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22 May 2017 What Does the Path to the Recession of 2019 Look Like? (Publication Centre)

In recent years only one event has made a material difference to the growth path of the U.S. economy, namely, the plunge in oil prices which began in the summer of 2014. The ensuing collapse in capital spending in the mining sector and everything connected to it, pulled GDP growth down from 2½% in both 2014 and 2015 to just 1.6% in 2016.

15 March 2017 Mexican Manufacturing will do Fine in Q1, Despite Threats (Publication Centre)

The collapse in capital spending in the oil sector and poor construction spending have constrained aggregate Mexican industrial output in recent months, despite the strength of the manufacturing sector. Total production fell 0.1% year-over-year in January, though note this was a clear improvement after the 0.6% drop in December, and better than the average 0.4% contraction over the second half of 2016.

25 Jan. 2016 Oil Capex Crash Nearly Over - What Happens Next to Consumers? (Publication Centre)

If we had known back in June 2014 that oil prices would drop to about $30, the collapse in capital spending in the oil sector would not have been a surprise. Spending on well-drilling, which accounts for about three quarters of oil capex, has dropped in line with the fall in prices, after a short lag, as our first chart shows. We think spending on equipment has tracked the fall in oil prices, too.

2 March 2017 How Will the Fed Decide Whether to Hike in March, or Wait? (Publication Centre)

The odds of a hike this month have increased in recent days, though the chance probably is not as high as the 82% implied by the fed funds future. The arguments against a March hike are that GDP growth seems likely to be very sluggish in Q1, following a sub-2% Q4, and that a hike this month would be seen as a political act.

09 Mar. 2016 Why are Chainstore Sales so Weak Compared to the Official Data? (Publication Centre)

The Redbook chain store sales survey used to be our favorite indicator of the monthly core retail sales numbers, but over the past year it has parted company from the official data. Year-over-year growth in Redbook sales has slowed to just 0.7% in February, from a recent peak of 4.6% in the year to December 2014

20 December 2016 Fiscal Easing Likely Would Boost Productivity, but not by Enough (Publication Centre)

The two key planks of the argument that a substantial easing of fiscal policy won't be inflationary are that labor participation will be dragged higher, limiting the decline in the unemployment rate, while productivity growth will rebound, so unit labor costs will remain under control.

10 May 2017 The Budget Deficit is Rising, even Before any Unfunded Tax Cuts (Publication Centre)

The CBO reckons that the April budget surplus jumped to about $179B, some $72B more than in the same month last year. This looks great, but alas all the apparent improvement reflects calendar distortions on the spending side of the accounts.

9 June 2017 Bank C&I Lending has Levelled-off, Expect a Second-Half Rebound (Publication Centre)

The rollover in bank lending to commercial and industrial companies probably is over. On the face of it, the slowdown has been alarming, with year-over-year growth in the stock of lending slowing to just 2.6% in April, from a sustained peak of more than 10% in the early part of last year.

9 February 2017 Is the Jump in Wholesale Inventories Sustainable? (Publication Centre)

Total real inventories rose at a $48.7B annualized rate in the fourth quarter, contributing 1.0 percentage points to headline GDP growth. Wholesale durable goods accounted for $34B of the aggregate increase, following startling 1.0% month-to-month nominal increases in both November and December. The November jump was lead by a 3.2% leap in the auto sector, but inventories rose sharply across a broad and diverse range of other durables, including lumber, professional equipment, electricals and miscellaneous.

7 June 2017 The Slowing in Consumer Credit Demand is Good News (Publication Centre)

Today's consumer credit report for April likely will show that the stock of debt rose by about $15B, a bit below the recent trend. The monthly numbers are volatile, but the underlying trend rate of increase has eased over the past year-and-a-half, as our first chart shows. The slowdown has been concentrated in the non-revolving component, though the rate of growth of the stock of revolving credit--mostly credit cards--has dipped recently, perhaps because of weather effects and the late Easter.

29 September. 2016 Rocketing Soybean Exports Set to Hold Down August Trade Deficit (Publication Centre)

Today is all about beans. Specifically, soybeans, and more specifically, just how many of them were exported in August. This really matters, because if soybean exports in August and September remained close to their hugely elevated July level, the surge in exports relative to the second quarter will contribute about one percentage point to headline GDP growth.

