Results 51–100 of 267 found.
Central Banks Are Choking Productivity
If the Economy were a car, productivity would be the engine. Heated seats, on-demand 4-wheel drive and light-sensitive tinted windshields, are all very nice. But they mean little if the engine doesn't turn and the car just sits in the driveway. The latest productivity data from the Commerce Department confirms that our economic engine is sputtering.
The Fed's Loud Talk Policy
Theodore Roosevelt’s famous mantra “speak softly and carry a big stick” suggested that the United States should seek to avoid creating controversies and expectations through loose or rash pronouncements, but be prepared to act decisively, with the most powerful weaponry, when the time came. More than a century later, the Federal Reserve has stood Teddy’s maxim on its head. As far as Janet Yellen and her colleagues at the Fed are concerned, the Fed should speak as loudly, frequently, and as circularly as possible to conceal that they are holding no stick whatsoever.
Brexit is Just What the Dr. Ordered
Janet Yellen should send a note of congratulations to Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, the British politicians most responsible for pushing the Brexit campaign to a successful conclusion. While she's at it she should also send them some fruit baskets, flowers, Christmas cards, and a heartfelt "thank you."
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A Fed official walks into a bar and says the economy is improving and rate hikes are appropriate. The patrons order another round to celebrate. Then disappointing data comes out, the high fives stop, and the Fed official ducks out the back…only to come back the next day saying the same thing. Anyone who pays even the smallest attention to the financial media has experienced versions of this joke dozens of times. Yet every time the gag gets underway, we raise our glasses and expect the punch line to be different. But it never is. Last week was just the latest re-telling.
King of Debt Seeks Presidency
During a lengthy interview on CNBC the week before last, Donald Trump, fresh from becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, came as close as any major presidential contender ever has to saying that America is not capable of repaying her debts in full, and that our path to economic recovery might involve some pain for our creditors. This moment of candor earned Trump almost as much condemnation as his earlier suggestions to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
King of Debt Seeks Presidency
On a lengthy interview on CNBC this morning, Donald Trump, the now presumptive Republican nominee, looked back on his business history to lay the groundwork to what he would do as President. He came as close as any major presidential contender to saying that America's formula for economic recovery might involve repaying our creditors less than what we owe. This is a major development that should be rewriting the playbook on Wall Street and call into question the risk-free nature of U.S. Treasuries.
The Winter of Discontent
The Winter of 2015-2016, which came to an end a few weeks ago, has been officially designated as the mildest in the U.S. in 121 years according to NOAA. While this fact will certainly add a major talking point in the global warming debate, it should also be front and center in the current economic discussion. The fact that it isn't is testament to the blatantly self-serving manner in which economic cheerleaders blame the weather when it's convenient, but ignore it when it's not.
April Fools in March
It may be almost impossible to underestimate the gullibility of professional Fed watchers. At least Lucy van Pelt needed to place an actual football on the ground to fool poor Charlie Brown. But in today's high stakes game of Federal Reserve mind reading, the Fed doesn't even have to make a halfway convincing bluff to make the markets look foolish.
Two Down – Two to Go
The Federal Reserve’s years-long campaign to sheepishly back away from its own policy forecasts continued in earnest last week when it officially reduced the four expected 2016 quarter point hikes, suggested back in December, to just two.
The Fed's Nightmare Scenario
Operating under the mistaken belief that a modest dose of inflation is either a prerequisite for, or a by-product of, economic growth, the nation’s top economists have been assuring us for quite some time that inflation will stay very low until the currently mediocre economy finally catches fire. As a result, they believe that the low inflation of the past few months has frustrated Federal Reserve policy makers, who have been supposedly chomping at the bit to keep hiking rates in order to restore confidence in the present and to build the ability to cut rates in the future if the nation were
Clueless in Davos
Making their annual pilgrimage to the exclusive Swiss ski sanctuary of Davos last week, the world's political and financial elite once again gathered without having had the slightest idea of what was going on in the outside world. It appears that few of the attendees, if any, had any advance warning that 2016 would dawn with a global financial meltdown.
