Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Disturbing Charts (Update 29)

I find the following charts to be disturbing.   These charts would be disturbing at any point in the economic cycle; that they (on average) depict such a tenuous situation now – 103 months after the official (as per the September 20, 2010 NBER BCDC announcement) June 2009 end of the recession – is especially notable.
These charts raise a lot of questions.  As well, they highlight the “atypical” nature of our economic situation from a long-term historical perspective.
All of these charts are from the Federal Reserve, and represent the most recently updated data.
(click on charts to enlarge images)
Housing starts (last updated December 19, 2017):
Housing Starts
US. Bureau of the Census, Housing Starts: Total: New Privately Owned Housing Units Started [HOUST], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/HOUST/, January 16, 2018.
The Federal Deficit (last updated October 20, 2017):
Federal Deficit
US. Office of Management and Budget, Federal Surplus or Deficit [-] [FYFSD], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/FYFSD/, January 16, 2018.
Federal Net Outlays (last updated October 20, 2017):
FYONET
US. Office of Management and Budget, Federal Net Outlays [FYONET], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/FYONET/, January 16, 2018.
State & Local Personal Income Tax Receipts (% Change from Year Ago)(last updated October 27, 2017):
ASLPITAX Percent Change From Year Ago
US. Bureau of Economic Analysis, State and local government current tax receipts: Personal current taxes: Income taxes [ASLPITAX], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/ASLPITAX/, January 16, 2018.
Total Loans and Leases of Commercial Banks (% Change from Year Ago)(last updated January 5, 2018):
Total Loans and Leases Percent Change From Year Ago
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US), Loans and Leases in Bank Credit, All Commercial Banks [TOTLL], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/TOTLL/, January 16, 2018.
Bank Credit – All Commercial Banks (% Change from Year Ago)(last updated January 5, 2018):
Total Bank Credit Percent Change From Year Ago
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US), Bank Credit of All Commercial Banks [TOTBKCR], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/TOTBKCR/, January 16, 2018.
M1 Money Multiplier (last updated January 11, 2018):
M1 Money Multiplier
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, M1 Money Multiplier [MULT], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/MULT/, January 16, 2018.
Median Duration of Unemployment (last updated January 5, 2018):
Median Duration Of Unemployment
US. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Median Duration of Unemployment [UEMPMED], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/UEMPMED/, January 16, 2018.
Labor Force Participation Rate (last updated January 5, 2018):
Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate
US. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate [CIVPART], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CIVPART/, January 16, 2018.
The Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) 3-month moving average (CFNAI-MA3)(last updated December 21, 2017):
CFNAIMA3
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Chicago Fed National Activity Index: Three Month Moving Average [CFNAIMA3], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CFNAIMA3/, January 16, 2018.
I will continue to update these charts on an intermittent basis as they deserve close monitoring…
_____
The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation
SPX at 2776.42 as this post is written

Friday, January 12, 2018

Broad-Based Indicators Of Economic Activity

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) and the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index (ADS Index) are two broad-based economic indicators that I regularly feature in this site.
The short-term and long-term trends of each continue to be notable.
Doug Short, in his blog post of January 11, 2018, titled “The Philly Fed ADS Index Business Conditions Index Update” displays both the CFNAI MA-3 (3-month Moving Average) and ADS Index (91-Day Moving Average) from a variety of perspectives.
Of particular note, two of the charts, shown below, denote where the current levels of each reading is relative to the beginning of past recessionary periods, as depicted by the red dots.
The CFNAI MA-3:
(click on charts to enlarge images)
CFNAI-MA3
The ADS Index, 91-Day MA:
ADS Index 91-Day Moving Average
Also shown in the Doug Short’s aforementioned post is a chart of each with a long-term trendline (linear regression) as well as a chart depicting GDP for comparison purposes.
_________
I post various indicators and indices because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with what they depict or imply.
_____
The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation
SPX at 2780.91 as this post is written

