it comes to American shopping habits. For a retailer, these are the big ones. The Christmas shopping season and the amount of spending which takes place during it makes or breaks the typical year (though last year, there was that whole thing in March and April which has had a say in each’s final annual condition).

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Rising Probability For A Second Payroll Minus (and its implications)

US Consumer Credit SA, Jan 2006 - 2020

Revolving consumer credit declined again in November 2020, according to data released by the Federal Reserve last week. Though the monthly seasonally-adjusted change was small, it still represents significant uncertainty and material mistrust of the underlying economic condition among a broad section of consumers.

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They’ve Gone Too Far (or have they?)

Between November 1998 and February 1999, Japan’s government bond (JGB) market was utterly decimated. You want to find an historical example of a real bond rout (no caps nor exclamations necessary), take a look at what happened during those three exhilarating (if you were a government official) months.

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There’s Always A First Time

Is it a race against time? Or is it trying to set aside today so as to focus entirely on a specific kind of tomorrow? It’s easy to do the latter especially when today is what it is; you can’t change what’s already gone on.

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Seizing The Dirt Shirt Title

China PMI, 2010-2020

In mid-December 2019, before the world had heard of COVID, China’s Central Economic Work Conference had released a rather startling statement for the world to consume. In the West, everything was said to be on the up. Central banks had responded, forcefully, many claimed, more than enough to deal with that year’s “unexpected” globally synchronized downturn.

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Consumers, Too; (Un)Confident To Re-engage

Friedman's Plucking Model of Trend-Cycle Analysis

There is a lot of evidence which shows some basis for expectations-based monetary policy. Much of what becomes a recession or worse is due to the psychological impacts upon businesses (who invest and hire) as well as workers being consumers (who earn and then spend).

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What Did Hamper Growth ‘In A Few Months’

US Industrial Production, SA 2011-2020

Over here, on the other side of that ocean, the US economy can only dream of the low levels Chinese industry has been putting up this late into 2020. At least those in the East are back positive year-over-year. Here in America, manufacturing and industry can’t even manage anything like a plus sign.

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This Global Growth Stuff, China Still Wants A Word

Before there could be “globally synchronized growth”, it had been plain old “global growth.” The former from 2017 appended the term “synchronized” to its latter 2014 forerunner in order to jazz it up. And it needed the additional rhetorical flourish due to the simple fact that in 2015 for all the stated promise of “global growth” it ended up meaning next to nothing in reality.Oddly the same for 2017’s update heading into 2018 and 2019.

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Inflation Hysteria #2 (Slack-edotes)

Macroeconomic slack is such an easy, intuitive concept that only Economists and central bankers (same thing) could possibly mess it up. But mess it up they have. Spending years talking about a labor shortage, and getting the financial media to report this as fact, those at the Federal Reserve, in particular, pointed to this as proof QE and ZIRP had fulfilled the monetary policy mandates – both of them.

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Inflation Hysteria #2 (WTI)

Sticking with our recent theme, a big part of what Inflation Hysteria #1 (2017-18) also had going for it was loosened restrictions for US oil producers. Seriously.

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Inflation Hysteria #2 (Nominal UST)

UST Yield Curve, 2017-2018

What had given Inflation Hysteria #1 its real punch had been the benchmark 10-year Treasury note. Throughout 2017, despite the unemployment rate in the US, globally synchronized growth being declared around the world (and being declared as some momentously significant development), and whatever other tiny factors acceding to the narrative, longer-term Treasury rates just weren’t buying it.

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Polar Opposite Sides of Consumer Credit End Up in the Same Place: Jobs

CPS Household Survey, 2003-2020

If anything is going to be charged off, it might be student loans. All the rage nowadays, the government, approximately half of it, is busily working out how it “should” be done and by just how much. A matter of economic stimulus, loan cancellation proponents are correct that students have burdened themselves with unprofitable college “education” investments.

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Don’t Really Need ‘Em, Few More Nails Anyway

Pro forma CES Private Payrolls, 2020-2021

The ISM’s Non-manufacturing PMI continued to decelerate from its high registered all the way back in July 2020. In that month, the headline index reached 58.1, the best since early 2019, and for many signaling that everything was coming up “V.”

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Just Who Is, And Who Is Not, Selling T-Bills

Are foreigners selling Treasury bills? If they are, this would seem to merit consideration for the reflation argument. After all, the paramount monetary deficiency exposed by March’s GFC2 (and the Fed’s blatant role in making it worse) was the dangerous degree of shortage over the best collateral.

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Treasury Auctions Are Anything But Sorry Because They’ve Never Been Sorry About Solly

US TIC, 2010-2020

Twenty years ago, in November 2000, the Treasury Department changed one aspect of the way the government would sell its own debt. Auctions of these and other kinds of securities had been ongoing for decades, back to the twenties, and they had been transformed many times along the way. In the middle of the 1970’s Great Inflation, for example, Treasury gradually phased out all other means for issuing securities, by 1977 relying exclusively on auctions as the sole process for the public to acquire notes and bonds.That’s not really how it works, though. There’s a lot that goes on in between, stuff that gets misunderstood and misconstrued because for half a century Economics as a discipline hasn’t paid any real attention to what really goes on in the monetary system. Even by the early

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A Lesson In PMIs: Relative vs. Absolute

IHS Markit Eurozone Composit, 2012-2020

The bid for “decoupling” has never been stronger, and, unfortunately, this time actually represents the weakest case yet for it. According to the mainstream interpretations of the most recent sentiment indicators, the US and European economies appear to be going in the complete opposite directions.

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Deflation Returns To Japan, Part 2

Japan PMIs, 2018-2020

Japan Finance Minister Taro Aso, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, caused a global stir of sorts back in early June when he appeared to express something like Japanese racial superiority at least with respect to how that country was handling the COVID pandemic.

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Extending the Summer Slowdown

US Retail Sales, 2016-2020

A big splurge in September, and then not much more in October. While it would be consistent for many to focus on the former, instead there is much about the latter which, for once, is feeding growing concerns. Retail sales, American consumer spending on goods, has been the one (outside of economically insignificant housing) bright spot since summer

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Six Point Nine Times Two Equals What It Had In Twenty Fourteen

China Industrial Production, 1999-2020

It was a shock, total disbelief given how everyone, and I mean everyone, had penciled China in as the world’s go-to growth engine. If the global economy was ever going to get off the ground again following GFC1 more than a half a decade before, the Chinese had to get back to their precrisis “normal.”

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Where Is It, Chairman Powell?

CPI less Food & Energy, 1983-2020

Where is it, Chairman Powell? After spending months deliberately hyping a “flood” of digital money printing, and then unleashing average inflation targeting making Americans believe the central bank will be wickedly irresponsible when it comes to consumer prices, the evidence portrays a very different set of circumstance.

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The Prices And Costs Of What Xi Believes He’s Got To Do

China Exports, 1995-2020

It does seem, at first, a huge contradiction. On the one hand, what we know so far of China’s 14th 5-year plan apparently will lean heavily on new technologies not-yet invented to rescue the country’s economy from the pit of de-globalization the eurodollar system had thrown it into years ago.

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Good Payrolls Still Say Slowdown

Pro forma CES Private Payrolls, 2020-2021

The payroll report for the month of October 2020 was a very good one. This shouldn’t be surprising, perfect BLS publications appear with regularity even during the most challenging of circumstances. Headlines and underneath, everything looked fine last month.

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Counting The Corroborated Stall, Not The Coming Lawfare Election Mess

CPS Household Survey, 2003-2020

While we wait for the electoral count to be sorted out by what we hope are competent and honest people (not holding our breath), there’s a greater muddle growing where it actually counts and where it’s never fully nor properly accounted. By a large and growing number of accounts, the US economy’s rebound seems to have stalled out back around June or July, an inflection unrelated to COVID case counts, too.

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Meanwhile, Outside Today’s DC

German Economy, 2012-2020

With all eyes on Washington DC, today, everyone should instead be focused on Europe. As we’ve written for nearly three years now, for nearly three years Europe has been at the unfortunate forefront of Euro$ #4. We could argue about whether coming out of GFC2 back in March pushed everything into a Reflation #4 – possible – or if this is still just one three-yearlong squeeze of a global dollar shortage.

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What’s Going On, And Why Late August?

ICE: US$ Index Futures, DX1

This isn’t about COVID. It’s been building since the end of August, a shift in mood, perception, and reality that began turning things several months before even then. With markets fickle yet again, a lot today, what’s going on here?

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Consumer Confidence Indicator: Anesthesia

European Commision Consumer Confidence Indicator, 2006-2020

Europeans are growing more downbeat again. While ostensibly many are more worried about a new set of restrictions due to (even more overreactions about) COVID, that’s only part of the problem. The bigger factor, economically speaking, is that Europe’s economy has barely moved, or at most not moved near enough, off the bottom.

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It Just Isn’t Enough

Unemployment Insurance, Initial Jobless Claims, 1980-2020

The Department of Labor attached a technical note to its weekly report on unemployment claims. The state of California has announced that it is suspending the processing of initial claims filed by (former) workers in that state.

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Is There Enough?

IHS Markit US Composite, 2012-2020

It’s just not fast enough. And with the labor market spitting out numbers across a broad economic cross-section that look increasingly tired suggesting an economy running out of momentum, there’s the added urgency of time.

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Who’s Negative? The Marginal American Worker

CPS Household Survey: Civilian Labor Force Level, 2007-2020

The BLS’s payroll report draws most of the mainstream attention, with the exception of the unemployment rate (especially these days). The government designates the former as the Current Employment Statistics (CES) series, and it intends to measure factors like payrolls (obviously), wages, and earnings from the perspective of the employers, or establishments.

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Why Aren’t Bond Yields Flyin’ Upward? Bidin’ Bond Time Trumps Jay

It’s always something. There’s forever some mystery factor standing in the way. On the topic of inflation, for years it was one “transitory” issue after another. The media, on behalf of the central bankers it holds up as a technocratic ideal, would report these at face value. The more obvious explanation, the argument with all the evidence, just couldn’t be true otherwise it’d collapse the technocracy right down to the ground.And so it was also in the bond market. Inflation and their yields very much related, the lack of the former wasn’t ever used to explain the curious absence of the BOND ROUT!!! No, the US Treasury market has been beset by its own set of “transitory” factors, too. As ridiculous as some of the inflation excuses had been, Verizon’s unlimited wireless data plans the

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What’s Zambia Got To With It (everything)

Argentina Bank

As one of Africa’s largest copper producers, it seemed like a no-brainer. Financial firms across the Western world, pension funds from the US or banks in Europe, they lined up for a bit of additional yield. This was 2012, still global recovery on the horizon – at least that’s what “they” all kept saying.

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China’s Hole Puzzle

China Fixed Asset Investment, 2012-2020

One day short of one year ago, on September 16, 2019, China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported its updated monthly estimates for the Big 3 accounts. Industrial Production (IP) is a closely-watched indicator as it is relatively decent proxy for the entire goods economy around the world. Retail Sales in the post-Euro$ #2 context give us a sense of the Chinese economy’s persistent struggle to try to “rebalance” without the pre-2008 boost China had obtained through actual global growth contributing to its export orientation. The third of the Big 3 is Fixed Asset Investment (FAI), the real secret behind the country’s rapid modernization. FAI is how the Chinese view their own future, whether that’s as a rebalanced consumer-led economy leaping off into a brand new paradigm; or one

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Inflation Karma

CPI Changes on Energy, 1995-2020

There is no oil in the CPI’s consumer basket, yet oil prices largely determine the rate by which overall consumer prices are increasing (or not). WTI sets the baseline which then becomes the price of motor fuel (gasoline) becoming the energy segment. As energy goes, so do headline CPI measurements.

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Re-recession Not Required

Japan Economy, 2013-2020

If we are going to see negative nominal Treasury rates, what would guide yields toward such a plunge? It seems like a recession is the ticket, the only way would have to be a major economic downturn. Since we’ve already experienced one in 2020, a big one no less, and are already on our way back up to recovery (some say), then have we seen the lows in rates?Not for nothing, every couple years when we do those (record low yields) that’s what “they” always say and yet they only ever go lower the next time. But what do we mean by “the next time?”Before getting into it, the central bank simply doesn’t factor. Monetary authorities possess no monetary abilities therefore they follow along with what bond markets are already doing. Sometimes that means lowering their benchmarks, like Jay Powell’s

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Bottleneck In Japanese

US / Japan, 2018-2020

Japan’s yen is backward, at least so far as its trading direction may be concerned. This is all the more confusing especially over the past few months when this rising yen has actually been aiding the dollar crash narrative while in reality moving the opposite way from how the dollar system would be behaving if it was really happening.

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Eurodollar University’s Making Sense; Episode 24, Part 2: Peering Behind The (Unemployment Rate) Curtain

Jeff Snider, Head of Global Investment Research for Alhambra Investments with Emil Kalinowski, incredibly irresponsible. Artwork

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Powell Would Ask For His Money Back, If The Fed Did Money

UST Yield Curve, 2020

Since the unnecessary destruction brought about by GFC2 in March 2020, there have been two detectable, short run trendline upward moves in nominal Treasury yields. Both were predictably classified across the entire financial media as the guaranteed first steps toward the “inevitable” BOND ROUT!!!!

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Writing Rebound in Italian

Real GDP Pro forma, 2005-2023

As the calendar turned to September, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines expanding and extending existing moratoriums previously put in place to stop evictions during the pandemic.

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This Has To Be A Joke, Because If It’s Not…

US Treasury and Auction Rates, Oct 2018 Aug 2020

After thinking about it all day, I’m still not quite sure this isn’t a joke; a high-brow commitment of utterly brilliant performance art, the kind of Four-D masterpiece of hilarious deception that Andy Kaufman would’ve gone nuts over. I mean, it has to be, right?I’m talking, of course, about Jackson Hole and Jay Powell’s reportedly genius masterstroke.

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Not This Again: Too Many Treasuries?

US Banking Data, 1978 - 2020

Tomorrow, the Treasury Department is going to announce the results of its latest bond auction. A truly massive one, $47 billion are being offered of CAH4’s notes dated August 31, 2020, maturing out in August 31, 2027. In other words, the belly of the belly, the 7s.We’ve already seen them drop for two note auctions this week, both equally sizable.

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Meaning Mexico

Mexico Light Vehicle Production, Jan 2006 - Jul 2020

It took some doing, and some time, but Mexico has managed to bring its car production back up to more normal levels. For two months, there had been practically zero automaking in one of the biggest auto-producing nations. Getting back near where things left off, however, isn’t exactly a “V” shaped recovery; it’s only halfway.

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Part 2 of June TIC: The Dollar Why

Federal Reserve: H.10 Foreign Exchange Rates, 2008-2020

Before getting into the why of the dollar’s stubbornly high exchange value in the face of so much “money printing”, we need to first go back and undertake a decent enough review of the guts maybe even the central focus of the global (euro)dollar system.

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Part 1 of June TIC: The Dollar What

ICE: US Index Futures DX1, 2017-2020

While the world is taking the smallest of baby steps in the right direction, mostly it’s been related to the part of the eurodollar system that everyone can see. Not bank reserves and the Fed’s “money printing”, though you can see them and we’re told to obsess about them those things don’t matter.

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It Was Bad In The Other Sense, So Now What?

Japan Real GDP, 2008-2020

According to the latest figures, Japan has tallied 56,074 total coronavirus cases since the outbreak began, leading to the death of an estimated 1,103 Japanese citizens. Out of a total population north of 125 million, it’s hugely incongruous.

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Fama 2: No Inflation For Old Central Banks

CPI less Food & Energy, 1983-2020

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the core CPI in July 2020 jumped by the most (+0.62%) in almost thirty years. After having dropped month-over-month for three months in a row for the first time in its history, it has posted back to back gains the latest of which pushing the index back above its February level.

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Eugene Fama’s Efficient View of Stimulus Porn

The Real GDP Problem, 1988-2018

The key word in the whole thing is “bias.” For a very long time, people working in and around the finance industry have sought to gain tremendous advantages. No explanation for the motive is required. Charts, waves, technical (sounding) analysis and so on.

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Science of Sentiment: Zooming Expectations Wonder

It had been an unusually heated gathering, one marked by temper tantrums and often publicly expressed rancor. Slamming tables, undiplomatic rudeness. Europe’s leaders had been brought together by the uncomfortable even dangerous fact that the economic dislocation they’ve put their countries through is going to sustain enormously negative pressures all throughout them. What would a “united” European system do to try and fill in this massive hole?The marathon bargaining session began on an ominously hot Friday in late July with birthday celebrations and was expected to breezily wrap up by the following Sunday. By the Monday morning, however, the gloves had come off and high-level talks were often replaced by mid-level staff meetings to hammer out details the bosses, apparently, could no

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A Second JOLTS

What happens when we are stunned and dazed? We filter out the noise to focus on the bare basics by getting back to our instincts, acting reflexively based upon our deeply held beliefs and especially training. When faced with a crisis and there’s no time to really think, shorthand will have to suffice.

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Shoe V arning

US Trade in Goods, Jan 2010 - Jul 2020

It’s no wonder we’re obsessed with shoes these days. Even the V-people, as I’ll call them, keep one wary eye glued looking behind them. Survivor’s euphoria means a lot of potentially bad things, only beginning with a false sense of survivor-hood.

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Purchasing Managers Indigestion

Europe ISM Non-Manufacturing Employment, Jan 2017 - Jul 2020

There’s already doubt given how the two major series supposedly measuring the same thing seemingly can’t agree. If the rebound was truly robust, it would show up unambiguously everywhere. But IHS Markit’s purchasing managers indices struggled to get back above 50 in July, barely getting there, suggesting the economy might be slowing or even stalling way too close to the bottom.

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Accusing the Accused of Excusing the Mountain of Evidence

Germany Federal Securities, 2018-2020

Why not let the accused also sit in the jury box? The answer seems rather obvious. While maybe the truly honest man accused of a crime he did commit would vote for his own conviction, the world seems a bit short on supply of those while long and deep offering up practitioners of pure sophistry in their stead.

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That’s Probably Why Only Half a “V”

IHS Markit US Composite, 2018-2020

Why only half a “V?” If the latest PMI’s are anywhere close to accurate, and they don’t have to be all that close, then the production side of the economy may have stalled out somewhere nearer the trough of this contraction. The promise of May’s big payroll report surprise has dissipated in more than just the bond market.

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US Stall? Only Half The Imagined “V” May Indicate One, Too

IHS Markit US Composite, 2018-2020

These are not numbers that are consistent with a robust rebound. In fact, they don’t indicate very much of one at all. IHS Markit’s flash PMI’s for July 2020 instead look way too much like the sentiment indicators in Germany and Japan. Though they are now back near 50, both services and manufacturing, that doesn’t actually indicate what everyone seems to think it does.

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The (Other) Shoe Of Unemployment

Global PMIs & Sentiment, 2017-2020

After raising the specter of a rebound stall, the idea before limited to Japan and Germany was abruptly given further weight today by US jobless claims numbers. For the first time since the peak at the end of March, the weekly tally of initial filings increased from the prior week.

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A Japanese Stall?

Japan PMIs, 2018-2020

In sharp contrast to the sentimental deference towards central bank stimulus exhibited by Germany’s ZEW, for example, similar Japanese surveys are starting to describe potential trouble developing. Like Germany, Japan is a bellwether country and a pretty reliable indicator of global economy performance.

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Of Incomplete Plans and Recoveries

China Industrial Production, 1999-2020

At the monthly press conference China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) now regularly gives whenever the Big Three economic accounts are updated (this time along with quarterly GDP), spokesman Liu Aihua was asked by a reporter from Reuters to comment on how the global economic recession might impact the Communist government’s long range goal of reaching its assigned GDP target.

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Transitory, The Other Way

After a record three straight months of decline for the seasonally-adjusted core CPI March through May 2020, it turned upward again in June. Buoyed by a partially reopened economy, the price discounting (prerequisite to the Big D) took at least one month off.

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Second Wave Global Trade

US Trade in Goods, SA 2010-2020

Unlike some sentiment indicators, the ISM Non-manufacturing, in particular, actual trade in goods continued to contract in May 2020. Both exports and imports fell further, though the rate of descent has improved. In fact, that’s all the other, more subdued PMI’s like Markit’s have been suggesting.

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Gratuitously Impatient (For a) Rebound

ISM Purchasing Managers Indexes, 2008-2020

Jay Powell’s 2018 case for his economic “boom”, the one which was presumably behind his hawkish aggression, rested largely upon the unemployment rate alone. A curiously thin roster for a period of purported economic acceleration, one of the few sets joining that particular headline statistic in its optimism resides in the lower tiers of all statistics.

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Reality Beckons: Even Bigger Payroll Gains, Much Less Fuss Over Them

What a difference a month makes. The euphoria clearly fading even as the positive numbers grow bigger still. The era of gigantic pluses is only reaching its prime, which might seem a touch pessimistic given the context. In terms of employment and the labor market, reaction to the Current Employment Situation (CES) report seems to indicate widespread recognition of this situation. And that means how there are actually two labor markets at the moment.

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What The PMIs Aren’t Really Saying, In China As Elsewhere

China PMI, 2010-2020

China’s PMI’s continue to impress despite the fact they continue to be wholly unimpressive. As with most economic numbers in today’s stock-focused obsessiveness, everything is judged solely by how much it “surprises.” Surprises who? Doesn’t matter; some faceless group of analysts and Economists whose short-term modeling has somehow become the very standard of performance.

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Looking Ahead Through Japan

Japan Industry & Commerce, SA 2013-2020

After the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Tokyo with tales seemingly spun from some sci-fi disaster movie, all eyes turned to Japan. Cruisers had boarded the vacation vessel in Yokohama on January 20 already knowing that there was something bad going on in China’s Wuhan. The big ship would head out anyway for a fourteen-day tour of Vietnam, Taiwan, and, yes, China.

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Wait A Minute, What’s This Inversion?

Eurodollar Futures Curve, 2018-2024

Back in the middle of 2018, this kind of thing was at least straight forward and intuitive. If there was any confusion, it wasn’t related to the mechanics, rather most people just couldn’t handle the possibility this was real. Jay Powell said inflation, rate hikes, and accelerating growth. Absolutely hawkish across-the-board.And yet, all the way back in the middle of June 2018 the eurodollar curve started to say, hold on a minute.

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Not COVID-19, Watch For The Second Wave of GFC2

Federal Reserve SLOOS, 1990-2020

I guess in some ways it’s a race against the clock. What the optimists are really saying is the equivalent of the old eighties neo-Keynesian notion of filling in the troughs. That’s what government spending and monetary “stimulus” intend to accomplish, to limit the downside in a bid to buy time. Time for what? The economy to heal on its own.

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The Smallness of the Most Gigantic

US Retail Sales, Stagnation 1992-2020

These numbers do seem epic, don’t they? It’s hard to ignore when you have the greatest percentage increase in the history of a major economic account. Just writing that sentence it’s difficult to deny the power of those words. Which is precisely the point: we already know ahead of time how the biggest economic holes in history are going to produce the biggest positives coming out of them.

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Fed Balance Sheet: Swap Me Update

Just a quick update to add a little more data and color to my last Friday’s swap line criticism so hopefully you can better see how there is intentional activity behind them. Since a few people have asked, I’ll break them out with a little more detail. While the volume of swaps outstanding at the Fed has, in total, remained relatively constant (suspiciously, if you ask me), the underlying tenor of them has not.Meaning, there is purpose.

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A Chinese Outbreak (of Li v. Xi, Round 2)

China Industrial Production, 1999-2020

Here they are again, seemingly at odds over how to proceed. Reminiscent of prior battles over whether to revive the economy or just let it go where it will, it appears as if China is in for Xi vs. Li Round 2. Or is it all just clever politics? Li Keqiang may be nominally the Chinese Premier but he’s a very distant second on every list of power players. Xi Jinping holds all the top spots, including a 2017-18 consolidation of power that left Xi rivaling only Mao in terms of dictatorial reach.

