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Futures Flat After Hawkish Fed Comments, Dollar Ascent Resumes

Futures Flat After Hawkish Fed Comments, Dollar Ascent Resumes

The downbeat market mood continued for a fourth day, with US stock futures…

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Futures Flat After Hawkish Fed Comments, Dollar Ascent Resumes

The downbeat market mood continued for a fourth day, with US stock futures turning red and erasing earlier gains after a three-day drop saw the S&P 500 lose $1.4 trillion in market capitalization amid renewed concerns about a hawkish Fed and a potential J-Pow bomb during Friday's J-Hole symposium (that said, with expectations so bearish, there is almost no way Powell can sound hawkish). S&P 500 futures dropped 0.1% at 7:00am ET after falling as much as 0.5%. Nasdaq 100 futures were also modestly red as the yield on the 10-year Treasury hit 3.05%. The US dollar reversed yesterday's sharp drop and extended its recent surge as the EURUSD resumed its plunge trading ever farther from parity, and at 0.992 last. Oil meanwhile has continued its ascent, pushing Brent above $100, and leading to the first Diesel price increase at the Pump since mid-June.

“Globally we haven’t seen a deceleration like this that has been so synchronized in many decades,” Frances Stacy, director of strategy at Optimal Capital Advisors LLC, said on Bloomberg Television. “I don’t want to be directional” in picking trades, she added.

The latest data showed economic activity weakening from the US to Europe and Asia, underlining the dire dilemma the Fed faces in hiking interest rates to bring down high inflation without sparking a recession. Still, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari said inflation is very high and the central bank must act to bring it back down to 2% and it is "very clear" they need to tighten monetary policy. Kashkari also stated that half to two-thirds of US high inflation is driven by supply-side shocks and help is needed on the supply side to get inflation down, with the more help they get from the supply side, the less the Fed has to do and will be better able to avoid a hard landing. Furthermore, he said there is currently no trade-off between employment and inflation mandates and they can only relax on rate hikes when they see compelling evidence inflation is heading toward 2%.

In US pre-market trading, Nordstrom plunged as much as 14% and was set for its biggest drop in nine months, after an outlook cut prompted analyst worries that the need to clear inventory and discounting could hurt margins in the second half. Brokers said that the higher-end department store owner’s results have been more volatile than expected and show that the company is “not immune” to a difficult macroeconomic backdrop. Bed Bath & Beyond shares rose as much as 18% in premarket trading following a WSJ report that the home goods retailer told prospective lenders that it has selected a lender for a loan after a marketing by JPMorgan Chase. Other notable premarket movers:

  • Urban Outfitters (URBN US) delivered quarterly results that look broadly in line with other apparel retailers, with a slowdown in lower-end brands and pressure on margins from markdowns, analysts say.
  • Frontier GroupHoldings (ULCC US) is resumed with an overweight rating at Morgan Stanley, with broker saying that the company is “the quintessential ultra-low-cost carrier” and has attractive margins.
  • Starbox (STBX US) shares jump as much as 30% in US premarket trading, with the Malaysian digital payments firm set for another day of gains after soaring in Tuesday’s Nasdaq Stock Market debut.

Stock futures were rangebound in muted volumes, as traders assessed the fact that directors at two of the Fed’s 12 regional branches favored a 100 basis-point increase in the discount rate in July. One of them, Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari, said US inflation is very high and the central bank must act to bring it back under control. All eyes remain on Fed officials as they head to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this week for an annual conference, where Chair Jerome Powell will have a chance to reset investor expectations when he speaks on the economic outlook at 10am on Friday.

“We’ve been getting mixed signals from the Fed, highlighting risks of over-tightening but also concerns over still elevated inflation,” Madison Faller, global strategist at JPMorgan Private Bank, told Bloomberg Television. “It’s going to take more than one reading, we are going to have to see inflation fall over several months before we can really get a sense of whether a Fed pivot is on the way.”

According to an analysis of 13F reports by Goldman, last quarter hedge funds ramped up bets on megacap US tech stocks and whittled down overall holdings to concentrate on favored names, with conviction growing to levels last seen before the pandemic. The funds boosted tech and consumer discretionary holdings, while cutting energy and materials wagers, a trade which once again backfired spectacularly as tech crashed and energy soared. Since then however, the story has changed as Nasdaq 100 valuations rose well above the average for the past decade as the index soared from its June lows. The gauge remains under pressure, however, as higher rates weigh on the present value of future profits, hurting growth sectors like tech.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 index edged lower, heading for a fourth straight day of declines, with retailers under pressure after US peer Nordstrom trimmed its full-year outlook. Luxury-goods giant Richemont surged after selling a stake in its online business. European natural gas prices increased, with outages at plants in the US and Norway adding to supply curbs from Russia. Here are some of the biggest European movers today:

