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US CPI eases substantially to 8.5% but the Fed yet to “hit the brakes”

US consumers received a welcome break from the meteoric rise in prices with the July CPI ‘easing’ more than anticipated to 8.5% Y-o-Y. The figure moderated…

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US consumers received a welcome break from the meteoric rise in prices with the July CPI ‘easing’ more than anticipated to 8.5% Y-o-Y.

The figure moderated from 9.1% in June owing to a fall in surging gasoline prices as the summer driving season came to a close.

Forecasts had suggested that the CPI may only fall to 8.7%.

Prices of key commodities such as corn, wheat and copper also declined by 20.4%, 27.7% and 13.5% compared to 3 months ago at the time of writing.

Buoyed by renewed optimism, the S&P 500 has risen by 2.1% thus far during today’s session.

Yet, the rate of inflation is still far above the Fed’s stated 2% target.

Source: Investing.com

Core CPI which excludes volatile energy and food items from the main basket stayed unchanged at 5.9% Y-o-Y while increasing by 0.3% on a monthly basis, significantly below July expectations of 0.7%.

Pimco economists Tiffany Wilding and Allison Boxer noted that although headline inflation has eased, core CPI has stayed firm, and has even seen an uptick in related data released by the Fed’s regional institutions.

The July reading showed the sharpest Y-o-Y dip since March 2020, when CPI fell from 2.3% in February to 1.5% as the initial lockdowns took effect.

Source: Investing.com

American families continue to battle sky-high prices amid declining real wages. Simon Moore, a contributor at Forbes magazine adds that “price increases for many other areas of the economy still remain concerning for the Fed.”

The broad-based nature of inflation has meant essentials such as food, rent, and health services are continuing to see an uptick despite a lower aggregate number.

For instance, the Bank of America noted that the average monthly rent has risen by 16% for those in the youth demographics.

Source: TradingEconomics.com, US EIA

Jobs market

The substantial dip in the CPI has proved to be a bit of a surprise following the latest jobs report which registered an increase of 528,000 in July, with the unemployment rate falling to a low of 3.5%.

The labour market continues to remain unnaturally tight despite the Fed’s overall hawkishness, two consecutive quarters of GDP contraction, and reports of big-tech lay-offs earlier in the year.

A tighter job market usually implies more competition for talent, higher wages and ultimately more spending. More spending tends to push up consumer inflation necessitating rate hikes.

As of July 2022, the U.S economy has been able to replace the 22 million jobs that were lost amid covid lockdowns, leading to predictions of a “jobful recession.”

Economists argue that this unique situation may be fueled in part by ageing demographics and a sharp decline in immigration during the course of the pandemic.

Productivity data

A key concern for the Federal Reserve is falling labour productivity in the economy. The output per worker reduced for a second consecutive quarter to -4.6% Y-o-Y, having registered a fall of 7.4% in the first three months of the year.

Q1 marked the deepest cut in labour productivity since records began in 1948, 74 years ago. This was reinforced by the weakness in GDP data that contracted in both Q1 and Q2, contrasting with the positive signals from the headline jobs figures.

At the same time, unit labour costs increased 10.8% in Q2, although real wages have contracted 3.5% over the past year.

Can we expect a pause in rate hikes?

Bluford Putnam, Managing Director & Chief Economist, CME Group, wrote “…factors has changed course in the past six to 12 months and is no longer likely to be a source of future inflation”

Elevated goods demand due to the pandemic and ongoing lockdowns have eased markedly; supply chain disruptions will take time to alleviate completely but significant strides have been made in this regard; the gigantic fiscal stimulus injected during the covid crisis has largely run its course; central banks are finally reducing their balance sheets; while policymakers have embarked upon the withdrawal of rock-bottom interest rates.  These are all sources of price rise that have seemingly turned the corner.

In addition, gasoline prices are likely to ease for the foreseeable future, while WTI and Brent have fallen 4.7% and 2.4%, respectively over the past month.

However, Bill Adams of Comerica Bank has been reluctant to call a peak to inflation and expects that the US is at risk of “another energy price shock” over the winter.

