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US inflation primed to ‘turn and burn’

At long last, markets were reinvigorated as the Federal Reserve eased to quarter-point rate hikes on February 1st. As Memphis Raines put it, ‘Champagne…



At long last, markets were reinvigorated as the Federal Reserve eased to quarter-point rate hikes on February 1st.

As Memphis Raines put it, ‘Champagne would fall from the heavens, doors would open and velvet robes would part.’

The S&P 500’s close was near a 6-month high the day following the announcement.

But the glee was to be short-lived.

Personal consumption expenditure (PCE)

In this case, Friday’s much-awaited PCE report was a major letdown.

Contrary to the inflation-is-(largely)-under-control narrative, the data showed that the Fed’s favoured inflation indicator headed considerably higher to 5.4% YoY, well over December’s 5.0%.

On a monthly basis too, the number came in at an elevated 0.6%, the highest since March 2022 which was at the outset of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Real goods inflation that had turned negative two months in a row surged to 2.2% MoM in January 2023.

Similarly, real services inflation which was unchanged in the previous report jumped sharply by 0.6%.

Source: FRED Database

Consumer spending was reported at unsustainably high levels of 1.8%, compared to market estimates of around 1.4%, and was well above the next highest reading of 0.8% recorded in July.

Such a ferocious rise across both goods and services would likely spell disaster for lower-income households as employment data continued to show negative real wage growth.

Despite the reported increase in appetite, companies did not appear to have confidence in consumption forecasts with mega-chains such as Walmart and Home Depot seeing deep cuts in their stock prices last week.

In the opinion of Peter Schiff, CEO and chief global strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, the Fed’s rate hikes have been largely ineffective as credit borrowing stayed elevated, and savings rates remain extremely low.

Source: FRED Database

Consumer price index (CPI)

The PCE data followed the disappointing CPI print which came in at 6.4% YoY, barely nudging lower from the 6.5% in December 2022.

The high number was on the back of stubbornly-sticky shelter costs and the surge in food expenses.

Egg prices rose an incredible 71% YoY in January.

To add to the gloom, Schiff believes that the CPI is grossly underestimating current inflation, stating,

I think if you double the official CPI, that’s probably close to accurate.

Economists from ShadowStats commented on this perceived divergence, writing,

Anecdotal evidence and occasional surveys have indicated that the general public believes inflation is running well above official reporting…growing difference in perception versus reality primarily is due to changes made over decades as to how the CPI is calculated and defined by the government.  Specifically, changes made to the definition of the CPI and related methodology in recent decades have reflected theoretical constructs offered by academia that have little relevance to the real-world use of the CPI by the general public.


The underlying concern that the CPI may be under-reported, whether due to methodological changes or survey issues, was only further fuelled by the high degree of revisions to the data in past months, dispelling any disinflationary notions.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Producer Price Index (PPI)

The PPI was higher by 6.0% YoY in January, reaching its lowest level since March 2021.

However, this too was only slightly lower than the 6.2% recorded in December 2022 and much higher than expectations of 5.4%.  

Core PPI came in at 0.5% for the month, above expectations as well.

Inflation outlook

For nearly a year, the Fed has tightened at an accelerated pace which has included four consecutive hikes of 75 bps.

In response, the CPI and other indicators reacted by easing significantly.

Source: BLS, Bureau of Economic Analysis

However, the degree of contribution of tightening in this equation is uncertain given that at the time supply disruptions cornered policymakers from every angle, including the Russia-Ukraine war, skyrocketing fossil fuel prices, the onset of the summer driving season in the US and shipping delays.

Schiff noted,

…(easing inflation) was bound to happen when you had a rate as high as 9.1% (in June 2022)…

Since the Fed downshifted rates to 25 bps well before the January inflation prints, we may well see a rebound play out in the very next month.

It appears that monetary authorities may be having a harder time than anticipated in shaking off the history of prolonged ultra-low interest rates, sustained quantitative easing, and huge expansionary fiscal policy amid the pandemic.

To add to the mix, the administration is looking to increase the debt ceiling even further, while Andy Schectman, President of Miles Franklin Precious Metals, fears,

And if they all (other countries) start to dump dollars, and I think it would happen quickly, you would have a tsunami of inflation hitting the shores of the West.

