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Slowly At First… Then All At Once

Slowly At First… Then All At Once

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

Bull markets always seem to end the same – slowly at first, then all at once.

My recent discussion on why March 2020 was a “correction” and…

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Slowly At First... Then All At Once

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

Bull markets always seem to end the same – slowly at first, then all at once.

My recent discussion on why March 2020 was a “correction” and not a “bear market” sparked much debate over the somewhat arbitrary 20% rule.

“Price is nothing more than a reflection of the ‘psychology’ of market participants. A potential mistake in evaluating ‘bull’ or ‘bear’ markets is using a ‘20% advance or decline’ to distinguish between them.”

Wall Street loves to label stuff.  When markets are rising, it’s a “bull market.” Conversely, falling prices are a “bear market.” 

Interestingly, while there are some “rules of thumb” for falling prices such as:

  • A “correction” gets defined as a decline of more than 10% in the market.

  • A “bear market” is a decline of more than 20%.

There are no such definitions for rising prices. Instead, rising prices are always “bullish.”

It’s all a bit arbitrary and rather pointless.

The Reason We Invest

It is essential to understand what a “bull” or “bear” market is as investors.

  • “bull market” is when prices are generally rising over an extended period.

  • “bear market” is when prices are generally falling over an extended period.

Here is another significant definition for you.

Investing is the process of placing “savings” at “risk” with the expectation of a future return greater than the rate of inflation over a given time frame.

Read that again.

Investing is NOT about beating some random benchmark index that requires taking on an excessive amount of capital risk to achieve. Instead, our goal should be to grow our hard-earned savings at a rate sufficient to protect the purchasing power of those savings in the future as “safely” as possible.

As pension funds have found out, counting on 7% annualized returns to make up for a shortfall in savings leaves individuals in a vastly underfunded retirement situation. Moreover, making up lost savings is not the same as increasing savings towards a future required goal.

Nonetheless, when it comes to investing, Bob Farrell’s Rule #10 is the most relevant:

“Bull markets are more fun than bear markets.” 

Of this, there is no argument.

However, understanding the difference between a “bull” and a “bear” market is critical to capital preservation and appreciation when the change occurs.

Defining Bull & Bear Markets

So, what defines a “bull” versus a “bear” market.

Let’s start by looking at the S&P 500.

Bull and bear markets are evident with the benefit of hindsight.

The problem, for individuals, always comes back to “psychology” concerning our investing practices. During rising or “bullish,” markets, the psychology of “greed” keeps individuals invested longer and entices them into taking on substantially more risk than realized. “Bearish,” or declining, markets do precisely the opposite as “fear” overtakes the investment process.

Most importantly, it is difficult to know “when” the markets have changed from bullish to bearish. Over the last decade, several significant corrections have certainly looked like the beginning of turning from a “bull” to a “bear” market. Yet, after a short-term corrective process, the upward trend of the market resumed.

So, while it is evident that missing a bear market is incredibly important to long-term investing success, it is impossible to know when the markets have changed.

Or is it?

The next couple of charts will build off of the weekly price chart above.

Identifying The Trend

“In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run it is a weighing machine” – Benjamin Graham

In the short term, which is from a few weeks to a couple of years, the market is simply a “voting machine” as investors scramble to chase what is “popular.” Then, as prices rise, they “panic buy” everything due to the “Fear Of Missing Out or F.O.M.O.” Then, they “panic sell” everything when prices fall. However, these are just the wiggles along the longer-term path.

In the long-term, the markets “weigh” the substance of the underlying cash flows and value. Thus, during bull market trends, investors become overly optimistic about the future bid-up prices beyond the practical aspects of the underlying value. The opposite is also true, as “nothing has value” during bear markets. Such is why markets “trend” over time. Eventually, excesses in valuations, in both directions, get reverted to, and beyond, the long-term means.

While the long-term picture is relatively straightforward, valuations still don’t do much in terms of telling us “when” the change is occurring.

Change Starts Slowly, Then All At Once

“Tops are a process and bottoms are an event” – Doug Kass

During a bull market, prices trade above the long-term moving average. However, when the trend changes to a bear market, prices trade below that moving average.

The keyword is TREND. 

The chart below which compares the market to the 75-week moving average. During “bullish trends,” the market tends to trade above the long-term moving average and below it during “bearish trends.”

Since 2009, there are four occasions where the long-term moving average was violated but did not lead to a longer-term change in the trend.

