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Inflation

May 06 2022

Stocks, Inflation, And Reverse Causality

  • May 6, 2022

Forget interest-rate hikes and quantitative tightening. There exists a very important weapon in the fight against inflation that the Fed did not have at its disposal in the 1970s: an overvalued stock market.

Apr 07 2022

Consumers’ Misery Is Also The Fed’s

  • Apr 7, 2022

An already-low unemployment rate has dropped another 0.3% YTD (to 3.6%) and stocks’ rebound in the second half of March took the S&P 500 to within 3.5% of its all-time high. Yet Consumer Sentiment has sunk to 59.7—a reading that’s 15 points below the average seen at the last six NBER business-cycle troughs. Why the long faces?

Apr 07 2022

Signs Of “Demand Destruction?”

  • Apr 7, 2022

They are simple measures, but our “NOPE” Indexes capture (as well as anything) the escalating inflation squeeze on businesses and consumers. To recap, the NOPE is the spread between the ISM New Orders Index and the Price Index, which can be calculated for both the Manufacturing and Services sectors.

Mar 05 2022

Inflation: More Lighter Fluid!

  • Mar 5, 2022

For months, we’ve argued there are two ways of thinking about the current economic cycle. Economist types are likely to side with their brethren at the NBER, who say the recovery has entered its 23rd month. But those observing the broad range of economic and financial gauges might view this cycle as a  single economic expansion dating back to mid-2009.

Mar 05 2022

Market Gets A Speeding Ticket

  • Mar 5, 2022

PPI and CPI inflation reached levels that were “too hot to handle” last April and July, respectively, yet the blue chips kept going up through year-end. Large Cap investors who trimmed stocks in response to the violation of these long-time inflation speed limits, however, haven’t missed out on much, and Small Cap investors who did so are happy.

Feb 05 2022

What “Causes” Inflation To Decline?

  • Feb 5, 2022

Last year’s consensus view that inflation would prove “transitory” missed the mark. There’s no reason for shame; inflation forecasting hadn’t been a required investment skill for the previous 30 years.

Feb 05 2022

“Collared” By The Fed?

  • Feb 5, 2022

In late January, the S&P 500 was down so much (almost 10%!) that it revived talk of investors’ favorite “safe” security. No, not T-bills—and not even Amazon or Apple common stock—but the Fed “put.” Years ago, we called it the “hypothetical” Fed put. But by now, we’re believers.

Dec 07 2021

An Inflationary Wealth Effect

  • Dec 7, 2021

Causation between the economy and financial markets is never a clear thing. The optimistic group formerly known as “Team Transitory” believes a peak in the inflation rate is near, presumably clearing the way for even greater P/E multiple expansion than already seen in this cycle.

Dec 07 2021

A 2023 Inflation Peak?

  • Dec 7, 2021

We don’t profess to be professional inflation forecasters, but are struck by a sort of “temporal” mismatch in the arguments used by those who believed the inflation pick up would be temporary. Specifically, the most commonly-cited bullish inflation arguments have been secular in nature, based on long-term trends in technological innovation, demographics, and free trade.

Dec 07 2021

Is Powell A “Phillips Curve” Guy?

  • Dec 7, 2021

With consumer price inflation raging at 6.2% and few indications of an imminent rollover, Jay Powell has waved the white flag and retired the ill-begotten “transitory” descriptor. The timing of Powell’s concession is intriguing—perhaps he’s a fellow follower of a simple inflation model: the Output Gap.

Nov 18 2021

Powell’s Dovish Accomplice

  • Nov 18, 2021

Last week we argued that U.S. money growth remains way too high to reasonably expect a peak in consumer price inflation during the next few months. At the peaks of the last five bouts of inflation of 5% or more, real growth in the M2 money supply had turned negative in four cases and had slipped to less than 1% in the other one. Today, real M2 is growing at nearly a 7% rate.

Nov 12 2021

Timing Is Troubling For “Team Transitory”

  • Nov 12, 2021

From the start of the inflation upswing this spring, pundits cited well-known disinflationary factors they believe will soon halt the current inflationary upswing—like free trade, the speed of technological advance, and aging populations globally. 

Nov 05 2021

A Marginal Measure Of Margins?

