Is The Economy At The Cusp Of The Next Recession…Or Maybe Worse? (Part II)

By Burt Coons (AKA the Plunger) – Re-Blogged From

http://www.Silver-Phoenix500.com

Part II takes a look at the macro economic backdrop for the trade of the year. Spoiler alert- its not a pretty picture, but don’t think doom and gloom, instead embrace crisis and opportunity! With our understanding of the history of oil we now focus on the macro backdrop for our Big Trade.

When the tide goes out you find out who has been swimming naked”– Warren Buffet

“This time around everything gets revealed in the next recession”-Plunger

In the next recession those leaning the wrong way… the levered players, will be forced to heave out their non-productive assets at fire sale prices. Commodity producers with entrenched costs will have to increase production as lower prices beget even lower prices since insufficient cash flows can only be recovered through higher volume production.

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2017 Annual World Forecast

[This is a very comprehensive, very long article. Please be ready. -Bob]

Re-Blogged From Stratfor

The convulsions to come in 2017 are the political manifestations of much deeper forces in play. In much of the developed world, the trend of aging demographics and declining productivity is layered with technological innovation and the labor displacement that comes with it. China’s economic slowdown and its ongoing evolution compound this dynamic. At the same time the world is trying to cope with reduced Chinese demand after decades of record growth, China is also slowly but surely moving its own economy up the value chain to produce and assemble many of the inputs it once imported, with the intent of increasingly selling to itself. All these forces combined will have a dramatic and enduring impact on the global economy and ultimately on the shape of the international system for decades to come.

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Trump’s Biggest Enemy is the Fed

By Michael Pento – Re-Blogged From PentoPort

Right on the heels of Donald Trump’s stunning election victory, Democrats began to diligently work on undermining his presidency. That should surprise no one. It’s just par for the course in partisan D.C.

However, what appears to be downright striking is that the Keynesian elites may have found a new ally in their plan to derail the new President…the U.S. Federal Reserve.

First, it’s important to understand that the Fed is populated by a group of big-government tax and spend liberal academics who operate under the guise of an apolitical body. For the past eight years, they have diligently kept the monetary wheels well-greased to prop up the flat-lining economy.

However, since the election the Fed has done a complete about-face on rate hikes and is now in favor of a relatively aggressive increase in its Fed Funds Rate. And I use the term relatively aggressive with purpose, because the Fed raised interest rates only one time during the entire eight-year tenure of the Obama Presidency. Technically speaking, the second hike did occur in December while Obama still had one full month left in office. But coincidentally, this only took place after the election of Donald Trump.

Keep in mind a rate hiking cycle is no small threat. The Federal Reserve has the tools to bring an economy to its knees and has done so throughout its history of first creating asset bubbles and then blowing them up along with the entire economy.

Remember, it was the Fed’s mishandling of its interest rate policy that both created and burst the 2008 real estate bubble. By slashing rates from 6.5 percent in January 2001, to 1 percent in June 2003, it created a massive credit bubble. Then, it raised rates back up to 5.25 percent by June of 2006, which sent home prices, stock values and the economy cascading lower.

In the aftermath of the carnage in equity prices that ended in March of 2009, the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index soared 220 percent on the coat tails of the Federal Reserve’s money printing and Zero Interest Rate Policies. But during those eight years of the Obama Administration, the Fed barely uttered the words asset bubble. In fact, it argued that asset bubbles are impossible to detect until after they have burst.

But since the November election, the Fed’s henchmen have suddenly uncovered a myriad of asset bubbles, inflation scares and an issue with rapid growth. And are preparing markets for a hasty and expeditious rate hike strategy. The Fed has even indicated in the minutes from its latest FOMC meeting that it actually intends on beginning to reduce its massive $4.5 trillion balance sheet by the end of this year. In other words, trying to raise the level of long-term interest rates.

In a recent interview, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren has suddenly noted that certain asset markets are “a little rich”, and that commercial real-estate valuations are “pretty ebullient.” The Fed is anticipating as many as four rate hikes during 2017 with the intent to push stocks lower, saying that “rich asset prices are another reason for the central bank to tighten faster.” Piling on to this hawkish tone, San Francisco Fed President John Williams’s also told reporters that he, “would not rule out more than three increases total for this year.”

The Fed is tasked by two mandates, which are full employment and stable inflation. However, it has redefined stable prices by setting an inflation goal at 2%. Therefore, a surge in inflation or GDP growth should be the primary reasons our Fed would be in a rush to change its monetary policy from dovish to hawkish.

Some people may argue that the Fed has reached its inflation target and that is leading to the rush to raise rates, as the year over year inflation increase is now 2.8%. The problem with that logic is that from April 2011 all the way through February 2012 the year-over-year rate of Consumer Price Inflation was higher than the 2.8% seen today. Yet, the Fed did not feel compelled to raise rates even once. In fact, it was still in the middle of its bond-buying scheme known as Quantitative Easing.

