While we are now well aware of the unpatriotic-ness of tax inversions, Goldman Sachs raises the red flag on another corporate action that is about to become highly politicized - share buybacks. The last (and only) pillar of buying left in the US equity markets is set to draw political attention and likely to gain prominence, particularly ahead of the 2016 election.
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.
The last two months have been nothing if not a lesson in the disater that is the economic-forecasters of the world. With a 3-sigma beat followed by a 5-sigma miss, hope abounds that April will be the 'goldilocks' print - just cold enough to leave the Fed on hold and just hot enough to 'prove' growth remains. Goldman expects nonfarm payroll job growth of 230k in April, in line with consensus expectations. While labor market indicators were mixed in April, the employment components of service sector surveys were strong and better weather conditions should provide a boost. In addition, they see some upside risk to the forecast from a calendar effect, and expect the unemployment rate to decline by one-tenth to 5.4% and average hourly earnings to rise 0.2%.
"It is hard to be “reasonably confident” in the inflation outlook given current economic conditions, unless several inflation drivers rise at the same time. We therefore do not have much confidence in the inflation outlook and believe that the right policy would be to put hikes on hold for now."
- Goldman Sachs
And the answer is...
Goldman's "Excel Fat Finger" - Says Earlier GDP Estimate Was A Mistake, Lowers Q1 GDP Tracking To Just 0.8%Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/30/2015 15:09 -0400
"We made an error in our original estimate of the GDP tracking implications of the February PCE report. We have now reduced our Q1 GDP tracking estimate to +0.8%. We regret the mistake."
The March FOMC statement and projections suggested that September rather than June appears to be the most likely date for the first hike of the fed funds rate. Although the change to the "patient" forward guidance was close to expectations, the shift in the "dot plot" was most consistent with two rather than three 25 basis point hikes to the target range occurring in 2015. In addition, changes to the Committee's economic assessment were a bit more dovish.
Payroll employment continued to grow at a strong pace, exceeding consensus expectations. The unemployment rate fell due to lower participation. With the final employment report in hand before the upcoming FOMC meeting, we think the Committee will modify its forward guidance on March 18. Our forecast remains for the first hike in the fed funds rate to occur in September, but today's data affords the possibility of a hike as early as June
For the past few years (here from 2012 to most recently here) we have vociferously argued that the state of the US labor force is anything but healthy (and anything but cyclical) as the structural aging of America (where work is punished, college is free, and retirement long forgotten) drags at The American Dream. Even Goldman Sachs' Jan Hatzius - now desperate for a less positive spin to employment, in hopes of keeping The Fed dovish-er longer-er, has admitted that because of discouragement, disability, and schooling, coupled with a slowdown in the rise of the retired population will slow the pace of decline of the unemployment rate.
The phony 5.7% domestic unemployment rate reported yesterday has nothing to do with full employment. The relevant number in the report is that there are still 101 million working age Americans who do not have jobs, and only 45 million of them are on OASI retirement benefits. And that says nothing about the tens of millions of job holders who are employed far less than a full 40 hour work week. In short, there is a surfeit of available labor at home and abroad, meaning 3-4% wage gains are not coming down the pike any time soon or ever. So if that’s what the Fed is waiting for - then the so-called “lift-off” may not be coming even this year. And in any event, the trivial 25 bps increases in the funds rate that may eventually come have nothing to do with interest rate “normalization” or the return of honest price discovery in the casino. And that suits the needs of the Wall Street gamblers just fine.
And just like that, instead of praising the January jobs report, Goldman's Jan Hatzius is far more interested in pounding the table on its one scariest chart...
The difference between America's manufacturing workers and waiters has dropped to a record low of just 1.387 million. The same difference was 11.3 million on January 31, 1990.
In the 2003-2004 playbook, “considerable period” gave way to “patient” as a signal that the hikes were drawing closer, and it is interesting that the words “patient” or “patience” have shown up quite frequently in recent Fed speeches. The problem with a simple shift to “patience” without any qualifications on December 17 is that back in 2004 this shift occurred just 4½ months before the first hike, and some market participants might therefore take it to mean a hike before June.