by ilene - December 5th, 2010 6:48 pm
PIMCO’s Bill Gross’ monthly letter for December is out and it speaks to a lot of themes FMMF has been touching on for years – a very nice read for those of you not familiar with his work. I also embedded a video of an appearance of his yesterday on CNBC.
Full letter below – hit fullscreen to make it easy to read
Some key points:
- The global
economyis suffering from a lack of aggregate demand. With insufficient demand, nations compete furiously for their share of the diminishing growth pie.
- In the U.S. and Euroland, many policies only temporarily bolster consumption while failing to address the fundamental problem of developed economies: Job growth is moving inexorably to developing economies because they are more competitive.
- Unless developed economies learn to compete the old-fashioned way – by making more goods and making them better – the smart money will continue to move offshore to Asia, Brazil and their developing economy counterparts, both in asset and in currency space.
Two ways the U.S. can address this – the hard (but long term healthy) way or the easy (but long term unhealthy) way. You can guess which way we will ultimately go….
The right way:
- The constructive way is to stop making paper and start making things. Replace subprimes, and yes, Treasury bonds with American cars, steel, iPads, airplanes, corn – whatever the world wants that
by ilene - October 15th, 2010 3:36 pm
Courtesy of Mish
Lower interest rates are not typically synonymous with rising inflation, but Bernanke foolishly thinks he can get that magic pair with the power of persuasion in conjunction with Quantitative Easing.
Please consider Fed Considers Raising Inflation Expectations to Boost Economy
Federal Reserve policy makers may want Americans to expect inflation to accelerate in the future so they spend more of their money now.
Central bankers, seeking ways to boost flagging growth after lowering interest rates almost to zero and buying $1.7 trillion of securities, are weighing strategies for raising inflation expectations as well as expanding the balance sheet by purchasing Treasuries, according to minutes of the Fed’s Sept. 21 meeting released yesterday.
Some Fed officials are concerned that expectations of lower inflation will become self-fulfilling, damping demand by increasing borrowing costs in real terms, the minutes said. By encouraging Americans to believe prices will start rising at a faster pace, the Fed would reduce inflation-adjusted interest rates and stimulate the economy. Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in 2003 that Japan could beat deflation by using a “publicly announced, gradually rising price-level target.”
“The Fed is on the verge of actively targeting a higher inflation rate,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York. U.S. stocks advanced, sending benchmark indexes to five-month highs, the dollar fell and gold declined for the first time in three days after the minutes were released.
Trying to raise inflation expectations is untested in the U.S. The policy may backfire if actual inflation drifts higher than the Fed would like, potentially eroding gains won in the early 1980s by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, who raised interest rates as high as 20 percent to subdue prices.
Jim O’Sullivan, global chief economist at MF Global Ltd. in New York, said in a Bloomberg Television interview that the biggest risk is “boosting long-term inflation expectations more than they lower real interest rates.”
The FOMC could adopt a combination of inflation targeting and price-level targeting to get inflation expectations up, said Mark Gertler, a New York University economist and research co-author with Bernanke.
The Fed could restate its commitment to keep inflation rising annually at around 1.7 percent to 2 percent. At the same time, the FOMC could announce some
by ilene - September 2nd, 2010 5:50 pm
Courtesy of DEAN BAKER at CEPR
This column was originally published by The Guardian.
The howls of surprised economists were everywhere last week as the government reported on Tuesday that July had the sharpest single-month plunge in existing home sales on record. The next day the Commerce Department reported that new home sales hit a post-war low in July.
All the economists who had told us that the housing market had stabilized and that prices would soon rebound looked really foolish yet again. To understand how lost these professional error-makers really are it is only necessary to know that the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) puts out data on mortgage applications every week. The MBA index plummeted beginning in May, immediately after the last day (April 30) for signing a house sale contract that qualified for the homebuyers tax credit.
It typically takes 6-8 weeks between when a contract is signed and a house sale closes. The plunge in applications in May meant that homebuyers were not signing contracts to buy homes. This meant that sales would plummet in July. Economists with a clue were not surprised by the July plunge in home sales.
