Category Archive: 5.) Alhambra Investments

Japan Is Booming, Except It’s Not

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...

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Political Economics

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....

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Housing Isn’t Just About Real Estate

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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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Yawn

When I wrote the update two weeks ago I said that we might be nearing the point of maximum optimism. Apparently, there is another gear for optimism in this market as stocks have just continued to slowly but surely reach for the sky.

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Distinct Lack of Good Faith, Part ??

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Maximum Optimism?

The economic reports of the last two weeks were generally of a more positive tone. The majority of reports were better than expected although it must be noted that many of those reports were of the sentiment variety, reflecting optimism about the future that may or may not prove warranted. Markets have certainly responded to the dreams of tax reform dancing in investors’ heads with US stock markets providing a steady stream of all time highs, bond...

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US: Reflation Check

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

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...

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Not Political Risk For China, But Unwelcome Reality

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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