Cooler Kings! As Biden Keeps Going Green And Fed Raises Rates, Everything Is Cooling (Mortgage Rates UP, Venture Capital Down 53%, Stocks Crushed, Etc)

The Biden Administration and The Federal Reserve together should be called “The Cooler Kings” in that their policies are putting a Big Chill on the mortgage market and equities.

Mortgage rates are skyrocketing thanks to the Federal Reserve.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.27% for the week ending May 5, according to data released by Freddie Mac  FMCC, -1.62% on Thursday. That’s up 17 basis points from the previous week — one basis point is equal to one hundredth of a percentage point, or 1% of 1%.

House price growth to wage growth is below the all-time high, but remains above housing bubble levels of 2005-2007.

The Refinitiv Venture Capital Index is down 53% since November ’21 as The Fed cranks up interest rates.

Well, at least commodities are soaring under “The Cooler Kings.” Pretty much everything else is sucking wind.

Home prices are actually falling in some cities, like Toledo Ohio, Detroit Michigan, Rochester NY, and Pittsburgh PA. Even La-La Land (Los Angeles CA) is seeing a drop in median listing price since 2021 of -5.0%.

The question, of course, is whether The Federal Reserve will back off its plans to aggressively raise interest rates in lieu of crashing stock market, venture capital, and possibly home prices.

This is Scorcher VI: Global Meltdown.

Does Biden and The Fed Feel Like We Do?

Can The Crypto Ethereum Hedge Against Inflation? (Inflation Rate Highest In 40 Years)

Inflation is the highest in 40 years. There used to be a lot of discussion about hedging against inflation in the 1970s and 1980s, but discussion subsided as inflation cooled in the US. But now it is roaring back as Fed monetary stimulus continues unabated and The Federal government continues to spends like crazy.

So, how do we protect ourselves against inflation caused by Federal government policies (or follicies)? How about cryptocurrencies like Ethereum?

Ethereum really started to take off as US inflation took off. Not a perfect fit (or hedge), but on average Ethereum has kept up with inflation.

If you believe in technical analysis, Ethereum is in the 3rd wave on the downside.

But if you believe the Ichimoku Cloud, Ethereum lies BELOW the cloud indicating that Ethereum is likely to rise.

Bear in mind that Biden’s energy policies have created large increases in energy prices which lead to large increases in other products such as food prices. Again, not all inflation is due to Federal policies. Arabica coffee prices are driven by droughts and excessive rainfall, etc. But inflation causes a rise in agriculture prices due to transportation cost increases, increases in fertilizer prices (thank to natural gas price increases), and panic buying by consumers.

Despite what Federal officials jawbone about, inflation has momentum and is unlikely to swiftly subside, particularly if the Build Back (Inflation) Better Act passes in 2022.

Remember, consumer purchasing power of the US Dollar has declined dramatically since the creation of The Federal Reserve System in 1913. The Fed isn’t going away and neither is wasteful Federal spending, like BBB.

Protect yourself! Or at least Treat Yo Self!

NOT In Labor Force Remains Near 100 Million As REAL Hourly Earnings Drop To -1.4% YoY (Biden Celebrates Unemployment Rate Dropping To 4.2%?)

President Joe Biden took to Twitter yesterday to celebrate how well his economic policies are working, particularly the American Rescue Plan. Between Congress and The Fed pumping trillions of dollars of stimulus in the economy, how is this surprising? Or a reason for celebration?

While declining unemployment is great, there is more to the story that President Biden failed to mention. Like … the number of people NOT in the labor force remains near 100 million (99,997,000 to be exact). Thanks to Covid-related policies (like job loss due to resisting vaccinations), increasing retirement, etc.), NOT in labor force remains elevated compared to pre-Covid levels. And, of course, Biden doesn’t want to mention that inflation is growing faster than hourly wage growth resulting in REAL hourly wage growth being -1.4% YoY.

And President Biden took credit (he is a politician, after all) for a small decline in gasoline prices. Of course, after helping send gasoline prices up over 50% since he took office.

So, is Biden going to take credit for increasing gasoline prices by 50%? And declining REAL average hourly earnings? Or over 100 million people NOT in the labor force? I doubt it. But he is focusing on the POSITIVES of his American Rescue Plan.

