Jeffrey P. Snider

Jeffrey P. 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 P. Snider

The Inverse of Keynes

S&P 500 EPS Q4 2016

With nearly all of the S&P 500 companies having reported their Q4 numbers, we can safely claim that it was a very bad earnings season. It may seem incredulous to categorize the quarter that way given that EPS growth (as reported) was +29%, but even that rate tells us something significant about how there is, actually, a relationship between economy and at least corporate profits.

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All In The Curves

Notable events in the 2003 deflation scare

If the mainstream is confused about exactly what rate hikes mean, then they are not alone. We know very well what they are supposed to, but the theoretical standards and assumptions of orthodox understanding haven’t worked out too well and for a very long time now. The benchmark 10-year US Treasury is today yielding less than it did when the FOMC announced their second rate hike in December.

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TIC Analysis of Selling

When the Treasury Department released its Treasury International Capital (TIC) data for December, what was a somewhat obscure report suddenly found mainstream attention. Private foreign investors had sold tens of billions in US securities primarily US Treasury bonds and notes which the media then made into some kind of warning to then-incoming President Trump. It was supposed to be a big deal, the kind of rebuke reserved for disreputable leaders of banana republics.

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Durable Goods After Leap Year

Durable Goods New Orders, NSA 1993-2017

New orders for durable goods (not including transportation orders) were up 1% year-over-year in February. That is less than the (revised) 4.4% growth in January, but as with all comparisons of February 2017 to February 2016 there will be some uncertainty surrounding the comparison to the leap year version.

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Non-Randomly Surveying RMB

PBOC RMB Liquidity Management 2014-2017

China’s central bank, unlike other central banks, is constantly active almost never resting. Because it is always in motion, the PBOC can seem to be “adding” liquidity at the very same time it might be “draining” it. Its specific actions should never be interpreted as standalone procedures related solely to some unknown policy stance. That is particularly true given that we know what their stance is and has been – neutral.

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Economics Through The Economics of Oil

The last time oil inventory grew at anywhere close to this pace was during each of the last two selloffs, the first in late 2014/early 2015 and the second following about a year after. Those events were relatively easy to explain in terms of both price and fundamentals, though the mainstream managed to screw it up anyway (“supply glut”).

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Pressure, Sure, But From Where?

Belly of the Curve Gone Flat 2009-2017

It may just be that in life you have to get used to disappointment. Though not for lack of trying, I have spent a great deal of time over the years intending to piece together exactly what happened on days like October 15, 2014. The official explanation is an obvious whitewash, one so haphazard that I doubt it will ever be referred to again outside of ridicule.

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Was There Ever A ‘Skills Mismatch’? Notable Differences In Job Openings Suggest No

JOLTS - Job Openings, Acceleration, Dec 2000 - 2016

Perhaps the most encouraging data produced by the BLS has been within its JOLTS figures, those of Job Openings. It is one data series that policymakers watch closely and one which they purportedly value more than most. While the unemployment and participation rates can be caught up in structural labor issues (heroin and retirees), Job Openings are related to the demand for labor rather than the complications on the labor supply side.

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Industrial Symmetry

Industrial Production YoY, Jun 1995 - Jan 2017

There has always been something like Newton’s third law observed in the business cycles of the US and other developed economies. In what is, or was, essentially symmetry, there had been until 2008 considerable correlation between the size, scope, and speed of any recovery and its antecedent downturn, or even slowdown. The relationship was so striking that it moved Milton Friedman to finally publish in 1993 his plucking model theory he had first written in 1964.

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Retail Sales: Extra Day Likely, no Meaningful Difference

Retail Sales, Jan 1993 - 2017

Retail sales comparisons were for February 2017 skewed by the extra day in February 2016. With the leap year February 29th a part of the base effect, the estimated growth rates (NSA) for this February are to some degree better than they appear. Seasonally-adjusted retail sales were in the latest estimates essentially flat when compared to the prior month (January). That leaves too much guesswork to draw any hard conclusions.

