201804.16
3
6

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…

201804.09
Off
4

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…

201803.29
1
10

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…

201803.08
8
5

Predictable Non-residual Seasonality

Our contention behind “residual seasonality” has always been that there is no residual but to some extent an understandable and easily explainable seasonal issue. Each Q1 appears to be unusually weak because, well, it is unusually weak. The reason is simply Christmas. Americans splurge for the holiday and then spend the first several months of…

201803.07
4
3

Really Looking For Inflation, Part 2

Continued from Part 1 What these unusually weak productivity estimates lean toward is, quite simply, the possibility the BLS has been overstating jobs gains for years. In early 2018, there is already the hint of just that problem in a 4.1% unemployment that doesn’t lead to any acceleration in wages and labor income. What it…

201803.07
2
3

Really Looking For Inflation, Part 1

Most people have been looking at Jerome Powell’s Chairmanship of the Federal Reserve as continuity, a comprehensive extension of Janet Yellen’s (and therefore Bernanke’s). This would by nature include all the nasty habits Chairman Yellen had picked up during her one term. At the top of that list is the word “transitory”, particularly how it…

201803.06
4
3

Questions Not of Success, But of the Effectiveness of Illusion

Last week, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda unleashed a mini-controversy with remarks he now claims were taken somewhat out of context. On March 2, speaking before Japan’s parliament, the central banker sure sounded quite confident: Right now, the members of the policy board and I think that prices will move to reach 2 percent…

201802.21
4
5

Not At All The Inflation They’ve Been Hoping For

The National Association of Realtors is confused. The trade group for real estate professionals and salespeople just reported a significant drop in the level of resales for January 2018. After peaking at an annual pace of 5.72 million (revised) in November, existing home sales declined to 5.56 million (revised) in December and now just 5.38…

201802.20
2
7

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…

201802.14
1
2

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…