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We held our breath this month.
We're looking forward to today's April NFIB survey of activity and sentiment in the small business sector with some trepidation.
China's authorities recognised, around the middle of this year, that activity was slowing and that monetary conditions had become overly tight.
For some time now, we have puzzled over the softness of small firms' capital spending intentions, as measured by the monthly NFIB survey.
Last week, the Chinese authorities were out in force, talking up the economy and markets, and bearing measures to support private firms.
Readers have asked us about the availability of flow-of-funds data in the Eurozone similar to the detailed U.S. reports. The ECB's sector accounts come close and cover a lot of ground, but are also released with a lag. We can't cover all sectors in one Monitor, but the investment data for non-financial firms, excluding construction, suggest that investment growth slowed last year.
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.
Small business sentiment and activity, as reported by the NFIB survey, has recovered exactly half the drop triggered by the rollover in stock prices in the fourth quarter. This matters, because most people work at small firms, which are responsible for the vast bulk of net job growth.
British firms have adopted a cautious mindset since the Brexit vote and are saving a huge share of their earnings, even though high profit margins make a strong case for investing more. Firms likely will run down their cash stockpiles when they become more confident about the medium-term economic outlook, potentially boosting GDP growth powerfully.
July's money and credit figures provided more evidence that firms have become reluctant to invest following the Brexit vote. Lending by U.K. banks to private non-financial companies--PNFCs--rose by just 0.2% month-to-month in July, below the average 0.5% increase of the previous six months.
Credit to the Chinese authorities for sticking it out with the marginal approach to easing for so long... at least two quarters.
Money and credit data released last weekend suggest that China's demand for credit remains insatiable.
September's labour market report suggests that wage growth won't continue to rise for much longer.
The gap between the official measure of the rate of growth of core retail sales and the Redbook chainstore sales numbers remains bafflingly huge, but we have no specific reason to expect it to narrow substantially with the release of the April report today.
A bad year is threatening to become a catastrophic one for Eurozone equity investors.
The incidence of the phrase "since the early nineties" has increased sharply in our Japan reports this year.
Today's advance Q2 GDP report in Germany will add evidence that the EZ economy performed strongly in the first half of 2017. We can be pretty sure that the headline will be robust. The German statistical office reports a confidential number to Eurostat for the first estimate of EZ GDP--two weeks ahead of today's data--which was a solid 0.6%.
Yesterday's labour market data gave sterling a shot in the arm on t wo counts. First, the headline, three-month average, unemployment rate fell to just 4.5% in May, from 4.6% in April.
May's labour market figures, released on Wednesday, likely will have something for both the doves and the hawks on the MPC , who have been wrangling over whether to reverse last year's rate cut.
Judging from our inbox, the idea that the Fed might switch to some form of price level targeting, replacing its current 2% inflation target, is the big new idea for 2018.
Core CPI inflation has been 2.1-to-2.2% year-over- year for the past seven months, a remarkably stable run which likely will persist for a few more months.
China's official manufacturing PMI implies a modest gain in momentum in Q2, at 51.4, compared with 51.0 on average in Q1.
Yesterday's industrial production report in Mexico added weight to the idea that the sector improved marginally in the first quarter, despite many external threats. Industrial output rose 0.1% month-to-month in February, following a similar gain in January. The calendar-adjusted year-over-year rate rose to -0.1%, after a modest 0.3% contraction in January.
It appears to be something of an article of faith among economic advisors to President-elect Trump that substantial fiscal stimulus will generate faster growth without boosting inflation, because both labor participation and productivity growth will rise.
Our default position for core durable goods orders over the next few months is that they will fall, sharply.
The case for expecting a robust January jobs number is strong, but it is not without risks.
Chair Yellen has become quite good at not giving much away at her semi-annual Monetary Policy Testimony.