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Further Unanchoring Is Not Strictly About Inflation

University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers Inflation Expectations, Jan 1990 - 2017

According to Alan Greenspan in a speech delivered at Stanford University in September 1997, monetary policy in the United States had been shed of M1 by late 1982. The Fed has never been explicit about exactly when, or even why, monetary policy changed dramatically in the 1980’s to a regime of pure interest rate targeting of the federal funds rate.

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Mugged By Reality; Many Still Yet To Be

Friedman's Plucking Model

In August 2014, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer admitted to an audience in Sweden the possibility in some unusually candid terms that maybe they (economists, not Sweden) didn’t know what they were doing. His speech was lost in the times, those being the middle of that year where the Fed having already started to taper QE3 and 4 were becoming supremely confident that they would soon end them.

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Do Record Debt And Loan Balances Matter? Not Even Slightly

Z1 Total Debt Securities, 1980 - 2016

We live in a non-linear world that is almost always described in linear terms. Though Einstein supposedly said compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe, it rarely is appreciated for what the statement really means. And so the idea of record highs or even just positive numbers have been equated with positive outcomes, even though record highs and positive growth rates can be at times still associated with some of the worst. It may seem like a paradox, but that is only because of the linear frame of reference.

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Payrolls Still Slowing Into A Third Year

Payrolls Est Survey, Jan 2010 - 2017

Today’s bland payroll report did little to suggest much of anything. All the various details were left pretty much where they were last month, and all the prior trends still standing. The headline Establishment Survey figure of 235k managed to bring the 6-month average up to 194k, almost exactly where it was in December but quite a bit less than November. In other words, despite what is mainly written as continued “strength” is still pointing down in all the key places.

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Time, The Biggest Risk

Oil WTI, May 2016 - February 2017

If there is still no current or present indication of rising economic fortunes, and there isn’t, then the “reflation” idea turns instead to what might be different this time as compared to the others. In 2013 and 2014, it was QE3 and particularly the intended effects (open ended and faster paced, a bigger commitment by the Fed to purportedly do whatever it took) upon expectations that supposedly set it apart from the failures of QE’s 1 and 2. This time it is more fiscal than monetary, a potential difference that isn’t lost on “reflation” believers.

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No Paradox, Economy to Debt to Assets

Household Net Worth, April 1951 - 2016

It is surely one of the primary reasons why many if not most people have so much trouble accepting the trouble the economy is in. With record high stock prices leading to record levels of household net worth, it seems utterly inconsistent to claim those facts against a US economic depression.

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Same Country, Different Worlds

China CPI PPI, February 2007 - 2017

To my mind, “reflation” has always proceeded under false pretenses. This goes for more than just the latest version, as we witnessed the same incongruity in each of the prior three. The trend is grounded in mere hope more than rational analysis, largely because I think human nature demands it. We are conditioned to believe especially in the 21st century that the worst kinds of things are either unrealistic or apply to some far off location nowhere near our experience.

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US Trade Skews

US Trade Export, NSA 1989-2016

US trade statistics dramatically improved in January 2017, though questions remain as to interpreting by how much. On the export side, US exports of goods rose 8.7% year-over-year (NSA). While that was the highest growth rate since 2012, there is part symmetry to account for some of it.

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Do Record Eurodollar Balances Matter? Not Even Slightly

Nonbanks TIC Other Outbound, Nov 1978 - 2016

The BIS in its quarterly review published yesterday included a reference to the eurodollar market (thanks to M. Daya for pointing it out). The central bank to central banks, as the outfit is often called, is one of the few official institutions that have taken a more objective position with regard to the global money system. Of the very few who can identify eurodollars, or have even heard of them, the BIS while not fully on board is at least open to the possibility that perhaps maybe their constituent central bankers don’t know what they are talking about.
So it was with some surprise to find that the piece was quite positive overall. It concludes that the market is, “not suffering a dollar shortage as in 2008-09.” This is misleading, for the statement is qualified in two very important

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Manufacturing Back To 2014

Factory Orders for All Manufacturing Industies, SA 1992-2016

The ISM Manufacturing PMI registered 57.7 in February 2017, the highest value since August 2014 (revised). It was just slightly less than that peak in the 2014 “reflation” cycle. Given these comparisons, economic narratives have been spun further than even the past few years where “strong” was anything but.

