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."
While forcing citizens to work for no money may appeal to European policy-makers as a solution to their youth unemployment problem (as we discussed here and here), it is a problem that covers a stunning 35.8 million people in the world who are classified as slaves, according to the latest data.
Today we see actions by many groups calling or demanding wage increases; especially when it comes to the minimum wage. Yet, isn’t the real underlying issue more in line with what was once an “entry-level” position filled by teenagers has now turned into the only positions available for the now “entry-level, unskilled, first time employed, degree bearing” 26 year old’s and older?
"The enemy isn't conservatism. The enemy isn't liberalism. The enemy is bulls**t." - Lars-Erik Nelson
"Whichever side emerges victorious, both Republicans and Democrats should face up to a much bigger truth: Neither party as currently constituted has a real future." On this, another election day sham, it is key to not get discouraged. Things are changing at the grassroots for the better. The battle of decentralization vs. centralization, networks vs. hierarchies, will not be easily won, but it will be won. Keep fighting.
Though there is some debate over the exact income a middle class household brings in, USA Today notes that we do have an idea of who the middle class are — most working class people. Today's bourgeoisie is composed of laborers and skilled workers, white collar and blue collar workers, many of whom face financial challenges. Bill Maher reminded us a few months back that 50 years ago, the largest employer was General Motors, where workers earned an equivalent of $50 per hour (in today's money). Today, the largest employer — Wal-Mart — pays around $8 per hour. The middle class has certainly changed. USA Today's Cheat Sheet has ranked a list of things the middle class can no longer really afford.
News about the spread of the Ebola virus has been an increasing focus for market participants in recent days. Despite rising media coverage, Ebola seems to have had little discernible effect on consumer sentiment to date. However, as Goldman Sachs notes, the "fear factor" associated with Ebola appears more significant than in past instances of pandemic concern. While expert opinion sees the likelihood of a significant outbreak of Ebola in the US as very low, it is likely any negative macroeconomic consequences are most likely to be transmitted through fear or risk-aversion channels.
Every quarter we take a break from all the standard economic indicators to look at a range of alternative data. The purpose here is to pose the question: “Does the consensus view of the U.S. economy square with what real people do in their day to day lives?” Overall, the news from “Off the Grid” challenges the notion that the U.S. economy is on solid ground and accelerating. Inching forward, yes... But not much more.
The polls in Scotland will close this week on one of the more important elections in recent history... perhaps one of the only elections that actually matters. Every eligible voter has a say, and a simple majority decides the outcome for everyone else. By definition, this is the purest possible form of the democratic process. But that’s not what’s happening. British politicians are scared to death that Scotland will file for divorce; so they’re doing everything they can to influence the outcome of this supposedly impartial democratic process. They’ve spent an incalculable amount of money trying to influence the outcome, effectively subverting a democratic election.
This is a trend that has outlasted three Presidents and six Congresses. It’s not about a single politician, or even ALL the politicians. It’s about the system itself.
Just a few hours ahead of President Obama's strategy oration, we thought worth noting that Americans' trust in the federal government to handle international problems has fallen to a record-low 43%. According to Gallup, confidence in the government to handle international problems slid 17 percentage points last year, when the Obama administration was planning military action against Syria. Unsurprisingly, Democrats remain the most confident in the government as Republicans' faith has collapsed. But it's not just international, only 40% of Americans have any confidence that government can handle domestic problems - also a record low.
Despite the exuberance of certain government-sponsored confidence surveys, Gallup's weekly measure of economic confidence in America continues to go absolutely nowhere. As they note, so far, 2014 has been a unique year for the U.S. Economic Confidence Index in its doldrum-like range, stagnant and still negative.
Poll after poll confirms what we're sure you’ve already been feeling. People are disenchanted with the existing system. They don’t trust the government, they don’t trust the banks, and they don’t trust the media. You can hear the rumblings of grumblings, and it’s only growing louder and louder. It doesn’t have to be this way.