  • Richemont shares rise as much as 3.3% after the luxury retailer announced the sale of its YNAP stake to US online retailer Farfetch, which was up 9.4% in US premarket trading
  • Tenaris gains as much as 3.3%, extending Tuesday’s 8.8% jump, with Banca Akros upgrading the company to buy from accumulate noting its outlook remains positive
  • ASR Nederland shares jump as much as 4.1% after the insurer reported interim results. KBC says the company delivered solid results despite headwinds from Non-Life segment
  • Lookers shares gain as much as 8%. The motor vehicle dealer’s pretax profit beat last year’s “exceptional performance” and was “comfortably ahead” of expectations, Peel Hunt (buy) says
  • CTS Eventim shares gain as much as 4% after the ticket seller’s 2Q results, with Jefferies pointing to a significant beat driven by ticketing
  • Norwegian fish farming stocks drop, led by Mowi, Leroy and Austevoll after the trio reported their respective quarterly results, with DNB expecting cuts to Mowi consensus estimates
  • Vimian shares sink as much as 14% to a record low after the animal health company reported 2Q results that saw only slight organic growth and a lower Ebita margin
  • Sydbank shares slide as much as 6.1% after the Danish lender’s latest results included a miss on net income, while saying its 2022 net profit will likely be in upper end of the previously reported range
  • Agfa-Gevaert shares decline as much as 11%, the most intraday since May 2021, despite a 2Q revenue beat as ING questioned the quality of the earnings

Earlier in the session, Asian stocks headed for a fifth day of declines, weighed down by losses in China, with investors trimming risky bets as they await clarity on the Federal Reserve’s policy path at the Jackson Hole meeting. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped as much as 0.7%, set for its longest losing streak in two months. The consumer discretionary sector was the biggest drag. China’s CSI 300 Index slumped 1.9%, the most among regional benchmarks, with electric-vehicle linked shares leading the declines after CATL reported weaker battery margins. Fed Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari said US inflation is very high and the central bank must act to bring it under control, in the latest run of hawkish remarks by US officials. That, coupled with weak US business activity data overnight, renewed concerns about global growth as central bankers gather for an annual symposium in Jackson Hole. 

“We could see more short-term pressure on equities, starting in the US. This could also spill over to Asia given that corporate earnings in APAC are relatively sensitive to the region’s export performance,” said Tai Hui, APAC chief global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management. “We expect market sentiment to remain cautious as we approach the Jackson Hole meeting.”   In addition to a flurry of earnings this week from the region’s heavyweights, investors are also closely watching the impact of a drought in China that has led to shutdown of factories. 

Japanese equities ended lower, erasing earlier gains, as investors assess the potential for further tightening by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation.  The Topix Index fell 0.2% to 1,967.18 as of market close Tokyo time, while the Nikkei declined 0.5% to 28,313.47. Sony Group Corp. contributed the most to the Topix Index decline, decreasing 1.4%. Out of 2,170 stocks in the index, 1,165 rose and 861 fell, while 144 were unchanged. “The key point to watch on the Jackson Hole is whether Powell will be hawkish, or a little less hawkish,” said Ayako Sera, a market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.

India’s benchmark equities index closed slightly higher, after seesawing between gains and losses several times throughout the day, helped by an advance in lenders.  The S&P BSE Sensex rose 0.1% to close at 59,085.43 in Mumbai, after falling as much as 0.5% earlier in the session. The NSE Nifty 50 Index added 0.2%.   ICICI Bank Ltd. provided the biggest boost to the Sensex, which saw 16 of the 30 member stocks ending higher. Fourteen of 19 sectoral sub-indexes compiled by BSE Ltd. rose, led by a gauge of realty companies.  Investors will focus on Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s speech at the Jackson Hole symposium on Friday for a sense of how aggressive the US central bank will be in the face of weak economic trends.  “Market strategists blamed the three-day losing streak in U.S. stocks on a number of factors, including nerves ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s speech on Friday, combined with a drumbeat of downbeat economic news, along with anxieties about rising Treasury yields and a stronger U.S. dollar,” Deepak Jasani, head of retail research at HDFC Securities Ltd., wrote in a note. 

In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed and the greenback advanced against most of its Group-of-10 peers. Treasuries advanced, outperforming European peers, amid some paring of Fed rate hike bets. The euro traded in a narrow range around $0.950. Germany’s 10-year yield climbed to the highest since July 1 as money markets added to ECB rate-hike wagers before paring most of that rise. The pound slipped against the dollar and was steady versus the euro. Gilts underperformed with UK 2-, 5 and 30-year yields extending their advance to the highest since 2008, 2011 and 2014 respectively, before paring; the 10-year yield rose to the highest in two months.