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Economic Dissonance, Too

Germany Industrial Production, SA 1997-2016

Germany is notoriously fickle when it comes to money, speaking as much of discipline in economy or industry as central banking. If ever there is disagreement about monetary arrangements, surely the Germans are behind it. Since ECB policy only ever attains the one direction, so-called accommodation, there never seems to be harmony.

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True Cognitive Dissonance

Inflation In Japan 2011-2016

There is gold in Asia, at least gold of the intellectual variety for anyone who wishes to see it. The Chinese offer us perhaps the purest view of monetary conditions globally, where RMB money markets are by design tied directly to “dollar” behavior. It is, in my view, enormously helpful to obsess over China’s monetary system so as to be able to infer a great deal about the global monetary system deep down beyond the “event horizon.”

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Real Disposable Income: Headwinds of the Negative

PCE Chain-type Price Index 2008-2017

The PCE Deflator for January 2017 rose just 1.89% year-over-year. It was the 57th consecutive month less than the 2% mandate (given by the Fed itself when in early 2012 it made the 2% target for this metric its official definition of price stability).

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Some Notes On GDP Past And Present

GDP PCE Deflator QQ YY, January 2009 - April 2016

The second estimate for GDP was so similar to the first as to be in all likelihood statistically insignificant. The preliminary estimate for real GDP was given as $16,804.8 billion. The updated figure is now $16,804.1 billion. In nominal terms there was more variation, where the preliminary estimate of $18,860.8 billion is now replaced by one for $18,855.5 billion.

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Durable Goods Groundhog

Durable Goods New Orders, NSA 1993-2017

If the economy is repeating the after-effects of the latest “dollar” events, and it does seem more and more to be that case, then analysis starts with identifying a range for where it might be in the repetition. New orders for durable goods (ex transportation) rose 4.3% year-over-year in January 2017 (NSA, only 2.4% SA), the highest growth rate since September 2014 (though not meaningfully faster than the 3.9% rate in November 2016).

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It Was ‘Dollars’ All Along

Giant Sucking Sound 1960 - 2015

Ross Perot famously declared the “giant sucking sound” in the 1992 Presidential campaign. The debate over NAFTA did not end with George H. W. Bush’s defeat, as it simmered in one form or another for much of the 1990’s. Curiously, however, it seemed almost perfectly absent during the 2000’s, the very decade in which Perot’s prophecy came true. Americans didn’t notice because there was a bubble afoot.

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Not Recession, Systemic Rupture – Again

Pyramid - Total US Gold Stock, January 2017

For the very few in the mainstream of economics who venture further back in history than October 1929, they typically still don’t go much last April 1925. And when they do, it is only to further bash the gold standard for its presumed role in creating the conditions for 1929. The Brits under guidance of Winston Churchill made a grave mistake, one from which gold advocates could never recover given what followed.

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The Market Is Not The Economy, But Earnings Are (Closer)

S&P 500 EPS April 1996 - April 2016

My colleague Joe Calhoun likes to remind me that markets and fundamentals only sound like they should be related, an observation that is a correct one on so many different levels. Stock prices, in general, and GDP growth may seem to warrant some kind of expected correlation, but it has proven quite tenuous at times especially in a 21st century sense.

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The Stinking Politics of It All

Potential Real Gross Domestic Products 1999Q1 - 2017Q1

It is largely irrelevant, but still the political theater is fascinating. As is now standard operating procedure, whatever comes out of the Trump administration immediately is conferred as the standard for awful. This is not my own determination, mind you, but that of the mainstream, whatever that is these days. And so it is with the first set of budget figures that include very robust growth projections, a point of contention and an obvious one regardless of the politics.

