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

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.
For the Census Bureau’s trade data, that means this is the month that shines above all the rest. The greatest monthly totals for any year can be found during it. The big one, the top dog. According to the latest estimates for 2019’s turn, that is still likely to be the case. And that would be a big problem.
Americans still love to spend on Christmas. Jay Powell keeps saying the economy is strong and we can all

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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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Unexpected?

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 Edmunds.com, 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)

US Real GDP

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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Forced Finally To A Binary Labor Interpretation

U.S. Job Openings, December 2000 - June 2017

JOLTS figures for the month of April 2017, released today, highlight what is in the end likely to be a more positive outcome for them. It has very little to do with the economy itself, as what we are witnessing is the culmination of extreme positions that have been made and estimated going all the way back to 2014.

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Signs of Something, Just Not Wage Acceleration

Average Weekly Earnings Production And Nonsupervisory, January 1990 - May 2017

I have been writing for many years that they really don’t know what they are doing. I only wish it was that simple. There has been developing another layer or dimension to that condition, a second derivative of stupid, whereby when faced with this now well-established fact the same people, experts and authorities all, they have no frame of reference to figure out what next to do. In other words, they really don’t know what to do when they realize they really don’t know what they are doing.

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The Anti-Perfect Jobs Condition

Unemployment Rate, January 2013 - May 2017

The irony of the unemployment rate for the Federal Reserve is that the lower it gets now the bigger the problem it is for officials. It has been up to this year their sole source of economic comfort. Throughout 2015, the Establishment Survey improperly contributed much the same sympathy, but even it no longer resides on the plus side of the official ledger.

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Dollars And Sent(iment)s

ISM Manufacturing PMI, July 2014 - May 2017

Both US manufacturing PMI’s underwhelmed just as those from China did. The IHS Markit Index was lower than the flash reading and the lowest level since last September. For May 2017, it registered 52.7, down from 52.8 in April and a high of 55.0 in January. Just by description alone you can appreciate exactly what pattern that fits. The ISM Manufacturing PMI was slightly higher in May than April, 54.9 versus 54.8, but still down from a February peak at 57.7.

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Pay No Attention To 50

China NBS Manufacturing PMI, May 2007 - May 2017

China’s PMI’s were uniformly disappointing with respect to what Moody’s was on about last week. Chinese authorities expended great effort and resources to get the economy moving forward again after several years of “dollar”-driven deceleration. here was a massive “stimulus” spending program where State-owned FAI expenditures of about 2% of GDP were elicited to make up for Private FAI that at one point last year was actually contracting.

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Simple (economic) Math

Average Weekly Earnings Production And Nonsupervisory, January 2007 - May 2017

The essence of capitalism is not strictly capital. In the modern sense, the word capital has taken on other meanings, often where money is given as a substitute for it. When speaking about things like “hot money”, for instance, you wouldn’t normally correct someone referencing it in terms of “capital flows.” Someone that “commits capital” to a project is missing some words, for in the proper sense they are “committing funds to capital.”

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Not Do We Need One, But Do We Need A Different One

Chinese Money, Oil Prices And Asian "Dollars" , January 2006 - July 2009

On March 24, 2009, then US President Barack Obama gave a prime time televised press conference whose subject was quite obviously the economy and markets. The US and global economy was at that moment trying to work through the worst conditions since the 1930’s and nobody really had any idea what that would mean.

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Suddenly Impatient Sentiment

Fed Fifth District Survey Of Manufacturing, January 2014 - May 2017

Two more manufacturing surveys suggest sharp deceleration in momentum, or, more specifically, the momentum of sentiment (if there is such a thing). The Federal Reserve’s 5th District Survey of Manufacturing (Richmond branch) dropped to barely positive, calculated to be just 1.0 in May following 20.0 in April and 22.0 in March.

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Less Than Nothing

Eurodollar Futures Dimensions, 2005 - 2007

As I so often write, we still talk about 2008 because we aren’t yet done with 2008. It doesn’t seem possible to be stuck in a time warp of such immense proportions, but such are the mistakes of the last decade carrying with them just these kinds of enormous costs.

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Commodity and Oil Prices: Staying Suck

U.S. Industrial Production, 2006-2017

The rebound in commodity prices is not difficult to understand, perhaps even sympathize with. With everything so depressed early last year, if it turned out to be no big deal in the end then there was a killing to be made. That’s what markets are supposed to do, entice those with liquidity to buy when there is blood in the streets. And if those speculators turn out to be wrong, then we are all much the wiser for their pain.

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Trying To Reconcile Accounts; China

China Fixed Asset Investment, April 2013 - April 2017

Chinese economic data for April 2017 has been uniformly disappointing. External trade numbers resembled too much commodity prices, leaving an emphasis on them rather than actual economic forces. The latest figures for the Big 3, Industrial Production, Retail Sales, and Fixed Asset Investment, unfortunately also remained true to the pattern.