The January 2018 Wall Street Journal Economic Forecast Survey

The January 2018 Wall Street Journal Economic Forecast Survey was published on January 11, 2018.  The headline is “Economists Credit Trump as Tailwind for U.S. Growth, Hiring and Stocks.”
I found numerous items to be notable – although I don’t necessarily agree with them – both within the article and in the “Economist Q&A” section.
Two excerpts:
Asked to rate Mr. Trump’s policies and actions to date, a majority of economists said he had been somewhat or strongly positive for job creation, gross domestic product growth and the stock market. Most also said he had been either neutral or positive for the country’s long-term growth trajectory, while his influence on financial stability was seen as largely neutral.
also:
Looking forward, the economists surveyed in recent days had high hopes for 2018.
On average, the forecasters predicted GDP would expand a healthy 2.7% this year. They saw the unemployment rate, which was 4.1% in December, falling to 3.9% by midyear and 3.8% in December. The pace of hiring was expected to slow further, with monthly nonfarm payroll gains set to average 165,000 in 2018. Monthly job gains averaged 171,000 in 2017 and 187,000 in 2016, according to the Labor Department.
The probability of a recession in the next 12 months ticked down in January to 13%, the lowest average since September 2015. More than two-thirds of forecasters said they saw the risks to the growth outlook as tilted to the upside.
As seen in the “Recession Probability” section, the average response as to the odds of another recession starting within the next 12 months was 13.11%. The individual estimates, of those who responded, ranged from 0% to 30%.  For reference, the average response in December’s survey was 14.12%.
As stated in the article, the survey’s respondents were 68 academic, financial and business economists.  Not every economist answered every question.  The survey was conducted January 5 – January 9, 2018.
The current average forecasts among economists polled include the following:
GDP:
full-year 2017:  2.5%
full-year 2018:  2.7%
full-year 2019:  2.2%
full-year 2020:  2.0%
Unemployment Rate:
December 2018: 3.8%
December 2019: 3.8%
December 2020: 4.1%
10-Year Treasury Yield:
December 2018: 2.98%
December 2019: 3.31%
December 2020: 3.41%
CPI:
December 2017:  2.1%
December 2018:  2.1%
December 2019:  2.3%
December 2020:  2.3%
Crude Oil  ($ per bbl):
for 12/31/2018: $58.31
for 12/31/2019: $57.46
for 12/31/2020: $58.91
(note: I highlight this WSJ Economic Forecast survey each month; commentary on past surveys can be found under the “Economic Forecasts” label)
_____
I post various economic forecasts because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with many of the consensus estimates and much of the commentary in these forecast surveys.
_____
The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation
SPX at 2767.56 as this post is written

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Deloitte “CFO Signals” Report Q4 2017 – Notable Aspects

Recently Deloitte released their “CFO Signals” “High-Level Summary” report for the 4th Quarter of 2017.
As seen in page 2 of the report, there were 147 survey respondents.  As stated:  “Each quarter (since 2Q10), CFO Signals has tracked the thinking and actions of CFOs representing many of North America’s largest and most influential companies.
All respondents are CFOs from the US, Canada, and Mexico, and the vast majority are from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. For a summary of this quarter’s response demographics, please see the sidebars and charts on this page. For other information about participation and methodology, please contact nacfosurvey@deloitte.com.”
Here are some of the excerpts that I found notable:
from page 3:

Perceptions

How do you regard the current/future status of the North American, Chinese, and European economies? Perceptions of North America improved markedly with 74% of CFOs rating current conditions as good (up from 64% last quarter), and 56% expecting better conditions in a year (up from 45%). Perceptions of Europe rose to 35% and 33%, respectively, and China rose sharply to 49% and 41% (their highest levels in nearly five years). Page 6.
What is your perception of the capital markets? Eighty-five percent of CFOs say debt financing is attractive (up slightly from 83%). Attractiveness of equity financing decreased for public company CFOs (from 48% to 46%) and rose for private company CFOs (from 35% to 47%). Eighty-four percent of CFOs now say US equities are overvalued—another new survey high. Page 7.

Sentiment

Overall, what risks worry you the most? CFOs say constraints to their companies’ performance are mostly external, voicing strong concerns about political turmoil, policy uncertainty, and geopolitics. Talent challenges, strategy execution, and achieving growth are the top internal worries. Page 8.
Compared to three months ago, how do you feel about the financial prospects for your company? The net optimism index rose sharply from last quarter’s +29 to +47 this quarter. About 52% of CFOs express rising optimism (up from 45%), and 5% express declining optimism (down from 16%). Page 9.

