Economic Conditions Continue to Worsen

It must be China. Or the weather, which is usually either too cold or to warm – somehow the weather is just never right for economic growth. Surely it cannot be another Fed policy-induced boom that is on the verge of going bust? Sorry, we completely forgot – the Fed is never at fault when the economy suffers a boom-bust cycle. That only happens because we have “too few regulations” (that’s what Mr. Bernanke said after the 2008 bust – no kidding).

 

forgotten-heritage

Photo credit: Matthew Emmett

 

No matter what economic data releases one looks at lately, one seems more horrendous than the next. This is apart from payrolls of course, which are not only a lagging indicator, but are apparently a number that is occasionally made up out of whole cloth – such as in December, when 281,000 of the reported 292,000 in non-farm payroll gains were the result of “seasonal adjustment”, which is bureaucrat-speak for “didn’t actually happen”.

Today the markets were inundated with data that strongly suggest that the negative trends observed over much of 2015 continue to accelerate. In what is by now a well-worn tradition, Fed district surveys of the manufacturing sector continued their decline with today’s release of the Empire State survey. One no longer risks being accused of hyperbole by calling its recent trend a “collapse”:

 

1-Empire State IndexEmpire State Survey, general business conditions index. Such readings are usually not seen during economic expansions – click to enlarge.

 

As is often the case, not a single economist came even remotely close to correctly forecasting this meltdown. As Mish noted earlier today, it was quite a big miss:

 

“The Econoday Consensus  estimate was for a slight improvement to -4 from a November reading of -4.59. The actual result was -19.37 with the lowest economic estimate -7.50.”

 

Our friend Micheal Pollaro has provided us with several charts, including the following comparison chart, which shows the Empire State survey’s new orders index for January, as well as the new orders index of the National ISM and the average of the new order indexes of the Fed district surveys as of December. Not only are new orders one of the most important components of such surveys, as they lead future manufacturing activity, but in recent months the Empire State new orders index has begun to lead other survey data. If it continues to work as a leading indicator, one should expect more negative data points to be released in the near future.

 

2-Empire State-new ordersNew order indexes: Empire State (red line, for January), average of all district surveys (brown line, as of December) and ISM (blue line, as of December, rhs) – click to enlarge.

 

Admittedly, this is an especially volatile regional survey, so it is probably not useful as decisive evidence for a broader economic downturn, but every other data points released today proved to be a disappointment as well. The industrial production index has also continued its decline in December. Industrial production was down 0.4% in for the month (3.4% y/y) and the November reading was revised lower to minus 0.9%. In this case, no mainstream economist managed to forecast any of this either. It is noteworthy that readings similar to the current ones have never been recorded outside of recessions in the post WW2 period. Here is a chart showing developments since 1970:

 

3-Industrial ProductionIndustrial production declines further. Keep in mind that NBER is backdating the beginning of recessions once they are six months old or older. This means that a recession is never officially recognized when it actually begins. In other words, a recession may have begun already; we will only know for sure a few months down the road – click to enlarge.

 

It is quite funny that the failure to forecast the decline in IP was once again blamed on the weather. The credibility of that excuse is really beginning to wear thin – are economists as a group unaware of the weather? What was it about the weather that hindered industrial production this time? Apparently it was too warm. One might be tempted to conclude that it is the mere fact that weather as such exists that is the problem here, but the reality is of course that forecasts of specific economic data down to 10ths of percentage points are essentially a waste of time. One might as well toss a coin.

But surely December retail sales would come in at a reasonably good level? No luck on that score either, although this weak report (down 0.1%) was actually the best of the day. This time expectations were only slightly undercut, but there were large declines in a broad range of sub-sectors, all of which normally tend to do well in the Christmas season.

Lastly, the Census Bureau reported business sales and inventories for November, with the slide in sales continuing – inventories declined by 0.2% on month-on-month, but were still up 1.6% from a year ago. Sales declined at a similar pace month-on-month, but were down 2.8% from a year ago. As a result, the inventory-to-sales ratio remained stuck at its recent interim high – which is still the highest level since mid 2009. Mid 2009 wasn’t a particularly happy time for the economy.

 

4-business salesBusiness sales (red line) and inventories (black line) and the inventory-to-sales ratio (blue line, rhs) – click to enlarge.

 

Negative stand-out in terms of business sales were wholesalers’ sales, which have declined by 5% year-on-year as of the end of November. Inventories are declining as well (m/m), but not fast enough yet – the inventory-to-sales ratio of this sub-sector has consequently made a new high for the move:

 

5-wholesalers salesWholesalers: y/y change rate in sales (purple line), inventories (red line) and the inventory-to-sales ratio (blue line, rhs) – click to enlarge.

 

Selected Other Indicators

While we have no new update yet on charge-offs and delinquencies in the commercial and industrial sector, it should be noted by way of reminder that this is yet another datum that is consistent with an incipient recession (the data are as of Q3):

 

6-Charge-offsThe sum of C&I loan charge-off and delinquencies vs. the FF rate – click to enlarge.

