Yellen More Dovish? Don’t be Fooled.

Observations on the Capital Markets – Week Ended April 4, 2014

Fed Chair Yellen sounded very dovish in Monday’s speech, emphasizing that markets should expect extraordinary policy accommodation for some time, given the slack in the labor market. She broke with precedent by citing anecdotes (this from a person who has perhaps overused the words “data dependent”). She did not repeat the “six-month” guesstimate of how soon after QE ended Fed funds would start rising, but she didn’t “walk it back” either, or give any guidance suggesting anything more dovish than the Fed statement.

My take: she demonstrated empathy without making any promises or commitments. She’s a very good politician (as well as a very good Fed Governor). Continue reading

Slow Growth for the Economy but Weather Effects Fading

Do you believe Putin’s words or actions? Putin continued to say he wanted a diplomatic solution to Ukraine while continuing to mass troops along the Ukrainian border. Meanwhile the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a line of credit of up to $18 billion to Ukraine and the Ukrainian parliament passed a law to implement IMF-demanded austerity measures. The “West” cancelled a G8 meeting scheduled for Sochi, and so the G8 reverts to the G7 with the expulsion of Russia. Continue reading

Will the World and the Markets (Passively) Accept Russia’s Actions?

Having bloodlessly consolidated his control of Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he hoped there would be no shooting (e.g. military response to the invasion). Most markets rallied, regaining the ground they’d lost when the invasion occurred.

There won’t be a NATO military response: pushing the Russians out is effectively impossible in practical terms. (How the Ukrainians themselves will act is uncertain. As one analyst put it, “The only question now is whether the new Ukrainian government will accept the loss of Crimea quietly or try to retaliate against Russian speakers in Ukraine – offering Putin a pretext for invasion, and thereby precipitating an all-out civil war.”)

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What Has Abenomics Achieved?

Pioneer Investments’ Head of Global Asset Allocation Research, Monica Defend, assesses the progress of Abenomics – the series of economic reforms implemented by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – and discusses her outlook for the Japanese market.

What has the new policy course known as Abenomics achieved and what is yet to be done?
Japan managed to exit a long stagnation, also marked by deflation, thanks to aggressive monetary expansion. That was probably the easy part of Abenomics, as it got a major implicit endorsement from the U.S. Federal Reserve; Japan’s quantitative easing accounted for an even larger part of GDP than the U.S. version, but had the Fed not led the way with quantitative easing, we have legitimate doubts that it would have been as effective.

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Puerto Rico: A Delicate Balancing Act

Recently, the commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s credit ratings were downgraded by each of the three rating agencies to “below investment grade” status. This is significant, since no other state or state-equivalent territory of the U.S, carries a below investment grade credit rating.

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Last Week’s Jobs Report Not as Bad as it Sounded, Same for Capital Markets

Observations on the Capital Markets – Week Ended February 7, 2014

The jobs reports were better underneath than on the surface

The data: Initial unemployment claims for the month were 331K. The “establishment survey” showed headline employment growth of 113k, below consensus expectations of 189k. The details were less disappointing, however.Prior months were revised up by 34k. Wages continued to rise slowly. The household survey — the basis for calculating the unemployment rate — showed employment rising by 616k. But because the labor participation rate rose 0.2 to 63.0%, the estimated workforce rose by 499k and the unemployment rate fell only to 6.6%.

The upshot: The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) fell by 514k (so, by implication, the number of full-time workers rose by 1.1 million!). Finally, we got the periodic revisions to the past year’s data, the net effect of which was to revise 2013 job growth up from 2.19mm to 2.32mm.

Comment: There’s often a pretty big divergence between the “household” and “establishment” surveys. It’s not unusual to have discrepancies . . . they tend to vary month-to-month but converge over time. Continue reading

Where Do Global Economies Stand in 2014?

Observations on the Capital Markets – Week Ended January 24, 2014

  • In the U.S.: Few surprises in economic data, though the debt ceiling looms
  • In Europe: Better economic data, but the credit crunch persists
  • In China: GDP growth is on track, but offshore investors watch PMI
  • In Japan: All eyes will be on wages – will they rise?
  • In Argentina:  devalued currency

Last week the IMF raised its 2014 global growth forecast from 3.6% to 3.7%. The U.S. growth forecast rose from 2.7% to 2.8%, Eurozone from 0.9% to 1.0% and China from 7.2% to 7.5%. Here’s a closer look at some of the developments influencing the global economies and markets:

In the U.S.: Few Surprises in Economic Data, though the Debt Ceiling Looms
The debt ceiling will take center stage in Washington, as Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the government will run out of cash around the end of February if the debt limit (scheduled to be reached Feb 7) isn’t raised (and if tax refunds are sent out on time). The White House wants a “clean” increase; Republicans want something in return for an increase … neither side wants a default.

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The U.S. Begins an (Un)employment Experiment

Observations on the Capital Markets – Week Ended January 3, 2014

Extended unemployment benefits stopped for 1.3 million people at year-end. This doesn’t change their employment status . . . they just stop getting unemployment compensation. Extended benefits (of up to 99 weeks) was part of the recession-fighting fiscal stimulus package. A question was: did this create a dis-incentive to find a job (aka “funemployment”). Continue reading

A Few Quick Thoughts on the U.S. Dollar and Japan

I recently participated in a webinar where I was asked a few questions regarding the U.S. dollar and Japan, which I think are on many people’s minds right now. I wanted to pass along my thoughts on both subjects.

What are the chances of the U.S. dollar losing its reserve currency status and what might replace it? Continue reading

China’s Economic Reform Plan

In a recent conversation, my colleague Mauro Ratto, Head of Emerging Markets, helped boil down China’s recent economic reform plan.

China’s “Breakthrough” in the Making

The ruling communist party’s gathering (also known as Plenum) in early November was followed closely by the expected announcement of a major plan of economic reforms.  Three major reforms that were highlighted during the plenum concerned:

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