Every year, David Collum writes a detailed "Year in Review" synopsis full of keen perspective and plenty of wit. This year's is no exception. "I have not seen a year in which so many risks - some truly existential - piled up so quickly. Each risk has its own, often unknown, probability of morphing into a destructive force. It feels like we’re in the final throes of a geopolitical Game of Tetris as financial and political authorities race to place the pieces correctly. But the acceleration is palpable. The proximate trigger for pain and ultimately a collapse can be small, as anyone who’s ever stepped barefoot on a Lego knows..."
The undisputed winner in this year's "Worst Idea At The Wrong Time" category is the poor suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, a town which was looted, burned and generally eviscerated on several occasions in the past few months on account of public anger first at the murder of Mike Brown and subsequently, the acquital of the police officer who shot him. Why? Because according to Bloomberg, in order to close a municipal budget gap - and keep in mind the prevailing poverty in the region has been widely attributed as one of the reason for the escalating violence on either side of the law - Ferguson plans to boost revenue from public-safety fines and tapping reserves.
Did you know that 65 percent of all children in the United States live in a home that receives aid from the federal government? We live at a time when child poverty in America is exploding. But as bad as things are for the children of America right now, they are only going to get worse. In the years ahead may we all have great compassion for these victims of our incredibly foolish economic mistakes.
It was a little over month ago when we presented our visual guide to the Millennial generation. Since then, dissecting America's overindebted, overeducated, underqualified, underemployed, underpaid young adults - if only in charts - has become one of the nation's favorite pastimes. And so, courtesy of the US Census Bureau which too has taken a fascination with the sad plight of the one generation that, at least in theory, should carry the weight of the US economy on its shoulders, is the latest demographic dressing down of Americans aged 18 to 34.
"I find it extremely odd and troubling that starting with January 2013, the Establishment Survey started moving in nearly an exactly straight line (benchmarks are important). That observation is made more curious by a memo that was just sent out by the Census Bureau to its field offices (the BLS crunches the numbers, but contracts out with the Census Bureau to actually conduct the surveys)... In other words, they were told that there would be penalties for cheating on the surveys, which apparently is tied to suggestions of a rash of field workers completing surveys for people never actually surveyed. The reason for doing so, spelled out by the New York Post, is that compensation is tied to a 90% completion rate."
In any economy, nothing works in isolation. For every dollar increase that occurs in one part of the economy, there is a dollars worth of reduction somewhere else. The real issue is what the fall in commodities in general, including oil, is telling us about the real state of the economy.
First it was Shoppertrak, then it was the National Retail Federation, then it was IBM, and now, with its own set of internal data, here is Bank of America slamming the door shut on US retail spending as a source of Q4 growth, and proving once and for all that the extended Thanksgiving-weekend, and the start to US holiday spending season, was the biggest dud since Lehman.
The executive actions on immigration announced last week look likely to have only a modest economic effect, because, as Goldman Sachs explains, most of the individuals eligible for the programs are already in the US and, in most cases, are likely already working. That said, Goldman estimates that the changes should increase the labor force by about 300k over the next couple of years and that possible wage gains among those gaining work authorization would increase average wages by less than 0.1%.
Moments ago the Census Bureau reported that 458K new homes were sold in October (with a 16.5 error confidence), which missed expectations of a 471K increase from last month's 467K print, but that's ok, because last month's number was also revised substantially lower from 467K to 453K, which in turn will allow the mainstream propaganda to tout that New Home Sales jump in October to match the highest print since October 2013. There is one problem: here is what the update chart of New Home Sales data looks like on a historical basis... and as revised. It sure puts that 458K "increase" in a slightly different light.
There are things going on with the financial markets currently that seem just a bit "out of balance." For example, asset prices are rising against a backdrop of global weakness, deflationary pressures and rising valuations. More importantly, there is a rising divergence between sentiment and hard data. While weather can't be blamed yet, it will likely be the main "excuse" in the months ahead as early record snowfall is already impacting economic production. However, it isn't just the manufacturing data that seems "out of whack."
"You might think legions of retiring Baby Boomers are to blame, or perhaps the swelling ranks of laid-off workers who’ve grown discouraged about their re-employment prospects. While both of those groups doubtless are important (though just how important is debated by labor economists), our analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data suggests another key factor: Teens and young adults aren’t as interested in entering the work force as they used to be, a trend that predates the Great Recession." - Pew
The Silent Generation (people born between 1928-’45), finds itself in a 'sweet spot' but refuses to spend enough. America has a problem: the ' by far' richest group in the US doesn’t spend, while those who would like to spend, for instance to build a home and a family, are too poor to do it.
This could be a problem for the escape velocity believers... The US trade balance printed its biggest deficit since April at -$43.0bn (missing expectations of -$40.2bn) bn. This mainly reflected a decrease in exports (but, but decoupling!?) though imports also slid.
After peaking in 1999 at 37%, the prosperity line has gradually declined since, and is now sitting at 34%. In between there was a housing boom and a global financial crash, both with noticeable effects on the line. That decline may not sound like much, but it will take years to rebuild all that wealth – assuming that the economy is moving in the right direction. And it was exactly at the bottom of the earnings scale that things got pretty bad. People earning less than $35,000 per year went from 31% at the turn of the century to 34% today, more or less matching the decline in percentage points at the top of the table. The new century brought a lot more discomfort to a growing number of Americans, fueling a lot of talk recently about income inequality in the country. Therefore, despite all the subsequent economic growth, large fiscal stimulus packages, unprecedented Federal Reserve intervention and booming capital markets, we could say that PROSPERITY IN AMERICA PEAKED IN 1999!
The question of "recovery" really boils down to this: how much longer can the increasing debt of the bottom 90% and the wealth of the top 10% prop up the expansion?