The conduct of monetary policy has never been a clear-cut matter. The judgement of monetary authorities is paramount while projecting into the future has always been fraught with known and unknown unknowns. 

The relatively sharp decline in CPI, contracting GDP and tightness in the job market tell a muddled tale.

For the average householder, costs are punitive, and inflation is likely to stay sticky.

However, the New York Fed in its July survey of expectations found that inflation expectations of the ‘general public’ have followed gasoline and broader energy prices lower, with one year ahead expectations falling to 6.2%.

Since inflation expectations are central to the monetary policy equation, once again, we find that supply-side factors not under the control of central banks may have influenced public sentiment and consumer behaviour more so than simply tighter policies.

In light of the likely easing among key inflationary sources, CME’s FedWatch Tool reports that there is a 60.5% probability of a 50 bps hike in September, while there is a 39.5% chance of a third consecutive 75 bps hike.

This is in spite of the fact that Jerome Powell believes that the Fed has been able to achieve the neutral interest rate during its last meeting – a level where the economy is neither constrained into contraction nor incentivized to expand.

Putnam states that “any level of short-term rates that is below a reasonable view of inflation expectations remains accommodative”, resulting in the Fed taking “its foot off the accelerator, but it has not hit the brakes. “  

Moore points out that “Inflation is starting to fall, but still not by as much as the Fed would like and it may be some time before they can declare any sort of victory”

For now, all eyes will be on tomorrow’s Producer Price Index data and the likely passing of the controversial Inflation Reduction Act in the coming days.

The post US CPI eases substantially to 8.5% but the Fed yet to “hit the brakes” appeared first on Invezz.

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Does the Alphabet share price make it a no-brainer investment?

The Alphabet share price is down 32.09% so far this year knocking around $618 billion off the Google-owner’s market capitalisation. The drop…
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The Alphabet share price is down 32.09% so far this year knocking around $618 billion off the Google-owner’s market capitalisation. The drop in Alphabet’s valuation can be seen as the result of two main factors. The first is that this year’s decline is at least partly a natural correction after Big Tech valuations went into melt-up during the pandemic.

The second influence has been a slowdown in revenue growth to its slowest rate since 2013 (6%), excepting a brief period during the pandemic, and concerns over the financial impact of a global recession on digital advertising revenues.

However, at the current share price of $98.46, there is a strong feeling Alphabet has been heavily oversold despite recent gains. That also appears to be a growing feeling among fund managers, who have catalysed the recent rally by buying up swathes of Alphabet stock in recent weeks.

An article by the financial markets and funds data company Morningstar this week ranked Alphabet at the top of a table of “high conviction purchases” by tracked investment managers. Managers 17 funds tracked by Morningstar have made what the data company defines as purchases of Alphabet stock that represents a meaningful addition to their portfolios, judged by the size of the purchase in relation to the portfolio’s size.

The second most popular stock in the table for high conviction purposes was the U.S. bank and financial services company Wells Fargo, with 5 fund managers taking on significant exposure to the company. Alphabet is also currently given a rare 5-star rating by Morningstar’s inhouse analysts, indicating they see it as having limited downside and significant upside at its current valuation.

chart

Source: Morningstar

Why is Alphabet seen by many professional stock pickers and analysts as undervalued?

Even if Alphabet is attracting investor attention at its current knock-down valuation, markets are still sceptical overall. If they weren’t, the company’s valuation would be higher. So while some fund managers have been making major recent investments in Alphabet, reflected by an 18% gain in the share price since November 3, the mainstream is yet to be fully convinced.

Is that simply because investors buying the stock now are cleverer than the wider market which is proving slow to appreciate it has oversold Alphabet? Or are those investors taking a significant risk with their glass half-full view of the company’s prospects over the near to mid-term?

Morningstar points out its analyst Ali Mogharabi estimates fair value for Alphabet shares at $160. That’s 62.5% higher than the current share price of $98, suggesting significant potential upside.

Mogharbi’s fair value estimate of an Alphabet share price of $160 is based on the strong revenue growth and cash flow generated by the company’s 80% share of the global search engine market held by Google. 85% of Alphabet’s revenue is still generated by digital advertising on Google, its associated ad platforms and YouTube.

