Monthly Archives: February 2017

House Prices Reference Chart

As a reference for long-term house price index trends, below is a chart, updated with the most current data (through December) from the CalculatedRisk blog post of February 28, 2017 titled “Real Prices and Price-to-Rent Ratio in November”:

(click on chart to enlarge image)

house prices

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The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2363.64 as this post is written

Consumer Confidence Surveys – As Of February 28, 2017

Doug Short had a blog post of February 28, 2017 (“Consumer Confidence Up in February“) in which he presents the latest Conference Board Consumer Confidence and Thomson/Reuters University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index charts.  They are presented below:

(click on charts to enlarge images)

Conference Board Consumer Confidence

University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index

There are a few aspects of the above charts that I find highly noteworthy.  Of course, until the recent sudden upswing, the continued subdued absolute levels of these two surveys was disconcerting.

Also, I find the “behavior” of these readings to be quite disparate as compared to the other post-recession periods, as shown in the charts between the gray shaded areas (the gray areas denote recessions as defined by the NBER.)

While I don’t believe that confidence surveys should be overemphasized, I find these readings to be very problematical, especially in light of a variety of other highly disconcerting measures highlighted throughout this site.

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The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2367.21 as this post is written

Durable Goods New Orders – Long-Term Charts Through January 2017

Many people place emphasis on Durable Goods New Orders as a prominent economic indicator and/or leading economic indicator.

For reference, below are two charts depicting this measure.

First, from the St. Louis Fed site (FRED), a chart through January 2017, updated on February 27, 2017. This value is $230,354 ($ Millions):

(click on charts to enlarge images)

Durable Goods New Orders

Second, here is the chart depicting this measure on a “Percentage Change from a Year Ago” basis:

Durable Goods New Orders Percent Change From Year Ago

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: Manufacturers’ New Orders:  Durable Goods [DGORDER]; U.S. Department of Commerce: Census Bureau; accessed February 27, 2017;

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/DGORDER

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I post various indicators and indices because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this blog are aware, I do not necessarily agree with what they depict or imply.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2370.11 as this post is written

Long-Term Charts Of The ECRI WLI & ECRI WLI, Gr. – February 24, 2017 Update

As I stated in my July 12, 2010 post (“ECRI WLI Growth History“):

For a variety of reasons, I am not as enamored with ECRI’s WLI and WLI Growth measures as many are.

However, I do think the measures are important and deserve close monitoring and scrutiny.

Below are three long-term charts, from Doug Short’s ECRI update post of February 24, 2017 titled “ECRI Weekly Leading Index…”  These charts are on a weekly basis through the February 24, 2017 release, indicating data through February 17, 2017.

Here is the ECRI WLI (defined at ECRI’s glossary):

ECRI WLI

This next chart depicts, on a long-term basis, the Year-over-Year change in the 4-week moving average of the WLI:

ECRI WLI YoY of the Four-Week Moving Average

This last chart depicts, on a long-term basis, the WLI, Gr.:

ECRI WLI,Gr.

 

_________

I post various economic indicators and indices because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this blog are aware, I do not necessarily agree with what they depict or imply.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2358.29 as this post is written

Updates Of Economic Indicators February 2017

Here is an update of various indicators that are supposed to predict and/or depict economic activity. These indicators have been discussed in previous blog posts:

The February 2017 Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) updated as of February 23, 2017: (current reading of CFNAI is -.05; current reading of CFNAI-MA3 is -.03):

CFNAI

The ECRI WLI (Weekly Leading Index):

As of February 17, 2017 (incorporating data through February 10, 2017) the WLI was at 144.5 and the WLI, Gr. was at 11.1%.

A chart of the WLI,Gr., from Doug Short’s ECRI update post of February 17, 2017:

ECRI WLI,Gr.

The Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions (ADS) Index:

Here is the latest chart, depicting the ADS Index from December 31, 2007 through February 18, 2017:

ADS Index

The Conference Board Leading (LEI), Coincident (CEI) Economic Indexes, and Lagging Economic Indicator (LAG):

As per the February 17, 2017 press release, titled “The Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the U.S. Increased in January” (pdf) the LEI was at 125.5, the CEI was at 114.4, and the LAG was 123.7 in January.

