... at least according to the Atlanta Fed. Based on the one GDP model which hasn't lost all credibility and which for the past 3 months has captured the attention to wannabe weathermen and other Wall Street strategists, today's bevy of stronger than expected data, everything from Durable Goods, to core CapEx, to New Home Sales, to Case Shiller, to Consumer Confidence, and even the Richmond Fed was sufficient to push Q2 GDP... by 0.1% to 0.8%.
Following last month's disappointing slump to only 481K new home sales in March (now revised to 484K) which was the biggest drop in nearly 2 years driven by a collapse in Northeast transactions, according to the latest new home sales data by the Census Bureau housing rebounded back over 500K, printing at 517K thanks to a 37% sequential jump in Midwest new home sales, which rebounded from 57K to 78K, even as sales in the Northeast continued to decline and even the West saw a modest drop.
To preserve any idea that the US is not heading into recession, the FOMC is now wholly reliant on statistical processes within the BEA’s use of the Census Bureau’s updated ARIMA-X13 modeling system. It is amazing to see this policy body that once proclaimed, unequivocally and forcefully, that it could perform the monetary equivalent of sorcery and alchemy reduced to quivering about winter. The latest policy statement, a silly farce of its own accord, is, quite simply, an embarrassment.
The rising risk to the housing recovery story lies in the Fed's ability to continue to keep interest rates suppressed. It is important to remember that individuals "buy payments" rather than houses. With each tick higher in mortgage rates so goes the monthly mortgage payment. With wages remaining suppressed, 1 out of 3 Americans no longer counted as part of the work force or drawing on a Federal subsidy, the pool of potential buyers remains tightly constrained. While there are many hopes pinned on the housing recovery as a "driver" of economic growth in 2015 and beyond - the lack of recovery in the home ownership data suggests otherwise.
That the Fed and other central banks have unleashed the speculative furies is an unassailable and baleful reality. What is going on here plain and simple is a one-sided game of chicken. The robo-traders and hedge fund buccaneers on Wall Street press the market higher on virtually no volume or conviction whenever macro-economic weakness presents itself, virtually daring the Fed to maintain is ultra-accommodative stance still longer. The casino gamblers will keep chop, chop choppin’ higher until they finally lose confidence that the Eccles building is heaven’s door to further riches. Then the machines will sell, sell, sell. There will be no credible Fed speakers to stop them.
The largest problem with the data sets below is that they are all subject to large historical revisions. This is why the NBER is ALWAYS well after the fact in pronouncing the start and end of recessions in the U.S. economy. Given the ongoing interventions from the Federal Reserve and the current administration, it is likely that many of the statistics, and seasonal adjustment metrics, have been skewed in recent years. In the quarters ahead it is likely that we could see rather sharp adjustments to historical data which may suggest the economy has been far weaker than headline statistics have suggested.
Zero Hedge first brought attention to the Atlanta Fed over two months ago, when the first massive divergence between bullish consensus and objective reality appeared. Since then it has been nothing but a downhill race for reality, with consensus scrambling to catch up. Moments ago, the Atlanta Fed just cut its Q2 GDP forecast once more, this time to 0.7% from 0.8%. This is on the back of a Q1 GDP which as of this moments is around -1.0%.
In short, the very project of counting “jobs” is essentially laughable in the context of the US economy as it is currently structured - for better or worse. But regardless of the equities and efficiencies of the current labor market, one thing is abundantly clear. The Payroll Friday report amounts to virtually meaningless noise. It is bad enough that the bubble vision Romper Room and the casino robo-traders are oblivious to this reality. What is scary is that the Eccles Building is just as clueless.
At least 22 states are facing budget shortfalls thanks to a combination of fiscal mismanagement and falling oil prices. The negative impact on the public sector has been dramatic suggesting that in the event of a sustained economic downturn, citizens' patience for austerity could wear thin leading to political instability and social unrest.
Auto sales have recovered to the 16.5-17 million range, and many observers predict further gains in coming years (despite, as we previously noted, missing expectations for the last few months). But to Goldman Sachs, the current sales pace already looks high relative to the medium-term fundamentals; and their assessment of scrappage rates, population growth, licensed drivers, and vehicle ownership suggests that trend demand for autos - excluding cyclical fluctuations - is only 14-15 million units per year.
Rising tuition rates, high unemployment among recent graduates, and an anemic economic recovery have many questioning the once inviolable notion that a college education is the best way to ensure high-paying, full-time employment. A new study from Georgetown looks at the best and worst majors for those looking to maximize their annual income.
After shrinking notably in Feb, March's US Trade deficit exploded. Against expectations of a $41.7bn deficit, the US generated a $51.4bn deficit - the worst since Oct 2008 and the biggest miss on record. Exports rose just $1.6bn while imports soared $17.1bn with the goods deficit with China soaring from $27.3bn to $37.8bn in March. Ironically, just as the "harsh winter" was found to lead to a GDP boost due to a surge in utility spending, so the West Coast port strike which was blamed for the GDP drop, was actually benefiting the US economy as it lead to a plunge in imports. In March, however, the pipeline was cleared, and US imports from China soared by over $10 billion to $38 billion. End result: prepare for upcoming Q1 GDP downgrades into negative territory.
During the heyday of post-war prosperity between 1953 and 1971, real final sales - a better measure of economic growth than GDP because it filters out inventory fluctuations - grew at a 3.6% annual rate. That is exactly double the 1.8% CAGR recorded for 2000-2014. The long and short of it, therefore, is that there has been a dramatic downshift in the trend rate of economic growth during an era in which central bank intervention and stimulus has been immeasurably enlarged. How exactly is the Fed helping when the trend rate of real growth has withered dramatically?
Apple is the Ty Cobb of corporate America. Like Cobb, Apple has set some impressive records. Nine years, a trillion dollars in sales, and almost no taxes paid. Apple risks having a legacy of tainted success and isolation.
Earlier today the US Census released its latest quarterly data, which confirmed that for what is left of America's middle class, owning a home has become virtually impossible, with the homeownership rate tumbling from 64.0% to 63.7%, which is tied for the lowest historic print since the first quarter of 1986, with the only difference that then the trendline was higher. Now, as can be seen on the chart below, it isn't. At this rate, by the end of the 2015 and certainly by the end of Obama's second term, the US homeownership rate will drop to the lowest in modern US history.