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This Thing Is Only Getting Started; Or, *All* The V’s Are Light On The Right

The Federal Reserve’s models really are the most optimistic of the bunch. With the policy meeting conducted today, no surprises as far as policies go, we now know what ferbus has to say about everything that’s happened this year. Skipping the usual March projections, what with the FOMC totally occupied at the time by a complete global monetary meltdown Jay Powell now says “we saw it coming”, the central bank staff released the calculations performed by its DSGE prodigy concurrent with today’s policy meeting.

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A Second Against Consumer Credit And Interest ‘Stimulus’

Consumer Credit, Levels SA 2006-2020

Credit card use entails a degree of risk appreciated at the most basic level. Americans had certainly become more comfortable with debt in all its forms over the many decades since the Great Depression, but the regular employment of revolving credit was perhaps the apex of this transformation. Does any commercial package on TV today not include one or more credit card offers? It certainly remains a staple of junk mail.

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Someone’s Giving Us The (Trade) Business

US Trade in Goods, SA 2014-2020

The NBER has made its formal declaration. Surprising no one, as usual this group of mainstream academic Economists wishes to tell us what we already know. At least this time their determination of recession is noticeably closer to the beginning of the actual event. The Great “Recession”, you might recall, wasn’t even classified as an “official” contraction until December 2008 – a full year after the NBER figured the thing had begun.

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ECB Doubles Its QE; Or, The More Central Banks Do The Worse You Know It Will Be

ECB/Eurostaff Inflation Projections, 2017-2020

A perpetual motion machine is impossible, but what about a perpetual inflation machine? This is supposed to be the printing press and central banks are, they like to say, putting it to good and heavy use. But never the inflation by which to confirm it. So round and round we go. The printing press necessary to bring about consumer price acceleration, only the lack of consumer price acceleration dictates the need for more of the printing press.

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What Did Everyone Think Was Going To Happen?

Unemployment Insurance, Continued Claims, 2017-2020

Honestly, what did everyone think was going to happen? I know, I’ve seen the analyst estimates. They were talking like another six or seven perhaps eight million job losses on top of the twenty-plus already gone. Instead, the payroll report (Establishment Survey) blew everything away, coming in both at two and a half million but also sporting a plus sign.The Household Survey was even better, +3.8mm during May 2020. But, again, why wasn’t this expected?

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From QE to Eternity: The Backdoor Yield Caps

Japan - JGB, 1986-2019

So, you’re convinced that low rates are powerful stimulus. You believe, like any good standing Economist, that reduced interest costs can only lead to more credit across-the-board. That with more credit will emerge more economic activity and, better, activity of the inflationary variety. A recovery, in other words. Ceteris paribus. What happens, however, if you also believe you’ve been responsible for bringing rates down all across the curve…and then no recovery.

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Personal Income and Spending: The Other Side

Personal Income & Spending, 2017-2020

The missing piece so far is consumers. We’ve gotten a glimpse at how businesses are taking in the shock, both shocks, actually, in that corporations are battening down the liquidity hatches at all possible speed and excess. Not a good sign, especially as it provides some insight into why jobless claims (as the only employment data we have for beyond March) have kept up at a 2mm pace.These are second order effects.

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Getting A Sense of the Economy’s Current Hole and How the Government’s Measures To Fill It (Don’t) Add Up

GDP Pro Forma, 2010-2020

The numbers just don’t add up. Even if you treat this stuff on the most charitable of terms, dollar for dollar, way too much of the hole almost certainly remains unfilled. That’s the thing about “stimulus” talk; for one thing, people seem to be viewing it as some kind of addition without thinking it all the way through first.You have to begin by sizing up the gross economic deficit it is being haphazardly poured into – with an additional emphasis on “haphazardly.”

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So Much Dollar Bull

TIC - US Banking Data, 2006-2020

According to the Federal Reserve’s calculations, the US dollar in Q1 pulled off its best quarter in more than twenty years – though it really didn’t need the full quarter to do it. The last time the Fed’s trade-weighed dollar index managed to appreciate farther than the 7.1% it had in the first three months of 2020, the year was 1997 during its final quarter when almost the whole of Asia was just about to get clobbered.In second place (now third) for the dollar’s best, Q4 2008.

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No Flight To Recognize Shortage

If there’s been one small measure of progress, and a needed one, it has been the mainstream finally pushing commentary into the right category. Back in ’08, during the worst of GFC1 you’d hear it all described as “flight to safety.” That, however, didn’t correctly connote the real nature of what was behind the global economy’s dramatic wreckage. Flight to safety, whether Treasuries or dollars, wasn’t it.

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So Much Bond Bull

Count me among the bond vigilantes. On the issue of supply I yield (pun intended) to no one. The US government is the brokest entity humanity has ever conceived – and that was before March 2020. There will be a time, if nothing is done, where this will matter a great deal.That time isn’t today nor is it tomorrow or anytime soon because it’s the demand side which is so confusing and misdirected.

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There Was Never A Need To Translate ‘Weimar’ Into Japanese

After years of futility, he was sure of the answer. The Bank of Japan had spent the better part of the roaring nineties fighting against itself as much as the bubble which had burst at the outset of the decade. Letting fiscal authorities rule the day, Japan’s central bank had largely sat back introducing what it said was stimulus in the form of lower and lower rates.No, stupid, declared Milton Friedman.

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The global economy doesn’t care about the ECB (nor any central bank)

Europe Industrial Production, 1991-2020

The monetary mouse. After years of Mario Draghi claiming everything under the sun available with the help of QE and the like, Christine Lagarde came in to the job talking a much different approach. Suddenly, chastened, Europe’s central bank needed assistance. So much for “do whatever it takes.”They did it – and it didn’t take.Lagarde’s outreach was simply an act of admitting reality.

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A Big One For The Big “D”

CPI less Food & Energy, 1983-2020

From a monetary policy perspective, smooth is what you are aiming for. What central bankers want in this age of expectations management is for a little bit of steady inflation. Why not zero? Because, they decided, policymakers need some margin of error. Since there is no money in monetary policy, it takes time for oblique “stimulus” signals to feed into the psychology of markets and the economy.

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Everyone Knows The Gov’t Wants A ‘Controlled’ Weimar

There are two parts behind the inflation mongering. The first, noted yesterday, is the Fed’s balance sheet, particularly its supposedly monetary remainder called bank reserves. The central bank is busy doing something, a whole bunch of something, therefore how can it possibly turn out to be anything other than inflationary?The answer: the Federal Reserve is not a central bank, not really.

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We All Know Who’s On First, But What’s On Second?

It wasn’t entirely unexpected, though when it was announced it was still quite a lot to take in. On September 1, 2005, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the nation’s personal savings rate had turned negative during the month of July. The press release announcing the number, in trying to explain the result was reduced instead to a tautology, “The negative personal saving reflects personal outlays that exceed disposable personal income.

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GDP + GFC = Fragile

March 15 was when it all began to come down. Not the stock market; that had been in freefall already, beset by the rolling destruction of fire sale liquidations emanating out of the repo market (collateral side first). No matter what the Federal Reserve did or announced, there was no stopping the runaway devastation.

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COT Black: No Love For Super-Secret Models

Federal Reserve: Liabilities & Capital, 1984-2019

As I’ve said, it is a threefold failure of statistical models. The first being those which showed the economy was in good to great shape at the start of this thing. Widely used and even more widely cited, thanks to Jay Powell and his 2019 rate cuts plus “repo” operations the calculations suggested the system was robust.

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The Puppet Show Is Powerful

I never said it wasn’t powerful. What I continue to show is that it doesn’t work. Ben Bernanke kept his job because despite the carnage, in times of turmoil people are willing to give anyone a second chance. And if the turmoil never ends, so much the luckier – for him. 

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The Fallen Kings & The Bond Throne of Collateral

UST Yield Curve, 2017-2020

There is no schadenfreude at times like these, no time to dance on anyone’s grave. Victory laps are a luxury that only central bankers take – always prematurely. The world already coming apart because of GFC1, what comes next with GFC2 and then whatever follows it? Another “bond king” has thrown in the towel.

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An International Puppet Show

Federal Reserve: H.10 Foreign Exchange Rates, 2006-2020

It’s actually pretty easy to see why the IMF is in a hurry to secure more resources. I’m not talking about potential bailout candidates banging down the doors; that’s already happened. The fund itself is doing two contradictory things simultaneously: telling the world, repeatedly, that it has a highly encouraging $1 trillion in bailout capacity at the same time it goes begging to vastly increase that amount.

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The Greenspan Bell

Germany ZEW Financial Market Survey, 2006-2020

What set me off down the rabbit hole trying to chase modern money’s proliferation of products originally was the distinct lack of curiosity on the subject. This was the nineties, after all, where economic growth grew on trees. Reportedly. Why on Earth would anyone purposefully go looking for the tiniest cracks in the dam?

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The Global Engine Is Still Leaking

Federal Reserve: Liabilities & Capital, 1984-2019

An internal combustion engine that is leaking oil presents a difficult dilemma. In most cases, the leak itself is obscured if not completely hidden. You can only tell that there’s a problem because of secondary signs and observations.If you find dark stains underneath your car, for example, or if your engine smells of thick, bitter unpleasantness, you’d be wise to consider the possibility.

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The Real Diseased Body

CES: Civilian Labor Force Level, 2007-2020

Another day, another new Federal Reserve “bailout.” As these things go by, quickly, the details become less important. What is the central bank doing today? Does it really matter?For me, twice was enough. All the way back in 2010 I had expected other people to react as I did to QE2. If you have to do it twice, it doesn’t work.

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Fragile, Not Fortified

Credit Spreads, 2017-2020

On Sunday, Argentina’s government announced it was postponing payment on any domestically-issued debt instruments denominated in foreign currencies. That means dollars, just not Eurobonds. At least not yet. In response, ratings agencies such as Fitch declared the maneuver a distressed debt exchange.In other words, technically a default.

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It’s Hard To See Anything But Enormous Long-term Cost

The unemployment rate wins again. In a saner era, back when what was called economic growth was actually economic growth, this primary labor ratio did a commendable job accurately indicating the relative conditions in the labor market. You didn’t go looking for corroboration because it was all around; harmony in numbers for a far more peaceful and serene period.

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Banks Or (euro)Dollars? That Is The (only) Question

UST Yields & Money Alternates, 2007-2009

It used to be that at each quarter’s end the repo rate would rise often quite far. You may recall the end of 2018, following a wave of global liquidations and curve collapsing when the GC rate (UST) skyrocketed to 5.149%, nearly 300 bps above the RRP “floor.” Chalked up to nothing more than 2a7 or “too many” Treasuries, it was to be ignored as the Fed at that point was still forecasting inflation and rate hikes.

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China’s Back!

China PMI, 2005-2020

The Washington Post began this week by noting how the US economy seems to have lost its purported zip just when it needed that vitality the most. Never missing a chance to take a partisan swipe, of course, still there’s quite a lot of truth behind the charge. An actual economic boom produces cushion, enough of one that President Trump and his administration may have been counting on it when opting for full-blown shutdown.

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(No) Dollars And (No) Sense: Eighty Argentinas

India Official Reserve Assets, 2016-2020

India like many emerging market countries around the world holds an enormous stockpile of foreign exchange reserves. According to the latest weekly calculation published by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the country’s central bank, that total was a bit less than half a trillion. While it sounds impressive, when the month began the balance was much closer to that mark.

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No Further Comment Necessary At This Point

Primary Dealer Repo Fails (UST), 2017-2020

I would write something snarky about bank reserves, but why bother at this point? It’s already been said. If Jay Powell doesn’t mention collateral, no one else does even though it’s the whole ballgame right now. Note: FRBNY’s updated figures shown below are for last week.

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Three Short Run Factors Don’t Make A Long Run Difference

US Treasury Curve, 2018-2020

There are three things the markets have going for them right now, and none of them have anything to do with the Federal Reserve. More and more conditions resemble the early thirties in that respect, meaning no respect for monetary powers. This isn’t to say we are repeating the Great Depression, only that the paths available to the system to use in order to climb out of this mess have similarly narrowed.

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Stagnation Never Looked So Good: A Peak Ahead

Germany ZEW Financial Market Survey, 2006-2020

Forward-looking data is starting to trickle in. Germany has been a main area of interest for us right from the beginning, and by beginning I mean Euro$ #4 rather than just COVID-19. What has happened to the German economy has ended up happening everywhere else, a true bellwether especially manufacturing and industry.

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Is GFC2 Over?

TED Spread, 2018-2020

Is it over? That’s the question everyone is asking about both major crises, the answer is more obvious for only the one. As it pertains to the pandemic, no, it is not. Still the early stages. The other crisis, the global dollar run? Not looking like it, either.

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What Happens When Central Banks Buy Stocks (ETFs)? Well, We Already Know

Japan Machine Tool Orders, 2010-2020

Can we please dispense with all notions that monetary policy works? Specifically balance sheet expansion via any scale asset purchase programs. Nowhere has that been more apparent than Japan. Go back and reread all the promised benefits from BoJ’s Big Bang QQE that were confidently written in 2013. The biggest bazooka ever conceived has fallen short in every conceivable way.

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(Almost) Everything Sold Off Today

Eurodollar Futures Curve, 2018-2024

The eurodollar curve’s latest twist exposes what’s behind the long end. To recap: big down day in stocks which, for the first time in a while, wasn’t accompanied by massive buying in longer maturity UST’s. Instead, these were sold, too. Rumors of parity funds liquidating were all over the place, which is consistent with this curve behavior.

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Low Rates As Chaos, Not ‘Stimulus’

UST Yield & Money Alternates, 2007-2009

Basic recession economics says that when you end up with too much of some commodity, too much inventory that you can’t otherwise sell, you have to cut the price in order to move it. Discounting is a feature of those times. What about a monetary panic? This might sound weird, but same thing.

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Like Repo, The Labor Lie

Federal Reserve Beige Book, 2010-2020

The Federal Reserve has been trying to propagate two big lies about the economy. Actually, it’s three but the third is really a combination of the first two. To start with, monetary authorities have been claiming that growing liquidity problems were the result of either “too many” Treasuries (haven’t heard that one in a while) or the combination of otherwise benign technical factors.

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Take Your Pick of PMI’s Today, But It’s Not Really An Either/Or

PMI's & GDP, 2012-2020

Take your pick, apparently. On the one hand, IHS Markit confirmed its flash estimate for the US economy during February. Late last month the group had reported a sobering guess for current conditions. According to its surveys of both manufacturers and service sector companies, the system stumbled badly last month, the composite PMI tumbling to 49.6 from 53.3 in January.

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The Greenspan Moon Cult

US Treasury Curve, 2007-2019

Taking another look at what I wrote about repo and the latest developments yesterday, it may be worthwhile to spend some additional time on the “why” as it pertains to so much determined official blindness, an unshakeable devotion to otherwise easily explained lunar events.

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A Day For Rate Cuts

Total Credit Market, 1980-2015

Well, that wasn’t he had in mind. The whole point of a rate cut, any rate cut let alone an emergency fifty, is to signal especially the stock market that the Fed is in the business of…something. The public has been led, by and large, to assume that something good happens when the Fed Chair shows up on TV.

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Economy: Curved Again

Mexican Economy, 2016-2019

Earlier today, Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI) confirmed the country’s economy is in recession. Updating its estimate for Q4 GDP, year-over-year output declined by 0.5% rather than -0.3% as first thought. On a quarterly basis, GDP was down for the second consecutive quarter which mainstream convention treats as a technical recession.

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Schaetze To That

Inflation Europe, 2007-2020

When Mario Draghi sat down for his scheduled press conference on April 4, 2012, it was a key moment and he knew it. The ECB had finished up the second of its “massive” LTRO auctions only weeks before. Draghi was still relatively new to the job, having taken over for Jean-Claude Trichet the prior November amidst substantial turmoil.

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Was It A Midpoint And Did We Already Pass Through It?

Benchmark 10-year UST, 2010-2013

We certainly don’t have a crystal ball at the ready, and we can’t predict the future. The best we might hope is to entertain reasonable probabilities for it oftentimes derived from how we see the past. Which is just what statistics and econometrics attempt. Except, wherein they go wrong we don’t have to make their mistakes.

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Time Again For Triple Digit Dollar

Argentina Official Reserve Assets, 1998-2018

Being a member of the institutional “elite” means never having to say you’re sorry; or even admit that you have no idea what you are doing. For Christine Lagarde, Mario Draghi’s retirement from the European Central Bank could not have come at a more opportune moment. Fresh off the Argentina debacle, she failed herself upward to an even better gig.

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European Data: Much More In Store For Number Four

European Economy, 2016-2019

It’s just Germany. It’s just industry. The excuses pile up as long as the downturn. Over across the Atlantic the situation has only now become truly serious. The European part of this globally synchronized downturn is already two years long and just recently is it becoming too much for the catcalls to ignore. Central bankers are trying their best to, obviously, but the numbers just aren’t stacking up their way.

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US Sales and Production Remain Virus-Free, But Still Aren’t Headwind-Free

Retail Sales, NSA 2005-2020

The lull in US consumer spending on goods has reached a fifth month. The annual comparisons aren’t good, yet they somewhat mask the more recent problems appearing in the figures. According to the Census Bureau, total retail sales in January rose 4.58% year-over-year (unadjusted). Not a good number, but better, seemingly, than early on in 2019 when the series was putting out 3s and 2s.

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You Shouldn’t Miss The Cupom

Dollar Correlations, 2017-2020

I actually wanted to focus on this yesterday but confirmation wasn’t forthcoming until today. So, it ended up being a broader note on the dollar which only included some mention of Brazil in passing. Still a worthwhile couple of minutes.

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As the Data Comes In, 2019 Really Did End Badly

Europe Industrial Production, 2007-2019

The coronavirus began during December, but in its early stages no one knew a thing about it. It wasn’t until January 1 that health authorities in China closed the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market after initially determining some wild animals sold there might have been the source of a pneumonia-like outbreak. On January 5, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued a statement saying it wasn’t SARS or MERS, and that the spreading disease would be probed.

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Two Years And Now It’s Getting Serious

Europe Industrial Production, 2007-2019

We knew German Industrial Production for December 2019 was going to be ugly given what deStatis had reported for factory orders yesterday. In all likelihood, Germany’s industrial economy ended last year sinking and maybe too quickly. What was actually reported, however, exceeded every pessimistic guess and expectation – by a lot.

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COT Black: German Factories, Oklahoma Tank Farms, And FRBNY

Germany Factory Orders, SA 2014-2019

I wrote a few months ago that Germany’s factories have been the perfect example of the eurodollar squeeze. The disinflationary tendency that even central bankers can’t ignore once it shows up in the global economy as obvious headwinds. What made and still makes German industry noteworthy is the way it has unfolded and continues to unfold. The downtrend just won’t stop.

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Don’t Forget (Business) Credit

Europe Real GDP, 1995-2019

Rolling over in credit stats, particularly business debt, is never a good thing for an economy. As noted yesterday, in Europe it’s not definite yet but sure is pronounced. The pattern is pretty clear even if we don’t ultimately know how it will play out from here. The process of reversing is at least already happening and so we are left to hope that there is some powerful enough positive force (a real force rather than imaginary, therefore disqualifying the ECB) to counteract the negative tendencies in order to set them straight before it becomes too late.

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History Shows You Should Infer Nothing From Powell’s Pause

The Fed Midpoint, 2007-2008

Jay Powell says that three’s not a crowd, at least not for his rate cuts, but four would be. As usual, central bankers like him always hedge and say that “should conditions warrant” the FOMC will be more than happy to indulge (the NYSE). But what he means in his heart of hearts is that there probably won’t be any need.

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Three Straight Quarters of 2 percent, And Yet Each One Very Different

Eurodollar Disruption, Peaks & Troughs, 2011-2019

Headline GDP growth during the fourth quarter of 2019 was 2.05849% (continuously compounded annual rate), slightly lower than the (revised) 2.08169% during Q3. For the year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) puts total real output at $19.07 trillion, or annual growth of 2.33% and down from 2.93% in 2018. Last year was weaker than 2017, the second lowest out of the six since 2013.

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With No Second Half Rebound, Confirming The Squeeze

Germany ZEW Financial Market Survey, 2006-2019

It’s a palpable impatience. Having learned absolutely nothing from the most recent German example, there’s this pervasive belief that if the economy hasn’t fallen apart by now it must be going the other way. The right way. Those are the only two options for mainstream analysis (which means it isn’t analysis).

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The Big And Small of Leading Japan

Japan Trade & Production, 2016-2019

In the middle of 2018, Japan, they said, was riding so high. Gliding along on the tidal wave of globally synchronized growth, Haruhiko’s courage and more so patience had finally delivered the long-promised recovery. The Japanese economy had healed to a point that its central bank officials believed it time to wean the thing off decades of monetary “stimulus.”

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China Enters 2020 Still (Intent On) Managing Its Decline

China Industrial Production, 1998-2019

Chinese Industrial Production accelerated further in December 2019, rising 6.9% year-over-year according to today’s estimates from China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). That was a full percentage point above consensus. IP had bottomed out right in August at a record low 4.4%, and then, just as this wave of renewed optimism swept the world, it has rebounded alongside it.

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Germany, Maybe Europe: No Signs Of The Bottom

Europe Industrial Production, 2007-2019

For anyone thinking the global economy is turning around, it’s not the kind of thing you want to hear. Germany has been Ground Zero for this globally synchronized downturn. That’s where it began, meaning first showed up, all the way back at the start of 2018. Ever since, the German economy has been pulling Europe down into the economic abyss along with it, being ahead of the curve in signaling what was to come for the whole rest of the global economy.

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Inflation, But Only At The Morgue

Mortality Rates Divided by age group, 1999-2017

Why is everyone so angry? How can socialism possibly be on such a rise, particularly among younger people around the world? Why are Americans suddenly dying off? According to one study, two-thirds of millennials are convinced they are doing worse when compared to their parents’ generation. Sixty-two percent say they are living paycheck to paycheck, with no savings and no way to get any (though they also tend to “overspend” when compared to other age groups).

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De-dollarization By Default Is Not What You Might Think

CPMI Correspondent Banking Data, 2011-2018

Last month, a group of central bank governors from across the South Pacific region gathered in Australia to move forward the idea of a KYC utility. If you haven’t heard of KYC, or know your customer, it is a growing legal requirement that is being, and has been, imposed on banks all over the world. Spurred by anti-money laundering efforts undertaken first by the European Union, more and more governments are forcing global banks to take part.

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Clarida Picks Up Some Data

China Exports, 2006-2019

I should know better than to make declarative all-or-none statements like this. I said there isn’t any data which comports with the idea of a global turnaround, this shakeup in sentiment which since early September has gone right from one extreme to the other. Recession fears predominated in summer only to be (rather easily) replaced by near euphoria (again).

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Very Rough Shape, And That’s With The Payroll Data We Have Now

Household Survey: Civilian Employment, 2017-2019

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has begun the process of updating its annual benchmarks. Actually, the process began last year and what’s happening now is that the government is releasing its findings to the public. Up first is the Household Survey, the less-watched, more volatile measure which comes at employment from the other direction. As the name implies, the BLS asks households who in them is working whereas the more closely scrutinized Establishment Survey queries establishments as to how many are on their payrolls.

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Not Abating, Not By A Longshot

Mexican Economy, 2006-2019

Since I advertised the release last week, here’s Mexico’s update to Industrial Production in November 2019. The level of production was estimated to have fallen by 1.8% from November 2018. It was up marginally on a seasonally-adjusted basis from its low in October.

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Global Headwinds and Disinflationary Pressures

Mexican Economy, 2006-2019

I’m going to go back to Mexico for the third day in a row. First it was imports (meaning Mexico’s exports) then automobile manufacturing and now Industrial Production. I’ll probably come back to this tomorrow when INEGI updates that last number for November 2019. For now, through October will do just fine, especially in light of where automobile production is headed (ICYMI, off the bottom of the charts).

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The Real Trade Dilemma

US Imports of Goods, NSA 2016-2019

When I write that there are no winners around the world, what I mean is more comprehensive than just the trade wars. On that one narrow account, of course there are winners and losers. The Chinese are big losers, as the Census Bureau numbers plainly show (as well as China’s own). But even the winners of the trade wars find themselves wondering where all the spoils are.