  • The first was in 2011, as the U.S. was dealing with a potential debt-ceiling default and a downgrade of the U.S. debt rating. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke started the second round of quantitative easing (QE), flooding the markets with liquidity.

  • The second came in late-2015 and early-2016 as the Federal Reserve started lifting interest rates combined with the threat of Britain leaving the European Union (Brexit). Given the U.S. Federal Reserve had already committed to tightening monetary policy, the ECB stepped in with their version of QE.

  • The third came at the end of 2018 as the Fed again tapered its balance sheet and hiked rates. The market decline quickly reversed the Fed’s stance.

  • Finally, the “pandemic shut-down” of the economy led to a price reversion in the market. The Fed intervened with massive liquidity injections and the start of QE-4.

Each of these declines only gets classified as “corrections.” The market did not sustain the break of the long-term trend, valuations did not revert, and psychology remained bullish.

Still A Bull Market

Today, Central Banks globally continue their monetary injection programs, rate policies remain at zero, and global economic growth is weak. Moreover, with stock valuations at historically extreme levels, the value currently ascribed to future earnings growth almost guarantees low future returns.

As discussed previously:

Like a rubber band stretched too far – it must get relaxed in order to stretch again. The same applies to stock prices that are anchored to their moving averages. Trends that get overextended in one direction, or the other, always return to their long-term average. Even during a strong uptrend or strong downtrend, prices often move back (revert) to a long-term moving average.”

The chart below shows the deviation in the market price above and below the 75-week moving average. Historically, as prices approach 200-points above the long-term moving average, corrections ensued. Thus, the difference between a “bull market” and a “bear market” is when the deviations occur BELOW the long-term moving average consistently. 

Since 2017, with the globally coordinated interventions of Central Banks, those deviations have started exceeding levels not seen previously. As of the end of May, the index was nearly 800 points above the long-term average or 4x the normal warning level. 

We can see the magnitude of the current deviation by switching to percentage deviations. Historically, 10% deviations have preceded corrections and bear markets. Currently, that deviation is 22.5% above the long-term mean.

Notably, the decline below the long-term average reversed quickly, keeping the “bull market” trend intact.

Conclusion

Understanding that change is occurring is what is essential. But, unfortunately, the reason investors “get trapped” in bear markets is that when they realize what is happening, it is far too late to do anything about it.

Bull markets are lure investors into believing “this time is different.” When the topping process begins, that slow, arduous affair gets met with continued reasons why the “bull market will continue.”  The problem comes when it eventually doesn’t. As noted, “bear markets” are swift and brutal attacks on investor capital.

As Ben Graham wrote in 1959:

“‘The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.’ I have always thought this motto applied to the stock market better than anywhere else. Now the really important part of the proverb is the phrase, ‘the more it changes.’

The economic world has changed radically and will change even more. Most people think now that the essential nature of the stock market has been undergoing a corresponding change. But if my cliché is sound, then the stock market will continue to be essentially what it always was in the past, a place where a big bull market is inevitably followed by a big bear market.

In other words, a place where today’s free lunches are paid for doubly tomorrow. In the light of recent experience, I think the present level of the stock market is an extremely dangerous one.”

Pay attention to the market. The action this year is very reminiscent of previous market topping processes. Tops are hard to identify during the process as “change happens slowly.” The mainstream media, economists, and Wall Street will dismiss pickup in volatility as simply a corrective process. But when the topping process completes, it will seem as if the change occurred “all at once.”

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/15/2021 - 10:10

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Government

August Monthly

Fear that the spread of the Delta mutation of the covid would disrupt the global economy spurred the unwinding of risk-on positions. Interest rates fell, and the traditional funding currencies:  the US dollar, Swiss franc, and Japanese yen, strengthened..

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Fear that the spread of the Delta mutation of the covid would disrupt the global economy spurred the unwinding of risk-on positions. Interest rates fell, and the traditional funding currencies:  the US dollar, Swiss franc, and Japanese yen, strengthened most in July. While major US indices set new record highs, as did Europe's Dow Jones Stoxx 600, the MSCI Emerging Markets Equity Index fell 7%.