For additional context, readers may check out this piece on the trends favouring de-dollarization.

The short-lived disinflationary trend may be coming to a close, with inflation to be spurred on by the Fed’s decision to ease rate hikes and expectations of additional spending by the government.

The rising PPI is of particular concern, given that it often acts as a reliable leading indicator of inflation in the broader system.

If reports shift higher in the coming month, equities are bound to head lower as markets will fear additional tightening.

The post US inflation primed to ‘turn and burn’ appeared first on Invezz.

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Fighting the Surveillance State Begins with the Individual

It’s a well-known fact at this point that in the United States and most of the so-called free countries that there is a robust surveillance state in…



It’s a well-known fact at this point that in the United States and most of the so-called free countries that there is a robust surveillance state in place, collecting data on the entire populace. This has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by people like Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower who exposed that the NSA was conducting mass surveillance on US citizens and the world as a whole. The NSA used applications like those from Prism Systems to piggyback on corporations and the data collection their users had agreed to in the terms of service. Google would scan all emails sent to a Gmail address to use for personalized advertising. The government then went to these companies and demanded the data, and this is what makes the surveillance state so interesting. Neo-Marxists like Shoshana Zuboff have dubbed this “surveillance capitalism.” In China, the mass surveillance is conducted at a loss. Setting up closed-circuit television cameras and hiring government workers to be a mandatory editorial staff for blogs and social media can get quite expensive. But if you parasitically leech off a profitable business practice it means that the surveillance state will turn a profit, which is a great asset and an even greater weakness for the system. You see, when that is what your surveillance state is predicated on you’ve effectively given your subjects an opt-out button. They stop using services that spy on them. There is software and online services that are called “open source,” which refers to software whose code is publicly available and can be viewed by anyone so that you can see exactly what that software does. The opposite of this, and what you’re likely already familiar with, is proprietary software. Open-source software generally markets itself as privacy respecting and doesn’t participate in data collection. Services like that can really undo the tricky situation we’ve found ourselves in. It’s a simple fact of life that when the government is given a power—whether that be to regulate, surveil, tax, or plunder—it is nigh impossible to wrestle it away from the state outside somehow disposing of the state entirely. This is why the issue of undoing mass surveillance is of the utmost importance. If the government has the power to spy on its populace, it will. There are people, like the creators of The Social Dilemma, who think that the solution to these privacy invasions isn’t less government but more government, arguing that data collection should be taxed to dissuade the practice or that regulation needs to be put into place to actively prevent abuses. This is silly to anyone who understands the effect regulations have and how the internet really works. You see, data collection is necessary. You can’t have email without some elements of data collection because it’s simply how the protocol functions. The issue is how that data is stored and used. A tax on data collection itself will simply become another cost of doing business. A large company like Google can afford to pay a tax. But a company like Proton Mail, a smaller, more privacy-respecting business, likely couldn’t. Proton Mail’s business model is based on paid subscriptions. If there were additional taxes imposed on them, it’s possible that they would not be able to afford the cost and would be forced out of the market. To reiterate, if one really cares about the destruction of the surveillance state, the first step is to personally make changes to how you interact with online services and to whom you choose to give your data.

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Stock Market Today: Stocks turn higher as Treasury yields retreat; big tech earnings up next

A pullback in Treasury yields has stocks moving higher Monday heading into a busy earnings week and a key 2-year bond auction later on Tuesday.



