Posts filed under “Think Tank”

jobs, Housing and the Fish That Saved Pittsburgh

Following yesterday’s negative outside day in the S&P’s (trade above the prior day’s high and close below the prior day’s low and sometimes a technical short term reversal sign), the market faces the two major big picture issues that our economy has, jobs and housing. Initial Jobless Claims are expected to total 550k vs 545k last week which was the lowest since early Jan (not incl. the July distortions). Continuing Claims are expected to fall by 47k after last week’s spike. Aug Existing Home Sales are expected total 5.35mm and that would be the highest level of sales in two years as buyers rush to take advantage of the tax credit. The Sept German IFO business confidence # rose to a one year high but was almost 1 point less than expected and the Euro is down as a result. The G20 meeting in Pittsburgh should be as exciting as the movie “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh,” starring Dr. J, all style and no substance.

Category: MacroNotes

FOMC

The FOMC statement was little changed relative to the August meeting. The data “suggests that economic activity has picked up following its severe downturn. Conditions in financial markets have improved further, and activity in the housing sector has increased.” They follow with the caveats of strained household spending due to “ongoing job losses, sluggish income…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

IS JIM GRANT THE LATEST TO BE DRINKING THE KOOL-AID?

David Rosenberg is a 20 year veteran of the Street, David most recently was Merrill Lynch’s chief North American Economist, where he correctly warned about the Housing and Credit Collapse and Recession in advance. He is the Chief Economist of Canada’s Gluskin Sheff > > The Weekend Journal ran with an article by James Grant,…Read More

Category: Think Tank

Let’s get real about dollar-equities causation

The following is a guest post from a market strategist at a major research firm . . . ~~~ The dollar rallied, did it? That was the “cause” of yesterday’s weakness in the energy and metals commodities, which in turn “caused” the related equities to sell off? Hogwash! Stocks are calling the tune here, folks….Read More

Category: Currency, Think Tank, Trading

Mortgage rates below 5%, Fed high five!

The MBA said the average 30 yr mortgage rate for the week ended Friday fell below 5% for the first time since late May, at 4.97%. In response, refi’s rose 17.4%, the highest since May while purchases were up 5.6%. This news comes as the FOMC discusses the fate of their purchases of MBS/Agency debt…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

The Dollar’s Role in Rising Risk Appetites

Good Evening: After a couple of wobbly sessions on Friday and Monday, U.S. stocks resumed rising on Tuesday. With little in the way of economic news, it was left to a falling dollar to buoy investor risk appetites. The greenback obliged by setting a new low for 2009, and commodity prices understandably reacted by heading…Read More

Category: Markets, Think Tank

The Drunk and the Liquor Store

David R. Kotok co-founded Cumberland Advisors in 1973 and has been its Chief Investment Officer since inception. He holds a B.S. in Economics from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, an M.S. in Organizational Dynamics from The School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Masters in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Kotok is also a member of the National Business Economics Issues Council (NBEIC), the National Association for Business Economics (NABE), the Philadelphia Council for Business Economics (PCBE), and the Philadelphia Financial Economists Group (PFEG).

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A few thousand miles of flying gives one a chance to catch up on some research reports. In this case the stack was about the debt-to-GDP ratio and what it means.

It is clear that the United States is on a borrowing binge. And also clear that the Nancy Pelosi-led US Congress has no will to restore any discipline to its spending habits.

Now we all know that borrowing at increasing rates cannot go on forever. And we also know that it can go on for a long time. And history shows that the adjustment process is non-linear. In other words, there is a period when the increased borrowing in order to finance consumption seems to be painless. We are in that period now.

This usually is followed by a shock. What triggers the shock? When does it occur? These are the types of questions we wrestle with each day as a money manager. And these are exactly the questions without easy answers. A bunch of research reports has proven that to these tired eyes.

Here is what we do know. The total of all government debt in the US has now breached the 100% of GDP level. We get this number courtesy of Ned Davis and by tallying up all the debt of the federal, state and local governments. This ratio has not been this high since World War II. It is climbing in a vertical fashion and can be projected to set a new record each and every foreseeable month.