A strong December didn't change the story of another year of Eurozone equity underperformance in 2016. The total return of the MSCI EU, ex-UK, last year was a paltry 3.5%, compared to 11.6% and 10.6% for the S&P 500 and MSCI EM respectively. In principle, the conditions are in place for a reversal in this sluggish performance are present. Equities in the euro area do best when excess liquidity--defined as M1 growth less GDP growth and inflation--is rising.
Yesterday, China finally retaliated against Mr. Trump's Friday tariff hikes, promising to increase tariffs on around $60B-worth of U.S. goods.
The bulk of China's PMIs were published over the weekend and yesterday, leaving only the Caixin services PMI on Wednesday.
Demand in German manufacturing rebounded strongly midway through the second quarter.
The Caixin services PMI fell to 51.5 in August, from 52.8 in July.
November's Markit/CIPS surveys for the manufacturing, construction and services sectors suggest that GDP growth is on track to strengthen a touch in Q4.
The flow of downbeat business surveys continued yesterday, with the release of the Markit/CIPS construction survey.
The Caixin manufacturing PMI was steady in May, at 50.2, in contrast to the official gauge published on Friday, which dropped to 49.5, from April's 50.2.
We are surprised by the EU's reaction to Mr. Trump's announcement that the U.S. will impose tariffs on steel and aluminium.
The NFIB survey of small businesses today will show that July hiring intentions jumped by four points to +19, the highest level since November 2006. The NFIB survey has been running since 1973, and the hiring intentions index has never been sustained above 20.
The recovery in small business sentiment since the fourth quarter rollover has been extremely modest, so far.
One of the main reasons we expect the Reserve Bank of India to roll back at least one of this year's rate cuts before the end of the year is the likely further rise in food inflation.
Business investment held up surprisingly well last year.
Japan's services sector PMI last week was disappointing.
The Tankan survey--published on Monday--points to still buoyant sentiment, a further tightening of the labour market, and building inflation pressures.
The pick-up in the Markit/CIPS services PMI to an eight-month high of 55.1 in June, from 54.0 in May, has provided another boost to expectations that the MPC will raise Bank Rate at its next meeting on August 2.
Chinese headline industrial profits data show that growth slowed to just 4.1% year-over-year in September, from 9.2% in August.
Chinese GDP numbers always require a great deal of detective work, and yesterday's needed more than the norm; multiple rounds of revisions needed decoding.
Bank Governor Mark Carney reiterated in a speech yesterday that he wants to see sustained momentum in GDP growth, domestic cost pressures firm and core inflation rise further towards 2%, before raising interest rates. We doubt he will have long to wait on the last two points, given the tightness of the labour market.
The PBoC late on Wednesday announced measures to provide medium-term funding for smaller businesses.
China's official PMIs paint a picture of robust momentum going into 2018 but we find this difficult to reconcile with the other data.
Yesterday's barrage of French business sentiment data was mixed.
We have learned over the years not to become too excited in the face of swings in the jobless claims numbers, even when the movement appears to persist for a month or two.
The end of the government shutdown--for three weeks, at least-- means that the data backlog will start to clear this week.
Business investment has punched above its weight in the economic recovery from the crash of 2008; annual real growth in capex has averaged 5% over the last five years, greatly exceeding GDP growth of 2%. This recovery is unlikely to grind to a halt soon, since profit margins are still high and borrowing costs will remain low. But corporate balance sheets are not quite as robust as they seem, while capex in the investment-intensive oil sector still has a lot further to fall.
One of the more disheartening aspects of the Q2 national accounts, released last week, was the downward revision to business investment. Quarteron-quarter growth was revised to -0.7%, from +0.5% previously.
Headline money supply growth in the Eurozone accelerated further at the start of Q2.
The national accounts, released today, likely will restate that quarter-on-quarter GDP growth held steady at 0.4% in Q4.
The September Banxico minutes restated that the U.S. Fed's first interest rate hike is the key event awaited by Mexican policymakers. Banxico's board of governors voted unanimously on September 21st to keep the main interest rate at a record-low 3%.