  • Nov 5, 2021

For those believers in a new economic- and stock-market era, there’s good news. The CPI-PPI spread has not been an effective proxy for profit margins during the 1995-to-date “New Era.” But, the failure of an inflation measure during a mostly non-inflationary era shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Nov 05 2021

Manufacturing: More Citations For Speeding

  • Nov 5, 2021

It is much easier to predict inflation, itself, than to predict when investors will become traumatized by it. Some of the most helpful measures for the latter task come from the ISM Manufacturing Report. October’s readings saw three key measures above the statistical “speed limits” we calculated years ago.

Oct 07 2021

Are Price Hikes The “New” Rate Hikes?

  • Oct 7, 2021

Notwithstanding the hit to consumers’ pocketbooks, it’s been amusing to follow the Fed’s recent evolution with its mindset regarding inflation. A year ago, the hope was for “symmetry”—Fed-speak for allowing inflation to run above its long-time 2% target, since it had previously undercut that level for awhile. Then, early in 2021, the word “transitory” entered the lexicon; yet months of debate and tens of thousands of utterances on financial television have clarified nothing about the Fed’s characterization of that term.

Sep 08 2021

What’s Your “Number?”

  • Sep 8, 2021

Those in their peak earning years (40s and 50s) who’ve also enjoyed the stock market’s windfall gains are very likely to have seen their annual expenses climb much higher than the Consumer Price Index over the last several years.

Sep 08 2021

Let Us Add To The Bullish Cacophony

  • Sep 8, 2021

It’s been a heck of a stock market year, and there are still four months left. What else could go right? Monetary conditions, for one thing—at least as proxied by our Dow Bond Oscillator (DBO).

Aug 06 2021

The “Rule Of Twenty” Revisited

  • Aug 6, 2021

Pundits could reasonably argue the market has never been more expensive in light of the prevailing rate of inflation. That’s the conclusion of the “Rule of Twenty,” which proposes that the stock market’s P/E ratio and the trailing 12-month Consumer Price Inflation rate should sum up to 20.

Aug 06 2021

Not All Inflationary Periods Are Equal

  • Aug 6, 2021

What matters is whether an inflationary period is driven more by “demand pull” or “cost push.” Demand pull inflationary periods seem far more favorable than cost push periods, which, more often than not, occur in a “stagflation” macro context.

Jul 16 2021

A Closer Look At The “Rule Of Twenty”

  • Jul 16, 2021

Inflation and its potential impact on the stock market is the topic du jour, resurrecting ideas that were in vogue 30- to 40-years ago.

Steve Leuthold’s 1980 book, The Myths of Inflation and Investing, provided an exhaustive review of the evidence. But for lighter reading, more appropriate for a summer Friday, we revisit the “Rule of Twenty” developed by strategist Jim Moltz in the early 1980s.

Jul 08 2021

Why The Fed Is Hog-Tied

  • Jul 8, 2021

We’ve long considered ourselves lucky to have escaped from our graduate-economics program after only a year. Among the few nuggets we managed to retain was the startling conclusion to a paper written by a famed department professor asking, “Do Large Deficits Produce High Interest Rates?”

Jul 08 2021

Are High Prices A Form Of “Tightening?”

  • Jul 8, 2021

It’s certain that today’s cyclical bout of inflation will prove “transitory,” if only because the word itself is practically meaningless. Our time on earth will also prove transitory, and so too will the current stock market mania—to the shock of most of the nearly 20 million “investors” on the Robinhood platform.

Jul 08 2021

The Inflation Surge In Context

  • Jul 8, 2021

Inflation is already “too high” for the current cyclical setting, and the level of inflation that equity investors are willing to tolerate will drop further as the economy recovers.

Jul 08 2021

Music For The “Mania”

  • Jul 8, 2021

At some point during the June/July streak of seven-consecutive S&P 500 daily-closing highs, an album from 1980 popped into our heads: Nothin’ Matters And What If It Did—released when John Mellencamp was still known as John Cougar. It brought to mind some “nothin’s” that seem not to matter.

Jun 05 2021

Inflation: Nothing To Fear But The “Lack Of Fear”

  • Jun 5, 2021

The refusal of the bond market to acknowledge the worsening inflation readings seems to have strengthened the consensus view that any inflation trouble will be “transitory.” Do bonds still know best when there’s a systematic, price-insensitive buyer hoovering up $120 billion of them per month? 