Perhaps it isn’t inflation swaying the Fed to suddenly expedite its rate hiking campaign; but instead a huge spike in GDP growth. But the facts prove this to be totally false as well. The economy only grew at 1.6 % for all of 2016. That was a lower growth rate than the years 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015; and only managed to match the same level as 2012. Well then, maybe it is a sudden surge in GDP growth for Q1 2017 that is unnerving the Fed? But again, this can’t be supported by the data. The Atlanta Fed’s own GDP model shows that growth in the first three months of this year is only growing at a 1.2 percent annualized rate.

If it’s not booming growth, and it’s not run-away inflation and it’s not the sudden appearance of asset bubbles…then what is it that has caused the Fed to finally get going on interest rate hikes?

The Fed is comprised of a group of Keynesian liberals that have suddenly found religion with its monetary policy because it is no longer trying to accommodate a Democrat in the White House. It appears Mr. Trump was correct during his campaign against Hilary Clinton when he accused the Fed of, “Doing Political” regarding its ultra-low monetary policy. Now that a nemesis of the Fed has become President…the battle has begun.

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Inflation and War Are on the Horizon

By Ken Ameduri – Re-Blogged From The Gold Report

We’ve all known this was coming, we just didn’t know when.

For the first time in five years, the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge hit its target. Despite all of the deflationary forces, like lower consumer spending, higher savings rate and stagnant wages, the Fed was able to boost the rise in personal consumption expenditures (PCE) to over 2%.

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What the Death of the Penny Means for Our Money

By Stefan Gleason – Re-Blogged From Money Metals News Service

The dollar’s reign as the world reserve currency will come to an end some day. But before that happens, the penny will likely go into the dustbin of monetary history.

U.S. pennies have already been debased – going from 95% copper before 1982 to just 2.5% copper (and 97.5% zinc) since. Now there’s a push afoot in the Senate to junk the penny entirely.

All the sound and fury Republican leaders made about repealing Obamacare signified nothing. They aren’t eager to betray the healthcare lobby, insurance providers, and pharmaceutical companies who worked with Congress to write the law and who paid so handsomely into campaign funds. They would rather betray voters.
Supporters of eliminating the penny note that it no longer makes any economic sense to produce them.

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Is Stagflation Stalking?

By Gordon T Long – Re-Blogged From http://www.Gold-Eagle.com

It is important to anticipate whether Stagflation is stalking because the yield curve will start pricing it in which will place equity yields, earnings and PE growth multiples at risk.

We believe there are clear signs of stagflation already occurring and according to the recent Global Fund Manager Survey many already believe, if we don’t have elevated Inflation and an emerging period of Stagflation, we can soon expect it!

Yield Curve

What is particularly critical to the equities markets is how the yield curve will react differently regarding whether it anticipates increasing Inflation through Reflation or Stagflation. If it views reflation the yield curve will shift up but also steepen as long-term yields increase faster than short term yields. If it sees stagflation because the drivers for inflation also impede economic growth, then the yield curve also shifts upward,  but instead can be expected to flatten. The longer-term yields rise slower than the short term yields.

In both case yields rise which places pressures on equities but the shape of the yield curve has the most profound impact on equity prices. In the last 5 years  71% of equity index increases are a result of P/E multiple expansion from 10X to 18X. This places PE multiple of the S&P 500 currently in the 90 percentile of historical valuations relative to the last 40 years. Anticipating what may occur is presently of the utmost importance to smart investors.

The 10 Year US Treasury Yield lifted violently on the Trump victory and reflation policy expectations. After a brief consolidation it has again aggressively moved up but it is important to view this as part of three reasons bond yields increase – 1- Economic growth rate, 2- Inflation and 3-Creditworthiness. The current Treasury yield lift in my judgment is more about the pending US debt ceiling congressional hurdles and potential Creditworthiness factors than reflation or stagflation concerns.

Stagflation

STAGFLATION: “Is persistent high inflation combined with high unemployment and stagnant demand in a country’s economy”

Stagflation is very costly and difficult to eradicate once it starts, both in social terms and in budget deficits. It is a situation in which the inflation rate is high, the economic growth rate slows, and unemployment remains steadily high. It raises a dilemma for economic policy, since actions designed to lower inflation may exacerbate unemployment, and vice versa. Historically, inflation and recession were regarded as mutually exclusive, the relationship between the two being described by the Phillips curve.

Economists offer two principal explanations for why stagflation occurs:

First (Think: ’70’s) stagflation can result when the productive capacity of an economy is reduced by an unfavorable supply shock that causes an increase in the price of oil for an oil-importing country. Such an unfavorable supply shock tends to raise prices at the same time that it slows the economy by making production more costly and less profitable.  Milton Friedman famously described this situation as “too much money chasing too few goods”.