The preliminary July PMI reports were below expectations in the US, UK, and France.  Japan's composite PMI has been contracting since February 2020.  There has been some re-introduction of social restrictions in parts of Europe.  The UK's "Freedom Day" (July 19), when mask requirements and social restrictions were supposed to be dropped, turned into a caricature as the Prime Minister and Health Minister were in self-quarantine due to exposure, and the number of cases reached the highest level in 5-6 months. 

Given the large number of people in the world that remain unvaccinated, the challenge is that the virus will continue to mutate.  Moreover, even in high-income countries, where vaccines are readily available, and stockpiles exist,  a  substantial minority refuse to be inoculated. This is encouraging the use of more forceful incentives that deny the non-vaccinated access to some social activity in parts of the US and Europe.  In the US, the vaccines have been approved for emergency use only, and broader approval by the FDA could help ease some of the vaccine hesitancy.  Yet, rushing the process would be self-defeating.  An announcement still seems to be at least a couple of months away.  

In some countries, the surge in the virus even where not leading to hospitalizations and fatalities, maybe tempering activity and postponing more "normalization" like returning to offices.   The increase in the contagion has also prompted several companies to postpone plans to have employees return to offices. In other countries, like Australia, the virus and social restrictions are having a more dramatic economic impact.  Its preliminary July PMI crashed to 45.2 from 56.7, the lowest since last May.  Although many countries in East Asia seemed to do well with the initial wave, they have been hard hit by the new mutations.  For some, the recovery already had appeared to be in advanced stages.  

Floods in China, India, Germany, and Belgium add to the economic angst.    A freeze in Brazil sent coffee prices percolating higher.  Wildfires in Canada stopped the downside correction in lumber prices.  While rebuilding is stimulative, in the first instance, the natural disasters could be inflationary as transportation and distribution networks are impacted. 

The market reacted by pushing down nominal and real interest rates.  In late July, the US 10-year inflation-protected note yield (real rate) fell to a record low near minus 1.13%  Ten-year benchmark yields in the US, Europe, Australia, and China were at 4-5 month lows.  Expectations for rate hikes by high-income countries eased, and Beijing surprised investors by cutting reserve requirements by 50 bp (freed up ~$150 bln of liquidity).   

Still, other central banks, like Russia who hiked rates by 100 bp in late July, are pushing forward.  In Latin America, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile are likely candidates for rate hikes in August.  The market anticipates additional rates hikes from the Czech Republic and Hungary.  On the other hand, Turkey's central bank meets under much political pressure to cut rates.  Inflation is not cooperating, and it reached 17.5% in June,  a new two-year high.  Yet, the Turkish lira downside momentum eased, and this alone, in the face of a stronger dollar, meant it was the best performing emerging market currency last month, up about 3.0%.  Its 12% loss year-to-date still makes it the second-worst performing emerging market currency so far this year, behind the Argentine peso's nearly 13% decline.  

The Federal Reserve does not meet in August, but the Jackson Hole symposium (August 26-28) may offer a window into official thinking about the pace and composition of its bond purchases.  Under that scenario, a more formal statement would be provided at the end of the September FOMC meeting (September 21-22). Chair Powell has pledged to give ample notice about its plans to taper.  This means that the initial timing of the beginning of the tapering may be vague by necessity.  Many expect the Fed to begin reducing its bond purchases either later this year or early next year.  

The debt ceiling debate may add another wrinkle.  The debt ceiling waiver expired at the end of July.  There are several different ways that Treasury can buy time.  There are many moving parts, and it is hard to know exactly when Secretary Yellen would run out of maneuvers, but she probably has around two months.  In the past, the uncertainty was reflected in some T-bill sales.  Recall it was the debate over the debt ceiling (the government has already made the commitments or spent the funds and now has to pay for them) that prompted S&P to remove its AAA rating for the US in 2011. 

Meanwhile, Beijing is waging an internal battle to retain control in the technology and payments space.  It has also stepped up its antitrust actions and moved to make it more difficult for internet companies to have IPOs abroad. At the same time, the US threatens to de-list foreign (Chinese) companies if they refuse to allow US regulators to review their financial audits.  This is more than quitting before getting fired, though at the end of July the US announced that concerns over risk disclosures have prompt it to freeze applications for Chinese IPOs and the sale of other securities.  Its efforts to turn the private schools into non-for-profits are driven by Beijing's domestic considerations, but foreign investors--hedge funds, a couple US state pension funds, and provincial pensions in Canada appear to have been collateral damage.  Even the Monetary Authority of Singapore had exposure.

