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      • FOMC Update: What, Me Worry?

        17 June 2020   |  

        The Federal Reserve concluded its June meeting, and the results were more dovish than anticipated as 10-year US Treasury yields retreated toward their all-time lows. That the Fed could even appear more dovish after its recent historic liquidity interventions may seem surprising, especially since some of those polices seem to be working (or at least seem not to be doing major near-term harm). Equity markets have erased most corona crisis losses, the latest employment data are shockingly positive and consumers are rushing back to stores given the opportunity. Financial markets are stable, and valuations are rising. The real economy is mending. Everything is looking up! So why is the Fed so glum?

      • Tracking the Economy Out of Lockdown

        26 May 2020   |  

        Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and a key moment for the US in its journey through the COVID-19 pandemic: All 50 states have begun—to varying degrees—easing COVID-19 related restrictions.

        As restrictions on movement ease, we will start to get a handle on the answer to one very important question: What shape will the US economic recovery take? 

      • About That Tech Rally …

        22 May 2020   |  

        As markets have bounced off what has proven at least a near-term bottom on March 23, many have commented on narrowing breadth—i.e., market leadership among a decreasing number of stocks. Specifically, many noted the bounce was largely driven by the big tech stocks—particularly those commonly known as the FANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, with some adding Microsoft and Apple and rendering the acronym unpronounceable). It’s worth noting that not all of those names are classified as technology companies from a GICS sector perspective: Facebook, Netflix and Google (Alphabet) all fall in the communication services sector, while Amazon is considered discretionary and Microsoft is the only “true” technology company.

        Nevertheless, sector returns—in the US and overseas—tell a slightly different story from a tech(/communication services/discretionary)-led bounce.

      • A New Era of Alphabet Soup?

        19 May 2020   |  

        Unprecedented times beget unprecedented measures—and with the global financial crisis still visible in our rear-view mirrors, global central banks have in some ways responded to fresh crisis with substantially similar tools. Meaning they’ve lowered rates (to the extent they can, given relatively low rates to start with) and they’ve offered various lending facilities to ensure markets maintain sufficient liquidity levels.

      • Employment Limbo for Millions

        11 May 2020   |  

        Another day, another grim US economic milestone amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 8, the US Labor Department released its April Employment Situation report. The magnitude of the numbers was momentous—nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million people and the unemployment rate jumped to 14.7%, from 4.4% in March.

      • Six Noteworthy Oil-Related Charts

        23 April 2020   |  

        Oil has been the lead story recently—for a few reasons. In January, Saudi Arabia and Russia kicked off a heated competition for market share—after several years of cooperating and coordinating output in order to attempt to control oil prices. The result has been a well-documented collapse in oil prices—and growing challenges for oil producers and investors alike. Though it seems the near-term race to the bottom may have concluded, it also seems unlikely prices rocket back in the near term. Here are six interesting charts showcasing some of the recent phenomena.

      • A Closer Look at Global Fiscal Packages

        14 April 2020   |  

        Governments globally have responded to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic variously—some have effectively shuttered their economies, full stop; others have taken less radical approaches (like Sweden). Similarly on the fiscal front, some governments have passed sweeping spending packages aimed at dulling a full shutdown’s likely economic impact. Top of this list in terms of scale is the US, where Congress passed and the President signed a roughly $2 trillion aid package on 27 March 2020. In the intervening weeks (yes, it’s only been weeks—believe it or not), some countries have followed suit—in intention if not in magnitude. Japan’s cabinet approved a $1 trillion package on 7 April. The EU is struggling to agree on a €500 billion package (more on the EU momentarily). 

      • Backed by the Fed, Corporates Borrow Record Amount

        06 April 2020   |  

        Despite the worst selloff for credit since the great financial crisis, investment grade companies set a record level of new issuance in March. The thawing of primary market activities comes just two weeks after the Fed returned to its crisis-era playbook, announcing several new emergency lending facilities to contain the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic—including the unprecedent measure of purchasing investment grade debt in both the primary and secondary markets. Facing evaporating liquidity and a severe contraction in credit conditions, the Fed effectively moved to become the liquidity provider of last resort to facilitate price discovery, reopen primary market activity and stave off the risk of a potential credit crisis.

      • The Decline and (Nascent) Bounce—in Pictures

        31 March 2020   |  

        An interesting tidbit: The 11 trading days between Friday, 13 March 2020, and Friday, 27 March 2020, represented the fastest shift in market history from bull market to technical bear market and back to bull market. The next closest was in 1929 but wasn’t particularly close—18 days. (HT: Morgan Stanley)

      • US Labor Market Gets Sick: Jobless Claims Soar

        30 March 2020   |  

        US initial jobless claims hit a record of 3.28 million last week. For perspective, the previous weekly record for workers filing for unemployment benefits was 695,000 in 1982 (Exhibit 1). From another angle, the latest weekly total is 1% of the entire US population and 2% of the US civilian labor force.

        Exhibit 1: US Intial Jobless Claims

        Source: St. Louis Fed, as of 28 Mar 2020. Gray bars represent recessions as defined by the NBER.

         

        Nobody can be positive what future weekly jobless claims will look like—it’s not unreasonable to call current circumstances unprecedented, epic, maybe even inconceivable. But a couple of generalizations already seem reasonable.