Category Archives: Strategy & Scenarios

Inflation?

The increase in average hourly earnings (AHE) was taken as a sign of economic strength. Well, no. AHE is aggregate earnings divided by aggregate hours worked. So if hours worked is declining faster than earnings, AHE goes up. But is a sign of weakness. From ECRI.

In another case of up means down, the NOPE index is signalling trouble.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Those Words Again

Fed Chairman Powell, speaking this morning at the Jackson Hole festival of central banker self-love, promised to do “whatever it takes” to prevent another financial crisis.

Unfortunately, Mr Powell, your predecessors have done everything that it takes to guarantee another crisis, a truly special one this time.

Lost Decade

The last time we were here immediately preceded the S&P500’s first negative decade. Which is exactly what John Hussman is predicting by other means. Then there’s this:

Squeeze?

There are two big speculative shorts out there, just begging for squeezes. One of course is the record short position in Treasuries. Interest rates going up? Must mean short the long end, amirite? Not if recent history is any guide. The other is in volatility, where hedge funds are shorter than they were before the February massacre.

Wag The Dog

As I have said many times before, I believe the biggest mistake the CFTC has ever made is the securitization of VIX. This decision has allowed VIX futures, options and ETFs, trading in any and all of which provides staggering leverage on the overall market. Here’s a piece which shows both how easy it is to manipulate VIX, and the effect of VIX manipulation on the overall market.

I’m watching this as I write, as the manipulators crush price discovery. Of course the eventual consequences of this will be catastrophic – the “Volgasm” of early February was just the fat lady clearing her throat.

Perspective

“Just a flesh wound,” said the Black Knight.

Credit Impulse

The credit impulse isn’t the sudden urge to borrow – it is the additional income and concomitant spending that results from an increase in aggregate debt. Spending capacity = net income + credit impulse. Credit impulse (annual) = current debt amount – year ago debt amount. Not complicated.

The credit impulse is how easy money creates economic expansion as economic entities – households, corporations, governments, etc. are able to spend more than they earn.

The downside is that, sooner or later, the entities reach the limit of their ability to borrow. The credit impulse disappears and the economy shrivels. Incomes diminish and defaults begin as entities can no longer service their debt. Credit becomes very difficult to obtain, lenders fail as capital losses mount and the economy accelerates downhill as the credit impulse goes negative as borrowers are unable to roll over their debt.

Let’er Rip, Potato Chip

Larry Kudlow, newly minted economic advisor, was on CNBC last night, advising that the Fed should “Let the economy rip.”

Larry, if you want to see what happens when a country monetizes its deficits, look south.

Credit Impulse

US household debt ended the year at $13.15 billion, a y-o-y increase of $402 billion and a record. This means that about 2% of GDP came from the increase in household debt alone. It is likely that when corporate and government debt increases are taken into account that the economy is operating at a substantial loss.