The jump in Chinese yields and the drop in equities that pushed the CSI 300 (an index of large companies listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges) 21% below the February peak prompted some remedial measures by officials.  They succeeded in steadying the bonds and stock markets, and the yuan recovered from three-month lows as July wound down. However, both the disruption and the salve, the selling of industrial metals, coal, and oil from its strategic reserves, demonstrate the activist state that gives foreign investors reservations about increasing allocations to China.  To draw foreign capital, officials may be tempted to engineer or facility a strong recovery in shares and the yuan.  

Beijing is also meeting resistance from abroad.  Its aggressiveness in the region, including the aerial harassment of Taiwan and rejection of the Arbitration Tribunal at the Hague regarding the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (that pushed back against Chinese claims in the South and East China Seas). Over the past few weeks, the situation has escalated. The UK announced it will station two naval vessels in the area.  Japan has promised to defend Taiwan should it be attacked by China.  The US has not been that unequivocal.   The EU has been emboldened.  Latvia became the first EU member to open a representative office of "Taiwan" instead of Taipei.  

Many wargame scenarios are premised on China attacking Taiwan, but this does not seem to be the most likely scenario. Top US military officials have testified before Congress that Beijing wants to have the ability to invade and hold Taiwan within six years based on comments from President Xi to the People's Liberation Army.  Yet, if China senses that the status of Taiwan is truly changing, it could move against the Pratas Island, which is off the east coast of China and the south tip of Taiwan.  It is closer to Hong Kong than Taiwan.  It is an uninhabited atoll with a garrison.  Taking this island would send a signal about its determination, with the costs and risks of invading Taiwan. It is true to the ancient Chinese idiom about killing a chicken scares the monkeys.  

Bannockburn's World Currency Index, a GDP-weighted basket of the top dozen economies, rose fractionally after falling 1% in June.  The two largest components after the dollar are the euro and yuan.  The former slipped by was virtually flat near $1.1860 and the latter softened by less than 0.1 %.  The yen, with about a 7.3% weighting in the basket, was the strongest, gaining about 1.25% against the US dollar.  Sterling was almost eked a 0.5% gain.  The Indian rupee slipped 0.1%, while Brazil's real was the weakest currency in the index, falling by about 4.6% in July.   

The BWCI rose by 6.5% in the last nine months of 2020 after falling by 3.2% in Q1 20 as the pandemic struck and structural dollar shorts and safe-haven flows favored the dollar.  It fell by 1.5% in Q1 21 as if correcting the previous advance.  It rose by 1.1% in Q1.  More so than bilateral exchange rates, the BWCI gives the impression that broadly speaking the dollar's losses from last year are being consolidated more than reversed. 

Dollar:  The greenback's two-month uptrend stalled in the second half of July, sending the momentum traders and late longs to the sidelines. The dollar's pullback had already begun before the FOMC meeting at which the Fed lent support to priors about a tapering announcement in the coming months.  The next opportunity is in late August. The weaker dollar tone that we expect to carry into August could create the conditions that make a short-covering bounce ahead of the Jackson Hole symposium more likely.  Some assistance,  like the moratorium on evictions, ended on July 31, and others, like the federal emergency unemployment compensation (where states continue to participate), are finishing in early September. Meanwhile, the Biden administration appears to see some of its infrastructure initiative approved in a bipartisan way and the other part through a reconciliation mechanism that it can do if there is unanimous support from the Senate Democrats.  Inflation remains elevated, and Treasury Secretary Yellen and Federal Reserve Chair Powell warned it may remain so for several more months but still expect the pressure to subside.  The price components of the PMI have eased in the last two reports. There appears to have been some normalization in used car inventories that also reduce the pressure emanating from the one item alone that has accounted for about a third of the monthly increase of late.  

Euro:   The leg lower that began in late May from around $1.2265 extended more than we had expected and did not find support until it approached $1.1750 in the second half of July.  A trough appears to have been forged, and the euro finished near the month's highs.  Technical indicators favor a further recovery in August.  Overcoming the band of resistance in the $1.1950-$1.2000 shift the focus back to the highs.  The low for longer stance by the ECB may be bullish for European stocks and bonds.  The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 reached new record highs in late July.   Bond prices are near their highest levels since February-March.  The IMF raised its 2021 growth forecast for the euro area to 4.6%from the 4.3% projection in April and 4.3% next year from 3.8%.  The economy seemed to be accelerating in Q3, but the contagion and new social restrictions may slow the momentum.  Inflation is elevated about the ECB's new symmetrical 2% inflation target, but it pre-emptively indicated it would resist the temptation of prematurely tightening financial conditions.  The debate at the ECB does not seem about near-term policy as much as the commitment and thresholds for future action.  