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More Trends That Ended 2019 The Wrong Way

US Trade, SA 2016-2019

Auto sales in 2019 ended on a skid. Still, the year as a whole wasn’t nearly as bad as many had feared. Last year got off on the wrong foot in the aftermath of 2018’s landmine, with auto sales like consumer spending down pretty sharply to begin it. Spending did rebound in mid-year if only somewhat, enough, though, to add a little more to the worst-is-behind-us narrative which finished off 2019.

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Manufacturing Clears Up Bond Yields

Federal Reserve Regional Manu. PMI, 2016-2019

Yesterday, IHS Markit reported that the manufacturing turnaround its data has been suggesting stalled. After its flash manufacturing PMI had fallen below 50 several times during last summer (only to be revised to slightly above 50 every time the complete survey results were tabulated), beginning in September 2019 the index staged a rebound jumping first to 51.1 in that month.

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2019: The Year of Repo

Fed Balance Sheet: Reserve Balances, 2008-2019

The year 2019 should be remembered as the year of repo. In finance, what happened in September was the most memorable occurrence of the last few years. Rate cuts were a strong contender, the first in over a decade, as was overseas turmoil. Both of those, however, stemmed from the same thing behind repo, a reminder that September’s repo rumble simply punctuated.

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A Sour End To The 2010’s Doesn’t Have To Spoil The Entire 2020’s

China GDP, 2011-2019

It has been perhaps the most astonishing divergence in the first two decades of 21st century history. In late 2017, Western economic officials (mostly central bankers) were taking their victory laps. They took great pains to tell the world it was due to their profound wisdom, deep courage, and, most of all, determined patience, that they had been able to see their policies through to the light of day (no thanks to voters around the world).

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Everything Comes Down To Which Way The Dollar Is Leaning

Rising Dollar Squeeze

Is the global economy on the mend as everyone at least here in America is now assuming? For anyone else to attempt to answer that question, they might first have to figure out what went wrong in the first place. Most have simply assumed, and continue to assume, it has been fallout from the “trade wars.”

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Latest European Sentiment Echoes Draghi’s Last Take On Global Economic Risks

Germany Economy, 2016-2019

While sentiment has been at best mixed about the direction of the US economy the past few months, the European economy cannot even manage that much. Its most vocal proponent couldn’t come up with much good to say about it – while he was on his way out the door. At his final press conference as ECB President on October 24, Mario Draghi had to acknowledge (sort of) how he is leaving quite the mess for Christine Lagarde.

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China Data: Something New, or Just The Latest Scheduled Acceleration?

China Retail Sales, 2010-2019

The Chinese government was serious about imposing pollution controls on its vast stock of automobiles. The largest market in the world for cars and trucks, the net result of China’s “miracle” years of eurodollar-financed modernization, for the Chinese people living in its huge cities the non-economic costs are, unlike the air, immediately clear each and every day.

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A Repo Deluge…of Necessary Data

US Depository Institutions, 2008-2019

Just in time for more discussions about repo, the Federal Reserve delivers. Not in terms of the repo market, mind you, despite what you hear bandied about in the financial media the Fed doesn’t actually go there. Its repo operations are more RINO’s – repo in name only. No, what the US central bank actually contributes is more helpful data.

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If The Best Case For Consumer Christmas Is That It Started Off In The Wrong Month…

US Retail Sales Stagnation, 1992-2012

Gone are the days when Black Friday dominated the retail calendar. While it used to be a somewhat fun way to kick off the holiday shopping season, it had morphed into something else entirely in later years. Scenes of angry shoppers smashing each other over the few big deals stores would truly offer, internet clips of crying children watching in horror as their parents transformed their local Walmart into Thunderdome.

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Lagarde Channels Past Self As To Japan Going Global

Europe Industrial Production, 1993-2019

As France’s Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde objected strenuously to Ben Bernanke’s second act. Hinted at in August 2010, QE2 was finally unleashed in November to global condemnation. Where “trade wars” fill media pages today, “currency wars” did back then. The Americans were undertaking beggar-thy-neighbor policies to unfairly weaken the dollar.

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The FOMC Channels China’s Xi As To Japan Going Global

Economic Projections FOMC, 2013-2016

The massive dollar eruption in the middle of 2014 altered everything. We’ve talked quite a lot about what Euro$ #3 did to China; it sent that economy into a dive from which it wouldn’t escape. And in doing so convinced the Chinese leadership to give growth one more try before changing the game entirely once stimulus inevitably failed.

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If Trade Wars Couldn’t, Might Pig Wars Change Xi’s Mind?

China Price Stability, 1996-2019

Forget about trade wars, or even the eurodollar’s ever-present squeeze on China’s monetary system. For the Communist Chinese government, its first priority has been changed by unforeseen circumstances. At the worst possible time, food prices are skyrocketing. A country’s population will sit still for a great many injustices. From economic decay to corruption and rising authoritarianism, the line between back alley grumbling and open rebellion is usually a thick one. But you put food problems on the table and all bets are off.

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Disposable (Employment) Figures

Establishment Survey; Blowout Payrolls, 2014-2019

If last month’s payroll report was declared to be strong at +128k, then what would that make this month’s +266k? Epic? Heroic? The superlatives are flying around today, as you should expect. This Payroll Friday actually fits the times. It wasn’t great, they never really are nowadays (when you adjust for population and participation), but it was a good one nonetheless.

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The BIS Misses An Opportunity To Get Consistent With The Facts

Net lending through repos and federal funds by size group

Much has been made about the repo market since mid-September. Much continues to be made about it. The question is why. It is now near the middle of December and repo looks dicey despite repo operations and a not-QE small-scale asset purchase intended to increase the level of bank reserves. Always the focus on “funds” which may be available. It was John Adams who took on the task of defending several British soldiers on trial for the Boston Massacre. A wholly unpopular proposition, Adams nonetheless offered a defense of his defense during the proceedings.

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You Will Never Bring It Back Up If You Have No Idea Why It Falls Down And Stays Down

Friedman's Plucking Model of Trend-cycle Analysis

It wasn’t actually Keynes who coined the term “pump priming”, though he became famous largely for advocating for it. Instead, it was Herbert Hoover, of all people, who began using it to describe (or try to) his Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Hardly the do-nothing Roosevelt accused Hoover of being, as President, FDR’s predecessor was the most aggressive in American history to that point, economically speaking.

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European Economy: A Time Recession

European Economy, 2016-2019

Eurostat confirmed earlier today that Europe has so far avoided recession. At least, it hasn’t experienced what Economists call a cyclical peak. During the third quarter of 2019, Real GDP expanded by a thoroughly unimpressive +0.235% (Q/Q). This was a slight acceleration from a revised +0.185% the quarter before.

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Fails Swarms Are Just One Part

US Treasury, 2010-2019

There it was sticking out like a sore thumb right in the middle of what should have been the glory year. Everything seemed to be going just right for once, success so close you could almost feel it. Well, “they” could. The year was 2014 and the unemployment rate in the US was tumbling, the result of the “best jobs market in decades.” Real GDP in that year’s two middle quarters was pretty near 5% in both.

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All Signs Of More Slack

PCE Chain-type Price Index, 2009-2019

The evidence continues to pile up for increasing slack in the US economy. While that doesn’t necessarily mean there is a recession looming, it sure doesn’t help in that regard. Besides, more slack after ten years of it is the real story. The Federal Reserve’s favorite inflation measure in October 2019 stood at 1.31%, matching February for the lowest in several years.

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More Signals Of The Downturn, Globally Synchronized

US Imports of Goods, NSA 1989-2019

For US importers, October is their month. And it makes perfect sense how it would be. With the Christmas season about to kick into full swing each and every November, the time for retailers to stock up in hearty anticipation is in the weeks beforehand. The goods, a good many future Christmas presents, find themselves in transit from all over the world during the month of October.

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Consistent Trade War Inconsistency Hides The Consistent Trend

Private Non Residential Construction Spending, 2011-2019

You can see the pattern, a weathervane of sorts in its own right. Not for how the economy is actually going, mind you, more along the lines of how it is being perceived from the high-level perspective. The green light for “trade wars” in the first place was what Janet Yellen and Jay Powell had said about the economy.

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The Risen (euro)Dollar

India Real GDP, 1997-2019

Back in April, while she was quietly jockeying to make sure her name was placed at the top of the list to succeed Mario Draghi at the ECB, Christine Lagarde detoured into the topic of central bank independence. At a joint press conference held with the Governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa, Lesetja Kganyago, as the Managing Director of the IMF Lagarde was asked specifically about President Trump’s habit of tweeting disdain in the direction of the Federal Reserve’s Chairman, Jay Powell.

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Nothing Good From A Chinese Industrial Recession

China Industry, 2001-2019

October 2017 continues to show up as the most crucial month across a wide range of global economic data. In the mainstream telling, it should have been a very good thing, a hugely positive inflection. That was the time of true inflation hysteria around the globe, though it was always presented as a rationally-determined base case rather than the unsupported madness it really was.

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The Big One, The Smoking Gun

Potential Real GDP, 2005-2019

It wasn’t just the unemployment rate which was one of the key reasons why Economists and central bankers (redundant) felt confident enough to inspire 2017’s inflation hysteria. There was actually another piece to it, a bigger piece potentially complimentary and corroborative bit of conjecture. I write “conjecture” because despite how all this is presented in the media there’s very little precision to any of it.

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China’s Financial Stability: A Squeeze and a Strangle

PBOC Balance Sheet, 2006-2019

I do get a big kick out of the way Communists over in China announce how they are dealing with their enormous problems especially as they may be getting worse. Each month, for example, the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) will publish figures on retail sales or industrial production at record lows but in the opening paragraphs the text will be full of praise for how the economy is being handled.

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Seriously, Good Luck Dethroning the (euro)Dollar

US TIC, 1996-2018

Scarcely a week will go by without some grand prediction of the dollar being dethroned. Set aside how if anything is to be deposed it would have to be the eurodollar, these stories typically follow the same formulaic approach: Country X is moving away from dollar reserves, “diversifying” its holdings because of the geopolitics of Y.

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More (Badly Needed) Curve Comparisons

US Treasury Yield Curve, 2000-2001

Even though it was a stunning turn of events, the move was widely celebrated. The Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee, the FOMC, hadn’t been scheduled to meet until the end of that month. And yet, Alan Greenspan didn’t want to wait. The “maestro”, still at the height of his reputation, was being pressured to live up to it.

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For Labor And Recession, The Bad One

Nonfarm Business Sector: Unit Labor Costs 1983-2019

There’s a couple of different ways that Unit Labor Costs can rise. Or even surge. The first is the good way, the one we all want to see because it is consistent with the idea of an economy that is actually booming. If workers have become truly scarce as macro forces sustain actual growth such that all labor market slack is absorbed, then businesses have to compete for them bidding up the price of marginal labor.

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The Real Boom Potential

China Exports, 1998-2019

For the last five years Larry Summers has called it secular stagnation. It’s the right general idea as far as the result, if totally wrong as to its cause. Alvin Hansen, who first coined the term and thought up the thesis in the thirties, was thoroughly disproved by the fifties. Some, perhaps many Economists today believe it was WWII which actually did the disproving.

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Red Flags Over Labor

Establishment Survey; Payrolls 2010-2019

Better-than-expected is the new strong. Even I’m amazed at the satisfaction being taken with October’s payroll numbers. While you never focus too much on one monthly estimate, this time it might be time to do so. But not for those other reasons.
Sure, GM caused some disruption and the Census is winding down, both putting everyone on edge. The whisper numbers were low double digits, maybe even a negative headline estimate.

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A Perfect Example of the Euro$ Squeeze

Europe Industrial Production, 2007-2019

Germany’s vast industrial sector continued in the tank in September. According to new estimates from deStatis, that country’s government agency responsible for maintaining economic data, Industrial Production dropped by another 4% year-over-year during the month of September 2019. It was the fifth consecutive monthly decline at around that alarming rate.

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Still Stuck In Between

IHS Markit U.S. Manufacturing, 2012-2019

There wasn’t much by way of the ISM’s Manufacturing PMI to allay fears of recession. Much like the payroll numbers, an uncolored analysis of them, anyway, there was far more bad than good. For the month of October 2019, the index rose slightly from September’s decade low. At 48.3, it was up just half a point last month from the month prior

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The Sudden Need For A Trade Deal

US Imports of Goods from China, NSA 1989-2019

Talk of trade deals is everywhere. Markets can’t get enough of it, even the here-to-fore pessimistic bond complex. Rates have backed up as a few whispers of BOND ROUT!!! reappear from their one-year slumber. If Trump broke the global economy, then his trade deal fixes it. There’s another way of looking at it, though. Why did the President go spoiling for trouble with China in 2018?

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From Friends to Nemeses: JO and Jay

JOLTS - Job Openings, SA 2017-2019

It was one of the first major speeches of his tenure. Speaking to the Economic Club of Chicago in April 2018, newly crowned Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell was full of optimism. At that time, however, optimism was being framed as some sort of bad thing. This was the height of inflation hysteria, where any sort of official upgrade to the economic condition was taken as further “hawkishness.”

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You Have To Try Really Hard Not To See It

ISM Purchasing Managers Indexes, 2017-2019

In early September, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) released figures for its non-manufacturing PMI that calmed nervous markets. A few weeks before anyone would start talking about repo, repo operations, and not-QE asset purchases, recession and slowdown fears were already prevalent.

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More Synchronized, More Downturn, Still Global

China GDP, 2007-2019

China was the world economy’s best hope in 2017. Like it was the only realistic chance to push out of the post-2008 doldrums, a malaise that has grown increasingly spasmatic and dangerous the longer it goes on. Communist authorities, some of them, anyway, reacted to Euro$ #3’s fallout early on in 2016 by dusting off their Keynes. A stimulus panic that turned out to be more panic than stimulus.

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The Inventory Context For Rate Cuts and Their Real Nature/Purpose

Case Study In Inventory, 2006-2019

What typically distinguishes recessions from downturns is the inventory cycle. Even in 2008, that was the basis for the Great “Recession.” It was distinguished most prominently by the financial conditions and global-reaching panic, true, but the effects of the monetary crash registered heaviest in the various parts of that inventory process.
An economy for whatever reasons slows down.

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Three (Rate Cuts) And GDP, Where (How) Does It End?

The Real GDP Problem,1988-2018

The Federal Reserve has indicated that it will now pause – for a second time, supposedly. Remember the first: after raising its benchmark rates apparatus in December while still talking about an inflationary growth acceleration requiring even more hikes throughout 2019, in a matter of weeks that was transformed into a temporary suspension of them.

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The Inventory Context For Rate Cuts And Their Real Nature/Purpose

Case Study in Inventory, 2006-2019

What typically distinguishes recessions from downturns is the inventory cycle. Even in 2008, that was the basis for the Great “Recession.” It was distinguished most prominently by the financial conditions and global-reaching panic, true, but the effects of the monetary crash registered heaviest in the various parts of that inventory process.

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The Big Risks Left (and Right) In Europe

Central Bank Failure, 1999-2019

Another local election in Germany, another stunning defeat for the ruling center. How many more of these does anyone need before they realize the electorate is going to keep migrating toward the poles? And it all stems from the one reason; there is no and has been no economic growth. But because the so-called establishment has insisted the economy is booming, or it was, people are doing what people always do.

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More Points For, And Pointing To, The Midpoint

Wholesale Sales & Inventory, SA 2016-2019

It’s not surprising that the Census Bureau would report another weird sideways trend in wholesale sales. After all, the agency has already produced that kind of pattern in the related data for durable goods. For reasons that aren’t going to be explained, economic activity across the supply chain from producers to consumers has been curtailed. That hasn’t mean outright shrinking in seasonally adjusted forms, but it also doesn’t mean growth, either.

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Somehow Still Decent European Descent

IHS Markit Germany Flash PMI

How times have changed. In the middle of 2018, we were told the risks to the global economy were all tilted to the upside. If central bankers weren’t careful, they chanced an uncontrollable inflationary breakout, the kind that would make the last few years of the 2010’s look too much like the 1970’s. Always eager to bottle up the inflation genie, Germany out of everyone actually welcomed negative factors as they built up during the year.

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Downward Home Prices In The Downturn, Too

New Home Sales, 2011-2019

The Census Bureau reported today New Home Sales remained at a better than 700k SAAR in September following the big jump over the previous few months. Though the number was slightly lower last month than the month before, it wasn’t meaningfully less. As discussed yesterday, while that might seem the Fed’s rate cut psychology combined with the bond market’s pessimism (reducing the mortgage rate) is having a positive effect, I don’t see it that way.

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More Down In The Downturn

IHS Markit US Manufacturing, 2012-2019

Flash PMI’s from IHS Markit for the US economy were split in October. According to the various sentiment indicators, there’s a little bit of a rebound on the manufacturing side as contrary to the ISM’s estimates for the same sector. Markit reports a sharp uptick in current manufacturing business volumes during this month.

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Macro Housing: Bargains and Discounts Appear

Housing Construction, 2009-2019

While things go wrong for Jay Powell in repo, they are going right in housing. Sort of. It’s more than cliché that the real estate sector is interest rate sensitive. It surely is, and much of the Fed’s monetary policy figuratively banks on it. When policymakers talk about interest rate stimulus, they largely mean the mortgage space.

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August TIC: Trying To Get Collateral Out of the Shadows

US TIC, 2013-2019

The second most frustrating aspect of trying to analyze global shadow money is how the term “shadow” really applies in this case. It’s not really because banks are being sneaky, desperately maintaining their cover for any number of illicit activities they are regularly accused of undertaking. The money stays in the shadows for the simple reason central bankers don’t know their jobs; even after a somehow Global Financial Crisis in 2008, they don’t realize the full scope of what goes on offshore or why it might be so important.

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The Dollar-driven Cage Match: Xi vs Li in China With Nowhere Else To Go

China Industrial Production, 1998-2019

China’s growing troubles go way back long before trade wars ever showed up. It was Euro$ #2 that set this course in motion, and then Euro$ #3 which proved the country’s helplessness. It proved it not just to anyone willing to honestly evaluate the situation, it also established the danger to one key faction of Chinese officials.

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China’s Dollar Problem Puts the Sync In Globally Synchronized Downturn

China Exports, 2006-2019

Because the prevailing theory behind the global slowdown is “trade wars”, most if not all attention is focused on China. While the correct target, everyone is coming it at from the wrong direction. The world awaits a crash in Chinese exports engineered by US tariffs. It’s not happening, at least according to China’s official statistics.

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Tidbits Of Further Warnings: Houston, We (Still) Have A (Repo) Problem

Federal Reserve Balance Sheet, 2001-2019

Despite the name, the Fed doesn’t actually intervene in the US$ repo market. I know they called them overnight repo operations, but that’s only because they mimic repo transactions not because the central bank is conducting them in that specific place. What really happened was FRBNY allotting bank reserves (in exchange for UST, MBS, and agency collateral) only to the 24 primary dealers.

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Never Attribute To Malice What Is Easily Explained By Those Attributing Anything To Term Premiums

US Treasury CMT Yields, 2017-2019

There will be more opportunities ahead to talk about the not-QE, non-LSAP which as of today still doesn’t have a catchy title. In other words, don’t call it a QE because a QE is an LSAP not an SSAP. The former is a large scale asset purchase plan intended on stimulating the financial system therefore economy. That’s what it intends to do, leaving the issue of what it actually does an open question.

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CPI Changes On Energy: The Inflation Check

CPI Changes on Energy, 1995-2019

After constantly running through what the FOMC gets (very) wrong, let’s give them some credit for what they got right. Though this will end up as a backhanded compliment, still. After having spent all of 2018 forecasting accelerating inflation indices, from around New Year’s Day forward policymakers notably changed their tune.

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The Scientism of Trade Wars

Germany Factory Orders, SA 2014-2019

One year ago, last October, the IMF published the update to its World Economic Outlook (WEO) for 2018. Like many, the organization began to talk more about trade wars and protectionism. It had become a topic of conversation more than concern. Couched as only downside risks, the IMF still didn’t think the fuss would amount to all that much.
Especially not with world’s economy roaring under globally synchronized growth. Even though there were warning signs already by then, the idea was that the upturn in 2017 had been a true recovery trend. That’s not something that gets upset easily and it wasn’t expected to.

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From JOLTS Series Shift To Series of Rate Cuts

Average Weekly Hours All Employees, 2007-2019

I’ve said all along that they would be dragged into them kicking and screaming. After all, the Federal Reserve undertook its last rate hike in December 2018 – just as the markets were making clear he was completely mistaken in his view of the economy. What followed was the ridiculous “Fed pause” which pretty much everyone outside of the central bank and the Economics profession knew wasn’t the end of it.

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Head Faking In The Empty Zoo: Powell Expands The Balance Sheet (Again)

Federal Reserve Balance Sheet, 2001-2019

They remain just as confused as Richard Fisher once was. Back in ’13 while QE3 was still relatively young and QE4 (yes, there were four) practically brand new, the former President of the Dallas Fed worried all those bank reserves had amounted to nothing more than a monetary head fake. In 2011, Ben Bernanke had admitted basically the same thing.

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The Consequences Of ‘Transitory’

Euro Interbank, 2019

Europe’s QE, as noted this weekend, is off to a very rough start. In the bond market and in inflation expectations, the much-ballyhooed relaunch of “accommodation” is conspicuously absent. There was a minor back up in yields between when the ECB signaled its intentions back in August and the few weeks immediately following the actual announcement.

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Big Trouble In QE Paradise

Germany 10-year Bund Yield, 2014-2016

Maybe it was a sign of things to come, a warning how it wasn’t going to go as planned. Then again, when it comes to something like quantitative easing there really is no plan. Other than to make it sound like there is one, that’s really the whole idea. Not what it really is and what it actually does, to make it appear like there’s substance to it.

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Why The Japanese Are Suddenly Messing With YCC

Japan JGB Curve Spreads, 1985-2019

While the world’s attention was fixated on US$ repo for once, the Bank of Japan held a policy meeting and turned in an even more “dovish” performance. Likely the global central bank plan had been to combine the Fed’s second rate cut with what amounted to a simultaneous Japanese pledge for more “stimulus” in October. Both of those followed closely an ECB which got itself back in the QE business once more.

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ISM Spoils The Bond Rout!!! Again

Eurodollar Futures June 2020

For the second time this week, the ISM managed to burst the bond bear bubble about there being a bond bubble. Who in their right mind would buy especially UST’s at such low yields when the fiscal situation is already a nightmare and becoming more so? Some will even reference falling bid-to-cover ratios which supposedly suggests an increasing dearth of buyers.

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The Big Picture Doesn’t Include ‘Trade Wars’

WTO International Trade Forecasts, 2008-2020

The WTO today downgraded its estimates for global trade growth. In April, the international organization had figured the total volume of world merchandise trade would expand by about 2.6% in all of 2019 once the year closed out on the anticipated second half rebound. Everyone took their lumps in H1 and the WTO like central bankers everywhere were thinking “transitory” factors.

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ISM Spoils The Bond Rout!!!

Federal Reserve Empire States Manu. Index, 2004-2019

With China closed for its National Day Golden Week holiday, the stage was set for Japan to steal the market spotlight. If only briefly. The Bank of Japan announced last night that it had had enough of the JGB curve. The 2s10s very nearly inverted last month and BoJ officials released preliminary plans to steepen it back out.

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Waiting on the Calvary

WTO Global Trade, 2007-2019

Engaged in one of those protectionist trade spats people have been talking about, the flow of goods between South Korea and Japan has been choked off. The specific national reasons for the dispute are immaterial. As trade falls off everywhere, countries are increasingly looking to protect their own. Nothing new, this is a feature of when prolonged stagnation turns to outright contraction.

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Money Markets: Sizing Up the Cavalry

Money Markets Equivalents, 2017-2019

There’s been an unusual level of honesty coming out of Liberty Street of late. Not total honesty but certainly more than the usual nothing denials and dismissals. If you don’t immediately recognize the reference, that’s the street in NYC where FRBNY and its Open Market Desk resides. What is supposed to be the moneyed centered of the universe. After all, as Ben Bernanke famously threatened in November 2002, that’s the printing press.

