Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

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: 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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Notes From Underground: Further Into the Fray

February 20, 2018

On Tuesday the news was filled with the release of an analysis by the research combine at Goldman Sachs warning about the negative outcomes from the increasing amount of debt as interest rates rise, lifting the negative percentage of interest payments relative to GDP. (See the CNBC story, “Goldman Sachs Sees Red Ink Everywhere,Warns U.S. Spending Could Push Up Rates and Debt Levels.”) This is another voice warning about the ill-timed fiscal stimulus and budget deficit increase late in the economic cycle. In an interesting juxtaposition, the WSJ had an article published last week titled, “Cohn Downplays Concerns Over Rising Inflation, Bond Yields.” Speaking in his position as Trump’s top economic advisor, Cohn maintained that the White House is not worried about an overheating economy. Cohn emphasized, “We know how to deal with inflation. We don’t know how to deal with deflation in this country.”

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Notes From Underground: Let’s Enter the Fray

February 19, 2018

First, thank you to all the readers and friends who posted condolences and sent private notes on the passing of my dear brother Ralph. If you want to see his creativity, search for Dwight Ralphy on YouTube. They have provided me a laugh and reminder of how forward Ralph was as this work was created in the ’80s and ’90s.

For the past couple of days I have been reviewing market action and news stories that purportedly raised the volatility levels of equity, bond and currency markets. In my February 5 post I mentioned that the synchronized key reversals of the three major U.S. indices–Dow, Nasdaq and S&Ps–provided a backdrop that we have not experienced in many, many years. In June and August 2017, the Nasdaq 100 futures put in a weekly key reversal. An outside key reversal is when a market makes all-time highs and closes below the previous week’s low. This technical indicator has been a mainstay of the week of high quality technicians and last year’s failure of this long trusted indicator drove market seers crazy.

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Notes From Underground: This Is A Week Filled With …

January 29, 2018

This week for global macro traders is packed with data and policy statements that can ignite the volatility fuse. On Tuesday night, President Trump, the conquering hero of Davos, will deliver the State of the Union address. Chair Janet Yellen will oversee her final FOMC meeting this week. There are also several data releases Thursday and Friday, culminating with the unemployment report.

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Notes From Underground: Please, Please Pepper Spray Davos

January 24, 2018

The U.S. dollar fiduciaries wreaked havoc on markets as Secretary Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross hit dollar bulls with a one-two punch that sent the dollar index to three-year lows. I sure hope that Mrs. Mnuchin mirrored the behavior of previous Swiss National Bank (SNB) Chairman Phillip Hildebrand, who was forced to resign in January 2012 when it was discovered his wife made a currency trade three weeks prior to an SNB policy announcement. I am sure that no White House Davos participants acted in any kleptocratic fashion (sarcasm intended). The price of a $650,000 ticket to Davos has to be of some value. Now, moving beyond sarcasm, Secretary Mnuchin broke with tradition to openly suggesting that a weaker DOLLAR is good for American trade and thus economic performance.

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