 

(July 30,  indicative closing prices, previous in parentheses)

 

Spot: $1.1870 ($1.1860)

Median Bloomberg One-month Forecast $1.1885 ($1.1950) 

One-month forward  $1.1880 ($1.1865)    One-month implied vol  5.3%  (5.6%)    

 

 

Japanese Yen: The correlation of the exchange rate with the 10-year US yield is at its highest level in a little more than a year (~0.65, 60-day rolling correlation at the level of differences).  The correlation of equities (S&P 500) and the exchange rate is in the unusual situation of being inverse since early this year.  In early July, it was the most inverse (~-0.34) in nine years but recovered to finish the month almost flat. The yen rose by about 1.4% in July, offsetting the June decline of the same magnitude. Its 5.7% loss year-to-date is the most among the major currencies and the second weakest in the region after the Thai Baht's nearly 9% loss. The JPY110.60-JPY110.70 represents a near-term cap. The JPY109.00 area should offer support, and a break would target JPY108.25-JPY108.50.   The extension of social restrictions in the face of rising covid cases is delaying the anticipated second-half recovery.  The preliminary composite PMI fell to a six-month low in July of 47.7.  

 

Spot: JPY109.85 (JPY111.10)      

Median Bloomberg One-month Forecast JPY109.85 (JPY110.70)     

One-month forward JPY109.80 (JPY111.05)    One-month implied vol  5.4% (5.4%)  

 

 

British Pound:  Sterling reversed lower after recording a three-year high on June 1 near $1.4250 and did not look back.  It dipped briefly below $1.38 for the first time since mid-April on the back of the hawkish Fed on June 16 to finish July at new highs for the month and above the downtrend line off the early June highs.   A convincing move back above $1.40 would confirm a low is in place and a resumption of the bull move, for which we target $1.4350-$1.4375 in Q4.  The postponement of the economy-wide re-opening until the middle of July, and a central bank looking past the uptick in CPI above the 2% medium-term target, weighed on sentiment.  The central bank will update its economic forecasts in August, and both growth and inflation projections likely will be raised. The furlough program ends in September, and it may take a few months for a clear picture of the labor market to emerge.  Nevertheless, the market has begun pricing in a rate hike for H1 22.  

  

Spot: $1.3905 ($1.3830)   

Median Bloomberg One-month Forecast $1.3930 ($1.3930) 

One-month forward $1.3910 ($1.3835)   One-month implied vol 6.6% (6.5%)

  

 

Canadian Dollar:  The Canadian dollar reached its best level in six years in early June (~$0.8333 or CAD1.20) but has trended lower amid profit-taking and the broad gains in the US dollar.  The usual drivers of the exchange rate:  risk appetites, commodities, and rate differentials were not helpful guides recently.  Canada has become among the most vaccinated countries, and the central bank was sufficiently confident in the economic outlook to continue to slow its bond purchases at the July meeting despite losing full-time positions each month in Q2. Speculators in the futures market have slashed the net long position from nearly 50k contracts (each CAD100k) to less than 13k contracts in late July.  The downside correction in the Canadian dollar appears to have largely run its course, and we anticipate a better August after the heavier performance in July.  Our initial target is around CAD1.2250-CAD1.2300.  

 

Spot: CAD1.2475 (CAD 1.2400) 

Median Bloomberg One-month Forecast  CAD1.2435 (CAD1.2325)

One-month forward CAD1.2480 (CAD1.2405)    One-month implied vol  6.8%  (6.5%) 

 

 

Australian Dollar:  Since peaking in late February slightly above $0.8000, the Australian dollar has trended lower and by in late July briefly dipped below $0.7300, posting a nearly 9% loss over the past five months. The 50-day moving average ~$0.7570) fell below the 200-day moving average (~$0.7600) for the first time since June 2020, illustrating the downtrend after the strong recovery from the low near $0.5500 when the pandemic first stuck.  The combination of a low vaccination rate and the highly contagious Delta variant forced new extended lockdowns for Sydney and social restrictions that have sapped the economy's strength.  It will likely slow the central bank's exit from the extraordinary emergency measures.  Indeed, the Reserve Bank of Australia is likely to boost its weekly bond-buying from A$5 bln to at least A$6 bln.  A convincing break of $0.7300 could open the door for a return toward $0.7000, but we suspect the five-month downtrend is over and anticipate a recovery toward $0.7550 over the next several weeks.  