26 Mar. 2015 How Far Will Capital Goods Orders Fall as the Oil Sector Shrinks? (Publication Centre)

The rollover in core capital goods orders in recent months has been startling. In the three months to February, compared to the previous three months, orders for non-defense capital goods fell at a 7.6% annualized rate.

21 February 2017 Wages Don't Necessarily Lead Inflation, but Unit Labor Costs do (Publication Centre)

Fed Chair Yellen said something which sounded odd, at first, in her Q&A at the Senate Banking Committee last Tuesday. It is "not clear" she argued, that the rate of growth of wages has a "direct impact on inflation".

23 June. 2015 Oil Firms' Equipment Capex Can't Fall Forever - is it Close to Bottom? (Publication Centre)

We are intrigued by the idea that the rollover in oil firms' capital spending on equipment might already be over, even as spending on new well-drilling--captured by the still-falling weekly operating rigs data--continues to decline. The evidence to suggest equipment spending has fallen far enough is straightforward.

27 Mar. 2015 No Hit from Oil Sector's Troubles Yet - Gains Elsewhere Offsetting? (Publication Centre)

We argued in the Monitor yesterday that the plunge in capital spending on equipment in the oil sector could cost about 300K jobs over the course of this year. Adding in the potential hit from falling spending on structures, which likely will occur over a longer period, given the lead times in the construction process, the payroll hit this year could easily be 500K, or just over 40K per month.

24 Sept. 2015 Capital goods orders recovering, but they won't rise every month (Publication Centre)

The plunge in capital spending in the oil business appears to be over, at least for now. Orders for non-defense capital goods, excluding aircraft, fell by 8.9% from their September peak to their February low, but they have since rebounded, as our first chart shows. We can't be certain that the sudden drop in core capex orders late last year was triggered by a rollover in oil companies' spending, but it is the most likely explanation, by far.

29 Apr. 2016 Weak Q1 Growth Won't Persist - Better Data Coming, Soon (Publication Centre)

The astonishing 86% annualized plunge in capital spending in mining structures--mostly oil wells--alone subtracted 0.6 percentage points from headline GDP growth in the first quarter. The collapse was bigger than we expected, based on the falling rig count, but the key point is that it will not be repeated in the second quarter.

9 June. 2016 The Inventory Rundown isn't Over, but the Intensity Will Soon Diminish (Publication Centre)

The collapse in capital spending in the oil sector last year was the biggest single drag on the manufacturing sector, by far. The strong dollar hurt too, as did the slowdown in growth in China, but most companies don't export anything. Capex has fallen in proportion to the drop in oil prices, so our first chart strongly suggests that the bottom of the cycle is now very near.

7 September. 2016 Capex Rebounding in Q3, Except in the Housing Component (Publication Centre)

If you had asked us in the spring where the action would be in capital spending over the summer, we would have said that the housing component was the best bet. Right now, though, the opposite seems more likely, with housing likely to be the weakest component of capex.

29 Apr. 2015 Growth in the first quarter, but not much? (Publication Centre)

The first estimate of Q1 growth will show that the economy struggled in the face of the severe winter and, to a lesser extent, the rollover in capital spending in the oil sector. But the weather hit appears to have been much smaller than last year, when the economy shrank at a 2.1% rate in the first quarter; this time, we think the economy expanded at an annualized rate of 1.1%.

22 June 2017 Falling Oil Prices will hit Mining Capex, but no Repeat of 2014 to 16 (Publication Centre)

The renewed slide in oil prices in recent weeks will crimp capital spending, at the margin, but it is not a macroeconomic threat on the scale of the 2014-to-16 hit.

1 Sept. 2015 Manufacturing Woes Changing as Oil Hit Eases but Dollar Gains Bite (Publication Centre)

The pressures on U.S. manufacturers are changing. For most of this year to date, the problem has been the collapse in capital spending in the oil business, which has depressed overall investment spending, manufacturing output and employment. Oil exploration is extremely capital-intensive, so the only way for companies in the sector to save themselves when the oil prices collapsed was to slash capex very quickly.