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No Acceleration In Industry, Either

U.S. Industrial Production Jan 2000 - Jan 2017

Industrial Production in the United States was flat in January 2017, following in December the first positive growth rate in over a year. The monthly estimates for IP are often subject to greater revisions than in other data series, so the figures for the latest month might change in the months ahead. Still, even with that in mind, there is no acceleration indicated for US industry.

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Their Gap Is Closed, Ours Still Needs To Be

Potential Real GDP, 1999Q1 - 2009Q1

There are actually two parts to examining the orthodox treatment of the output gap. The first is the review, looking backward to trace how we got to this state. The second is looking forward trying to figure what it means to be here. One final rearward assessment is required so as to frame how we view what comes next. As I suggested earlier this week, the so-called output gap started at the trough of the Great “Recession” at around 10% of the CBO’s January 2008 calculation for potential.

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Why Aren’t Oil Prices $50 Ahead?

Oil Prices Oil Inflation Economy Circular

Right now there are two conventional propositions behind the “reflation” trade, and in many ways both are highly related if not fully intertwined. The first is that interest rates have nowhere to go but up. The Fed is raising rates again and seems more confident in doing more this year than it wanted to last year. With nominal rates already rising in the last half of 2016, and with more (surveyed) optimism than even 2014, it may at times seem the path of least resistance.

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U.S. CPI after the energy push

U.S. Consumer Prices Changes on Energy January 1995 - 2017

The Consumer Price Index for January 2017 rose 2.5%, pulled upward by its energy component which thanks to oil prices now being comparing to the absolutely lows last year saw that part of the index rise 11.1% year-over-year. Given that oil prices bottomed out on February 11, 2016, this is the last month where oil prices and thus energy inflation will be at its most extreme (except, of course, should WTI actually rise between now and the end of February off $53 – $54 a barrel where it has been stuck for quite some time).

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Real Wages Really Inconsistent

Average Weekly Earnings Production and Nonsupervisory August 2007 - February 2017

Real average weekly earnings for the private sector fell 0.6% year-over-year in January. It was the first contraction since December 2013 and the sharpest since October 2012. The reason for it is very simple; nominal wages remain stubbornly stagnant but now a rising CPI subtracts even more from them.

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A New Frame Of Reference Is Really All That Is Necessary To Start With

Evolution Fractional Lending Bank Reserves 1900 - 1921

In the middle of 1919, the United States was beset by a great many imbalances. Having just conducted a wartime economy, almost everything before then had been absorbed by the World War I effort. With fiscal restraint subsumed by national emergency, inflation was the central condition. Given that the Federal Reserve was by then merely a few years old, no one was quite sure what to do about it.

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Brazil: Continuing Problems

Brazil Industrial Production 1975 - 2016

The cruelest part, perhaps, of this economic condition globally is how it plays against type. In all prior cycles, economies of all kinds and orientations all over the globe would go into recession and then bounce right of it once at the bottom. It was often difficult to see the bottom, of course, but once recovery happened there was no arguing against it.

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No China Trade Interpretations

China Exports and Imports, January 2011 - January 2017

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) of China does not publish any of the big three data series (Industrial Production, Retail Sales, Fixed Asset Investment) for the month of January. It combines January data with February data because of the large distortions caused by Lunar New Year holidays.

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Jobless Claims Look Great, Until We Examine The Further Potential For What We Really, Really Don’t Want

Initial Jobless Claims, January 1967 - January 2017

Initial jobless claims fell to just 234k for the week of February 4, nearly matching the 233k multi-decade low in mid-November. That brought the 4-week moving average down to just 244k, which was a new low going all the way back to the early 1970’s. Jobless claims seemingly stand in sharp contrast to other labor market figures which have been suggesting an economic slowdown for nearly two years.

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We Know How This Ends – Part 2

History Most Definitely Rhymes

In March 1969, while Buba was busy in the quicksand of its swaps and forward dollar interventions, Netherlands Bank (the Dutch central bank) had instructed commercial banks in Holland to pull back funds from the eurodollar market in order to bring up their liquidity positions which had dwindled dangerously during this increasing currency chaos.

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