The April FOMC gathering headlines a crowded economic events calendar this week. The post-meeting statement, released Wednesday afternoon, should continue to strike a cautious tone. There will be no press conference and updated economic and financial forecasts will not be released. Few expect the FOMC to add the “balance of risks” sentence back into its communiqué at this point. Doing so would be quite bearish for risk assets as it would definitely open the door for a June rate hike.
Those betting against Goldman Sach’s retail investment advice have generally been on the right side of things. The same thing is about to happen again. “Short gold! Sell gold!” said Goldman’s head commodity trader, Jeff Currie, during a CNBC “Power Lunch” interview. Currie’s advice was in response to the question “Is there any commodity you are recommending that can help our viewers make some money?” Currie’s provided several reasons for shorting gold, blatantly wrong.
In what he assures will be "an easy decision," Donald Trump has released details of his plan to "compel Mexico to pay for the wall." In a 600 word statement, Trump proposes, in a potentially devastating move for Mexico’s economy, to block billions of dollars in payments immigrants send back home until the nation made "a one-time payment of $5-10 billion" to the U.S.
As of this moment, the Atlanta Fed calculates Q1 GDP to be -0.7% (Bank of America has it at 0.6%). We expect this number to be promptly revised even lower following the latest disappointing trade data from the US, when moments ago the BEA reported that the US February deficit rose from $45.9BN to $47.1BN, missing the $46.2BN consensus estimate. This was the largest monthly deficit since August 2015's $50.5BN, and the number is likely only going to increase as the US is once again forced to start importing more oil with its own shale industry increasingly mothballed.
Key economic releases for the coming week include the ISM non-manufacturing report on Wednesday. There are several scheduled speeches from Fed officials this week. Fed Chair Yellen will take part in a discussion with former Fed Chairs on Thursday.
Slapping fees on imports (which by the way is illegal in treaties such as the WTO) will not solve the larger problems of reduced employment, stagnant wages and rising income inequality. To make a dent in those issues, we'll need to tackle central bank and central-state policies that have pushed finance and speculative churn to supremacy over the productive economy.
Free trade is a great concept, as are free markets and freedom. The problem is none of these things exist in practice because they don’t provide sufficient advantages to the ruling class. The Fed and HFT systems now dominate global markets, western nations systematically overthrow any (freely elected) foreign government that doesn’t bow down to them and free trade agreements are put in place to ensure investors maximize profits no matter what the costs to society.
In the same way that FDR had an existential political interest in generating inflation and preventing volatility in the US labor market, so does the US Executive branch today (regardless of what party holds the office) have an existential political interest in generating inflation and preventing volatility in the US capital markets. Transforming Wall Street into a political utility was an afterthought for FDR; today the relative importance of the labor markets and capital markets have completely switched positions. Today, the quote would be "markets are too important to be left to investors."
Modern "Free Trade" Deals Aren't Really About Trade
As global stock markets have soared in recent weeks, accelerating most recently after the dud of the G-20 meeting, gold has also rallied, strongly suggesting there is anything but confidence in this ramp.
In the aftermath of last week's disappointing G-20 Shanghai summit, there was much riding on this weekend's start of the China's People's Congress, and specifically what if any stimulus announcement Beijing will make; sadly for stimulus addicts China mostly disappointed and after the unimaginative scope of growth proposals, it is hardly surprising that European stocks and US equity futures have taken a leg lower.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released its data on U.S. trade in goods by selected countries and world region for 2015. Based on the data, the U.S. exported over $1.5 trillion and imported over $2.2 trillion in goods throughout 2015. This leaves leaves the U.S. with a negative balance of $735 billion! So the next time someone comes on TV and proclaims that the collapse in world trade volumes is irrelevant to the US equity market and US economy... perhaps point them in this direction.
After the G-20 ended in a wave of global disappointment, leading to the biggest Yuan devaluation in 8 weeks, and sending Chinese stocks into a tailspin on concerns the PBOC has forsaken its stock market as well as speculation the housing bubble is now sucking up excess liquidity which in turn pushed global market deep in the red to start the week, it was the PBOC's turn to scramble in a panicked reaction to sliding risk exactly one month after Japan unveiled its own desperation NIRP, and as reported before unexpectedly cut its Reserve Requirement Ratio by 0.5% to 17.0%, the first such cut in 2016 and the 5th since the start of 2015.
They came, they saw, they released a vacuous statement littered with empty promises. Now what?
At the end of the day, America is on a slippery slope toward failure because the Warfare State and the Welfare State are suffocating what was once a prosperous capitalism and a resilient free society lightly intruded upon by the machinery of state. But now both parties have become handmaidens of the state. Maybe The Donald’s startling but palpable momentum toward the White House will have one saving grace. His relentless campaign against the “politicians” and the Washington money rackets may end up knocking the hypocritical stuffings out of both parties.