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Reasonable Retail (Therefore Consumer) Expectations

Transitory Retail Sales, January 2013 - May 2017

Retail sales estimates are not adjusted for inflation, but even so whenever they get down toward the 3% growth level you can be sure there is serious economic trouble. The 6-month average for overall retail sales dropped below 3% in March 2001, the month that marked the start of the official dot-com recession (though that is not the official name for the cyclical peak, it probably should be).

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Hopefully Not Another Three Years

The Still-Shrinking 'Recovery'

The stock market has its earnings season, the regular quarterly reports of all the companies that have publicly traded stocks. In economic accounts, there is something similar though it only happens once a year. It is benchmark revision season, and it has been brought to a few important accounts already. Given that this is a backward looking exercise, that this season is likely to produce more downward revisions shouldn’t be surprising.

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China Inflation Now, Too

China Producer Price Index, April 2007 - May 2017

We can add China to the list of locations where the near euphoria about inflation rates is rapidly falling apart. This is an important blow, as the Chinese economy has been counted on to lead the world out of this slump if through nothing other than its own sheer recklessness. “Stimulus” was all the rage one year ago, and for a time it seemed to be producing all the right effects. This was “reflation”, after all.

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Lackluster Trade, China April Edition

China’s trade statistics for April 2017 uniformly disappointed. They only did so, however, because expectations are being calibrated as if the current economy is actually different. It is instead merely swinging between bouts of contraction and low-grade growth, but so low-grade it really doesn’t qualify as growth.

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Inflation Is Oil, But Inflation Is Much More Than Consumer Prices

CPI Changes On Energy, January 2016 - May 2017

The average annual change in the WTI benchmark price was in April about 25%. That was still a sizable increase year-over-year, and just marginally less than March’s average of 33%. For calculated inflation rates, it represents the last of the base effects that have to this point made it appear as if economic improvement was possibly serious.

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Lackluster Trade

US Imports, June 1989 - May 2017

US imports rose 9% year-over-year (NSA) in March 2017, after being flat in February and up 12% in January. For the quarter overall, imports rose 7.3%, a rate that is slightly more than the 2013-14 comparison. The difference, however, is simply the price of oil.

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The Wrong People Have An Innate Tendency To Stand Out

Japan Government Bond Yields, January 1985 - May 2017

I don’t think Milton Friedman would have made much of chess player. For all I know he might have been a grand master or something close to that rank, but as much as his work is admirable it invites too the whole range of opposite emotion. He was the champion libertarian of the free market who rescued economics from the ravages of New Deal socialism, but in doing so he simply created the avenue for where Economics of that kind could be transposed directly from the Treasury Department to the central bank.

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Noose Or Ratchet

Quarterly Report On Bank Derivative Activities, April 1995 - April 2016

losing the book on Q4 2016 balance sheet capacity is to review essentially forex volumes. The eurodollar system over the last ten years has turned far more in this direction in addition to it becoming more Asian/Japanese. In fact, the two really go hand in hand given the native situation of Japanese banks.

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Auto Pressure Ramps Up

Motor Vehicle Sales And Production, January 2011 - May 2017

The Los Angeles Times today asked the question only the mainstream would ask. “Wages are growing and surveys show consumer confidence is high. So why are motor vehicle sales taking a hit?” Indeed, the results reported earlier by the auto sector were the kind of sobering figures that might make any optimist wonder.

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China: Blatant Similarities

China NBS Manufacturing PMI, April 2007 - April 2017

Declines in several of the world’s PMI’s in April have furthered doubts about the global “reflation.” But while many disappointed, some sharply, it isn’t just this one month that has sown them. In China, for example, both the manufacturing and non-manufacturing sentiment indices declined to 6-month lows.

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This Is Not Expansion

Real GDP Trends 2011-2017

Back in October, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released GDP figures that suggested what those behind “reflation” had hoped. After a near miss to start 2016, the economy had shaken off the effects of “transitory” weakness, mainly manufacturing and oil, poised to perform in a manner consistent with monetary policy rhetoric.

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Clickbait: Bernanke Terrifies Stock Investors, Again

Unstable GDP Revised, April 2011 - April 2017

If you are a stock investor, you should be terrified. The most disconcerting words have been uttered by the one person capable of changing the whole dynamic. After spending so many years trying to recreate the magic of the “maestro”, Ben Bernanke in retirement is still at it.

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Defining Labor Economics

Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, Dec 2000 - 2016

Economics is a pretty simple framework of understanding, at least in the small “e” sense. The big problem with Economics, capital “E”, is that the study is dedicated to other things beyond the economy. In the 21st century, it has become almost exclusive to those extraneous errands. It has morphed into a discipline dedicated to statistical regression of what relates to what, and the mathematical equations assigned to give those relationships some sort of meaning.

