Leading Economic Indicators
“Are we closer to an economic recession or a continued expansion?” With the Fed hiking interest rates, and talking a tough game of continued economic strength, the risk of a “policy error” has risen markedly in recent months. The markets, falling inflation indicators, and plunging interest rates are all suggesting the same.
"There is hope of more stimulus in March and potential for even more stimulus in Japan and China, so if we get concrete positive economic news the rebound could last into next week,” said John Plassard, senior equity- sales trader at Mirabaud Securities. “I told my clients to fasten their seatbelts and wait for better news, and this is finally happening."... "The turnaround in sentiment came amid signs central banks may be prepared to act after $7.8 trillion was erased from the value of global equities this year on China’s slowdown and oil’s crash."
Well, it’s been a rotten month.
It is widely assumed that the gold price must decline when the Federal Reserve is hiking interest rates. It seems logical enough: gold has no yield, so if competing investment assets such as bonds or savings deposits do offer a yield, gold will presumably be exchanged for those. There is only a slight problem with this idea. The simple assumption “Fed rate hikes equal a falling gold price” is not supported by even a shred of empirical evidence.
The atmosphere is getting thin up here, and every ounce counts triple when you're climbing in rarefied air. While near-term market dynamics are more likely to be impacted by Friday’s employment report than any other factor, our broad view remains that stocks are in the late-stage top formation of the second most extreme episode of equity market overvaluation in U.S. history, second only to the 2000 peak, and already beyond the 1929, 1937, 1972, and 2007 episodes, not to mention lesser extremes across history.
Stocks Jump On Hope For More Central Bank Intervention After Japan's Quintuple Recession, Syrian StrikesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/16/2015 07:03 -0500
As so often happens in these upside down days, was the best thing that could happen to the market, because another economic slowdown means the BOJ, even without sellers of JGBs, will have no choice but to expand its "stimulus" program (the same one that led Japan to its current predicament of course) and buy up if not government bonds, then corporate bonds, more ETFs (of which it already own 50%) and ultimately stocks. Because there is nothing better for the richest asset owners than total economic collapse.
"After many years of ultra-accommodative polices, it is clear that ongoing interventions have failed to boost actual economic growth and only exacerbated the destruction of the middle class. It is clear that employment growth has only been a function of population growth, as witnessed by the ongoing decline in the labor-force participation rates and the surging levels of individuals that have fallen out of the work-force. While we will continue to operate to foster maximum employment and price stability, the reality is that the economy overall remains far to weak to sustain higher interest rates or any tightening of monetary policy."
Missing expectations for the 3rd month in a row, US Lesading Economic Indicators (LEI) dropped 0.2% MoM. There has not been a bigger monthly drop since March 2013. Ironmically, initial jobless claims (which we have recently explained is now useless) was the largest positive contributor (after the yield curve steepness) but stock prices, average workweek, and building permits weighed heaviest.
From a financial market psychology standpoint it is however very important that central bankers don’t appear clueless. A majority of market participants needs to be able to suspend disbelief to an sufficient extent, i.e., they must be able to share in the collective hallucination that central bankers actually do know what they are doing. When it is no longer possible to maintain this facade, many things are likely to be suddenly questioned – and among these is the question whether it makes sense to remain exposed to yet another gargantuan asset bubble.
The question on everyone's mind is whether the economy is strong enough to withstand rate hikes by the Federal Reserve? In our opinion, the answer is no. The economy continues to ebb and flow between weak growth and no growth. This puts the Federal Reserve at risk of a policy mistake that could trip the economy into an outright recession. While there have certainly been positive bumps in the data, as pent-up demand is released back into the economy, the inability to sustain growth is most concerning.
Currently, there are things occurring that are very troublesome, and in more normal times, would likely already have investors heading for cover. However, in today's liquidity fueled, Central Bank supported environment, that has yet to be the case. The reason was best described recently by Dr. Robert Shiller "I call this the 'new normal' boom ó it's a funny boom in asset prices because it's driven not by the usual exuberance but by an anxiety." What happens next is only a guess. However, historically, it hasn't been the outcome that investors were hoping for. But then again, maybe "bearish bull" isn't as much of an oxymoron as it is just a warning.
Since QE programs have not been effective at creating organic economic growth, the only effective monetary policy tool of the Fed to stave off the effects of a recessionary drag, lowering interest rates, is not available. This is why, despite weak economic growth, little inflation and a large amount of labor slack in the economy, the Fed has consistently hinted that they will likely raise the overnight lending rates in June. Therefore, since the Fed is "data dependent," a boost to GDP, via the recalculation of the numbers, would be vastly supportive in justifying that increase. However, is economic growth really stronger than currently reported? We can look at some alternative measures of the economy to answer that question.
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.
Central bankers in the U.S., Europe and Asia have created another massive bubble. This time it is a bubble in stocks, bonds and real estate simultaneously. There is no place to hide. But we’d put my money on war, chaos, and revolution. There will be no impunity for our gambling.
The negative divergence of the markets from economic strength and momentum are simply warning signs and do not currently suggest becoming grossly underweight equity exposure. However, warning signs exist for a reason, and much like Wyle E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner, not paying attention to the signs has tended to have rather severe consequences. When the market eventually cracks, the "disposition" effect will trump all the good intentions of "buying and holding" for the long-term. The eventual "panic to sell" will lead to a significant destruction in investment capital and a reversion in investor psychology to extreme negativity. While the basic premise of investing is to "buy low" and "sell high," repeated studies show that there are precious few who do.