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The Fed’s New American Dream: Paying More And Getting Less

The Fed’s New American Dream: Paying More And Getting Less

Authored by Michael Maharrey via SchiffGold.com,

In the Federal Reserve’s new world of “transitory” inflation, Americans are paying more to get less.

Retail sales were…

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The Fed's New American Dream: Paying More And Getting Less

Authored by Michael Maharrey via SchiffGold.com,

In the Federal Reserve’s new world of “transitory” inflation, Americans are paying more to get less.

Retail sales were up 0.6% from May to June. According to the Commerce Department, American consumers spent $621 billion on retail goods and services last month. With the big 1.7% drop in May, retail sales remained below levels in March and April.

Meanwhile, price increases in June far outran the increase in retail sales. In fact, they outran retail sales for the entirety of the second quarter. Consumers paid significantly more in every retail category.

  • Food bought at stores – up 0.8%

  • Prices at restaurants, delis, cafeterias, etc.  – up 0.7%

  • The price of gasoline – up 2.5%

  • Durable good prices including appliances, electronics, autos. furniture, etc. up 3.5%

These were price increases in just one single month. Overall, CPI popped 0.9% month-on-month in June. So far this year, prices have risen 3.6%.

Since retail sales are expressed in dollar amounts, they reflect rising prices. In other words, just because dollar widget sales increase doesn’t mean people bought more widgets. It could be that they bought fewer widgets but paid more for them. This is exactly what’s happening in many retail sales segments.

Consider gasoline, for example. Gas station sales rose by 2.5% in June to $47 billion. But the price of gasoline also rose 2.5% in June. That means consumers bought about the same amount of gasoline in June as they did in May, but they paid more for it.

Food and beverage store sales ticked up by 0.6% in June to $75 billion. Meanwhile, the CPI for food bought in stores jumped 0.8%, Again, consumers paid more to get less.

Meanwhile, retailers are projected to experience significant cost increases through the second half of 2021 as price hikes continue to bite. According to Salesforce, US retailers will spend $223 billion more in H2 2021 than they did in the same period of 2020. That’s a 62% year-over-year increase. Breaking down the increases, retailers will pay an additional $12 billion to suppliers, $48 billion in additional wages and $163 billion in higher logistics costs.

And of course, at least some of these higher costs will be passed on to consumers. Salesforce VP and GM of Retail Rob Garf told CNBC consumers should expect higher prices. “Retailers will certainly take on some of the burden and consumers are going to feel it as well,” he said.

In other words, don’t expect the Fed’s “transitory” inflation to disappear anytime soon. As Peter Schiff pointed out, companies have likely held off raising prices thus far. But as they continue to feel the squeeze of higher costs and it becomes apparent that this transitory inflation may not be so transitory after all, they will throw in the towel and raise prices.

It is certainly possible that we can finish 2021 with 10% CPI, which would rank it as bad as any of the years that we had during the 1970s. Except 10% in 2021 is not 10% in 1971 or 1979 because this is not your grandfather’s CPI. This is a completely different CPI that is completely rigged and reverse engineered. If we actually have 10% inflation, if we measured prices the way we did back in the 1970s, it’d probably be 15 or maybe 20% inflation.”

And how will companies cope with the rising costs that they can’t pass on to consumers? They’ll be forced to cut costs and that almost always means shrinking their labor force. That doesn’t bode well for a continued robust recovery.

Garf made another interesting observation, saying we are all “willing participants” when it comes to paying higher prices. “We’re willing to spend a little more. I think there’s enough momentum and positivity among people that they are willing to absorb the additional cost all the way through the holiday,” he said.

In other words, inflation expectations are baking into the economy. This is exactly why financial analyst Wolf Richter said Jerome Powell’s temporary inflation is turning into an inflationary spiral.

The first bout of inflation always looks temporary. But during those first bouts of inflation, that’s when the triggers of persistent inflation, namely the inflationary mindset and inflation expectations are being unleashed.”

Powell and others insist price increase are a temporary phenomenon due to economies reopening post-pandemic. This certainly accounts for some of the rises in prices. More significantly, the Federal Reserve has created trillions of dollars out of thin air and injected them into the economy. We have more dollars chasing fewer goods. That’s a recipe for rising prices.

