“Unintended Consequences is full of substance, it is one of the must-read books of the year, and once I finish it I will be giving it a second read through right away.” - Tyler Cowen, Professor, George Mason University
October CPI showed continued disinflation month-over-month in durables and the service sector, but it will “take more time to be confident that disinflation is real.” @GeneralTheorist
Housing now dominates—accounting for more than half of service inflation pressure over 3 months. It is expected that housing will take time to reflect past rent increases still, but at the margin, the housing sector is already softening—which should hit Core CPI in about 12 months. Medical services distorted service inflation downward—something unlikely to be repeated in coming months. Overall, the October print doesn’t yet provide confidence that disinflation has spread from durables to services.
.@PaulKrugman argues that the rent surge of 2021-2022 was driven by changing preferences related to work-from-home during the pandemic, and has now largely ended.
A couple of notes about [the above] chart: I show rates of rent growth [reported by Zillow] over a three-month period, a practice many economists have converged on in recent discussions: Monthly data are too noisy, but annual growth rates lag too far behind a rapidly changing economy. I also show inflation in the average rental rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (labeled official rent above.) As you can see, the rental surge of 2021-22 was quite spectacular, with rents rising at double-digit rates for about a year and a half. But it has leveled off recently. Zillow’s index (a three-month average) fell in October; other private measures, like those published by Realtor.com and Apartmentlist.com, have been signaling rent declines for two or three months.
Bond markets forecast a 2023 recession, with long-dated Treasury yields below the Fed’s overnight benchmark range of 3.75-4%. @bloomberg
The bond market is zeroing in on a US recession next year, with traders betting that the longer-term trajectory for interest rates will be down even as the Federal Reserve is still busy raising its policy rate. Long-dated Treasury yields are already below the Fed’s overnight benchmark range -- currently 3.75% to 4% -- and there’s still an extra percentage point of central bank increases priced in for the coming months. Demand for Treasuries with longer tenors this week dragged the rate on 10-year and 30-year securities below the lower bound of the Fed’s overnight range. With front-end rates holding relatively steady, that’s seen an intensification of the most pronounced yield curve inversion in four decades -- a widely watched indicator of potential economic pain to come.
In November, 41% of American job listings required a college degree, down from 46% at the start of 2019, suggesting employers are relaxing degree requirements in tight labor markets. @wsj
US job postings requiring at least a bachelor’s degree were 41% in November, down from 46% at the start of 2019 ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to an analysis by the Burning Glass Institute, a think tank that studies the future of work. Degree requirements dropped even more early in the pandemic. They have grown since then but remain below pre-pandemic levels.
Young adults in both the UK and US are spending more time alone and increasingly reporting feeling “lonely.” @ft
On average, 53% of Americans aged over 65 spend more than eight hours of waking time on their own every day, according to my analysis of data from the American Time Use Survey. The trend remains unchanged for people over 60. But compared with a decade ago, the rise in the number of young people who spend more than eight hours on their own is alarming. Time on your own is one thing; feeling lonely is quite another. And young people seem worse affected by the latter. A March 2022 ONS survey found that 40% of women aged 16 to 29 in the UK report “feeling lonely often, always or some of the time,” compared with 22% of women over 70. For men, some 22% of this age group report feeling lonely, compared with 13% of the over-70s. And, of course, the impact of Covid lockdowns cannot be ignored.
Rare, widespread political protest spread across major Chinese cities over the weekend, seemingly driven by frustrations with zero-Covid. @ft
At least 10 cities, including Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, and Chengdu, were shaken by rare political protests over the weekend, triggering clashes with police and security officers that led to a spate of detentions. The sudden outbreak of civil disobedience was sparked by outrage after a deadly apartment fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang, was partly blamed on coronavirus restrictions. While most of the protests appeared to have been stamped out by Monday, they followed months of frustration, especially among China’s young people, with relentless lockdowns, quarantines, mass testing, and electronic surveillance under Xi’s zero-Covid policies.
China’s trade surplus has continued to grow since the pandemic, with manufacturing exports ~ 14% of GDP. The trade surplus is poised to grow, as China’s bill for imported commodities falls. @Brad_Sester
The popular deglobalization narrative simply isn't in China's trade data -- manufacturing exports are up massively, and that has pushed the surplus up even as China's commodity import bill reached record levels (the commodity bill is poised to fall now, by the way.) China's currency is (still) managed (in my judgment, even if the PBOC's reported reserves don't change,) so movements reflect the interaction of market pressure and political decisions. But at some level, a weaker CNY, even with a massive trade surplus, reflects a judgment by China's policymakers that they need to sustain the rise in exports (relative to China's GDP) even as global demand for manufactures drops (to offset China's domestic weakness.)
