Category Archive: 5.) The United States

Will the Crazy Global Debt Bubble Ever End?

We've been playing two games to mask insolvency: one is to pay the costs of rampant debt today by borrowing even more from future earnings, and the second is to create wealth out of thin air via asset bubbles. The two games are connected: asset bubbles require leverage and credit.

Read More »

Simple (economic) Math

The essence of capitalism is not strictly capital. In the modern sense, the word capital has taken on other meanings, often where money is given as a substitute for it. When speaking about things like “hot money”, for instance, you wouldn’t normally correct someone referencing it in terms of “capital flows.” Someone that “commits capital” to a project is missing some words, for in the proper sense they are “committing funds to...

Read More »

Inflation Isn’t Evenly Distributed: The Protected Are Fine, the Unprotected Are Impoverished Debt-Serfs

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation is bogus on a number of fronts, a reality I've covered a number of times: though the heavily gamed official CPI is under 2% for the past four years, the real rate is 7% to 12%, depending on whether you happen to live in locales with soaring rents/housing and healthcare costs.

Read More »

The Keynesian Cult Has Failed: “Emergency” Stimulus Is Now Permanent

Can we finally admit that eight years of following the Keynesian coloring-book have not just failed, but failed spectacularly? What do we call a status quo in which & emergency measures" have become permanent props? A failure. The "emergency" responses to the Global Financial Meltdown of 2008-09 are, eight years on, permanent fixtures.

Read More »

Not Do We Need One, But Do We Need A Different One

On March 24, 2009, then US President Barack Obama gave a prime time televised press conference whose subject was quite obviously the economy and markets. The US and global economy was at that moment trying to work through the worst conditions since the 1930’s and nobody really had any idea what that would mean.

Read More »

Suddenly Impatient Sentiment

Two more manufacturing surveys suggest sharp deceleration in momentum, or, more specifically, the momentum of sentiment (if there is such a thing). The Federal Reserve’s 5th District Survey of Manufacturing (Richmond branch) dropped to barely positive, calculated to be just 1.0 in May following 20.0 in April and 22.0 in March.

Read More »

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. There are, however, changes within the asset classes. We are reducing the equity allocation and raising the allocation to REITs. 

Read More »

State of Denial: The Economy No Longer Works As It Did in the Past

If there is one reality that is denied or obscured by the Status Quo, it is that the economy no longer works as it did in the past. This is the fundamental economic context of our current slide into political-social disintegration.

Read More »

Less Than Nothing

As I so often write, we still talk about 2008 because we aren’t yet done with 2008. It doesn’t seem possible to be stuck in a time warp of such immense proportions, but such are the mistakes of the last decade carrying with them just these kinds of enormous costs.

Read More »

Commodity and Oil Prices: Staying Suck

The rebound in commodity prices is not difficult to understand, perhaps even sympathize with. With everything so depressed early last year, if it turned out to be no big deal in the end then there was a killing to be made. That’s what markets are supposed to do, entice those with liquidity to buy when there is blood in the streets. And if those speculators turn out to be wrong, then we are all much the wiser for their pain.

Read More »

Bi-Weekly Economic Review

The economic data releases since the last update were generally upbeat but markets are forward looking and the future apparently isn’t to their liking. Of course, it is hard to tell sometimes whether bonds, the dollar and stocks are responding to the real economy or the one people hope Donald Trump can deliver when he isn’t busy contradicting his communications staff.

Read More »

Reasonable Retail (Therefore Consumer) Expectations

Retail sales estimates are not adjusted for inflation, but even so whenever they get down toward the 3% growth level you can be sure there is serious economic trouble. The 6-month average for overall retail sales dropped below 3% in March 2001, the month that marked the start of the official dot-com recession (though that is not the official name for the cyclical peak, it probably should be).

Read More »

Hopefully Not Another Three Years

The stock market has its earnings season, the regular quarterly reports of all the companies that have publicly traded stocks. In economic accounts, there is something similar though it only happens once a year. It is benchmark revision season, and it has been brought to a few important accounts already. Given that this is a backward looking exercise, that this season is likely to produce more downward revisions shouldn’t be surprising.

Read More »

Inflation Is Oil, But Inflation Is Much More Than Consumer Prices

The average annual change in the WTI benchmark price was in April about 25%. That was still a sizable increase year-over-year, and just marginally less than March’s average of 33%. For calculated inflation rates, it represents the last of the base effects that have to this point made it appear as if economic improvement was possibly serious.

Read More »

Earnings Update – The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating

The first quarter just seemed to zoom by this year, bringing continued optimism (or, animal spirits if you prefer) to the stock market and leaving even higher valuations in its wake. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index returned an impressive 6.07% for the quarter, on the tail of the previous five consecutive quarters of positive performance.

Read More »

Lackluster Trade

US imports rose 9% year-over-year (NSA) in March 2017, after being flat in February and up 12% in January. For the quarter overall, imports rose 7.3%, a rate that is slightly more than the 2013-14 comparison. The difference, however, is simply the price of oil.

Read More »

The Wrong People Have An Innate Tendency To Stand Out

I don’t think Milton Friedman would have made much of chess player. For all I know he might have been a grand master or something close to that rank, but as much as his work is admirable it invites too the whole range of opposite emotion. He was the champion libertarian of the free market who rescued economics from the ravages of New Deal socialism, but in doing so he simply created the avenue for where Economics of that kind could be transposed...

Read More »

Noose Or Ratchet

losing the book on Q4 2016 balance sheet capacity is to review essentially forex volumes. The eurodollar system over the last ten years has turned far more in this direction in addition to it becoming more Asian/Japanese. In fact, the two really go hand in hand given the native situation of Japanese banks.

Read More »

Auto Pressure Ramps Up

The Los Angeles Times today asked the question only the mainstream would ask. “Wages are growing and surveys show consumer confidence is high. So why are motor vehicle sales taking a hit?” Indeed, the results reported earlier by the auto sector were the kind of sobering figures that might make any optimist wonder.

Read More »

Bi-Weekly Economic Review

The economic reports since the last economic update were generally less than expected and disappointing. The weak growth of the last few years had been supported by autos and housing while energy has been a wildcard. When oil prices fell, starting in mid-2014 and bottoming in early 2016, economic growth suffered as the shale industry retrenched.

Read More »