May 07 2021

The “Tape” Doesn’t Always “Tell All”

  • May 7, 2021

Technicians are collectively bullish because of the absence of any serious internal divergences. But, severe corrections can erupt with little, or no advance warning from a deterioration in breadth and leadership. In fact, the first few years of the last bull market  provided two such examples (mid-2010 and mid-2011). 

May 07 2021

Inflation Watch

  • May 7, 2021

April ISM readings, both for Manufacturing and Services, were hot across the board. That’s good news for a still-recovering Main Street, but it manifested in ways that have frequently caused problems for a famous Street located in Lower Manhattan.

May 07 2021

Stock Market Observations

  • May 7, 2021

The speculative peak for this market rally may have occurred in either January (when GameStop and other “left for dead” short candidates soared), or February (when indexes tracking the “newborns”—IPOs and SPACs—both peaked). But even if we knew that for certain, a major peak in stock prices could still be months away.

Apr 16 2021

How Much Inflation Is Too Much? It’s A Moving Target

  • Apr 16, 2021

In the latest Green Book, we noted that Producer Price Inflation does not usually become a challenge for the stock market until its annual rate breaks above 4.0%. The day that comment was published, the year-over-year gain in the March PPI for Finished Goods spiked to 6.0%, thanks mostly to the well-celebrated COVID-19 anniversary-effect. 

Apr 08 2021

Still Heating Up…

  • Apr 8, 2021

The Fed’s reflationary efforts are showing up everywhere except in the measure that’s engineered specifically to minimize them—the Consumer Price Index. It’s a virtuous circle, until it is not

Mar 05 2021

Higher Prices Shouldn’t “Surprise” Us

  • Mar 5, 2021

The Fed has communicated it’s inflation target in uncharacteristically-plain English. Maybe they need to dumb it down more, because it’s the investors in English-speaking countries who have been the most surprised by the recent pickup in the inflation numbers!

Jan 08 2021

Heating Up Quickly

  • Jan 8, 2021

Inflation surprises have run hotter in the U.S. than in the rest of the world, no doubt reflecting the strength of major currencies versus the U.S. dollar. 

Dec 05 2020

A 40-Year Inflationary Echo

  • Dec 5, 2020

When measured by the gains in stocks, gold, and house prices, there has been just one other occasion in which asset inflation was as “broad” as today—late 1980. But the differences in underlying fundamentals between then and now couldn’t be more stark. 

Dec 05 2020

Just A “Small” Beginning...

  • Dec 5, 2020

Knee-jerk contrarians are already claiming the stampede in Small Cap stocks is “too consensus” to continue in the near term. We couldn’t disagree more. In fact, we are very confident that a new multi-year Small Cap leadership cycle has kicked off.

Dec 05 2020

A “Fed” Conundrum

  • Dec 5, 2020

“Don’t fight the Fed” has been great advice for stock market investors over the last nine months. For 2021, that won’t cut it. It should be: “Don’t believe the Fed.”

Nov 06 2020

Miscellaneous Musings On Inflation

  • Nov 6, 2020

We’re still coming to grips with Modern Monetary Theory and the stark realization that “the delusional is no longer marginal.”

Oct 09 2020

Small Cap Catch-Up?

  • Oct 9, 2020

The big jump in Small Caps over the last two weeks has entirely reversed the segment’s summer underperformance and has technicians feverish about another “breath thrust.” Technically, it’s impressive, but we are more intrigued by the fundamental potential for continued Small Cap (and Mid Cap) outperformance.

 

Oct 07 2020

Inflation In The Wrong Places?

  • Oct 7, 2020

Long before policymakers’ extreme response to the COVID collapse, we feared that the Fed’s interventions were suppressing important signals from the stock and bond markets. But we now suspect that hyper-expansionary policies are suppressing price signals from the “real” economy as well.

Sep 18 2020

Inflation: Looking Beyond The CPI

  • Sep 18, 2020

The Fed is hell-bent on generating inflation of 2% or higher in an over-supplied world that we think should probably be experiencing mild deflation. Their success or failure at this mission will be critical for asset allocators. For equity managers who must remain fully invested, however, the more important question might be not whether the Fed can generate higher inflation, but where.

 

Feb 14 2020

Inflation In-Line & Scorecard Neutral

  • Feb 14, 2020

Where inflation goes next will be primarily determined by the probability of a recession.