Category Archive: 5.) Alhambra Investments

Consensus Inflation (Again)

Why did Mario Draghi appeal to NIRP in June 2014? After all, expectations at the time were for a strengthening recovery not just in Europe but all over the world. There were some concerns lingering over currency “irregularities” in 2013 but primarily related to EM’s and not the EU which had emerged from re-recession. The consensus at that time was full recovery not additional “stimulus.” From Bloomberg in January 2014:

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The Power of Oil

For the first time in 57 months, a span of nearly five years, the Fed’s preferred metric for US consumer price inflation reached the central bank’s explicit 2% target level. The PCE Deflator index was 2.12% higher in February 2017 than February 2016. Though rhetoric surrounding this result is often heated, the actual indicated inflation is decidedly not despite breaking above for once.

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Ending The Fed’s Drug Problem

Gross Domestic Product was revised slightly higher for Q4 2016, which is to say it wasn’t meaningfully different. At 2.05842%, real GDP projects output growing for one quarter close to its projected potential, a less than desirable result. It is fashionable of late to discuss 2% or 2.1% as if these are good numbers consistent with a healthy economy.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

The Fed did, as expected, hike rates at their last meeting. And interestingly, interest rates have done nothing but fall since that day. As I predicted in the last BWER, Greenspan’s conundrum is making a comeback. The Fed can do whatever it wants with Fed funds – heck, barely anyone is using it anyway – but they can’t control what the market does with long term rates.

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The Inverse of Keynes

With nearly all of the S&P 500 companies having reported their Q4 numbers, we can safely claim that it was a very bad earnings season. It may seem incredulous to categorize the quarter that way given that EPS growth (as reported) was +29%, but even that rate tells us something significant about how there is, actually, a relationship between economy and at least corporate profits.

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All In The Curves

If the mainstream is confused about exactly what rate hikes mean, then they are not alone. We know very well what they are supposed to, but the theoretical standards and assumptions of orthodox understanding haven’t worked out too well and for a very long time now. The benchmark 10-year US Treasury is today yielding less than it did when the FOMC announced their second rate hike in December.

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TIC Analysis of Selling

When the Treasury Department released its Treasury International Capital (TIC) data for December, what was a somewhat obscure report suddenly found mainstream attention. Private foreign investors had sold tens of billions in US securities primarily US Treasury bonds and notes which the media then made into some kind of warning to then-incoming President Trump. It was supposed to be a big deal, the kind of rebuke reserved for disreputable leaders of...

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Durable Goods After Leap Year

New orders for durable goods (not including transportation orders) were up 1% year-over-year in February. That is less than the (revised) 4.4% growth in January, but as with all comparisons of February 2017 to February 2016 there will be some uncertainty surrounding the comparison to the leap year version.

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Non-Randomly Surveying RMB

China’s central bank, unlike other central banks, is constantly active almost never resting. Because it is always in motion, the PBOC can seem to be “adding” liquidity at the very same time it might be “draining” it. Its specific actions should never be interpreted as standalone procedures related solely to some unknown policy stance. That is particularly true given that we know what their stance is and has been – neutral.

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Economics Through The Economics of Oil

The last time oil inventory grew at anywhere close to this pace was during each of the last two selloffs, the first in late 2014/early 2015 and the second following about a year after. Those events were relatively easy to explain in terms of both price and fundamentals, though the mainstream managed to screw it up anyway (“supply glut”).

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Pressure, Sure, But From Where?

It may just be that in life you have to get used to disappointment. Though not for lack of trying, I have spent a great deal of time over the years intending to piece together exactly what happened on days like October 15, 2014. The official explanation is an obvious whitewash, one so haphazard that I doubt it will ever be referred to again outside of ridicule.

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Was There Ever A ‘Skills Mismatch’? Notable Differences In Job Openings Suggest No

Perhaps the most encouraging data produced by the BLS has been within its JOLTS figures, those of Job Openings. It is one data series that policymakers watch closely and one which they purportedly value more than most. While the unemployment and participation rates can be caught up in structural labor issues (heroin and retirees), Job Openings are related to the demand for labor rather than the complications on the labor supply side.

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Industrial Symmetry

There has always been something like Newton’s third law observed in the business cycles of the US and other developed economies. In what is, or was, essentially symmetry, there had been until 2008 considerable correlation between the size, scope, and speed of any recovery and its antecedent downturn, or even slowdown. The relationship was so striking that it moved Milton Friedman to finally publish in 1993 his plucking model theory he had first...

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Retail Sales: Extra Day Likely, no Meaningful Difference

Retail sales comparisons were for February 2017 skewed by the extra day in February 2016. With the leap year February 29th a part of the base effect, the estimated growth rates (NSA) for this February are to some degree better than they appear. Seasonally-adjusted retail sales were in the latest estimates essentially flat when compared to the prior month (January). That leaves too much guesswork to draw any hard conclusions.

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Further Unanchoring Is Not Strictly About Inflation

According to Alan Greenspan in a speech delivered at Stanford University in September 1997, monetary policy in the United States had been shed of M1 by late 1982. The Fed has never been explicit about exactly when, or even why, monetary policy changed dramatically in the 1980’s to a regime of pure interest rate targeting of the federal funds rate.

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Global Asset Allocation Update

There is no change to the risk budget this month. For the moderate risk investor, the allocation between risk assets and bonds is unchanged at 50/50. The Fed spent the last month forward guiding the market to the rate hike they implemented today. Interest rates, real and nominal, moved up in anticipation of a more aggressive Fed rate hiking cycle.

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China Starts 2017 With Chronic, Not Stable And Surely Not ‘Reflation’

The first major economic data of 2017 from China was highly disappointing to expectations of either stability or hopes for actual acceleration. On all counts for the combined January-February period, the big three statistics missed: Industrial Production was 6.3%, Fixed Asset Investment 8.9%, and Retail Sales just 9.5%.

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Mugged By Reality; Many Still Yet To Be

In August 2014, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer admitted to an audience in Sweden the possibility in some unusually candid terms that maybe they (economists, not Sweden) didn’t know what they were doing. His speech was lost in the times, those being the middle of that year where the Fed having already started to taper QE3 and 4 were becoming supremely confident that they would soon end them.

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

The Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise interest rates again at their meeting next week. They obviously view the recent cyclical upturn as being durable and the inflation data as pointing to the need for higher rates. Our market based indicators agree somewhat but nominal and real interest rates are still below their mid-December peaks so I don’t think a lot has changed.

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Do Record Debt And Loan Balances Matter? Not Even Slightly

We live in a non-linear world that is almost always described in linear terms. Though Einstein supposedly said compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe, it rarely is appreciated for what the statement really means. And so the idea of record highs or even just positive numbers have been equated with positive outcomes, even though record highs and positive growth rates can be at times still associated with some of the worst. It...

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