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No Longer Hanging In, Europe May Have (Been) Broken Down

Central Bank Failure, 1999-2017

Mario Draghi can thank Jay Powell at his retirement party. The latter being so inept as to allow federal funds, of all things, to take hold of global financial attention, everyone quickly shifted and forgot what a mess the ECB’s QE restart had been. But it’s not really one or the other, is it? Once it actually finishes, the takeaway from all of September should be the world’s two most important central banks each botching their “accommodations.”

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More Than A Decade Too Late: FRBNY Now Wants To Know, Where Were The Dealers?

US Money Markets: Equivalent Rates, 2008-2009

I’ve said it all along; focusing in on bank reserves would leave you dazed and confused. It’s just not how the system works. After all, as I pointed out again not long ago, “our” glorious central bank had the audacity to claim that there were “abundant” reserves during the worst financial panic in four generations. “Somehow” despite that, it was a Global Financial Crisis that lived up to its name – global.

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What’s The Verdict On This Week?

Money Markets Equivalents, 2009-2019

Jay Powell’s disastrous week is coming to a close, not yet his long nightmare. He has been battling fed funds (meaning repo) for his entire tenure dating back to February 2018. This week wasn’t the conclusion to the contest, just the latest and biggest round of it.

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Focus Is On The Pre-recession Condition

Industrial Production, SA 2016-2019

Before the Great “Recession” ended the business cycle as we once knew it, there was a widely accepted concept known as stall speed. In the US, if GDP growth decelerated down to around 2% it suggested the system had reached a danger zone of sorts. In a such a weakened state, one good push, or shock, could send the economy plunging into recession.

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Where The Global Squeeze Is Unmasked

US Exports of Goods, NSA 1989-2019

Trade between Asia and Europe has dimmed considerably. We know that from the fact Germany and China are the two countries out of the majors struggling the most right now. As a consequence of the slowing, shipping companies have had to make adjustments to their fleet schedules over and above normal seasonal variances.

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Stuck at A: Repo Chaos Isn’t Something New, It’s The Same Baseline

Money Markets Equivalent, 2017-2019

Finally, finally the global bond market stopped going in a straight line. I write often how nothing ever does, but for almost three-quarters of a year the guts of the financial system seemed highly motivated to prove me wrong. Yields plummeted and eurodollar futures prices soared. It is only over the past few weeks that rates have backed up in what has been the first real selloff since last year.

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Your Unofficial Europe QE Preview

Eurodollar Futures Curve History, 2007-2019

The thing about R* is mostly that it doesn’t really make much sense when you stop and think about it; which you aren’t meant to do. It is a reaction to unanticipated reality, a world that has turned out very differently than it “should” have. Central bankers are our best and brightest, allegedly, they certainly feel that way about themselves, yet the evidence is clearly lacking.

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The Obligatory Europe QE Review

Germany 10-year Bund Yield, 2008-2019

If Mario Draghi wanted to wow them, this wasn’t it. Maybe he couldn’t, handcuffed already by what seems to have been significant dissent in the ranks. And not just the Germans this time. Widespread dissatisfaction with what is now an idea whose time may have finally arrived.

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Dollar (In) Demand

All China's Dollars, 2016-2019

The last time was bad, no getting around it. From the end of 2014 until the first months of 2016, the Chinese economy was in a perilous state. Dramatic weakness had emerged which had seemed impossible to reconcile with conventions about the country. Committed to growth over everything, and I mean everything, China was the one country the world thought it could count on for being immune to the widespread economic sickness.

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A Bigger Boat

Europe Industrial Production, 2013-2019

For every action there is a reaction. Not only is that Sir Isaac Newton’s third law, it’s also a statement about human nature. Unlike physics where causes and effects are near simultaneous, there is a time component to how we interact. In official capacities, even more so.

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Is The Negativity Overdone?

China Exports, 2006-2019

Give stimulus a chance, that’s the theme being set up for this week. After relentless buying across global bond markets distorting curves, upsetting politicians and the public alike, central bankers have responded en masse. There were more rate cuts around the world in August than there had been at any point since 2009.

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Just Who Was The Intended Audience For The Rate Cut?

Federal Reserve Beige Book, December 2010 - September 2019

Federal Reserve policymakers appear to have grown more confident in their more optimistic assessment of the domestic situation. Since cutting the benchmark federal funds range by 25 bps on July 31, in speeches and in other ways Chairman Jay Powell and his group have taken on a more “hawkish” tilt. This isn’t all the way back to last year’s rate hikes, still a pronounced difference from a few months ago.

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United States: The ISM Conundrum

U.S. ISM Manufacturing PMI, Markit Manufacturing PMI and GDP, July 2012 - August 2019

Bond yields have tumbled this morning, bringing the 10-year US Treasury rate within sight of its record low level. The catalyst appears to have been the ISM’s Manufacturing PMI. Falling below 50, this widely followed economic indicator continues its rapid unwinding.

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Copper Confirmed

Copper NBS, August 2016 - 2019

Copper prices behave more deliberately than perhaps prices in other commodity markets. Like gold, it is still set by a mix of economic (meaning physical) and financial (meaning collateral and financing). Unlike gold, there doesn’t seem to be any rush to get to wherever the commodity market is going. Over the last several years, it has been more long periods of sideways.

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Big Difference Which Kind of Hedge It Truly Is

PCE Deflator, January 20 15 - July 2019

It isn’t inflation which is driving gold higher, at least not the current levels of inflation. According to the latest update from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation calculation, the PCE Deflator, continues to significantly undershoot. Monetary policy explicitly calls for that rate to be consistent around 2%, an outcome policymakers keep saying they expect but one that never happens.

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GDP Profits Hold The Answers To All Questions

GDP Corporate Profits from Current Production, Jan 2010 - 2019

Revisions to second quarter GDP were exceedingly small. The BEA reduced the estimate by a little less than $800 million out of nearly $20 trillion (seasonally-adjusted annual rate). The growth rate therefore declined from 2.03502% (continuously compounded annual rate) to 2.01824%.

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Japan: Fall Like Germany, Or Give Hope To The Rest of the World?

Japan JGB, Jan 2014 - Jul 2019

After trading overnight in Asia, Japan’s government bond market is within a hair’s breadth of setting new record lows. The 10-year JGB is within a basis point and a fraction of one while the 5-year JGB has only 2 bps to reach. It otherwise seems at odds with the mainstream narrative at least where Japan’s economy is concerned.

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Definitely A Downturn, But What’s Its Rate of Change?

US Durable Goods Chicago Fed NAI, Jan 2006 - 2019

The Chicago Fed’s National Activity Index (NAI) fell to -0.36 in July. That’s down from a +0.10 in June. By itself, the change from positive to negative tells us very little, as does the absolute level below zero. What’s interesting to note about this one measure is the average but more so its rate of change.

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That Can’t Be Good: China Unveils Another ‘Market Reform’

China Internal/External, 2014-2019

The Chinese have been reforming their monetary and credit system for decades. Liberalization has been an overriding goal, seen as necessary to accompany the processes which would keep the country’s economic “miracle” on track. Or get it back on track, as the case may be. Authorities had traditionally controlled interest rates through various limits and levers.

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Some Brief European Leftovers

Europe Industrial Production, 2013-2019

Some further odds and ends of European data. Beginning with Continent-wide Industrial Production. Germany is leading the system lower, but it’s not all just Germany. And though manufacturing and trade are thought of as secondary issues in today’s services economies, the GDP estimates appear to confirm trade in goods as still an important condition and setting for all the rest.

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Retail Sales’ Amazon Pick Up

Retail Sales, NSA 2011-2019

The rules of interpretation that apply to the payroll reports also apply to other data series like retail sales. The monthly changes tend to be noisy. Even during the best of times there might be a month way off trend. On the other end, during the worst of times there will be the stray good month. What matters is the balance continuing in each direction – more of the good vs. more of the bad.

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US Industrial Downturn: What If Oil and Inventory Join It?

Industrial Production, NSA 2006-2019

Revised estimates from the Federal Reserve are beginning to suggest another area for concern in the US economy. There hadn’t really been all that much supply side capex activity taking place to begin with. Despite the idea of an economic boom in 2017, businesses across the whole economy just hadn’t been building like there was one nor in anticipation of one.

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The Path Clear For More Rate Cuts, If You Like That Sort of Thing

U.S. Gasoline Stocks, 2012-2019

If you like rate cuts and think they are powerful tools to help manage a soft patch, then there was good news in two international oil reports over the last week. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) cut its forecast for global demand growth for the seventh straight month. On Friday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) downgraded its estimates for the third time in four months.

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Why You Should Care Germany More and More Looks Like 2009

Germany ZEW Financial Market Survey, 2006-2019

What if Germany’s economy falls into recession? Unlike, say, Argentina, you can’t so easily dismiss German struggles as an exclusive product of German factors. One of the most orderly and efficient systems in Europe and all the world, when Germany begins to struggle it raises immediate questions about everywhere else.

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The Myth of CNY DOWN = STIMULUS Won’t Die

China Exports, 2006-2019

On the one hand, it’s a small silver lining in how many even in the mainstream are beginning to realize that there really is something wrong. Then again, they are using “trade wars” to make sense of how that could be. For the one, at least they’ve stopped saying China’s economy is strong and always looks resilient no matter what data comes out.

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China’s Big Gamble(s): Betting on QE Again?

China GDP, 2001-2019

As an economic system, even the most committed socialists had come to realize it was a failure. What ultimately brought down the Soviet Union wasn’t missiles, tanks, and advanced air craft, it was a simple thing like bread. You can argue that Western military spending forced the Communist East to keep up, and therefore to expend way too much on guns at the expense of butter.

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Real Estate Perfectly Sums Up The Rate Cuts

NAR Existing Home Sales, Jan 2011 - May 2019

It’s only a confusing when you just accept the booming economy of the unemployment rate. From this perspective, 2018 was, and more so 2019 is, a downright conundrum. By all mainstream accounts, this just shouldn’t be happening.

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US Economic Crosscurrents Reach the 50 Mark

U.S. PMI Chicago Fed NAI, Jan 2006 - July 2019

In the official narrative, the economy is robust and resilient. The fundamentals, particularly the labor market, are solid. It’s just that there has arisen an undercurrent or crosscurrent of some other stuff. Central bankers initially pointed the finger at trade wars and the negative “sentiment” it creates across the world but they’ve changed their view somewhat.

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Germany Struggles On

Germany ZEW Financial Market Survey, Jan 2006 - 2019

The popular image of the German industrial machine politics is one which has Germany’s massive factories efficiently churning out goods for trade with the South of Europe (Club Med). Because of the common currency, numerous disparities starting with productivity differences had left the South highly indebted to the North just as the Global Financial Crisis would strike.

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What Does It Mean That Real Estate, Not Equities, Is Driving Monetary Policy?

New Home Sales Population Adjusted, 1987-2019

In the world of assets classes, I don’t believe it is equities which hold the Federal Reserve’s attention. After the 2006-11 debacle, the big bust, you can at least understand why policymakers might be more attuned to real estate no matter how the NYSE trades. It may be a decade ago, but that’s the one thing out of the Global Financial Crisis which was seared into the consciousness of everyone who lived through it.

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Globally Synchronized, After All

Retail Sales (ex Autos), NSA 1993-2019

For there to be a second half rebound, there has to be some established baseline growth. Whatever might have happened, if it was due to “transitory” factors temporarily interrupting the economic track then once those dissipate the economy easily gets back on track because the track itself was never bothered.

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As Chinese Factory Deflation Sets In, A ‘Dovish’ Powell Leans on ‘Uncertainty’

China Price Stability, 2007-2019

It’s a clever bit of misdirection. In one of the last interviews he gave before passing away, Milton Friedman talked about the true strength of central banks. It wasn’t money and monetary policy, instead he admitted that what they’re really good at is PR. Maybe that’s why you really can’t tell the difference Greenspan to Bernanke to Yellen to Powell no matter what happens.

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How To Properly Address The Unusual Window Dressing

Money Markets Equivalents, 2014-2019

Unable to tackle effective monetary requirements, bank regulators around the world turned to “macroprudential” approaches in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis. It was mostly public relations, a way to assure the public that 2008 would never be repeated. A whole set of new rules was instituted which everyone was told would reign in the worst abuses.

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Japan’s Bellwether On Nasty #4

Japan Industrial Production, NSA 2009-2019

One reason why Japanese bond yields are approaching records like their German counterparts is the global economy indicated in Japan’s economic accounts. As in Germany, Japan is an outward facing system. It relies on the concept of global growth for marginal changes. Therefore, if the global economy is coming up short, we’d see it in Japan first and maybe best.

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When Verizons Multiply, Macro In Inflation

CPI Changes On Energy, 1995-2019

Inflation always brings out an emotional response. Far be it for me to defend Economists, but their concept is at least valid – if not always executed convincingly insofar as being measurable. An inflation index can be as meaningful as averaging the telephone numbers in a phone book (for anyone who remembers what those things were).

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Dimmed Hopes In China Cars, Too

China Total Car Sales, 2013-2019

As noted earlier this week, the world’s two big hopes for the global economy in the second half are pinned on the US labor market continuing to exert its purported strength and Chinese authorities stimulating out of every possible (monetary) opening. Incoming data, however, continues to point to the fallacies embedded within each.

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Commodities And The Future Of China’s Stall

China Exports, 2006-2019

Commodity prices continued to fall last month. According to the World Bank’s Pink Sheet catalog, non-energy commodity prices accelerated to the downside. Falling 9.4% on average in May 2019 when compared to average prices in May 2018, it was the largest decline since the depths of Euro$ #3 in February 2016.

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All Of US Trade, Both Ways, And Much, Much More Than The Past Few Months

US Imports of Goods from China, NSA 1989-2019

The media quickly picked up on Jay Powell’s comments this week from Chicago. Much less talked about was why he was in that particular city. The Federal Reserve has been conducting what it claims is an exhaustive review of its monetary policies. Officials have been very quick to say they aren’t unhappy with them, no, no, no, they’re unhappy with the pitiful state of the world in which they have to be applied.

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Janus Powell

US Treasury Real Yields, 2007-2019

Again, who’s following who? As US Treasury yields drop and eurodollar futures prices rise, signaling expectations for lower money rates in the near future, Federal Reserve officials are catching up to them. It was these markets which first took further rate hikes off the table before there ever was a Fed “pause.”

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What Kind Of Risks/Mess Are We Looking At?

Money Markets Equivalents, 2007-2008

The fact that the mainstream isn’t taking this all very seriously isn’t anything new. But how serious are things really? That’s pretty much the only question anyone should be asking. What are the curves telling us about what’s now just over the horizon?

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Europe Comes Apart, And That’s Before #4

EU Pew Survey Overall

In May 2018, the European Parliament found that it was incredibly popular. Commissioning what it calls the Eurobarameter survey, the EU’s governing body said that two-thirds of Europeans inside the bloc believed that membership had benefited their own countries. It was the highest showing since 1983. Voters in May 2019 don’t appear to have agreed with last year’s survey.

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The Transitory Story, I Repeat, The Transitory Story

Money Markets Equivalents, 2017-2019

Understand what the word “transitory” truly means in this context. It is no different than Ben Bernanke saying, essentially, subprime is contained. To the Fed Chairman in early 2007, this one little corner of the mortgage market in an otherwise booming economy was a transitory blip that booming economy would easily withstand.
Just eight days before Bernanke would testify confidently before Congress, the FOMC had met to discuss their lying eyes. The eurodollar futures market was, in the official view, so far off the rails as to be insane. As Open Market Desk chief Bill Dudley told the Committee:
MR. DUDLEY. A number of people that I’ve talked to in the markets have said that this is what they thought was going on, and they advised me not to take what was going on in the Eurodollar futures

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Japan’s Surprise Positive Is A Huge Minus

Japan Real GDP, 2008-2019

Preliminary estimates show that Japanese GDP surprised to the upside by a significant amount. According to Japan’s Cabinet Office, Real GDP expanded by 0.5% (seasonally-adjusted) in the first quarter of 2019 from the last quarter of 2018. That’s an annual rate of +2.1%. Most analysts had been expecting around a 0.2% contraction, which would’ve been the third quarterly minus out of the last five.

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Global Doves Expire: Fed Pause Fizzles (US Retail Sales)

Retail Sales, NSA 2010-2019

Before the stock market’s slide beginning in early October, for most people they heard the economy was booming, the labor market was unbelievably good, an inflationary breakout just over the horizon. Jay Powell did as much as anyone to foster this belief, chief caretaker to the narrative. He and his fellow central bankers couldn’t use the word “strong” enough.

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Effective Recession First In Japan?

Japan Real GDP, 2008-2019

For a lot of people, a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative GDP. This is called the technical definition in the mainstream and financial media. While this specific pattern can indicate a change in the business cycle, it’s really only one narrow case. Recessions are not just tied to GDP. In the US, the Economists who make the determination (the NBER) will tell you recessions aren’t always so straightforward.

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Trade Wars Have Arrived, But It’s Trade Winter That Hurts

U.S. Imports from China, Jan 1989 - 2019

There is truth to the trade war. That’s a big problem because it’s not the only problem. It isn’t even the main one. Given that, it’s easy to look at tariffs and see all our current ills in them. The Census Bureau reports today that the trade wars have definitely arrived. In March 2019, US imports from China plummeted by nearly 19% year-over-year.

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China’s Export Story Is Everyone’s Economic Base Case

China Exports, 1998-2018

The first time the global economy was all set to boom, officials were at least more cautious. Chastened by years of setbacks and false dawns, in early 2014 they were encouraged nonetheless. The US was on the precipice of a boom (the first time), it was said, and though Europe was struggling it was positive with a more aggressive ECB emerging.

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What’s Germany’s GDP Without Factories

Europe Real GDP, 2007-2013

It was a startling statement for the time. Mario Draghi had only been on the job as President of the European Central Bank for a few months by then, taking over for the hapless Jean Claude-Trichet who was unceremoniously retired at the end of October 2011 amidst “unexpected” chaos and turmoil. It was Trichet who contributed much to the tumult, having idiotically raised rates (twice) during 2011 even as warning signs of crisis and economic weakness were everywhere.

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What Tokyo Eurodollar Redistribution Really Means For ‘Green Shoots’

TIC - US Banking Data

Last April, monetary officials in Japan were publicly contemplating ending asset purchases under QQE. This April, they are more quietly wondering what other financial assets they might have to buy just to keep it all going a little longer. I’d suggest something like the clouds passing over the islands or the ocean water surrounding them. Nobody would notice either way and it would be equally as effective.

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Globally Synchronized…

WTO Global Trade, 2007-2019

The economic sickness is predictably spreading. While unexpected in most of the world which still, somehow, depends on central banking forecasts, it really has been almost inevitable. From the very start, just the utterance of the word “decoupling” was the kiss of death.

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Durably Sideways

Durable Goods New Orders, SA 2013-2019

Next month, in the durable goods series, the Census Bureau will release the results of its annual benchmark changes. In May 2019, the agency will revise the seasonal adjustments going back to January 2002. Unadjusted data will not be, well, further adjusted.

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COT Blue: Distinct Lack of Green But A Lot That’s Gold

US Shortage, Gold, 2017-2019

Gold, in my worldview, can be a “heads I win, tails you lose” proposition. If it goes up, that’s fear. Nothing good. If it goes down, that’s collateral. In many ways, worse. Either way, it is only bad, right? Not always. There are times when rising gold signals inflation, more properly reflation perceptions. Determining which is which is the real challenge.

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China’s Blowout IP, Frugal Stimulus, and Sinking Capex

China Industrial Production 1999-2019

It had been 55 months, nearly five years since China’s vast and troubled industrial sector had seen growth better than 8%. Not since the first sparks of the rising dollar, Euro$ #3’s worst, had Industrial Production been better than that mark. What used to be a floor had seemingly become an unbreakable ceiling over this past half a decade. According to Chinese estimates, IP in March 2019 was 8.5% more than it was in March 2018. That was far more than was expected, and much improved from February’s record low.

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Green Shoot or Domestic Stall?

U.S. Industrial Production, SA 2007-2019

According to revised figures, things were really looking up for US industry. For the month of April 2018, the Federal Reserve’s Diffusion Index (3-month) for Industrial Production hit 68.2. Like a lot of other sentiment indicators, this was the highest in so long it had to be something. For this particular index, it hadn’t seen better than 68 since way back in March 2010, back when the economy looked briefly like it might actually recover.

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Coloring One Green Shoot

China Retail Sales, 2010-2018

China’s Passenger Car Association reported last week that retail sales of various vehicles totaled 1.78 million units in March 2019. The total was 12% less than the number of automobiles sold in March 2018. This matches the government’s data, both sets very clear as to when Chinese economic struggles accelerated: May 2018.

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Why 2011

TIC - US Banking Data 1979-2019

The eurodollar era saw not one but two credit bubbles. The first has been studied to death, though almost always getting it wrong. The Great Financial Crisis has been laid at the doorstep of subprime, a bunch of greedy Wall Street bankers insufficiently regulated to have not known any better. That was just a symptom of the first. The housing bubble itself was more than housing.

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External Demand, Global Means Global

Germany Factory Orders, SA 2014-2019

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cut its benchmark money rate for the second straight meeting. Reducing its repo rate by 25 bps, down to 6%, the central bank once gripped by political turmoil has certainly shifted gears. Former Governor Urjit Patel was essentially removed (he resigned) in December after feuding with the federal government over his perceived hawkish stance.

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Retail Sales In Bad Company, Decouple from Decoupling

Retail Sales, NSA 2011-2018

In a way, the government shutdown couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment. As workers all throughout the sprawling bureaucracy were furloughed, markets had run into chaos. Even the seemingly invincible stock market was pummeled, a technical bear market emerged on Wall Street as people began to really consider increasingly loud economic risks.

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Phugoid Dollar Funding

Money Markets Equivalents 2014-2019

On August 12, 1985, Japan Airways flight 123 left Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on its way to a scheduled arrival in Osaka. Twelve minutes into the flight, the aircraft, a Boeing 747, suffered catastrophic failure when an aft pressure bulkhead burst.

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February 2019 PBOC/RMB Update

China Internal/External 2017-2019

This will serve mostly as an update to what is going on inside the Chinese monetary system. The PBOC’s balance sheet numbers for February 2019 are exactly what we’ve come to expect, ironically confirmed today on the domestic end by the FOMC’s dreaded dovishness. Therefore, rather than rewrite the same commentary for why this continues to happen I’ll just link to prior discussions.

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Slump, Downturn, Recession; All Add Up To Sideways

Germany ZEW Financial Market Survey 2007-2019

According to Germany’s Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung, or ZEW, the slump in the country’s economy has now reached its fourteenth month. The institute’s sentiment index has improved in the last two, but only slightly. As of the latest calculation released today, it stands at -3.6.

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The Real End of the Bond Market

US Treasury Yield Curve

These things are actually quite related, though I understand how it might not appear to be that way at first. As noted earlier today, the Fed (yet again) proves it has no idea how global money markets work. They can’t even get federal funds right after two technical adjustments to IOER (the joke).

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The World Economy’s Industrial Downswing

Europe Industrial Production, 2013-2019

As economic data for 2019 comes in, the numbers continue to suggest more slowing especially in the goods economy. Perhaps what happened during that October-December window was a soft patch. Even if that was the case, we should still expect second and third order effects to follow along from it.

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Chart(s) of the Week: Reviewing Curve Warnings

Eurodollar Futures Curve 2018

Quick review: stocks hit a bit of a rough patch right during the height of inflation hysteria. At the end of January 2018, just as the US unemployment rate had finally achieved the very center of attention, global markets were rocked by instability. Unexpectedly, of course.

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No Sign of Stimulus, Or Global Growth, China’s Economy Sunk By (euro)Dollar

China Industrial Production 1999-2019

Najib Tun Razak was elected as Malaysia’s Prime Minister in early 2009. Taking office that April amid global turmoil and chaos, Najib’s first official visit was to Beijing in early June. His father, also Malaysia’s Prime Minister, had been the first among Asian nations to open formal diplomatic relations with China thirty-five years before.