Second (Think today), both stagnation and inflation can result from inappropriate macroeconomic policies. For example, central banks can cause inflation by allowing excessive growth of the money supply,  and the government can cause stagnation by excessive regulation of goods markets and labor markets. Excessive growth of the money supply, taken to such an extreme that it must be reversed abruptly, can be a cause. Both types of explanations are offered in analyses of the global stagflation of the 1970s: it began with a huge rise in oil prices, but then continued as central banks used excessively stimulative monetary policy to counteract the resulting recession, causing a runaway price/wage spiral.

Let’s consider the four elements of stagflation, 1- Inflation, 2- Unemployment, 3- Demand and 4- GDP Growth to see whether this is a real possibility for the US.

1- Inflation

According to The Federal Reserve, entrusted with monitoring and managing Inflation pressures in the economy, until recently it is has been low and well below the Fed’s 2% target.  But the times they are a changing!

Since this time last year inflation expectations have  been increasing steadily and rose even more dramatically with the Trump Presidential victory. The Trump spike was a result of his proposed economic stimulus programs such as Infrastructure and Defense.

However, it is isn’t just expectations that have been increasing, but also actual price tags.

Some price increases have been much higher than how such measures as the CPI tabulates inflation.

From a long-term historical perspective (if you believe government statistics) the inflation rate is still relatively low.

However, taking out “special” government adjustments such as “Substitution”, “Hedonics” and “Imputation” along with the other changes that have been made by the government since the early 80’s, we see the real picture.

ShadowStats.com which tracks inflation closely show that in fact if we consider inflation in terms of how the government calculated it in 1980 (before interest rates started falling abruptly) you find it approximates 10% per annum!  I personally believe this much more closely matches what the average US household would suggest they are experiencing.

CONCLUSION: We DEFINITELY have inflation and it is worse than the Federal Reserve acknowledges or is actually aware!

2- Unemployment

According to the government narrative we have low unemployment with concerns about a tight labor market. This is pure fabrication or minimally misinformation and distortion of the facts. John Williams at ShadowStats again shows the reality.

The ShadowStats Alternate Unemployment Rate for January 2017 is 22.9%.

We presently have a labor force participation level at historically low levels with nearly 100 million working age adults not in the work force and many with jobs not able to to get sufficient hours to support a middle class life style.

As Presidential candidate observed at a campaign rally in front of 30,000 people. “If the unemployment rate was really 5% do you think we would really have this many people here!” Do you believe government statistics or “your lying eyes”?

CONCLUSION: We have high a very high unemployment and under-utilization of the American workforce.

3- Demand

What we have in the US is “Artificial Demand” rather than “Stagnant Demand”. The difference being that the former temporarily camouflages the later –  but only temporarily as in reality we have “Stagnant Demand” being camouflaged by massive credit expansion and low finance rates. This only brings demand forward creating a demand void in the future.

Consider that Consumer Credit is rising rapidly in comparison to Disposable Income. In other words we are borrowing increasingly to make ongoing purchases but those purchases are not increasing. Debt is surging to buy the same amount of stuff — not more. In reality real economic demand is shrinking and is only presently artificially being supported.

CONCLUSION: We have Weak Demand being supported by high levels of credit in relationship to disposable income. 

4- Growth

How can the US current GDP levels seen to be anything other than terribly weak! Thus far this quarter 1Q17 is tracking at 1.8%

The common narrative is that the US is entering a golden age in its economy and that this growth will drive stocks ever higher.  The reality is that GDP growth has collapsed. The third quarter of last year (3Q16) was the quarter everyone thought signaled a new beginning with growth of 3.5%. However, the very next quarter’s growth (4Q16) collapsed to 1.9%.

Put simply, growth is NOT coming soon if at all. Even Trump’s top economic advisor has admitted that GDP growth of 3% is unlikely until the end of 2018.

CONCLUSION:  We have historically weak economic growth

Summary

It is hard not to conclude that we are already living in a period of STAGFLATION which the markets have yet to fully recognize (may we suggest “Cognitive Dissonance”?).

There is little way out other than praying for the Trumponomic Economic miracle that the markets are so clearly euphoric about!  Of course I have never found prayer as a reliable approach to investment strategy!

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2016 Debt Binge Produces (Surprise!) 2017 Inflation. Guess What That Means For 2018?

By John Rubino – Re-Blogged From Dollar Collapse

Just as everyone was finally accepting the idea of deflation and negative interest rates, inflation decides to pay a return visit. In the past day, articles with the following headlines appeared in major publications around the world:

Swiss inflation rises at highest monthly rate in 5 years

China February producer inflation fastest in nearly nine years

Year-over-year import prices at highest level in five years

ECB keeps bond-buying, rates unchanged amid inflation flare-up

Food inflation doubles in a month as UK shoppers start to feel the pinch

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