Archive for March, 2018

Notes From Underground: The Week That Was …?

March 26, 2018

What a week last week turned out to be (and that was if you just followed the headlines). Tariffs are taxing the global financial markets as they try to guesstimate the economic impact from the effect of tit-for-tat responses to the initial U.S. measures efforts to gain support for dealing with Chinese trade violations. The FOMC added to market volatility as the suspense over three or four rate hikes still impacts the DOT PLOTS. The Bank of England confused markets as they voted 7-2 to sustain the current interest rate policy, even though consensus assumed a 25 basis point increase. By week’s end the confusion reverberating around the globe did serious damage to equity markets as the S&PS were down almost 6 percent on the week and the European stock indices continued their continued their selloff, making them the weakest of all regions (in contravention to the punditry’s call for the buying of European stocks).

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Notes From Underground: The Ball of Confusion Keeps On Rolling

March 22, 2018

Tonight I am posting a PODCAST I recorded Wednesday with Richard Bonugli just after new Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s press conference. Richard and I covered a great deal of ground in discussing the most pertinent issues confronting the world of global macro. Pour yourself a libation and enjoy the interview. I look forward to hearing thoughts from the readers of Notes From Underground.

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Notes From Underground: Mr. Powell, the Spotlight Was On You

March 21, 2018

Dear Jerome, You handled Wednesday’s press conference with great alacrity as most of the media tossed ridiculous softball inquiries, following the road map of the dot plots. The summary of economic projections needs to be tossed on the trash heap of academic pabulum. You almost got to that point as the non-financial media kept questioning the decision about three or four rate hikes. You correctly stated that the only decision that the FOMC made today was to RAISE the fed funds range to 1.5%-1.75 % and that the DOT PLOTS were only forecasts and not decisions. Chairman Powell actually got miffed when a reporter began citing the 2020 projections.

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Notes From Underground: Dear Chairman Powell,

March 20, 2018

Wednesday brings the FOMC‘s interest rate decision. The CONSENSUS is for an increase of 25 basis points to 1.50%-1.75%. Chairman Powell, you will have a chance to explain the Fed’s decision as you engage in your first press conference 30 minutes after the announcement. The financial world will have the opportunity to assess whether you will follow the Yellen/Bernanke path of attempting to control markets or to be more respectful of the collective wisdom and allow price to be determined in the tradition of Western democratic capitalist markets. The FED chairman recently acknowledged that headwinds have become tailwinds, and, even more importantly, supported by Janet Yellen’s confidant, Governor Lael Brainard. The volte face by Brainard shook the markets into the belief that the FED would actually raise rates FOUR times or more in 2018. BUT IF I WERE YOU CHAIR POWELL I WOULD RAISE 50 BASIS POINTS TOMORROW (with this CAVEAT).

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Notes From Underground: Kudlow’s Dilemma, Tariffs Versus King Dollar

March 18, 2018

The newswires were flushed with either praise about the appointment of Larry Kudlow to lead the National Economic Council, or concerns about his past dalliances with drugs and supply-side economics. This BLOG doesn’t care about one’s past human foibles as we all have failings. But the addiction to supply-side economics is and will be an issue of concern as the White House attempts to push forward with a coherent policy. The great showpiece of last week’s media frenzy over Kudlow was the transparency of what I have referred to as the mainstream media’s desire for access versus genuine discourse. CNBC was giddy over the idea that one of the network’s talking heads was going to be a key figure in forthcoming economic discussions and old loyalty OUGHT to provide greater ACCESS. The questions for the consumers of financial news will be who abuses the relationship more. But enough editorializing.

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Notes From Underground: The Unemployment Number is Wall Street’s Version of Picasso’s `The Dream’

March 11, 2018

It was the best that Wall Street could dream of: It was a huge headline nonfarm payroll number with a large number of workers jumping into the labor market, which kept the unemployment rate at 4.1% and wage growth at a very tepid pace. Average hourly earnings were 0.1%, which is nirvana for the wealth managers: solid economic growth with stagnant wages. This may certainly be a one-off month as NFP could return to its average or wages begin to rise by at least 0.3% every month. Rick Santelli and Ed Lazear made the case that the increase in the labor participation rate was a great outcome as long time unemployed are gaining confidence in the genuine strength of the economy. The return of the long-term unemployed will show the real amount of slack in the economy, reflecting even more downward pressure on wages. If the slack is greater than the FOMC has previously believed, then the FED may well slow its rate increases. People returning to the labor force is a positive but it may be another kink in the Fed’s models.

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Notes From Underground: Things to Contemplate

March 6, 2018

Let’s discuss the concept of tariffs with a wider historical perspective:

The Bretton Woods system crafted at the end of World War II provided the U.S. with both an enormous privilege and an enormous burden (a blessing and a curse, if you will). The U.S. acted as the provider with massive amounts of global liquidity but it also became the repository of the FREE world’s excess capacity. The Marshall Plan and the Alliance For Progress acted to spread dollars to our allies in an effort to counteract COMECON and the influence of the Soviet Empire.

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Notes From Underground: Ball of Confusion

March 5, 2018

Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation,

humiliation, obligation to our nation

Ball of Confusion that’s what the world is today [yeah, yeah]

The sale of pills is at an all time high

young folks walkin’ ’round with their heads in the sky

Cities aflame in the summer time, oh the beat goes on

Eve of destruction tax deduction

City inspectors, bill collectors,

Evolution, revolution, gun control, the sound of soul,

Shootin’ rockets to the moon,kids growin’ up too soon

Politicians say more taxes will solve ev’rything, and the band played on.

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Notes From Underground: The President Trumps Powell

March 1, 2018

On Thursday Fed Chairman Powell sat through another day of Congressional interrogation as the Senate had its turn at playing the role of Grand Jury. The legislators tried to portray the Fed as either the greatest economic actor ever or the scapegoat for every social ill in the United States. Chairman Powell was very measured in his responses as he reminded the inquisitors that the FED does not have jurisdiction over many of the problems related to the issue of wage inequalities. The White House had scheduled a morning announcement on trade policy but because it related to tariffs it was canceled for fear of having it become an issue at the Senate hearing. Regardless, several Senators from both parties tried to elicit a response from Powell on trade issues but the Fed chairman was too wise to fall into the trap of “when did you stop beating your wife.” If the hearings told us anything, it’s that there are too many mediocre lawyers in Congress.

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