Category Archive: 5) Global Macro

Why The Last One Still Matters (IP Revisions)

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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Our Strange Attraction to Self-Destructive Behaviors, Choices and Incentives

Self-destruction isn't a bug, it's a feature of our socio-economic system. The gravitational pull of self-destructive behaviors, choices and incentives is scale-invariant, meaning that we can discern the strange attraction to self-destruction in the entire scale of human experience, from individuals to families to groups to entire societies.

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Emerging Market Preview: Week Ahead

EM FX came under renewed pressure last week as US yields rose to new highs for the cycle. RUB and TRY were the top performers last week, while MXN and COP were the worst. There are no Fed speakers this week due to the embargo ahead of the May 2 FOMC meeting. While we see little chance of a hike then, markets are likely to remain nervous.

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Emerging Markets: What Changed

The Reserve Bank of India is tilting more hawkish. Tensions on the Korean peninsula are easing. The Trump administration reversed course on Russia sanctions. Turkey is heading for early elections. Raul Castro stepped down as president of Cuba. Mexico polls show continued gains for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

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The Retail Sales Shortage

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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What Do We Know About Syria? Next to Nothing

Anyone accepting "facts" or narratives from any interested party is being played. About the only "fact" the public knows with any verifiable certainty about Syria is that much of that nation is in ruins. Virtually everything else presented as "fact" is propaganda intended to serve one of the competing narratives or discredit one or more competing narratives.

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US Stock Market: Happy Days Are Here Again? Not so Fast…

Obviously, assorted crash analogs have by now gone out of the window – we already noted that the market was late if it was to continue to mimic them, as the decline would have had to accelerate in the last week of March to remain in compliance with the “official time table”. Of course crashes are always very low probability events – but there are occasions when they have a higher probability than otherwise, and we will certainly point those out...

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

Bi-Weekly Economic Review

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

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,...

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Global Asset Allocation Update: The Certainty of Uncertainty

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor, the allocation to bonds is 50%, risk assets 45% and cash 5%. Stocks continued their erratic ways since the last update with another test of the February lows that are holding – for now. While we believe growth expectations are moderating somewhat (see the Bi-Weekly Economic Review) the change isn’t sufficient to warrant an asset allocation change.

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Why Trade Wars Ignite and Why They’re Spreading

What ignites trade wars? The oft-cited sources include unfair trade practices and big trade deficits. But since these have been in place for decades, they don't explain why trade wars are igniting now. To truly understand why trade wars are igniting and spreading, we need to start with financial repression, a catch-all for all the monetary stimulus programs launched after the Global Financial Meltdown/Crisis of 2008/09.

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Emerging Markets: Preview of the Week Ahead

EM FX was mixed Friday, capping a mixed week as a whole. COP, CLP, and MXN were the best performers last week, while RUB, BRL, and TRY were the worst. While concerns about trade wars and Syrian missile strikes have ebbed, risks to EM remain elevated. US retail sales Monday and Fed Beige Book Wednesday are the economic highlights this week.

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The Genie’s Out of the Bottle: Eight Defining Trends Are Reversing

Though the Powers That Be will attempt to placate or suppress the Revolt of the Powerless, the genies of political disunity and social disorder cannot be put back in the bottle. The saying "the worm has turned" refers to the moment when the downtrodden have finally had enough, and turn on their powerful oppressors.

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Emerging Markets: What Changed

Hong Kong Monetary Authority intervened to defend the HKD peg. Moody’s upgraded Indonesia by a notch to Baa2 with a stable outlook. MAS tightened policy by adjusting the slope of its S$NEER trading band up “slightly.” Hungary Prime Minister Orban won a fourth term for his Fidesz party. Poland central bank Governor said it’s possible that the next move will be a rate cut. Russia outlined a range of potential retaliatory measures in response to US...

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US Imports Don’t Quite Match Chinese Exports

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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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Investing Is Not A Game of Perfect

The market volatility this year has been blamed on a lot of factors. The initial selloff was blamed on a hotter than expected wage number in the January employment report that supposedly sparked concerns about inflation – although a similar number this month wasn’t mentioned as a cause of last Friday’s selling. The unwinding of the short volatility trade exacerbated the situation and voila, 12% came off the market in a matter of days.

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Why Systems Fail

Since failing systems are incapable of structural reform, collapse is the only way forward. Systems fail for a wide range of reasons, but I'd like to focus on two that are easy to understand but hard to pin down. Systems are accretions of structures and modifications laid down over time.Each layer adds complexity which is viewed at the time as a solution. This benefits insiders, as their job security arises from the need to manage the added...

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Emerging Markets: What Changed

Reserve Bank of India cut its inflation forecast for the first half of FY2018/19 to 4.7-5.1%. Former South Korean President Park was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Malaysia Prime Minister Razak has called for early elections. Bahrain discovered its biggest oil field since it started producing crude in 1932. Local press reports Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Simsek tendered his resignation.

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Were Trade Wars Inevitable?

Were trade wars inevitable? The answer is yes, due to the imbalances and distortions generated by financialization and central bank stimulus. Gordon Long and I peel the trade-war onion in a new video program, Were Trade Wars Inevitable?

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Playing for All the Marbles

Global Plunge Protection Teams must be ordering take-out food; every night is a long one now. The current stocks/bonds game is for all the marbles, by which I mean the status quo now depends on valuations and interest rates remaining near their current levels for the system to function.

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