The US Dollar and The Interest Rates

   Schwaben Blog

September 25, 2015

Weekly Statistics:

Today Week Ago Year Ago
25-Sep-15 18-Sep-15 25-Sep-14
S&P TSX 13,380 13,646 15,026
S&P 500 1,931 1,958 1,965
DJIA 16,315 16,385 16,945
OIL $45.58 $44.92  $89.37
USD vs CAD 0.7507 0.7604 0.9051
Gold $1,146 $1,138  $1,226

After deciding to keep interest rates steady during the last meeting, the Federal reserve chairperson, Janet Yellen, commented yesterday that most members on Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) still expect a rate increase in 2015. She also said that “Prospects for the US economy generally appear solid”. Her comments are supported by this morning’s report from the Commerce department, which states that the US economy grew at an annual rate of 3.9 percent compared to the previous forecast of 3.7 percent. A significant correction in oil prices could also be partially responsible for this stellar growth. This boosted the confidence of investors after the last FOMC meeting gave them some jitters about the growth of the US economy. Most of the major economic indicators are pointing towards a healthy and growing economy, and raising interest rates by 25bps would not prove catastrophic. Although there could  be a short-term correction in equity markets, a hike in interest rates would  signal that the US economy is strong enough to absorb a rate hike after almost a decade, however this does not alleviate the concern of falling inflation especially with a rise in interest rates. A stronger dollar could also  lower inflation as it suppresses import prices. The US dollar index, which measures the performance of US dollar against a basket of six currencies, has significantly appreciated on a year-over-year basis and is almost at the highest level for a decade resulting in disinflation for US consumers.

Source- Bloomberg, Globe Investor Gold, Financial Post, Market Watch, Trading Economics

US unemployment at record low – where is inflation ?

Schwaben small S    Schwaben Blog

 

May 24, 2015

 

Weekly Statistics:

 

Today

Week Ago

Year Ago

 

24-July-15

17-July-15

24-July-14

       
S&P TSX

15,108

14,385

14,534

S&P 500

2,122

2,076

 1,885

DJIA

18,272

17,752

16,511

OIL

$59.45

$52.13

 $92.78

USD vs CAD

0.8318

0.7888

0.9072

Gold

$1,225

$1,160

 $1,296

 

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in 41 years, pointing towards a strengthening US job market. Initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped 26,000 to 255,000 (seasonally adjusted) for the week ended July 18. Initial jobless claims have an importance in financial markets because unlike continued claims data which measures the number of persons claiming unemployment benefits, initial jobless claims measures new and emerging unemployment. As it is evident from the chart below, the data could be volatile but the latest numbers are at historic lows. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it excludes the week-to-week volatility , fell 4,000 last week to 278,500. A number below 300,000 is usually considered a threshold associated with strengthening labor market and the jobless claims have stayed below 300,000 for 17 straight weeks. Persistently low layoffs and greater employment gains will help wage gains and likely support consumer spending. At this point the Federal Reserve is still assessing the health of the US economy before deciding when to raise the interest rates. Unemployment numbers and jobless claims play a key factors in the Fed’s decision making process. The Federal Reserve may raise the interest rates in September should employment continue to strengthen and there are signs of wage gains.  This could possibly bring a small correction in equity prices over the short term.

united-states-jobless-claims July 24 2015

Source- Bloomberg, Globe Investor Gold, Financial Post, Market Watch, Trading Economics

Is the Canadian Housing Market and Household Debt on the road to a train wreck ?

Schwaben small S    Schwaben Blog

 

July 17, 2015

 

Weekly Statistics:

Today

Week Ago Year Ago
17-July-15 10-July-15

17-July-14

S&P TSX

14,385

14,385

15,204

S&P 500

2,076

2,076

 1,958

DJIA

17,752

17,752

16,976

OIL

$52.13

$52.13

 $94.36

USD vs CAD

0.7888

0.7888

0.9315

Gold

$1,160

$1,160

 $1,320

 

In not surprising  that the Bank of Canada recently cut its benchmark interest rates by 25 basis points to 0.5 percent from 0.75 percent. This is the lowest level since 2009 when interest rates were at 0.25 percent. The reduction in interest rates also sent the Canadian dollar down to 77.40 cents (US), its lowest level since March 2009, and continued its drop today to another record low since 2009 to 76.97 cents US. Canada’s major banks also followed the central bank and lowered their prime lending rates but only by 15 basis points to 2.7 percent from 2.85 percent. This is the second time this year that the banks have taken a cautious approach to their lending rates after the central bank has slashed the interest rates. Overall, the banks have lowered their prime rates by a total of 30 basis points as compared to Bank of Canada’s reduction of 50 basis points. The lower interest rates have led to a surge in house prices and according to Bank of Canada’s estimates, housing market could be overvalued by as much as 30 percent. Apart from the housing market, consumers’ debt is rising at a record pace while the income is growing

Fig. 1

Cdn Consumer Debt Jul 2015

at much slower pace. Due to low interest rates, consumers are taking on other forms of debts as well in the form of personal lines of credit, credit card loans among other types of debt. Fig 1. The surge in house prices combined with an alarming level of household debt for Canadians has prompted the big banks to lower their prime rates by 20 bps less than the central bank’s reduction of 50 points. In fact in 2007 Canadian versus US household debt to income was about the same. Since then Canadian Household debt to income has risen to 150% from 130% whereas US it has declined to 100% from the same level according to Deutsche Bank Fig. 2. The disparity creates an additional risk premium that adds pressure to the Canadian dollar decline.