Unlike World War II, the US debt explosion is not due to military and interest expense. Ned Davis has calculated the spending to GDP ratio without interest payments or defense. Again we are at an all-time high in the post World War II period. We cannot blame the spending spree on the army.

Total credit market debt to GDP in the US is a record 373% as of June 30th. In the UK it is 233%. In Japan it is 225%. We have become the most profligate borrower of the large countries in the world.

Private sector and household debt is not the problem. In the last two months the household debt declined by a huge $37 billion. Non-financial corporate debt is also not the problem. It is barely increasing.

The problem simply is government. It is borrowing at all levels and without restraint.

From Japan we learned that increasing borrowing can continue for a very long time. And that we can get it without much inflation and with persistent very low interest rates. The reason is that borrowing is a way of loading a debt burden on the economy. The larger the debt burden the slower the economy will grow. This is especially true when the borrowing is for consumption purposes. That is the current condition of the United States.

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Category: Think Tank

July FHFA Home Price Index

The July FHFA Home Price Index rose .3% m/o/m, .2% less than expected and June was revised lower to a gain of .1%, down from the initial report of up .5%. Y/o/Y prices are down 4.2% and are (only) 10.5% below its April 2007 high. According to the FHFA, their index is back to the…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Will the US$ be an FOMC topic of discussion?

As the FOMC begins their two day meeting today not only will they have to juggle the current stabilization in the US economy with their extremely accommodative policies, I wonder whether they will discuss the US$ and the price of gold as price stability (stable currency) is one of their two mandates. The $ index…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Did Policy Economists Get It That Wrong?

Bob Eisenbeis is Cumberland’s Chief Monetary Economist. Prior to joining Cumberland Advisors he was the Executive Vice President and Director of Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Bob is presently a member of the U.S. Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee and the Financial Economist Roundtable. His bio is found at www.cumber.com. He may be reached at Bob.Eisenbeis@cumber.com.
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It has become fashionable for commentators to bash economists for having missed the financial crisis of 2007-2009. Nobel Prize winner Robert Lucas provided a recent rebuttal to critics in a guest article in The Economist of August 6, 2009. Unfortunately, it was a rather unconvincing effort.

More recently, Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, in his NY Times article of September 2, 2009 entitled “How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?” took his own shots at the profession. He essentially repeats two criticisms that were addressed in Lucas’ article. The first is the profession’s fixation on elegant mathematical models, and the second is its belief in efficient markets – the idea that market participants use all available information when making economic decisions and pricing securities. He claims that in the world of theory – which many economists tend to believe is the “real” world – markets are inherently stable and do not admit the possibility of “catastrophic failures in a market economy” like the current crisis. Should a problem occur then it could be easily corrected by appropriately administered Federal Reserve policy. Are these criticisms well-deserved and are they directed at the right people?

Krugman’s critique has brought forth a host of rebuttals from academic economists who defended their performance. Still, one has to concede that Krugman has some valid points. The first concerns the bias among theorists for stability and stationarity in their models. Models serve a useful purpose in all fields of physical and social science. In economics, the trend has been toward building models that exhibit stationarity and stability, so that they tend toward a fixed long-run equilibrium and naturally return to that equilibrium if shocked. Publish these types of models and you will advance your academic career. There has been relatively little interest in the contemporary academic profession in market imperfections or in models that may admit such properties.

However, what critics also fail to recognize is that academic economists are not engaged in the same activity as business and policy economists. Academics are not building forecasting and prediction models of the kind the critics seem to be demanding or expecting. Academic economists are mostly unconcerned and largely uninformed about the week-to-week data releases or the policy moves that the Federal Reserve makes and that fill time on CNBC, Fox Business, and Bloomberg TV. In fact, academia puts little value on forecasting. Once you have built a forecasting model, there is nothing more to be gained intellectually from the academician’s perspective by running the model week by week as new data becomes available. This is really the province of the Federal Reserve and other government agencies, economic consultants, the business economists that populate Wall Street and large corporations who have to make business and policy decisions based upon the outcomes of those forecasts.

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Category: Think Tank