Thomas Costerg

Thomas Costerg

Thomas covers the US and Canadian economies from New York. He was previously based in London, covering the UK and the euro area. Thomas started his career with Lehman Brothers in London in 2007 and also worked at a Paris-based private bank and asset manager. Do not hesitate to contact Pictet for an investment proposal. Please contact Zurich Office, the Geneva Office or one of 26 other offices world-wide.

Articles by Thomas Costerg

Powell plays the ‘insurance’ card again

The Market Continues to Distrust the FED Dot Plot, Which Shows no Additional cut, 2018-2021

In spite of internal divisions, the Fed may go for a third rate cut in October and step in to alleviate pressure in repo market.The Federal Reserve (Fed) cut rates by 0.25% on Wednesday, as widely anticipated. The new fed funds target range is 1.75%-2.00%. The interest rate on banks’ excess reserves was cut by 0.30% to 1.80%.

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Is the Fed too focused on corporates?

US Consumers' Debt Servicing Burden Has Climbed Sharply,1989-2019

Fed dovishness is helping to curb financing costs for corporates but does not seem to be percolating down to the US consumer, whose debt-servicing costs are rising. This could be something to watch. The Federal Reserve (Fed)’s leading priority now is to help sustain the US business cycle, hence the concept of ‘insurance’ rate cuts put forward by Fed chairman Jerome Powell, with some echoes of Alan Greenspan’s philosophy in the 1990s.

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Powell’s Congressional testimony sets the scene for rate cut

Median Fed estimate for neutral rate, Fed rate

The Fed will likely cut rates by 25 basis points on 31 July, with a similar cut possible as early as September.During his testimony before the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell repeated the dovish signals he gave at the Fed press conference in June, hinting at a rate cut at the next Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting on 31 July.

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Fragile truce in Osaka

The US's Trade Deficit with China Continues to Dwarf Others, Despite Tariffs

The US and China reached a ‘trade truce’ on the margins of the G20 summit this weekend, but existing tariffs remain in place. And we are only a tweet away from more Trumpian upheaval.The US and China leaders agreed on a truce during their much-anticipated meeting at the G20 summit in Osaka this weekend. Bilateral trade talks will restart.

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Business cycle could define Trump’s re-election chances

Trump's Approval Rates are Stable, 2016-2019

President Trump’s focus on getting re-elected in November 2020 may have implications for his economic policy choices.As we move closer to the 2020 presidential election, Trump has been blatantly leaning on the Federal Reserve to be more accommodative and has been trying to appoint nominees who share his preference for loose monetary policy to the Fed board.

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UK Politicians remain stuck in the mire

Brexit - Simplified view of possibilities ahead

Next week’s vote on the divorce deal is likely to be defeated, and there is precious little time for an alternative before the Brexit deadline in March.The British parliamentary vote on Theresa May’s EU divorce deal will be on 15 January. The deal is likely to be rejected, as there has been little progress since December, when a first vote was called off for lack of support.

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After May’s divorce deal: the road ahead for Brexit

GBP/USD drops after Theresa May's cabinet approves the Eu divorce deal

But significant political challenges lie ahead before the 29 March deadline for Brexit. Sterling likely to be in the spotlight for several months.Theresa May’s cabinet has approved her divorce deal with the European Union (EU). A few cabinet secretaries have resigned, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab because the deal keeps the UK in a transitory ‘customs union’ with the EU, which in his view continues to give the EU too much influence on UK affairs.

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Impact of recent tariffs on US and China’s GDP should be limited for now

The Trump Administration last week announced tariffs of 25% on USD 60bn worth of imports from China (out of USD506bn of total Chinese merchandise imports). The list of products targeted, still has to be thrashed out. The official aim is to sanction China for alleged theft of US firms’ intellectual property; the US Trade Representative (USTR) estimates the damage amounts to USD 50bn.

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Tax cuts and ‘animal spirits’ mean higher US growth in 2018

December’s US tax cuts – which saw corporate taxation reduced particularly sharply – are being echoed in signs that ‘animal spirits’ are finally kicking in. Both set the stage, in our view, for higher US growth, in large part driven by greater investment. We therefore upgrade our 2018 US growth forecast from 2.0% to 3.0%. We forecast that real non-residential investment growth will accelerate to 7.0% in 2018, up from an estimated 4.6% in 2017. We expect 2019 GD P growth to come in at 2.4%, up from our previous forecast of 1.8%.

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US chart of the week – Texas rebounds

One of the major rivalries in the US is that between California and Texas, the country’s biggest and second-biggest states respectively in GDP terms. They have different growth drivers (most notably Silicon Valley in California and the energy industry in Texas), and they also have different political landscapes – and local taxation regimes. But which one’s ahead when it comes to employment growth?

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US to overtake Switzerland in WEF competitiveness survey?

Most Problematic Factor for Business in US

The US is about to enact significant corporate tax cuts, and could therefore edge closer to the number 1 spot in the World Economic Forum’s ranking – currently held by Switzerland. The US is about to enact significant corporate tax cuts, that will see the federal statutory corporate tax rate drop to 21%, from 35%, starting in January (see our latest note ‘US tax cuts update – 19 December 2017’).

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US tax bill looks set to pass

The tax bill continues to make its way through Congress at a swift pace, and now looks increasingly likely to be enacted into law this week, after clearing the conference committee hurdle (a compromise between the House and Senate versions). A few hesitating Republican Senators have eventually said they will vote in favour of the bill, which is key as the Republican majority in the Senate is slim at 52-48. It will shrink to 51-49 in January after the recent loss of the Republican Senate seat in Alabama.

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Fed’s enthusiasm on tax cut plans remains limited

The 13 December Fed decision – and Chair Yellen’s last press conference – was much as expected. The Fed hiked rates 25bps, bringing the interest rate on excess reserves to 1.5%. Meanwhile, Fed officials maintained their rate-hiking forecasts for next year: three rate increases, according to the ‘dot plot’.

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Slow wage growth to keep Fed on prudent normalisation track

Wage Growth, 2001 - 2017

The November employment report showed another ‘Goldilocks’ set of conditions for investors: employment growth remained firm, especially in cyclical sectors like manufacturing and construction. At the same time, wage growth stayed soft – which means the Federal Reserve is unlikely to shift its current prudent communication on interest -rate hikes (although it is still very likely to hike 25bps on 13 December).

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Fed rate unlikely to move much above 2 percent next year

The Fed's "dot plot", 2017 - 2019

The Federal Reserve is probably looking back at 2017 with satisfaction. After on the rate rise expected on 13 December, it will have pushed through the three rate hikes it signalled earlier in the year. For once, it has not under-delivered. Meanwhile, the gradual, ‘passive’ decline in the Fed’s balance sheet has been mostly ignored by markets. In fact, broader financial conditions have eased this year despite the Fed’s monetary tightening. Corporate bond spreads, for instance, have remained very tight and bond issuance has flourished.

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A crucial step towards US tax cuts

Impact of Tax Cuts, 2018 - 2027

With the approval of the Senate tax bill in the early hours of Saturday 2 December, a key step has been taken toward tax cuts. The next chapter in the process is to reconcile this version with the House of Representatives’ tax bill, most likely in a ‘conference committee ’ from which a final version will emerge.

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