In rates, Treasuries were mixed with 20-year sector outperforming, and broader market faring better than UK and euro-zone bond markets, where a full point of ECB hikes by October is priced in for the first time with energy seen adding to inflationary pressures. The 10Y TSY yield rose modestly to 3.05% after trading north of 3.00% all session. The New 2-year is ~1bp richer on the day with UK 2-year cheaper by ~15bp, German 2-year by ~6bp; 20-year Treasuries are richer by ~1bp outright and ~2bp on the 10s20s30s fly. The US Treasury auction cycle resumes with $45b 5-year at 1pm ET, concludes with $37b seven-year Thursday; Tuesday’s 2-year sale tailed by 1.4bp.

In commodities, WTI crude drifted above $94 a barrel, bolstered by shrinking US stockpiles and possible OPEC+ output cuts.

Bitcoin is incrementally softer but resides towards the mid-point of relatively contained parameters and remains comfortably above the USD 21k mark.

Looking at the day ahead now, and data releases from the US include the preliminary durable goods orders and core capital goods orders for July, along with pending home sales for that month too. Otherwise, earnings releases include Nvidia, Salesforce and Royal Bank of Canada.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures little changed at 4,133.25
  • STOXX Europe 600 little changed at 431.26
  • MXAP down 0.5% to 157.88
  • MXAPJ down 0.6% to 512.64
  • Nikkei down 0.5% to 28,313.47
  • Topix down 0.2% to 1,967.18
  • Hang Seng Index down 1.2% to 19,268.74
  • Shanghai Composite down 1.9% to 3,215.20
  • Sensex little changed at 58,991.22
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.5% to 6,998.12
  • Kospi up 0.5% to 2,447.45
  • German 10Y yield little changed at 1.32%
  • Euro down 0.2% to $0.9949
  • Gold spot up 0.1% to $1,750.10
  • U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 108.65

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari said US inflation is very high and the central bank must act to bring it back under control
  • The head of macro and FICC research at Sweden’s biggest lender, SEB AB, has urged the Riksbank to stop selling off its own currency because it risks hurting the economy
  • The latest round of euro weakness has resulted in a series of bearish options structures for hedge funds and macro accounts. First stop for the common currency could be the $0.98 handle
  • The world’s largest pension fund said its equity investments based on environmental, social and governance criteria have outperformed as global stocks slump on concerns over inflation and monetary tightening
  • Oil rose for a second day as an industry report signaled another drawdown in US crude inventories, adding to a tightening supply outlook after Saudi Arabia flagged possible cuts to production
  • The UK imported no fuel from Russia for the first time on record in June as the government achieved its ambition to phase out all purchases of natural gas and oil in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine

A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk

Asia-Pacific stocks were mixed and only partially shrugged off the lacklustre lead from global counterparts. ASX 200 reclaimed the 7,000 level and was led by the tech and commodity-related sectors although gains were capped amid another busy day of earnings releases. Nikkei 225 failed to sustain opening advances following reports that Japan is considering lowering the COVID employment subsidy. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp declined with property names pressured by several bearish factors including weak developer earnings and a default warning by Guangzhou R&F Properties, while China is also reportedly probing real estate executives for possible law violations.

Top Asian News

  • China Securities Times noted that moderate CNY depreciation is positive for export competitiveness and that the widening US-China interest rate spread has a limited impact on CNY.
  • Hong Kong is considering a storm level 8 from 18:00 local time 11:00BST/06:00EDT which could result in a market closure on Thursday, according to Bloomberg.
  • Japanese PM Kishida announced to relax border rules on COVID and will waive tests for vaccinated passenger arrivals from September 7th, but added there was no decision yet on raising the number of daily arrivals, according to Reuters.

Cautious price action in European hours with fresh drivers limited and the docket sparse ahead of Jackson Hole commencing on Thursday (Powell Friday), Euro Stoxx 50 -0.1% Stateside, futures are in-fitting both directionally and in terms of magnitude, ES -0.1%. In Europe, the FTSE 100 is the marginal laggard with metals (ex-aluminium) under broad pressure as the USD gains momentum.

Top European News

  • Scottish Power CEO proposed to UK Business Secretary Kwarteng capping household energy bills at around GBP 2000/year which would need funding of over GBP 100bln over two years, according to FT citing sources.
  • ECB's Rehn says the investigation phase for the digital EUR is expected to conclude in October 2023, will then determine whether to embark on actually building a digital EUR.
  • Ukraine Latest: US to Mark Kyiv’s Independence With New Arms
  • BNP Hires Zink Secher as Head of ESG Ratings Advisory for EMEA
  • Cineworld Short Seller Argonaut Says Shareholders to Get Nothing
  • Euro Traders Bet on Move Below $0.98 as Bold Wagers Also in Play

FX

  • DXY attempted to claw back some of Tuesday’s losses overnight but lost momentum at a current session peak of 108.81.
  • EUR is subdued as the bearish bias persists, GBP/USD is under similar mild pressure around (and marginally below) 1.1800.
  • Non US-dollars are all softer against the USD whilst havens JPY and CHF outperform.

