With Europe back from Easter break, we are seeing a modest continuation of the dollar strength witnessed every day last week, which in turn is pressuring oil and the commodity complex, and leading to some selling in US equity futures (down 0.2% to 2024) ahead of today's main event which is Janet Yellen's speech as the Economic Club of New York at 12:20pm, an event which judging by risk assets so far is expected to be far more hawkish than dovish: after all the S&P 500 is north of 2,000 for now.
We expect the S&P 500 to be range bound between 1925 to 2100 until after the US general election. We do not expect the S&P to fall back into correction territory as a double-dip correction already happened and it would likely take clear signs of an impending US recession or a new global shock to cause renewed investor panic.
Headlines will crow of the seasonally-adjusted 'beat' of expectations for the Dallas Fed survey (-13.6 vs -25.8 exp) but this is the 15th month in contraction (below 0) - something only seen in recession. Scratching below the surface we see employees, workweek, and capex all in contraction and forward expectations for new orders and employment tumbled. Perhaps that reality is what drove one respondent to rage, "anyone who says the economy is not in recession is peddling fiction."
But other than that, everything is GREAT!
As this reality-check data shows, we never really had any sort of meaningful “economic recovery”, and now we have entered the early phases of the next major downturn. So where do we go from here? Unfortunately, our debt-fueled prosperity has provided us with a massively inflated standard of living that is not even close to sustainable. As this bubble bursts, the economic pain is going to be absolutely unprecedented.
"The escape options are a mixture of the ineffectual, the limited, the risky, the foolhardy or the excessively slow. As Japan’s recent experiments have demonstrated, upping the monetary dosage alone is not enough to cure the affliction. Indeed, to the extent that monetary stimulus only encourages a further wave of risk-taking within financial markets – often outside of the mainstream banking system - it may only perpetuate unstable deflationary stagnation."
Very simply, if you borrow too much money life gets harder and the things that used to work stop working. For a country, lower interest rates no longer induce businesses and individuals to borrow and spend, and government deficits no longer translate directly into more full-time private sector jobs. Growth slows, voters get mad, politics gets crazy, and generally bad times ensue. The only question is why this is a surprise to the people whose choices brought us to the edge of the abyss.
"A similar [deflationary mindset] had occurred in the US in the 1930s. What solved the question? War! Because World War II had occurred during the 1940s and that became the solution for the United States. [We] have to switch [the Japanese] mindset... we are looking for the trigger."
- Japan Fin Min Taro Aso
"Tomorrow we wake up and China has devalued 20%, the world is over. The world is over. Euro breaks up. The world is over. The euro breaks up. Everything hits a wall. There's no euro in that scenario. The US economy, I mean everything hits a wall! Everything hits a wall! It's a 'Mad Max' movie, right. OK, China gets to be the king in 'Mad Max' world. How appealing is that?"
“About two years ago, I had a pleasure meeting with you, Professor Krugman. We were talking during that time that a rocket has to go out of the atmospheric region, which means that an escape velocity has to be earned in order to lift the Japanese economy out of deflation and we were looking for a good speed to do that. We worry about the accumulated debt. That is a source of another concern. What to do about it?”
The latest channel checks show that same store sales trends at America's casual dining restaurants - those which cater to the vast majority of the US middle class - have suffered a fourth consecutive month of declines, something not observed since the first financial crisis, sliding a whopping 3% in March.
In response to recent claims by the Obama administration and others that “millions of jobs” have recently been created We 'skeptically' examined the data to see if the claims were true. It turns out that job growth since the 2008 recession has actually been quite weak, and hardly something to boast about. Nevertheless, our conclusions from these analyses tend to rest on the idea that job growth is synonymous with gains in wealth and economic prosperity. But is that a good assumption?
“The McKenzie study also noted that on average “analysts’ forecasts have been almost 100% too high” which leads investors to make much more aggressive bets on the financial markets. “
Some time in the second week of February, when the market was tumbling on, among other things, fears of a U.S. recession, the Atlanta Fed was scrambling to give the all clear signal on the US economy when it surprised watchers by releasing a far stronger than consensus Q1 GDP nowcast of 2.7%. Since then things have once again not gone quite as planned, and following the latest flurry of poor economic data, the Atlanta Fed just confirmed that the current US economy is about as weak as it was when the Atlanta Fed first started estimating it at the start of February with a paltry 1.2% forecast.
It is always hard to buck the crowd, to be a bear when the market is up this much, this fast. Stocks are rallying and being underweight gets harder to maintain every day. The bulls are out there yapping about how this was just another correction, another dip to buy and that we better get back in, yada, yada, yada. What makes being bearish so hard is the noise of the perpetually bullish street, the lure of easy money in a market you know is overvalued but keeps going higher. Like JM Keynes "I change my mind when the facts change." Despite the rally, the facts – at least for now – still favor the bears.