Monday October 1, 2007 - 18:05:04 GMT
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Market Directions Sunday, September 30, 2007
Market Directions Sunday, September 30, 2007
The Week in Review September 24 - September 28
- The US Dollar sinks, is there a lifeline?
- Oil prices remain at historic highs, the world is unimpressed
- The BOJ looks for inflation and finds deflation
The Dollar fell to a series of record lows against the Euro this week as markets remained focused on the Federal Reserve rate cut and worries that the US economy will slip into recession. Unmarked but on the horizon are the next rate decisions of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of England (BOE). Neither bank will raise rates this coming Thursday, with the BOE reporting its decision first. But the possibility that one or both central banks might cut rates has been ignored by all. The economic and interest rate situation in the Eurozone and the United Kingdom is similar to that of the United States, though perhaps less advanced. Ben Bernanke did not drop the Fed Funds rate 0.5% because the American economy was in a tailspin but because the Federal Reserve Governors feared what the recent financial and housing market turbulence might exact from the economy in the future. The economic situation is the same on the continent and in England with the added drag that very expensive currencies inflict on a nation's export trade. A reduction in European rates or moderation in the ECB economic risk outlook is almost wholly unpriced for the currency markets.
Oil prices have also cast a pall over economic growth prospects in the industrial world but the effect is different on either side of the Atlantic. The European Monetary Union (EMU) exports more goods and services to the Middle Eastern oil producers that does the United States. Higher oil revenues in the Gulf States and Iran translate into more purchases by Middle Eastern consumers and governments and higher export earning by the EMU economies. Such exports help to offset the already evident declines in EMU domestic consumption. The US economy, because it exports less to the Middle East, has less income returned as payment for US products and less support for domestic production.
Another factor in the oil price effect in Europe is the ECB definition of inflation. The EMU wide HICP statistic, which the ECB has targeted at 2.0%, includes energy prices. A rise in oil and gasoline prices is a direct contribution to inflation accounting. This effect is somewhat mitigated by the overall value of the currency which lowers the prices of imports and reduces the pricing power of domestic firms. In the US the Fed watches core inflation, without the monthly changes in food and energy prices. A sustained rise in oil prices will still contribute to inflation but in a more diffuse fashion as a basic industrial product rather than a first line consumer price increase.
For both reasons rising oil prices tend to keep greater upward pressure on European interest rates than they do in the United States and to support the Euro more than the Dollar.
A raft of secondary statistics pointed to an American economy more resilient than otherwise depicted, despite the ongoing housing collapse. Personal Income, Personal Expenditures, Construction Spending and the Chicago Purchasers Index all met or surpassed forecasts. Only the two consumer confidence numbers, easily the most emotionally laden of the forward looking statistics, were weaker than forecasts. Personal Income and Expenditures seemed to belay worries of a pending consumer spending collapse. Despite concerns of falling consumer spending, constrained by the decline in the housing market and worries about pending job losses due to credit market contractions, the American consumer appears to have, at least temporarily, resumed normal spending habits in August. Expenditures rose half again as much as predicted and doubled the rise in personal income. Core PCE Prices further moderated in August and have now been at or within the Fed range of 1-2% for four months. Core PCE Prices peaked at 2.5% in February.
Weekly Jobless claims unexpectedly fell for the second week in a row chopping the four week moving average to 311,500 from 321,000 and easing concerns about job creation. Estimates for this Friday's September Non Farm Payrolls number remain at +115,000. The unemployment rate is predicted to rise to 4.7%.
Last week Jean Claude Trichet, the ECB President, said that the central bank has been successful in "very solidly" anchoring price stability in the EMU. This week, in an interview on Dutch television, he said that the ECB will do what is needed to anchor inflation around 2.0%. Last week inflation was anchored, this week the anchor has slipped. At the risk of a parse too far the significant difference is the phrase 'around 2.0%', instead of 'at or below 2.0%' . The ECB has long forecast that inflation would rise above 2.0% despite its year long sojourn below that level. This projection has been the prime rationale for increasing interest rates and in August the flash HICP rate finally climbed to 2.1%. A target of 'around 2.0%' is considerably more expansive than one 'at 2.0%'. Is the ECB introducing the notion of a rate cut despite an inflation rate higher than 2.0%?
Admittedly this is a heavy burden for one small phrase. But central bankers do not free associate during interviews and the interpretative leeway between the two phrases gives the ECB much more room to maneuver than it currently has.