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Downturn Rising, No ‘Glitch’ In Retail Sales

U.S. Retail Sales, Jun 2011 - Dec 2018

You just don’t see $4 billion monthly retail sales revisions, in either direction. Advance estimates are changed all the time, each monthly figure will be recalculated twice after its initial release. Typically, though, the subsequent revisions are minor rarely amounting to a billion. Four times that?

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Downturn Rising, German Industry

US Treasury Yield Curve, Aug 2007 - Jan 2019

You know things have really changed when Economists start revising their statements more than the data. What’s going on in the global economy has quickly reached a critical stage. This represents a big shift in expectations, a really big one, especially in the mainstream where the words “strong” and “boom” couldn’t have been used any more than they were.

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Not Buying The New Stimulus

ECB GDP Projections, March 2016 - 2019

What just happened in Europe? The short answer is T-LTRO. The ECB is getting back to being “accommodative” again. This isn’t what was supposed to be happening at this point in time. Quite the contrary, Europe’s central bank had been expecting to end all its programs and begin normalizing interest rates.

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Labor Shortage America has been Canceled

U.S. Retail Sales, Jan 2007 - 2019

The holiday season was shaping up to be a good one, perhaps a very good one. All the signs seemed to be pointing in that direction, especially if you were a worker. All throughout last year, beginning partway through 2017, there wasn’t a day that went by without some mainstream story “reporting” on America’s labor shortage.

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China Has No Choice

Chinese Money & Inflation 1997-2011

China’s central bank was given more independence to conduct monetary policies in late 2003. It had been operating under Order No. 46 of the President of the People’s Republic of China issued in March 1995, which led the 3rd Session of the Eighth National People’s Congress (China’s de facto legislature) to create and adopt the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the People’s Bank of China.

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Meanwhile, Over In Asia

Japan Industrial Production, SA 2008-2019

While Western markets breathed a sigh of relief that US GDP didn’t confirm the global slowdown, not yet, what was taking place over in Asia went in the other direction. There has been a sense, a wish perhaps, that if the global economy truly did hit a rough spot it would be limited to just the last three months of 2018. Hopefully Mario Draghi is on to something.

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No Surprise, Hysteria Wasn’t a Sound Basis For Interpretation

Labor Utilization Total Hours Worked 2008-2018

What gets them into trouble is how they just can’t help themselves. Go back one year, to early 2018. Last February it was all-but-assured (in mainstream coverage) that the US economy was going to take off. The bond market, meaning UST’s, was about to be massacred because the overheating boom would force a double shot down its throat.

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The Fate of Real Estate

NAR Inventory of Homes For Sale, NSA 2014-2019

For years, realtors have been waiting for more housing inventory. It had become an article of faith, what was restraining a full-blown recovery was the lack of units available. The level of resales like construction was up, but still way, way less than it was now fourteen years past the prior peak despite sufficient population growth to have absorbed the previous bubble’s overbuilding.

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Sinking Shippers Signal Global Goods Troubles

US Treasury Yields 2007-2019

It infects every boardroom across the world. Big business requires decent forecasting, yet time and again it seems they are deprived of what they desperately need. Instead, even after this last decade, the world’s largest companies continue to be surprised by weakness that is far more prevalent than strength.

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FOMC Minutes: The New Narrative Takes Shape

Money Markets Equivalents 2009-2018

Nothing the Fed did today, or has done up to today, has changed the curves. Eurodollar futures and UST’s, they are both still inverted. The former sharply inverted. The only thing that has changed since early January is the narrative – and not in a charitable way. It is treated as a positive when it is a pretty visible signal about deteriorating circumstances.

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Something Different About This One

China Retail Sales, Automobiles 2001-2018

In Japan, they call it “powerful monetary easing.” In practice, it is anything but. QQE with all its added letters is so authoritative that it is knocked sideways by the smallest of economic and financial breezes. If it truly worked the way it was supposed to, the Bank of Japan or any central bank would only need it for the shortest of timeframes.

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Getting Back Up To Speed On Loss Of Speed in US Economy

U.S Industrial Production Real Personal Income Vehicle Sales, Jan 2010

For much of 2018, the idea of “overseas turmoil” lived up to its name. At least in economic terms. Market-wise, there was a lot domestically to draw anyone’s honest attention. Warnings were everywhere by the end of the year. And that was what has been at issue. Some said Europe and China are on their own, the US is cocooned in a tax cut-fueled boom. Decoupling, only now the other way around.

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China’s Big Money Gamble

World Bank Pink Sheet Commodity Indices 1995-2019

While oil prices rebounded in January 2019 around the world, outside of crude commodities continued to struggle. According to the World Bank’s Pink Sheet, base metal prices fell another 1.8% on average from December. On an annual basis, these commodities as a group are about 16% below where they were in January 2018.

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Retail Sales Landmine

Retail Sales, NSA 2011-2018

Ignore Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Those are merely an appetizer, an intentional preamble to whet the appetite of hungry consumers looking to splurge. The real action comes in December. People look, some buy, after Thanksgiving, but as anyone counts down the actual twelve days of Christmas and celebrates the eight crazy nights of Hanukkah that’s when the retail industry makes its bank.

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Inflation Falls Again, Dot-com-like

CPI Changes On Energy 2016-2019

US inflation in January 2019 was, according to the CPI, the lowest in years. At just 1.55% year-over-year, the index hadn’t suggested this level since September 2016 right at the outset of what would become Reflation #3. Having hyped expectations over that interim, US policymakers now have to face the repercussions of unwinding the hysteria.

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More Of What Was Behind December, And Not Just December

Rational Expectations

As more and more data rolls in even in this delayed fashion, the more what happened to end last year makes sense. The Census Bureau updated today its statistics for US trade in November 2018. Heading into the crucial month of December, these new figures suggest a big setback in the global economy that is almost certainly the reason markets became so chaotic.

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Lost In Translation

Japan - JGB's 2016-2019

Since I don’t speak Japanese, I’m left to wonder if there is an intent to embellish the translation. Whoever is responsible for writing in English what is written by the Bank of Japan in Japanese, they are at times surely seeking out attention. However its monetary policy may be described in the original language, for us it has become so very clownish.

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LIBOR Was Expected To Drop. It Dropped. What Might This Mean?

Money Markets Equivalents 2007

Everyone hates LIBOR, until it does something interesting. It used to be the most boring interest rate in the world. When it was that, it was also the most important. Though it followed along federal funds this was only because of the arb between onshore (NYC) and offshore (mainly London, sometimes Caymans) conducted by banks between themselves and their subs (whichever was located where).

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US Manufacturing Questions

Durable Goods New Orders, NSA 1993-2018

The US economic data begins to trickle in slowly. Today, the reopened Census Bureau reports on orders and shipments to and from US factories dating back to last November. New orders for durable goods rose just 4.5% year-over-year in that month, while shipments gained 4.7%. The 6-month average for new orders was in November pulled down to just 6.6%, the lowest since September 2017 (hurricanes).

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Fear Or Reflation Gold?

Dollar Correlations 2016-2019

Gold is on fire, but why is it on fire? When the precious metals’ price falls, Stage 2, we have a pretty good idea what that means (collateral). But when it goes the other way, reflation or fear of deflation? Stage 1 or Stage 3? If it is Stage 1 reflation based on something like the Fed’s turnaround, then we would expect to find US$ markets trading in exactly the same way.

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Bond Curves Right All Along, But It Won’t Matter (Yet)

Real GDP in the Eurodollar Era 1993-2017

Men have long dreamed of optimal outcomes. There has to be a better way, a person will say every generation. Freedom is far too messy and unpredictable. Everybody hates the fat tails, unless and until they realize it is outlier outcomes that actually mark progress. The idea was born in the eighties that Economics had become sufficiently advanced that the business cycle was no longer a valid assumption.

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It’s Not That There Might Be One, It’s That There Might Be Another One

Lending Europe 1998-2018

It was a tense exchange. When even politicians can sense that there’s trouble brewing, there really is trouble brewing. Typically the last to figure these things out, if parliamentarians are up in arms it already isn’t good, to put it mildly. Well, not quite the last to know, there are always central bankers faithfully pulling up the rear of recognizing disappointing reality.

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Hall of Mirrors, Where’d The Labor Shortage Go?

Federal Reserve Beige Book 2010-2019

Today was supposed to see the release of the Census Bureau’s retail trade report, a key data set pertaining to the (alarming) state of American consumers, therefore workers by extension (income). With the federal government in partial shutdown, those numbers will be delayed until further notice. In their place we will have to manage with something like the Federal Reserves’ Beige Book.

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That’s A Big Minus

Europe Industrial Production 2013-2018

Goods require money to finance both their production as well as their movements. They need oil and energy for the same reasons. If oil and money markets were drastically awful for a few months before December, and then purely chaotic during December, Mario Draghi of all people should’ve been paying attention.

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Spreading Sour Not Soar

Sweden / Japan

We are starting to get a better sense of what happened to turn everything so drastically in December. Not that we hadn’t suspected while it was all taking place, but more and more in January the economic data for the last couple months of 2018 backs up the market action. These were no speculators looking to break Jay Powell, probing for weakness in Mario Draghi’s resolve.

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Insight Japan

Japan CPI Food, Jan 2013 - 2019

As I wrote yesterday, “In the West, consumer prices overall are pushed around by oil. In the East, by food.” In neither case is inflation buoyed by “money printing.” Central banks both West and East are doing things, of course, but none of them amount to increasing the effective supply of money. Failure of inflation, more so economy, the predictable cost.

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Rate of Change

Labor Curves

We’ve got to change our ornithological nomenclature. Hawks become doves because they are chickens underneath. Doves became hawks for reasons they don’t really understand. A fingers-crossed policy isn’t a robust one, so there really was no reason to expect the economy to be that way.

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…And Get Bigger

Germany Industrial Production, Jan 2007 - 2019

Just as there is gradation for positive numbers, there is color to negative ones, too. On the plus side, consistently small increments marked by the infrequent jump is never to be associated with a healthy economy let alone one that is booming. A truly booming economy is one in which the small positive numbers are rare. The recovery phase preceding the boom takes that to an extreme.

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You Know It’s Coming

Benchmark 10-year UST 2013-2016

After a horrible December and a rough start to the year, as if manna from Heaven the clouds parted and everything seemed good again. Not 2019 this was early February 2015. If there was a birth date for Janet Yellen’s “transitory” canard it surely came within this window. It didn’t matter that currencies had crashed and oil, too, or that central banks had been drawn into the fray in very unexpected ways.

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If You’ve Lost The ISM…

US ISM Manufacturing PMI and Markit Composite PMI, Jan 2013 - 2019

These transition periods are often just this sort of whirlwind. One day the economy looks awful, the next impervious to any downside. Today, it has been the latter with the BLS providing the warm comfort of headline payrolls. For now, it won’t matter how hollow.

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More Unmixed Signals

China PMI 2010-2018

China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that the country’s official manufacturing PMI in December 2018 dropped below 50 for the first time since the summer of 2016. Many if not most associate a number in the 40’s with contraction. While that may or not be the case, what’s more important is the quite well-established direction.

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Mispriced Delusion

Money Markets Equivalents 2009-2018

Recency bias is one thing. Back in late 2006/early 2007 when the eurodollar futures curve inverted, for example, it was a textbook case of mass delusion. All the schoolbooks and Economics classes had said that it couldn’t happen; not that it wasn’t likely, it wasn’t even a possibility. A full-scale financial meltdown was at the time literally inconceivable in orthodox thinking.

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Nothing To See Here, It’s Just Everything

NYMEX WTI Futures 2016-2018

The politics of oil are complicated, to say the least. There’s any number of important players, from OPEC to North American shale to sanctions. Relating to that last one, the US government has sought to impose serious restrictions upon the Iranian regime. Choking off a major piece of that country’s revenue, and source for dollars, has been a stated US goal.

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Insane Repo Reminds Us

Money Markets Equivalents 2009-2018

It was only near the quarter end, that’s what made it so unnerving. We may have become used to these calendar bottlenecks over the years, but they still remind us what they are. Late October 2012 was a little different, though. On October 29, the GC repo rate for UST collateral (DTCC) surged to 52.6 bps. The money market floor, so to speak, was zero at the time and IOER (the joke) 25 bps. We also have to keep in mind the circumstances of that particular period.

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Chart of the Week: The Dreaded Full Frown

Eurodollar Futures Curve 2019-2024

I’m going to break my personal convention and use the bulk of the colors in the eurodollar futures spectrum, not just the single EDM’s (June) contained within each. The current front month is January 2019, and its quoted price as I write this is 97.2475. The EDH (March) 2019 contract trades at 97.29 currently and it will drop off the board on March 18.

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Wasting the Middle: Obsessing Over Exits

NYMEX WTI Futures 2016-2018

What was the difference between Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers? Well, for one thing Lehman’s failure wasn’t a singular event. In the heady days of September 2008, authorities working for any number of initialism agencies were busy trying to put out fires seemingly everywhere. Lehman had to compete with an AIG as well as a Wachovia, already preceded by a Fannie and a Freddie.

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Just In Time For The Circus

Eurozone Markit Composite PMI and GDP, Jul 2012 - Nov 2018

Just in time to follow closely upon yesterday’s European circus, IHS Markit piles on with more of the same forward-looking indications looking forward the wrong way. Mario Draghi says the ECB is ending QE, good for him. The central bank will do this despite balanced risks rebalancing in a different place. The more bad news and numbers stack up the more “they” say it’s nothing just transitory roughness.

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Xi Jinping’s Pretty Consistent Message

China Industry Drives its Consumers, May 2011 - Nov 2018

It seems many were disappointed by the speech delivered by Xi Jinping. China’s supreme leader spoke at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing today on the 40th anniversary of his country’s first embrace of economic reform. Commentators had been expecting Xi to use the occasion to recommit to liberalization, further opening China to free market forces.

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Powell: Still Strong; Markets: AYFKM

Global Systematically Important Banks 2017-2018

The official statement that accompanies each every FOMC policy action is by nature bland and sterile. Still, despite the sparseness of printed words those that are included can say a lot. Here’s its essence for what just wrapped up in December 2018: The Committee judges that some further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate will be consistent with sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective over the medium term.

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Industrial Fading

Federal Reserve Empire State Manu. Index 2001-2018

It is time to start paying attention to PMI’s again, some of them. There are those like the ISM’s Manufacturing Index which remains off in a world of its own. The version of the goods economy suggested by this one index is very different than almost every other. It skyrocketed in late summer last year way out of line (highest in more than a decade) with any other economic account.

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The Relevant Word Is ‘Decline’

China Industrial Production, Nov 1998 - 2018

The English language headline for China’s National Bureau of Statistics’ press release on November 2018’s Big 3 was, National Economy Maintained Stable and Sound Momentum of Development in November. For those who, as noted yesterday, are wishing China’s economy bad news so as to lead to the supposed good news of a coordinated “stimulus” response this was itself a bad news/good news situation.

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Sometimes Bad News Is Just Right

China Imports 2008-2018

There is some hope among those viewing bad news as good news. In China, where alarms are currently sounding the loudest, next week begins the plenary session for the State Council and its working groups. For several days, Communist authorities will weigh all the relevant factors, as they see them, and will then come up with the broad strokes for economic policy in the coming year (2019).

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US Banks Haven’t Behaved Like This Since 2009

Total Credit Market Assets 1953 Q1 - 2018 Q1

If there is one thing Ben Bernanke got right, it was this. In 2009 during the worst of the worst monetary crisis in four generations, the Federal Reserve’s Chairman was asked in front of Congress if we all should be worried about zombies. Senator Bob Corker wasn’t talking about the literal undead, rather a scenario much like Japan where the financial system entered a period of sustained agony – leading to the same in the real economy, one lost decade becoming a second and then a third.

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China Going Back To 2011

China PBOC Balance Sheet and CPI, Nov 2006 - 2018

The enormous setback hadn’t yet been fully appreciated in March 2012 when China’s Premiere Wen Jiabao spoke to and on behalf of the country’s Communist governing State Council. Despite it having been four years since Bear Stearns had grabbed the whole world’s attention (for reasons the whole world wouldn’t fully comprehend, specifically as to why the whole world would need to care about the shadow “dollar” business of one US investment “bank”) the recovery from the crisis wasn’t proceeding smoothly.

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‘Paris’ Technocrats Face Another Drop

Eurozone Industrial Production, Jan 2013 - Nov 2018

How quickly things change. Only a few days ago, a fuel tax in France was blamed for widespread rioting. Today, Emmanuel Macron’s government under siege threatens to break its fiscal budget. Having given up on gasoline and diesel, the French government now promises wage increases and tax cuts.

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Economics Is Easy When You Don’t Have To Try

Japan GDP, Quantitative and Qualitative Easing, Jan 2008 - Mar 2018

The real question is why no one says anything. They can continue to make these grossly untrue, often contradictory statements without fear of having to explain themselves. Don’t even think about repercussions. Even in front of politicians ostensibly being there on behalf of the public, pedigree still matters more than results.

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Converging Views Only Starts With Fed ‘Pause’

US Trade, SA 2014-2018

There’s no sign of inflation, markets are unsettled, and now new economic data keeps confirming that dark side. Forget each month, every day there is something else suggesting a slowdown. That much had been evident across much of the global economy, but this is now different. The US has apparently been infected, too, not that that is any surprise.

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Labor Curves

Now that the slowdown is being absorbed and even talked about openly, it will require a period of heavy CYA. This part is, or at least it has been at each of the past downturns, quite easy for its practitioners. It was all so “unexpected”, you see. Nobody could have seen it coming, therefore it just showed up out of nowhere unpredictably spoiling the heretofore unbreakable, incorruptible boom everyone was talking about just last week.

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China’s Global Slump Draws Closer

China Manufacturing PMI, Caixin and Non-Manufacturing PMI, May 2010 - Nov 2018

By the time things got really bad, China’s economy had already been slowing for a long time. The currency spun out of control in August 2015, and then by November the Chinese central bank was in desperation mode. The PBOC had begun to peg SHIBOR because despite so much monetary “stimulus” in rate cuts and a lower RRR banks were hoarding RMB liquidity.

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The Direction Is (Globally) Clear

US Composite PMI and GDP, Jul 2012 - Nov 2018

It is definitely one period that they got wrong. Still, IHS Markit’s Composite PMI for the US economy has been one of the better forward-looking indicators around. Tying to real GDP, this blend of manufacturing and services sentiment has predicted the general economic trend in the United States pretty closely. The latter half of 2015 was the big exception.

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Retail Sales Marked By Revisions

U.S. Retail Sales, NSA 2011-2018

Retail sales rebounded 0.8% in October 2018 from September 2018, but it’s the downward revisions to the prior months that are cause for attention. The estimates for particularly September were moved sharply lower. Total retail sales two months ago had been figured last month at $485.8 billion (unadjusted) originally, but are now believed to have been just $483.0 billion.

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China’s Pooh Lesson

Chinese Money 2001-2018

It’s one of those “nothing to see here” moments for Economists trying not to appreciate what’s really going on in China therefore the global economy. The slump in China’s automotive sector dragged on through October, with year-over-year sales down for the fourth straight month.

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Harmful Modern Myths And Legends

Germany Real GDP, Q3 2018

Loreley Rock near Sankt Goarshausen sits at a narrow curve on the Rhine River in Germany. The shape of the bluff produces a faint echo in the wind, supposedly the last whispers of a beautiful maiden who threw herself from it in despair once spurned by her paramour. She was transformed into a siren, legend says, a tantalizing wail which cries out and lures fishermen and tradesmen on the great river to their death.

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China Now Japan; China and Japan

Japan Industrial Production, NSA 2000-2018

Trade war stuff didn’t really hit the tape until several months into 2018. There were some noises about it back in January, but there was also a prominent liquidation in global markets in the same month. If the world’s economy hit a wall in that particular month, which is the more likely candidate for blame? We see it register in so many places. Canada, Europe, Brazil, etc.

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Another ‘Highest In Ten Years’

ECI, Jan 2001 - Oct 2018

Upon the precipice of the Great “Recession”, US workers were cushioned to some extent by what economists call sticky wages. Before the Great Depression, as well as during it, companies would attempt to deal with looming economic contraction by cutting pay rates before workers.

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No Such Thing As An 80 percent Boom

Payrolls LF Participation, Jan 1995 - 2018

Many attribute the saying “a rising tide lifts all boats” to President John Kennedy. He may have been the man who brought it into the mainstream but as his former speechwriter Ted Sorenson long ago admitted it didn’t originate from his or the President’s imagination. Instead, according to Sorenson, it was a phrase borrowed from the New England Chamber of Commerce or some such.

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Raining On Chinese Prices

China Price Stability 2007-2018

It was for a time a somewhat curious dilemma. When it rains it pours, they always say, and for China toward the end of 2015 it was a real cloudburst. The Chinese economy was slowing, dangerous deflation developing around an economy captured by an unseen anchor intent on causing havoc and destruction. At the same time, consumer prices were jumping where they could do the most harm.

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Just The One More Boom Month For IP

Industrial Production, SA 1995-2018

The calendar last month hadn’t yet run out on US Industrial Production as it had for US Retail Sales. The hurricane interruption of 2017 for industry unlike consumer spending extended into last September. Therefore, the base comparison for 2018 is against that artificial low. As such, US IP rose by 5.1% year-over-year last month. That’s the largest gain since 2010.

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Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Economy

Retail Sales, Gasoline 2011-2018

The clock really was ticking on this so-called economic boom. A product in many economic accounts of Keynesian-type fantasy, the destructive effects of last year’s hurricanes in sharp contrast to this year’s (which haven’t yet registered a direct hit on a major metropolitan area or areas, as was the case with Harvey and Irma) meant both a temporary rebound birthed by rebuilding as well as an expiration date for those efforts.

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A Few Questions From Today’s BOND ROUT!!!!

Benchmark 10-year UST 2017-2018

On April 2, the benchmark 10-year US Treasury yield traded below 2.75%. It had been as high as 2.94% in later February at the tail end of last year’s inflation hysteria. But after the shock of global liquidations in late January and early February, liquidity concerns would override again at least for a short while. After April 2, the BOND ROUT!!!! was re-energized and away went interest rates.

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China’s Industrial Dollar

China Industry Revenue, Aug 2008 - 2018

In December 2006, just weeks before the outbreak of “unforeseen” crisis, then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke discussed the breathtaking advance of China’s economy. He was in Beijing for a monetary conference, and the unofficial theme of his speech, as I read it, was “you can do better.” While economic gains were substantial, he said, they were uneven.

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Make Your Case, Jay

Eurodollar Futures June 2020

June 13 sticks out for both eurodollar futures as well as IOER. On the surface, there should be no bearing on the former from the latter. They are technically unrelated; IOER being a current rate applied as an intended money alternative. Eurodollar futures are, as the term implies, about where all those money rates might fall in the future. Still, the eurodollar curve inverted conspicuously starting June 13. That was the day of the prior “rate hike” before the latest one this week. It was also the first “technical adjustment” to IOER. The Fed announced that going forward (meaning June 14 onward) IOER would be set at 5 bps below the top of the federal funds range.

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Downslope CPI

CPI Expectations vs. Movement 1995-2018

Cushing, OK, delivered what it could for the CPI. The contribution to the inflation rate from oil prices was again substantial in August 2018. The energy component of the index gained 10.3% year-over-year, compared to 11.9% in July. It was the fourth straight month of double digit gains.

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ECB (Data) Independence

ECB Real GDP Projections 2016-2018

Mario Draghi doesn’t have a whole lot going for him, but he is at least consistent – at times (yes, inconsistent consistency). Bloomberg helpfully reported yesterday how the ECB’s staff committee that produces the econometric projections has recommended the central bank’s Governing Council change the official outlook. Since last year, risks have been “balanced” in their collective opinion.