Fixed Income

  • Initial pronounced EGB pressure briefly abated and brought benchmarks into positive territory; though, this failed to cement itself.
  • Gilts are leading the downside though are circa. 20 ticks off worst levels, complex cognisant of the upcoming Ofgem announcement and inflation/rate implications.
  • USTs are bucking the trend once more and are incrementally positive with 5yr issuance due and the curve incrementally steeper.

Commodities

  • WTI and Brent October futures have been grinding higher since the European entrance following an APAC session of consolidation.
  • Spot gold has been drifting higher after mounting the USD 1,750/oz mark.
  • Base metals are mixed with 3M LME copper lower but still north of USD 8,000/t, whilst aluminium outperforms.
  • US Private Inventory report (bbls): Crude -5.6mln (exp. -0.9mln), Cushing +0.7mln, Gasoline +0.3mln (exp. -1.5mln), Distillates +1.1mln (exp. +0.6mln).
  • Canada and Germany signed a hydrogen alliance deal to accelerate exports of Canadian hydrogen to Germany by 2025, according to Reuters.
  • Russia's Sakhalin has scrapped a gas shipment to a buyer due to a payment issue, via Bloomberg.
  • Major oil traders and some producers have ceased direct sales of crude to India's Nayara energy amid concerns regarding Russian sanctions, according to Reuters sources.
  • American Automobile Association says that US diesel pump prices have climbed for the first time since mid-June.
  • Indonesia extends the palm oil export levy waiver until October 31st, according to the Trade Minister.

US Event Calendar

  • 07:00: Aug. MBA Mortgage Applications, prior -2.3%
  • 08:30: July Durable Goods Orders, est. 0.8%, prior 2.0%; Durables-Less Transportation, est. 0.2%, prior 0.4%
    • July Cap Goods Orders Nondef Ex Air, est. 0.3%, prior 0.7%
    • July Cap Goods Ship Nondef Ex Air, est. 0.5%, prior 0.7%
  • 10:00: July Pending Home Sales (MoM), est. -2.6%, prior -8.6%; YoY, est. -21.4%, prior -19.8%

DB's Tim Wessel concludes the overnight wrap

Despite the best efforts of data releases, US rates markets just do not want to fundamentally re-price the outlook until Chair Powell’s remarks this Friday at Jackson Hole (and, to an extent, the next round of employment and inflation data before the September FOMC). Our US economists have published a preview for his remarks (link here), with the one-line takeaway being they are looking for the Chair to fill in reaction function details. These being my last hours on the clock before the Chair’s remarks (as we here at EMR HQ navigate the summer holiday minefield that my inbox stuffed with automatic out-of-office replies suggest is ubiquitous across the financial sector) I can’t help but leave you, dear reader, with my final thoughts. The retracement of every rally following downside data surprises, along with the build up in short policy futures positions, suggests that the market is looking for a very hawkish tone from the Chair. That a priori expectations are for such hawkish messaging, the bar to clear for rates to selloff further is that much higher. It does not seem like the Chair can deliver the sort of shock necessary to drive a material re-pricing of policy, especially with inflation and employment data still due before the September FOMC, but time will tell. The case that a hawkish shock is to come is that the Chair most frequently has to speak publicly on behalf of the Committee, and this is his opportunity to slant his remarks towards his own personal bias. The Chair may well personally weigh the balance of risks toward worse inflation outcomes, but let’s see if his lean is strong enough to satiate the market’s appetite.

The latest example of rates markets retracing back to their starting point came yesterday, when PMIs, the Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index, and New Home Sales all missed to the downside in quick succession. In particular, the Services PMI (44.1 v 49.8 expected) fell to its lowest on record outside of the pandemic, with the survey showing weakness across new sales, new orders, and employment elements, along with abating price pressures. Nevertheless, respondents were optimistic about the path ahead, not making it any easier for market participants to disentangle signal from noise. Rounding out the other morning data, Manufacturing PMI fared better than Services, printing at 51.3 vs. 51.8 expected, still leaving the Composite at 45.0, its worst reading since February 2021. The Richmond Fed Manufacturing index was -8 vs. -2 expectations, while there were 511k new home sales in July vs. 575k expectations, another print on the downbeat for US housing markets.