What should be clear is that the tax credits helped to pull housing demand forward. People who might have bought in the second half of 2010 or even 2011 instead bought their home before the tax credit expired. Now that the credit has expired, there is less demand than ever, leaving the market open for another plunge in prices. The support the tax credit gave to the housing market was only temporary.
It is worth asking what was accomplished by spending tens of billions of dollars to prop up the market for a bit over a year with these tax credits. First, this allowed millions of people to sell their home over this period at a higher price than would…
by ilene - August 26th, 2010 10:15 am
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
The most damning words on the recent horrendous housing data come from David Rosenberg: and since he has long been spot on in his macro observations, the 15% or so in additional price losses anticipated, will make this depression a truly memorable one (we will investigate not only the surging supply side of the housing equation, but the plunging demand side in a later post), and will leave the Fed with absolutely no choice other than the nuclear option: "If the truth be told, if we are talking about reversing all the bubble appreciation that began a decade ago, then we are talking about another 15% downside from here. The excess inventory data alone tell us that this has a realistic chance of occurring…The high-end market, in particular, is under tremendous pressure. In fact, it is becoming non-existent. Guess how many homes prices above $750k managed to sell in July. Answer — zero, nada, rien; and for the second month in a row."
From today’s Breakfast With Rosie
Once again, the consensus was fooled. It was looking for 330k on new home sales for July and instead they sank to a record low of 276k units at an annual rate. And, just to add insult to injury, June was revised down, to 315k from 330k. Just as resales undercut the 2009 depressed low by 15%, new home sales have done so by 19%. Imagine that even with mortgage rates down 100 basis points in the past year to historic lows, not to mention at least eight different government programs to spur homeownership, home sales have undercut the recession lows by double-digits.
This is what we have been saying for some time, in the aftermath of a credit bubble burst and a massive asset deflation, trauma has set in. The rupture to confidence and spending from our central bankers’ and policymakers’ willingness to allow the prior credit cycle to go parabolic has come at a heavy price in terms of future economic performance. Attitudes towards discretionary spending, credit and housing have been altered, likely for a generation.
by ilene - August 24th, 2010 6:24 pm
Courtesy of JESSE’S CAFÉ AMÉRICAIN
As a review or refresher please read: Money Supply A Primer if you need to remind yourself what these money supply figures represent.
Considering the high unemployment and sluggish GDP the fall off in year over year growth in the money supply figures is to be expected, especially after the bubbliciously high growth rates (11% and 16% respectively) just prior to the financial crisis. That is why one should look at both the nominal and the percent year over year charts.
There is certainly price deflation from slack aggregate demand fueled by stagnant wages and high unemployment, and it may get worse as the Fed and the government coddle their unreformed pet Banks, leaving the real economy and most Americans to twist in the wind. But there is no true monetary deflation yet, the kind which is supposed to stiffen the back of the dollar and all that.
There is also sufficient room for concern about the US dollar and its sustainability as the world’s reserve currency. This would be familiar to most economists as Triffin’s Dilemma. As the world shifts from the Bretton Woods II compromise to a less dollar specific regime the adjustment could be quite traumatic, especially to the financialization industry. Here is another description of the same phenomenon called the Seigniorage Curse. It is why I have called the US dollar and its associated bonds The Last Bubble.
"The Seigniorage Curse appears to hollow out the economy by the following manner: First, the premium charged to holders of dollars becomes a new source of accrued, aggregate revenue. This extra capital flowing into the economy is initially seen as a global honoring of our economy’s strength, and innovation. But when innovation falters and less value is created, seigniorage is maintained–and thus the unhealthy dynamic begins. From this point forward, whether the US economy either leads in innovation, or lags in innovation, the Dollar advantage grows regardless. It then becomes clear that manufacturing Dollars, rather than manufacturing goods, is a better value proposition. Once that dynamic is in place, then a long cycle of financialization ensues, in which innovation and talent moves from design and manufacturing to the financial sector. The financial sector then becomes rapacious, as it scours what’s left of the economy to monetize. Whereas manufacturing and innovation were once
by ilene - August 15th, 2010 4:38 pm
Courtesy of Robert Reich
It’s nonsense to think of the economy heading downward again into a double dip when most Americans never emerged from the first dip. We’re still in one long Big Dipper.