Fig. 2

Cdn HH Debt Jul 2015

The collapse in oil prices and subsequent reduction in the investments in the oil patch has created one of the highest trade gaps for Canada and the economy likely contracted by 0.6 percent and 0.5 percent in the first two quarters of 2015 – technically a recession. The recent victory by NDP in Alberta has further prevented the investments in oil sands by creating an uncertainty about the corporate tax structure for the province. In order to close or reduce that gap, the country needs to ramp up its non energy exports. It hasn’t happened so far yet and in a desperate measure to increase Canadian exports, Governor Stephen Poloz is trying to push the loonie lower in order to increase the competitiveness of Canadian exports.  At a time when the Federal Reserve in the US is hinting towards a rate hike, this move by Bank of Canada shows that a growing US economy and a cheaper Canadian dollar could be the way to increase the Canadian exports and reduce the trade gap.

Source- Bloomberg, Globe Investor Gold, Financial Post, Market Watch, Trading Economics

Is North American growth slowing or is it just a temporary dip ?

Schwaben small S    Schwaben Blog

 

July 10, 2015

 

Weekly Statistics:

 

 

Today

Week Ago Year Ago
  10-July-15 03-July-15

10-July-14

       
S&P TSX

14,385

14,593

15,114

S&P 500

2,076

2,069

 1,964

DJIA

17,752

17,683

16,915

OIL

$52.13

$52.78

 $95.77

USD vs CAD

0.7888

0.7905

0.9315

Gold

$1,160

$1,169

 $1,342

 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cut its growth projection for the Canadian Economy. According to the IMF’s forecast, Canada’s real GDP will grow at 1.5 percent this year, down sharply from their previous forecast of 2.2 percent in April. In addition to Canada, it also slashed its forecast for the growth of the US economy for 2015 to 2.5 percent from 3.1 percent.  It is no surprise that the collapse in the oil prices is one of the main reasons for this setback but the IMF also pointed to some one-time factors like harsh winter and US port closures for the poor growth in North America. Due to the slump in oil prices, Canada’s international trade numbers for May showed a near-record trade deficit of $3.3 Billion. Exports of energy products are down 35 percent for the year to date compared with the same period a year ago. Although poor economic indicators have led economists to conclude that Canada’s GDP will likely contract again in second quarter, which means technically the Country is in recession, other economic indicators, specifically unemployment rate and housing starts are showing signs of strength. In the recently released unemployment report, Canada shed 6400 jobs but unemployment rate has been steady at 6.8 percent for the last five months. Although a rising trade deficit, because of energy exports and collapse in oil prices, Canada is still able to maintain its unemployment rate, which means that non-energy related industries are creating  jobs and are growing sufficiently to offset other job losses. A rate cut from Stephen Poloz, Governor of Bank of Canada, during his next announcement on July 15 could bring the interest rates down to 0.5 percent from 0.75 percent. This will be the second rate cut after a surprise rate cut in January. At a time when the housing market is already overpriced, a rate cut could cause house prices climb further out of reach for many Canadians.

Source- Bloomberg, Globe Investor Gold, Financial Post, Market Watch, Trading Economics

Has Greece come to the end of its Euro participation ?

 

Schwaben small S              Schwaben Blog

 

July 06, 2015

 

Weekly Statistics:

 

 

Today

Week Ago Year Ago
  06-July-15 26-June-15

06-July-14

       
S&P TSX

14,593

14,808

15,172

S&P 500

2,069

2,101

 1,977

DJIA

17,683

17,947

17,024

OIL

$52.78

$59.65

 $96.02

USD vs CAD

0.7905

0.8116

0.9370

Gold

$1,169

$1,174

 $1,320

 

In a historic outcome, the Greeks have overwhelmingly rejected the conditions of a rescue package from their creditors on Sunday. The Greeks were supposed to vote a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ on whether to accept their creditors’ conditions of pension cuts and tax increases, and continue being a part of Eurozone or reject their conditions and risk their country’s membership of Eurozone or even European Union.  61% of the Greek population voted ‘No’. Greece has now become the first developed economy to default on its international obligations and it is by far the largest default International Monetary Fund (IMF) has ever faced. The Greek economy is already facing acute crisis with national banks imposing a daily ATM withdrawal limit of 60 Euros and unemployment topping 20 percent.

