Category Archive: 5.) Alhambra Investments

Durable Goods Only About Halfway To Real Reflation

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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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: A Whirlwind of Data

The economic data of the last two weeks was generally better than expected, the Citigroup Economic Surprise index near the highs of the year. Still, as I’ve warned repeatedly over the last few years, better than expected should not be confused with good. We go through mini-cycles all the time, the economy ebbing and flowing through the course of a business cycle.

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Industrial Production Still Reflating

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...

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Can’t Hide From The CPI

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

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

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

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...

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Consumer Credit Both Accelerating and Decelerating Toward The Same Thing

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

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...

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Maybe Hong Kong Matters To Someone In Particular

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

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

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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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Gridlock & The Status Quo

The good news is that the economy just printed its second consecutive quarter of 3% growth, a feat not accomplished since Q2 and Q3 2014. The bad news is that the growth spurt in 2014 was better, quantitatively and qualitatively. Those two quarters produced gains of 4.6% and 5.2% (annualized) in GDP, much better than the most recent 3.1% and 3% prints of Q2 and Q3 2017.

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Europe Is Booming, Except It’s Not

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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Global Asset Allocation Update

The risk budget this month shifts slightly as we add cash to the portfolio. For the moderate risk investor the allocation to bonds is unchanged at 50%, risk assets are reduced to 45% and cash is raised to 5%. The changes this month are modest and may prove temporary but I felt a move to reduce risk was prudent given signs of exuberance – rational, irrational or otherwise.

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Bonds And Soft Chinese Data

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

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

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

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

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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