The remaining 15% comes from a combination of sale of income generated by apps and content on Google Play, its quickly growing cloud service, licensing fees (especially for the Android mobile operating system), and hardware sales. Alphabet also has a loss-making “other bets” division that invests in future technologies and includes companies like the self-driving cars software company Waymo and life sciences company Verily.

Mogharbi expects Google’s dominant position in the search engine market to mean it will continue to see revenue and cash flow growth in future years with no obvious competition in sight. He believes future bets investments are reasonable as long as they are not to the extent they significantly compromise group-wide operating margins and profitability. Especially as there is a reasonable chance some might eventually contribute significantly to future revenues.

Waymo, which is developing an operating system for self-driving cars it hopes will mimic the success of Android for mobile devices, is expected to be a major player in a market worth tens of billions within the next ten to fifteen years.

But future bets aside, Mogharbi expects revenue growth from digital ad sales to maintain average annual double-digit growth for the next five years as mobile usage increases, even taking into consideration the potential for a slowdown next year as recession hurts global economies. He also sees video-content platform YouTube as contributing more to the top and bottom lines over the next few years despite the recent deceleration of its revenue growth.

And the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is put forward as a strong business that will become increasingly important as it continues to grow. Revenue was up 38% year-on-year to $6.9 billion in Q3 and unlike its two larger competitors, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure, Google Cloud is still losing money.

GCP should move into profitability in the medium term, the operating margin has recently shrunk from -14% to -10%, which would boost the group’s value. It is unlikely to ever be as big as AWS or Azure but could still be a major contributor to the bottom line within the next 5-10 years.

Alphabet is also responding to calls from activist investors to tighten its belt by reducing spend on future bets as well as staff numbers and remuneration levels. That should improve margins again and see the company emerge leaner from the current economic slowdown.

The company is also still a cash machine, which is facilitating a strong share buyback policy. Over the last year, the company has repurchased 433 million shares, spending $43.9 billion over the last nine months. Those repurchases reduced its share count by 3.2%, and with the stock price down and $116 billion in cash and equivalents on the balance sheet, the company could get more aggressive with the repurchases, which will help increase earnings per share.

That would be expected to put Alphabet in a very strong position to see its valuation rebound quickly when the cyclical market for online ads turns positive again.

The Alphabet share price also simply looks incredibly good value at its current level. On a trailing basis, it is trading at a price-to-earnings ratio of just 19.5. That’s even lower than the average 20.5 across the broad S&P 500 index which, based on Alphabet’s continued profitability, remaining growth potential, market dominance and balance sheet, just seems strange.

Risks to Alphabet share price upside

The main short term risk to the Alphabet share price is the potential depth of the global recession most economists agreed we have already entered. If the economic slowdown around the world proves more severe than expected and digital ad spend drops more as a result, markets could foreseeably punish Alphabet again and drag its value down.

Longer term, the company is still heavily reliant on digital advertising revenues and it will be a long time before that might realistically change. While some of the company’s future bets, especially Waymo, look very promising, there is still growth potential in the online marketing sector and existing businesses like Google Cloud Platform should make a much bigger contribution over future years, it is hard to deny Alphabet has a lot of its eggs in one basket. That does have to be seen as a risk.

However, overall, while the year ahead poses some downside risks, it does seem hard to imagine the Alphabet share price not rising significantly from current levels over the years ahead. At under $100, the Alphabet share price has a lot going for it.

The post Does the Alphabet share price make it a no-brainer investment? first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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License Plates Could Be Printed On McDonald’s Bags To Stop Littering

License Plates Could Be Printed On McDonald’s Bags To Stop Littering

There’s been talk about McDonald’s in southwest Great Britain could print…

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License Plates Could Be Printed On McDonald's Bags To Stop Littering

There's been talk about McDonald's in southwest Great Britain could print car license plates on drive-thru bags to prevent customers from littering. 

"It's not clear exactly how the number plate would be printed on packaging, but it could be scanned onto the brown bags that contain the food," Daily Mail noted. 

Chris Howell, Swansea Council's head of waste, parks and cleansing, told a climate change corporate delivery committee meeting: 

"The Welsh Government has explored with McDonald's, or their franchises, whether or not they could print number plates of cars collecting takeaways from their drive-throughs with a view that that would discourage people from discarding their materials (litter)."