The FCC has banned China-based Huawei and ZTE from telecommunications sales into the American market, citing national security concerns. The move may further fuel tensions with Beijing. @ft
Washington’s top telecommunications regulator has barred China-based Huawei and ZTE from selling equipment in the US, citing national security concerns in a move that could further fuel tensions with Beijing. The Federal Communications Commission announced the step on Friday, saying it was the latest effort by US authorities to “build a more secure and resilient supply chain” in the telecommunications industry. “The action we take today covers base station equipment that goes into our networks. It covers phones, cameras, and WiFi routers that go into our homes. And it covers rebranded or ‘white label’ equipment that is developed for the marketplace. In other words, this approach is comprehensive,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, chair of the FCC.
The backlog of US weapons delivery has grown to $18.7B from more than $14B last December, as competing demands from Ukraine and Taiwan stress the military supply chain. @wsj
The flow of weapons to Ukraine is now running up against the longer-term demands of a US strategy to arm Taiwan to help it defend itself against a possible invasion by China, according to congressional and government officials familiar with the matter. The backlog of deliveries, which was more than $14 billion last December, has grown to $18.7 billion. Included in the backlog is an order made in December 2015 for 208 Javelin antitank weapons and a separate one at the same time for 215 surface-to-air Stinger missiles. None of them have arrived on the island, according to congressional sources and people familiar with the matter. Executives at Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co., and other defense companies say pandemic-driven supply-chain problems have set back production for many systems and that they have struggled to keep up with orders even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine boosted demand.
German defense spending is set to decline by €300M in 2023 as the country continues to fall short of its NATO-set obligation of spending the equivalent of 2% of GDP on defense. @ft
Nine months ago, in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Olaf Scholz declared a Zeitenwende — a turning point — for Germany’s military and its place in the world. But since then, barely any of the €100bn in extra funding the German chancellor pledged has made its way to the armed forces. The parliamentary body set up in the spring to allocate money to modernization and reform programs has met once. The defense ministry had no procurement proposals to submit to it. Its next sitting will not be until February. Far from rising, the 2023 defense budget, opposition leader Friedrich Merz noted, was set to shrink by €300mn based on current government plans. The lack of German action was “[giving] rise to considerable distrust” at NATO and in allied capitals, he claimed.
Companies with market capitalization of over $200B currently represent 30-35% of total capitalization, up from the 10-15% share that was normal until 2016. @policytensor
The polarization in favor of the biggest firms peaked at the end of last year. The megacap-to-midcap ratio of market cap has been cut from four to three in the course of 2022. But three is far from a collapse of the megacap boom. The 10-15% that was normal until 2016 has since given way to 30-35% of total capital controlled by the megacaps. I have used biweekly rolling averages for the graph. Note that this is a bottom-up census rather than an estimate. I am just adding up reliable third-party data at the granular level; every single ticker for which there is price and market cap data. This is the broadest possible universe of US equities for which I can find kosher data.
Temperatures anomalies that were once-in-1,000-yearly events in North America in the 1970s are now expected to be 5-yearly events, according to new research in @Nature
We find that slow- and fast-moving components of the atmospheric circulation interacted, along with regional soil moisture deficiency, to trigger a 5-sigma heat event. Its severity was amplified by ~40% by nonlinear interactions between its drivers, probably driven in part by land-atmosphere feedback catalyzed by long-term regional warming and soil drying. Since the 1950s, global warming has transformed the peak daily regional temperature anomaly of the event from virtually impossible to a presently estimated ~200-yearly occurrence. Its likelihood is projected to increase rapidly with further global warming, possibly becoming a 10-yearly occurrence in a climate 2 °C warmer than the pre-industrial period, which may be reached by 2050.
.@M_C_Klein cites the end of a spike in compensation for low-skilled workers and longer-term forward real interest rates well within their post-financial crisis range and argues against a deliberate economic downturn to curb inflation.
In the US, the earlier spike in lower-end wages relative to other workers' pay has completely stopped, while the split between labor income and profits has, if anything, moved in favor of investors. For better or worse, the popular and elite reactions to the inflation outbreak suggest that policymakers are not going to respond to future downturns the way they did to the pandemic. Soft budget constraints do not appear to be on the menu. And while there have been some constructive increases in public investment (and military spending) in the major economies, they do not seem large enough to move the needle. Financial markets may be wrong, but it is noteworthy that longer-term forward real interest rates are well within their post-financial crisis range, even if they have jumped over the past 12 months.