Another question for the ECB is does the 8% money supply target matter anymore? Would the M3 number, by itself, prevent the ECB from cutting rates? The answer is already evident. M3 did not prevent the bankers from halting their series of rate hikes last month; it will make no difference should the governors decide to cut rates.
The EMU economies are showing fatigue. Not dramatic but noticeable. As we noted last week, GDP peaked in the fourth quarter of 2006. Business sentiment and consumer confidence are falling in the EMU as a whole and specifically in its largest economy, Germany. What is to prevent the ECB governors from taking the same much applauded precautionary view as the FOMC? The ECB may now be learning one of the drawbacks of a public target for inflation.
All German statistics this week indicated a slowing economy, falling consumer spending and decreasing business confidence in the immediate future.
The IFO Survey came in with its lowest reading in more than 18 months, undercutting hopes for a sustained expansion in the EMU's largest economy. Chief Economist of the IFO Survey Gernot Nerb said that domestic demand in Germany was sluggish. At the beginning of almost every European economic expansion government and private officials express hope and sometimes confidence that 'this expansion' will be borne to a greater degree by domestic consumption and so be less susceptible to external factors. The results almost always disappoint.
GfK Consumer confidence fell for the second month in a row. "As was already evident in August the positive consumer mood has been affectedâ€¦of lateâ€¦[by]... the entire credit crisis in the USA and rising food prices are responsible for the somewhat less than euphoric consumer attitudes", said GfK in a written statement.
Retail Sales in August, as collected by the Federal Statistical Office, fell 1.4%, the worst result since May's 3.2% collapse. As business investment turns uncertain, shown in the IFO report above and by last week's ZEW Survey, the German consumer has, once again, been sought as a source of spending and continued growth. Once again it does not seem that the German consumer is willing to oblige.
Yasuo Fukuda was elected president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) by a vote of 330 to 197 over Taro Aso and thereby becomes the next Prime Minister of Japan. Mr. Fukuda is 71 years old, was first elected the Diet in 1990 and has served in various leadership roles in the LDP since 1997. He is considered a moderate on foreign policy. His first task will be to extend a law that permits the Japanese military to assist American naval operations in the Indian Ocean as part of the war in Afghanistan. This was the issue that forced Shinzo Abe to resign. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DJP) controls the upper house of the Diet and blocked passage of the extension legislation. The head of the Democratic Party of Japan, Ichiro Ozawa, has promised to end LDP control of Japanese politics. Except for one brief period in the mid 1990s the LDP has ruled Japan since its formation in 1955.
It is in domestic and economic policy the Mr. Fukuda will face his greatest challenges. Under the stewardship of Shinzo Abe the LDP lost much of the public approval and popularity it had enjoyed with the previous Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. If Mr. Fukuda does not improve his and the LDP's standing with the electorate his party could very well lose the next election for the lower house of the Diet. The majority party in the lower house of the Diet elects the Prime Minister. The DJP would like to hold an election for the lower house as soon as possible before Mr. Fukuda can effect any positive change in the LDP's popularity. Mr. Fukuda has said he will not call an election until the spring at the earliest. The LDP simply cannot afford to add a faltering economy to its roster of problems.
National CPI in August fell for the seventh month in a row keeping deflation fears current. GDP in the second quarter declined 1.2%, surprising everyone. Though Retail Sales rose in August one half of one percent, it was the first gain in three months. Japanese industry and finance faces serious constraints in the years ahead. Its population is aging and falling, shivering the economic backbone of domestic consumption. Its main competitor across the Sea of Japan will soon be following the Japanese economic model, building high value-added industries and exporting cars and electronics that have long been a Japanese specialty. The Korean auto and steel industries have already accomplished this transformation.
China is not only an economic giant; the Beijing government has been busily creating a military that can project power into the seas surrounding the mainland. The Japanese central government will soon have the twin financial burdens of a growing military and a growing pensioner roll. It cannot meet these obligations with a static or falling GDP.
The Bank of Japan is more deferential to the desires of the Tokyo politicians than any other major central bank is to its own political establishment. The BOJ has tried hard over the past year to keep inflation and future rate hikes in the political mix. Miyako Suda, BOJ board Member said, the "Japanese economy is growing in line with our forecastâ€¦risk[ing]â€¦an inflationary rate rise faster than our forecast". The BOJ wants to keep its field of action as wide as possible. But with falling consumer prices, a 2nd quarter GDP decline, the Fed cutting rates and the Europeans perhaps soon to follow, and an unpopular and tired LDP in charge in Tokyo there will be no rate increase this year. In reality, Japan may be in for a prolonged stay at the 50 basis point mark.
