Tag Archive: Federal Reserve/Monetary Policy

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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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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LIBOR Was Expected To Drop. It Dropped. What Might This Mean?

Everyone hates LIBOR, until it does something interesting. It used to be the most boring interest rate in the world. When it was that, it was also the most important. Though it followed along federal funds this was only because of the arb between onshore (NYC) and offshore (mainly London, sometimes Caymans) conducted by banks between themselves and their subs (whichever was located where).

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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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Fear Or Reflation Gold?

Gold is on fire, but why is it on fire? When the precious metals’ price falls, Stage 2, we have a pretty good idea what that means (collateral). But when it goes the other way, reflation or fear of deflation? Stage 1 or Stage 3? If it is Stage 1 reflation based on something like the Fed’s turnaround, then we would expect to find US$ markets trading in exactly the same way.

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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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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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Hall of Mirrors, Where’d The Labor Shortage Go?

Today was supposed to see the release of the Census Bureau’s retail trade report, a key data set pertaining to the (alarming) state of American consumers, therefore workers by extension (income). With the federal government in partial shutdown, those numbers will be delayed until further notice. In their place we will have to manage with something like the Federal Reserves’ Beige Book.

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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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Insight Japan

As I wrote yesterday, “In the West, consumer prices overall are pushed around by oil. In the East, by food.” In neither case is inflation buoyed by “money printing.” Central banks both West and East are doing things, of course, but none of them amount to increasing the effective supply of money. Failure of inflation, more so economy, the predictable cost.

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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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2019 Outlook

A discussion of the outlook for 2019 in the markets and the economy by Alhambra CEO Joe Calhoun and the Head of Alhambra Global Investment Research Jeff Snider.

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…And Get Bigger

Just as there is gradation for positive numbers, there is color to negative ones, too. On the plus side, consistently small increments marked by the infrequent jump is never to be associated with a healthy economy let alone one that is booming. A truly booming economy is one in which the small positive numbers are rare. The recovery phase preceding the boom takes that to an extreme.

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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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