OECD Leading Indicators at a Turning Point

By Callum Thomas

The latest round of OECD Composite Leading Indicators was just released, and given how useful these indicators can be in shedding light on the state of the economic cycle (and market cycle) it’s worth taking a look at the trends within the data. Indeed, the January round showed a further down tick in the diffusion index across the 36 countries that OECD calculates these indicators for. In the past this sort of pattern has been a signal of a turning point.

While I have been optimistic on the global economic outlook (on the basis of still supportive monetary policy, rising property prices in the major economies, solid manufacturing and consumer confidence, improving corporate earnings, and accelerating global trade growth), it is worth keeping track of indicators like this for an unbiased guide on potential turning points in the cycle.  As I note below, it could well be a more benign type of signal e.g. a mid-expansion slowdown such as that which occurred in 2005, but with equity market valuations increasingly expensive, and the tides turning in global monetary policy, it’s not something to completely dismiss either.

The key takeaways for investors are:

Continue reading OECD Leading Indicators at a Turning Point

Q4 2017 Z.1 Flow of Funds

By Doug Noland

So much uncertainty in the world these days. Some things, however, we know with certitude: U.S. Debt, the value of the securities markets and Household Net Worth do grow to the sky. The Fed’s latest Z.1 report documents another quarter of inflating Credit, markets and perceived wealth – three additional months of history’s greatest Bubble.

Total (non-financial and financial) U.S. System borrowings jumped a nominal $495 billion during the quarter and $2.630 TN in 2017 to a record $68.591 TN. Total Non-Financial Debt (NFD) expanded at a seasonally-adjusted and annualized rate (SAAR) of $1.407 TN during 2017’s fourth quarter to a record $49.050 TN (’17 growth of $1.793 TN). Credit growth slowed from Q3’s SAAR $3.007 TN and Q2’s SAAR $1.921 TN, while it was closely in line with Q4 2016’s SAAR $1.435 TN. NFD as a percentage of GDP ended 2017 at 249%. This compares to 230% to end 2007 and 179% in 1999.

By major category for the quarter, Household Debt expanded SAAR $790 billion, a notable acceleration from Q3’s $516 billion and Q2’s $573 billion. For perspective, one must go back to 2007’s $946 billion to see annual growth exceeding Q4’s pace of Household borrowings. For 2017, total Household Borrowings expanded $604 billion, up from 2016’s $510 billion, ‘15’s $403 billion, ‘14’s $402 billion, ‘13’s $241 billion, and ‘12’s $266 billion. Household Borrowings contracted $51 billion in ’11 and $61 billion in ’10.

Continue reading Q4 2017 Z.1 Flow of Funds

Friday’s Employment-Sparked NASDAQ Rally Appears To Be A Short-Term Bullish Indication

By Rob Hanna

The employment report has helped to spark a big rally today, and the NASDAQ is hitting new all-time highs. I looked back at other instances where the NASDAQ spiked higher and closed at a new high on the day of an employment report. The results I saw were compelling. Here are the list of instances along with their 5-day returns:


With the only loser closing down 0.06%, the stats are completely lopsided for the bulls. Employment-sparked momentum leading to new highs like we are seeing today has seen positive short-term follow through in the past. This certainly appears worth keeping in mind as traders ready for next week.

Hat-tip to @McClellanOsc for the idea to test!

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Jobs Friday! 313K Jobs Added [Higher Than Expected]

By Anthony B. Sanders

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released their report for February. In a nutshell, 313k jobs were added, Labor Force Participation increased to 63%, but  YoY average hourly earnings fell to 2.6%.


Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 313,000 in February, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

Employment rose in construction, retail trade, professional and business services,
manufacturing, financial activities, and mining.

Household Survey Data

In February, the unemployment rate was 4.1 percent for the fifth consecutive month,
and the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 6.7 million.
(See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Blacks declined to 6.9
percent in February, while the jobless rates for adult men (3.7 percent), adult
women (3.8 percent), teenagers (14.4 percent), Whites (3.7 percent), Asians (2.9
percent), and Hispanics (4.9 percent) showed little change. (See tables A-1, A-2,
and A-3.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 1.4 million in February and accounted for 20.7 percent of the unemployed.

Over the year, the number of long-term unemployed was down by 369,000. (See table A-12.)

The civilian labor force rose by 806,000 in February. The labor force participation rate increased by 0.3 percentage point over the month to 63.0 percent but changed little over the year. (See table A-1.)

In February, total employment, as measured by the household survey, rose by 785,000.

