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Friday January 18, 2008 - 14:10:47 GMT
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Where's the Quilted Quicker Picker Upper When You Need It?

FX Trading – Where’s the Quilted Quicker Picker Upper When You Need It?

We read a good piece by Hoisington Investment Management (HIM) earlier this week. In it, the crack staff at HIM delved into the U.S. economy and the potential for recession. They touched upon treasury bonds, alternating quarterly GDP contractions, velocity of money, credit elasticity, etc.

I won’t bore you with the mechanics in their economic analysis, but here’s an excerpt regarding the recessionary signals given off by Leading Economic Indicators plus the effectiveness of Fed policy that I think we all can get our heads around [our emphasis]:

“The consensus forecast calls for the economy to slow to roughly a 1% annual rate in the first half of this year, and then accelerate to a 2.5% pace in the second half. This view is based on the assumption that the Federal Reserve is on the job, providing considerable stimulus to the pipeline. The Fed’s support, it is argued, will allow the economy to overcome headwinds mentioned earlier. The LEI, however, suggests this conventional wisdom is faulty since it is still accelerating to the downside. In the twelve months ending November, the LEI fell .9%, the steepest drop since the recession year of 2001. The ratio of coincident to lagging economic indicators, also a leading indicator of economic conditions, contracted an even greater 1.1% over this span. Historically, the LEI has turned positive on average seven to eight months prior to economic accelerations. No such signal is in sight, so there is little support for strengthening economic activity in the latter half of 2008.”

Now doesn’t that just make you feel all warm inside? These guys expect the economy be worse off than we already anticipate. Yikes.

We actually couldn’t agree more with their comments regarding the “stimulativeness” (yes, I made up that word for this morning’s Currency Currents) of Fed policy. If the Fed keeps throwing money into the pit, how much of it is really going to have an impact in supporting the economy? What if nobody wants the money? What if attitudes have already changed?

It makes us think of those Bounty paper towel roll commercials. You know what we’re talking about … the Bounty paper towels have no trouble soaking up the entire spill, but the leading competitor’s paper towels quickly become saturated and leave behind a big mess.

Right now the U.S. economy is more like the leading competitor’s paper towels. And if it hasn’t already reached it I imagine the economy is very near that saturation point where excess Fed stimulus will just leave behind a big mess.

FYI – It’s a credit problem!

 [Chart not available in text format]

Later this morning we get a report on the Leading Economic Indicators for the month of December. Did we mention the Federal Reserve puts a lot of weight into this report when judging the economy? Well they do, and I expect it’s something that will be getting a lot of attention in the coming months.

A floor trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange said this morning that three consecutive months in negative territory signals we’re in a recession. The LEI figure is expected to be down (for a second consecutive month) by 0.1% after being down 0.4% in November.

And of course, Hoisington noted the steepest year-over-year decline in the leading indicators index since the recession in 2001. And their forecast is pretty gloomy from there.

Now, the impact on markets after the release this morning may be undetectable, but this is something you may want to keep an eye on.

Have a good weekend!

John Ross Crooks III
Black Swan Capital


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