Richter said the bottom line is that prices are rising, and at this point, nobody is resisting the price increases.

So much cash has been created and handed out that price doesn’t even matter anymore. People are paying whatever, even for discretionary purchases that they don’t have to buy.”

As a result, we have price spikes cascading from product to product and service to service.

This surge of inflation is becoming engrained in the inflation expectations of company decision-makers and consumers alike. They’re adjusting to it and in this manner inflation becomes persistent.”

In other words, get used to paying more and getting less.

Tyler Durden Wed, 07/21/2021 - 12:40

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Economics

Weekly investment update – Emerging markets miss out on equities and bonds surge

At first sight, the direction of financial markets in July might have come as a surprise: global equities posted their sixth consecutive monthly gain despite a steep drop in emerging market equities, while bond markets also recorded strong advances, again

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At first sight, the direction of financial markets in July might have come as a surprise: global equities posted their sixth consecutive monthly gain despite a steep drop in emerging market equities, while bond markets also recorded strong advances, again except for those in emerging markets.

Volatility spiked at times during July. Indeed, it hit its highest since early May and took equities from a historical peak to the lowest level in a month within the space of a week before they set another high towards month-end. Emerging market equities suffered from a persistent sell-off in Chinese stocks over the government’s regulatory clampdown on sectors ranging from ride hailing to gaming.

Economic growth – On an even keel  

While markets worried that the economic recovery had peaked, the latest purchasing managers’ data – seen as a leading indicator of the direction of growth – did not signal a sharp slowdown. China’s PMI for July, typically also a proxy for wider emerging market growth, fell by 0.5 of a percentage point from the previous month, indicating that company activity had slowed down. Remaining at above 50, the indicator also signalled that overall economic expansion overall is continuing.

In the eurozone, business activity rose at its fastest rate in just over 15 years in July. At 59.8 in July, after 58.3 in June, the services sector PMI was at its highest since June 2006 and consistent with a sharp rate of activity growth.

US GDP growth was 6.5% annualised in Q2 after 6.3% in Q1 and fell short of expectations. While inventories and net exports contracted, personal spending on consumption and non-residential private investment grew strongly. GDP was above its pre-Covid peak. Thanks to massive fiscal and monetary stimulus, it is now back on its pre-Covid trend.

Despite this economic progress, the US Federal Reserve has continued to indicate that there is still ‘some ground to cover’ before it will start reducing its pandemic support for the economy. Employment is still some seven million jobs below pre-Covid levels. Risks to the outlook remain, not least as Delta variant Covid cases rise.

Equities: Record-setting

July saw concern over slowing global growth offset by news of strong corporate earnings and still record-low interest rates. Markets were buoyed by optimism over the outlook for the US economy in the second half of 2021, even in the face of a pickup in Covid infections due to the more contagious Delta variant.

Some observers are pointing to the small chance of widespread lockdowns, while others have noted that although caseloads are rising rapidly, hospitalisations and fatalities are not.

US stocks recorded their sixth monthly rise in a row. The S&P 500 rose by more than 2%, while the tech-heavy NASDAQ and the Dow Jones added more than 1%.

There were all-time highs for European stocks as well, allowing them to record a sixth consecutive month of gains. Mid-caps, IT and dividend stocks led the market, while the energy sector lagged.

Asia takes a dip

In contrast, Asian equity indices had a poor month due to rising Covid cases across the region and concerns that a regulatory crackdown on tech businesses in China could slow already decelerating growth. This came on top of spreading Delta cases in the country and a softening land and property market. The developments clouded market sentiment across various regions.

Japanese equities lost more than 2% on concerns about another coronavirus wave and its impact on the economic recovery. Investor worries over global economic growth not only drove down US Treasury yields, but also the US dollar, allowing the yen to strengthen. The break in what had been the yen’s weakening trend also roiled Japanese markets.

Tepid domestic data, concerns about growth in China and volatile oil prices – Japan imports some three quarters of its oil consumption – also weighed on the market.