 

Spot:  $0.7345 ($0.7495)       

Median Bloomberg One-Month Forecast $0.7425 ($0.7610)     

One-month forward  $0.7350 ($0.7500)     One-month implied vol 8.9  (8.5%)   

 

 

Mexican Peso:  The dollar chopped higher against the peso in July and reached a high near MXN20.25 on July 21. It trended lower and, in late July, fell below the seven-week trendline support near MXN19.90.  After finishing June less than 0.1% weaker, the greenback lost about 0.4% against the peso in July, which was the fifth consecutive month without a gain.  The other notable LATAM currencies were the weakest three emerging market currencies (Chilean peso ~-4.1%, Colombian peso ~-4%, and the Brazilian real ~-3.8%).  If the upper end of the dollar's range has held,  a break of MXN19.80 may warn a test on the lower end of the range (~MXN19.50-MXN19.60).  The 5.75% year-over-year CPI for the first half of July and the highest core inflation for early July in more than 20-years keep expectations for another rate hike intact when Banxico meets on August 12.  The market has another hike priced in for the September 30 meeting as well.  The dispute with the US over measuring domestic content for auto production under USMCA could undermine Mexico's role in the continental division of labor, but instead, producers in Mexico may choose to pay the WTO auto tariff standard of 2.5%.  The IMF's latest economic forecasts revised the projection for Mexican growth this year to 6.3% from the April projection of 5%.  

 

Spot: MXN19.87 (MXN19.95)  

Median Bloomberg One-Month Forecast  MXN19.94 (MXN19.97)  

One-month forward  MXN19.95 (MXN20.02)     One-month implied vol 10.5% (10.7%)

  

 

Chinese Yuan: The dollar spent most of July within the trading range that had emerged in late June found roughly between CNY6.45 and CNY6.4950. The range was maintained even after the PBOC unexpectedly cut reserve requirements by 50 bp (announced July 9). However, Beijing's more aggressive enforcement of antitrust, discouragement IPOs abroad, making private education non-for-profit without foreign investment triggered sales of Chinese shares. It helped lift the dollar in late July to around CNY6.5150, its highest level in three months and just shy of the 200-day moving average.  The pursuit of domestic policy objectives appears to be putting at risk strategic goals.  A drying up of capital inflows from spooked foreign investors may have slow efforts to liberalize capital outflows that could eventually lead to making the yuan convertible.  At the same time, China's actions give a timely example of what holds the yuan back from a significant role in the world economy and why a technology solution (e.g., digital yuan) will not suffice.  As the dollar briefly traded above the upper end of its recent range in July, the risk is that it slips through the lower-end range, which could spur a move toward CNY6.40.  

 

Spot: CNY6.4615 (CNY6.4570)

Median Bloomberg One-month Forecast  CNY6.4555 (CNY6.4360) 

One-month forward CNY6.4780 (CNY6.4815)    One-month implied vol  4.0% (4.7%)

 

Disclaimer 



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Economics

Black women face a persistent pay gap, including in essential occupations during the pandemic

This year, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day arrives 10 days earlier than in 2020 (August 13). If this seems inconsistent with current realities, it is.

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This year, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day arrives 10 days earlier than in 2020 (August 13). If this seems inconsistent with current realities, it is. That’s because the August 3, 2021 date is based on the comparison of median annual earnings for full-time, year-round workers reported in the 2020 Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS). Since the reference year in that survey is the previous year—2019—the earlier date is more a statement about pay equity during the pre-COVID period of historically low unemployment than the impact of the pandemic. 

Based on hourly wages available for 2020, the pandemic’s effect on pay inequality in 2020 is challenging to interpret since job losses were concentrated among low-wage occupations, which has the effect of skewing the distribution toward a higher average that is less representative of the workforce as a whole. These lower-paying jobs were concentrated in leisure and hospitality and education and health services—industries that employ a disproportionate share of women.