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Europe Starting To Reckon Eurodollar Curve

Europe Industrial Production 2016-2018

We’ve been here before. Economists and central bankers become giddy about the prospects for success, meaning actual recovery. For that to happen, reflation must first attain enough momentum. If it does, as is always forecast, reflation becomes recovery. The world then moves off this darkening path toward the unknown crazy.

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‘Mispriced’ Bonds Are Everywhere

Canada BoC ON Target, August 2018

The US yield curve isn’t the only one on the precipice. There are any number of them that are getting attention for all the wrong reasons. At least those rationalizations provided by mainstream Economists and the central bankers they parrot. As noted yesterday, the UST 2s10s is now the most requested data out of FRED. It’s not just that the UST curve is askew, it’s more important given how many of them are.

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Anticipating How Welcome This Second Deluge Will Be

US Treasuries, Jan 2018 - Aug 2018

Effective federal funds (EFF) was 1.92% again yesterday. That’s now eight in a row just 3 bps underneath the “technically adjusted” IOER. If indeed the FOMC has to make another one to this tortured tool we know already who will be blamed for it.

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Global PMI’s Hang In There And That’s The Bad News

Dollar Cycles General, June 2018

At this particular juncture eight months into 2018, the only thing that will help is abrupt and serious acceleration. On this side of May 29, it is way past time for it to get real. The global economy either synchronizes in a major, unambiguous breakout or markets retrench even more.

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What’s Hot Isn’t Retail Sales Growth

US Retail Sales, June 2011 - 2018

Americans are spending more on filling up. A lot more. According the Census Bureau, retail sales at gasoline stations had increased by nearly 20% year-over-year (unadjusted) in both May and June 2018. In the latest figures for July, released today, gasoline station sales were up by more than 21%.

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What Chinese Trade Shows Us About SHIBOR

China Exports, Jan 2008 - Jul 2018

Why is SHIBOR falling from an economic perspective? Simple again. China’s growth both on its own and as a reflection of actual global growth has stalled. And in a dynamic, non-linear world stalled equals trouble. Going all the way back to early 2017, there’s been no acceleration (and more than a little deceleration). The reflation economy got started in 2016 but it never went anywhere. For most of last year, optimists were sure that it was just the first step toward recovery.

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The Top of GDP

US GDP and PMI, Feb 2011 - Jul 2018

In 1999, real GDP growth in the United States was 4.69% (Q4 over Q4). In 1998, it was 4.9989%. These were annual not quarterly rates, meaning that for two years straight GDP expanded by better than 4.5%. Individual quarters within those years obviously varied, but at the end of the day the economy was clearly booming.

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Buybacks Get All The Macro Hate, But What About Dividends?

S&P500 Stock Repurchases 2000-2018

When it comes to the stock market and the corporate cash flow condition, our attention is usually drawn to stock repurchases. With good reason. These controversial uses of scarce internal funds are traditionally argued along the lines of management teams identifying and correcting undervalued shares. History shows, conclusively, that hasn’t really been true.

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China’s Seven Years Disinflation

Chinese Money 2009-2014

In early 2011, Chinese consumer prices were soaring. Despite an official government mandate for 3% CPI growth, the country’s main price measure started out the year close to 5% and by June was moving toward 7%. It seemed fitting for the time, no matter how uncomfortable it made PBOC officials. China was going to be growing rapidly even if the rest of the world couldn’t.

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Revisiting The Revised Revisions

Revisions Durable Goods SA, 2006-2018

I missed durable goods last month for scheduling reasons, which was a shame given that May is the month each year for benchmark revisions to the series. Since new estimates under the latest revisions were released today, it seems an appropriate time to revisit the topic of data bias, and why that matters. What happens with durable goods (or any data for that matter, the process is largely the same) is that the Census Bureau conducts smaller surveys to compile sample totals.

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There Isn’t Supposed To Be The Two Directions of IP

U.S. Industrial Production, SA 1995-2018

US Industrial Production dipped in May 2018. It was the first monthly drop since January. Year-over-year, IP was up just 3.5% from May 2017, down from 3.6% in each of prior three months. The reason for the soft spot was that American industry is being pulled in different directions by the two most important sectors: crude oil and autos.

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Recent Concerning Consumer Credit Trends Carry On Into April

Consumer-Credit Revolving Monthly Change 2012-2018

US consumers continue to recover from their debt splurge at the end of last year. Combined with still weaker income growth, the Federal Reserve estimates that aggregate revolving credit balances grew only marginally for the fourth straight month in April 2018. To put it in perspective, the total for revolving credit (seasonally adjusted) is up a mere $2.2 billion for all four months of this year combined, compared to +$5.2 billion in December 2017 alone, +$12.4 billion in November, and +$7.5 billion in October.

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Chinese Inflation And Money Contributions To EM’s

China CPI PBOC Bank Reserves, May 2007 - 2018

The People’s Bank of China won’t update its balance sheet numbers for May until later this month. Last month, as expected, the Chinese central bank allowed bank reserves to contract for the first time in nearly two years. It is, I believe, all part of the reprioritization of monetary policy goals toward CNY. How well it works in practice remains to be seen.
Authorities are not simply contracting one important form of base money in China (bank reserves matter in a way that they used to, but haven’t for a long time, in dollars; ironically, as an aside, up until the last few years the Chinese government had been using Hong Kong as a base for offshore CNY, called CNH, in order to make yuan more like the dollar, meaning eurodollar).

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A Slight Hint Of A 2011 Feel

Deutsche Bank

Whenever a big bank is rumored to be in unexpected merger talks, that’s always a good sign, right? The name Deutsche Bank keeps popping up as it has for several years now, this is merely representative of what’s wrong inside of a global system that can’t ever get fixed. In this one case, we have a couple of perpetuated conventional myths colliding into what is still potentially grave misfortune.

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Brent’s Back In A Big Way, Still ‘Something’ Missing

Europe HICP LSAP Required Reserves

The concept of bank reserves grew from the desire to avoid the periodic bank runs that plagued Western financial systems. As noted in detail starting here, the question had always been how much cash in a vault was enough? Governments around the world decided to impose a minimum requirement, both as a matter of sanctioned safety and also to reassure the public about a particular bank’s status.

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US Trade Settles Down Again

U.S. Trade Trade Balance, Import, Export, Jan 2014 - May 2018

US trade is further leveling off after several months of artificial intrusions. On the import side, in particular, first was a very large and obvious boost following last year’s big hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. Starting in September 2017, for four months the value of imported goods jumped by an enormous 8.3% (revised, seasonally-adjusted). Most of the bump related to consumer and capital goods.

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The Currency of PMI’s

US Markit PMI and GDP, Jul 2012 - May 2018

Markit Economics released the flash results from several of its key surveys. Included is manufacturing in Japan (lower), as well as composites (manufacturing plus services) for the United States and Europe. Within the EU, Markit offers details for France and Germany.

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Globally Synchronized Asynchronous Growth

US Industrial Production, Jan 2006 - May 2018

Industrial Production in the United States rose 3.5% year-over-year in April 2018, down slightly from a revised 3.7% rise in March. Since accelerating to 3.4% growth back in November 2017, US industry has failed to experience much beyond that clear hurricane-related boost. IP for prior months, particularly February and March 2018, were revised significantly lower.

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Anchoring Globally Synchronized Growth, Or We Gave Up Long Ago?

China Fixed Asset Investment, Apr 2012 - 2018

January was the last month in which China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) specifically mentioned Fixed Asset Investment (FAI) of state holding enterprises (or SOE’s). For the month of December 2017, the NBS reported accumulated growth (meaning for all of 2017) in this channel of 10.1%. Through FAI of SOE’s, Chinese authorities in early 2016 had panicked themselves into unleashing considerable “stimulus.”

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And Now For Something Completely Different

Japan Real Gross Domestic Product, Jan 2008 - 2018

Back in February, Japan’s Cabinet Office reported that Real GDP in Japan had grown in Q4 2017 for the eighth consecutive quarter. It was the longest streak of non-negative GDP since the 1980’s. Predictably, this was hailed as some significant achievement, a true masterstroke of courage and perseverance. It was taken as a sign that Abenomics and QQE was finally working (never mind the four years).

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Tax Cuts And (Less) Spending

US Retail Sales, Jun 2011 - May 2018

After being rumored and talked about for over a year, at the end of last year the tax cuts were finally delivered. The idea had captured much market attention during that often anxious period of political flirtation. Prices would rise or fall by turn based on whether or not it seemed a realistic possibility.

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All The World’s A (Imagined) Labor Shortage

China Imports, Jan 2008 - Apr 2018

Last year’s infatuation with globally synchronized growth was at least understandable. From a certain, narrow point of view, Europe’s economy had accelerated. So, too, it seemed later in the year for the US economy. The Bank of Japan was actually talking about ending QQE with inflation in sight, and the PBOC was purportedly tightening as China’s economy appeared to many ready for its rebound.

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What China’s Trade Conditions Say About The Right Side Of ‘L’

China Exports, Jan 2008 - Apr 2018

Chinese exports rose 12.9% year-over-year in April 2018. Imports were up 20.9%. As always, both numbers sound impressive but they are far short of rates consistent with a growing global economy. China’s participation in global growth, synchronized or not, is a must. The lack of acceleration on the export side tells us a lot about what to expect on the import side.

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Watching Imports

US Trade Balance, Jan 2014 - May 2018

The US trade deficit, a sensitive political topic these days, declined sharply in March. It had expanded significantly (more deficit) in January and February, reaching nearly -$76 billion (seasonally adjusted) in the latter month, before posting -$68 billion in the latest figures. Exports rose while imports fell in March, making for the largest single month change in the trade condition in many years.

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What Really Happened In Europe

Europe Real Gross Domestic Product, Jan 1995 - May 2018

The primary example of globally synchronized growth has been Europe. Nowhere has more hope been attached to shifting fortunes. The Continent, buoyed by the persistence of central bankers like Mario Draghi, has not just accelerated it is actually booming. Or so they say.

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Transitory’s Japanese Cousin

Inflation in Japan, Jan 2011 - Apr 2018

Thomas Hoenig was President of the Federal Reserve’s Kansas City branch for two decades. He left that post in 2011 to become Vice Chairman of the FDIC. Before that, Mr. Hoenig as a voting member of the FOMC in 2010 cast the lone dissenting vote in each of the eight policy meetings that year (meaning he was against QE2, too). This makes him, apparently, the hawk of all hawks.

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The Science of Japanification

Rational Expectations Science of Monetary Policy

The term itself gives it away. They called it quantitative easing for a specific reason. Both words mean to convey substantial concepts. The first part, quantitative, was used because it sounds deliberate, even scientific. It implies a program where great care and study was employed to come up with the exact right amount. It’s downright formulaic, where you intend that by doing X you can predictably create Y.

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Why The Last One Still Matters (IP Revisions)

US Industrial Production, Jan 2006 - 2018

Beginning with its very first issue in May 1915, the Federal Reserve’s Bulletin was the place to find a growing body of statistics on US economic performance. Four years later, monthly data was being put together on the physical volumes of trade. From these, in 1922, the precursor to what we know today as Industrial Production was formed. The index and its components have changed considerably over its near century of operative history.

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The Retail Sales Shortage

US Retail Sales, Jan 2014 - Apr 2018

Retail sales rose (seasonally adjusted) in March 2018 for the first time in four months. Related to last year’s big hurricanes and the distortions they produced, retail sales had surged in the three months following their immediate aftermath and now appear to be mean reverting toward what looks like the same weak pre-storm baseline. Exactly how far (or fast) won’t be known until subsequent months.

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China’s Exports Are Interesting, But It’s Their Imports Where Reflation Lives or Dies

China Exports, Jan 2008 - 2018

Last month Chinese trade statistics left us with several key questions. Export growth was a clear outlier, with outbound trade rising nearly 45% year-over-year in February 2018. There were the usual Golden Week distortions to consider, made more disruptive by the timing of it this year as different from last year. And then we have to consider possible effects of tariffs and restrictions at the start of what is called a trade war (but isn’t really, at least not yet).

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US Imports Don’t Quite Match Chinese Exports

US Trade Balance, Jan 2014 - 2018

In early 2015, a contract dispute between dockworkers’ unions and 29 ports on the West Coast of the US escalated into what was a slowdown strike. Cargoes piled up especially at some of the largest facilities like those in Oakland, LA, and Long Beach, threatening substantial economic costs far and away from just those directly involved. Each side predictably blamed the other for it.

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The Best ‘Reflation’ Indicator May Be Japanese

Japan Industrial Production, Jan 2008 - 2018

Japanese industrial production dropped sharply in January 2018, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry reported last month. Seasonally-adjusted, the IP index fell 6.8% month-over-month from December 2017. Since the country has very little mining sector to speak of, and Japan’s IP doesn’t include utility output, this was entirely manufacturing in nature (99.79% of the IP index is derived from the manufacturing sector).

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Just A Few More Pips

Hong Kong HKD, Jul 2014 - Mar 2018

On Page 1, Chapter 1 of the Central Banker Crisis Handbook it states very clearly, “do not make it worse.” It’s something like the Hippocratic oath where monetary authorities must first assess what their actions might do to an already fragile system. It’s why they take great pains to try and maintain composure, appearing calm and orderly while conflagration rages all around. The last thing you want to do is confirm the run.

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The Boom Reality of Uncle He’s Globally Synchronized L

China GDP, Apr 1993 - Mar 2018

Top Chinese leadership is taking further shape. With Xi Jinping’s continuing consolidation of power going on right this minute, most of the changes aren’t really changes, at least not internally. To the West, and to the mainstream, what the Chinese are doing seems odd, if not more than a little off. Unlike in the West, however, there is determined purpose that is in many ways right out in the open. Many here had been expecting that outgoing PBOC Governor Zhou Xiaochuan would be replaced by Liu He.

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US Industry Experiences The Full 2014 Again in February

US Industrial Production, Jan 2006 - 2018

In February 2018, it was like old times for the US industrial sectors. Prior to the 2015-16 downturn, the otherwise moribund economy did produce two genuine booms. The first in the auto sector, the other in energy. Without them, who knows what the no-recovery recovery would have looked like. They were for the longest time the only bright spots.

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Three Months Now of After-Harvey Retail Sales; or, The Boom Narrative Goes Boom

US Retail Sales, Jan 2014 - Mar 2018

If indeed this inflation hysteria has passed, its peak was surely late January. Even the stock market liquidations that showed up at that time were classified under that narrative. The economy was so good, it was bad; the Fed would be forced by rapid economic acceleration to speed themselves up before that acceleration got out of hand in uncontrolled consumer price gains. On February 1, the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow tracking model was moved up to predict 5.4% GDP growth in Q1.

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China’s Questionable Start to 2018

China Industrial Production, Feb 1999 - 2018

The Chinese government reported estimates for Industrial Production, Retail Sales, and Fixed Asset Investment (FAI) for both January and February 2018. The National Bureau of Statistics prepares and calculates China’s major economic statistics in this manner at the beginning of each year due to the difficulties created by calendar effects (New Year Golden Week).

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China Prices Include Lots of Base Effect, Still Undershoots

China Price Stability, Feb 1996 - 2018

By far, the easiest to answer for today’s inflation/boom trifecta is China’s CPI. At 2.9% in February 2018, that’s the closest it has come to the government’s definition of price stability (3%) since October 2013. That, in the mainstream, demands the description “hot” if not “sizzling” even though it still undershoots. The primary reason behind the seeming acceleration was a more intense move in food prices.

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China Going Boom

China Gross Domestic Product, Apr 1993 - 2017

For a very long time, they tried it “our” way. It isn’t working out so well for them any longer, so in one sense you can’t blame them for seeking answers elsewhere. It was a good run while it lasted. The big problem is that what “it” was wasn’t ever our way. Not really. The Chinese for decades followed not a free market paradigm but an orthodox Economics one. This is no trivial difference, as the latter is far more easily accomplished in a place like China.

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Data Distortions One Way Or Another

China Manufacturing PMI, Feb 2007 - 2018

Back in October, we noted the likely coming of two important distortions in global economic data. The first was here at home in the form of Mother Nature. The other was over in China where Communist officials were gathering as they always do in their five-year intervals. That meant, potentially. In the US our economic data for a few months at least will be on shaky ground due to the lingering economic impacts of severe hurricanes.

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Durable and Capital Goods, Distortions Big And Small

US Durable Goods Orders, Jan 2013 - 2018

New orders for durable goods, excluding transportation industries, rose 9.1% year-over-year (NSA) in January 2018. Shipments of the same were up 8.8%. These rates are in line with the acceleration that began in October 2017 coincident to the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. In that way, they are somewhat misleading.

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New Home Sales (Predictably) Fall Out of the Boom, Too

US Housing Construction, Jan 1985 - Jan 2018

New home sales were down sharply again in January 2018. For the second straight month, the level of purchase activity fell substantially despite what are otherwise always described as robust or even booming economic conditions. Like the sales of existing homes, the sales of newly constructed units should be both moving upward as well as being significantly more than stuck at this low level.

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US IP On The Other Side of Harvey and Irma

US Industrial Production, Jan 1995 - 2018

Industrial Production in the US was revised to a lower level for December 2017, and then was slightly lower still in the first estimates for January 2018. Year-over-year, IP was up 3.7%. However, more than two-thirds of the gain was registered in September, October, and November (and nearly all the rest in just the single month of April 2017).

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China: Inflation? Not Even Reflation

China Price Stability, Jan 1997 - 2018

The conventional interpretation of “reflation” in the second half of 2016 was that it was simply the opening act, the first step in the long-awaiting global recovery. That is what reflation technically means as distinct from recovery; something falls off, and to get back on track first there has to be acceleration to make up that lost difference.

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China: CNY, Not Imports

China Imports, Jan 2011 - 2018

In February 2013, the Chinese Golden Week fell late in the calendar. The year before, 2012, New Year was January 23rd, meaning that the entire Spring festival holiday was taken with the month of January. The following year, China’s New Year was placed on February 10, with the Golden Week taking up the entire middle month of February.

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COT Blue: Interest In Open Interest

US Treasury Bond Futures, Jan 1993 - 2018

For me, the defining characteristic of the late nineties wasn’t the dot-coms. Most people were exposed to the NASDAQ because, frankly, at the time there was no getting away from it. It had seeped into everything, transforming from a financial niche bleeding eventually into the entire worldwide culture. We all remember the grocery clerks who became day traders.

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US Imports: A Little Inflation For Yellen, A Little More Bastiat

US Trade Balance, Jan 2014 - 2018

US imports rocketed higher once again in December, according to just-released estimates from the Census Bureau. Since August 2017, the US economy has been adding foreign goods at an impressive pace. Year-over-year (SA), imports are up just 10.4% (only 9% unadjusted) but 9.3% was in just those last four months. For most of 2017, imports were flat and even lower.

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How Global And Synchronized Is A Boom Without China?

China Manufacturing PMI, Jan 2007 - 2018

According to China’s official PMI’s, those looking for a boom to begin worldwide in 2018 after it failed to materialize in 2017 are still to be disappointed. If there is going to be globally synchronized growth, it will have to happen without China’s participation in it. Of course, things could change next month or the month after, but this idea has been around for a year and a half already.

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The Historical Warnings of Money

Bank of England

It’s interesting, to me anyway, that an image of the Roman goddess Juno remains to this day on the logo of the Bank of England. There are many stories about her role as it relates to money, but what cannot be denied is that the very word itself came to us from her temple. The Latin moneta was derived from the word monere, a verb meaning to warn. Moneta was Juno’s surname.

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Globally Synchronized What?

Inflation Europe, Jan 2007 - Oct 2017

In one of those rare turns, the term “globally synchronized growth” actually means what the words do. It is economic growth that for the first time in ten years has all the major economies of the world participating in it. It’s the kind of big idea that seems like a big thing we all should pay attention to. In The New York Times this weekend, we learn.

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December Durable Goods

US Durable Goods Order, Jan 1993 - 2018

Durable and capital goods orders and shipments all increased in December by growth rates consistent with those registered in the months leading up to the big storms Harvey and Irma. We continue to find evidence that accelerated growth in October and November was nothing more than the anticipated after-effects cleaning up after those hurricanes.

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The Dismal Boom

Friedman's Plucking Model of Trend-Cycle

There is a fundamental assumption behind any purchasing manager index, or PMI. These are often but not always normalized to the number 50. That’s done simply for comparison purposes and the ease of understanding in the general public. That level at least in the literature and in theory is supposed to easily and clearly define the difference between growth and contraction.

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Central Bank Transparency, Or Doing Deliberate Dollar Deals With The Devil

Hong Kong HKD, Jul 2012 - Jan 2018

The advent of open and transparent central banks is a relatively new one. For most of their history, these quasi-government institutions operated in secret and they liked it that way. As late as October 1993, for example, Alan Greenspan was testifying before Congress intentionally trying to cloud the issue as to whether verbatim transcripts of FOMC meetings actually existed.

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What About 2.62 percent?

US Treasury Curve, Nov 2000 - 2006

There’s nothing especially special about 2.62%. It’s a level pretty much like any other, given significance by only one phrase: the highest since 2014. It sounds impressive, which is the point. But that only lasts until you remember the same thing was said not all that long ago.

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The Blatant Dishonesty of the ‘Boom’

China Fixed Asset Investment, June 2013 - Dec 2017

Why do humans tend to behave in herds? It’s a fundamental question that only recently have researchers been able to better understand. On the one hand, it doesn’t take an advanced degree in some neurological science to see the basis behind it; survival for our ancestors often meant getting along with the crowd. There are times when that very trait applies still.

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U.S. Unemployment: The Dissonance Book

US Federal Reserve, Jan 2010 - 2018

I’ve found the word “dissonance” has become more common in regular usage beyond just my own. Whether that’s a function of my limited observational capacities or something more meaningful than personal bias isn’t at all clear. Still, the word does seem to fit in economic terms more and more as we carry on uncorrected by meaningful context.

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Good or Bad, But Surely Not Transitory

US Consumer Price Index, Dec 1997 - 2017

When Federal Reserve officials first started last year to mention wireless network data plans as a possible explanation for a fifth year of “transitory” factors holding back consumer price inflation, it seemed a bit transparent. One of the reasons for immediately doubting their sincerity was the history of that particular piece of the CPI (or PCE Deflator).

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Is Un-Humming A Word? It Might Need To Become One

U.S. Industrial Production, Jan 1968 - 2018

Industrial Production in the US was up 3.6% year-over-year in December 2017. That’s the best for American industry since November 2014 when annual IP growth was 3.7%. That’s ultimately the problem, though, given all that has happened this year. In other words, despite a clear boost the past few months from storm effects, as well as huge contributions from the mining (crude oil) sector, American production at its best can only manage to reflect 2014.

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Retail Sales, Consumer Sentiment, And The Aftermath Of Hurricanes

US Retail Sales in Feb 2016

Consumer confidence has been sky-high for some time now, with the major indices tracking various definitions of it at or just near highs not seen since the dot-com era. Economists place a lot of emphasis on confidence in all its forms, including that of consumers, and there is good reason for them to do so; or there was in the past.

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The Dea(r)th of Economic Momentum

China Exports, Jan 2008 - Jan 2018

For the fourth quarter as a whole, Chinese exports rose by just less than 10% year-over-year. That’s the highest quarterly rate in more than three years, up from 6.3% and 6.0% in Q2 2017 and Q3, respectively. That acceleration is, predictably, being celebrated as a meaningful leap in global economic fortunes. Instead, it highlights China’s grand predicament, one that country just cannot seem to escape.

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Inflation Correlations and China’s Brief, Disappointing Porcine Nightmare

China Price Stability, Jun 2014 - Dec 2017

Two years ago, China was gripped by what was described as an epic pig problem. For most Chinese people, pork is a main staple so rapidly rising pig prices could have presented a serious challenge to an economy already at that time besieged by massive negative forces. It was another headache officials in that country really didn’t need.

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The Conspicuous Rush To Import

US Trade Balance, Jan 2014 - 2018

According to the Census Bureau, US companies have been importing foreign goods at a relentless pace. In estimates released last week, seasonally-adjusted US imports jumped to $204 billion in November 2017. That’s a record high finally surpassing the $200 billion mark for the first time, as well as the peaks for both 2014 and 2007.