 

Junk bonds have continued to decline – with yields reaching new highs for the move on Wednesday and improving by just one basis point yesterday. In light of today’s carnage in risk assets, with junk bond ETFs once again falling sharply, it can be safely assumed that yields have yet again reached new highs today. As always, the lowest-rated bonds are the worst performers, but even the Master Index II effective yield has by now nearly doubled from its late June 2014 low. Energy debt plays a big role in these moves, but in the meantime the weakness has begun to spread to other sectors as well:

 

7-JunkJunk bond yields keep surging – click to enlarge.

 

Lastly, our coincident boom-bust indicator, the ratio of capital equipment to consumer goods production, remains at quite an elevated level. This suggests that if a bust has indeed begun, it is only in its beginning stages.

 

8-Cap-Cons-RatioThree booms induced by loose monetary policy, as seen in the ratio between capital and consumer goods production – click to enlarge.

 

The ratio of capital equipment to consumer goods production gives us a rough idea toward which stages of the production structure the bulk of investment is flowing. Just as capital theory suggests, during times when interest rates are artificially suppressed and the money and credit supply are expanding, the higher stages of production (capital goods producing industries) attract a greater level of investment and display more activity relative to the lower stages (consumer goods).

However, this can never work out in the long run, as production is ultimately not funded by “money”, but by real capital, i.e., by real savings. It is impossible to print the economy to prosperity and these artificial booms are therefore never sustainable. The denouement of the boom can be delayed by keeping monetary policy loose for longer, but such delaying tactics will as a rule merely worsen capital consumption and hence the subsequent bust. The chart above is telling us that more society-wide impoverishment definitely awaits.

 

Conclusion

Everything continues to suggest that the economic recovery is in the process of screeching to halt. The recovery was already the weakest of the post WW2 era to begin with. Only one datum still gives us pause, and that is the rate of growth of the broad true money supply TMS-2, which has seen a rebound to approx. 8% year-on-year in November.

On the other hand, the annual growth rate of narrow money M1 has reached a new low for the move of 4.65% in mid December, compared to a peak reading of approx. 24.6% attained in October of 2011. While this volatile series has rebounded sharply between mid December and early January (to 9.5%), the effects of changes tend to arrive with a considerable lag. We continue to suspect that it will lead the broader measure TMS-2 lower as well.

Lastly, the stock market, oversold as it already was, proved unable to withstand today’s onslaught of data and proceeded to fall out of bed completely. At one point the DJIA was down more than 500 points. By the close it had recovered to a loss of 390 points, which is still quite hefty. As we noted yesterday in this context: “[An] oversold market can easily become more oversold when it keeps being inundated with evidence that economic conditions are not what they were thought to be.”

 

9-SPXThe S&P 500 Index bounces after briefly undercutting the August 2015 low by a mere seven points. This level seems ideally suited for a rebound to begin, but at the same time, it remains uncomfortably close – click to enlarge.

 

Based on technical grounds we still believe that the market is likely close to a short term rebound, but keep our recent warning in mind: Sharp declines during usually seasonally strong periods are a typical bear market characteristic. In fact, as Jason Goepfert reports, the recent combination of market moves has only been seen in the vicinity of a handful of major historic market tops.

Note that Mr. Goepfert’s observations are independent from what we said about seasonal patterns. If we add the occurrences of past warning signals given by unusual seasonal cycle inversions to his list, we find a few overlaps, as well as additional examples (namely 1962, 1973, 2001, 2007, 2008 and Tokyo 1990 – there may be a few more examples for this, but these are probably the most prominent ones). In connection with the economy, the relevance of this consists of the fact that a putative bear market (“officially” the market is merely in a strong correction so far) would almost certainly go hand in hand with a recession.

 

Charts by: St. Louis Federal Reserve Research, Michael Pollaro, StockCharts

 

 

 

Emigrate While You Can... Learn More

 


 

 
 

Dear Readers!

You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.

   

Bitcoin address: 12vB2LeWQNjWh59tyfWw23ySqJ9kTfJifA

   
 

2 Responses to “US Economy – Slip-Sliding Away”

  • Mark Humphrey:

    This is an excellent article, actually the best I’ve read about the developing recession we’re in. I don’t understand how any Keynesian weather vane could read what you’ve written and displayed without developing jitters about what she actually understands. Many thanks for many great articles.

    I tried to contribute a little money 3 weeks ago, but failed after 2 tries. I’ll try again.

Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • How to Buy Low When Everyone Else is Buying High
      When to Sell? The common thread running through the collective minds of present U.S. stock market investors goes something like this: A great crash is coming.  But first there will be an epic run-up climaxing with a massive parabolic blow off top.  Hence, to capitalize on the final blow off, investors must let their stock market holdings ride until the precise moment the market peaks – and not a moment more.  That’s when investors should sell their stocks and go to...
  • What Kind of Stock Market Purge Is This?
      Actions and Reactions Down markets, like up markets, are both dazzling and delightful. The shock and awe of near back-to-back 1,000 point Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) free-falls is indeed spectacular. There are many reasons to revel in it.  Today we shall share a few. To begin, losing money in a multi-day stock market dump is no fun at all.  We'd rather get our teeth drilled by a dentist.  Still, a rapid selloff has many positive qualities.   Memorable moments from...
  • US Stocks - Minor Dip With Potential, Much Consternation
      It's Just a Flesh Wound – But a Sad Day for Vol Sellers On January 31 we wrote about the unprecedented levels - for a stock market index that is - the weekly and monthly RSI of the DJIA had reached (see: “Too Much Bubble Love, Likely to Bring Regret” for the astonishing details – provided you still have some capacity for stock market-related astonishment). We will take the opportunity to toot our horn by reminding readers that we highlighted VIX calls of all things as a worthwhile...
  • When Budget Deficits Will Really Go Vertical
      Mnuchin Gets It United States Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin has a sweet gig.  He writes rubber checks to pay the nation’s bills.  Yet, somehow, the rubber checks don’t bounce.  Instead, like magic, they clear. How this all works, considering the nation’s technically insolvent, we don’t quite understand.  But Mnuchin gets it.  He knows exactly how full faith and credit works – and he knows plenty more.   Master of the Mint and economy wizard Steven Mnuchin and...
  • Why I Own Gold and Gold Mining Companies – An Interview With Jayant Bandari
      Opportunities in the Junior Mining Sector Maurice Jackson of Proven and Probable has recently interviewed Jayant Bandari, the publisher of Capitalism and Morality and a frequent contributor to this site. The topics discussed include currencies, bitcoin, gold and above all junior gold stocks (i.e., small producers and explorers). Jayant shares some of his best ideas in the segment, including arbitrage opportunities currently offered by pending takeovers – which is an area that generally...
  • “Strong Dollar”, “Weak Dollar” - What About a Gold-Backed Dollar?
      Contradictory Palaver The recent hullabaloo among President Trump’s top monetary officials about the Administration’s “dollar policy” is just the start of what will likely be the first of many contradictory pronouncements and reversals which will take place in the coming months and years as the world’s reserve currency continues to be compromised.  So far, the Greenback has had its worst start since 1987, the year of a major stock market reset.   A modern-day...
  • The Future of Copper – Incrementum Advisory Board Meeting Q1 2018
      Copper vs. Oil The Q1 2018 meeting of the Incrementum Fund's Advisory Board took place on January 24, about one week before the recent market turmoil began. In a way it is funny that this group of contrarians who are well known for their skeptical stance on the risk asset bubble, didn't really discuss the stock market much on this occasion. Of course there was little to add to what was already talked about extensively at previous meetings. Moreover, the main focus was on the topic...
  • Seasonality of Individual Stocks – an Update
      Well Known Seasonal Trends Readers are very likely aware of the “Halloween effect” or the Santa Claus rally. The former term refers to the fact that stocks on average tend to perform significantly worse in the summer months than in the winter months, the latter term describes the typically very strong advance in stocks just before the turn of the year. Both phenomena apply to the broad stock market, this is to say, to benchmark indexes such as the S&P 500 or the...
  • Strange Economic Data
      Economic Activity Seems Brisk, But... Contrary to the situation in 2014-2015, economic indicators are currently far from signaling an imminent recession. We frequently discussed growing weakness in the manufacturing sector in 2015 (which is the largest sector of the economy in terms of gross output) - but even then, we always stressed that no clear recession signal was in sight yet.   US gross output (GO) growth year-on-year, and industrial production (IP) – note that GO...
  • US Equities – Retracement Levels and Market Psychology
      Fibonacci Retracements   Following the recent market swoon, we were interested to see how far the rebound would go. Fibonacci retracement levels are a tried and true technical tool for estimating likely targets – and they can actually provide information beyond that as well. Here is the S&P 500 Index with the most important Fibonacci retracement levels of the recent decline shown:   So far, the SPX has made it back to the 61.8% retracement level intraday, and has weakened...
  • Update on the Modified Davis Method
      Whipsawed Frank Roellinger has updated us with respect to the signals given by his Modified Ned Davis Method (MDM) in the course of the recent market correction. The MDM is a purely technical trading system designed for position-trading the Russell 2000 index, both long and short (for details and additional color see The Modified Davis Method and Reader Question on the Modified Ned Davis Method).   The Nasdaq pillar...   As it turns out, the system was whipsawed,...
  • Market Efficiency? The Euro is Looking Forward to the Weekend!
      Peculiar Behavior As I have shown in previous issues of Seasonal Insights, various financial instruments are demonstrating peculiar behavior in the course of the week: the S&P 500 Index is typically strong on Tuesdays, Gold on Fridays and Bitcoin on Tuesdays (similar to the S&P 500 Index).   The quest for profitable foresight...[PT]   Several readers have inquired whether currencies exhibit such patterns as well. Are these extremely large markets also home to...

Support Acting Man

Item Guides

Top10BestPro
j9TJzzN

Austrian Theory and Investment

Archive

350x200

THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

Realtime Charts

 

Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from www.kitco.com]

 

 
Buy Silver Now!
 
Buy Gold Now!
 

Oilprice.com

Diary of a Rogue Economist