This default does not necessarily mean that the Greece will be thrown out of the single currency Eurozone however will increase the risk that Greece will turn into a economic and financial tailspin that will force it to revert to a newly created Drachma. Tsipras came to power in January riding high on the promises of ending austerity measures and redefining the Greek economy. So far the economy has not shown any substantial progress and improvement. Although Greece does not play a major role in international trade, its debt default can lead to fear that the default may spread into the other troubled European countries (PIIGS) like Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece or Spain. and as a result could cause significantly raise their cost of borrowing. While this scenario is unlikely, in order to contain this contagion, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and French President, Francois Hollande met in Paris on Monday.  The image below compares the exposures of different countries to the Greek economy in 2010 to 2014 with Germany, Italy and Spain being the largest creditors to Greece. While Germany’s economy can withstand the default of the Greek economy, it will be the Italy and the Spain, which could face trouble as their economies are already under pressure.

Soverign and Bank lending

Greece getting closer to the edge – what after ?

 Schwaben small S          Schwaben Blog

 

June 05, 2015

 

Weekly Statistics:

 

 

Today

Week Ago Year Ago
  12-June-15 05-June-15

12-June-14

       
S&P TSX

14,742

14,957

14,909

S&P 500

2,094

2,092

 1,930

DJIA

17,899

17,849

16,734

OIL

$59.98

$58.42

 $95.30

USD vs CAD

0.8123

0.8017

0.9210

Gold

$1,181

$1,172

 $1,276

 

The University of Michigan posted a better than expected number for the United States consumer sentiment at 94.6, but major equity indices were under pressure by fear of Greece’s possible debt default. For the first time, senior political leaders of European Union discussed a possible Greek debt default as negotiations between Athens and its creditors stalled ahead of an end of the month repayment deadline. With unemployment hovering around 26 percent, Greece’s situation is deteriorating every month. Greece currently owes $352.7 Billion to foreign investors. About 75 percent of that debt is owned by European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). While German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly said that she will keep working to allow Greece to stay in the Eurozone, the German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, is willing to let Greece exit the Eurozone unless its government takes measures to ensure the country’s long-term survival in European Union.  If Greece defaults on its debt, then other smaller economies in Europe like Italy, Cyprus and Spain could face troubles as well. Eurozone is already facing negative or muted growth and many countries are experiencing unusually high double digit unemployment rates . At a time when ECB is actively trying to fend off the deflation in the Eurozone by introducing 1 Trillion Euro bond buying program, a default by Greece would be a major setback and could possibly lead many countries in the Eurozone into recession. In equity markets, sentiment plays a big role in the direction of movement of markets. Impressive growth in the US economy and a growing Chinese economy has instilled a sense of false confidence or a bubble among investors, however with a Greek debt default on the horizon, fear could quickly spread to global markets. Although Greece is not a significant economy and does not play a major role in global trade, its default could have disturbing effects across Europe and North America.

Source- Bloomberg, Globe Investor Gold, Financial Post, Market Watch, Trading Economics

The Canadian economy in flux – employment and economic activity moving to manufacturing again

Schwaben small S              Schwaben Blog

 

June 05, 2015

 

Weekly Statistics:

 

Today

Week Ago Year Ago
05June-15 29-May-15

05-June-14

S&P TSX

14,957

15,036

14,604

S&P 500

2,092

2,114

 1,951

DJIA

17,849

18,052

16,943

OIL

$58.42

$59.93

 $93.92

USD vs CAD

0.8017

0.7995

0.9051

Gold

$1,172

$1,189

 $1,256

 

Ontario and British Columbia were the largest contributors in job creations in Canada last month, creating 43,900 and 30,600 jobs respectively. The entire Canadian economy added 59,000 jobs in the month of May compared with a loss of 19,700 jobs in April.  In the wake of the oil-price collapse, Alberta saw the biggest decline in employment, losing 6,400 positions, making it the first month of negative job creation since then.. Other oil producing provinces like New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador lost about 9,000 jobs in total. As we have mentioned in our previous Blogs we expected a reversal of fortunes and as such also employment levels of oil producing versus manufacturing provinces with the collapse of oil prices and the concurrent decline in the Canadian dollar. Jeremy Lawson, chief economist at Edinburgh-based Standard Life Investments said “I think it’s pretty clear that the Canadian economy is going to rebalance over the next two to three years.” The unemployment rate has remained unchanged at 6.8 percent from the last four months. The unemployment rate in Canada averaged 7.73 percent from 1966 until 2015. Last month’s gain in employment numbers is the largest since October 2014 when 62,200 jobs were created. A poor first quarter and a drop in interest rates by Bank of Canada led investors to believe that the Canadian economy is headed for more troubles and economists were expecting another interest rate cut from Stephen Poloz, Governor of Bank of Canada. Friday’s data however  will likely cause the Bank of Canada to reevaluate and  declines in interest rates likely have come to an end. This jobs report is a positive signal for Canadian economy and offers a positive outlook for the remainder of 2015.

Source- Bloomberg, Globe Investor Gold, Financial Post, Market Watch, Trading Economics