Howell said one of the biggest hurdles with fast-food companies is that if one chain adopts the climate initiative, customers will go to competitors that don't print license plates on bags. 

"If McDonald's do it, then people will just go to Burger King instead of McDonald's, because nobody wants to have their private details printed on that packaging." He added: "I think it's a really good idea but at the minute it's fraught with some difficulties." 

The nationalist political party in Wales, Plaid Cymru, first proposed the idea more than two years ago during the pandemic lockdown when party leaders noticed a spike in fast-food trash along city streets and highways. 

Welsh Government spokesperson told MailOnline:

"There are no current plans to introduce a requirement for drive-through restaurants to add vehicle registration details to fast food drive-through packaging.

"We are continuing to support Keep Wales Tidy with other initiatives to tackle roadside litter including their No Regrets campaign and their Adopt a Highway initiative."

Now 'the cat is out of the bag'. It's only a matter of time before governments start forcing fast-food companies to print license plate numbers on drive-thru bags. The dangers of this could be more surveillance, and who knows what corporations would do with license plate data if such a system were implemented. 

Tyler Durden Sat, 11/26/2022 - 18:00

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Energy is the master resource but it could be Bitcoin that reigns supreme

Nothing shines a light on the importance of energy as much as a fast-approaching winter.
The post Energy is the master resource but it could be Bitcoin…

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Nothing shines a light on the importance of energy as much as a fast-approaching winter. When the temperature drops, the scarcity of energy becomes obvious and global efforts to preserve it begin.

This year, the fight for energy is more aggressive than it’s ever been.

The fiscal and monetary policies set in place during the COVID-19 pandemic caused dangerous inflation in almost every country in the world. The quantitative easing that set out to curb the consequences of the pandemic resulted in a historically unprecedented increase in the M2 money supply. This decision diluted the purchasing power and led to an increase in energy prices, sparking a crisis that is set to culminate this winter.

CryptoSlate analysis showed that the E.U. will most likely be the one hit the hardest by the energy crisis.

The European Central Bank (ECB) has been struggling to keep core inflation down this year. The Core Consumer Price Index (CPI) began to increase substantially in 2021 due to the pandemic both in the U.S. and the E.U.

The U.S. has seen its Core CPI decrease sharply since its culmination in February and posted better-than-expected results last month. However, Core CPI in the Eurozone has continued to increase throughout the year and currently shows no sign of stopping.

Graph showing the Core CPI in the U.S. and the Eurozone from 2017 to 2022 (Source: The Daily Shot)

A similar increase in Core CPI can also be seen in Japan and the U.K. One of the factors that may have contributed to their monetary instability is a lack of investment and support for commodities like oil and gas. Widespread efforts to switch to renewable sources of energy led to a decrease in oil and gas purchases in the E.U. and the U.K.

In contrast, the U.S. and Russia have been investing heavily in oil and gas and promoting innovation in the field.

Looking at the value of fiat currencies against the U.S. dollar further confirms this impact.

The Russian Ruble and the DXY have both increased in value in the past two years, while the euro, British Pound, and Japanese Yen have all seen their Dollar value decrease.

global fiat currencies
Graph showing DXY, GBP, EUR, JPY, and RUB and their value against the U.S. dollar (Source: TradingView)

With rising inflation and a seriously weakened currency, the E.U. will have a hard time competing for oil and gas on the global market. Natural gas producers warned that almost all long-term contracts for natural gas coming out of the U.S. have been sold out until 2026. Until then, when a new wave of natural gas supply is expected to come, the E.U. will have to compete with Asia for the limited supply and swallow the high gas price.

All of this uncertainty could have a positive effect on Bitcoin. While the broader crypto market struggles to remain afloat after the FTX fallout, Bitcoin has positioned itself as a pillar of stability in a market plagued with bad actors. Devalued fiat currencies could push retail investors away from safe-haven assets like gold and commodities and towards an asset like Bitcoin.

The post Energy is the master resource but it could be Bitcoin that reigns supreme appeared first on CryptoSlate.

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