Nothing causes more anger, confusion, and bewilderment than the trade deficit – that is, except for the federal budget deficit. In past decades, these were often called “the twin deficits.” They are not identical, but they are related.
Economists view the growth in labor productivity, or output per worker, as the single most important variable in an economy. It’s what lifts the standard of living, helps keep prices low, reduces government budget strains, and drives corporate profits. Over the next few decades, achieving faster productivity growth will be key as labor force growth slows. The outlook is encouraging, but uncertain.
As expected, nonfarm payrolls rebounded from hurricane-related effects. The unemployment rate edged lower, but that may have been noise. Leisure and hospitality was the sector most affected by Hurricane Irma, which might explain the choppiness in average hourly earnings (up 0.5% in September, flat in October).
The “Goldilocks” regime we described last month remains solidly in place – global economic growth (especially in manufacturing), strong corporate earnings and revenues, raging equity markets, low interest rates, and an almost frightening level of market complacency.
The economy grew at a 3.0% annual rate in the advance estimate for the third quarter, as the hurricanes appeared to have both positive and negative effects. The figures will be revised, but the story is unlikely to change much.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis will report its advance estimate of 3Q17 GDP growth on Friday. The figures will be revised, but investors should be aware that hurricane effects are likely to distort many of the GDP components.
International stocks have dominated capital market returns so far this year, prompting investors to pour nearly $75 billion into non-US equities through September 30, according to Morningstar. Yet, the case for overseas investing hinges on a longer-term rationale: Broadening your investment horizons opens up a world of opportunity.
Beyond all the twists, turns, and quirks in the economic data reports, the overall picture appears largely the same. Growth remains on a moderate track, somewhat beyond a long-term sustainable rate (as the job market continues to tighten).
As we transition from Q3 to Q4, the global economy and markets seem much like that third bowl of porridge in the Goldilocks story – everything is just right.
As expected, hurricanes Harvey and Irma had a significant impact on the nonfarm payroll data. However, it’s impossible to say exactly how much. The distorted September payroll figures were never going to be a factor in the Fed policy outlook. There will be two more employment reports before the mid-December policy meeting and we can expect a recovery from hurricane effects.