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The Great Risk of So Many Dinosaurs

UST Central Curve, Jan 2007 - Dec 2017

The Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (TBAC) was established a long time ago in the maelstrom of World War II budgetary as well as wartime conflagration. That made sense. To fight all over the world, the government required creative help in figuring out how to sell an amount of bonds it hadn’t needed (in proportional terms) since the Civil War. A twenty-person committee made up of money dealer bank professionals and leaders was one of the few no-brainers of that day.

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Industrial production: The Chinese Appear To Be Rushed

All China's Dollars, Aug 2016 - Jan 2018

While the Western world was off for Christmas and New Year’s, the Chinese appeared to have taken advantage of what was a pretty clear buildup of “dollars” in Hong Kong. Going back to early November, HKD had resumed its downward trend indicative of (strained) funding moving again in that direction (if it was more normal funding, HKD wouldn’t move let alone as much as it has). China’s currency, however, was curiously restrained during that time.

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The Economy Likes Its IP Less Lumpy

US Industrial Production, Jan 2011 - Dec 2017

Industrial Production rose 3.4% year-over-year in November 2017, the highest growth rate in exactly three years. The increase was boosted by the aftermath of Harvey and Irma, leaving more doubt than optimism for where US industry is in 2017. For one thing, of that 3.4% growth rate, more than two-thirds was attributable to just two months.

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Chinese Are Not Tightening, Though They Would Be Thrilled If You Thought That

RMB Money, Jan - Dec 2017

The PBOC has two seemingly competing objectives that in reality are one and the same. Overnight, China’s central bank raised two of its money rates. The rate it charges mostly the biggest banks for access to the Medium-term Lending Facility (MLF) was increased by 5 bps to 3.25%. In addition, its reverse repo interest settings were also moved up by 5 bps each at the various tenors (to 2.50% for the 7-day, 2.80% for the 28-day).

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Retail Sales Bounce (Way) Too Much

US Retail Sales, Jun 2011 - Nov 2017

Retail sales had a good month of November, or at least what counts as decent over the last five and a half years. Total retail sales (unadjusted) rose 6.35% last month, up from 4.9% (revised higher) in October. It was the highest rate of growth since the 29-day month of February 2016. For retailers, what matters is that it comes at the start of the Christmas shopping season.

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Chart of the Week: Collateral

US Treasuries, Jan 2017 - Dec 2017

It’s been a week of quite righteous focus on collateral. The 4-week bill equivalent yield closes it at just 114 bps, with only three days left before the RRP “floor” is moved up by the FOMC to 125 bps. That’s too much premium in price, though we know why given what FRBNY reported for repo fails last week.

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China Exports and Industrial Production: Revisiting Once More The True Worst Case

Labor Market Growth, 1968 - 2017

As weird as it may seem at first, the primary economic problem right now is that the global economy looks like it is growing again. There is no doubt that it continues on an upturn, but the mere fact that whatever economic statistic has a positive sign in front of it ends up being classified as some variant of strong. That’s how this works in mainstream analysis, this absence of any sort of gradation where if it’s negative it’s bad (though in 2015 lots of negatives were shrugged off as immaterial so as to avoid any acknowledgement of bad) but if it’s positive it can only be good.

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Defining The Economy Through Payrolls

Labor Market Growth, 1968 - 2017

The year 2000 was a transition year in a lot of ways. Though Y2K amounted to mild mass hysteria, people did have to get used to writing the date with 20 in front of the year rather than 19. It was a new millennium (depending on your view of Year 0) that seemed to have started off under the best possible terms. Not only were stocks on fire at the outset, the economy was, too.

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A Race To The Potential Behind Bitcoin

The timing just never seems to fall in our favor. If we had had this conversation ten years ago as would have been appropriate, then this evolution might have fell perfectly in our collective laps. Just as the global financial system, really the international, interbank monetary system of the eurodollar, was crashing all around us, the genesis block of the Bitcoin blockchain was hard coded.

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Three Years Ago QE, Last Year It Was China, Now It’s Taxes

China Manufacturing PMI, May 2007 - Nov 2017

China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported last week that the official manufacturing PMI for that country rose from 51.6 in October to 51.8 in November. Since “analysts” were expecting 51.4 (Reuters poll of Economists) it was taken as a positive sign. The same was largely true for the official non-manufacturing PMI, rising like its counterpart here from 54.3 the month prior to 54.8 last month.

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Giant Sucking Sound Sucks (Far) More Than US Industry Now

Case Study in Conundrum, Jan 1997 - 2004

There are two possibilities with regard to stubbornly weak US imports in 2017. The first is the more obvious, meaning that the domestic goods economy despite its upturn last year isn’t actually doing anything positive other than no longer being in contraction. The second would be tremendously helpful given the circumstances of American labor in the whole 21st century so far. In other words, perhaps US consumers really are buying at a healthy pace, just not with the same eagerness from China and the rest anymore.

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Reduced Trade Terms Salute The Flattened Curve

US Imports, Jan 2007 - 2017

The Census Bureau reported earlier today that US imports of foreign goods jumped 9.9% year-over-year in October. That is the second largest increase since February 2012, just less than the 12% import growth recorded for January earlier this year.

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Fading Black Friday

NRF Holiday Season Estimates, 2013 - 2017

Black Friday was once the king of all shopping. A retailer could make its year up on that one day, often by gimmicking its way to insane single-day volume. Those days, however, are certainly over. Though the day after Thanksgiving still means a great deal, as the annual flood of viral consumer brawl videos demonstrate, it’s just not what it once was.

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Durable Goods Only About Halfway To Real Reflation

US Core Durable Goods Orders, Jan 1993 - Jan 2017

Durable goods were boosted for a second month by the after-effects of Harvey and Irma. New orders excluding those from transportation industries rose 8.5% year-over-year in October 2017, a slight acceleration from the 6.5% average of the four previous months. Shipments of durable goods (ex transportation) also rose by 8% last month.

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Industrial Production Still Reflating

US Industrial Production, Jan 1995 - Nov 2017

Industrial Production benefited from a hurricane rebound in October 2017, rising 2.9% above October 2016. That is the highest growth rate in nearly three years going back to January 2015. With IP lagging behind the rest of the manufacturing turnaround, this may be the best growth rate the sector will experience. Production overall was still contracting all the way to November 2016, providing the index favorable base comparisons that won’t last past next month.

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Can’t Hide From The CPI

US Consumer Price Index, Jan 2016 - Oct 2017

On the vital matter of missing symmetry, consumer price indices across the world keep suggesting there remains none. Recoveries were called “V” shaped for a reason. Any economy knocked down would be as intense in getting back up, normal cyclical forces creating momentum for that to (only) happen. In the context of the past three years, symmetry is still nowhere to be found.

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Retail Sales (US) Are Exhibit #1

U.S. Retail Sales, June 2011 - October 2017

In January 2016, everything came to a head. The oil price crash (2nd time), currency chaos, global turmoil, and even a second stock market liquidation were all being absorbed by the global economy. The disruptions were far worse overseas, thus the global part of global turmoil, but the US economy, too, was showing clear signs of distress.

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What Central Banks Have Done Is What They’re Actually Good At

Full Employment Slack, Jan 1994 - 2017

As a natural progression from the analysis of one historical bond “bubble” to the latest, it’s statements like the one below that ironically help it continue. One primary manifestation of low Treasury rates is the deepening mistrust constantly fomented in markets by the media equivalent of the boy who cries recovery.

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Globally Synchronized Downside Risks

Markets and Economy. March 2012 - 2017

Oil prices were riding high after several weeks of steady, significant gains. It’s never really clear what it is that might actually move markets in the short run, whether for crude it was Saudi Arabia’s escalating activities or other geopolitical concerns. Behind those, the idea of “globally synchronized growth” that is supposedly occurring for the first time since before the Great “Recession” while it may not have pushed oil investors to buy crude (futures) it certainly didn’t add any coincident selling pressure.

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Consumer Credit Both Accelerating and Decelerating Toward The Same Thing

Consumer Credit Monthly Flow, Jan 2012 - Jul 2017

Federal Reserve revisions to the Consumer Credit series have created some discontinuities in the data. Changes were applied cumulatively to December 2015 alone, rather than revising downward the whole data series prior to that month. The Fed therefore estimates $3.531 trillion in outstanding consumer credit (seasonally-adjusted) in November 2015, and then just $3.417 trillion the following month.

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Aligning Politics To economics

Real Final Sales to Domestic Purchasers, Jan 1983 - 2016

There is no argument that the New Deal of the 1930’s completely changed the political situation in America, including the fundamental relationship of the government to its people. The way it came about was entirely familiar, a sense from among a large (enough) portion of the general population that the paradigm of the time no longer worked. It was only for whichever political party that spoke honestly to that predicament to obtain long-term political success.

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Maybe Hong Kong Matters To Someone In Particular

PBOC Balance Sheet, Sep 2011 - 2017

Hong Kong stock trading opened deep in the red last night, the Hang Seng share index falling by as much as 1.6% before rallying. We’ve seen this behavior before, notably in 2015 and early 2016. Hong Kong is supposed to be an island of stability amidst stalwart attempts near the city to mimic its results if not its methods.

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Synchronized Global Not Quite Growth

US Exports, Jan 1989 - 2017

Going back to 2014, it was common for whenever whatever economic data point disappointed that whomever optimistic economist or policymaker would overrule it by pointing to “global growth.” It was the equivalent of shutting down an uncomfortable debate with ad hominem attacks. You can’t falsify “global growth” because you can’t really define what it is.

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Four Point One

US Establishment Survey Payrolls, Jan 2010 - Jul 2017

The payroll report for October 2017 was still affected by the summer storms in Texas and Florida. That was expected. The Establishment Survey estimates for August and September were revised higher, the latter from a -33k to +18k. Most economists were expecting a huge gain in October to snapback from that hurricane number, but the latest headline was just +261k.

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Europe Is Booming, Except It’s Not

Eurozone Gross Domestic Product, 1996 - 2017

European GDP rose 0.6% quarter-over-quarter in Q3 2017, the eighteenth consecutive increase for the Continental (EA 19) economy. That latter result is being heralded as some sort of achievement, though the 0.6% is also to a lesser degree. The truth is that neither is meaningful, and that Europe’s economy continues toward instead the abyss.

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Bonds And Soft Chinese Data

China Treasury Bonds

Back in June, China’s federal bond yield curve inverted. Ahead of mid-year bank checks, short-term govvies sold off as longer bonds continued to be bought. It was for some a rotation, for others a reflection of money rates threatening to spiral out of control. On June 19, for example, the 6-month federal security yielded 3.87% compared to a yield of 3.525% for the 10-year.

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The (Economic) Difference Between Stocks and Bonds

US Disposable Personal Income, Jan 1985 - 2017

Real Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) rose 0.6% in September 2017 above August. That was the largest monthly increase (SAAR) in almost three years. Given that Real PCE declined month-over-month in August, it is reasonable to assume hurricane effects for both. Across the two months, Real PCE rose by a far more modest 0.5% total, or an annual rate of just 3.4%, only slightly greater the prevailing average.

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Strong Growth? Q3 GDP Only Shows How Weak 2017 Has Been

US Gross Domestic Product, April 2011 - March 2017

Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson also had a long career as a manager after his playing days were done. He once said in that latter capacity that you have to have a short memory as a closer. Simple wisdom where it’s true, all that matters for that style of pitching is the very next out. You can forget about what just happened so as to give your full energy and concentration to the batter at the plate.

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Subject To Gradation

US Durable Goods Shipments, Jan 2010 - Jul 2017

Economic growth is subject to gradation. There is almost no purpose in making such a declaration, for anyone with common sense knows intuitively that there is a difference between robust growth and just positive numbers. Yet, the biggest mistake economists and policymakers made in 2014 was to forget that differences exist between even statistics all residing on the plus side.

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An Unexpected (And Rotten) Branch of the Maestro’s Legacy

China Fixed Asset Investment, March 1998 - Sep 2017

The most significant part of China’s 19th Party Congress ended in the usual anticlimactic fashion. These events are for show, not debate. Like any good trial lawyer will tell you, you never ask a question in court that you don’t already know the answer to. For China’s Communists, that meant nominating Xi Jinping’s name to be written into the Communist constitution with the votes already tallied.

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Japan Is Booming, Except It’s Not

Japan Household Spending, May 2012 - Aug 2017

Japan is hot, really hot. Stocks are up to level not seen since 1996 (Nikkei 225). Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called snap elections in Parliament to secure a supermajority and it worked. Things seem to be sparkling all over the place, with the arrow pointing up: “Hopes for a global economic recovery and US shares’ strength are making fund managers generous on Japanese stocks,” said Chihiro Ohta, general manager of investment research at SMBC Nikko Securities.

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Political Economics

US Real Gross Domestic Product, Jan 1993 - 2017

Who President Trump ultimately picks as the next Federal Reserve Chairman doesn’t really matter. Unless he goes really far afield to someone totally unexpected, whoever that person will be will be largely more of the same. It won’t be a categorical change, a different philosophical direction that is badly needed. Still, politically, it does matter to some significant degree. It’s just that the political division isn’t the usual R vs. D, left vs. right. That’s how many are making it out to be, and in doing so exposing what’s really going on.

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Housing Isn’t Just About Real Estate

US Existing Home Sales, Jan 2011 - Jul 2017

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported today that sales of existing homes (resales) were up slightly in September 2017 on a monthly basis. At a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million last month, that was practically unchanged from the 5.35 million estimate for August that was the lowest in a year.

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Distinct Lack of Good Faith, Part ??

European Growth Baseline, Jan 1995 - 2017

It was a busy weekend in retrospect, starting with Janet Yellen and other central bankers uncomfortably facing a global media that has become (for once) increasingly unconvinced. Reporters, really, don’t have much choice. The Federal Reserve Chairman might not be aware of just how much she has used the “transitory” qualifier since 2015, but others can’t be helped from noticing.

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Broader Slowing in Industrial Production

US Industrial Production, Jan 1995 - Jul 2017

Industrial Production rose 1.6% year-over-year in September 2017. That’s up from 1.2% growth in August, both months perhaps affected to some degree by hurricanes. The lack of growth and momentum, however, clearly predated the storms. The seasonally-adjusted index for IP peaked in April 2017, and has been lower ever since. This pattern, the disappointment this year is one we see replicated nearly everywhere on both sides (supply as well as demand) of the global economic equation.

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Global Inflation Continues To Underwhelm

Another Side of China, Aug 2016 - Oct 2017

Chinese producer prices accelerated in September 2017, while consumer price increases slowed. The National Bureau of Statistics reported this weekend that China’s PPI was up 6.9% year-over-year, a quicker pace than the 6.3% estimated for August and a 5.5% rate in July. Earlier in the year producer prices were driven mostly by 2016’s oil rebound, along with those in the rest of the global economy, but in recent months there has been more influence from other industrial metals like copper and iron.

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China Exports/Imports: Enforcing A Global Speed Limit

China Imports, Jan 2008 - Jul 2017

Chinese imports rose 18.7% in September 2017 year-over-year. That’s up from 13.5% growth in August. While near-20% expansion sounds good if not exhilarating, it isn’t materially different from 13.5% or 8% for that matter. In addition, Chinese trade statistics tend to vary month to month.

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US Retail Sales: Retail Storms

US Retail Sales, Jun 2011 - Aug 2017

Retail sales were added in September 2017 due to the hurricanes in Texas and Florida (and the other states less directly impacted). On a monthly, seasonally-adjusted basis, retail sales were up a sharp 1.7% from August. The vast majority of the gain, however, was in the shock jump in gasoline prices. Retail sales at gasoline stations rose nearly 6% month-over-month, so excluding those sales retail sales elsewhere gained a far more modest 0.6%.

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US CPI: Inflation Still Isn’t About Inflation

US Consumer Price Index, Jan 2016 - Sep 2017

The US Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose back above 2% in September 2017 for the first time since April. Boosted yet again by energy prices, consumer prices overall still aren’t where the Fed needs them to be (by its own policies, not consumer reality). In fact, despite a 10.2% gain in the energy price index last month, the overall CPI just barely crossed the 2% mark (though for the Fed it really needs to be closer to 3% to match a 2% PCE Deflator).

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Noisy PMI’s In China

China Manufacturing PMI, March 2007 - Sep 2017

In the US our economic data for a few months at least will be on shaky ground due to the lingering economic impacts of severe hurricanes. In China, the potential for irregularity is perhaps as great, though it has nothing to do with the weather. In a little over a week, Communist Party officials will gather for their 19th Party Congress.

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The Payroll Report To Focus On Is August’s, Not September’s

US Average Weekly Earnings, Jan 1990 - 2016

The hurricanes didn’t disappoint, causing major damage at least to the BLS. Precisely how much the statistics were affected by the disruptions in Texas and Florida really can’t be calculated, not that everyone won’t try. It makes this month’s payroll report a Rorschach test of sorts. You can pretty much make it out to be whatever you want.

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Non-Transitory Meandering

PCE Deflator Inflation, Jan 2016 - Aug 2017

Monetary officials continue to maintain that inflation will eventually meet their 2% target on a sustained basis. They have no other choice, really, because in a monetary regime of rational expectations for it not to happen would require a radical overhaul of several core theories. Outside of just the two months earlier this year, the PCE Deflator has missed in 62 of the past 64 months. The FOMC is simply running out of time and excuses.

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The Damage Started Months Before Harvey And Irma

US Imports, Jan 1989 - 2017

Ahead of tomorrow’s payroll report the narrative is being set that it will be weak because of Harvey and Irma. Historically, major storms have had a negative effect on the labor market. Just as auto sales were up sharply in September very likely because of the hurricane(s) and could remain that way for several months, payrolls could be weak for the same reasons and the same timeframe.

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Auto Sales Up Last Month, But Why?

US Vehicle Sales, Jan 2014 - Jul 2017

Auto sales rebounded sharply in September, with most major car manufacturers reporting better numbers. Sales at Ford were up 8.9% last month from September 2016; +11.9% at GM; Toyota +14.9%; Nissan +9.5%; Honda +6.8%. The only negatives were reported by FCA (-9.7%) and Mercedes (-1.7%).

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Incomes Are What Matters, So Bad Month, Bad Year, Bad Decade

US Real Personal Income, Dec 2013 - Aug 2017

Sometimes economics can be complicated, such as why the labor market has slowed in such lingering fashion since early 2015. Sometimes economics can be easy, such as why there is so much less to the economy this year than thought. The easy part relates to the hard part. The labor market slowed and so did national income. Though so much of official focus is on debt supplementation, it’s always, always about income.

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US: Reflation Check

US Recovery, 1925 - 1945

There is a difference between reflation and recovery. The terms are similar and relate to the same things, but in many ways the latter requires first the former.  To get to recovery, the economy must reflate if in contraction it was beaten down in money as well as cyclical forces. In the Great Crash of 1929 and after, reflation was required because of the wholesale devastation of the money supply. 

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Eurozone: Distinct Lack of Good Faith

European Growth Baseline, Jan 1995 - 2017

The erosion of social order in any historical or geographic context is gradual; until it isn’t. Germany has always followed a keen sense of this process, having experienced it to every possible extreme between the World Wars. Hyperinflationary collapse doesn’t happen overnight; it took three years for the Weimar mark to disintegrate, and then Weimar Germany. Even Nazism wasn’t all it once. What was required was continued denial especially on the part of institutions and the so-called elite for that country to descend into (actual) fascism. In fact, that was the common theme throughout the interwar period, a gradual erosion of trust.

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Not Political Risk For China, But Unwelcome Reality

PBOC Balance Sheet, Aug 2011 - 2017

China’s Communist Party concluded the Third Plenum of its 18th Congress in November 2013. It was the much-discussed reform mandate that many in the West took to mean another positive step toward neo-liberal reform. At its center was supposed to be a greater role for markets particularly in the central task of resource allocation. In some places, the Party’s General Secretary Xi Jinping was hailed as the great Chinese reformer.

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Location Transformation or HIBORMania

HIBOR, Jun 2015 - Apr 2017

The Communist Chinese established their independence on September 21, 1949. The grand ceremony commemorating the political change was held in Tiananmen Square on October 1 that year. The following day, October 2, the Resolution on the National Day of the People’s Republic of China was passed making October 1to be China’s National holiday. It typically kicks off the second of China’s Golden Week holidays. The first relates to the Chinese New Year festivals, taking place in either January or February. Both weeklong holiday celebrations can present a challenge for monetary authorities due to the length of each one.

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It Was Collateral, Not That We Needed Any More Proof

US Treasury, Jan - Sep 2017

Eleven days ago, we asked a question about Treasury bills and haircuts. Specifically, we wanted to know if the spike in the 4-week bill’s equivalent yield was enough to trigger haircut adjustments, and therefore disrupt the collateral chain downstream. Within two days of that move in bills, the GC market for UST 10s had gone insane.To be honest, it was a rhetorical exercise.

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The Real Estate View For A Second Lost Decade

US Existing Home Sales, Jan 2011 - Jul 2017

The National Association of Realtor (NAR) reports today that sales of existing homes in the US were down 1.7% in August 2017 from July. At a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million, that’s the lowest pace for resales since July 2016. It is yet another data point reflecting the almost certain end of “reflation” in the economic sense.

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Little Behind CNY

PBOC Balance Sheet, Aug 2010 - 2017

The framing is a bit clumsy, but the latest data in favor of the artificial CNY surge comes to us from Bloomberg. The mainstream views currency flows as, well, flows of currency. That’s what makes their description so maladroit, and it can often lead to serious confusion. A little translation into the wholesale eurodollar reality, however, clears it up nicely.

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Why The Fed’s Balance Sheet Reduction Is As Irrelevant As Its Expansion

Japan Monetary Base, Jan 2013 - 2017, US Versus Canada Real GDP, 2007 - 2017

The FOMC is widely expected to vote in favor of reducing the system’s balance sheet this week. The possibility has been called historic and momentous, though it may be for reasons that aren’t very kind to these central bankers. Having started to swell almost ten years ago, it’s a big deal only in that after so much time here they still are having these kinds of discussions.

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PBOC RMB Restraint Derives From Experience Plus ‘Dollar’ Constraint

PBOC Balance Sheet, Aug 2006 - 2017

Given that today started with a review of the “dollar” globally as represented by TIC figures and how that is playing into China’s circumstances, it would only be fitting to end it with a more complete examination of those. We know that the eurodollar system is constraining Chinese monetary conditions, but all through this year the PBOC has approached that constraint very differently than last year.

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Swimming The ‘Dollar’ Current (And Getting Nowhere)

PBOC Balance Sheet, Aug 2011 - 2017

The People’s Bank of China reported this week that its holdings of foreign assets fell slightly again in August 2017. Down about RMB 21 billion, almost identical to the RMB 22 billion decline in July, the pace of forex withdrawals is clearly much preferable to what China’s central bank experienced (intentionally or not) late last year at ten and even twenty times the rate of July and August.

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Expectations and Acceptance of Potential

University of Michigan Consumer Confidence, Jan 1997 - 2017

The University of Michigan reports that consumer confidence in September slipped a little from August. Their Index of Consumer Sentiment registered 95.3 in the latest month, down from 96.8 in the prior one. Both of those readings are in line with confidence estimates going back to early 2014 when consumer sentiment supposedly surged.

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IP Weathers Storms But Not Cars

US Industrial Production, Jan 2010 - Jul 2017

In late August 2006, ABC News asked more than a dozen prominent economists to evaluate the impacts of hurricane Katrina on the US economy. The cataclysmic storm made landfall on August 29, 2005, devastating the city of New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf coast. The cost in human terms was unthinkable, and many were concerned, as people always are, that in economic terms the country might end up in similar devastation.

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Retail Sales and the End of ‘Reflation’

US Retail Sales, Jun 2011 - Aug 2017

There will be an irresistible urge to the make this about the weather, but more and more data shows it’s not any singular instance. Nor is it transitory. What does prove to be temporary time and again is the upside. The economy gets hit (by “dollar” events), bounces back a little, and then goes right back into the dumps. This, it seems, is the limited extent of cyclicality in these times.