Continue reading Jobs Friday! 313K Jobs Added [Higher Than Expected]

The Tightening Lead (Pb) Market (from IKN459)

By Otto Rock

This was part of last weekend’s edition of The IKN Weekly. Just one small edit, the name of a company at the end.

More on Lead (Pb)

It was hectic and a bit of a squeeze to get the edition out on time last week, since then I’ve had time to fill in some blank spaces and none more so than the intriguing situation in the lead market. What I’ve found by checking the data is that there’s every reason to suppose an acceleration in the demand for lead that justifies the current voracious appetite of smelters for product.

The place to go for reliable supply demand data is the International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG), based out of Portugal and comprised of a selection of industry experts from all corners of the sector. We’ve made use of their database (22) on these pages previously for the zinc exercise which showed in 2016 the rise in demand (that’s worked out very nicely thank you) and it’s now time for its ugly sister, known in Latin as plumbum and the reason we call out the plumber who’ll often bring his plumb line. This chart derived from the data shows the supply make-up of Pb and the first thing to note is the high percentage of end user supply that comes from the re-cycling business. There are well-established firms that do this and as much as 97% of the lead used in car batteries is scavenged and sent back to battery makers to use again. However, mined supply is also on the rise and with 11 months of data for 2017 already published, our estimated as seen in the charts is likely to be within a tight margin of error and shows supply expanding again after a couple of stagnant years.

Continue reading The Tightening Lead (Pb) Market (from IKN459)

3 Amigos of the Macro, Updated


You thought I was done with the Amigos shtick, did you? Not by a long shot ma’am. They are the happy-go-lucky riders in play as the stock bull market churns on. They are the rising SPX/Gold ratio and stocks in general vs. gold (Amigo #1), rising US 10yr & 30yr yields (Amigo #2) and the flattening 10-2 yield curve (Amigo #3). On their current trends these goofy riders have signaled “a-okay!” to casino patrons playing the stock market and other risk ‘on’ items.

Taking our macro indicators out of order, let’s start with Amigo #2, who we have been noting to be bracing for something…

What is that something? Well, it is the targets for 10yr & 30yr bond yields we laid out 4-5 months ago in a bearish case for bonds; you know, back when everyone didn’t hate bonds as is currently the case under the much more recent expert guidance of Bill, Ray and Paul? It might as well have been Ringo, George and Paul making the call.

Another Heavy Hitter Calls Bond Bear

I am not trying to come off as a contrarian bond bull, deflationist. There are very valid reasons to be open to if not expect a new and secular bond bear market. But with the yields at our targets, which were established for a reason (being caution) and with the financial eggheads fully in unison, it has come time for caution on the bond bear stance and at least some aspects of a stock bull stance.

Continue reading 3 Amigos of the Macro, Updated

“The Last Great Myth of Every Financial Euphoria”

By Elliott Wave International

Beware of the “New Normal” in the Stock Market

The January 2018 Elliott Wave Financial Forecast put it this way:

After two decades of Mania Era asset bubbles and sentiment extremes, what now seems normal to many investors is actually highly abnormal.

That’s right — many investors no longer fear asset bubbles. That is why too many will be caught off-guard when the Mania Era inevitably ends.

Many investors are not frightened by the phrases “stock market bubble,” “housing bubble” or any other type of financial bubble.

Because, by the time the talk of a bubble makes it into the news cycle, investors perceive the long rise in asset prices as the norm and “today” as “different.”

A classic Elliott Wave Theorist made the point this way:

It’s never irrational exuberance in the present, only in retrospect or in the future. To quote the White Queen, “The rule is: jam tomorrow and jam yesterday–but never jam today.”

For example, even as the bull market in stocks celebrates its 9th birthday, read these headlines:

  • There Is No Bubble: Why Stock Bears Continue To Cry Danger — Seeking Alpha, Feb. 7, 2018
  • There’s no reason to run from the stock market — CBS Moneywatch, Feb. 7, 2018
  • Stock market fall looks like a correction, not a crash — The Guardian, Feb. 6, 2018

Also think back to 2005, when housing prices were soaring and house flipping was the rage. In November of that year, the Elliott Wave Financial Forecast mentioned another fatal assumption about bubbles:

Continue reading “The Last Great Myth of Every Financial Euphoria”

A Follow-up on 3 Charts

By Tom McClellan

DJIA In a Rogue Wave
March 08, 2018

We are at a fascinating turning point in the market’s path, and it is worth reviewing some recent Chart In Focus stories to see how they turned out, and to look at what might lie ahead.  I usually refrain from doing reruns, but in each case there is new information that I find interesting, and which I have already shared with our McClellan Market Report and Daily Edition subscribers.  I hope you will find them interesting too.  So here goes.

