Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

Notes From Underground: Its Was a Great Week for S&Ps

August 20, 2017

The news was extremely positive for the equity markets last week. FOUR key points:

  1. Retail Sales proved to be much stronger than consensus;
  2. The FOMC minutes were very DOVISH as the FED was concerned about the inability of upward inflation to gain traction;
  3. The demise of anti-globalist Steve Bannon was greeted with cheers on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. News of the removal resulted in a rally in the S&Ps on Friday, but it was short-lived; and
  4. The bobble heads of the access media reported the dismissal as an elevation of the Davos-inspired crowd, represented by the Gary Cohn wing of the Trump administration.

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Notes From Underground: A Guide For The Perplexed? (Maimonides)

June 4, 2017

Friday’s unemployment data showed the addition of 138,000 jobs, weaker than the ADP report. Even though the RATE dropped to 4.3% the all-important average hourly earnings rose by a tepid 0.2% and April’s data was lowered by a tenth of a percentage point. Many readers e-mailed me as to why the S&Ps and NASDAQ continued to rally in the face of weak economic news from the U.S. The BOND rally made sense as investors continued to cover short positions, but what is perplexing is the continued strength in the precious metals and the currencies despite a strong U.S. equity market.

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Notes From Underground: The Mnuchin Budget — 96 Tears With ? and The Mysterians

May 24, 2017

The rollout of the long-anticipated U.S. Treasury budget brought tears to my eyes. Why? Because it couldn’t help but wonder how supposedly intelligent people could present a politically ridiculous BUDGET and tax plan. The drafters lose the battle when they first present an increase in defense and make it a sacred cow of the Trump White House. You cut many social safety net programs while finding MONEY for questionable foreign entanglements and many unneeded weapons systems. The beauty of the original Bowles-Simpson plan was that all the sacred cows of the budget process were GORED. In my opinion real budget changes and reform must start with reining in the defense sector, but unfortunately too many Congressional districts are the recipients of defense spending and, of course, defense sector jobs. In a GREAT SANTELLI INTERVIEW Wednesday, former Senator Alan Simpson ripped apart the White House budget proposal and noted that it was sprinkled with fairy dust.

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Notes From Underground: Warren Knocks Out Mnuchin

May 18, 2017

In Thursday’s testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took a beating from Senator Elizabeth Warren over the issue of Glass-Steagall. There are many policy issues in which I disagree with Senator Warren but when it comes to Wall Street regulation, she is one of the most knowledgeable people in the Senate and far beyond those walls. During the Great Financial Crisis she appeared regularly on CNBC and Bloomberg television networks. While merely a Harvard law professor, she offered great insights and understood the depths of the problems that caused the crisis. If Jamie Dimon had not blocked her appointment as head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (a wild conjecture on my part), she would not be a U.S. Senator. After president Obama caved in to Wall Street pressure, Warren ran for the Senate in Massachusetts in 2012, defeating Scott Brown.

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Notes From Underground: Nothing New to See, Except the Equity Markets Finally Added Some Risk Premium

May 17, 2017

The market did not selloff today. Risk was merely repriced and greater premiums were being offered in an effort to attract buyers. Everything discussed in this blog during the past six months was brought to light and the most important outcome was that the narrative has changed. The Trump agenda of tax and health care reform, and regulatory rollbacks was seen being delayed by the possible legal issues confronting the White House. Notes From Underground is apolitical and is solely vested in understanding the policy impact of any political outcomes, which is why it is geared toward political economy. Or, as Deng Xiaoping would say: “I don’t care if the cat is white or black as long as it catches mice.” Since Trump’s inauguration, the mainstream  media has been relentless in its effort to cast Trump in a negative light and the Tweeter-in-chief has certainly provided the tinder to keep the fires lit.