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The CPI Comes Home

US Consumer Price Index, Jan 2016 - Aug 2017

There seems to be an intense if at times acrimonious debate raging inside the Federal Reserve right now. The differences go down to its very core philosophies. Just over a week ago, Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer abruptly resigned from the Board of Governors even though many believed he was a possible candidate to replace Chairman Yellen at the end of her term next year. His letter of resignation only cited “personal reasons.”

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A Clear Anchor

China Fixed Asses Investment, 2014 - 2016

All the way back in January I calculated the total size of China’s 2016 fiscal “stimulus.” Starting in January 2016, authorities conducted what was an enormous spending program. As it had twice before, the government directed increased “investment” from State-owned Enterprises (SOE). By my back-of-the-envelope numbers, the scale of this fiscal side program was about RMB 1.45 trillion, or nearly 2% of GDP

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Harvey’s Muted (Price) Impact On Oil

US Crude Oil Stocks, Nov 2016 - Sep 2017

The impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf energy region is becoming clear. There have been no surprises to date, even though the storm did considerable damage and shuttered or disrupted significant capacity. Most of that related to gasoline, which Americans have been feeling in pump prices.

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When You Are Prevented From Connecting The Dots That You See

US Real Personal Income, Jan 2010 - Jul 2017

In its first run, the Federal Reserve was actually two distinct parts. There were the twelve bank branches scattered throughout the country, each headed by almost always a banker of local character. Often opposed to them was the Board in DC. In those early days the policy establishment in Washington had little active role. Monetary policy was itself a product of the branches, the Discount Rate, for example, often being different in each and every one. The intent of the Board was to coordinate rather than dictate.

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The JOLTS of Drugs

US Overdose Deaths Involving Opioids, 2000 - 2015

Princeton University economist Alan Krueger recently published and presented his paper for Brookings on the opioid crisis and its genesis. Having been declared a national emergency, there are as many economic as well as health issues related to the tragedy. Economists especially those at the Federal Reserve are keen to see this drug abuse as socio-demographic in nature so as to be absolved from failing in their primary task should it be found instead a macro concern. Tortured souls all around.

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COT Report: Black (Crude) and Blue (UST’s)

Crude Oil, Jan 2006 - Jun 2017

Over the past month, crude prices have been pinned in a range $50 to the high side and ~$46 at the low. In the futures market, the price of crude is usually set by the money managers (how net long they shift). As discussed before, there have been notable exceptions to this paradigm including some big ones this year.

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Canada’s RHINO(s)

Canadian GDP, 1961 - 2016

The Bank of Canada “raised rates” again today, this time surprising markets and economists who were expecting more distance between the first and second policy adjustments. The central bank paid typical lip service to being data dependent. It has a vested interest if you, as any Canadian reader, believe that to be a fact.

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US Export/Import: ‘Something’ Is Still Out There

US Real Personal Income, Jan 2010 - Jul 2017

In January 2016, just as the wave of “global turmoil” was cresting on domestic as well as foreign shores, retired Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was giving a series of lectures for the IMF. His topic wasn’t really the so-called taper tantrum of 2013 but it really was. Even ideologically blinded economists like Bernanke could see how one might have followed the other; the roots of 2016 in 2013.

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Global PMI Roundup; August 2017

Stanbic Bank Kenya PMI, Jan 2014 - 2017

The first few days of any calendar month are now flooded with PMI data. Mostly due to Markit’s ongoing and increasing partnerships, we now have access to economic or business sentiment from and for almost anywhere in the world. It isn’t clear, however, if that is a good or useful development. For example, we can see quite plainly that there is a whole bunch of trouble brewing in Kenya. The Stanbic Bank/Markit Kenya PMI fell to a record low 42.0 in August (the index history start only in 2014).

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Now Capex?

Total Construction Spending, Jan 1994 - 2017

Of all the high frequency data the Personal Savings Rate is probably the least reliable. It is subject to both regular and benchmark revisions that can change the estimates drastically one way or the other. One step up from that statistic is the figures for Construction Spending. The initial monthly estimates don’t survive very long, and lately they have been quite weak in the first run only to be revised sharply higher over subsequent months.

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Toward The Housing Bubble, Or Great Depression?

US Personal Savings Rate, Jan 2000 - 2017

During the middle 2000’s, one more curious economic extreme presented itself in an otherwise ocean of extremes. Though economists were still thinking about the Great “Moderation”, the trend for the Personal Savings Rate was anything but moderate, indicated a distinct lack of modesty on the part of consumers. In early 2006, the Bureau of Economic Analysis calculated that the rate had been negative for all of 2005. It was the first time in seventy years that had happened in the US. As puzzling as that was for economists, it happened again in 2006.

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2017 Is Two-Thirds Done And Still No Payroll Pickup

Establishment Survey, Jan 2010 - Jul 2017

The payroll report for August 2017 thoroughly disappointed. The monthly change for the headline Establishment Survey was just +156k. The BLS also revised lower the headline estimate in each of the previous two months, estimating for July a gain of only +189k. The 6-month average, which matters more given the noisiness of the statistic, is just +160k or about the same as when the Federal Reserve contemplated starting a third round of QE back in 2012.

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Proving Q2 GDP The Anomaly, Incomes Yet Again Fail To Accelerate

Real Personal Income excl. Transfer Receipts 2014 - 2017

One day after reporting a slightly better number for Q2 GDP, the BEA reports today that there is little reason to suspect it was anything more or lasting. The data for Personal Income and Spending shows that the dominant condition since 2012 remains in effect – “good” quarters, or whatever passes for one these days, are the anomaly. There still is no meaningful rebound in income.

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The Two Parts of Bubbles

Profits & Valuations 1949-1999

What makes a stock bubble is really two parts. Most people might think those two parts are money and mania, but actually money supply plays no direct role. Perceptions about money do, even if mistaken as to what really takes place monetarily from time to time. In fact, for a bubble that would make sense; people are betting in stocks on one monetary view that isn’t real, and therefore prices don’t match what’s really going on.

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Moscow Rules (for ‘dollars’)

China & 'Dollars', Jan 2005 - 2017

In Ian Fleming’s 1959 spy novel Goldfinger, he makes mention of the Moscow Rules. These were rules-of-thumb for clandestine agents working during the Cold War in the Soviet capital, a notoriously difficult assignment. Among the quips included in the catalog were, “everyone is potentially under opposition control” and “do not harass the opposition.” Fleming’s book added another, “Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action.”

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Deja Vu

Central Bank Rate Decomposition

According to orthodox theory, if interest rates are falling because of term premiums then that equates to stimulus. Term premiums are what economists have invented so as to undertake Fisherian decomposition of interest rates (so that they can try to understand the bond market; as you might guess it doesn’t work any better). It is, they claim, the additional premium a bond investor demands so as to hold a security that much longer (more return to entice an investor to buy a 5-year UST rather than a 4-year, or a 10-year as opposed to a 2-year).

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Currency Risk That Isn’t About Exchange Values (Eurodollar University)

Eurodollar University

This week the Bureau of Economic Analysis will release updated estimates for Q2 GDP as well as Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) and Personal Incomes for July. Accompanying those latter two accounts is the currently preferred inflation standard for the US economy. The PCE Deflator finally hit 2% and in two consecutive months, after revisions, earlier this year.

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United States Durable Goods In July; Rinse, Repeat

US Durable Goods Orders, Jul 1993 - 2017

The Census Bureau reported today updated estimates for Durable Goods in July 2017. Quite frankly, nothing has changed so minimal commentary is all that is required. The aircraft anomaly from last month faded, leaving total new orders of $229.2 billion (seasonally-adjusted). That is less than in May before the Boeing surge, and less even than estimated order volume in March 2017.

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United States: Lack Of Industrial Momentum Is (For Now) Big Auto Problems

US Industrial Production, Jan 2006 - Jul 2017

Industrial Production disappointed in the US last month, dragged down by auto production. Despite the return of an oil sector tailwind, IP was up just 2.2% year-over-year in July 2017 according to Federal Reserve statistics. It marks the fourth consecutive month stuck around 2% growth. The lack of further acceleration is unusual in the historical context, especially following an extended period of contraction.

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United States: Still No Up

U.S. Retail Sales, Jun 2011-2017

The Asian flu of the late 1990’s might have been more accurately described as the Asian dollar flu. It was the first major global test of the mature eurodollar system, and it was a severe disruption in the global economy. It doesn’t register as much here in the United States because of the dot-com bubble and the popular imagination about Alan Greenspan’s monetary stewardship in general.

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Data Dependent: Interest Rates Have Nowhere To Go

US Employment Cost Index, Jan 2001 - Aug 2017

In October 2015, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Bill Dudley admitted that the US economy might be slowing. In the typically understated fashion befitting the usual clownshow, he merely was acknowledging what was by then pretty obvious to anyone outside the economics profession.

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China: Losing Economic ‘Reflation’

China Fixed Asset Investment Jul 2012-2017

If “reflation” was born last year in Japan, and I think it was, it was surely given its most tangible dimensions in China. The idea that the Bank of Japan was going to do something magnificent was perhaps always a longshot, but enough given the times for people to hope (sentiment) they might try (helicopter). The Chinese, however, have been relatively more pragmatic. Authorities began 2016 with an actual rather than imagined “stimulus” injection that by around mid-year appeared to be paying off.

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Oil Prices, CPI: Why Not Zero?

Figuring Inflation 2004-2017

In the early throes of economic devastation in 1931, Sweden found itself particularly vulnerable to any number of destabilizing factors. The global economy had been hit by depression, and the Great Contraction was bearing down on the Swedish monetary system. The krona had always been linked to the British pound, so that when the Bank of England removed gold convertibility (left the gold standard) from its notes on September 19 that year the Swedish currency fell into desperate trouble.

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Real GDP: The Staggering Costs

How do we measure what has been lost over the last ten years? There is no single way to calculate it, let alone a correct solution. There are so many sides to an economy that choosing one risks overstating that facet at the expense of another. It’s somewhat of an impossible task already given the staggering dimensions.

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Industrial Production: Irreführende Statistiken

Germany Industrial Production, SA 1997-2017

Germany’s Federal Statistical Office (DeStatis) reported today disappointing figures for Industrial Production. The seasonally-adjusted series fell in June 2017 month-over-month for the first time this year, last declining in December 2016. The index had been on a tear, rising nearly 5% in the first five months of this year.

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Oil Prices: The Center Of The Inflation Debate

Real GDP in the Eurodollar Era 1993-2017

The mainstream media is about to be presented with another (small) gift. In its quest to discredit populism, the condition of inflation has become paramount for largely the right reasons (accidents do happen). In the context of the macro economy of 2017, inflation isn’t really about consumer prices except as a broad gauge of hidden monetary conditions.

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China Exports, China Imports: Textbook

China Exports 2013-2017

China’s export growth disappointed in July, only we don’t really know by how much. According to that country’s Customs Bureau, exports last month were 7.2% above (in US$ terms) exports in July 2016. That’s down from 11.3% growth in June, which as usual had been taken in the mainstream as evidence of “strong” or “robust” global demand.

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U.S. Treasuries: Not Really Wrong On Bonds

U.S. Treasury Bond Futures

It is often said that the market for US Treasuries is the deepest and most liquid in the world. While that’s true, we have to be careful about what it is we are talking about. There is no single US Treasury market, and often differences can be striking. The most prominent example was, of course, October 15, 2014.

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Inflation Is Not About Consumer Prices

Eurozone Gross Domestic Product, 1993 - 2017

I suspect President Trump has been told that markets don’t like radical changes. If there is one thing that any elected official is afraid of, it’s the internet flooded with reports of grave financial instability. We need only go back a year to find otherwise confident authorities suddenly reassessing their whole outlook.

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U.S. Consumer Price Index, Oil Prices: Why It Will Continue, Again Continued

Quarterly Report on Bank Derivatives, Jan 1998 - 2017

Part of “reflation” was always going to be banks making more money in money. These days that is called FICC – Fixed Income, Currency, Commodities. There’s a bunch of activities included in that mix, but it’s mostly derivative trading books forming the backbone of math-as-money money. The better the revenue conditions in FICC, the more likely banks are going to want to do more of it, perhaps to the point of reversing what is just one quarter shy of a decade-long decay.

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Reports on a Quarterly Survey Conducted: Qualifying Shortage (Labor)

US Nonfarm Payrolls Missing

There isn’t a day that goes by in 2017 where some study is released or anecdote is published purporting a sinister labor market development. There is a shortage of workers, we are told, often a very big one. The idea is simple enough; the media has been writing for years that the US economy was recovering, and they would very much like to either see one and be proven right (and that recent revived populism is illegitimate), or find an excuse why they weren’t really wrong (so that populism can be described as indirectly illegitimate).

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China’s Economy Shorthand the Largest Asset Bubble in Human History

China Industrial Production, June 1997 - Jun 2017

The term “ghost city” is a loaded one, often deployed to skew toward a particular viewpoint. In the context of China’s economy, it has become shorthand for perhaps the largest asset bubble in human history. While that may ultimately be the case, in truth China’s ghost cities aren’t about the past but its future.

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U.S. Industrial Production: Industrial Drag

U.S. Industrial Production, YoY 2015 - 2017

Completing a busy day of US economic data, Industrial Production was, like retail sales and inflation data, highly disappointing. Prior months were revised slightly lower, leaving IP year-over-year up just 2% in June 2017 (estimates for May were initially 2.2%). Revisions included, the annual growth rate has been stuck around 2% now for three months in a row, suggesting like those other accounts a pause or even possible end to the mini-improvement cycle.

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Retail Sales Conundrum

U.S. Retail Sales All Weakness, Jun 2011 - 2017

Retail sales were thoroughly disappointing in June. Whereas other accounts such as imports or durable goods had at least delivered a split decision between adjusted and unadjusted versions, for retail sales both views of them were ugly. Seasonally-adjusted first, spending last month was down for the second straight time. Worse than that, estimated sales were just barely more than in January.

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Wholesale: No Acceleration, No Liquidation

Wholesale Sales and Inventory, NSA

In the same way as durable goods orders and US imports, wholesale sales in May 2017 were up somewhat unadjusted but down for the third straight month according the seasonally-adjusted series. As with those other two, the difference is one of timing. In other words, combining the two sets, seasonal and not, we are left to interpret a possible recent slowing in activity.

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China Imports and Exports: The Ghost Recovery

China Trade Ghost Cities

To the naked eye, it represents progress. China has still an enormous rural population doing subsistence level farming. As the nation grows economically, such a way of life is an inherent drag, an anchor on aggregate efficiency Chinese officials would rather not put up with.

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Competing CPI,PPI, Industrial Production and Retail Sales: No Luck China, Either

China Retail Sales and Industrial Production

Former IMF chief economist Ken Rogoff warned today on CNBC that he was concerned about China. Specifically, he worried that country might “export a recession” to the rest of Asia if not the rest of the world. I’m not sure if he has been paying attention or not, but the Chinese economy since 2012 has been doing just that to varying degrees often just shy of that level.

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US Federal Funds, Bond Market and WSJ Economic Survey: The Hidden State of Money

US WSJ Economic Forecast Survey

Correctly interpreting the bond market is more than just how and when to invest your money in UST’s. Not that it isn’t useful in such a money management capacity, but interest rates starting at the risk-free tell us a lot about what is wholly unseen. There is simply no way to directly observe inside an economy what is taking place at all levels and in all transactions. We try to estimate as best we can in the aggregate, but the real economy works itself out far over the horizon.

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Vehicle Sales, Consumer Price Index and Average Weekly Hours: More Than Minor Auto Potential

US JD Power and LMC Automotive Vehicle Sales

According to, in June 2017 the average length of a new vehicle loan has been stretched to a record 69.3 months. JD Power says that incentives last month were running at more than 10% of MSRP, the eleventh time over the past twelve months where manufacturers have so heavily discounted. And yet, the auto industry would have us believe that the problem is one of fleet sales rather than of consumers.

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US Imports, Exports and Trade Stalls, Too

US Imports

US imports rose year-over-year for the seventh straight month, but like factory orders and other economic statistics there is a growing sense that the rebound will not go further. The total import of goods was up 9.3% in May 2017 as compared to May 2016, but growth rates have over the past five months remained constrained to around that same level. It continues to be about half the rate we should expect given the preceding contraction.

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U.S. Gross Domestic Products: Near Record Expansion (Really Reduction)


Real GDP in the US was revised up to 1.41% quarter-over-quarter (annual rate), still the fourth of the last six to be less than 1.5%. While economists and policymakers have taken to judging the economy by its downside, that is only because the extent of the global problem is revealed by complete absences of an upside. The occasional decent quarter doesn’t come close to making up for the more plentiful disappointing ones, let alone to still resolve the massive contraction in 2008 and 2009.

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Pending Home Sales: Home Attitude Adjustments

US Pending Home Sales

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported today that pending home sales declined for the third straight month. As with so many other accounts, it’s not really the downside that is relevant but how instead there has been little to no growth for quite some time now. The NAR’s index value, which is how the organization reports the level of pending sales, was 108.5 in May 2017. That’s up 42% from the low in 2010, but also slightly less than the peak in June 2013.

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Maybe Deep Dissatisfaction Has A Point

Economic Baselines in the Eurodollar Era, January 1993 - January 2017

To complete a trifecta, maybe someone could interview Alan Greenspan about rational exuberance. The last of the latest Fed Chairmen, Janet Yellen, purports today that the next financial crisis will not be in “our lifetimes.” The issue, however, isn’t even crisis so much as credibility. Given that she and the rest of them had no idea about the last one until it was almost over, we might be forgiven for rejecting her thesis outright – and it having nothing at all to do with the current or expected future state of finance. She is nearly the last person that should be speaking on that topic.

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Oil Prices and Manufacturing PMI: No Backing Sentiment

Oil Prices

When the price of oil first collapsed at the end of 2014, it was characterized widely as a “supply glut.” It wasn’t something to be concerned about because it was believed attributable to success, and American success no less. Lower oil prices would be another benefit to consumers on top of the “best jobs market in decades.”

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Weird Obsessions

US Banks Claims On Total Europe

People often ask why I care so much about China. In some ways the answer is obvious, meaning that China is the world’s second largest economy (the largest under certain methods of measurement). Therefore, marginal changes in the Chinese economy are important to understanding our own global situation.

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Brazil’s Reasons

Brazil Eurodollar University

Brazil is another one of those topics which doesn’t seem to merit much scrutiny apart from morbid curiosity. Like swap spreads or Japanese bank currency redistribution tendencies, it is sometimes hard to see the connection for US-based or just generically DM investors. Unless you set out to buy an emerging market ETF heavily weighted in the direction of South America, Brazil’s problems can seem a world away.

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Basic China Money Math Still Doesn’t Add Up To A Solution

China Basic Money Math

There are four basic categories to the PBOC’s balance sheet, two each on the asset and liability sides of the ledger. The latter is the money side, composed mainly of actual, physical currency and the ledger balances of bank reserves. Opposing them is forex assets in possession of the central bank and everything else denominated in RMB.

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Fading Further and Further Back Toward 2016

U.S. Disposable Personal Income

Earlier this month, the BEA estimated that Disposable Personal Income in the US was $14.4 trillion (SAAR) for April 2017. If the unemployment rate were truly 4.3% as the BLS says, there is no way DPI would be anywhere near to that low level. It would instead total closer to the pre-crisis baseline which in April would have been $19.0 trillion. Even if we factor retiring Baby Boomers in a realistic manner, say $18 trillion instead, what does the world look like with that additional $3.6 trillion of American income?

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Now China’s Curve

China Treasury Bond Curve

Suddenly central banks are mesmerized by yield curves. One of the jokes around this place is that economists just don’t get the bond market. If it was only a joke. Alan Greenspan’s “conundrum” more than a decade ago wasn’t the end of the matter but merely the beginning. After spending almost the entire time in between then and now on monetary “stimulus” of the traditional variety, only now are authorities paying close attention.

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More Pieces of Impossible

CPI: Wireless Telephone Services

On his company’s earnings conference call back on Valentine’s Day, T-Mobile CEO John Legere was unusually feisty. Never known for shyness, Legere had reason behind his bluster. T-Mobile had practically built itself up on price, being left the bottom tier of the wireless space practically to itself. That all changed, however, as both Verizon and Sprint were set to escalate the wireless price war.

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Chinese Basis For Anti-Reflation?

China Industry Drives Its Consumers

Yesterday was something of a data deluge. In the US, we had the predictable CPI dropping again, lackluster US Retail Sales, and then the FOMC’s embarrassing performance. Across the Pacific, the Chinese also reported Retail Sales as well as Industrial Production and growth of investments in Fixed Assets (FAI). When deciding which topics to cover yesterday, it was easy to leave off the Chinese portion simply because much of it didn’t change.

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Defying Labels

US Industrial Production, January 2010 - June 2017

Last month US Industrial Production rose rather quickly. Gaining more than 1.1% month-over-month, it might have appeared that the US economy once dragged into downturn by manufacturing and industry was finally about to experience its belated upturn. But frustration is how it has always gone, not just in this latest phase but for all phases since around 2011. Each good month is followed immediately by a disappointing one. What should be uninterrupted positivity is left instead as going nowhere.

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Repeat 2015; An Embarrassing Day For The Fed

Today started out very badly for the FOMC. At 8:30am the Commerce Department reported “unexpectedly” weak retail sales while at the very same time the BLS published CPI statistics that were thoroughly predictable. Markets, at least credit and money markets, have gained a clearer idea what the Fed is actually doing and why. It’s not at all what the media suggests.

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Retail Sales Weren’t All That Bad, Meaning They Were The Worst

Retail Sales All Weak

Taken in comparison to the last few years, today’s retail sales report wasn’t that bad. Total sales for May 2017, including autos, grew by 5.17% year-over-year (NSA). That was the highest growth rate since last February. The 6-month average is now just shy of 4%, the best since early 2015. It is clear the US economy has shrugged off the effects of last year’s downturn.

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Repeat 2014: Praying Again To The God of ‘Global Growth’

CPI Changes on Energy 2016-2017

One of the more troubling aspects of mainstream commentary in 2014 was its blandness. Statements were made with a purpose but also purposefully avoiding specifics. It was common to hear or read “the economy is improving” without being shown why or how in convincing fashion. After suffering a second bout of weakness in 2012 and 2013, unexpected of course, everyone simply believed those words because why not.

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American Expectations, Chinese Prices

FRBNY Survey Of Consumer Expectations, November 2013 - May 2017

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has for the past almost four years conducted its own assessment of consumer expectations.Though there are several other well-known consumer surveys, FRBNY adding another could be helpful for corroborating them. Unfortunately for the Fed, it has.

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Deciphering Curves

RHINO Curves, April 2008 - June 2017

What is the yield curve supposed to look like? It’s a simple question that doesn’t actually have an answer. And because it doesn’t, there is a whole lot of confusion about bond yields.

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Wealth Paradox Not Effect

U.S. Household Net Worth, April 1954 - April 2016

US Household Net Worth rose to a record $94.8 trillion in Q1 2017. According to the Federal Reserve’s Financial Accounts of the United States (Z1), aggregate paper wealth rose by more than 8% year-over-year mostly as the stock market shook off the effects of “global turmoil.” It was the best rate of expansion since the second quarter of 2014 just prior to this “rising dollar” interruption.

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Questions Persist About China Trade

Chinese trade statistics were for May 2017 better than expected by economists, but on the export side questions remain as to their accuracy. Earlier this year discrepancies between estimates first published by the General Administration of Customs (GAC), those you find reported in the media, and what is captured by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), backed up by data from the Ministry of Commerce, became noticeable.

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Europe’s Non-linear

Europe is as we all are. Ben Bernanke wrote a few years ago that his tenure at the Fed must have been a success in his view because the US economy didn’t perform as badly as Europe’s. As usual, this technically true comparison is for any meaningful purpose irrelevant.

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All About Inventory

Crude Oil Stocks, January 2009 - June 2017

Andy Hall has been called the God of Oil. As chief of Astenbeck Capital, he has proven at times that even gods can be mortal. In the “rising dollar” period, for example, after making money on the way down Mr. Hall went bullish.

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