More people are out of work today than they were last year, counting everyone too discouraged even to look for work. The number of workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose last week to highest level since February. Not counting temporary census workers, a total of only 12,000 net new private and public jobs were created in July — when 125,000 are needed each month just to keep up with growth in the population of people who want and need to work.
Not since the government began to measure the ups and downs of the busines cycle has such a deep recession been followed by such anemic job growth. Jobs came back at a faster pace even in March 1933 after the economy started to “recover” from the depths of the Great Depression. Of course, that job growth didn’t last long. That recovery wasn’t really a recovery at all. The Great Depression continued. And that’s exactly my point. The Great Recession continues.
Even investors are beginning to see reality. Starting in February the stock market rallied because corporate profits were rising briskly. Investors didn’t mind that profits were coming from payroll cuts, foreign sales, and gimmicks like share buy-backs — none of which could be sustained over the long term. But the rally died in April when investors began to see how paper-thin these profits actually were. And now the stock market is back to where it was at the start of the year.
What to do? First, don’t listen to Wall Street and the right.
Forget the Neo-Hoover deficit hawks who day we have to cut government spending and trim upcoming deficits. We didn’t get into this mess and aren’t remaining in it because of budget deficits. In fact, the only way to reduce long-term deficits is to restore jobs and growth so government revenues rise and expenses like unemployment insurance drop.
Ignore the government haters who say we have to void or delay upcoming regulations of Wall Street and big business. We got here because Wall Street went bonkers, the housing bubble burst, and the middle class couldn’t continue to spend because their health-care bills were soaring…
by ilene - July 26th, 2010 7:30 pm
Courtesy of Mish
Like most politicians, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner likes to talk out of both sides of his mouth, generally saying contradictory things in sound bites that may sound reasonable at first glance, but look idiotic upon closer inspection.
For example please consider Private sector must drive economy: Geithner
During an interview on NBC’s "Meet the Press," Geithner also said the government has big plans for reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the housing finance giants that now stand behind most of the mortgages in the U.S. after being bailed out by taxpayers during the 2008 financial crisis.
Geithner said Sunday that he doesn’t expect a double-dip recession, citing encouraging signs in the economy. "The most likely thing is you see an economy that gradually strengthens over the next year or two," he said. Watch Geithner on Meet the Press.
Businesses are still "very cautious" and are trying to get as much productivity from current employees as possible, Geithner explained.
"They are in a very strong financial condition though. I think that’s very promising because there’s a lot of pent-up demand and there’s a lot of capacity still for them to step up and start to invest and hire again," he added. "The government can help but we need to make this transition now to a recovery led by private investment."
There’s a "good case" for the government to support small businesses, the unemployed and help states keep teachers in classrooms, but the transition to growth led by the private sector must happen, Geithner said.
Still, he stressed that the current system of housing finance has to change.
"We’re not going to preserve Fannie and Freddie in anything like their current form. We’re going to have to bring fundamental change to that market," Geithner said.
There’s still a good case for the government preserving some type of guarantee to make sure that people can finance a house even in a very damaging recession, he explained.
"We’re also going to have to take a look at the broad set of policies we put in place to help encourage home ownership and particularly help low income Americans get access to affordable housing," Geithner said. "We’re going to take a very broad look at how best to do that."
No Pent Up Demand
by ilene - July 22nd, 2010 3:16 pm
Courtesy of Jr. Deputy Accountant
The British economy faces a triple whammy of higher inflation, lower growth and rising unemployment, according to one of the Bank of England’s most senior policy makers. Living standards over the next few years will rise only "minimally".
In an interview with The Independent, the Bank’s chief economist, Spencer Dale, said that he did not expect inflation to return to its 2 per cent official target before the end of next year, about a year later than previously hoped, partly because of the hike in VAT to 20 per cent from January announced in the Budget.
And, although Mr Dale acknowledged that the emergency Budget had done much to avoid the risk of a UK sovereign debt crisis and a rise in interest rates, he also acknowledged that the Budget would mean lower growth. Mr Dale agreed that he would not be surprised if unemployment went higher in the next few months. For the next "three, four, five years, demand in the economy will be "incredibly anaemic" relative to previous recoveries.