Expectations

What is your company’s business focus for the next year? CFOs indicate a strong bias toward revenue growth over cost reduction (61% vs. 18%) and investing cash over returning it (56% vs. 18%). They shifted back to a bias toward existing offerings over new ones (45% vs. 35%), and indicated a bias toward current geographies over new ones (65% vs. 11%). Page 10.
Compared to the past 12 months, how do you expect your key operating metrics to change over the next 12 months? Revenue growth expectations declined from last quarter’s 5.7% to 4.7% (still above the two-year average). Earnings growth rose from 7.9% to 8.4% (well above the two-year average). Capital spending growth slid from 7.3% to 6.5%; domestic hiring growth fell from 2.6% to 2.0%. Canadian expectations trailed for almost all metrics. Page 11.
from page 9:

Sentiment

Optimism regarding own-companies’ prospects

Several industries rose sharply, but Healthcare/Pharma declined sharply.
After declining to +29 last quarter, net optimism rose sharply to +47 this quarter. About 52% of CFOs expressed rising optimism (up from 45%), and just 5% cited declining optimism (down from 16%).
Net optimism for the US rose sharply from last quarter’s +28 to +50 this quarter. Canada rose from +31 to +46, while optimism in Mexico declined sharply from +39 to zero.
Sentiment rose sharply in Manufacturing, Technology, Energy/Resources, and
Services—all of which came in above +45. Retail/Wholesale rose, but trailed the average at +29, and Healthcare/Pharma fell sharply to just +8.
Please see the appendix for charts specific to individual industries and countries.
from page 11:

Expectations

Growth in key metrics, year-over-year

Earnings growth rose on strength in the US.
Revenue, capital spending, and domestic
hiring growth all declined, largely on
pessimism in Canada.
Revenue growth declined from 5.7% to 4.7%,
but remains above its two-year average of 4.4%.
The US declined, but remains near its two-year
highs. Canada declined to well below its two-year
average; Mexico declined, but is still relatively
strong. Healthcare/Pharma and Technology lead;
T/M/E and Services trail.
Earnings growth rose to 8.4% from 7.9%. The
US leads and is well above its two-year average.
Canada declined to well below its two-year
average; Mexico declined, but is still above its
average. Retail/Wholesale, Manufacturing, and
Technology lead; T/M/E and Services trail.
Capital investment growth fell for the third
straight quarter, from 7.3% to 6.5%, but is still
among its five-year highs. The US and Mexico
rose and are well above their two-year averages.
Canada declined to well below its average.
Energy/Resources and Manufacturing are the
highest; T/M/E and Healthcare/Pharma are
lowest.
Domestic hiring growth slid from 2.6% to
2.0%. The US remains at its highest level in two
years, but Canada slid to its lowest level in a
year, and Mexico slid sharply to its lowest level
in two years. Healthcare/Pharma and Services
lead; Energy/Resources and T/M/E trail. Wage
pressures are again evident in Mexico.
Please see the full report for charts specific to
individual industries and countries.
Among the various charts and graphics in the report are graphics depicting trends in “Own Company Optimism” on page 9 and “Economic Optimism” found on page 6.
_____
I post various business and economic surveys because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with many of the consensus estimates and much of the commentary in these surveys.
_____
The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation
SPX at 2748.23 as this post is written

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Chicago Fed National Financial Conditions Index (NFCI)

The St. Louis Fed’s Financial Stress Index (STLFSI) is one index that is supposed to measure stress in the financial system.  Its reading as of the January 4, 2018 update (reflecting data through December 29, 2017) is -1.562.
Of course, there are a variety of other measures and indices that are supposed to measure financial stress and other related issues, both from the Federal Reserve as well as from private sources.
Two other indices that I regularly monitor include the Chicago Fed National Financial Conditions Index (NFCI) as well as the Chicago Fed Adjusted National Financial Conditions Index (ANFCI).
Here are summary descriptions of each, as seen in FRED:
The National Financial Conditions Index (NFCI) measures risk, liquidity and leverage in money markets and debt and equity markets as well as in the traditional and “shadow” banking systems. Positive values of the NFCI indicate financial conditions that are tighter than average, while negative values indicate financial conditions that are looser than average.
The adjusted NFCI (ANFCI). This index isolates a component of financial conditions uncorrelated with economic conditions to provide an update on how financial conditions compare with current economic conditions.
For further information, please visit the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s web site:
Below are the most recently updated charts of the NFCI and ANFCI, respectively.
The NFCI chart below was last updated on January 10, 2018 incorporating data from January 8, 1971 through January 5, 2018, on a weekly basis.  The January 5, 2018 value is -.91:
NFCI
Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed January 10, 2018:
The ANFCI chart below was last updated on January 10, 2018 incorporating data from January 8,1971 through January 5, 2018, on a weekly basis.  The January 5 value is -.76:
ANFCI
Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed January 10, 2018:
_________
I post various indicators and indices because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with what they depict or imply.
_____
The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation
SPX at 2745.52 as this post is written