We believe there are reasons to be somewhat cautious on equities despite the good recent earnings momentum and the continued support from central bank pandemic measures. Recent recoveries followed sell-offs on a modest scale rather than sharp retrenchments and dips have not attracted many more new buyers or more widespread buying. Recent gains look vulnerable to us.

Bonds: The rally rolls on

Yields fell as investors sought shelter in haven assets such as US Treasuries and Bunds, extending the rally by a third month.

In the US market Treasury, 2- and 10-year yields notched their biggest one-month drops in over a year (March 2020), even as the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge rose sharply in June for the fourth big gain in a row. However, June’s increase was smaller than forecasters had expected.

Investors still appear to be siding with the Fed, accepting its view that higher inflation is due to supply bottlenecks and shortages and that these should ease off as the recovery matures. Ironically, the pressure should also ease as a growth slowdown tamps demand.

Over the month, long-dated debt yields fell to around five-month lows.

What’s up with real yields?

Some investors appear to worry that very low real yields — which measure the returns investors can expect once inflation is taken into account — are warning of a (coming) sharp slowdown in growth as the more contagious Delta variant spreads, turning businesses and consumers cautious again.

Others have argued that market pricing has become too pessimistic, pointing to the US economy’s strong rebound, even if growth has now peaked.

A further explanation could be that continued large-scale bond buying by central banks is still holding down yields across the board – even yields that are adjusted for inflation that has seen high readings in the US, the UK and Europe. An end to this form of support for economies does not appear to be in sight any time soon.

The Fed, which has bought about USD 120 billion of bonds monthly throughout the pandemic to pin down borrowing costs for households and businesses, reiterated after its latest policy meeting that the economy was making ‘progress’, but it remained too early to tighten monetary policy. Any tapering of bond purchases could be delayed by a growth slowdown, which should support markets.

Elsewhere in bond markets, high-yield credit in USD, EUR and GBP had another good month, extending their run of gains by a seventh month. UK inflation-linked bonds were in the lead in the fixed income segment.   

Gold was supported by the continued rise in inflation and the declines in real yields that have made it more attractive as an inflation hedge. Commodities more broadly were the best-performing asset class in July.

BOND MARKETS      
10-year yields   Monthly change 2021
US T-note 1.22 -25 31
JGB 0.02 -4 0
OAT -0.11 -23 23
Bund -0.46 -25 11
EQUITY MARKETS      
Euro Stoxx 50 4089.3 0.6% 15.1%
Stoxx Europe 50 3555.8 1.2% 14.4%
       
Dow Jones 30 34935.5 1.3% 14.1%
Nasdaq 14672.7 1.2% 13.8%
S&P 500 4395.3 2.3% 17.0%
       
Topix 1901.08 -2.2% 5.3%
       
MSCI all countries (*) 724.2 0.6% 12.1%
MSCI Emerging (*) 1277.8 -7.0% -1.0%
(*) in USD      

Any views expressed here are those of the author as of the date of publication, are based on available information, and are subject to change without notice. Individual portfolio management teams may hold different views and may take different investment decisions for different clients. The views expressed in this podcast do not in any way constitute investment advice.

The value of investments and the income they generate may go down as well as up and it is possible that investors will not recover their initial outlay. Past performance is no guarantee for future returns.

Investing in emerging markets, or specialised or restricted sectors is likely to be subject to a higher-than-average volatility due to a high degree of concentration, greater uncertainty because less information is available, there is less liquidity or due to greater sensitivity to changes in market conditions (social, political and economic conditions).

Some emerging markets offer less security than the majority of international developed markets. For this reason, services for portfolio transactions, liquidation and conservation on behalf of funds invested in emerging markets may carry greater risk.

Writen by Nathalie Benatia. The post Weekly investment update – Emerging markets miss out on equities and bonds surge appeared first on Investors' Corner - The official blog of BNP Paribas Asset Management, the sustainable investor for a changing world.