Following the lackluster data, 2yr Treasury yields fell -11.8bps peak-to-trough, only, as intimated, to stage a retracement to end the day a mere -1.0bp lower. Similarly, 10yr Treasury yields were -9.3bps lower, peak-to-trough, but retraced with more vigor, nearly returning to intraday highs, ultimately closing +3.2bps higher at 3.05%. The S&P 500 followed a similar cadence, staging an initial bad-news-is-good-news rally following the data, increasing +0.53%, reverting to a narrow range just in the red the rest of the day, finishing down -0.22%. The NASDAQ danced to the same tune, but was even more reluctant to re-evaluate the outlook, closing perfectly flat, day-over-day. Futures are currently lower as we go to press, with the S&P 500 (-0.37%), NASDAQ 100 (-0.46%) and DAX (-0.65%) all in the red.

Most European assets were similarly subdued, with 10yr bunds (+1.2bps), OATs (+2.0bps), and BTPs (+1.8bps) trading near the prior day’s levels. The bund curve also twist steepened, with 2yr yields falling -3.8bps. Risk fared a touch worse; the STOXX 600 fell -0.42% and the DAX was -0.27% lower. Eurozone PMIs were a bit stronger than US counterparts, across Manufacturing (49.7 vs. 49.0), Services (50.2 vs. 50.5), and the Composite (49.2 vs. 49.0). Meanwhile, consumer confidence bounced back from record lows set in July, printing at -24.9 (vs. -28.0). Sentiment in Europe was boosted by a slight retrenchment in energy prices; German power fell -1.92%, the first daily decline in more than two weeks, while natural gas futures were -2.78% lower. The euro was able to temporarily break through parity versus the US dollar after the weak US data, but finished the day below the mark at $0.997.

Gilt yields increased more than other core sovereign bonds, with 2yr yields +9.8bps higher and 10yr benchmarks +6.1bps higher. UK Manufacturing PMI registered a poor 46.0 (vs. 51.0), though Services (52.5 vs. 51.6) and the Composite (50.9 vs. 51.0) fared better. However, the fear that UK inflation will continue to present a large problem is forcing gilts to underperform. On top of that, the threat of looming labour strife only intensifies the risks ahead. The FTSE 100 underperformed, falling -0.61%.

Following headlines from the Saudi energy minister yesterday, Brent crude oil rallied +3.39% closing above $100/bbl for the first time since late July. While progress on the Iranian nuclear deal still seemed positive, up to nine OPEC+ members confirmed they would support production cuts if Iranian supply came back online or if the global economy entered a recession, fueling the rally.

Overnight, Asian equity markets are again slipping into the red this morning amid growth fears. The Hang Seng (-1.49%) is leading losses with the Shanghai Composite (-1.38%), the CSI (-0.63%) and the Nikkei (-0.40%) all trading in negative territory. Elsewhere, the Kospi (+0.02%) is oscillating between gains and losses after opening higher.

Moving on to FX news, the Chinese Yuan (-0.42%) fell to its weakest level in almost two years against the US dollar, trading at 6.86 per dollar, as the PBOC looks to ease policy to support the economy while property sector troubles remain top of mind.

Minneapolis Fed President Kashkari in an overnight speech reiterated the need for more aggressive rate hikes to control inflation and sees another two full percentage points by the end of next year. Kashkari downplayed the two-sided risk of Fed tightening that has permeated recent discourse, noting that if inflation were at 4%, he would be willing to consider a more gradual path to avoid the risk of overdoing tightening. Alas, it is not.

To the day ahead now, and data releases from the US include the preliminary durable goods orders and core capital goods orders for July, along with pending home sales for that month too. Otherwise, earnings releases include Nvidia, Salesforce and Royal Bank of Canada.

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/24/2022 - 07:33

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The Fed’s Big Problem, There Are Two Economies But Only One Interest Rate

The Fed’s Big Problem, There Are Two Economies But Only One Interest Rate

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

On average, the economy…

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The Fed's Big Problem, There Are Two Economies But Only One Interest Rate

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

On average, the economy looks OK. But averages are misleading. Several large groups of people are struggling. They all have one thing in common.

Case-Shiller home price index, CPI rent index, and the index of hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers.

Who’s Unhappy?

Those looking to buy a home but cannot afford the record high prices, are not faring well in this economy.

The last great time to buy a home was in 2012. Over the next eight years, home prices moved further and further away from wages.

When the Covid pandemic hit in 2020, we had record QE, record fiscal stimulus, mortgage rates hit record lows, and inflation hit the highest levels in 40 years.

In response, home prices soared out of sight. Worse yet, the price of rent rose at least 0.4 percent for 28 straight months.

Rent of Primary Residence vs OER

Data from the BLS, chart by Mish

Rent vs OER Chart Notes

  • OER stands for Owners’ Equivalent Rent. It is the price one would pay to rent their own house, unfurnished without rent.

