Despite the apparent economic and profit news improvements recently, JPMorgan CIO Michael Cembalest notes there are a few instances where people are still flipping out. It’s worth reviewing them, he suggests, as they're indicative of risks and opportunities in financial markets heading into 2015, and of the continued presence of central banks affecting asset prices.
Now you can substantiate to today’s generation why that '60s and '70s era’s music was objectively "better," as JPMorgan's CIO Michael Cembalest has previously noted, and furthermore, researchers also found that popular music has gotten a lot louder (as SAT scores have plunged.. hhmm?) However, as Consequence of Sound notes, a software application writer by the name of Virgil Griffith has charted musical tastes based on the average SAT scores of various college institutions... and the results are.. interesting. Bob Dylan, The Shins, Radiohead, and Counting Crows are the favorite bands of smart people. Meanwhile, Lil Wayne, Beyoncé, The Used, and gospel music comes in at the lower end of the spectrum — or, as Griffith puts it, is music for dumb people.
Whocouldanode? Chinese GDP managed (thanks to record-breaking credit creation and QE-lite) to beat expectations of +7.2% and come in at +7.3% (still its slowest growth since April 2009). Notably this was the biggest decoupling from Bloomberg's high-frequency economic data forecast (i.e. real data) since May 2010. Despite weakness in Cement and Steel output, Industrial Production also managed to beat and actually improve (another miracle). Retail Sales missed expectations, rose only 11.6% YoY - its weakest since Feb 2006. Initial kneejerk is a lift in USDJPY, AUDJPY, TSY yields, and S&P and NKY futures... but that has now faded...
Given the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia and escalating conflict between Russia and the Ukraine, JPMorgan asks, where is Russia on the road to recreating something like the Soviet Union as an economic, political and financial counterweight to the West?
Things are getting a bit hotter for the Federal Reserve regarding the tradeoff between growth and inflation, according to JPMorgan CIO Michael Cembalest. For the last few years, he notes, a zero rate policy was put on autopilot given excess labor and industrial capacity. Both are shrinking now, and when looking at a broad range of variables, some are clearly mid-cycle. If so, in a few months Fed governors will have to jump out of the 0% interest rate pot and remove some of the liquidity that it has infused into the US economy; and, Cembalest warns, despite today's jobs print, they may have to do so at a quicker pace than what markets are pricing in.
You can be forgiven for thinking that the world is a pretty terrible place right now, exclaims JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest. With 11.7% of the world's population currently at war (and a considerably larger percentage seemingly on the verge), it seemed an appropriate time to summarize the main geopolitical risk points in the world.
Because when it comes down to it (as we explained here), all that matters is the resources...
As he visited clients around the nation, JPMorgan CIO Michael Cembalest noted a number of questions repeated... why can’t the US spend more on infrastructure? why can’t the US spend more on worker retraining? why is less money being spent on training, employment and related social services? why is energy spending falling? The answer, ne explains below, to all these questions is the same: these categories are declining since they are being squeezed out by the inexorable rise in entitlement payments.
"After digesting all the hyperbole and the pessimism, my biggest concern is not that Bitcoin will fail, but that it or one of its many virtual currency competitors will one day succeed."
We have some great news for those Americans who are still in the labor force (so that excludes about 92 million working age US citizens) and still have a (full-time) job: you are now working longer than ever! In fact, as JPM's Michael Cembalest observes using Conference Board data, the average manufacturing workweek is now just shy of 42 hours - the longest in over 60 years. And there are those who say Americans are lazy...
While the BLS may be searching far and wide for evidence of hedonically-adjusted "core" inflation, and not finding it anywhere (expect in assets, housing prices, food and energy, but apparently all America buys every day are LCD TVs and iPads), one place where not even the BLS can hide what is clear and present "inflation" is college grade point averages, and especially grades for humanities courses, where as the saying goes pretty much everyone is "above average." And, as JPM adds, "Soon, colleges will have to “turn the dial up to 11” or else everyone will have the maximum GPA." Well, in a society where the push is to make everyone equal, it would only be fair for everyone to get the exact same perfect grades...
... the average person in the generation that turned 65 this year received $327 thousand dollars more in lifetime government benefits than they paid in Federal taxes. On the other hand, children born in the future (e.g., yours) will have a lifetime deficit on this basis of -$421 thousand dollars. If it sounds unfair, it is.
Productivity. Every employer loves it, and every employee is fascinated by it, especially if it comes in cute colors, a retina screen, and weighs under a pound... at least until such time as "productivity" results in the loss of the employee's job, which in turn makes the employer love it even more as it results in even higher profits, even if it means one more pink slip and a 91 million people outside the labor force. With a labor force already in turmoil as millions drop out every year never to be heard from again, made obscolete by the latest technological and computerized innovation, and students stuck in college where they pile up record amounts of student loans (at last check well over $1 trillion) hoping form some job, any job, upon graduation, unfortunately the future is not bright at all. In a recently published paper, "The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation," Oxford researchers Frey and Osborne, look at the probability of computerization by occuption. What they find is shocking for nearly half of the US labor force.
A decision by the FHFA requiring the GSEs to finally release detailed information on loans they acquired and guaranteed uncovers an ugly truth about the GSEs that many should be aware of (as we noted the exuberance here). The release was only required on 35 million fully-amortizing, full documentation, 30-year fixed rate mortgages, which means as JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest notes the underwriting histories on another 20-30 million loans (e.g., the riskier ones) remain a mystery (and likely will forever). As Cembalest concludes, some people made up their minds on all the factors causing the housing crisis in 2009, and others in 2011. As long as new information keeps coming out, it seems premature to close the book on it, he adds, first, the private sector descent into underwriting hell took place well after the multi-trillion dollar GSE balance sheets had gone there first; and second, there are many reasons to wonder how bad the former would have been had the latter not preceded it.