In fact, the pandemic’s effect on pay equity during 2020 is less about a relative difference in dollars per hour and more a matter of a disproportionate share of women—and Black women in particular—becoming unemployed and thus wageless. Nearly 1 in 5 Black women (18.3%) lost their jobs between February 2020 and April 2020, compared with 13.2% of white men (see figure below). As of June 2021, Black women’s employment was still 5.1 percentage points below February 2020 levels, while white men were down 3.7 percentage points.

The fact that we are talking about this every year reflects the stubborn, structural nature of pay inequities which is manifold. Occupational segregation limits Black women’s access to higher-paying occupations. But, even when employed in the same occupation, pay discrimination results in lower earnings for women relative to men, including among essential workers as we show below. The lack of a national paid leave policy means that women are more likely to take unpaid time out of the workforce and have breaks in their work and earnings history. The combination of these factors means that, on average, women start their careers with a pay gap that they are never able to close.

The infographics below take a closer look at average hourly earnings of Black women and non-Hispanic white men employed in major occupations at the center of national efforts to address the public health and economic effects of COVID-19, based on our previous analysis of CPS microdata from 2014-2019. These occupations include front-line workers in health care and essential businesses like grocery stores, those who have borne the brunt of job losses in the restaurant industry, and teachers and child care workers. As these figures show, equal pay for Black women workers is long overdue.

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Government

If Hospitalizations Lead Fatalities: Prospects for Florida

With large shares of populations vaccinated, case counts are no longer a good predictor of fatalities arising from Covid-19. Hospitalization might prove better (and ICU hospitalizations even better). The statistics do not augur well, particularly for…

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With large shares of populations vaccinated, case counts are no longer a good predictor of fatalities arising from Covid-19. Hospitalization might prove better (and ICU hospitalizations even better). The statistics do not augur well, particularly for Florida.

Source: GS CovidTracker, August 2, 2021.

Obviously, Florida remains a big problem when you consider its 21 million population, and that it accounts for 5.1% of US GDP (as of 2019Q4). For comparison, California, as the economically largest state, accounted 14.8%.

Here is IHME’s latest fatalities forecasts, from July 30.

Source: IHME, July 30th forecast.

The IHME forecast presented above was not include in the July 26th CDC ensemble forecast. At the time of the CDC ensemble forecast compilation, IHME’s forecast was above the ensemble forecast, but not at the very top.

Source: CDC, July 26 ensemble forecast.

Since it’s hard to see, here’s a detail.

Source: CDC, July 26 ensemble forecast.

The IHME forecast available as of 7/26 was for about 1000 fatalities per week, compared to the ensemble forecast of a bit below 600. The IHME forecast was at the top of the 95% band. A new ensemble forecast should be released on 8/4.

It’s clear why Mr. De Santis wants to avoid the specter of Covid-19. The late summer and winter waves clearly slowed Florida’s recovery. Rising deaths might spur — if not additional public health measures such as mask mandates that the governor has banned — then increasing aversion by those who perceive risks associated with going about business as usual.

Figure 1: Florida Reported deaths due to Covid-19 (black, left log scale), nonfarm payroll employment, in 000’s, s.a. (teal, right log scale).  NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. July observation for deaths is IHME forecast.  Source: IHME, BLS, NBER, and author’s calculations.

I expect risk aversion to induce a reduction in consumption of high contact services. If mask mandates and other public health measures were imposed, that might lead to a greater short term reduction in economic output (although in the long run, total hours might be higher, as in the Eichenbaum pandemic/output model).

Any lessons to be gleaned from the past episodes? The employment losses thus far can be decomposed into two groups — the high contact services associated with leisure and hospitality services, and everything else covered in nonfarm payroll employment.

Figure 2: Florida employment relative to 2020M02 in leisure and hospitality services (blue bars), and in rest-of-nonfarm payroll employment (tan bars), in 000’s, s.a.  Source: BLS, and author’s calculations.

You can see that leisure and hospitality employment recovery stalls out in July-August 2020, and January 2021. If the rise in deaths occurs as forecasted in Figure 1, then

All this takes place in the context of already slowing growth, as far as we can tell (these indicators run only through June).

Figure 3: Florida Coincident index (black), real GDP (purple), and nonfarm payroll employment (teal), all in logs, 2019Q4=0. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Quarterly data for coincident index, employment converted from monthly to quarterly by averaging. Source: Philadelphia Fed, BEA, BLS, NBER, and author’s calculations.

 

 

 

 

 

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