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Spread & Containment

China Suspends Travel, Ramps Up Testing As Delta Outbreak Hits Wuhan

China Suspends Travel, Ramps Up Testing As Delta Outbreak Hits Wuhan

China’s worst outbreak since COVID first emerged in the city of Wuhan has continued to spread, prompting authorities to intensify their efforts to crush the delta-driven…

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China Suspends Travel, Ramps Up Testing As Delta Outbreak Hits Wuhan

China's worst outbreak since COVID first emerged in the city of Wuhan has continued to spread, prompting authorities to intensify their efforts to crush the delta-driven outbreak. However, as the virus continues to elude their grasp, it's looking increasingly likely that Beijing's "zero tolerance" approach might hamstring economic growth, as analysts from Goldman Sachs warned in a recent note to clients.

More than 2 dozen cities have counted more than 300 cases over the past few weeks as the number of cases has quickly multiplied. China now has 144 medium- and high-risk areas - the most since the initial outbreak in early 2020, according to the National Health Commission.

By Monday, all of China's 31 provincial-level jurisdictions had issued notices by Monday advising people not to travel domestically. Some provincial governments singled out only medium- and high-risk regions, while others asked people to avoid all inter-provincial travel. According to the SCMP, Beijing's "zero-tolerance" approach to fighting COVID, which remains minimal compared with China's vast population, has "scared away" the tourists.

China reported 71 new COVID cases from local transmission on Wednesday, more than half of them in coastal Jiangsu province near the epicenter of Nanjiang, AP reported.

The CCP has decided to expand travel restrictions on Wednesday: ride-hailing services and public transit have been suspended in all medium- to high-risk areas. Immigration authorities have promised to "strictly restrict non-urgent, unnecessary cross-boarder travel" including restricting the issuing of passports for Chinese citizens. To try and stifle the virus before it has an opportunity to take hold, the city ordered millions of residents to undergo mandatory testing, leading to lines forming across the city. The city has also closed 17 bus lines and a handful of subway stations. Cases have been confirmed in 17 provinces and some two dozen cities, including Wuhan, which reported a handful of cases this week, per CNN.

Fears of another crushing lockdown - many Wuhan residents still have PTSD from the 70-day+ lockdown in the city that was used to crush the original outbreak, at a tremendous cost to the city's residents mental and physical health. Videos and photos shared on social media have shown empty shelves and long lines at supermarkets, as residents scramble to stock up on supplies.

"Seeing Wuhan people panic buying at supermarkets makes me feel sad. Only those who have experienced it understand how terrible it is, (we) dread a return to the days of staying at home and not knowing where the next meal is," said one Wuhan resident on Weibo.

The present outbreak began a little over a week ago in Nanjing, a city in Jiangsu province in eastern China, where nine airport cleaners were found to be infected on July 20 during a routine test. Chinese authorities have blamed the cluster on workers from Russia, who arrived at the Nanjing Lukou International Airport on July 10.

"It is believed that the cleaners did not strictly follow anti-epidemic guidelines after cleaning Flight CA910 and contracted the virus as a result. The infection further spread to other colleagues, who are also responsible for cleaning and transporting garbage on both international and domestic flights," reported state news agency Xinhua.

Given the provenance of the latest outbreak, Beijing has committed to ramp up testing of transport workers around the country. Workers at ports and borders considered high risk will be tested for the virus every other day said Li Huaqiang, a senior official with Ministry of Transport.

Earlier this week, another COVID-19 hotspot was identified in the city of Zhangjiajie, near a scenic area famous for sandstone cliffs, caves, forests and waterfalls.

Despite only confirming some 19 cases over the past week, the city ordered residential communities sealed Sunday, preventing people from leaving their homes. In a subsequent order on Tuesday, officials said no residents, and no tourists, would be allowed to leave the city. On Wednesday, the city government's Communist Party disciplinary committee issued a list of local officials who "had a negative impact" on pandemic prevention and control work who would be punished.

Far higher numbers were reported in Yangzhou, a city next to Nanjing, which has recorded 126 cases as of Tuesday. As a result, all cross-city ferry services, water tours were suspended in eastern Yangzhou on Wednesday.

But most alarmingly, the outbreak has already touched Beijing, eve though it's thousands of miles removed from the epicenter in Nanjiang. On Wednesday, 7 cases were confirmed in the capital city, prompting authorities to lock down two residential compounds.

