Saturday, December 16, 2017

Weekly Indicators for December 11 - 15 at

 - by New Deal democrat

My Weekly Indicators post is up at

A whirlpool of crosscurrents among the long leading indicators has developed.

Why Did 30 and 90 Day Commercial Paper Spreads Recently Blow-Out?

I watch a number of yields for signs of financial market stress.  Above are the charts for the 30-day commercial paper/bill spread (top) and the 90-day commercial paper/treasury spread.  Both recently blew out.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Industrial production for November 2017: Dear Doomers, you can shut up about "soft" vs. "hard" data now

 - by New Deal democrat

For months and months this year, the mantra of the Doomers was that the "soft data" of the Fed regional surveys and ISM manufacturing wasn't being confirmed by the "hard data" like industrial production.

Meanwhile, those of us who actually know something about leading vs. coincident data placidly kept noting that the new orders data for both leading indicators (the Fed surveys and ISM manufacturing) portended strength -- just as in early 2016 they turned from negative to positive, accurately portending the end of the shallow industrial recession.

And here is Industrial Production (red), and its manufacturing (blue) and mining (green) components through November:

Yes, it doesn't move in a straight line. In particular there were several months of hurricane-related weakness. But the leading surveys have once again been proven correct, and those who listened to the Doomers wrong.

Real retail sales for November 2017 portend positivity for 2018

 - by New Deal democrat

There have been any number of perfectly good and perfectly obvious write-ups of yesterday's retail sales report for November.

I like to think much of  my "value-added" is telling you not about what the data indicates about now, or about the recent past, but what it portends in the near and further-term future, and real retail sales is one of my favorite metrics for thet.

So, here are two 2018 takeaways from real retail sales:

1. Real retail sales per capita adds to the evidence that, left to its own devices, the economy will not enter a recession in 2018.

This number has frequently turned one year or more before recessions, including the last two. The 0.8% retail sales vs. 0.4% inflation, with ~0.06% population growth means it made another new high yesterday:

2. The job market measured YoY should remain steady over the next 3 - 6 months.

This is a relationship I started graphing in the middle of the "Great Recession" in early 2009. Divide real retail sales by 2, and the smoothed trend gives you a good idea where YoY payroll growth is going to trend in the near future:

With the exception of the outsized moves in retail sales just after the recession, the correlation is pretty good, and the directional trend is a close match.  

Bottom line: the recent improvement in retail sales, including the big numbers from October and November, at very least suggest that the employment situation will not soften significantly in the next few months.

P.S.: I'd be inclined to treat the jump in the past several months as a hurricane-related rebound, but no such jump occurred after either Katrina in 2005 or Sandy in 2012.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Real wages stagnate YoY, decline significantly since July

 - by New Deal democrat

So lackluster has wage growth been that even the modest uptick in consumer inflation to 2.2% YoY in November means that non-managerial workers have seen virtually no real growth in their paychecks over the last 12 months.

With yesterday's +0.4% increase in consumer prices, here's what YoY real wages look like for non-managers (blue) and all employees including managers (red):

All wages are up +0.3% YoY, but nonsupervisory workers have seen only a +0.1% increase.

Here is the same data for the last 2 years, set to a value of 100 as of January 1, 2017:

Real wages rose by over 2% through July, but have actually declined since then, up to nearly -1% for all employees.

To look at the economy as a whole vs. individual workers, here is a look at real aggregate payrolls for all employees:

Aggregate payrolls adjusted for inflation rose 2.3% this year through July, and have made zero progress since.

This doesn't mean that we're DOOOMED, but on the other hand since workers have already dipped into their savings in the past year (the savings rate has declined by over 1%), consumers are ill prepared should anything like a spike in gas prices occur soon.

The Long-End of the Curve Isn't Predicting Booming Growth

The chart above plots 10 years of the 10-year CMT (left scale) and the Y/Y percentage change in GPD (right scale).  Notice the following general trends:

1.) The 10-year has moved lower since the recession.  In the second quarter of 2009, the 10-year came close to 4%.  It is currently in the 2.3-2.4 range. 

2.) In absolute terms, the 10-year yield increased more than 100 basis points between the summer and fall of 2017, rising from 1.37% to 2.6%.  Traders called this the "Trump trade."  They believed that Trump would increase fiscal spending (largely on infrastructure) and lower taxes.  The combination would increase growth and inflation, hence the sell-off in the long-end of the bond market.  Since the election, yields have trended lower, incating the "Trump trade" is losing steam.

3.) The Y/Y percentage change in GDP has mostly printed between 2%-3% since 2010.  Weaker GDP growth is a function of slowing population growth, lower productivity, and the "debt-deflation" growth dynamic that characterized this expansion. 

4.) Yields are fluctuating between ~2% and ~2.6% -- hardly a level indicating booming growth.  This means bond traders are thinking, "more of the same is coming."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

US Bond Market Week in Review: The Fed Is Chasing an Inflation Ghost

This is over at

(Special thanks to NDD for getting me on the specter/ghost angle)

The Phantom Menace: Fed rate hikes and non-existent inflation

 - by New Deal democrat

This isn't the first time the Fed has engaged in a rate hiking campaign in the face of somnolent inflation.  There were are least three prior episodes.

I take a look at the reaction of the bond market and the economy over at

The Ugly Picture of US Wage Growth

The chart above shows the Y/Y percentage change in the average hourly earnings of nonsupervisory employees.  We can break this data down into two sections.  Due to higher inflation and stronger unions, the pace of growth was far stronger before the 1980s.

We see a different dynamic at work during the first three post-1982 expansions.  Wages decline coming out of the recesssion, falling to ~2% Y/Y percentage growth rate.  They then climb during the second half of the expansion, peaking ~4% Y/Y percentage growth rate.  This probably explains why the Fed remains thoroughly convinced that the Phillip's Curve is still in play: they're assuing the past is prologue, and with good reason.

However, this expansion we see a different growth dynamic at work.  As before, the Y/Y percentage change dropped to 2% a little before the expansion was halfway over.  But the pace of growth in the second half of the recovery is far weaker.  Hence, we have weaker wage growth.

Here's a graph of the average and median growth rate of wages for each of the expansions:

The pace is clearly declining.