U.S. stocks climbed to records as the latest jobs report boosted optimism in the world’s largest economy, continuing equity rallies that took hold in Asia and Europe. The dollar posted its best week this year.
The S&P 500 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at all-time highs in light volume after data showed hiring increased by more than forecast in November and the unemployment rate held at a 17-year low of 4.1%. The dollar briefly edged lower as investors assessed tepid wage growth that missed estimates, then resumed its fifth consecutive gain. Average hourly earnings — a closely watched component of the report — rose 0.2 percent for November and 2.5 percent for the year. Economists expected a monthly increase of 0.3 percent or 2.7 percent for the year. Ten-year Treasury yields inched higher.
The jobs data added to a run of recent news that has been contributing to investor confidence after the U.S. government averted a shutdown and tax reform negotiations made progress.
This melt-up may have legs as forecasts for U.S. growth have been too pessimistic. Nevertheless, despite a mostly solid run of job growth, 2017 ends pretty much where it began — with wage growth stuck and inflation subdued.
This nonfarm payrolls report brought with it news all too familiar to the post-crisis economy. The 228,000 jobs created formed a solid foundation, but the pedestrian 2.5 percent average hourly earnings growth left many scratching their heads wondering how a 4.1 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in 17 years, still wasn't producing fatter paychecks.
The lack of wage growth at the aggregate level despite the declines in the unemployment rate and strong job gains remain a mystery.
Central bankers can control short-term interest rates but as has become glaringly obvious in the post recessionary world, long-term ones are out of their purview.
Ms. Yellen’s Fed has raised rates twice this year and will likely raise a third time this month. In October the Fed began reversing quantitative easing (QE), purchases of financial assets with newly created money. Despite all this monetary tightening, yields on ten year Treasury bonds have fallen from around 2.5% at the start of 2017 to about 2.3% today. As a result the “yield curve” is flattening. The difference between ten year and two year interest rates is at its lowest since November 2007.
The yield curve matters as it has inverted- ie. long-term rates have dipped below short term ones-just before each of the past seven American recessions.
The yield curve reflects where markets expect Fed Policy to go and what we are seeing is an expectation that rates are not likely to increase.
Why? Falling inflation risk may explain the falling yield curve but as the Economist suggests, what is most likely is that markets are losing confidence in the Fed’s ability to raise rates without inflation sagging. This nonfarm payrolls report will only accelerate this loss of confidence.
So what of Trump’s new tax reform package? Despite Trump’s approval ratings hitting a new low, the market appears to be applauding it. From our perspective, although this tax package will likely stimulative in the short term, in the long term a fiscal stimulus through generalized tax cuts is unnecessary, and destabilizing, in an economy running substantially above its 1.5 percent potential (and non-inflationary) growth on the steam of exceptionally loose monetary policy.
Furthermore, deep corporate tax-cuts (which have been tried before by Ronald Reagan) don’t seem to work.
The Trump team’s argument goes something like this: Cutting taxes on businesses will free up profits they will invest in new factories, research and development, and new equipment. The resulting investment boom will spur growth, as firms hire and as workers harness new ideas and equipment to produce more than they used to.
If we look at the Reagan years, investment fell—that was the weakest period of investment in the postwar period.
The same is likely to occur today. Firms aren’t cashed constrained. They aren’t asking for more money then and they certainly aren’t asking for more now. In fact, companies don’t even know what to do with their money. Companies today are sitting on record cash piles (roughly $1.84 trillion).
When asking the question of what companies will do with a windfall of after tax-profits, Quartz points out that the odds that it will flow back into the real economy (investment) aren’t looking good. Many major companies are planning to hand that money to their investors through dividends and share buybacks. In fact, when Gary Cohn, Trump’s economic guru, asked a gathering of corporate leaders who was planning to reinvest their tax cuts, few raised their hands, Bloomberg recently reported. What these cuts will likely do is inflate asset prices even further as the bill directs the largest tax cuts as a share of income to the top 5 percent of taxpayers and by 2027, taxes on the lowest earners would go up.
This at a time when we find ourselves in what could be argued is an “everything bubble”. At a time when a cool $1 million which has long been considered the gold standard of retirement savings, has become only a fraction of what you will really need.A time when 44 percent of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist country, compared with 42 percent who want to live under capitalism. A time when 41 million Americans officially live in poverty. A time when bitcoin is the most popular search on Google as well as the most popular news story on virtually every news outlet….
What goes up must come down….In this environment, where the balance of risk is likely to the downside, buying EXTRA thoughtfully is warranted.
