Posts tagged leading indicators
Is it over yet?

The new year has started like the old one ended; volatile and with confusion among punters and analysts with respect to the notional Narrative™. The volte-face in expectations for U.S. interest rates is a good example. In October, eurodollars were implying a Fed funds rate of just under 3.3% in December 2019 and 2020. At the beginning of the year, they had collapsed to 2.6% and 2.4%, respectively, effectively pricing in an imminent recession, and Fed rate cuts in 2020 to counteract that. Indeed, at some point, the Fed fund futures were even pricing cuts this year, a position that was stung badly on Friday by the hilariously bullish NFP report. Although neither the Fed nor markets know where the terminal/neutral rate—not to mention that this is a moving target—I reckon that the past six months have given us a decent clue. Anything close to 3.5% probably is too high, while sub-2.5% is too low, at least as long as the economy remains in a more-or-less stable expansion. Looking beyond the navel-gazing that is U.S. monetary policy, I am warming to the idea that (equity) markets will pivot towards cyclicals at some point this year, but we are not there yet. Over Christmas, I toyed with the idea that the next shoe to drop would be a downturn in the (hard) global economic data. The numbers have already deteriorated, but I reckon that they could slip further.

Read More
A Great Story

We will probably spend a big part of Q4 deciphering the economic data through the murky looking-glass of U.S. hurricanes and Asian typhoons, so just to be clear. I am still not happy with the trajectory of global leading indicators. Narrow money growth has collapsed, and recent data suggest that the slowdown will worsen in Q3. M1 in China rose 3.9% year-over-year in August, the slowest pace since the middle of 2015, and the trend in the U.S. and Europe also is poor. In the U.S., M1 is growing just under four percent on the year, the weakest since 2008, and the EZ headline also has slowed, though it is robust overall. The crunch in narrow money chimes with central bank balance sheet data. My home-cooked broad index, which includes the SNB and Chinese FX reserves, is now falling on a six-month basis. These data don’t mean the same in all economies—M1 is not a good LEI in the U.S. for example—and the Chinese numbers will turn up soon to reflect recent efforts to ease financial conditions. That said, a slowdown in US dollar liquidity matters for non-US markets, and the Chinese M1 numbers lead by six-to-nine months. The overall story is clear: Global liquidity growth has slowed to a trickle, warning about risks of growth and asset prices.

Read More
Plenty to worry about

It has been three weeks since I last updated these pages, and as I leaf through my charts, I am tempted to conclude that nothing substantial has changed. In the global economy, headline leading indicators signal stable and relatively robust growth. The first chart below shows that my diffusion index of macroeconomic leading indicators is rising gently, indicating that the pace of industrial production growth in the major advanced economies will rise to slightly above 4% year-over-year in the next few months. The two following charts show individual leading indicators in the large economies. They are all rising year-over-year, and momentum has accelerated, with the notable exception of the U.K's leading index still stuck below zero. Finally, I throw in charts of real M1 growth—arguably the best single macroeconomic leading indicator—and these data also are constructive. We have to watch the slowdown in China, but M1 growth rose in July, which does not suggest a liquidity crunch, at least not in Q3. 

Read More
Don't get soft on me

I am pressed for time this weekend, so instead of coming up with something entirely new, I thought that I'd do an addendum to my last post. I thought I dug relatively deep in that essay about whether global economic growth is accelerating. Obviously, it isn't easy to a give a clear answer to that question—we're doing economics after all—but the evidence from headline leading indicators suggest that the global economy picked up speed at the end of last year. Regular punters at this space, and my friends in the market, though, weren't impressed. Specifically, I was told that I was neglecting the spread between hard and soft data. 

Read More