Category Archives: US Growth

16/10/15: Euro Area Inflation, via Pictet

An interesting chart highlighting the poor prospects for inflationary expectations in both Euro area and the U.S. via Pictet:

5yr/5yr swaps are basically a measure of market expectation for 5 year average inflation starting from 5 years from today, forward (so years 6-10 from today). This is a common referencing point for the ECB technical view of inflation expectations, and as the above clearly shows, we are heading for testing January 2015 lows.

Here’s Picket analysis (comments and emphasis are mine): “In September, headline inflation in the euro area dipped back into negative territory (-0.1% y-o-y) for the first time in six months.

"This weakness must be put into context though as it is primarily due to the steep slide in energy prices. If volatile components (food and energy) are stripped out, core inflation was steady at +0.9% y-o-y. Furthermore, prices of services, which better reflect domestic conditions, rose.

"Nonetheless, falling commodity prices, coupled with the rise in the euro’s trade-weighted value, caused the inflation outlook to worsen. Long-run inflationary expectations, as measured by the break-even swap rate, have been softening steadily since early July and have now reached their lowest level (1.56%) since February this year.

…In parallel, findings from economic and business surveys (PMIs, European Commission surveys) for the third quarter showed decent resilience despite the worries about the Chinese economy. They point to GDP growth of around 0.4% q-o-q in Q3 and Q4.”

Picket projects growth of 1.5% y/y for 2015, “led by domestic demand” that is expected to “continue to benefit from normalisation of the jobs market, subdued inflation, the gradual revival in consumer confidence and an upturn in lending to the private sector.”

In short, sensible view of inflation - low inflation, per Pictet is helping, not hurting the euro economy.

10/10/15: IMF: Un-Clued on U.S. Monetary Policy Normalisation

For all the positivity chatter about the return of the U.S. growth and 'normalisation' of the interest rates environment pushed into the world of unsuspecting journos by the IMF in its latest WEO Regional Outlook: Western Hemisphere, there is a nagging suspicion that something is strangely amiss.

Take the pesky problem of the U.S. monetary policy being exceptionally loose (or accommodative) since 2008. Chart below shows this by plotting a rate gap between policy rate and the 'neutral rate' with negative values indicating accommodation. Note, neutral rate is defined as the rate consistent with the economy achieving full employment and price stability over the medium term. Note also that adding in QE (over and above simple policy rate) pushes the metric of accommodation well beyond all historical comparatives in size (depth) and duration (length of time accommodation is present):

Now, naturally, one would expect these 'accommodative policies' to create a vast sea of surplus (relative to 'natural rate' consistent) liquidity (aka: money) in the U.S. system. And, naturally, one would expect that any 'normalisation' in the monetary policy would entail removing this surplus over time. Which, again, naturally, should translate into higher rates.

IMF obliges, providing us with this handy chart tracing forward expectations for U.S. policy rate:

The lift-off suggested in the chart above is rather steep and is steeper than the lift-off suggested by market pricing of futures (red line). In a sum, the chart above says: We have no idea what 'normalisation' will look like, but let's hope it will be more benign than the Fed signals and Primary Dealers Survey have been.

But here is a pesky little thing: You won't spot the same dynamics in IMF WEO forecast for either inflation or Libor rates. And the reason is pretty obvious: the more aggressive the Fed path in the chart above, the lower are growth projections in the chart below:

IMF forecasts from 2016 out to 2020 fall squarely in line with 2010-2015 averages for GDP growth (aka inflationary pressures) but are in excess of the 2010-2015 average for inflation itself.

In simple terms, despite all the talk about 'normalisation' of rates, the IMF is really saying that through 2020, we can expect the monetary environment (and with it the interest rates outlook) to be more benign than over pre-crisis average. Worse, inflation is expected to accelerate even though growth is expected to slip.

How does any of this square well with the idea of the Fed rate going to 3.75% as projected in the second chart above? Does any of this square well with projected 2016 interest rates for the Fed going to 1.2-1.3% against Libor under 1.2%? Does any of this square well with forecast inflation jump from 0.906% in 2015 to 1.404% and inflation outlook heading toward 2.322% by 2020?

In short, IMF expectations on both Libor and the Fed rate can be very tight.  Especially over the 2016-2018 horizon. If the Fed does stick to its signalled path (chart 2 above), growth will suffer relative to IMF projections (last chart above), despite already heading toward 2010-2015 average by 2019.

In the mean time, none of the IMF forecasts are consistent with Fed policies addressing in any reasonable way the built up of monetary policy excesses of the past.

Welcome to the world of forecasting after ZIRP. Shall we call it Fudge?..

