Dashboard update: Inaction has reactions

Dashboard PDF file:

Macro and Markets Dashboard: United States (April 30, 2016 — PDF)

Dashboard update summary:

Markets closed down slightly on the week following inaction from both the Fed and Bank of Japan. Oil and Yen both still became five percent more expensive in dollar terms. Advance estimate 2016 Q1 real GDP growth was weak at 0.6 percent, but in line with expectations. Labor markets continue to be a bright spot, with eyes on next Friday’s April jobs report.

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Real GDP ticked up 0.6 percent in log terms in the first quarter of 2016. Personal consumption expenditures and residential fixed investment helped to keep GDP growth positive despite a decrease in nonresidential fixed and inventory investment, and growth in the trade gap. The personal savings rate also increased slightly, in quarterly terms, to 5.2 percent in Q1 from 5.0 percent the previous quarter.

FOMC meeting statement changes are kindly highlighted by the Wall Street Journal and include removal of the language about global risks and, some suggestion in my view, based on labor market growth, household income, and consumer sentiment, of a June rate hike. This would depend on continued labor market strength and price pressure plus an upward revision of Q1 GDP.

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Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) continued to increase in Q1, led by higher spending on services. However, monthly data on PCE as a share of GDP decreased slightly in March over its February level. PCE on durable goods as a percentage of GDP was also down slightly in March, to 7.3 percent from 7.4 percent in February.

Labor market data continues to be spotless. The weekly 257,000 new jobless claims is still near the multi-decade low. Next Friday is jobs day. Both the labor force participation rate and wages should continue to improve.

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Disappointing earnings data from Apple includes the first decline in iPhone sales nearly since its introduction and a slowdown in sales in China. This hit the Nasdaq particularly hard, as the composite index was down 2.7 percent while the S&P 500 and Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.3 percent each during the week.

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Oil prices still managed to climb five percent over the past five days. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil was trading above $46 a barrel at several points during the week. Two recent stories reminded me how oil price fluctuations cause enormous transfers of wealth between countries. Jamaica was praised in this week’s Alphachat series on sovereign debt, while noting that their recent fiscal fortune is aligned with lower prices on their fuel imports. Likewise, a recent IMF publication noted that oil exporting economies in the middle east and central Asia have enacted powerful fiscal stimulus measures to keep their economies moving while they suffer the oil revenue slowdown. Those who believe in the resource curse might note that government measures to shift the economy away from oil are both important and difficult to achieve.

Lastly, the Yen had a volatile week, closing with a five percent appreciation against the dollar. The Brazilian real appreciated nearly four percent during the week, the Swiss franc and Turkish lira appreciated nearly two percent each, the pound sterling nearly one and a half percent and the Canadian dollar nearly one percent.

The full dashboard is here: Macro and Markets Dashboard: United States (April 30, 2016 — PDF)

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Dashboard update: green shoots in March

Macro and Markets Dashboard: United States (April 2, 2016 — PDF)

The final week of March capped off a month of solid equity market gains and encouraging macroeconomic data. New data shows a continued strengthening of labor markets and a reduction in volatility. Bond yields fell during the week, and the dollar depreciated against most major currencies.

All three major U.S. equity market indices were up more than 6.5 percent on the month, while the Nasdaq composite index climbed nearly three percent during the week ending April 1. Volatility, as measured by the VIX, fell to its lowest level since August 2015. Indeed, nearly all major U.S. asset classes posted gains during the month, following a bearish January and February. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices jumped 13.6 percent in March, though they declined more than 2.5 percent during the most recent week.

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Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) data for March from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) suggests improvement in manufacturing conditions (see above chart). The PMI, which can be thought of as the weighted percentage of purchasing managers who report positively (above 50 suggests growth), posted its first increase in six months. As a bonus, this monthly report comes with possibly the most pithy explanation accompanying any statistic:

PMI® at 51.8%

New Orders and Production Growing
Employment and Inventories Contracting
Supplier Deliveries Slower

The U.S. economy added 215,000 jobs in March, while unemployment figures ticked up slightly to five percent. However, as evidenced in the dashboard and in previous posts, an increase in the labor force participation rate tells a more complex story than an increase in the unemployment rate. A strong labor market will attract people who are otherwise not participating (someone without a job but not looking for work is not considered unemployed under the headline unemployment figure from the BLS). The labor force participation rate has experienced its first six consecutive months without decline since 2005, as people are being drawn into a decent labor market.

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Across the board, U.S. bond yields fell during the past week. The real yield curve on a five-year U.S. treasury pushed negative, reaching further than a quarter point into the red (see below). The yield on a ten-year treasury fell to 1.79 percent on Friday, from 1.91 a week earlier. Corporate bond yields in all credit segments were also down during the one-week period.

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Touching on some additional data, personal and personal disposable income both increased by 0.2 percent in February. The personal savings rate ticked up to 5.4 percent in February, from 5.3 percent in January. As expected, the net international investment position of the United States continued to deteriorate in Q4 of 2015. The economic policy uncertainty monthly index fell nearly 22 percent in March, providing further evidence for a reduction in uncertainty-related volatility.

Lastly, over the past week the U.S. dollar depreciated against all major non-pegged currencies. Notably, the greenback weakened by more than two percent against the Swiss franc and Canadian dollar, more than one and a half percent against the Yen, and around one percent against the Yuan during the five-day period.

Dashboard update: volatility persists but investor sentiment improved

Macro and Markets Dashboard: United States (January 30, 2016 — PDF)

A busy week for economists, as the Fed met, advance estimate 2015 annual and 2015 Q4 GDP figures were released, and earnings results were announced for hundreds of U.S. companies. Of course, the Fed did not change interest rates, and actually softened their statement language some. The first estimate of 2015 Q4 GDP growth showed a slowdown. Earnings, especially from Facebook, did not disappoint.

Advance estimate GDP data from the BEA showed real GDP growth in 2015 Q4 was lower at 0.7 percent (annualized basis), down from two percent in Q3. Analysts have been expecting a lower rate of growth, so this was not a huge surprise, though it is not great news. The strong dollar has hurt exports, while inventories and savings rates have both increased. The economist offered a nice piece of analysis on the GDP slowdown. As usual, the data will be revised a few times.

gdp

saveinv

The FOMC meeting during January 26-27 was not stopped by winter storm Jonas, though it seems the policymakers are being slowed by forces much much further away. As noted in the Fed’s statement (PDF):

The Committee is closely monitoring global economic and financial developments and is assessing their implications for the labor market and inflation, and for the balance of risks to the outlook.

The FOMC’s additional consideration of volatility abroad is a real wrinkle for monetary policy makers who have an already limited toolkit. Given the potential consequences of highly divergent monetary policy, this additional consideration has become a reality.

Equity market indices were higher on the week. The S&P 500 was up 33 points or 1.7 percent, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 372 points on the week, 2.3 percent. Much of these gains came from a surge on Friday.

Corporate high yield bond yields fell during the week, but remain in dangerous territory. The yield spread of Merrill Lynch’s index of high-yield corporate bonds over 10 year treasuries remains above 7 percent.

hybonds

The U.S. dollar softened against most major currencies during the week, including by half a percent each against sterling and the Euro. The dollar weakened by 1.39% against the Australian dollar, 1.75% against the Canadian dollar, 2.5% against the South African rand, more than 3.5% against the Malaysian Ringgit, and more than 6% against the Russian Ruble.

The dollar strengthened by more than 1.6% against the yen during the week, as the Bank of Japan announced that it would take its battle against deflation to the next level by adopting a negative key interest rate.