Logos LP November Performance
November 2017 Return: +7.33%
2017 YTD (November) Return: +28.83%
Trailing Twelve Month Return: +35.67%
CAGR since inception March 26, 2014: +20.65%
Thought of the Week
"Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.” -Saint Augustine
Articles and Ideas of Interest
- Collective intelligence can change the world. Combining the minds of humans and machines to avoid confirmation bias. A group with a more autonomous intelligence will fare better than one with less autonomy. It will fall victim less often to the vices of confirmation bias or functional fixedness. It is more likely to see facts for what they are, interpret accurately, create usefully or remember sharply. Knowledge will always be skewed by power and status as well as our pre-existing beliefs. We seek confirmation. But these are matters of degree. We can all try to struggle with our own nature and cultivate this autonomy along with the humility to respond to intelligence. Or we can spend our lives seeking confirmation. Over the Holidays -- give yourself the freedom to explore, think and imagine without constraint.
- There’s an implosion of early-stage VC funding, and no one’s talking about it. Amid record amounts of capital raised by VCs worldwide, and a sharp rise in the number of private “unicorns” valued at $1 billion-plus, therehas been a quiet, barely noticed implosion in early-stage VC activity worldwide. This is now a three-year trend, so cannot be “blamed” on macro or short-term factors. More worryingly, it comes at a time of unprecedented stock market valuations worldwide. Whether the early-stage VC implosion is healthy or disastrous for the tech ecosystem remains to be seen. This is likely healthy over the long run in order to break Silicon Valley’s never-ending startup cycle: Startup employees get rich quick and quit to become venture capitalists.
- Mysterious object confirmed to be from another solar system.Astronomers have named interstellar object ’Oumuamua and its red colour suggests it carries organic molecules that are building blocks of life. Interestingly, NASA has also found another 20 promising planets for humans to colonize.
Net neutrality: catastrophe or a non-event? Some suggest that the internet is dying and that repealing net neutrality hastens that death. Others suggestthat concerns over net neutrality are overblown as public blowback in past cases of service providers blocking sites that are competitive has been fierce, scaring other providers from following suit. Second, blocking competitors to protect your own services is anticompetitive conduct that might well be stopped by antitrust laws without any need for network neutrality regulations.
- Will BlackRock and Vanguard own everything by 2028? Imagine a world in which two asset managers call the shots, in which their wealth exceedscurrent U.S. GDP and where almost every hedge fund, government and retiree is a customer. It’s closer than you think. BlackRock Inc. and Vanguard Group — already the world’s largest money managers — are less than a decade from managing a total of $20 trillion, according to Bloomberg News calculations. Amassing that sum will likely upend the asset management industry, intensify their ownership of the largest U.S. companies and test the twin pillars of market efficiency and corporate governance.
- Robots aren’t killing jobs fast enough-and we should be worried.Interesting perspective on this. In fact, data show that the US labor market is the calmest it has been in more than 160 years. The problem is there is not enough disruption. If anything, we need more jobs destroyed. That argument, made by Robert Atkinson and John Wu of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank promoting policies that spur innovation, is a novel one. Their belief that we are in an age of stagnation, not disruption, is based on a decade-by-decade analysis of how quickly occupations have been appearing and disappearing since 1850. No wonder Google, Amazon have found that not everyone is ready for AI.
- How high will bitcoin go? Should you buy in? What is next for cryptocurrencies? Well ladies and gents even the most staunch haters arethrowing in the towel with Jamie Dimon recently suggesting a reversal of his position stating that “I'm open-minded to uses of cryptocurrencies if properly controlled and regulated." Make no mistake this is a frenzy much like the dot-com bubble in 1995. Perhaps even larger as bitcoins appear to be at least 4 times as expensive as dot-com stocks were at their height. Interestingly, few are talking about its energy use implications: By July 2019, the bitcoin network will require more electricity than the entire United States currently uses. By February 2020, it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today. Is this sustainable? The cryptocurrency’s price is completely unreal. Then again so is money...The problem is that it is clear that this is not a currency. Most are buying and holding in hopes of future gains. This is an asset class and as seen many times before, when lots of investors buy an illiquid asset, the price can rise exponentially yet at some point the urge to turn all those digital zeros into cars and iPhones will prove too great. Getting out of an illiquid asset can be much harder than getting in. When that rush inevitably happens, people are going to get hurt. Rule number 1: don’t lose money. Rule number 2: don’t forget rule number 1.
- Me, myself and iPhone. Fascinating research presented in the Economistsuggesting what we already know (subconsciously): the many hours young people spend staring at their phones is having serious effects. Adolescents who spent more time on new media-using Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram on a smartphone were more likely to agree with remarks such as: “The future often seems hopeless” or “I feel like I can’t do anything right.” Those who used screens less, spending time playing sport, doing homework, or socialising with friends in person, were less likely to report mental troubles.
Our best wishes for a fulfilling week,