Unlike last year when every single weatherman, pardon "economissed", quickly declared the collapse in Q1 GDP from an initial consensus of 3% to an abysmal -2.5% was due to the weather, and not due to a dramatic tightening in Chinese end demand, this time there is suddenly no silver lining, and one after another, the economisseds are lining up to say that, ooops, they were all wrong.
What surprised even us is that far from subtracting from GDP growth, the harsh winter actually boosted consumption, in the form of utiility (mostly heating) spending, which made up the second largest increase in personal consumption in the first quarter. Because, to every economist's cries of horror, freezing weather while perhaps reducing discretionary spending actually boosts spending on such mundane, if very expensive, tasks as utilities which, to the same economists, also translates into growth.
Today we get a two-for-one algo kneejerk special, first with the Q1 GDP release due out at 8:30 am which will confirm that for the second year in a row the US economy barely grew (or maybe contracted depending on the Obamacare contribution) in the first quarter, followed by the last pre-June FOMC statement, in which we will find out whether Janet Yellen and her entourage of central planning academics will blame the recent weakness on the weather and West Coast port strikes and proceed with their plan of hiking rates in June (or September, though unclear which year), just so they can push the economy into a full blown recession and launch QE4.
Politics in Ukraine continues to be characterized by the East/West divide that was so clearly visible in maps of Ukrainian elections and the distribution of the Ukrainian and Russian language (see “Mapping the Conflict in Ukraine” for details on this). While the new government wants to be seen as embodying Western values in contrast to the kleptocracies that previously governed the country, both its actions and omissions very often seem at odds with this aspiration, to say the least.
"...the ladder that has supported the move to record high U.S. corporate profit margins is beginning to snap. It may be a long way down."
- Just How Leaky Is the Fed? More Than You May Realize (BBG)
- Republican Presidential Candidates Spar Over Party’s Future (WSJ)
- Euro Area Seeks Greece Roadmap to May Agreement (BBG)
- The $320 Billion Bogey Needed to Placate U.S. Stock Market Bulls (BBG)
- Seeking Obamacare alternative, Republicans eye tax credits (Reuters)
- Gundlach Says Market Hasn’t Seen Full Impact of Fed Moves (BBG)
- EU meets on migrant crisis as shipwreck corpses brought ashore (Reuters)
- Canada’s Own Oil Pipeline Problem (WSJ)
Having previously explained the 175,846,629,768 reasons why former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke would join Citadel - the most-levered hedge fund in the world and alleged conduit of fed put protection; we thought it intriguing to note what billionaire Citadel Ken Griffin had to say about Bernanke and his policies just 2 years ago...
The only surefire way to dramatically reduce healthcare costs is to remove the middlemen and allow market forces to return to healthcare.
It ranks at the very top of potential tax nightmares, especially if you invest internationally. This nightmare could become a reality if you happen to invest in what the IRS deems a Passive Foreign Investment Company (PFIC), which are taxed at exorbitant rates and have highly complex reporting rules. Most foreign mutual funds are PFICs, as are certain foreign stocks. PFIC rules amount to unofficial restrictions on investing in certain foreign assets and are yet another indicator of the disturbing trend of creeping capital controls in the US. Capital controls are used by many countries and come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and labels. The purpose, however, is always the same: to restrict and control the free flow of money into and out of a country so that the politicians have more wealth at their disposal to plunder.
For the 4th month in a row, personal spending growth missed expectations. With a 0.1% gain in February (against expectations of a 0.2% rise), this growth rate remains below all of 2014's growth. Income rose slightly more than expected at 0.4% (against +0.3% exp) but this is the same growth as January's upwardly reviused +0.4%. That leaves the powers that be very disappointed as the savings rate jumps to the highest since 2012... not exactly the Keynesian pump-primed, low gas prices tax cut spendfest all the smartest people in the room promised...
At the end of the day there is a considerable irony. The Fed has now become the tool of liberal Keynesian do-gooders - exemplified by the school marm who heads it. But its policies are exclusively benefiting Wall Street and the top 1%. They are redistributing income and wealth to the top, not the bottom of society as liberals have always claimed. Needless to say, main street does not need that kind of “help”. And it would do far better on its own hind legs if the monetary politburo joined its Soviet colleagues in the afterlife of mistaken ideologies.
We have solved the mystery of why US households did not spend all those billions in "dropping gas price" windfalls - the answer is that they did spend all this money. On Obamacare.
Over the past 2 years the Obama administration has been desperate to boost minimum wages, usually over tedious bickering with republicans and corporations who have resisted such an increase, with neither party realizing that such a measure would not do much to actually boost aggregate spending. Instead, what Obama should have been focusing on was to limit the maximum number of hours worked per week, because as the following chart shows, the reason why weekly pay is rising and aggregate earnings is not due to an increase in hourly wages but because Americans are simply working longer hours every week: not quality but quantity.
Some folks were propagandizing... Life's #BetterWithObamacare... because what else would you do with your low gas price savings...
In other words, wages are declining even in fields where advanced degrees are supposed to inoculate the highly educated from declines in earnings. This is not entirely surprising to anyone who has first-hand knowledge of the tremendous glut in workers with advanced degrees, but it does drive a stake in the heart of the argument that the solution to income inequality is more education.