The cold snap in the eastern United States is continuing into February and could have a dramatic impact on economic output. Interesting research from Bank of America shows that adverse weather could reduce first quarter economic growth by 1-2 percent. Our analysis below shows the negative effect of frigid Januaries on retail sales. The potential economic damage from storm after storm raises the prospect that the U.S. Federal Reserve could slow its pre-stated tapering course.
If we see real evidence of a U.S. economic slowdown, more liquidity from the Fed can be expected. Investors still have faith in the Fed’s ability to make further accommodations, as evidenced by how the U.S. stock market took last Friday’s tepid jobs report for January in stride. This development takes us back to the "Alice in Wonderland" world where bad news can be good news for stocks and bonds.
The near-term risk is to the downside for U.S. 10-year Treasury yields, which could fall from the current level of about 2.76 percent to closer to 2 percent. Not so long ago, at the end of December, the 10-year rose above 3 percent and many investors presumed rates would continue rising in a secular bear market for fixed income. How quickly things change.
Cold Weather Dampening U.S. Economic Activity
The effects of December’s frigid temperatures have already been seen in recent U.S. economic data releases. With January temperatures more than three degrees colder than average, it is likely that economic activity will continue to be depressed in the first month of the year. Retail sales show a particularly strong correlation with temperatures in January, suggesting that data for January will likely show restrained growth.
AVERAGE U.S. JANUARY TEMPERATURE AND JANUARY RETAIL SALES
Source: Haver, Guggenheim Investments. Data as of 1/31/2014.
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