Bureau of Labor Statistics
Less than a year ago, David Rosenberg fundamentally shifted his thesis from deflationary to stagflationary at first, and then to outright inflationary, aka from bearish to bullish, based on one simple thesis: labor costs, and thus wage inflation - that all important harbinger of broad economic inflation - have nowhere to go but up. Unfortunately, they also have another direction they can go: down.
With all eyes hope-full-y transfixed on tomorrow's non-farm payrolls data and its confirmation-biased 'select-a-headline' post-data farce, we thought it worth a look at the noise in the signal and a reminder, as Bloomberg's Joseph Brusuelas notes, the annual benchmark revisions that will be published and likely obliterate everything we thought we knew about job growth (or lack of). As Brusuelas notes, the January jobs report is likely to be better-than-forecast because the weather-impacted December estimate will see upward revisions as firms probably made up for hiring postponed during the previous month. While weather effects may dominate the topline estimate, the underlying trend in hourly and weekly earnings is likely to remain quite weak since it’s not contingent on swings in seasonal patterns.
Initial jobless claims fell 20k from a previously revised up 351k (the highest in a month) and hovers at the the average level of the last eight months as the downward trend in this apparently key indicator has broken. The BLS cites nothing unusual in this report aside from Kansas estimated its numbers (so we have no real way of deciphering signal from noise once again). Continung claims rose a modest 15k seasonally-adjusted (and less modest 44k non-adjusted) as emergency benefits remains at 0.
The US minimum wage has been a common news topic lately - increasing its sound and fury since President Obama's State of the Union proclamation of a rise in federal employee minimum wages to $10.10 (from $7.25). While obviously a contentious political issue, one question keeps coming up - will this help? As BofAML notes in a recent report, a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that the rise in wages from a minimum wage increase would amount to fractions of a percentage point on macroenomic data. There simply are not enough people working at (or below, since some jobs are exempted) the minimum wage to have a noticeable impact on the total wage bill and in the end, there are just too few people, earning far too little, at the minimum wage to meaningful affect aggregate macroeconomic statistics. So why is he doing it?
It's snowing in New York so the market must be down. Just kidding - everyone know the only thing that matters for the state of global risk is the level of USDJPY and it is this that nearly caused a bump in the night after pushing the Nikkei as low as 13,995, before the Japanese PPT intervened and rammed the carry trade higher, and thus the Japanese index higher by 1.23% before the close of Japan trading. However, since then the USDJPY has failed to levitate as it usually does overnight and at last check was fluctuating within dangerous territory of 101.000, below which there be tigers. The earlier report of European retail sales tumbling by 1.6% on expectations of a modest 0.6% drop from a downward revised 0.9% only confirmed that the last traces of last year's illusionary European recovery have long gone. Then again, it's all the cold weather's fault. In Europe, not in the US that is.
Following the evaluation of liquidity needs (and availability) for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, S&P has decided that "it doesn't warrant an investment-grade rating":
- PUERTO RICO GO RATING CUT TO JUNK BY S&P, MAY BE CUT FURTHER
- GOVT. DEVELOPMENT BANK FOR PUERTO RICO CUT TO BB FROM BBB-:S&P
- PUERTO RICO GO RATING LOWERED TO 'BB+': S&P
- PUERTO RICO REMAINS ON WATCH NEGATIVE FROM S&P
Both the G.O.s and the Development Bank have been cut. Note that 70% of muni mutual funds own this - and it is unclear if a junk rating forces (by mandate) funds to cover. Worst of all, S&P warns Puerto Rico could now face a $1 billion collateral call on short-term debt - the same waterfall collateral cascade that took down AIG.
Miserable? Feeling like you want to turn the corners of the smiley down so it reflects your current mood? Believe you would get the lead role in the Les Misérables?
Curious why Michael Dell was so eager to take the company he founded private? So he could do stuff like this without attracting too much attention. According to the Channel Register, the recently LBOed company is "starting the expected huge layoff program this week, claiming numbers will be north of 15,000." Of course, with a private sponsor in charge of the recently public company, the only thing that matters now is maximizing cash flows in an environment of falling PC sales, a commoditisation of the server market and a perceived need to better serve enterprises with their ever-increasing mobile and cloud-focused IT requirements - things that do not bode well for Dell's EBITDA - and the result is perhaps the largest axing round in the company's history. But at least the shareholders cashed out while they could.