11 May. 2016 Outside the Oil Sector, the NFIB Survey Points to Decent Capex (Publication Centre)

We're pretty sure our forecast of a levelling-off in capital spending in the oil sector will prove correct. Unless you think the U.S. oil business is going to disappear, capex has fallen so far already that it must now be approaching the incompressible minimum required for replacement parts and equipment needed to keep production going.

1 July. 2016 Manufacturing Activity Has Levelled-Off - Better News Ahead (Publication Centre)

The manufacturing sector is much more exposed to external forces--the dollar, and global growth--than the rest of the economy. But much of the slowdown in the sector over the past year-and-a-half, we think, can be traced back to the impact of plunging oil prices on capital spending in the sector.

1 December. 2016 ISM Set to Show that Manufacturing is Recovering, Albeit Slowly (Publication Centre)

We have lost count of the number of times the drop in the ISM manufacturing survey, in the wake of the plunge in oil prices, was a harbinger o f recession across the whole economy. It wasn't, because the havoc wreaked in the industrial economy by the collapse in capital spending in the oil sector was contained.

01 Mar. 2016 Worst is Over for Manufacturers, but no Real Rebound Yet (Publication Centre)

The worst is over for manufacturers, we think. The three major forces depressing activity in the sector last year--namely, the strong dollar, the slowdown in China, and the collapse in capital spending in the oil sector--will be much less powerful this year.

13 Jan. 2016 Mexico's Industrial Sector Still Slowing - Services to the Rescue? (Publication Centre)

November production data in Mexico, released Monday, showed that the industrial economy remained quite soft in the last part of last year. The collapse in capital spending in the oil sector, slowing public spending, and weaker growth in EM and the U.S. manufacturing sector have combined to hit Mexican industrial output quite hard. Total production rose just 0.1% year-over-year in November, down from an already weak 0.5% in October, and below the 1.3% average increase in Q3. Output fell 0.5% month-to-month, the biggest drop since May, reflecting broad-based weakness.

10 January 2017 The Core Inventory Cycle is Turning, but Q4 Data Likely Won't Show it (Publication Centre)

For some time now we have argued that collapse in capital spending in the oil sector was the source of most of the softening of activity in the manufacturing and wholesaling sectors last year.

20 July. 2016 How Fast Will Oil Capex Rebound in the Wake of Higher Oil Prices? (Publication Centre)

We have been arguing for some time that the drag on growth from falling capital spending in the oil sector would fade to nothing in the third quarter, and would then likely be followed by a small increase in the fourth quarter. But we seem to have been too cautious. It now seems much more likely that oil capex will rebound strongly as soon as the third quarter, following the clear upturn in the rig count data produced by Baker Hughes, Inc.

15 Apr. 2015 Plunging utility output and oil well-drilling to depress March IP (Publication Centre)

The combination of weather effects and the meltdown in the oil sector make it very hard to spot the underlying trend in manufacturing activity. The sudden collapse in oil-related capital spending likely is holding down production of equipment, but the data don't provide sufficient detail to identify the hit with any precision.

2 Dec. 2014 - Falling Oil Prices are Set to Hit Mining Capex Hard Next Year (Publication Centre)

Oil and gas extraction, and the drilling of wells to facilitate extraction, accounts for only 2.0% of GDP, but it punches far above its weight when it comes to capital spending.

21 August. 2015 Mexico's Domestic Recovery Remains - But Oil Woes Continue (Publication Centre)

The Mexican economy had a decent start to the year thanks to resilient domestic demand, but hampered by the rollover in capital spending in the oil sector and the slowdown in manufacturing activity. Economic activity expanded 2.2% year-over-year in the second quarter, down from 2.6% in the first quarter, but the underlying trend remains reasonably solid.

18 Dec. 2015 Should We be Worried by the Rise in the Saving Rate? (Publication Centre)

We have argued consistently since oil prices first began to fall that U.S. consumers would spend most of their windfall, so real spending would accelerate even as nominal retail sales growth was dragged down by the drop in the price of gas and other imported goods. At the same time, we argued that capital spending in the oil business would collapse, and that exports would struggle in the face of the stronger dollar.

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