Please check out FMI's analysis of this morning’s very upbeat February Existing Home Sales report. Also this morning, wholesale book-value inventories jumped +1.2% in January; the consensus had expected only a modest gain. However, international data was more worrisome with Germany’s Markit PMI falling further into the red, down -3 points to 44 in March (50 is break-even).
Donald Trump demonstrated the power and broad appeal of attacking immigrants in 2016, with special emphasis on non-white immigrants. He did it again in last year’s midterm elections, when his passionate followers seemingly were unmoved by the cruelty of separating young children from their mothers at the border, or by Trump’s audacious claim of presidential powers to nullify the constitutional right to birthright citizenship. Race-baiting is usually an integral part of right-wing-populist politics, and of the President’s broader personal brand of nationalism.
The European Central Bank (ECB) replicated the Federal Reserve Bank’s earlier U-turn on monetary policy at its latest meeting. Barely three months after the central bank announcing an end to Quantitative Easing (QE), Mario Draghi, the ECB president, pulled the alarm over the sharp economic slowdown and announced a two-pronged approach. First, the central bank would continue its ultra-low interest rates policy at last through the end of 2019. Second, barely three months after announcing), the ECB will provide continued support to financial markets and banks.
From February 19 through 27, I traveled to Georgetown, Guyana, to speak with individuals in the government and the private sector about the nation’s security challenges and internal dynamics. The country is in a potentially explosive political crisis with at least some similarities to the polarized situation in Washington, DC. In the midst of legal battles with consequences for who controls the country, intelligent, sincere people are convinced that the taking of or continuation in power by their political opponents will be destructive for the nation and their own interests.
Another amazing week. As politics got murkier however, markets surged higher. In terms of what will be remembered decades from now, the event that shocked nearly everyone was the abrupt ending of the US-North Korea Summit. As the next set of leadership-level meetings loom this month, surely the Chinese must be reevaluating their strategy vis-à-vis President Donald Trump. What these negotiations have in common is that in both cases the US is asking Kim Jun-un and Xi Jinping for structural changes that for different reasons each might have trouble delivering.
The US government shutdown is over, but the question of how a wall between the US and Mexico will be funded is unresolved. The threat, or lack of a threat posed by immigrants at the southern border, is a litmus test for US politicians. AMLO, Mexico’s new leader, could achieve what no one has before in terms of eliminating violence and corruption, or he could make things much, much worse and turn his country into the next Venezuela.
The Healthcare Affordability Index shows how the rising costs of healthcare insurance, both for companies and employees, stagnate wages.
As the crisis in Venezuela has deepened over the past week, a mysterious transformation has occurred. What started out as U.S. diplomatic support for the new, constitutionally legitimate government of Juan Guaidó has come to be treated in the international media as a possible U.S. military intervention.
The biggest economic conference of the season, the World Economic Forum, has just wrapped up in Davos. Most of the sessions are now available as they happen, and with the snow piled high here in Chicago, watching them online almost seemed like being there. I’ve included links to some of the best discussions and interviews you might enjoy on this even colder weekend.
This morning, the Wall Street Journal issued a "bombshell" report about changes to the Fed's plans to "normalize" its balance sheet. The story, FMI contends, delivered far less than it promised.
The WSJ reported, in an overwrought and very run-on opening sentence, that “Federal Reserve officials are close to deciding they will maintain a larger portfolio of Treasury securities than they’d expected when they began shrinking those holdings two years ago, putting an end to the central bank’s portfolio wind-down closer into sight.”