Back in 1925 President Calvin Coolidge famously said, “The business of America is business.” Apparently, this is still true even if the current administration more closely resembles the Five Families rather than the worthy successors to Silent Cal.
Even as President Trump’s new communications director is “front-stabbing” his White House colleagues and Republicans in Congress can’t get anything done about health insurance reform except make themselves look foolish – and without any help from the Democrats – the economy seems to roll on regardless. Last week the Commerce Department reported that the American economy grew at an annual rate of 2.6% in the second quarter, the first full quarter of Donald Trump’s presidency. That was up sharply from the first quarter’s downwardly revised 1.2% rate and the second strongest rate in the past eight quarters.
That managed to happen thanks to some extent from the hope and anticipation of major health insurance and tax reform, not their actual enactment. Imagine what might happen if our lawmakers actually do what they’re supposed to be doing and those things become reality?
A more pertinent question for this column is: Is that growth rate strong enough to get the Federal Reserve back to raising interest rates again and start its “balance sheet normalization program,” i.e., trimming its $4.5 trillion securities portfolio? Continue reading "Don't Let The Headlines Fool You"
After the S&P 500’s rather flat performance over the first three weeks of January, the Index has finally broken higher, pierced through the 2,280 resistance, and seems well on its way to surge above 2,300. So, the question of potential profit taking for the Index at this time may raise some eyebrows. But if we are to take the signals coming from the Federal Reserve over the past few weeks, this is exactly when we should be worried about profit taking and a jump in volatility for the Index.
While the S&P 500 (CME:SP500) was muddling through over the past few weeks, some attributed it to the protectionist stance of the new US president, e.g. the looming threat of a trade war with China, the risk of import levies and, of course, the latest events of this week. President Trump, in a characteristically dramatic fashion, announced the revocation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and proclaimed his intention to renegotiate NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. And how did investors respond? By pushing the S&P 500 up and out of its stagnation and into a new high. Because, while investors are concerned about the risk of a protectionist trade policy, their concerns are somewhat soothed by Trump’s plan to slash the US corporate tax to 15% and boost infrastructure spending.
But what about the S&P 500 are the bulls ignoring? Continue reading "S&P 500: Prepare For Choppiness"
It took less than two days last week for the financial markets to disabuse themselves of the notion that the Federal Reserve, this time, is really, truly, absolutely kind of serious about raising interest rates at its next meeting in September.
On Wednesday afternoon the Fed, as expected, left interest rates unchanged for the fifth straight monetary policy meeting since first raising rates last December, which was supposed to usher in a gradual process of rate “normalization” this year. As we know, of course, the Fed hasn’t followed through on that, finding one justification after another – rising oil prices, falling oil prices, weak Chinese economic growth, weak U.S. economic growth, Brexit, you name it – to delay the day of reckoning.
In last week’s post-meeting announcement, the Fed dropped several hints that might cause some people, even reasonable ones, to conclude that a rate increase might be in the offing at its next meeting in September. Continue reading "Will We See The Fed In September?"
Growth momentum is back in America? That is what investors believe after the positive surprise from the latest US GDP release. The second US GDP release for Q4 2015 was revised higher to 1% from 0.7%. Core PCE Inflation was also encouraging, reflecting a 1.67% rate of inflation. But while data from the last quarter has certainly been less anaemic, Dollar bulls shouldn’t pop the champagne just yet. Doubts over the current quarter continue to exist. Risks still loom and hurdles need to be cleared before we get another move higher.
What Looms On The Dollar?
Of course, I continue to reiterate that the Dollar’s long-term trajectory is still up. However, there are soft patches along the way because even the US economy can’t always perform well. And when those soft patches occur the FX market will be filled with doubt and the Dollar will dip again.
Then, when once again it becomes clear the US economy is still the outpacing its peers, confidence will return. And with that, we will get another bullish wave. But as long as there is doubt the Dollar will find it hard to break into new highs. Continue reading "Doubts And Fears Still Loom For The Dollar"
The Gold Report: In honor of Labor Day, let's discuss unemployment. You estimated that when all workers are counted, the unemployment rate in July was 23% compared to the government's reported rate of 5.4%. What is different about the job market today than before the recession?
John Williams: In a normal economic recovery, people who have lost their jobs start working again as the economy improves. That hasn't happened this time, at least not to the extent suggested by a 5.4% unemployment rate (U3), where the government's headline definition of "unemployed" is quite narrow. To be counted among the headline unemployed, you have to be out of work and actively to have looked for work in the last four weeks. If you want a job, but have given up looking, the government counts you as a "discouraged worker" or "marginally attached worker" and you don't show up in the headline number.
If you haven't looked for work in more than a year, even if you would like to work, then the government just doesn't count you in even its broadest measure of unemployment (U6); you just disappear from any of the unemployment measures. As a result, when the government says that 200,000 fewer people are unemployed in a month, and the headline unemployment rate drops, often there isn't an increase of 200,000 people who are re-employed. They just have been defined out of existence. My broad unemployment estimate includes those no longer tracked by the government, those who cannot find a job, who have given up looking for work for more than a year because nothing is available, yet they still would like to find a job, even though they may be doing other thingslike taking care of grandkids. That broader unemployment number is around 23%.
TGR: Have the types of jobs changed? Are we seeing fewer jobs in manufacturing and finance now than there were before? Are there other areas that are growing, like technology and service jobs? Continue reading "Could A President Trump Put People Back To Work And Help The Dollar?"
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