The Yield Curve – January 10, 2018

Many people believe that the Yield Curve is an important economic indicator.
On March 1, 2010, I wrote a post on the issue, titled “The Yield Curve As A Leading Economic Indicator.”
An excerpt from that post:
On the NY Fed link above, they have posted numerous studies that support the theory that the yield curve is a leading indicator.   My objections with using it as a leading indicator, especially now, are various.  These objections include: I don’t think such a narrow measure is one that can be relied upon;  both the yields at the short and long-end of the curve have been overtly and officially manipulated, thus distorting the curve; and, although the yield curve may have been an accurate leading indicator in the past, this period of economic weakness is inherently dissimilar in nature from past recessions and depressions in a multitude of ways – thus, historical yardsticks and metrics probably won’t (and have not) proven appropriate.
While I continue to have the above-stated reservations regarding the “yield curve” as an indicator, I do believe that it should be monitored.
As an indication of the yield curve, below is a weekly chart from January 1, 1990 through January 9, 2018.  The top two plots show the 10-Year Treasury and 2-Year Treasury yields.  The third plot shows the (yield) spread between the 10-Year Treasury and 2-Year Treasury, with the January 9, 2018 closing value of .57%.  The bottom plot shows the S&P500:
(click on chart to enlarge image)(chart courtesy of StockCharts.com; chart creation and annotation by the author)
Yield Curve proxy
Additionally, below is a chart showing the same spread between the 10-Year Treasury and 2-Year Treasury, albeit with a slightly different measurement, using constant maturity securities.  This daily chart is from June 1, 1976 through January 8, 2018 (updated January 9, 2018) with recessionary periods shown in gray. This chart shows a value of .53%:
T10Y2Y
source:  Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 10-Year Treasury Constant Maturity Minus 2-Year Treasury Constant Maturity [T10Y2Y], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed January 10, 2018:
_____
The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation
SPX at 2751.29 as this post is written

Monday, January 8, 2018

CEO Confidence Surveys 4Q 2017 – Notable Excerpts

On January 4, 2018, The Conference Board released the 4th Quarter Measure Of CEO Confidence.   The overall measure of CEO Confidence was at 63, up from 59 in the third quarter. [note:  a reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses]
Notable excerpts from this January 4 Press Release include:
CEOs’ assessment of current economic conditions improved considerably. Currently, 71 percent say conditions are better compared to six months ago, up from 56 percent in the third quarter. However, CEOs are moderately less optimistic in their appraisal of current conditions in their own industries. Now, 49 percent say conditions in their own industries have improved, down from 53 percent last quarter.
Looking ahead, CEOs’ expectations regarding the short-term outlook was significantly better. Now, 47 percent expect economic conditions to improve over the next six months, compared to just 39 percent last quarter. CEOs were also more upbeat about short-term prospects in their own industries over the next six months, with 41 percent anticipating conditions will improve, versus 36 percent in the third quarter of 2017.
The Business Roundtable last month also released its CEO Economic Outlook Survey for the 4th Quarter of 2017.   Notable excerpts from the December 5, 2017 release, titled “Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index Reaches Highest Level in Nearly Six Years“:
The Business Roundtable Q4 CEO Economic Outlook Index — a composite of CEO projections for sales and plans for capital spending and hiring over the next six months — increased to 96.8 for the fourth quarter of 2017, up from 94.5 in the third quarter.
The Index reached its highest level since the first quarter of 2012 (96.9). The Index has significantly exceeded its historical average of 80.3 for four quarters in a row and remains well above 50, suggesting that CEOs continue to expect the U.S. economy to expand at a healthy pace.
CEO plans for capital investment rose to their highest level since the second quarter of 2011. Expectations for sales picked up by 5.1 points. Hiring plans dipped 4.5 points from Q3, but remain near their highest level in four years.
In their first GDP estimate for 2018, CEOs project 2.5 percent GDP growth for the year.
Additional details can be seen in the sources mentioned above.
_____
I post various economic forecasts because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with many of the consensus estimates and much of the commentary in these forecast surveys.
_____
The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation
SPX at 2747.71 as this post is written