  • Rent of primary residence is just what one would expect. It is measured price of rent, unfurnished, without utilities.

Mass Confusion Over OER

Contrary to widespread myth, OER is a measured price with very minor imputations that do not matter. OER is designed to track rent prices and it does. It is a measured price.

Much of the confusion comes from a misquoted BLS statement on OER, emphasis mine.

The expenditure weight in the CPI market basket for OER is based on the following question that the Consumer Expenditure Survey asks of consumers who own their primary residence: “If someone were to rent your home today, how much do you think it would rent for monthly, unfurnished and without utilities?

Note that these responses are not used in estimating price change for the shelter categories, only the weight.

People quote that question as if that is how the BLS measures prices. It doesn’t. Prices, except for minor, irrelevant imputations, are based on actual measured rents.

No One Pays OER

The problem with OER is the weight not the measure. No one actually pays OER. Rather, people pay mortgages.

Yet, OER it is the single largest component of the CPI with a weight of 26.769 percent. Rent has a weight of 7.671 percent.

Many people conclude that the CPI is overstated because no one pays OER. The problem with this idea is home prices are at record highs and home prices are not in the CPI at all.

Homes are not in the CPI because economists consider them a capital expense not a personal expense.

But so what? Inflation matters not just consumer inflation. The Fed has made a big mess of things by ignoring obvious housing bubbles.

30-year mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates courtesy of Mortgage News Daily, annotations by Mish

When the Fed slashed interest rates to zero, mortgage rates fell below 3.0% for an extended period allowing everyone to refinance at 3.0 percent or below. Most did.

OER rose from 332 to 403 between January of 2020 and January of 2024. That’s a gain of 21.4 percent.

Rent rose from 338 to 412. That’s a gain of 21.9 percent.

Whereas the renter is struggling, the homeowner refinanced lower putting extra money in his pocket every month.

Home owners also benefitted from rising wages, rising value of their home and a stable, not rising mortgage payment.

Winners and Losers

  • The homeowners are generally doing OK. The home ownership rate is 65.7 percent.

  • The 34.3 percent who rent are generally not doing OK.

The study did not break things down by home owners vs renters, but I suspect most of the use is by renters.

According to the latest CPI report, rent was up at least 0.4 percent for the 29th straight month. Shelter, a broader category, rose 0.6 percent. Food rose 0.4 percent.

CPI data from the BLS, chart by Mish

Whereas home owners have a fixed payment, likely refinanced lower than their initial mortgage, renters faces huge increases, not every month, but once a year, big bang.

For discussion please see Another Hotter Than Expected CPI Led by Shelter, Up Another 0.6 Percent

The stress is easy to spot by demographics.

Credit Card and Auto Delinquencies Soar

Credit card debt surged to a record high in the fourth quarter. Even more troubling is a steep climb in 90 day or longer delinquencies.

Record High Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt rose to a new record high of $1.13 trillion, up $50 billion in the quarter. Even more troubling is the surge in serious delinquencies, defined as 90 days or more past due.

For nearly all age groups, serious delinquencies are the highest since 2011 at best.

Auto Loan Delinquencies

Serious delinquencies on auto loans have jumped from under 3 percent in mid-2021 to to 5 percent at the end of 2023 for age group 18-29.

Age group 30-39 is also troubling. Serious delinquencies for age groups 18-29 and 30-39 are at the highest levels since 2010.

For further discussion please see Credit Card and Auto Delinquencies Soar, Especially Age Group 18 to 39

Generational Homeownership Rates

Home ownership rates courtesy of Apartment List

The above chart is from the Apartment List’s 2023 Millennial Homeownership Report

Those struggling with rent are more likely to Millennials and Zoomers than Generation X, Baby Boomers, or members of the Silent Generation.

The same age groups struggling with credit card and auto delinquencies.

On Average Everything is Great

Average it up as Fed and all the clueless economic and political writers do, and things look great.

This is why we have seen countless stories attempting to explain why people should be happy.

Krugman Blames Partisanship

OK, there is a fair amount of partisanship in the polls.

However, Biden isn’t struggling from partisanship alone. If that was the reason, Biden would not be polling so miserably with Democrats in general, blacks, and younger voters.

In addition to Biden’s Age and Senility, this allegedly booming economy left behind the renters and everyone under the age of 40 struggling to make ends meet.

Powell Pleads Patience

In Jerome Powell’s Interview with 60 Minutes, the Fed Chairman Tells 60 Minutes US Fiscal Path is Unsustainable

Powell: When high inflation really threatens to become persistent, we use our tools to bring down inflation. It’s very important for that young couple — and particularly for younger couples starting out who may not have great financial means, that we succeed in this effort.

60 Minutes: You’re asking the American people for patience?

Powell: Yes. And I think people have been patient and have been through a pretty difficult time. And I think now we’re coming through that time and starting to feel a little bit better about things.

