Category Archive: Global Macro

Broader Slowing in Industrial Production

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)...

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Global Inflation Continues To Underwhelm

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...

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China Exports/Imports: Enforcing A Global Speed Limit

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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The Fading Scent of the American Dream

The theme this week is The Rot Within. It's been 10 years since I devoted a week to the theme of The Rot Within (September 17, 2007). Back in 2007, I listed 16 systemic sources of rot in our society, politics and economy; none have been fixed. Instead, the gaping holes have been filled with Play-Do and hastily painted to create the illusion of shiny solidity.

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About Those “Hedonic Adjustments” to Inflation: Ignoring the Systemic Decline in Quality, Utility, Durability and Service

The quality, durability, utility and enjoyment-of-use of our products and services has been plummeting for years. One of the more mysterious aspects of the official inflation rate is the hedonic quality adjustments that the Bureau of Labor Statistics makes to the components of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The basic idea is that when innovations improve the utility (and pleasure derived from) a product, the price is adjusted to reflect this...

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US Retail Sales: Retail Storms

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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Emerging Markets: Preview of the Week Ahead

EM FX closed the week on a firm note, as softer than expected US CPI data weighed on the dollar. We continue to believe that investors are underestimating the Fed’s tightening potential. Meanwhile, idiosyncratic political risk remains high for MXN, TRY, and ZAR.

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Migration of the Tax Donkeys

Dear local leadership: here's the formula for long-term success. A Great Migration of the Tax Donkeys is underway, still very much under the radar of the mainstream media and conventional economists. If you are confident no such migration of those who pay the bulk of the taxes could ever occur, please consider the long-term ramifications of these two articles.

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US CPI: Inflation Still Isn’t About Inflation

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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Are You Better Off Than You Were 17 Years Ago?

We tend to measure what's easily measured (and supports the status quo) and ignore what isn't easily measured (and calls the status quo into question). If we use gross domestic product (GDP) as a broad measure of prosperity, we are 160% better off than we were in 1980 and 35% better off than we were in 2000. Other common metrics such as per capita (per person) income and total household wealth reflect similarly hefty gains.

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Emerging Markets: What has Changed

Thailand announced general elections will be held in November 2018. Czech police filed criminal charges against ANO leader Andrej Babis. South Africa President Zuma may face corruption charges that were previously dropped. The US suspended visa services for travelers from Turkey. Kenyan opposition candidate Odinga withdrew from a redo of the annulled presidential election. Saudi Arabia will take a more gradual approach to removing fuel subsidies....

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Noisy PMI’s In China

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

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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The Consent of the Conned

Every single line item in our entire Bernie Madoff scam of a system is cooked. My theme this week is The Great Unraveling, by which I mean the unraveling of our social-political-economic system of hierarchical, centralized power. Let's start by looking at how the basis of governance has transmogrified from consent of the governed to consent of the conned.

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Non-Transitory Meandering

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

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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Be Careful What You Wish For: Inflation Is Much Higher Than Advertised

What the Federal Reserve is actually whining about is not low inflation--it's that high inflation isn't pushing wages higher like it's supposed to. It's not exactly a secret that real-world inflation is a lot higher than the official rates--the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Personal Consumption Expenditures PCE).

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Emerging Markets: Week Ahead Preview

EM FX ended the week under pressure, as US data points to a rate hike in December and perhaps more in 2018. FOMC minutes this Wednesday will be closely studied for clues. US retail sales and CPI data Friday will also be important. We believe the most vulnerable currencies in this environment are ZAR and TRY, but one could also add MXN and perhaps RUB to that mix too.

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Auto Sales Up Last Month, But Why?

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

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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