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‘Dollar’ ‘Improvement’

US TIC Official Buying Of US Treasury Bonds And Notes, February 2013 - February 2017

According to the headline TIC statistics, foreign central banks have in the past six months sold the fewest UST’s since the 6-month period ended November 2015. That may indicate an easing of “dollar” pressure in the private markets due to “reflation” sentiment.

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PBoC: Mechanical Tightening PBoC is China Central Bank

PBOC Balance Sheet, March 2011 - March 2017

The mainstream narrative as it relates to Chinese money is “tightening.” Having survived the economic downturn last year, we are to believe that the PBOC is once again on bubble duty. They raised their reverse repo rates, considered to be their policy benchmarks, three times up to mid-March.

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To The Asian ‘Dollar’, And Then What?

TIC - US Banking Data Claims On Foreigners, February 1979 - February 2017

The Bretton Woods system was intentionally set up to funnel monetary convertibility through official channels. The primary characteristic of any true gold standard is that any person who wishes can change paper claims into hard money. It was as much true in any one country as between those bound by the same legal framework (property).

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Money In America

Economic Baselines in the Eurodollar Era, January 1993 - 2016

In 1830, France was once more swept up in revolution, only this time at the end of it was installed one king to replace another. Louis-Phillipe became, in fact, France’s last king as a result of that July Revolution. The country was trying to make sense of its imperial past with the growing democratic sentiments of the 19th century.

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New Patterns of Disturbance

Industrial Production, 1991 - 2016

Having finally established that the economy of the “rising dollar” was appreciably worse than first estimated, we can turn our attention back toward figuring out what that means for the near future and beyond. According to the latest estimates for Industrial Production, growth has returned but in the same weird asymmetric sort of way that is actually common for the past decade. Year-over-year IP expanded by 1.5% in March 2017, the highest growth rate since February 2015 more than two years ago.

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Now You Tell Us

US Industrial Production, Jan 2006 - 2017

As we move further into 2017, economic statistics will be subject to their annual benchmark revisions. High frequency data such as any accounts published on or about a single month is estimated using incomplete data. It’s just the nature of the process. Over time, more comprehensive survey results as well as upgrades to statistical processes make it necessary for these kinds of revisions.

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The Expanded Retail Sales Gap

US Retail Sales Trade, Jan 1993 - 2017

Retail sales growth in February 2017 was going to be low by virtue of its comparison to February 2016 and the extra day in that month. The Census Bureau’s autoregressive models are supposed to normalize just these kinds of calendar irregularities so that we can make something close to apples to apples comparisons. The seasonally-adjusted estimate for February, however, was calculated to be less than the one for January 2017, therefore suggesting that weakness in the prior month wasn’t entirely related to the non-economic reasons of a leap year.

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Assessing China’s Economic Risks

China Industrial Production 2009-2017

First quarter GDP in China rose 6.9%, better than expected and above the government’s target (6.5%) for 2017. It stands to reason, however, that if Communist officials thought they could get 6.9% to last for the whole year they would have made it their target, especially since 6.5% would be less than the GDP growth rate for 2016 (6.7%). In only that one way is China’s GDP statistic meaningful.

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What Was Chinese Trade in March?

China Exports, Jan 2008 - 2017

As with all statistics, there are discrepancies that from time to time may obscure the meaning or validity of the particular estimate in question. For the vast majority of the time, any such uncertainties amount to very little. Overall, harmony among the major accounts reduces the signal noise from any one featuring a significant inconsistency.

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Earnings per Share: Is It Other Than Madness?

S&P 500 Earnings Per Share 2014-2018

As earnings season begins for Q1 2017 reports, there isn’t much change in analysts’ estimates for S&P 500 companies for that quarter. The latest figures from S&P shows expected earnings (as reported) of $26.70 in Q1, as compared to $26.87 two weeks ago. That is down only $1 from October, which is actually pretty steady particularly when compared to Q4 2016 estimates that over the same time plummeted from $29.04 to $24.16. At $26.70, that would represent about 23% growth over Q1 2016.

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Optimal Lunacy

Federal Funds Rate 2010-2018

In June 2012, Janet Yellen, then the Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve, addressed an audience in Boston with what for the time seemed like a radical departure. It was the latest in a string of them, for conditions throughout the “recovery” period never did quite seem to hit the recovery stride. Because of that, there was constant stream of trial balloons suggesting how the Federal Reserve might try to overcome this economic inertia.
At that juncture about five years ago, there were only whispers of “structural” economic forces conspiring against full recovery. As Ms. Yellen said in her speech:
All told, only about half of the collapse in private payroll employment in 2008 and 2009 has been reversed. A critical question for monetary policy is the extent to which these numbers reflect a

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The Global Burden

Germany 2-year Bund Yield 2009-2017

Bundesrepublik Deutscheland Finanzagentur GmbH (German Finance Agency) was created on September 19, 2000, in order to manage the German government’s short run liquidity needs. GFA took over the task after three separate agencies (Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Securities Administration, and Deutsche Bundesbank) had previously shared responsibility for it.

