Gradually… And Then Suddenly

What do socialism and modern monetary policy have in common? Magical thinking. For both, it’s true on the giddy years up, and it’s true on the sad years down.
If you’ve been reading my notes immediately before and after the June Fed meeting (‘Tell My Horse’ and ‘Post-Fed Follow-up’), you know that I think we now have a sea change in what the Fed is focused on and what their default course of action is going to be. Rather than looking for reasons to ease up on monetary policy and be more accommodative, the Fed and the ECB (and even the BOJ in their own weird way) are now looking for reasons to tighten up on monetary policy and be more restrictive. As Jamie Dimon said the other day, the tide that’s been coming in for eight years is now starting to go out. Caveat emptor.
The question, then, isn’t whether the barge of monetary policy has turned around and embarked on a tightening course – it has – the question is how fast that barge is going to move AND whether or not the market pays more attention to the actual barge movements than what the barge captain says. I promise you that the barge captains of both the Fed and the ECB believe they can tighten and taper without killing the market so long as they jawbone this constantly. This is the Common Knowledge Game in action, this is the Missionary Effect, this is Communication Policy … this is everything that I’ve been writing about in Epsilon Theory over the past four years! And as we saw with the market’s euphoric reaction to Yellen’s prepared remarks for her Humphrey-Hawkins testimony last Wednesday, which were presented as oh-so dovish when they really weren’t, this jawboning strategy could absolutely work. It WILL absolutely work unless and until we get undeniably ‘hot’ inflation numbers – particularly wage inflation numbers – from the real world.
So what’s up with that? How can we have wage inflation running at a fairly puny 2.5% (Chart 1 below) when the unemployment rate is a crazy low 4.3% (Chart 2 below) and other indicators, like the NFIB’s survey of ‘Small Business Job Openings Hard to Fill’ (Chart 3 below) are similarly screaming for higher wages?

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 19, 2017.

Judge Halts Shkreli Trial

The trial of former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli has been temporarily halted by Judge Kiyo Matsumoto after Shkreli’s lawyer objected emphatically as the prosecution planned to show jurors documents it claims are evidence of fraud committed by Shkreli, without calling witnesses to back them up, according to CNBC.
The documents allegedly detail payments that Shkreli’s drug company made to investors in two hedge funds he ran, as well as supposedly bogus consulting agreements he signed with some of his former investors entitling them to a salary and shares in Retrophin, a pharmaceutical company he co-founded and briefly led, according to CNBC. Jurors were given the rest of Wednesday off, as well as Thursday, to allow both the defense and prosecution time to file legal briefs on their arguments for and against requiring witnesses for the relevant documents. Testimony is expected to resume Friday, CNBC reported.
Benjamin Brafman, the celebrity defense attorney representing Shkreli, said denying him the opportunity to cross examine people involved with the documents would be tantamount to denying Shkreli his constitutional right to confront witnesses against him.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 20, 2017.

Investors Are Pouring Money Into Silver ETFs

Silver, known for being a market of extremes, is living up to its reputation this year.
Prices rallied 17 percent in the first four months of the year, only to reverse and wipe out those gains. Despite the selloff, investors are pouring money into exchange-traded funds, and assets have reached a record 21,211 metric tons, valuing the holdings at $11 billion. At the same time, the picture is bearish in the futures market, where hedge funds now hold the first net-short position in two years.
Different kinds of investors are driving the opposing trends, according to George Coles, an analyst at research firm Metals Focus Ltd. Large, active hedge funds shorted Comex futures because of the risk of higher U.S. interest rates, driving silver prices lower, he said. ETF buyers tend to be smaller traders that use silver for long-term diversification of their portfolios. They’ll be rewarded for their bullishness as slower U.S. economic growth spurs demand for haven assets, Coles said.
“This may be a case of the smaller investors versus the big guys,’ Coles said in a phone interview from London. ‘In this case, the smaller guys may be right.’
He’s predicting that silver prices have probably bottomed and will rebound from current levels. Prices will reach $20.25 an ounce in the next 12 months, an increase of 25 percent from the current value of $16.164.

This post was published at bloomberg

Proletarian Daily Mail blurts out truth that will never make Financial Times

Gold is one of the most unusual investments that anyone can make. It does not pay dividends, it does not produce earnings, and it does not make promises about growth prospects — like most firms do.
But it does deliver returns, outperforming property and the FTSE 100 Index over the past 10 years.
If someone had put 1,000 into the FTSE in 2007, for example, it would be worth 1,640 today, while the same amount invested in 20-year gilts would be worth 1,350, or 1,190 if the cash had been ploughed into U.K. property. An equal investment in gold would be worth more than 2,300.

This post was published at Daily Mail

Plastic-Versus-Cash Battle Heats Up After Visa, Mastercard Deals

The dollar bill, that long-time rival of credit-card giants, is under attack once again.
After years of fighting to get their cards accepted in stores, Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. are stepping up efforts to get merchants and consumers to move to a cashless world.
The idea is simple and potentially very profitable: Get people to use their credit cards rather than cash for more purchases — and, eventually, all transactions. In that future, card networks and other electronic payment systems would essentially get a slice of every transaction.
Visa and Mastercard already have made big inroads in expanding credit-card usage. They handled $4.3 trillion in payments in the U.S. last year, more than double from a decade ago. Still, the amount of currency in circulation also has doubled in that period, and cash remains the most widely used payment instrument in the U.S.

This post was published at bloomberg

Why Global Warming is Good

One of my greatest concerns with all this Global Warming nonsense is that nobody seems to ever plot weather against the rise and fall of civilization. When you do, you arrive at a strikingly different perspective of global warming. The greatest advancements in civilization have ALWAYS taken place during periods of global warming. When the temperatures drop, crops fail, death becomes widespread, and society seems to barricade itself in withdrawing from trade.
History is constantly being re-written as new discoveries are made, The global warming period that allowed the rise of Rome included the warming of the seas to the point that the Romans did sail to Canada where Roman swords have been discovered in addition to sending ambassadors to China.

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Jul 20, 2017.

Here’s the True Definition of a Recession – It’s Not About GDP

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the institution that dates the peaks and troughs of the business cycles,
A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales. A recession begins just after the economy reaches a peak of activity and ends as the economy reaches its trough.1
In the view of the NBER dating committee, because a recession influences the economy broadly and is not confined to one sector, it makes sense to pay attention to a single best measure of aggregate economic activity, which is real GDP. The NBER dating committee views real GDP as the single best measure of aggregate economic activity.
We suspect that on the back of the NBER’s much more general definition, the financial press as a shortcut introduced the popular definition of a recession as two consecutive quarters of a decline in real GDP. Also, by following the two-quarters-decline-in-real-GDP rule, economists don’t need to wait for the final verdict of the NBER, which often can take many months after the recession has occurred.
Regardless of whether one adopts the broader definition of the NBER or the abbreviated version, these definitions are actually failing to do the job.
After all, the purpose of a definition is to establish the essence of the object of the investigation. Both the NBER and the popular definition do not provide an explanation of what a recession is all about. Instead they describe the various manifestations of a recession.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on July 20, 2017.