29/5/15: That U.S. Engine of Growth Is Going ‘Old Fiat’ Way

Folks, what on earth is going on in the U.S. economy? Almost 2 months ago I warned that the U.S. is heading for a growth hick-up ( Now, the data is pouring in.

1Q 2015 GDP growth came in at a revised -0.7%. And that's ugly. So ugly, White House had to issue a statement, basically saying 'damn foreigners stopped buying our stuff and weather was cold' for an excuse: Rest is fine, apparently, though U.S. consumers seem to be indifferent to Obamanomics charms and U.S. investors (in real stuff, not financial markets) are indifferent to the charms of ZIRP.

For the gas, the WH added that "The President is committed to further strengthening these positive trends by opening our exports to new markets with new high-standards free trade agreements that create opportunities for the middle class, expanding investments in infrastructure, and ensuring the sequester does not return in the next fiscal year as outlined in thePresident’s FY2016 Budget." Now, be fearful…

Source: @M_McDonough 

Truth is, this is the third at- or sub-zero quarterly reading in GDP growth over the current 'expansion cycle' - which is bad. Bad enough not to have happened since the 1950s and bad enough to push down 4 out of 6 key national accounts lines:

Source: @zerohedge

Good news, 1Q 2014 was even worse than 1Q 2015. Bad news is, 1Q 2015 weakness was followed by April-May mixed bag data.

Un-phased by the White House exhortations, the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago Inc.’s business barometer fell to 46.2 in May from 52.3 in April. Readings lower than 50 indicate contraction. Per Bloomberg: "The median forecast of 45 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for the measure to rise to 53, with estimates ranging from 51 to 55. The report showed factory employment contracted this month."

Yep, that is a swing of massive 6.8 points on expectations.

Source: @ReutersJamie

Worse news, for the overheating markets that is, "Profits from current production (corporate profits with inventory valuation adjustment (IVA) and capital consumption adjustment (CCAdj)) decreased $125.5 billion in the first quarter, compared with a decrease of $30.4 billion in the fourth. …Profits of domestic non-financial corporations decreased $100.4 billion, in contrast to an increase of $18.1 billion. The rest-of-the-world component of profits decreased $22.4 billion, compared with a decrease of $36.1 billion."

Source: @ReutersJamie

Gazing into the future, the doom is getting doomed.

Source: @GallupNews

The above is via The economic confidence index fell two points from the previous weekly score, Economic outlook component at -11, and Current conditions score of -6 higher than outlook. The index has been in negative territory for all but one of the past 14 weekly readings.

Source: @GallupNews 

Yes, the engine of global growth is spewing oil and smoke like the old 'Fix it up, Tony' Fiat... and the White House is just not having any new ideas on sorting it out.

Bad weather… Bad Double-Bad foreigners… Bad Triple-Bad Consumers/Savers…

4/4/15: Another Sign of US Growth Slowdown Risks: ISM

A very interesting chart via Bloomberg's @M_McDonough showing the growing weakness in US Manufacturing:

Local max at November-December 2014 is now being eroded, although ISM is still reading reasonably above 50.

This is just another confirmation of some (early) signs of the US economy shifting toward 'mature expansion' stage of the cycle. Given that all of this is still based on two exogenous factors: the hang-over of lower capex costs and low energy costs, the signal is not good - slowing economy into the Fed rising reversal that might coincide with firming of oil prices in H2 2015 will be a tricky risk to manage.

Note some other data points relating to the slowdown in growth signals:

2/4/15: Oh… someone spotted US growth slowdown risk…

Given that even the Irish Stuffbrokers are starting to wake up to the ongoing slowdown in the US economic growth (yet to smell the traces of the global slowdown next), here is a chart worth contemplating:
Explaining the above, the authors, Markit say: the "Business Outlook Survey, which looks at expectations for the year ahead across 650 US private sector companies, highlighted that business sentiment remained positive in February, but the degree of optimism moderated to a post-crisis low."

More specifically: "At +24 percent, down from +31 percent in October 2014, the net balance of firms expecting a rise in business activity over the year ahead was the lowest since the survey began in late-2009. Weaker business sentiment was recorded in both manufacturing (+32 percent in February, down from +42 percent last October) and services (+22 percent in February, down from +29 percent)."

And here is the comparative to other major advanced economies:

Oh, and the US weakness is compounded (and compounds) broader expected global weakness: and current ongoing slowdown: Even though the Global PMI for Manufacturing sector came out with basically no change in March (51.8) compared to February (51.9), overall growth has been trending well below immediate post-crisis recovery years and pre-crisis period:

Just at the time when Irish official forecasters are revving up their numbers for 2015-2016, because being myopic is what we do best...