The Bank of England September policy statement and the minutes of that meeting suggest that the members of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) felt that more time was needed before they reached a conclusion about the impact of the credit market problems on the real economy and inflation. The subsequent Northern Rock rescue by the BOE, which has ballooned to over eight billion Pounds, may have concentrated minds on the MPC as to the real economic risks ahead. Andrew Sentence, an external member of the MPC and normally considered a rate hawk, hinted at such a recognition. "Global forces canâ€¦inject volatility into the real economyâ€¦recent changes in global financial market conditions could weaken demand conditions". This is logic that would play very well on Capitol Hill in Washington. As with the Euro, any change in rate policy by the BOE is not priced into the value of Sterling.
Economic Releases September 24 â€“ September 28
Tuesday: the Case Shiller Home Price Index for July fell to 215.94, 0.6% lower than June and the steepest decline in 16 years. The index is now 4.5% lower than last year. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index sank to 99.8 in September, well below the median forecast of 104.0 and below the August reading of 105.00. Existing Home Sales in August slid to their lowest level in five years at 5.5 million units, a 4.5% monthly drop. It was the second largest fall in over a year; the biggest fall was the 7.93% drop from February to March this year. The market supply of unsold homes at current prices rose to 10.0 months from 9.5 months in July.
Wednesday: Durable Goods Orders declined 4.9% in August; a drop of 3.1% had been anticipated. The July statistic was revised up to +6.1% from +5.9%.
Thursday: In August New Home Sales sank to 795,000 units, an 8.3% fall in one month and well under the 835,000 units that had been expected. The July return was adjusted down to 867,000 from 870,000. The unsold market supply climbed to 8.2 months from 7.5 in July. The median sale price fell 8.3% to $225,700, off 7.5% on the elapsed year. In its third and final release second quarter GDP lost 0.2% to 3.8%; the initial or 'advanced' release was 3.4%; the second or 'preliminary' was 4.0%. Weekly Jobless Claims for the week ending September 22nd fell by 15,000 to 298,000; a rise of 9,000 to 320,000 had been forecast. It was the second week in a row that claims dropped rather than rising as anticipated.
Friday: Personal Income rose 0.3% in August as expected but Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) outstripped predictions climbing 0.6%, +0.4 had been forecast. It was the best performance for this gauge of consumer spending since July 2005. Core PCE Prices moved ahead 0.1% in August as expected, dropping the year on year increase to 1.8%. It was the lowest yearly rate since February of 2004 and below the preferred Fed target of 2.0%. The September Chicago Purchasers Index surprised at 54.2, bettering both the median prediction of 52.9 and the August result of 53.9. 'New Orders' fell to 56.2 from 58.4 in August and 'Prices Paid' diminished to 59.0 from 71.8. Construction Spending in August was substantially better than expected at +0.2% on a predicted decline of 0.5%. Non-residential construction moved up 2.3% but was partially negated by the 1.5% drop in residential building. The August result was revised higher to -0.4% from -0.5%. The final return of the University of Michigan Consumer Confidence for September dropped four tenths to 83.4; the preliminary issue had been 83.8.
Monday: Industrial New Orders for July dropped 4.0% from June, greater than the predicted 3.0% decrease. The June result was revised up 0.1% to +4.5%. Orders for July 2007 were 10.9% ahead of the prior year, this was a better result than the +10.2% predicted. The June year on year figure was adjusted 0.2% higher to 14.0%.
Thursday: the European Monetary Union Money Supply (M3) rose 11.6% in August as expected, a slight but welcome decrease from July's 11.7% reading. The three months moving average was +11.4% as predicted; in July it had been +11.1%. The August 11.6% increase in M3 was the first decline in the rate of increase in four months.
Friday: the European Commission Economic Sentiment Indicator for September came in at 107.1 well below the expectation of 109.0. The August result was revised lower to 109.9 from 110.0. It was the sharpest one month fall since October 2001 and the lowest reading of the past year. Even so it remains well above the long term average of 100.0 The Business Climate Indicator for September was 1.09 a precipitous drop from the August reading of 1.37, which was itself a revision from 1.41. It is the lowest reading since May of 2006. Consumer Confidence dropped to -5 in September from -4 in August but it is still well above the long term mean of -11.0. The 'flash' Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) result for September arrived at +2.1% as expected, much higher than the 1.7% rate in August. It is the first time in a year that the headline HICP number has topped the 2.0% ECB target.