An excerpt from the  release:

“The U.S. Leading Economic Index increased sharply again in January, pointing to a positive economic outlook in the first half of this year,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Director of Business Cycles and Growth Research at The Conference Board. “The January gain was broad based among the leading indicators. If this trend continues, the U.S. economy may even accelerate in the near term.”

Here is a chart of the LEI from Doug Short’s Conference Board Leading Economic Index update of February 17, 2017:

Conference Board LEI

_________

I post various indicators and indices because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this blog are aware, I do not necessarily agree with what they depict or imply.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2361.38 as this post is written

Chicago Fed National Financial Conditions Index (NFCI)

The St. Louis Fed’s Financial Stress Index (STLFSI) is one index that is supposed to measure stress in the financial system.  Its reading as of the February 23, 2017 update (reflecting data through February 17, 2017) is -1.274.

Of course, there are a variety of other measures and indices that are supposed to measure financial stress and other related issues, both from the Federal Reserve as well as from private sources.

Two other indices that I regularly monitor include the Chicago Fed National Financial Conditions Index (NFCI) as well as the Chicago Fed Adjusted National Financial Conditions Index (ANFCI).

Here are summary descriptions of each, as seen in FRED:

The National Financial Conditions Index (NFCI) measures risk, liquidity and leverage in money markets and debt and equity markets as well as in the traditional and “shadow” banking systems. Positive values of the NFCI indicate financial conditions that are tighter than average, while negative values indicate financial conditions that are looser than average.

The adjusted NFCI (ANFCI). This index isolates a component of financial conditions uncorrelated with economic conditions to provide an update on how financial conditions compare with current economic conditions.

For further information, please visit the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s web site:

http://www.chicagofed.org/webpages/publications/nfci/index.cfm

Below are the most recently updated charts of the NFCI and ANFCI, respectively.

The NFCI chart below was last updated on February 23, 2017 incorporating data from January 5,1973 through February 17, 2017, on a weekly basis.  The February 17, 2017 value is -.83:

NFCI_2-23-17

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed February 23, 2017:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/NFCI

The ANFCI chart below was last updated on February 23, 2017 incorporating data from January 5,1973 through February 17, 2017, on a weekly basis.  The February 17 value is -.14:

ANFCI_2-23-17

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed February 23, 2017:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/ANFCI

_________

I post various indicators and indices because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this blog are aware, I do not necessarily agree with what they depict or imply.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2365.28 as this post is written

The U.S. Economic Situation – February 23, 2017 Update

Perhaps the main reason that I write of our economic situation is that I continue to believe, based upon various analyses, that our economic situation is in many ways misunderstood.  While no one likes to contemplate a future rife with economic adversity, current and future economic problems must be properly recognized and rectified if high-quality, sustainable long-term economic vitality is to be realized.

There are an array of indications and other “warning signs” – many readily apparent – that current economic activity and financial market performance is accompanied by exceedingly perilous dynamics.

I have written extensively about this peril, including in the following:

Building Financial Danger” (ongoing updates)

A Special Note On Our Economic Situation

Forewarning Pronounced Economic Weakness

Thoughts Concerning The Next Financial Crisis

Was A Depression Successfully Avoided?

Has the Financial System Strengthened Since the Financial Crisis?

The Next Crash And Its Significance

My analyses continues to indicate that the growing level of financial danger will lead to the next stock market crash that will also involve (as seen in 2008) various other markets as well.  Key attributes of this next crash is its outsized magnitude (when viewed from an ultra-long term historical perspective) and the resulting economic impact.  This next financial crash is of tremendous concern, as my analyses indicate it will lead to a Super Depression – i.e. an economy characterized by deeply embedded, highly complex, and difficult-to-solve problems.

For long-term reference purposes, here is a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average since 1900, depicted on a monthly basis using a LOG scale (updated through February 17, 2017, with a last value of 20624.05):

(click on chart to enlarge image)(chart courtesy of StockCharts.com)

DJIA 1900-February 17 2017

 

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The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2362.82 as this post is written

S&P500 And VIX Chart – Through February 21, 2017

Stocks have continued to perform (very) strongly since the November elections, and various indices have achieved a series of record-high closes since that time.

