Category Archive: 5) Global Macro

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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China Vows Retaliation With “Same Scale, Intensity” To Any New US Tariffs

Trump’s aggressive trade war overtures and China's initial retaliatory moves have spooked Wall Street over the past week and again on Monday, which helped drive down the Dow Jones by 459 points, with the Nasdaq Composite quickly approaching correction territory. And as the mass exodus continues out of Wall Street’s highest-flying stocks, trade war concerns are sparking political, regulatory and market challenges that could soon derail the global...

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Bi-Weekly Economic Review

Bob Williams and Joseph Y. Calhoun talks about Bi-Weekly Economic Review for April 01, 2018.

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The Best ‘Reflation’ Indicator May Be Japanese

Japanese industrial production dropped sharply in January 2018, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry reported last month. Seasonally-adjusted, the IP index fell 6.8% month-over-month from December 2017. Since the country has very little mining sector to speak of, and Japan’s IP doesn’t include utility output, this was entirely manufacturing in nature (99.79% of the IP index is derived from the manufacturing sector).

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The Problem with a State-Cartel Economy: Prices Rise, Wages Don’t

The vise will tighten until something breaks. It could be the currency, it could be the political status quo, it could be the credit/debt system--or all three. The problem with an economy dominated by state-enforced cartels and quasi-monopolies is that prices rise (since cartels can push higher costs onto the consumer) but wages don't (since cartels can either dominate local labor markets or engage in global wage arbitrage: offshore jobs, move to...

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Emerging Markets: Preview of the Week Ahead

EM FX was mostly stronger last week, despite the dollar’s firm tone against the majors. Best EM performers on the week were MXN, KRW, and COP while the worst were ZAR, INR, and PEN. US jobs data poses the biggest risk to EM this week, as US yields have been falling ahead of the data. Indeed, the current US 10-year yield of 2.74% is the lowest since February 6.

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What If All the Cheap Stuff Goes Away?

Nothing stays the same in dynamic systems, and it's inevitable that the current glut of low costs / cheap stuff will give way to scarcities that cannot be filled at current low prices. One of the books I just finished reading is The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire.

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15 Years of War: To Whose Benefit?

As for Iraq, the implicit gain was supposed to be access to Iraqi oil. Setting aside the 12 years of "no fly zone" air combat operations above Iraq from 1991 to 2003, the U.S. has been at war for almost 17 years in Afghanistan and 15 years in Iraq. (If the word "war" is too upsetting, then substitute "continuing combat operations".)

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