As of this wee, China has doled out more than 1.71 billion vaccine doses to its population of 1.4 billion. Officials say 40% of the population is fully vaccinated, but the outbreak is also raising questions about the efficacy of those vaccines.

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/04/2021 - 18:00

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Government

Broward County Public Schools “Pause” Proposed Mask Mandate After DeSantis Threatens To Cut Funding

Broward County Public Schools "Pause" Proposed Mask Mandate After DeSantis Threatens To Cut Funding

Update: Broward County schools on Aug. 3 again changed course on whether to comply with or defy an executive order by Republican Gov. Ron…

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Broward County Public Schools "Pause" Proposed Mask Mandate After DeSantis Threatens To Cut Funding

Update: Broward County schools on Aug. 3 again changed course on whether to comply with or defy an executive order by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis which prohibited schools from imposing mask mandates on students.

In a written statement to The Epoch Times, the school board has not changed its policy but “paused it.”

“In light of the governor’s executive order, the district is awaiting further guidance before rendering a decision on the mask mandate for the upcoming school year. At this time, the district’s face covering policy, which requires the use of masks in district schools and facilities, remains in place.”

The School Board plans to discuss next steps at a special meeting on August 10.

Dr. Vickie Cartwright, interim superintendent of Broward County schools is looking into the executive order further.

“The school board is reviewing information and looking for language from our executive rules as a result of the governor’s executive order,” Cartwright said in a video statement.

On July 30, the governor signed an executive order that protects parents’ right to make decisions regarding the masking of their children as a means of protecting them from COVID-19. A month earlier, he signed a bill that protected the parents’ “fundamental right” to make decisions for the upbringing, education, health care, or mental health of their minor children.

“Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children,” DeSantis said.

*  *  *

As we detailed earlier, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has had enough of the Covid hysteria.

Aside from going on record and calling the lockdowns a "huge mistake" back in April of his year, DeSantis has done everything he can to try and turn over the power in his state to its citizens, and away from the government.

The latest example of this comes this week, where DeSantis stood down Florida's second largest school district that was attempting to impose a mask mandate. In response, DeSantis threatened to withhold funding from the district. 

"Broward County Public Schools announced last week that it would require mask use after the CDC issued new guidance recommending universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools this incoming school year, regardless of vaccination status," Axios reported this week.

DeSantis had issued an executive order last Friday barring schools from requiring masks when school re-opens next month. His order read that "if the State Board of Education determines that a district school board is unwilling or unable to comply with the law, the State Board shall have the authority to, among other things, withhold the transfer of state funds, discretionary grant funds ... and declare the school district ineligible for competitive grants."

And that's exactly what DeSantis threatened to do before Broward County Public Schools backed down, releasing a statement on Monday that said: "Broward County Public Schools intends to comply with the governor's latest executive order."

The statement continued: "Safety remains our highest priority. The district will advocate for all eligible students and staff to receive vaccines and strongly encourage masks to be worn by everyone in schools."

DeSantis also spoke at a press conference this week, stating: “Even among a lot of positive tests, you are seeing much less mortality that you did year-over-year. Would I rather have 5,000 cases among 20-year-olds or 500 cases among seniors? I would rather have the younger.”

“We are not shutting down. We are going to have schools open. We are protecting every Floridian’s job in this state. We are protecting people’s small businesses. These interventions have failed time and time again throughout this pandemic, not just in the United States but abroad.”

As we noted back in April, DeSantis told The Epoch Times that the lockdowns were a “huge mistake,” including in his own state.

“We wanted to mitigate the damage. Now, in hindsight, the 15 days to slow the spread and the 30—it didn’t work,” DeSantis said.

“We shouldn’t have gone down that road.”

Florida’s lockdown order was notably less strict than some of the stay-at-home measures imposed in other states. Recreational activities like walking, biking, golf, and beachgoing were exempted while essential businesses were broadly defined.

“Our economy kept going,” DeSantis said. “It was much different than what you saw in some of those lockdown states.”

DeSantis has also opposed vaccine passports in Florida. 

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/04/2021 - 22:40

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