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Notes From Underground: A Review of Nehru Versus Nairu

May 11, 2017

Yesterday, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren filled the airwaves with talk about the FED to be more aggressive in raising rates in order to prevent wage inflation from curtailing the current expansion. The continued concern from Wall Street about the POSSIBILITY of wage inflation because of FULL EMPLOYMENT reflects on the flaws in central bank’s models. Nairu (non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment) is so 1970s, when globalization was just beginning and private sector unions had genuine bargaining power. The end of the Cold War unleashed hundreds of millions of workers to compete with workers in the highly developed and advanced economies. The fall of the Berlin Wall pressured even the strong German unions as the fear of jobs moving to Eastern Europe resulted in Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder initiating the Hartz IV labor reforms which resulted in stagnant wages in return for some job security.

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Notes From Underground: Mario, Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie On the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll

April 27, 2017

Mario Draghi’s nonsense is a compost heap as he tries to continue his efforts to build the ECB‘s balance sheet to the point of no escape. The ECB president danced around inflation questions by generally holding to the view that inflation across the entire euro zone would have to rise to the 2% level for the central bank’s mandate to be met. Currently, Draghi holds to the view that the recent elevated levels of inflation are transitory due to higher energy costs. It was noted that there has been a decline in service sector costs, which could put downward pressure on inflation once the energy prices pass through the data. Draghi also emphasized that with the current unemployment levels in some EU countries there was far too much slack which keeps wages from rising. A positive point for the ECB is that it does not follow NAIRU as a major gatekeeper of wage levels. In his typical effort to elevate his position, Draghi applauded the ECB for saving the EU financial system and economy, but until the politicians make the needed structural changes there will be continued “substantial monetary accommodation” so the ECB can meet its inflation mandate.

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Notes From Underground: This Is a Vinny Barbarino Market (Or, I Am So Confused)

April 25, 2017

The global reaction to the first round of the French presidential election was not confusing. Capital was sitting on the sidelines as the polls reflected a possibility of a second round Le Pen/Melenchon faceoff, which would have been devastating for global investors because fear of an EU break-up would have led to a massive repricing of risk premia. The avoidance of such an outcome led to a rush of capital into European markets, which provided support to Asia and the U.S. The German/French 10-year spread reacted as expected. The yield differential narrowed by a significant 20 basis points. The BUND yields rose against all European sovereign debt as Berlin’s haven status was rendered null and void for at least another two weeks. The GOLD and YEN also performed as expected as money rushed to purchase a risk on profile in a global zero interest environment. The EURO rallied by 2% as global capital flows into European stocks forced previous short euro positions to the sidelines. There’s nothing confusing about any of these outcomes. But let me throw some confusion onto some of the other geopolitical events making the front pages:

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Notes From Underground: The Politics of the IMF and French Election

April 19, 2017

First, I am reposting part of the January 29 post as a reminder to pay attention to the narrative of Trump rolling back to the concept of Pax Americana. As the Trump administration begins to reveal its ambitions, there is a great deal of conversation about Trump becoming more presidential and that the “grown ups” are taking charge of policy. The demotion of Stephen Bannon ignited a discussion about the Wall Street crowd (Mnuchin, Ross, Cohn, Kushner) becoming aligned with the “Deep State.” The concept of the deep state is really the power of the entrenched bureaucracy as the primary source within the beltway.

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Notes From Underground: Treasury Takes a softer Approach to Global Monetary Affairs

April 16, 2017

On Friday April 14 Treasury released a report that deemed no major trading a currency manipulator but five countries have met two of the three criteria and therefore will be closely monitored. This report is very well laid out but it is not incendiary as it seeks to persuade with a very soft touch. The three criteria of meeting of being a “manipulator” are:

      1. A significant bilateral trade surplus with the U.S.of a least $20 billion;
      2. S current account surplus is at least 3% of a nations GDP; and
      3. Persistent, one-sided intervention occurs when net purchases of foreign currency are conducted repeatedly and total at least 2% of a nation’s GDP in a 12-month period.

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