For reference purposes, below is a 1-year chart of the S&P500 and VIX through Tuesday’s (February 21, 2017) close.  The closing price for the S&P500 was 2365.38 and the VIX had a closing value of 11.57.  Price labels as well as moving averages are also shown:

(click on chart to enlarge image)(chart courtesy of StockCharts.com; chart creation and annotation by the author)

S&P500 vs VIX

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The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2361.44 as this post is written

Money Supply Charts Through January 2017

For reference purposes, below are two sets of charts depicting growth in the money supply.

The first shows the MZM (Money Zero Maturity), defined in FRED as the following:

M2 less small-denomination time deposits plus institutional money funds.
Money Zero Maturity is calculated by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Here is the “MZM Money Stock” (seasonally adjusted) chart, updated on February 17, 2017 depicting data through January 2017, with a value of $14,626.7 Billion:

MZMSL

Here is the “MZM Money Stock” chart on a “Percent Change From Year Ago” basis:

MZMSL percent change from year ago

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed Febraury 22, 2017:

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/MZMSL

The second set shows M2, defined in FRED as the following:

M2 includes a broader set of financial assets held principally by households. M2 consists of M1 plus: (1) savings deposits (which include money market deposit accounts, or MMDAs); (2) small-denomination time deposits (time deposits in amounts of less than $100,000); and (3) balances in retail money market mutual funds (MMMFs). Seasonally adjusted M2 is computed by summing savings deposits, small-denomination time deposits, and retail MMMFs, each seasonally adjusted separately, and adding this result to seasonally adjusted M1.

Here is the “M2 Money Stock” (seasonally adjusted) chart, updated on February 16, 2017, depicting data through January 2017, with a value of $13,270.1 Billion:

M2SL

Here is the “M2 Money Stock” chart on a “Percent Change From Year Ago” basis:

M2SL percent change from year ago

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed February 22, 2017:

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/M2SL

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The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2365.38 as this post is written

Walmart’s Q4 2017 Results – Comments

I found various notable items in Walmart’s Q4 2017 management call transcript (pdf) dated February 21, 2017.  (as well, there is Walmart’s press release of the Q4 results and related presentation materials)

I view Walmart’s results and comments as particularly noteworthy given their retail prominence and focus on low prices.  I have previously commented on their quarterly management call comments; these previous posts are found under the “paycheck to paycheck” tag.

Here are various excerpts that I find most notable:

comments from Doug McMillon, President and CEO, page 2:

Good morning everyone. As you saw in our earnings materials this morning, we delivered a very solid quarter and it’s great to see continued momentum in the business. Total revenue grew 3.0 percent in the quarter and increased 3.1 percent for the year, both in constant currency. Comp sales growth of 1.8 percent in the Walmart U.S. business this quarter was better than expected, and I’m particularly pleased with the traffic in our stores. U.S. GMV grew 36 percent in the quarter, so we’re headed in the right direction with this important part of our business, too.

comments from Brett Biggs, EVP & CFO, page 7:

We saw strong growth this quarter in the Walmart U.S. eCommerce business with GMV and sales growth of 36 percent and 29 percent, respectively. Our integrated offering means customers are shopping with us through multiple channels. In fact, over the holidays, Pickup Today, which is available in Walmart U.S. stores, grew by 27 percent over last year.

comments from Brett Biggs, EVP & CFO, page 8:

We accomplished this while also returning a substantial amount of cash to shareholders. In fact, over the past year, we returned $14.5 billion to shareholders in the form of dividends and share repurchase. As of the end of the fiscal year, we had used approximately $10.8 billion of the current $20 billion share repurchase authorization. Additionally, today we announced an increase in our annual dividend from $2.00 per share to $2.04 per share in fiscal 2018. We’ve now increased our dividend for 44 consecutive years. We’re proud of our track record of returning significant cash to shareholders, while investing in future growth.

comments from Brett Biggs, EVP & CFO, page 9:

Gross margin decreased 8 basis points in the quarter. Savings from procuring merchandise as well as lower logistics costs benefitted the margin rate, but were more than offset by the continued execution of our price investment strategy and the timing of post-Holiday markdowns. We’re entering the new year in a very solid inventory position. For the year, Walmart U.S. gross margin increased 24 basis points. As a reminder, both fourth quarter and full-year comparisons included a $56 million impact last year related to store closures.

 

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The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2351.16 as this post is written