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It Was And Still Is The Wrong Horse To Bet

Payrolls Establishment Survey 2010-2017

The payroll report disappointed again, though it was deficient in ways other than are commonly described. The monthly change is never a solid indication, good or bad, as the BLS’ statistical processes can only get it down to a 90% confidence interval, and a wide one at that. It means that any particular month by itself specifies very little, except under certain circumstances.

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US Jobs: Who Carries The Burden of Proof?

Belly of the Curve Gone Flat 2009-2017

The idea that interest rates have nowhere to go but up is very much like saying the bond market has it all wrong. That is one reason why the rhetoric has been ratcheted that much higher of late, particularly since the Fed “raised rates” for a third time in March. Such “hawkishness” by convention should not go so unnoticed, and yet yields and curves are once more paying little attention to Janet Yellen.

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Ultra-Loose Terminology, Not Policy

Return of Lending in Europe 2007-2017

As world “leaders” gathered in Davos in January 2016, they did so among financial turmoil that was creating more economic havoc than at any time since the Great “Recession.” Having seen especially US QE as the equivalent of money printing, their focus was drawn elsewhere to at least attempt an explanation for the contradiction.

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We Need To Define The ‘Shadows’, And All Parts of Them; or, ‘Rising Dollar’ Kills Another Recovery Narrative

Total Credit Market Instruments

JP Morgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon caused a stir yesterday with his 45-page annual letter to shareholders. The phrase that gained him so much widespread attention was, “there is something wrong with the US.” Dimon mentioned secular stagnation and correctly surmised it was the right idea if for the wrong reasons. He then gave his own which included a litany of globalist agenda items, including not enough access to mortgages.

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February US Trade Disappoints

US Imports, Jun 1989 - 2016

The oversized base effects of oil prices could not in February 2017 push up overall US imports. The United States purchased, according to the Census Bureau, 71% more crude oil from global markets this February than in February 2016. In raw dollar terms, it was an increase of $7.3 billion year-over-year. Total imports, however, only gained $8.4 billion, meaning that nearly all the improvement was due to nothing more than the price of global oil.

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Systemic Depression Is A Clear Choice

Japan CPI, Jan 2010 - 2017

Looking back on late 2015, it is perfectly clear that policymakers had no idea what was going on. It’s always easy, of course, to reflect on such things with the benefit of hindsight, but even contemporarily it was somewhat shocking how complacent they had become as a global group.

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Incomes Always Deviate Negative

Real DPI per Capita, Jan 2010 - 2017

Personal Income growth in February 2017 was more mixed than it had been of recent months. Nominal Disposable Per Capita Income increased 3.73% year-over-year, while in real terms Per Capita Income was up 1.57%. For the former, that was among the better monthly results over the past year, while the latter was near the worst.

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Consensus Inflation (Again)

Europe Harmonized Inflation Consumer Prices , 2013 - 2019

Why did Mario Draghi appeal to NIRP in June 2014? After all, expectations at the time were for a strengthening recovery not just in Europe but all over the world. There were some concerns lingering over currency “irregularities” in 2013 but primarily related to EM’s and not the EU which had emerged from re-recession. The consensus at that time was full recovery not additional “stimulus.” From Bloomberg in January 2014:

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The Power of Oil

Oil Prices WTI, May 2007 - 2017

For the first time in 57 months, a span of nearly five years, the Fed’s preferred metric for US consumer price inflation reached the central bank’s explicit 2% target level. The PCE Deflator index was 2.12% higher in February 2017 than February 2016. Though rhetoric surrounding this result is often heated, the actual indicated inflation is decidedly not despite breaking above for once.

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Ending The Fed’s Drug Problem

GDP Corp Profits After Tax, Jan 2010 - 2017

Gross Domestic Product was revised slightly higher for Q4 2016, which is to say it wasn’t meaningfully different. At 2.05842%, real GDP projects output growing for one quarter close to its projected potential, a less than desirable result. It is fashionable of late to discuss 2% or 2.1% as if these are good numbers consistent with a healthy economy.

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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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China And Reserves, A Straightforward Process Unnecessarily Made Into A Riddle

China Official Foreign Exchange 2015-2017

The fact that China reported a small increase in official “reserves” for February 2017 is one of the least surprising results in all of finance. The gamma of those reserves is as predictable as the ticking clock of CNY, in no small part because what is behind the changes in those balances are the gears that lie behind face of the forex timepiece.

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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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