China reported almost 28,000 new Covid cases on Tuesday, with outbreaks in Beijing, Guangzhou, and Chongqing. Lockdowns are more extensive than during the Shanghai outbreak that slowed annual economic growth to 0.4% in Q2. @ft
Covid-19 cases in China are spiraling towards record highs, forcing officials to lock down again large swaths of the country. The world's second-biggest economy reported almost 28,000 new Covid cases on Tuesday, with outbreaks in Beijing, the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou, and the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing continuing to grow. Covid restrictions have hit areas responsible for one-fifth of China's gross domestic product. Officials in Beijing shut most non-essential businesses in the city's largest district, Chaoyang, which has a population of 3.4mn, and have closed restaurants and other entertainment venues in much of the city while telling residents to work from home.
Researchers at @NewYorkFed evaluate the pass-through of the fed funds rate to deposit rates (that is, deposit betas) over the past several interest rate cycles, and discuss factors that affect deposit rates.
We can observe that the gap [between the deposit rate and the Fed funds rate] is negative when rates are near zero (and deposit levels are high) and positive when rates rise. As a consequence, post-GFC and before the 1994 tightening, deposits were more attractive to depositors, and deposit supply was high relative to loans. However, as rates rise, the gap increases, depositors move elsewhere, banks raise their rates, and cumulative deposit betas rise. Since the 1990s, the response of deposits to monetary policy has been attenuated. This can be explained by the growth in deposits over the post-crisis period relative to investment opportunities.
.@WSJ notes that the Fed has been raising rates at the fastest pace in four decades (+375 basis points in 9 months.) Key variables such as housing starts have declined much more rapidly than in previous cycles.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman famously argued that "monetary actions affect economic conditions only after a lag that is both long and variable." Historically, housing starts begin to decline within two years of a Fed hike. New home construction fell by 24% from the Fed increase in March to July. Declines in home construction that follow Fed rate increases can take years before they bottom out.
Bridgewater notes that recent market conditions do not fit the historical pattern. Typically, rising discount rates and risk premiums lead to declining asset prices, which in turn leads to declining economic activity and earnings, and more pressure on equities.
There is typically a meaningful increase in equity expected returns (shown below in excess of cash) before the turn in the market because investors need to be incentivized back into equities and out of safe assets following significant losses. Today, based on our read, the re-rating of equity prices has a way to go. Our estimate for long-term excess expected returns remains relatively low compared to history. Consistent with that, analyst consensus for long-term corporate cash flow growth has barely budged over the last year, not yet reflecting the cooling of the economy we expect to see.
@bloomberg reports that the dollar value of global debt as a share of the global economy is 20 percentage points under its pandemic peak, as a result of inflation and a sharply appreciated dollar.
Total debt declined $6.4 trillion in the three months through September, to about $290 trillion, the IIF said in its quarterly Global Debt Monitor published Tuesday in Washington. That drop is amplified by the surging dollar, which makes loans denominated in other currencies look smaller when they’re measured in greenbacks. As a share of the world economy, debt has dropped to 343% -- about 20 percentage points below its pandemic peak last year. Soaring inflation in many economies has helped erode debt burdens measured against the size of economic output because the nominal value of gross domestic product has risen rapidly.
.@caseybmulligan and @TomasPhilipson estimate that The Inflation Reduction Act will reduce healthcare subsidies by $30B starting in 2025, leading to benefit cuts and premium increases for seniors. @WSJ
The Inflation Reduction Act will lead to benefit cuts and premium increases for seniors. We estimate that beginning in 2025, plan subsidies—specifically, the reinsurance subsidies for the beneficiaries with the most drug spending—will be cut $30 billion, out of revenue that currently totals about $110 billion. With $30 billion less to finance prescription benefits, something will have to give. Traditional Medicare members face a difficult choice in 2025: either take drastic cuts in drug coverage or switch to Medicare Advantage plans that cover prescriptions but may not cover the hospitals and doctors who are currently providing them care.
.@paulkrugman argues that once the demand shock from pandemic aid fades, “we’ll probably be back to a situation in which too much saving is chasing too few investment opportunities, and interest rates will be revisiting their old lows.”
Once [the economic boost from pandemic aid fades away,] we’ll probably be back where we were before the pandemic, with weak private investment demand holding interest rates down. Last time I wrote about this I stressed demography — the drastic slowdown in growth of the working-age population — plus what looks like disappointing rates of technological progress. Let me now put it a different way. [The macroeconomic accelerator effect] tells us that investment spending will only remain high if we expect rapid economic growth. And what we know now doesn’t support that expectation. What all this suggests to me is that the era of cheap money is not, in fact, over. A few years from now, we’ll probably be back to a situation in which too much saving is chasing too few investment opportunities, and interest rates will be revisiting their old lows