Powell, Krugman, and most of the economic writers, even at the Wall Street Journal have not managed to figure out over a third of the nation is struggling.

Many Are Addicted to “Buy Now, Pay Later” Plans

Buy Now Pay Later, BNPL, plans are increasingly popular. It’s another sign of consumer credit stress.

For discussion, please see Many Are Addicted to “Buy Now, Pay Later” Plans, It’s a Big Trap

The study did not break things down by home owners vs renters, but I strongly suspect most of the BNPL use is by renters.

What About Jobs?

Jobs Soar but Full Time Employment Is Barely Changed Since May 2022

Nonfarm payrolls and employment levels from the BLS, chart by Mish.

But hey, that’s OK because on average, the economy is great. Or do we really mean, on average the stock market is great, and the average homeowner is fine?

Hello Mr. Powell

There are two economies (the homeowners/asset holders and everyone else). However, there is only one interest rate. Patience please says Powell.

Lowering rates risks risks fueling the housing bubble and the most expensive stock market in history.

Hello Mr. Powell, it’s your move.

Tyler Durden Wed, 02/21/2024 - 07:20

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Dozens Of Major Companies Say 2024 Will Be The Year Of Cost Cutting

Dozens Of Major Companies Say 2024 Will Be The Year Of Cost Cutting

We already know that the Biden administration and the BLS are ignoring…

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Dozens Of Major Companies Say 2024 Will Be The Year Of Cost Cutting

We already know that the Biden administration and the BLS are ignoring the massive layoffs happening across corporate America in favor of pushing some asinine narrative that 'Bidenomics', whatever that even means, is somehow creating jobs other than 2nd and 3rd jobs for senior citizens driving Uber when they should be retired. 

Now, it's becoming clear that 2024 could be the year when corporations continue 'cost cutting', which could mean a number of strategies, almost all of which result in less employees and less pay instead of more. 

Executives from various industries, including toy, cosmetics, and technology sectors, are cutting costs and jobs, even in profitable companies such as Mattel, PayPal, Cisco, Nike, Estée Lauder, and Levi Strauss, CNBC wrote this week.

Macy's plans to shut five stores and cut over 2,300 jobs, while airlines like JetBlue and Spirit offer buyouts, and United reduces in-flight services. This trend is driven by consumer caution and investor pressure for companies to adapt to changing demand and higher expenses, the report says.

Significant labor contracts in sectors like airlines and UPS have raised costs, challenging businesses accustomed to passing these on to consumers. Remember those celebrations people were having about UPS drivers winning their new contracts just months ago? UPS is already laying off drivers as a result.

Walmart is expanding its store network, contrasting with the broader cost-cutting movement. Major banks have already reduced their workforce significantly, anticipating economic shifts. U.S. companies announced significant job cuts in January, indicating a focus on profit optimization amid steady earnings reports without relying on substantial price or sales increases.

A full list of major companies that have laid off workers or implemented strategies to cut costs include:

  • Mattel
  • PayPal
  • Cisco
  • Nike
  • Estée Lauder
  • Levi Strauss
  • Macy’s
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Spirit Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • UPS
  • Meta (parent of Facebook and Instagram)
  • Amazon
  • Alphabet (parent of Google)
  • Microsoft
  • Warner Bros. Discovery
  • Disney
  • Paramount Global
  • Comcast (parent company of NBCUniversal)
  • Delta Air Lines
  • General Motors
  • Ford Motor
  • Stellantis
  • Chipotle
  • Wells Fargo
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Home Depot

Meta's restructuring in 2023 set a precedent for tech giants like Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Cisco to reduce their workforces. But the trend extends beyond tech, with UPS cutting 12,000 jobs and others in retail and entertainment also announcing layoffs.

Significant cost savings have been announced by major corporations, including Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney, with the latter aiming for $7.5 billion in savings.

Paramount Global and NBCUniversal have also trimmed their staffs. Cost-cutting measures have reached various sectors, including airlines adjusting services and deferring expenses, and automakers scaling back investments due to challenges in demand and EV adoption.

“You’re seeing a rebalancing happening in the labor markets, in the capital markets. And that rebalancing is still going to play out and gradually lead to a more sustainable environment of lower inflation and lower interest rates, and perhaps a little bit slower growth, said Gregory Daco, chief economist for EY.

He continued, telling CNBC: “You are in an environment where cost fatigue is very much part of the equation for consumers and business leaders. The cost of most everything is much higher than it was before the pandemic, whether it’s goods, inputs, equipment, labor, even interest rates.”

Even Chipotle is experimenting with robots to boost efficiency. These adjustments reflect a broader recalibration after the pandemic's disruptions, with companies aiming for a sustainable balance in a potentially slower economic growth environment.

