Regardless of which side of the low labor force participation rate argument you stand on, it is hard to argue that it is simply a function of retiring "baby boomers." While political arguments are great for debate, it is the economics that ultimately drive employment. While the Fed has inflated asset prices to the satisfaction of Wall Street, it has done little for the middle class. It is ultimately fiscal policy that will help business create employment, the problem is that businesses need less of it while government officials keep piling on more. In the meantime, stop blaming "baby boomers" for not retiring - they simply can't afford to.
There was good and bad news in today's personal spending report. First the good: US consumers saw their personal income rise by 0.5%, or $78 billion, in March to a $14.5 trillion SAAR, driven mostly by a $32 billion increase in service wages, as well as $16 billion from government transfer receipts. Now the bad (or, if one is a Keynesian, doubly good) news: personal spending more than offset the increase in income, rising by 0.9% or the most since August 2009, which rose to $12.3 trillion SAAR, driven roughly equally by an increase in spending on Goods ($53 billion) and Services ($54 billion). Curiously the increase in goods spending was the single biggest monthly increase also since August 2009. As for services, the systematic increase on spending over the past several months is unmistakable as far more money is allocated toward healthcare, that one major spending category which rescued Q1 GDP.
- Two-Thirds of Insurance Exchange Enrollees Paid Premiums (WSJ)
- Panic: Criminal Charges Against Banks Risk Sparking Crisis (BBG)
- Did the junk bubble pop: Junk Loans Pulled as Investors Say No After Fed Raises Concerns (BBG)
- CME mulls price fluctuation limits for gold, silver futures (Reuters)
- AT&T Has Approached DirecTV About Possible Acquisition (WSJ)
- NBA sets wheels turning for Clippers sale; Oprah in wings (Reuters)
- One way to fix prison overcrowding: Florida Jail Hit by Deadly Blast (WSJ)
- New Boeing jets hold key to more than half of future sales (Reuters)
- Sony slashes profit estimate by 70% (Guardian)
It is May Day, which means half the world - the half where welfare contributions to one's standard of living are off the charts - celebrate labor, or rather the lack thereof, by taking a day off. Which means virtually all of Europe is closed, as are Eurex and Euronext futures, and most European markets expect the UK. In light of the non-existent volume, futures are relatively unchanged despite the latest Chinese Mfg PMI disappointment (50.4, below the 50.5, expected but just above the prior print of 50.3), and of course yesterday's US GDP debacle which helped push the DJIA to a record high. The good news is that with volume even more miserable than usual, the few momentum ignition algos that are operating will have a field day with the now standard low-volume levitation that happens like clockwork if the news is bad, and also happens just in case if the news is bad.
The coming week will be busy in terms of data releases in the US; highlights include an improvement in consumer confidence, anemic 1Q GDP growth, and solid non-farm payrolls (consensus expects 215K). Wednesday brings advanced 1Q GDP - consensus expected a pathetic 1.1% qoq, on the back of what Goldman scapegoats as "weather distortions and an inventory investment drag", personal consumption (consensus 1.9%), and FOMC (the meeting is not associated with economic projections or a press conference). Thursday brings PCE Core (consensus 0.20%). Friday brings non-farm payrolls (consensus of 215K) and unemployment (6.6%). Other indicators for the week include pending home sales, S&P/Case Shiller home price index, Chicago PMI, ADP employment, personal income/spending, and hourly earnings.
A ‘Perfect Storm’ of demography and debt will economically and financially doom almost every country on earth. It will be TEOTWAWKI – ‘The End Of The World As We Know It’. No, it’s not the end of life or even the end of civilization. However, when it’s all over, nothing will ever be the same and that includes the disappearance of much of the middle class. The good news - The storm won’t last forever. The bad news is there will be much more pain before it ends unless you make an effort to understand what’s happening and why.
One of the most consistent debates emanating out of Washington in the past 6 years has been that dealing with income tax. Whether high, low, "fair" or "unfair", said discussions, however, focus solely on tax paid at the Federal level, and largely ignore that "other" key tax: state. Which is surprising, considering some states such as California demand a total contribution amounting to a third of the highest marginal Federal tax bracket, which could make some wonder if those bracing sea breezes are really worth it. But what about the other states? Here is the full breakdown of the states with the top income tax rates, those with the lowest, and all the states inbetween.
Moments ago the BEA reported February personal income and spending which were expected to show a modest pick up following what all economists have classified as the "polar vortex" winter doldrums. While it remains to be seen whether and if spending, and income, will indeed pick up considering the deplorable state of the US household's earnings prospects, both metrics came precisely in line with consensus estimates at 0.3% (if not those of DB's always amusing permabull Joe LaVorgna who expected a 0.6% increase in spending).
