2019 ended on a mostly consensus note. The private payroll jobs trend remained clearly healthy. The jobless rate set a new cycle low (marginally). Aggregate hours worked came in below expectations but, with productivity gains and a surge in net exports, FMI is still looking for +2.5% or so real GDP growth for 19Q4.
Chicago and Mexico are inextricably intertwined on multiple levels. The Midwest has structural similarities to the Mexican economy, especially in terms of the dominance of its manufacturing sector. Chicago has the largest Mexican-American population in the country outside of Los Angeles, more than three quarters of a million people. We even share a connection in the natural world. This is the season when a kaleidoscope of Monarch butterflies swarm through Chicago, on their way to spend the winter in Mexico.
The rout in oil markets continued in November, the markets worst month in 10 years. Oil prices West Texas Intermediate (WTI) down by 22%, to their lowest level in 13 months. In the past few months, oil markets have moved from balanced to oversupply, which sent oil prices (Brent) crashing by one-third from a high of $86/bbl at the beginning of October to under $60/bbl at the end of November.
The recent removal of term limits for the presidency from the Chinese Constitution represents a further tightening of President Xi JiPing’s grip on power. While he was not up for reelection until 2019, term limits were an obstacle to his grandiose plans for establishing China as a major economic, military and political superpower over the next few years or even decades. While the rise of China as a global power was inevitable, it has been facilitated by the vacuum left by the rapid decline of the U.S. global position under President Trump.
California teachers have teamed up with an East Coast activist hedge fund to petition Apple Inc. to step up its game and give parents the tools and choices they need to ensure smartphones don’t damage children’s health. Together, CalSTRS and JANA Partners are turning an old adage on its ear about gifting shiny apples to teachers.
If you have a bully pulpit, use it. That’s precisely what BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink did when he championed corporates’ engagement with purpose to staunch the pace of climate change and embrace the preservation of the public commons together with its specific stakeholders.
What a week it was! Equity markets and cryptocurrencies, both of which appeared to defy the laws of gravity, and the US dollar took a dive. However, the story of synchronized global growth does not seem to have changed. Have we finally escaped the long dark shadow cast in 2008? Renowned Japanese economy expert Takatoshi Ito thinks that things are changing at the Bank of Japan, the institution that invented and led the world in quantitative easing. This could be a signal of things to come in a new global monetary policy environment.