Tyler Durden Wed, 02/21/2024 - 05:45

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Walmart Hits Record High After Earnings Beat, Despite Soft Guidance, Warning About “Choiceful” Consumers Spending Less

Walmart Hits Record High After Earnings Beat, Despite Soft Guidance, Warning About "Choiceful" Consumers Spending Less

Walmart shares hit…

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Walmart Hits Record High After Earnings Beat, Despite Soft Guidance, Warning About "Choiceful" Consumers Spending Less

Walmart shares hit a new all-time high after the largest bricks and mortar retailer reported earnings that beat expectations despite providing guidance that was marginally softer, as choosy shoppers nevertheless kept buying in its stores.

Here is what the company report for the final quarter of 2023:

  • Adjusted EPS $1.80 (excluding impact, net of tax, from a net gain of $0.23 on equity and other investments) vs. $1.71 y/y, beating estimate of $1.65
  • Revenue $173.39 billion, +5.7% y/y, beating estimate $170.66 billion
    • Total US comparable sales ex-gas +3.9%, estimate +3.2%
    • Walmart-only US stores comparable sales ex-gas +4%, estimate +3.12%
    • Sam's Club US comparable sales ex-gas +3.1%, estimate +2.99%
  • Change in US E-Commerce sales +17%, beating estimate +15.5%
  • Adjusted operating income $7.25 billion, beating estimate $6.79 billion

Of the metrics reported, however, the most important one is that Walmart’s same-store sales (ex fuel), rose 4% YoY for US stores (of which net sales was 3.% and eCommerce added 17%). Wall Street was expecting 3.1% so the number was clearly a beat and was driven by "strength in grocery, health and wellness, offset by softness in general merchandise", and was the result of higher transactions (+4.3%) offsetting average ticket prices, which dropped 0.3% YoY. Still, the number is a far cry from the 8.3% comp sales a year ago.

In keeping with the noted softness in general merchandise, the world’s largest retailer delivered softer guidance for the current fiscal year, as it expects consumers to be selective in their spending:

  • For full-year 2025, WMT sees
    • Net sales +3% to +4%, slower than growth from the prior year, and adjusted EPS $6.70 to $7.12, slightly disappointing vs the median consensus estimate of $7.09
    • Capital expenditures approximately 3.0% to 3.5% of net sales
  • For Q1, 2025, WMT sees sees adjusted EPS $1.48 to $1.56.

Discussing the quarter, CEO Doug McMillan said that "we crossed $100 billion in eCommerce sales and drove share gains as our customer experience metrics improved, evenduring our highest volume days leading up to the holidays"

Commenting on customer "selectivity", CFO John Rainey said that “they are being choiceful" as consumers continue to spend less per trip but have been shopping frequently, adding that the company expects some resilience to continue for the rest of the year.

There was more good news: Walmart is gaining share in nearly every category, according to Rainey, with e-commerce among the factors driving growth as the company trims losses associated with handling online orders. Furthermore, while deflation is still a possibility, the company expects it to be less likely based on what it observed during the latest quarter.

That said, while grabbing more spending with low-priced groceries and other basics, Walmart has been cautious in recent months about the health of the consumer amid persistent inflation and higher interest rates. As noted above, US consumers have been buying cheaper products and seeking value, as they pull back from discretionary products like general merchandise. That has resulted in softer sales for some retailers, including Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc. Other big-box retailers are set to report their quarterly earnings in the coming weeks.

As Bloomberg notes, the recent moderation in inflation is another challenge for Walmart and other retail operators that have passed down price increases to consumers over the past few years. This has contributed to higher dollar sales for companies, followed by an uptick in revenue during the pandemic when people bought more groceries and home goods. Such increases are slowing overall, though inflation remains stubborn in some areas like groceries and shelter.

Similar to all of its major competitors, Walmart has been beefing up automation in warehouses and stores in recent years, while remodeling locations to make them more modern. Pickup and delivery businesses continue to expand, driving share gains among upper-income households and fueling growth of the Walmart+ membership program.

Separately, Walmart said it agreed to buy smart-TV maker Vizio Holding Corp. for about $2.3 billion. The deal would accelerate the retailer’s advertising business, called Walmart Connect, and help Walmart and its advertisers engage more with customers. Walmart has been expanding Walmart Connect and other nonretail businesses that have faster growth and better margins. The deal announcement confirmed a Wall Street Journal report from last week. Vizio shares soared 15% in Tuesday premarket trading.

As for WMT, the Bentonville, after the stock gained 16% over the past year, it jumped another 5.7% on Tuesday rising to a new all time high as investors were clearly satisfied with what they saw.

Full investor presentation below (pdf link)

Tyler Durden Tue, 02/20/2024 - 10:17

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