The Retail Sales Shortage

Retail sales rose (seasonally adjusted) in March 2018 for the first time in four months. Related to last year’s big hurricanes and the distortions they produced, retail sales had surged in the three months following their immediate aftermath and now appear to be mean reverting toward what looks like the same weak pre-storm baseline. Exactly…


Bi-Weekly Economic Review: Investing Is Not A Game of Perfect

The market volatility this year has been blamed on a lot of factors. The initial selloff was blamed on a hotter than expected wage number in the January employment report that supposedly sparked concerns about inflation – although a similar number this month wasn’t mentioned as a cause of last Friday’s selling. The unwinding of…


Substantial Revisions to Consumer Credit, But Residual Seasonality Remains

One of main elements of the true seasonal Q1 weakness, or what has been called residual seasonality, has been the embrace of revolving credit. The Federal Reserve’s statistics for consumer credit over the last two years has displayed a pronounced trend, especially at the end of last year. Americans had, it seemed, made heavy use…


Scrooge’s Income ‘L’

We keep revisiting the concept of “residual seasonality” quite purposefully, even though on its face it is an absurd one. It is in every way emblematic of the current state of Economics and the commentary derived from it. Residual seasonality is the kind of delusion that has become commonplace, a coping mechanism for an economy…

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Three Months Now of After-Harvey Retail Sales; or, The Boom Narrative Goes Boom

If indeed this inflation hysteria has passed, its peak was surely late January. Even the stock market liquidations that showed up at that time were classified under that narrative. The economy was so good, it was bad; the Fed would be forced by rapid economic acceleration to speed themselves up before that acceleration got out…


It’s Q1 Again, Do You Know Where Consumer Spending Is?

Residual seasonality isn’t a residual, but it is seasonal. The concept was introduced several years ago mostly because Economists were finally being embarrassed about their meteorological predilections. It had become common, far too common, to blame snow, cold, and general wintry like conditions during the winter. Thus, something else had to be brought forward to…


The Einstein Stimulus Equation

The housing bubble began to reverse in the middle of 2006. Strangely, Economists presented with the possibility were almost uniformly confident that it wouldn’t matter. Forgetting the market and liquidity issues, even by the middle of 2007 it was clear the end of the housing bubble had already restrained economic growth. Confidence abounded anyway, largely…


The Other Side of Harvey and Irma

Retail Sales in January 2018 rose by a little over 5% year-over-year. That followed sharp downward revisions to December, where in the biggest retail month of any calendar sales are now thought to have gained just 3.7%. Both of those rates are concerning, particularly the latter, given that almost all the gain was registered during…


Retail Sales, Consumer Sentiment, And The Aftermath Of Hurricanes

Consumer confidence has been sky-high for some time now, with the major indices tracking various definitions of it at or just near highs not seen since the dot-com era. Economists place a lot of emphasis on confidence in all its forms, including that of consumers, and there is good reason for them to do so;…

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From ‘Definitely Transitory’ to ‘Imperfect Understanding’ In One Press Conference

When Janet Yellen spoke at her regular press conference following the FOMC decision in September 2017 to begin reducing the Fed’s balance sheet, the Chairman was forced to acknowledge that while the unemployment rate was well below what the central bank’s models view as inflationary it hadn’t yet shown up in the PCE Deflator. Of…