The flattening of the US yield curve is a source of concern – This time is not different

Jerome Powell said that the yield curve flattening was not a source of concern and that it wasn’t showing a risk of recession as the economy is following a strong trajectory.

This point of view can be challenged for at least two reasons

1 – A negative yield curve (10 year rate below 2 year rate on government bonds) has always been a signal of recession with a lead of 18 to 24 months. The following graph is clear. Each negative yield curve is followed by a recession with a lag. The current spread is lower than 30 basis points, almost one increase of the fed funds rate.

We expect this yield curve profile for the end of this year due to the tighter monetary policy and therefore we have a strong probability of recession for 2020.

2 – The yield curve flattening reflects higher short term rates and no strong expectations on the long duration side showing that investors do not forecast a bright and strong future.

The tighter monetary policy means that the funding of the economy will be constrained for consumers and companies. We’ve seen recently that companies’ debt (as % of GDP) is at a record high and that consumer credit is still increasing rapidly. The impact of higher short term rates will be negative for both of them.

On the real estate market, around 50% of the financing is coming from brokers whose funding is linked to short term rates. For them too the situation will dramatically changed.

Moreover, an expected tighter monetary policy has provoked higher mortgage rates which will be damaging for households as real wages are no longer creeping up.

The argument saying that “this time is different” must be related to the discussion Reinhardt et Rogoff had in their famous book “This time is different”. Investors always think that the situation, at the moment they live it, is different from what was observed in the past with same type of signal. Reinhardt and Rogoff just say that it is not different on financial markets. An unbalanced situation must be adjusted. Current sources of “this time is different” argument are based on the neutral and non observable long term rate and also on the Fed’s balance sheet operations that have an impact on long bonds through the Fed’s reinvestment of their portfolio proceeds

In other words, the impact of higher short term rates will be negative on the US private sector and could be the source of the expected lower momentum on the economic activity. It it just the impact of a tighter monetary policy as we’ve always seen it in the past. This time is not different.

A discussion of Jay Powell’s speech at the congress can be read in the following FT article

www.ft.com/content/116455e2-8a33-11e8-bf9e-8771d5404543

What really went wrong in the 2008 financial crisis?

This article is a discussion, by Martin Wolf, of Tooze’s book on the ten years since 2008.

What, finally, are the biggest results? One comes from Tooze’s remark that “the optimistic dogma under which democracy and markets were seen as necessary complements — the mantra of the aftermath of the cold war — was dead. In its place the crisis had put a more realistic awareness of the potential tensions between the two.” This is surely right.

Yet another of these big results is that power and politics are back. US power dealt with the crisis. German power shaped the eurozone’s response. Rightwing politics reimagined a financial crisis as a fiscal one. A similar politics also shifted the emphasis from the dangers of economic insecurity and inequality to the threat from immigration. The crisis has, alas, awoken the sleeping ogres of fear and hatred.

How, if at all, will liberal democracy survive the age of Trump, Brexit, Putin and Xi? That is the biggest question raised by this transformative decade.

Continu reading amp.ft.com/content/e5ea9f2a-8528-11e8-a29d-73e3d454535d

UK and the European Union

A comparison of two White Papers. The first in 1971 when the UK wanted to join the Common Market and the second, in 2018, for the Brexit. The first had a strong political momentum and a real ambition, the second lacks of a vision.

“The 1971 White Paper had the guts to say a very hard thing: if you renounce an imperial past but fail to embrace a European future you will find yourself nowhere much. The 2018 White Paper is merely a rough map of that nowhere.”

Fintan O’Toole: Brexit White Paper puts UK on road to nowhere
via The Irish Times
https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/fintan-o-toole-brexit-white-paper-puts-uk-on-road-to-nowhere-1.3566782

Growth and football – what will happen if France become the world champion?

The French football team is all set for the FIFA World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday, but would a football win propel France into the leading position in Europe in terms of growth too? And looking to the euro area at large – would it make up for Germany’s defeat in the early stages of the competition and Spain’s poor performance? Or to put it another way – we may wonder whether the ECB may consider changing its monetary policy stance if Mbappé and Griezmann were to score during the final. Continue reading

Corporations Are Investing In Stock Buybacks That Don’t Pay

The Trump tax cuts were supposed to trigger a boom in business investment and wage growth. Instead, corporations are plowing record amounts of money into stock buybacks that don’t even reliably increase their share prices.
Continue reading nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/corporations-are-investing-in-stock-buybacks-that-dont-pay.html