"It's not worth shopping in China," said one disgruntled middle-class Chinese consumer, adding, "If you can wait, do it elsewhere." The reason is simple - massive price inflation. As the WSJ reports, clothing and other apparel is on average 70% more expensive for consumers in China than in the US. Government taxes and import tariffs are to blame for some of the price discrepancy, but, the WSJ goes on to note, for years the burgeoning Chinese middle class also seemed willing to pay more for products with consumer cachet, particularly imported goods - especially given the easy availability of credit. But today more Chinese consumers are pushing back, weary of sticker shock - and enlightened by the ability to compare prices elsewhere, thanks to the Internet - and China is starting to crack down on over-zealous pricing.
On the surface, today's Personal Income and Savings data was not pretty: with Incomes and Spending both rising at 0.1% in July, both missed the expected growth rate of 0.2% and 0.3% respectively. This also meant that the US consumer's savings rate was unchanged at 4.4% in the month, and the downtrend from recent highs continues as more and more of the savings buffer has to be depleted. But it was once again below the headlines that the truly ugly data lay. A quick look at the components of income showed something very disturbing. After holding relatively firm for the past five months (excluding the violent swings surrounding the 2012 year end accelerated bonus payouts), compensation of employees - the core component of personal income - tumbled by $21.9 billion. This was the biggest monthly slide since May 2012, and as the chart below shows, the downtrend in sequential wage growth has now resulted in a sequential decline in wages.
Early-year tax increases and higher gasoline prices have probably dented U.S. consumer expenditures and as Bloomberg's Joseph Brusuelas notes, tomorrow's report of July’s personal income and spending report may illustrate the weakness that poses a significant risk to the much-anticipated economic growth renaissance in the second half of the year.
The reality is that the recession never ended for 95% of U.S. households, and by many metrics the recession has deepened. The trick is to not measure those metrics; what isn't measured doesn't exist, especially recession.
A quiet week to send off August ahead of a deluge of key data next week and as the fateful Septembr 18 FOMC announcement approaches. Still, quite a few macro events to keep track of.
Last week it was the Nasdaq, today it was the Eurex Exchange, which broke down "due to technical issues" shortly after 2 am Eastern and which was offline for over an hour. Further keeping a lid on liquidity and upward momentum is today's UK market holiday which has resulted in a driftless move lower across European stocks, following a red close in the Nikkei225. It only means that the inevitable ramp up in the disconnected from all fundamentals and reality market will have to come only during US trading hours when the NY Fed trading desk steps up its POMO-aided levitation.
Next weeks events placed within the larger context.
If you want to track how close we are to the next financial collapse, there is one number that you need to be watching above all others. The number that we are talking about is the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries, because it affects thousands of other interest rates in our financial system. When the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries goes up, that is bad for the U.S. economy because it pushes long-term interest rates up. When interest rates rise, it constricts the flow of credit, and a healthy flow of credit is absolutely essential to the debt-based system that we live in.
Day after day we are blessed with media prognostications on the employment data. We are incessantly fed 'facts' and data that shows how great this recovery is but more still needs to be done (so please don't taper quite yet). We have been vociferous in the exposure of facts about the 'quality' versus 'quantity' of jobs in the 'recovery' but there is another sentiment-sapping angle to the employment environment in the US. As Bloomberg's Rich Yamarone notes, the number of people with a job that were not at work in June or July because they were on vacation fell to 11.2 million this year from 11.59 million a year ago, a far cry from the 13.5 million vacationers in 2008 just prior to the Great Recession. Workers may be too uneasy with their situations to take off and enjoy the summer. Perhaps the need for a living real disposable personal income has kept them at their desks longer this year.
Every time real personal income goes negative, a recession occurs. Now that personal income is falling, a recession is baked in. The Big Lie of the "recovery" is that it is self-sustaining. Minus government transfers, the reality that the Fed and Federal government are simply enriching the top 1/10th of 1% with access to unlimited credit at zero interest is revealed.
This insane world was created through decades of bad decisions, believing in false prophets, choosing current consumption over sustainable long-term savings based growth, electing corruptible men who promised voters entitlements that were mathematically impossible to deliver, the disintegration of a sense of civic and community obligation and a gradual degradation of the national intelligence and character. There is a common denominator in all the bubbles created over the last century – Wall Street bankers and their puppets at the Federal Reserve. Fractional reserve banking, control of a fiat currency by a privately owned central bank, and an economy dependent upon ever increasing levels of debt are nothing more than ingredients of a Ponzi scheme that will ultimately implode and destroy the worldwide financial system. Since 1913 we have been enduring the largest fraud and embezzlement scheme in world history, but the law of diminishing returns is revealing the plot and illuminating the culprits. Bernanke and his cronies have proven themselves to be highly educated one trick pony protectors of the status quo. Bernanke will eventually roll craps. When he does, the collapse will be epic and 2008 will seem like a walk in the park.
In order to maximize their long-term profit, the Saudi`s will be watching the shale-boom in the US for an optimal oil price. This will prove a challenge for an oil dependent nation as the natural gas price implies a far lower oil price than the political elite is comfortable with.
So much for the trends of beats: July nonfarm payrolls +162K missing expectations of 185K; June was revised lower to 188K and the unemployment rate dips from 7.5% to 7.4%. The rate dropped because the civilian labor force declined from 155,835 to 155,798 or 37K, driven by an increase of people not in labor force to 89,957 - just shy of the all time high. This also means that the labor force participation rate once again ticked down to 63.4% from 63.5%. What is worse however is that the change in average hourly earnings dropped -0.1% on expectations of a 0.2% increase and down from the 0.4% increase last month. Those part-time jobs are finally starting to bite.
A week that has been all about acronyms - GDP, PMIs, FOMC, ECB, BOE, ADP, ISM, DOL, the now daily record highs in the S&P and DJIA - is about to get its final and most important one: the NFP from the BLS, and specifically an expectation of a July 185K print, down from the 195K in the June, as well as an unemployment rate of 7.5% down from 7.6%. The number itself is irrelevant: anything 230 and above will be definitive proof Bernanke's policies are working, that the virtuous circle has begun and that one can rotate out of everything and into stocks; anything 150 or below will be definitive proof the Fed will be here to stay for a long time, that Bernanke and his successor will monetize everything in sight, and that one can rotate out of everything and into stocks, which by now are so disconnected from any underlying reality, one really only mentions the newsflow in passing as the upward record momentum in risk no longer reflects pretty much anything.
As Obama parades around middle-America, promoting hope-and-change amid a "Better-Bargain for the middle-class," it seemed only appropriate to lay out a few 'facts' before his next pronouncement. Once upon a time, the United States has the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the world. Sadly, things have dramatically changed in America since that time. There just aren't as many "middle class jobs" as there used to be. In fact, just six years ago there were about six million more full-time jobs in our economy than there are right now. Those jobs are being replaced by part-time jobs and temp jobs. We live at a time when incomes are going down but the cost of living just keeps going up. As a result, the middle class in America is being absolutely shredded and the ranks of the poor are steadily growing. The following are 44 facts about the death of the middle class that every American - especially President Obama - should know...