Back on Feb. 15, I wrote about “Stock Market In a Rogue Wave”.  Rogue waves are a rare and peculiar phenomenon, both in the ocean and in other areas involving flow.  The main points are that a rogue wave borrows energy from adjacent waves to build to a much greater height than the surrounding chop.  And the height of the crest tends to be matched by the depth of the adjacent trough.  After the rogue wave goes by, the fluid returns to the nominal level, or “sea level”, which in the stock market is harder to discern.

Continue reading A Follow-up on 3 Charts

S&P 500 Sector Situation

By Callum Thomas

We often hear about what’s happening with the S&P500 – for the smarter people you hear the S&P500 is up or down X%, for the not so smart ones you hear the S&P500 is up or down XXX points (usually with some added hyperbole, etc).  But what’s often not talked about as much, is what’s going on below the surface… not down to stock level, but at the sector level.  This article sheds light on trends in sector performance and weightings that have meaningful implications for investors.

Aside from the observations around winning vs losing streaks on the sectoral performance rankings (it’s rare to see a certain sector at the top or bottom of the performance ranking table for more than a year or 2 – contrarians take note!), the change in market capitalization rankings is profound.  Around 1995, the sector weightings of the S&P500 were fairly evenly disbursed, with the top sector at the time (consumer discretionary) at 15% and the bottom (utilities) at 5%… this contrasts to now IT at the top with 25% and telecoms at the bottom with 2%.

Basically there has been a fairly steady and systematic shift in the make up of the market.  You can see this in the performance attribution chart, where the bulk of returns in the last few years has been accounted for by financials and IT.  Most people will dismiss this as just a feature of the markets, but for the passive investor, or the active allocator who opts for passive exposure, investing in equities today has become a different bet.

The key takeaways from this analysis are:

Continue reading S&P 500 Sector Situation

Gold – The Next Big Surprise

By Kevin Muir

It’s been a while since I have written about precious metals. To some extent, this has been on purpose. I am a long-term fan of our little yellow friend, but there are definitely periods when I am more bullish than others. Over the past half year, my enthusiasm for precious metals has been tempered by one important chart…

During this period, the yield on the US 5-year TIPS (Treasury Inflation Protected Security) has been steadily rising. It’s not a perfect comparison, but you can think about this as the risk free real yield – the yield you will earn after inflation.

Many market pundits mistakenly believe inflation is the most important determinant of gold’s price level. That’s simply not the case. Although the great bull market of the late 1970’s was accompanied by high inflation, the 2005-2011 rise was in the midst of tame inflation, with CPI even ticking below zero for a period.

Continue reading Gold – The Next Big Surprise

The Inflation Scare of 2012

By Kevin Muir

I would like to take you back to 2012. Just a few short years after the soul-searching-scary Great Financial Crisis of 2008-9, market participants had finally given up their worry of the next great depression enveloping the globe, but had replaced it with an equally fervent fear that inflation would uncontrollably explode. The Federal Reserve had recently completed their second round of quantitative easing, much to the chagrin of a large group of distinguished economic thinkers who had gone as far as writing an open letter to the Fed Chairman pleading he reconsider the program.

Continue reading The Inflation Scare of 2012

Really Looking for Inflation, Part 2

By Jeffrey Snider

Continued from Part 1

What these unusually weak productivity estimates lean toward is, quite simply, the possibility the BLS has been overstating jobs gains for years. In early 2018, there is already the hint of just that problem in a 4.1% unemployment that doesn’t lead to any acceleration in wages and labor income. What it does suggest is that something (or several somethings) in these estimates is off somewhere.

For the unemployment rate, that already includes the participation problem in its denominator, but, again, that is not mutually exclusive of problems in the numerator (the increase in the number of payrolls). As nothing more than a rhetorical exercise utilizing nothing more than back-of-the-envelope counterfactuals (so take it in that spirit), if productivity had been more balanced and thus more consistent with how an economy actually works over the intermediate and long terms (not transitory), that would have meant by simple arithmetic either output was much higher or labor input much lower.

The Household Survey gained 1.44% per year during those same years, a lower rate than total hours worked reflecting the increase in full-time jobs as some part-time positions were converted back to the former pre-crisis status. Reducing the total gain in hours worked by more than a third (as shown above) would have lowered the increase in the Household Survey by more than 5.2 million at the end of 2017, leaving out how in every likelihood the reduction would have been more severe factoring less part-time jobs conversions.

Continue reading Really Looking for Inflation, Part 2