The new rounds of rate cutting and Quantitative Easing that the Fed will have to unleash will echo the military "surge" in Iraq in 2007. Those fresh troops were needed to roll back the chaos that the Administration had ignored for so long. But just as that surge only bought us a few years of relative calm, look for the gains brought about by our next monetary surge to be even more transitory. That is a development for which virtually no one on Wall Street is preparing.
Fed’s Rocket Ship Turns Hoverboard
Over the past year, while the U.S. economy has continually missed expectations, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen has assured all who could stay awake during her press conferences that it was strong enough to withstand tighter monetary policy. In delivering months of mildly tough talk (with nothing in the way of action), Yellen began stressing that WHEN the Fed would finally raise rates (for the first time in almost a decade) was not nearly as important as how fast and how high the increases would be once they started.
The Shadow Rate Casts Gloom
Nearly 92% of economists surveyed this week by the Wall Street Journal expect that our eight-year experiment with unprecedented monetary easing from the Federal Reserve will come to an end at the next Fed meeting in December. Since we have had the monetary wind at our back for so many years, at least a few have begun to question our ability to make economic and financial gains against actual headwinds. But in reality, the tightening cycle that the forecasters are waiting for actually started last year. Sadly, the markets and the economy are already showing an inability to handle it.
QE’s Creeping Communism
Most economists and investors readily acknowledge that the current period of central bank activism, characterized by extended bouts of quantitative easing and zero percent interest rates, is a newly-blazed trail in economic history. And while these policies strike some as counterintuitive, open-ended, and unimaginably expensive, most express comfort that our extremely educated, data-dependent, central bankers have a pretty good idea as to where the trail is going and how to keep the wagons together during the journey.
Failure to Launch
The popular belief that the U.S. economy has been steadily recovering has endured months of disappointing data without losing much of its appeal. A deep bench of excuses, ranging from the weather to the Chinese economy, has been called on to justify why the economy hasn't built up any noticeable steam, and why the Fed has failed to move rates off zero, where they have been for seven years. But the downright dismal September jobs report that was released last Friday may prove to be the flashing red beacon that even the most skilled apologists can't explain away.
Groundhog Day at the Fed
Every dictator knows that a continuous state of emergency is the best means to justify tyrannical policies. The trick is to keep the emergency from breeding so much paranoia that routine activities come to a halt. It's best to make the threat external, intangible and ultimately, unverifiable. In Orwell's 1984 the preferred mantra was "We've always been at war with Eurasia," even though everyone knew it wasn't true. In its rate decision this week the Fed adopted a similar approach and conjured up an external threat to maintain a policy that is becoming increasingly absurd.
Meet QT; QE's Evil Twin
There is a growing sense across the financial spectrum that the world is about to turn some type of economic page. Unfortunately no one in the mainstream is too sure what the last chapter was about, and fewer still have any clue as to what the next chapter will bring. There is some agreement however, that the age of ever easing monetary policy in the U.S. will be ending at the same time that the Chinese economy (that had powered the commodity and emerging market booms) will be finally running out of gas.
The Fed Is Spooking the Markets Not China
Fasten your seat belts, this ride is getting interesting. Last week the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 1,000 points, notching its worst weekly performance in four years. The sell-off took the Dow Jones down more than 10% from its peak valuations, thereby constituting the first official correction in four years. One third of all S&P 500 companies are already in bear market territory, having declined more than 20% from their peaks. Scarier still, the selling intensified as the week drew to a close, with the Dow losing 530 points on Friday, after falling 350 points on Thursday.
What Kind of "Improvement" Does the Fed Want?
If GDP growth only averages 2.0% in the Second Half (which I think is likely), then 2015 growth will only be about 1.7% annually. Given that the Fed didn't raise rates in 2012, 2013, and 2014, when growth was well north of 2%, why would they do so now? Yet Wall Street and the media stubbornly cling to the notion that 3% growth and rate hikes are just around the corner. Old notions die hard, and this one has taken on a life of its own.
The Euro Isn't Dead
While the world can count dozens of important currencies, when it comes to top line financial and investment discussions, the currency marketplace really comes down to a one-on-one cage match between the two top contenders: the U.S. Dollar and the Euro.