Its a bold strategy Cotton, let;s see if it pays of for him.

Is The US At Full (Realistic) Employment? If So, Why Isn’t The Fed Raising Rates?

Is the US at full employment? That is, is the US at REALISTIC full employment? And if the US is at realistic full employment, why is The Federal Reserve keeping rates at 25 basis points??

Let’s start with the “quits” data. An estimated 3% of American workers quit their jobs in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week.1That’s the highest percentage since the BLS started keeping track two decades ago.

Front-line and low-wage workers are leaving at rates higher than historical norms while higher-paid office workers aren’t. College-educated workers haven’t been quitting or dropping out of the workforce at higher rates than before the pandemic, but less-educated workers have.

The quits rate in professional and business services was just 0.4 percentage points higher in September than before the pandemic in February 2020. In financial activities it was unchanged. In the information sector, made up of telecommunications, publishing, broadcasting, motion pictures, software and most internet companies, the quits rate was down 0.3 percentage points.

The biggest increases in quit rates were in sectors such as leisure and hospitality where office workers are few, working remotely seldom an option and wages low. Within manufacturing, the quits-rate increase has been much bigger in lower-paying nondurable goods (of which food manufacturing is the biggest part) than in higher-paying durable goods.

In particular, fast food restaurants are offering above minimum wage salaries to attract workers. Burger King was even offering college tuition (not to University of Chicago, but to the local community college).

Labor force participation crashed with COVID and has struggled to recover, despite the staggering monetary stimulus. If this a sign that the US is at full employment (or very difficult to entice workers to enter and stay in the labor force)?

Speaking of colleges, business schools in particular, here are the top 85 business schools in the US according to Bloomberg/Business Week. I had the honor of teaching at University of Chicago in the 1990s which is currently ranked at #4.

I saw this headline this morning: “More Americans Than Expected File for Jobless Benefits.” Odd since so many jobs are available.

I guess Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job and Shove It” is the new national anthem under Biden.

Fed’s Snakejuice And Winners/Losers From T-Curve Flatterning (Winners: Real Estate, Financials, Information Tech, Losers: Industrials, Retail, Metals And Mining)

At the annual Jackson Hole (aka, J-Hole) Economic Symposium, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated that the Fed is in no hurry to either taper asset purchases immediately or aggressively. Additionally he made crystal clear that even when the Fed does eventually start tapering asset purchases (likely November or December), it should not be taken as signaling interest rate hikes will follow on some preset course. Indeed, Fed Chairman Powell continues to claim that inflation is transitory. Finally, he said that part of the mandate (employment) is still far from being achieved. So, expect more SNAKE JUICE.

The shape of the yield curve has been highly influential recently in relative performance trends between various areas of the market. From last summer through May of this year, the steepening of the yield curve coincided with healthy outperformance of cyclical stocks. Since May, the flattening of the curve has coincided with more defensive (or at least high quality) leadership out of the tech and health care sectors. The logic goes, therefore, that a re-steepening of the curve should coincide with a shift back to cyclicals. Indeed, that shift may be in the early innings.

Let’s take a look at the US Treasury 10Y-2Y curve slope over the past twelve months against the Citi Economic Surprise Index for the US. You can see curve fatigue starting in April 2021 as the Citi Economic Surprise Index turns negative.

The the more cyclical and smaller skewed S&P 500 equal weight index has started to outperform the S&P 500 again, right on queue with the yield curve re-steepening.

Industrial stocks are under-performing the broader S&P 500 index as the curve flattens.

Real estate stocks? They are outperforming the broader S&P 500 index.

Mining stocks like gold mines? They are underperforming the broader S&P 500 index.

Financial stocks? Not surprisingly, The Fed’s dovish behavior is causing financial stocks to outperform the broader S&P index.

Likewise, information technology stocks are outperforming the broader S&P 500 index.

So, by Powell delaying any balance sheet slowdown and rate increases, we have clear winners (real estate, financials, information tech) and clear losers on a relative basis (industrials, retail, metals and mining).

Pure snake juice.

The Others! Due to volatility differences, I wouldn’t over-interpret this chart. But Bitcoin as a ratio of the S&P 500 index is “kicking ass!” Gold and housing as a ratio of the S&P 500 index seemingly can’t keep up with the S&P 500 index.