201708.24
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Getting Harder Not Easier To Find Macro Improvement in 2017 (Housing)

The most recent housing data continues to suggest weakness. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that sales of existing homes were down slightly last month from June. It continues a lower trend dating back to March. Overall, the level of resales is largely flat going back to the summer of 2015. At a 5.44…

201708.23
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If 2014 Was Ultimately a Letdown, What Might 2017 Be?

Today’s topic du jour isn’t even a word but an abbreviated name. Whereas yesterday markets were somewhat spooked by a relatively obscure British firm, Provident, today they are again by still another. This time it’s WPP Plc, an advertising aggregation firm that owns a sizable portfolio of ad agencies located all around the world. Given…

201708.21
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Weight Of Recovery

In 1871, W. Stanley Jevons in the preface to his book The Theory of Political Economy writes of a fundamental human issue with Economics. He makes a distinction between it and other sciences which do not suffer, as he said a century and a half ago, “the weight of authority.” Finding such words from so…

201708.16
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Stuck in the Basement Until Something Actually Changes

Housing construction continues to lag in 2017. Total permits in July fell on a seasonally-adjusted basis to 1.22 million. While not a huge decline, it continues to undershoot the post-taper trend that began in 2013 (after the mini-bubble wave crested from the trough of the housing bust). The break in that trend dates, unsurprisingly, to…

201708.09
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The Staggering Costs

How do we measure what has been lost over the last ten years? There is no single way to calculate it, let alone a correct solution. There are so many sides to an economy that choosing one risks overstating that facet at the expense of another. It’s somewhat of an impossible task already given the…

201707.31
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Hyping Lean

Activist hedge fund manager Bill Ackman succeeded in 2013 in ousting Procter & Gamble’s CEO Bob McDonald. It was noteworthy at the time because the company issued a strange memo repeating often verbatim answers to questions it posed to itself. Among them was if Mr. McDonald was fired or, as had been relayed publicly, he…

201707.27
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Durable Boring

Durable goods orders were up a seasonally-adjusted 6.5% in the month of June 2017. Nearly all of that gain, however, was due to a jump (131%) in new orders for civilian aircraft. That meant demand for transportation equipment, a highly volatile segment, rose 19% in the month. Excluding all that, durable goods were up just…

201707.24
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Missing Money Inverts

There was a funny sort of Congressional exchange all the way back in November 2005 that in a weird way defines our world today. At the nomination proceedings on whether to confirm Ben Bernanke as Alan Greenspan’s successor, Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky wanted the prospective Fed Chairman to first answer for M3. It had…

201706.09
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Wealth Paradox Not Effect

US Household Net Worth rose to a record $94.8 trillion in Q1 2017. According to the Federal Reserve’s Financial Accounts of the United States (Z1), aggregate paper wealth rose by more than 8% year-over-year mostly as the stock market shook off the effects of “global turmoil.” It was the best rate of expansion since the…

201706.08
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Questions Persist About China Trade

Chinese trade statistics were for May 2017 better than expected by economists, but on the export side questions remain as to their accuracy. Earlier this year discrepancies between estimates first published by the General Administration of Customs (GAC), those you find reported in the media, and what is captured by the National Bureau of Statistics…