Tuesday: the IFO Survey of Financial Experts one of the most followed German business indicators fell across all categories in September: 'Business Sentiment was 104.2 on expectation of 105 and July's reading of 105.8; 'Current Assessment' was 109.9 on expectations of 111.0 and the August issue of 111.5; 'Business Expectations' were 98.7, on a prediction of 99.6 and an August result of 100.4. GfK Consumer Confidence fell in October to 6.8, well under the median prediction of 7.1. The September statistic was revised lower to 7.4 from 7.6. It was the 2nd monthly drop in a row.
Thursday: the 'flash' or first issue of the September (HICP) showed a 0.2% gain for the month and a 2.7% year over year rate. Both results were higher than the median forecasts, for a flat month and a 2.5% increase for the year. The Consumer Price Index also beat expectations in September coming in at +0.2% for the month and +2.5% yearly; 0.0% and +2.3% had been anticipated. This was the first national CPI number over 2.0% since July 2006 when it registered +2.1% and the highest since September 2005 when it was also 2.5%.
Friday: Retail Sales in August fell 1.4%, an unusually large distance from the predicted rise of 0.3%. The drop was greater than all polled forecasts. It was the largest fall in consumer purchases since the 3.2% drop this past May. The July result was also adjusted lower to +0.6% from +0.7%. The year on year rate for Retail Sales was 2.2% less than the previous August, shrinkage of 1.6% had been expected; the decrease from last July to this July was 1.9%.
Tuesday: Total Business Investment in the second quarter was revised down to +0.4% from +0.8%, and the yearly figure was adjusted up to +7.8% from +7.4%. Manufacturing investment fell 6.0% in the quarter, leaving it 1.3% higher for the elapsed year. Investment in the services sector climbed 0.8% in the quarter and 7.9% yearly.
Thursday: the Nationwide House Price Survey rose 0.7% in September over August, a 9.0% yearly rate. In August the increases were +0.7% monthly and +9.6% yearly.
Friday: Retail Sales gained 0.5% in August, it was the first rise in three months; in July they had fallen 2.3%. Industrial Production gained 3.4% in August a major improvement on July's 0.4% contraction. The unemployment rate rose 0.2% to 3.8% as expected and left behind the 3.6% rate which had been the lowest since 1998. Core National CPI fell for the seventh month in a row, dropping 0.1%, deflation fears are uncomfortably alive. Household spending rose 1.6% year on year; in July it sank 0.1%.
The Week Ahead October 1 â€“ October 5
Monday: ISM Manufacturing Index for September at 10:00 ET; expected 52.9, August 52.9.
Tuesday: NAR Pending Home Sales for August at 10:00 ET; July 89.9.
Wednesday: ADP National Employment Report for September at 8:15 ET; August +38,000. ISM Non Manufacturing Index for September at 10:00 ET; expected 54.5, August 55.8.
Thursday: Jobless Claims for the week ending September 29 at 8:30 am ET; expected +12,000 to 310,000, prior week -15,000 to 298,000. Factory Orders for August at 10:00 ET; July +3.7%.
Friday: Non Farm Payrolls for September at 8:30 ET; expected +115,000, August -4,000. Unemployment Rate for September at 8:30 ET; expected 4.7%, August 4.6%.
Monday: Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for September at 8:00 GMT: August 54.3.
Tuesday: EMU Unemployment for August at 9:00 GMT; expected 6.9%, July 6.9%. Industrial PPI for August at 9:00 GMT; expected +0.1% m/m, +1.8% y/y, July +0.3% m/m, +1.8% y/y.
Wednesday: Services PMI for September at 9:00 GMT; August 58.0. Retail Trade for August at 9:00 GMT; expected +0.4% m/m, +0.5% y/y, July +0.1% m/m, +0.5% y/y.
Thursday: ECB rate announcement and press conference.
No important statistical releases
Monday: CIPS Manufacturing PMI for September at 9:30 GMT; expected 55.7, August 56.3.
Wednesday: Nationwide Consumer Confidence for September at 23:01 GMT; August 94. CIPS Services PMI for September at 9:30 GMT; expected 56.8, August 57.6.
Thursday: BOE rate announcement at 12:00 GMT.
No statistical releases
No statistical releases
Chief Market Analyst
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