I love how depressing the Brits are when it comes to this stuff.
The IMF got far more depressing when it cut its UK economic outlook just a few weeks ago.
by ilene - June 8th, 2010 5:00 pm
Courtesy of Edward Harrison at Credit Writedowns
This morning David Rosenberg noted:
We also received the U.S. consumer credit data for April yesterday afternoon and the $1.0bln rise in total outstanding should be viewed in the context of the sharp revision in March (to now show a $5.0bln decline versus the initially reading of a $2.0bln increase). What really caught our eye in the guts of the report was the significant retrenchment in credit card usage. Revolving credit sagged $8.5bln in April and is down an epic $88.8bln in the last 12 months (-9.6%).
Rosenberg goes on to write that household sector demand for mortgages is at a 13-year low. His conclusion is that consumers have discovered frugality in the aftermath of the great noughties asset bubble. Certainly, revolving lines of credit are down. But the real question is who is doing the cutting – consumers or lenders?
I mention this because Rosenberg later notes that banks are still in deleveraging mode, questioning whether lenders or consumers are responsible:
Whether this is due to a lack of demand (the National Association of Credit Managers index fell in May) or supply, the reality is that banking sector is contracting and once the fiscal largesse is through the system, so will the economy. Banking sector assets contracted at a 10.8% annual rate and the declines were broad based:
- Residential mortgages fell 10.4% at an annual rate;
- Home equity loans of credit fell 4.5%;
- Commercial real estate loans slipped 8.9%; and,
- Consumer credit slid at a 16.6% pace (with credit cards down an amazing 24.8%).
I say it is more about lenders than consumers. After all, in the last post I wrote about the psychology of change, saying:
If something works, people keep doing it. The repetition creates a sense of complacency such that when people are confronted with the initial need to change, they resist. That means people don’t change unless they are forced to do so, making crisis inevitable.
I don’t think consumers are frugal in the least. Debt to GDP levels are not down substantially for households. If consumers were frugal, then why are premium priced non-essentials like iPads selling like hotcakes? Why until last month was the personal…
by ilene - April 26th, 2010 3:22 pm
Courtesy of Karl Denninger at The Market Ticker
You have to have a rather odd view of "improving" to deal with the report given here as "reflecting economic improvement":
Caterpillar Inc. reported a profit in the first quarter, citing improved economic conditions, particularly in emerging markets, as the heavy machinery maker also raised its forecast for the year.
Ok, so we should have seen a beat on both revenue and earnings, right? Remember, the first quarter of 2009 was the depth of the recession – the bottom – if you believe the headlines.
So what did we get?
For the first quarter, Caterpillar reported a profit of $233 million, or 36 cents a share, compared with a prior-year loss of $112 million, or 19 cents. Excluding items such as tax charges related to new health-care legislation and prior-year restructuring impacts, per-share earnings rose to 50 cents from 39 cents.
That’s good! A profit .vs. a loss; exactly what one would expect. How were revenues?
Revenue dropped 11% to $8.24 billion.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast earnings of 39 cents a share on $8.84 billion in revenue.
Uhhhhhhhh….. wait a second.
Economic recovery eh?
Machinery sales were down 1% from a year ago – but I thought a year ago was the depths of the recession and we have been recovering since? So how do we get a negative year-over-year comparison?
Worse, in North America (that’s here!) machinery sales were down 15% with dealer inventories half of year ago levels. That is, not only is heavy equipment not selling, dealers don’t think it will be in the near future either. So how did we get big increases? Asia, up 40%. Yep, that matters, and it’s what drove the results.
Engine sales were even worse, off 28%, and even in Asia they were down, in that case 15%.
The street is cheering this report on the back of everyone and their brother pumping the company (most especially the fools on CNBS) but the facts are what they are. With no revenue increases you can argue for improving profit due to firing huge numbers of people all you want, but the top-line, particularly in America, is horribly bad and does not point to any sort of turn-around in construction equipment sales of any sort, nor any improvement in over-the-road trucks and other engine markets (such as marine.)
Disclosure: No position