Currencies Depend on Faith, Gold Doesn’t
In his July 17th Blog, Let's Get Real About Gold, author and Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Zweig likened investor interest in gold with the "Pet Rock" craze of the 1970's, when consumers became convinced that a rock in a box would provide continuous companionship, elevate their social standing, and give them something hip to talk about at parties. Zweig asserts that investor faith in gold, which he argues is just another inert mineral with good marketing, is similarly irrational, and has kept people from putting money in the much more lucrative stock market.
How Socialism Destroyed Puerto Rico, and How Capitalism Can Save It
While Greece is now dominating the debt default stage, the real tragedy is playing out much closer to home, with the downward spiral of Puerto Rico. As in Greece, the Puerto Rican economy has been destroyed by its...
The Big Picture
The past four years or so have been extremely frustrating for investors like me who have structured their portfolios around the belief that the current experiments in central bank stimulus, the anti-business drift in Washington, and America's mediocre economy and unresolved debt issues would push down the value of the dollar, push up commodity prices, and favor assets in economies with relatively low debt levels and higher GDP growth. But since the beginning of 2011, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has rallied 67% while the rest of the world has been largely stuck in the mud.
The Punch Bowl Stays
It is well known that I don’t think much of the ability of government officials to correctly forecast much of anything. Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke have made famously clueless predictions with respect to stock and housing bubbles, and rank and file Fed economists have consistently overestimated the strength of the economy ever since their forecasts became public in 2008.
The Fed Considers a More Seasoned Approach
Just as the steady torrent of awful economic data, which began in the First Quarter and continued well into April and May, had forced many market analysts to grudgingly concede that 2015 would not see the robust economic growth that most had expected, the statisticians arrived on the scene like a cavalry charge and routed the forces of pessimism with a wave of their spreadsheets.
See No Evil: What We Chose to Ignore in the April Jobs Report
We live in an age where bad economic news is not only unwelcome, but it is routinely overlooked or excused. On the other hand, good news is spotted and trumpeted even when it doesn't exist. An ideal illustration of this dangerous tendency towards collective selectivity came last week when the markets and the media somehow turned an awful employment report into an ideal data set that confirmed all optimism and contained nothing but good news for investors. In truth, it was anything but.
The Embarrassment of Transparency
Over the past decade or so, "transparency" has become one of the buzzwords that has guided the Federal Reserve's culture. The word was meant to convey the belief that central banking was best done for all to see in the full light of day, not in the murky back rooms of Washington and New York. The Fed seems to be on a mission to prove that its operations are benevolent, fair, predictable, and equitable.
China Finally Stops Fighting the Stock Market
Although China's economy has been leading the world in annualized growth since the days that mobile phones had retractable antennas, there have always been some aspects of the country's commercial and financial system that loudly broadcast the underlying illogic of a Communist Party's firm control of burgeoning capitalism. China's stock markets were one such venue where things just didn't add up...literally.
Give'em the Old Razzle Dazzle
Janet Yellen channels Billy Flynn? Last week the Fed Chairwoman treated us to a master class of rhetorical misdirection which produced some memorable examples of doublespeak, including the soon to be classic "Just because we removed the word 'patient' does not mean we're going to be 'impatient."' But perhaps more surprising than her new heights of verbal dexterity was the market's euphoria at being so blatantly manipulated. Never has the financial world enjoyed a lie so thoroughly.
A Patient Fed Considers Losing Patience
I have always argued that quantitative easing and zero percent interest rates were misguided policies to combat economic weakness. But as the years went on, misguided turned into irresponsible, which led to ridiculous, and then turned into dangerous. But lately, the only word that comes to mind is "surreal." How should we react when central bankers begin to speak like Willie Wonka?
The Herd Can Be Blind
Going into 2015 the economic outlook held by the U.S. investment establishment could not have been much more positive, and more unified. Pundits saw all the variables aligning to create the best of all investment worlds, a virtual "no-brainer" of optimism. Many believed that the 5.0% annualized growth in 3rd quarter would stay strong in the 4th Quarter and then usher in a strong 2015, which many believed would be the best economic year since the crash of 2008. The only question that divided most forecasters was how good the year would be.
