Category Archive: China

Main Author Michael Pettis
Michael Pettis
Wall Street veteran, merchant banker, equities trader, economist, finance professor, entrepreneur — iconoclast — Michael Pettis is a unique individual living and working in China, at the heart of the world’s most exciting and vibrant economy. Having learned firsthand how markets operate during his years on Wall Street, Michael has taken his knowledge and insight and applied them to the Asian financial markets as an expert analyst, commentator, and participant. His work and research focuses on monetary policy, trade policy, and the development of the banking and financial markets in China.

Credit Exhaustion Is Global

Europe is awash in credit exhaustion, and so is China. The signs are everywhere: credit exhaustion is global, and that means the global growth story is over: revenues and profits are all sliding as lending dries up and defaults pile up.

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China’s Big Money Gamble

While oil prices rebounded in January 2019 around the world, outside of crude commodities continued to struggle. According to the World Bank’s Pink Sheet, base metal prices fell another 1.8% on average from December. On an annual basis, these commodities as a group are about 16% below where they were in January 2018.

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Retail Sales Landmine

Ignore Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Those are merely an appetizer, an intentional preamble to whet the appetite of hungry consumers looking to splurge. The real action comes in December. People look, some buy, after Thanksgiving, but as anyone counts down the actual twelve days of Christmas and celebrates the eight crazy nights of Hanukkah that’s when the retail industry makes its bank.

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Inflation Falls Again, Dot-com-like

US inflation in January 2019 was, according to the CPI, the lowest in years. At just 1.55% year-over-year, the index hadn’t suggested this level since September 2016 right at the outset of what would become Reflation #3. Having hyped expectations over that interim, US policymakers now have to face the repercussions of unwinding the hysteria.

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China: Harbinger of Global Economic Decline

The latest numbers released by China’s statistics bureau fueled widespread concerns about the outlook of the global economy, as the Asian superpower reported its slowest growth rate since 1990. The figures showed a 6.6% growth for 2018, confirming the view that the growth engine of the world economy is running out of steam.

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More Of What Was Behind December, And Not Just December

As more and more data rolls in even in this delayed fashion, the more what happened to end last year makes sense. The Census Bureau updated today its statistics for US trade in November 2018. Heading into the crucial month of December, these new figures suggest a big setback in the global economy that is almost certainly the reason markets became so chaotic.

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Lost In Translation

Since I don’t speak Japanese, I’m left to wonder if there is an intent to embellish the translation. Whoever is responsible for writing in English what is written by the Bank of Japan in Japanese, they are at times surely seeking out attention. However its monetary policy may be described in the original language, for us it has become so very clownish.

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US Manufacturing Questions

The US economic data begins to trickle in slowly. Today, the reopened Census Bureau reports on orders and shipments to and from US factories dating back to last November. New orders for durable goods rose just 4.5% year-over-year in that month, while shipments gained 4.7%. The 6-month average for new orders was in November pulled down to just 6.6%, the lowest since September 2017 (hurricanes).

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Bond Curves Right All Along, But It Won’t Matter (Yet)

Men have long dreamed of optimal outcomes. There has to be a better way, a person will say every generation. Freedom is far too messy and unpredictable. Everybody hates the fat tails, unless and until they realize it is outlier outcomes that actually mark progress. The idea was born in the eighties that Economics had become sufficiently advanced that the business cycle was no longer a valid assumption.

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Monthly Macro Monitor – February (VIDEO)

Alhambra Investments CEO Joe Calhoun discusses the latest information about markets, specific categories affecting the economy.

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It’s Not That There Might Be One, It’s That There Might Be Another One

It was a tense exchange. When even politicians can sense that there’s trouble brewing, there really is trouble brewing. Typically the last to figure these things out, if parliamentarians are up in arms it already isn’t good, to put it mildly. Well, not quite the last to know, there are always central bankers faithfully pulling up the rear of recognizing disappointing reality.

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Monthly Macro Monitor – January 2019

A Return To Normalcy. In the first two years after a newly elected President takes office he enacts a major tax cut that primarily benefits the wealthy and significantly raises tariffs on imports. His foreign policy is erratic but generally pulls the country back from foreign commitments. He also works to reduce immigration and roll back regulations enacted by his predecessor.

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China’s Eurodollar Story Reaches Its Final Chapters

Imagine yourself as a rural Chinese farmer. Even the term “farmer” makes it sound better than it really is. This is a life out of the 19th century, subsistence at best the daily struggle just to survive. Flourishing is a dream.

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That’s A Big Minus

Goods require money to finance both their production as well as their movements. They need oil and energy for the same reasons. If oil and money markets were drastically awful for a few months before December, and then purely chaotic during December, Mario Draghi of all people should’ve been paying attention.

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Spreading Sour Not Soar

We are starting to get a better sense of what happened to turn everything so drastically in December. Not that we hadn’t suspected while it was all taking place, but more and more in January the economic data for the last couple months of 2018 backs up the market action. These were no speculators looking to break Jay Powell, probing for weakness in Mario Draghi’s resolve.

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Rate of Change

We’ve got to change our ornithological nomenclature. Hawks become doves because they are chickens underneath. Doves became hawks for reasons they don’t really understand. A fingers-crossed policy isn’t a robust one, so there really was no reason to expect the economy to be that way.

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You Know It’s Coming

After a horrible December and a rough start to the year, as if manna from Heaven the clouds parted and everything seemed good again. Not 2019 this was early February 2015. If there was a birth date for Janet Yellen’s “transitory” canard it surely came within this window. It didn’t matter that currencies had crashed and oil, too, or that central banks had been drawn into the fray in very unexpected ways.

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Living In The Present

It’s that time of year again, time to cast the runes, consult the iChing, shake the Magic Eight Ball and read the tea leaves. What will happen in 2019? Will it be as bad as 2018 when positive returns were hard to come by, as rare as affordable health care or Miami Dolphin playoff games? Will China’s economy succumb to the pressure of US tariffs and make a deal?

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More Unmixed Signals

China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that the country’s official manufacturing PMI in December 2018 dropped below 50 for the first time since the summer of 2016. Many if not most associate a number in the 40’s with contraction. While that may or not be the case, what’s more important is the quite well-established direction.

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Chart of the Week: The Dreaded Full Frown

I’m going to break my personal convention and use the bulk of the colors in the eurodollar futures spectrum, not just the single EDM’s (June) contained within each. The current front month is January 2019, and its quoted price as I write this is 97.2475. The EDH (March) 2019 contract trades at 97.29 currently and it will drop off the board on March 18.

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