Reality will reassert itself in 2014, with lemmings, flippers, and hedgies getting slaughtered as the housing market comes back to earth with a thud. The continued tapering by the Fed will remove the marginal dollars used by Wall Street to fund this housing Ponzi. The Wall Street lemmings all follow the same MBA created financial models. They will all attempt to exit the market simultaneously when their models all say sell. If the economy improves, interest rates will rise and kill the housing market. If the economy tanks, the stock market will plunge, creating fear and killing the housing market. Once it becomes clear that prices have begun to fall, the flippers will panic and start dumping, exacerbating the price declines. This scenario never grows old.
The worst news that could happen for stocks today was a Chicago PMI beat - after all it is becoming all too clear that the market is begging for a tapering of the tapering, and any and every bad news will be welcome. Alas, the Purchasing Managers Institute did not get the memo, and moments ago MNI-Deutsche Boerse reported (to subscribers first), that the January print was 59.6, below the revised December print of 60.8 but above the expected 59.0. This was thje third consecutive monthly fall following October’s jump to the highest since March 2011. The only silver lining for stocks was that the Employment component slipped into contraction for the first time in nine months, printing at 49.2, down from 51.6. Must have been the fault of that horrible polar vortex in January then.. Or Bush of course.
Moments ago, the US Treasury sold its first $15 billion in 2 Year Floating Rate Notes, providing investors with yet another product that "protects" against inflation, following the 1997 introduction of TIPS, which courtesy of their linkage to the official BLS hedonically and seasonally-adjusted definition of "inflation" have mostly protected investors from any real gains. Here are the results.
The President will do his best to put a positive spin on the current economic environment and the success of his policies to date when he gives his speech tonight. However, how you define the current environment may have much to do with where you fall in current income distribution. This was a point made by Mr. Boyer: "In 2012, the richest 10 percent of Americans earned their largest share of income since 1917, said Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley. Meanwhile, Census Bureau statistics showed that real average income among the poorest 20 percent of families continued to fall each year from 2009 to 2011." As with all things - it is the lens from which you view the world that defines what you see. In the end, it will be whether we choose to "see" the issues that currently weigh on economic prosperity and take action, or continue to look the other way. History is replete with examples of the demise of empires that have done the latter.
Put down that prom dress. It seems, as ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, Retail isn’t the only service moving from the brick and mortar world to the virtual one. Online high schools have been popping up (on the internet, of course) more and more often in the last few years: even Stanford University started a program in 2006. Of the 22 million high-school aged (14-18) population in the US, about 1 million are estimated to be enrolled in a class or a full-time high school online. That said, virtual schools are unlikely to replace traditional classrooms anytime soon: they’re still used mostly for supplemental or make-up courses rather than a complete education. But, Colas adds hopefully, the technology points in a positive direction: free high school education means more high school diplomas, which could lead to a higher labor force participation rate, lower unemployment, and higher earnings for those who might have otherwise dropped out.
There was a time in the financial industry when the many wouldn't suffer for the sins of the few (although taxpayers were certainly excluded from this maxim). Well, for the "many" who work at JPMorgan, that is no longer the case because as Reuters reports, JPM employees can forget getting a pay raise in 2013 (although with sub-2% annual inflation as calculated by the BLS one wonders just why anyone should be getting a raise: just hand out an edible iPad or two and the COLA is fixed). The reason for the lack of a raise: "the bank's massive legal bills" - bills which incidentally were incurred when a select few JPM employees cheated and defrauded the system - illegally - in order to procure massive year end bonuses, most if not all of which were not clawed back, and subsequently were caught (one can only imagine how many of the "few" are still at the bank, doing manipulation and defrauding as usual. And now it is everyone else's turn to pay because the bank lacked the most elementary supervision of its criminal employees (long since fired) and raked up roughly $20 billion in litigation and legal settlement charges.
Of the various flavors of government interventionism in our lives, the minimum wage is perhaps the most welcomed. It appeals not only to our innate sense of “fairness” but also to our self-interest. Its allure may erroneously lead us to the conclusion that because “it is popular,” ergo “it is right.” The more astute proponents of the minimum wage, however, immediately point to the obvious; namely, that an extreme minimum wage ($1,000 per hour) would be unequivocally detrimental. However, the proponents quickly turn to dismissing this fear by asserting that, empirically, no such job loss occurs when the minimum wage is slowly raised. This is akin to arguing that although fire can boil water, a small fire won’t heat it up.