The Bravado of Borrowers
Last week a scene unfolded in Athens, largely unnoticed by American eyes, that provided all the visual and metaphorical symbols needed to define the current state of the global economy. Hollywood's best screenwriters couldn't have laid it out any better.
Switzerland Wins As Its Central Bank Surrenders
If anyone had any doubt how severely the global economy has been distorted by the actions of central bankers, the "surprise" announcement last week by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) to no longer peg the Swiss franc to the euro should provide a moment of crystal clarity.
Hurts So Good: When Exactly Are Falling Prices Bad?
The sudden fall in the price of oil provides a unique opportunity to examine the widely held belief that deflation is economic poison. As many governments and central banks have vowed to fight deflation at all costs in 2015, the question could hardly be more significant. While falling prices may strike the layman as cause for celebration, economists believe that it can kick off a nasty, and often inescapable, negative cycle, which many believe leads inevitably to a prolonged recession, or even a depression.
Could an Energy Bust Trigger QE4?
In a normal economic times falling energy costs would be considered unadulterated good news. The facts are simple. No one buys a barrel of oil to display above the mantle. No one derives happiness from a lump of coal. Energy is simply a means to do or get the things that we want
Black Gold Loses Glitter
The stunning 40% drop in the price of oil over the past few months has scrambled global economic forecasts, changed the geo-political landscape, and has severely pressured many energy sector investments. Economists are scratching their heads to determine if the drop is good or bad for the economy or whether cheap oil will add to or decrease unemployment, or complicate the global effort to "defeat" deflation.
Data Driven or Driven Data
There can be little doubt that data releases rather than experience or intuition are driving the economic conversation. This is perhaps a function of the disconnection that many people feel about an economy that they no longer understand.
The Clock is Ticking in Switzerland
For most of my career in international investing, I had always placed a great deal of faith in Switzerland's financial markets. In recent years, however, as the Swiss government has sought to hitch its wagon to the flailing euro currency and kowtow increasingly to U.S.-based financial requirements, this faith has been shaken.
The Abenomics Death Spiral
As Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe has turned his country into a petri dish of Keynesian ideas, the trajectory of Japans economy has much to teach us about the wisdom of those policies. And although the warning sirens are blasting at the highest volumes imaginable, few economists can hear the alarm.
Contemplating Stocks without QE
Some influences on the stock market are casual, subtle or open to interpretation, but the catalyst behind the current stock market rally really shouldn't be controversial. As far as stocks go, we have lived by QE. The only question now is, whether we will die without it.
It's The Economy, and They're Not Stupid
The sharp rebuke to the Obama administration delivered by the mid-term elections should not be construed as an endorsement of the GOP, which remains as unpopular as ever. Rather, as has been the case in the last few election cycles, voter revolts have hinged on continued dissatisfaction with the strength of the economy and the diminishing financial prospects of ordinary citizens.
Governments Need Inflation, Economies Don't
In an article in the UK's Telegraph on October 10, veteran economic correspondent Ambrose Evans-Pritchard laid bare the essential truth of the nearly universal current embrace of inflation as an economic panacea. While politicians, CEOs and economists talk about demand stimulus and the avoidance of a deflationary trap, Evans-Pritchard reminds us that inflation is all, and always, about debt management.
This Friday is Yom Kippur, the day when Jews around the world ask forgiveness for their transgressions from the year past. Rabbis remind the penitent to dwell on their sins of omission, in which they did nothing when a more thoughtful and proactive action was needed, and sins of commission, in which they actively participated in an unjust action. And while not all economists are Jewish, Gene Epstein the economics editor at Barron's, offered his thoughts on how this applies to the group.
Destroying the Dollar a Penny at a Time
Efforts are once again underway to discontinue the US penny due to the rising cost of zinc. But it is not zinc that is becoming more precious, but rather the dollar that is losing value relative to all commodities. A comparison of product prices over time shows that a dollar just isnt what it used to be.
Results 51–100 of 267 found.