- Crimea Resolution Backed by U.S. Barely Gets UN Majority (BBG)
- Russian Buildup Stokes Worries (WSJ)
- As reported here first: China’s Developers Face Shakeout as Easy Money Ends (BBG)
- U.S. House Poised to Clear Sanctions Called Putin Warning (BBG)
- Bitcoin Prices Plunge on Report PBOC Orders Accounts Shut (BBG)
- Search for lost Malaysian jet shifts significantly after new lead (Reuters)
- Russian fund taps China and Middle East (FT)
- Long battle looms between U.S. college, athletes seeking to unionize (Reuters)
- Official warns EU-US trade deal at risk over investor cases (FT)
- New iPhone likely out in September, Nikkei daily says (AFP)
By this point, one has to be impressed at the resilience with which algos repeat the same pattern over and over again, hoping for a different outcome. It is now the 6th day in a row that the JPY-carry trade (be it USDJPY, EURJPY or AUDJPY) driven levitation has pushed equity futures smartly up in overnight trading. And by all accounts - in the absence of ugly macro news which in today's sparse data line up (just Personal Income and Spending and UMich consumer condfidence) - the same post early highs fade we have seen every day in the past week will repeat again. The overnight euphoria was driven primarily by Europe where Bloomberg reported 2 Year Spanish yields have traded below those of the UK for the first time since 2009. And since it is obviously not the strong fundamentals, what is continuing to happen, as has been the case since October 2013, is everyone is pricing in the ECB's QE, which even Weidmann is openly talkin about now, which simply means it will most likely never actually happen, certainly not until it is too late.
If you are like most Americans, paying taxes is one of your pet peeves. The deadline to file your federal taxes is coming up, and this year Americans will spend more than 7 billion hours preparing their taxes. When the federal income tax was originally introduced a little more than 100 years ago, most Americans were taxed at a rate of only 1 percent. But once they get their feet in the door, the social planners always want more. Since that time, tax rates have gone much higher and the tax code has exploded in size. Why do we have to have the most convoluted tax system in the history of the planet?
If there was one thing that the market was demanding after last night's disappointing March HSBC manufacturing PMI, which has now fallen so low, local market participants are convinced a stimulus is imminent (despite China's own warnings not to expect this), and sent both the SHCOMP and the CNY surging, it would have been further weak data out of Europe, where the other possible, if not probable, "QE-stimulus" bank is located now that the Fed is in full taper mode. It didn't get precisely that however there was a step in the right direction when overnight the Euro area Composite Flash PMI eased marginally from 53.3 to 53.2 in March, largely as expected. The country breakdown showed a narrowing of the Germany/France Composite PMI gap owing to a notable (3.7pt) increase in the French PMI while the German PMI eased somewhat (1.4pt). On the basis of past correlations, a Euro area Composite PMI of 53.2 is consistent with GDP growth of around +0.4%qoq, slightly stronger than our Current Activity Indicator (+0.35%qoq).
"Property taxes are equitable and efficient, but underutilized in many economies. The average yield of property taxes in 65 economies (for which data are available) in the 2000s was around 1 percent of GDP, but in developing economies it averages only half of that (Bahl and Martínez-Vázquez, 2008). There is considerable scope to exploit this tax more fully, both as a revenue source and as a redistributive instrument, although effective implementation will require a sizable investment in administrative infrastructure, particularly in developing economies (Norregaard, 2013)." - IMF
While the Fed's interventions have certainly bolstered asset prices by driving a "carry trade," these programs do not address the central issue necessary in a consumer driven economy which is "employment." In an economy that is nearly 70% driven by consumption, production comes first in the economic order. Without a job, through which an individual produces a good or service in exchange for payment, there is no income to consume with. With the Federal Reserve now effectively removing the "patient" from life support, we will see if the economy can sustain itself. If this recent Bloomberg poll is correct, then we are likely to get an answer very shortly, and it may very well be disappointment.
The Fed and the other major central banks have been planting time bombs all over the global financial system for years, but especially since their post-crisis money printing spree incepted in the fall of 2008. Now comes a new leader to the Eccles Building who is not only bubble-blind like her two predecessors, but is also apparently bubble-mute. Janet Yellen is pleased to speak of financial bubbles as a “misalignment of asset prices,” and professes not to espy any on the horizon. Actually, the Fed’s bubble blindness stems from even worse than servility. The problem is an irredeemably flawed monetary doctrine that tracks, targets and aims to goose Keynesian GDP flows using the crude tools of central banking. Not surprisingly, therefore, our monetary central planners are always, well, surprised, when financial fire storms break-out. Even now, after more than a half-dozen collapses since the Greenspan era of Bubble Finance incepted in 1987, they don’t recognize that it is they who are carrying what amounts to monetary gas cans.