Category Archive: Global Macro

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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Let’s Clear Up One Confusion About Bitcoin

If bitcoin can be converted into fiat currencies at a lower transaction cost than the fiat-to-fiat conversions made by banks and credit card companies, it's a superior means of exchange. One of the most common comments I hear from bitcoin skeptics goes something like this: Bitcoin isn't real money until I can buy a cup of coffee with it. In other words, bitcoin fails the first of the two core tests of "money": that it is a means of exchange and a...

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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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The Savings Rate Conundrum

The economy is booming. Employment is at decade lows. Unemployment claims are at the lowest levels in 40-years. The stock market is at record highs and climbing. Consumers are more confident than they have been in a decade. Wages are finally showing signs of growth.

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Emerging Markets: Week Ahead Preview

EM FX ended the week under pressure. News of the Venezuela debt restructuring was digested well, but sentiment went south as the day wore on. Weakness was concentrated in the weakest links TRY, BRL, RUB, and ZAR, while MXN and COP were dragged along for the ride. We see EM selling pressures persisting into 2018.

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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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What’s Driving Social Discord: Russian Social Media Meddling or Soaring Wealth/Power Inequality?

The nation's elites are desperate to misdirect us from the financial and power dividethat has enriched and empowered them at the expense of the unprotected many. There are two competing explanatory narratives battling for mind-share in the U.S.: 1. The nation's social discord is the direct result of Russian social media meddling-- what I call the Boris and Natasha Narrative of evil Russian masterminds controlling a vast conspiracy of social media...

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Emerging Markets: What has Changed

Russia’s Finance Ministry announced plans to increase its dollar. purchases in November. Bahrain has reportedly asked its Gulf allies for financial assistance. S&P upgraded Argentina a notch to B+ with stable outlook. Brazil raised BRL6.15 bln ($1.9 bln) by auctioning off the rights to explore 6 of the 8 deep-water oil blocks. Venezuela bowed to the inevitable, announcing that it would have to restructure its debt.

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What the Kennedy Assassination Records Reveal: Uncontrollable Incompetence

One way to interpret the intelligence community's reluctance to let all the Kennedy assassination archives become public is that the archives contain evidence of a "smoking gun": that is, evidence that the intelligence agencies of the United States of America were complicit in the assassination of the President.

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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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Observations on Wealth-Income Inequality (from Federal Reserve Reports)

There's a profound difference between assets that produce no income and those that produce net income. To those of us nutty enough to pore over dozens of pages of data on wealth and income in the U.S., the Federal Reserve's quarterly Z.1 reports and annual Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) are treasure troves, as are I.R.S. tax and income reports.

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Where To Invest When (Almost) Everything’s in a Bubble

Many things that are scarce and thus valuable cannot be bought on the global marketplace. Now that almost every asset class is in a bubble, the question of where to invest one's capital has become particularly vexing. The ashes of wealth consumed by the 2008-09 Global Financial Meltdown are still warm, at least to those who never recovered, and so buying assets at nosebleed valuations in the hopes of earning another 5% aren't very compelling to...

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What Could Pop The Everything Bubble?

As central bank policies are increasingly fingered by the mainstream as the source of soaring wealth-income inequality, policies supporting credit/asset bubbles will either be limited or cut off, and at that point all the credit/asset bubbles will pop.

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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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Emerging Markets: What has Changed

EM FX gained some limited traction Friday but still capped off another awful week. So far this quarter, the worst EM performers are TRY (-6%), MXN (-5%), ZAR (-4%), COP, and BRL (both -2.5%). We expect these currencies to remain under pressure as political concerns are unlikely to dissipate anytime soon.

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Stagnation Nation: Middle Class Wealth Is Locked Up in Housing and Retirement Funds

The majority of middle class wealth is locked up in unproductive assets or assets that only become available upon retirement or death. One of my points in Why Governments Will Not Ban Bitcoin was to highlight how few families had the financial wherewithal to invest in bitcoin or an alternative hedge such as precious metals.

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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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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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