Updated at 11:52 am EDT U.S. stocks turned higher Monday, heading into the busiest earnings week of the year on Wall Street, amid a pullback in Treasury bond yields that followed the first breach of 5% for 10-year notes since 2007. Investors, however, continue to track developments in Israel's war with Hamas, which launched its deadly attack from Gaza three weeks ago, as leaders around the region, and the wider world, work to contain the fighting and broker at least a form of cease-fire. Humanitarian aid is also making its way into Gaza, through the territory's border with Egypt, as officials continue to work for the release of more than 200 Israelis taken hostage by Hamas during the October 7 attack. Those diplomatic efforts eased some of the market's concern in overnight trading, but the lingering risk that regional adversaries such as Iran, or even Saudi Arabia, could be drawn into the conflict continues to blunt risk appetite. Still, the U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six global currencies and acts as the safe-haven benchmark in times of market turmoil, fell 0.37% in early New York trading 105.773, suggesting some modest moves into riskier assets. The Japanese yen, however, eased past the 150 mark in overnight dealing, a level that has some traders awaiting intervention from the Bank of Japan and which may have triggered small amounts of dollar sales and yen purchases. In the bond market, benchmark 10-year note yields breached the 5% mark in overnight trading, after briefly surpassing that level late last week for the first time since 2007, but were last seen trading at 4.867% ahead of $141 billion in 2-year, 5-year and 7-year note auctions later this week. Global oil prices were also lower, following two consecutive weekly gains that has take Brent crude, the global pricing benchmark, firmly past $90 a barrel amid supply disruption concerns tied to the middle east conflict. Brent contracts for December delivery were last seen $1.06 lower on the session at $91.07 per barrel while WTI futures contract for the same month fell $1.36 to $86.72 per barrel. Market volatility gauges were also active, with the CBOE Group's VIX index hitting a fresh seven-month high of $23.08 before easing to $20.18 later in the session. That level suggests traders are expecting ranges on the S&P 500 of around 1.26%, or 53 points, over the next month. A busy earnings week also indicates the likelihood of elevated trading volatility, with 158 S&P 500 companies reporting third quarter earnings over the next five days, including mega cap tech names such as Google parent Alphabet  (GOOGL) - Get Free Report, Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Free Report, retail and cloud computing giant Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Free Report and Facebook owner Meta Platforms  (META) - Get Free Report. "It’s shaping up to be a big week for the market and it comes as the S&P 500 is testing a key level—the four-month low it set earlier this month," said Chris Larkin, managing director for trading and investing at E*TRADE from Morgan Stanley. "How the market responds to that test may hinge on sentiment, which often plays a larger-than-average role around this time of year," he added. "And right now, concerns about rising interest rates and geopolitical turmoil have the potential to exacerbate the market’s swings." Heading into the middle of the trading day on Wall Street, the S&P 500, which is down 8% from its early July peak, the highest of the year, was up 10 points, or 0.25%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which slumped into negative territory for the year last week, was marked 10 points lower while the Nasdaq, which fell 4.31% last week, was up 66 points, or 0.51%. In overseas markets, Europe's Stoxx 600 was marked 0.11% lower by the close of Frankfurt trading, with markets largely tracking U.S. stocks as well as the broader conflict in Israel. In Asia, a  slump in China stocks took the benchmark CSI 300 to a fresh 2019 low and pulled the region-wide MSCI ex-Japan 0.72% lower into the close of trading.
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iPhone Maker Foxconn Investigated By Chinese Authorities

Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that manufactures iPhones on behalf of Apple (AAPL), is being investigated by Chinese authorities, according to multiple…



Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that manufactures iPhones on behalf of Apple (AAPL), is being investigated by Chinese authorities, according to multiple media reports. Foxconn’s business has been searched by Chinese authorities and China’s main tax authority has conducted inspections of Foxconn’s manufacturing operations in the Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Jiangsu. At the same time, China’s natural-resources department has begun onsite investigations into Foxconn’s land use in Henan and Hubei provinces within China. Foxconn has manufacturing facilities focused on Apple products in three of the Chinese provinces where authorities are carrying out searches. While headquartered in Taiwan, Foxconn has a huge manufacturing presence in China and is a large employer in the nation of 1.4 billion people. The investigations suggest that China is ramping up pressure on the company as Foxconn considers major investments in India, and as presidential elections approach in Taiwan. Foxconn founder Terry Gou said in August of this year that he intends to run for the Taiwanese presidency. He has resigned from the company’s board of directors but continues to hold a 12.5% stake in the company. Gou is currently in fourth place in the polls ahead of the election that is scheduled to be held in January 2024. The potential impact on Apple and its iPhone manufacturing comes amid rising political tensions between politicians in Washington, D.C. and Beijing. Apple’s stock has risen 16% over the last 12 months and currently trades at $172.88 U.S. per share.  

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