Japan's average year-over-year wage growth slowed sharply in May, but this mainly was a correction of the April spike.
The ADP employment report for September showed private payrolls rose by 135K, trivially better than we expected.
The only way to read the December NFIB survey and not be alarmed is to look at the headline, which fell by less than expected, and ignore the details.
After 29 straight weekly declines, the number of oil rigs in operation in the U.S. rose to 640 in the week ended July 2, from 628 the previous week, according to oil services firm Baker Hughes, Inc. If today's report for the week ended July 9 shows the rig count steady or up again, it will b e much easier to argue that the plunge in activity since the peak--1,601 rigs, in mid-September--is now over.
Eurozone manufacturing selling prices remain under pressure from deflationary headwinds. The PPI index, ex-construction, in the euro area fell 4.2% year-over-year in March, matching February's drop. Weakness in oil prices continues to drive the headline.
The release of the NFIB survey at 6.00AM eastern time this morning--really, they need a new PR advisor--doubtless will bring a flurry of headlines about rising wage pressures, with the expected compensation index rising by a startling three points to a new post-crash high. But this is not news, nor is the high, stable level of hiring intentions; these key labor market numbers were released last week in the NFIB Jobs Report, which appears the day before the official employment report. The data are simply extracted from the main NFIB survey.
Chinese industrial profits growth officially edged down to 25.1% year-over-year in October, from 27.7% in September. This is still very rapid but we think the official data are overstating the true rate of growth.
We already know that the key labor market numbers in today's May NFIB survey are strong.
Chinese monetary conditions remain tight. Systemic tightening through higher interest rates last year is playing a role, but intensified and ever- more public regulatory enforcement is becoming the primary driver of tightening credit conditions for businesses.
Yesterday's data were second-tier in the eyes of the markets, but not, perhaps in the eyes of the Fed. The continued surge in job openings, which reached a 14-year high in December, means that the Beveridge Curve--which links the number of job openings to the unemployment rate--shows no signs at all of returning to normal.
Nowhere is the gap between sentiment and activity wider than in the NFIB survey of small businesses. The economic expectations component leaped by an astonishing 57 points between October and December, but the capex intentions index rose by only two points over the same period, and it has since slipped back. In February, the capex intentions index stood at 26, compared to an average of 27.3 in the three months to October.
The May NFIB survey and the April JOLTS report, both released yesterday, paint a coherent, if not yet definitive, picture of labor market developments which should alarm the Fed. The data suggest that the true labor supply, in the eyes of potential employers, is much smaller than implied by the BLS's measures of broad unemployment.
We have been waiting a long time to see signs that business investment spending is becoming less reliant on movements in oil prices.
The headline index in today's NFIB small business survey probably won't quite converge with the ISM manufacturing index, but it will come v ery close. To close the gap completely, for the first time since the crash, the NFIB needs to rise to just over 102, from 100.4.
Small businesses remain extremely positive about the economy, but some of the post-election gloss appears to be wearing off. To be clear, the headline composite index of small business sentiment and activity in February, due this morning, will be much higher than immediately before the election, but a modest correction seems likely after January's 12- year high.
On the face of it, small business have taken quite a hit over the past few months. The headline index from the NFIB survey of small businesses has dropped to a nine-month low of 95.2 in March from 100.4 in December. As a result, the gap between the NFIB and the ISM manufacturing indexes, which had been narrowing, has widened again.
The Fed is on course to hike again in December, with 12 of the 16 FOMC forecasters expecting rates to end the year 25bp higher than the current 2-to-21⁄4%; back in June, just eight expected four or more hikes for the year.
A significant minority of investors were betting on a repeat of January's outsized 0.349% increase in the core, judging from the immediate market reaction to the release of the February CPI report.
The high and rising proportion of small businesses reporting difficulty in filling job openings is perhaps the biggest reason to worry that the pace of wage increases could accelerate quickly. If they pick up too far, the Fed's intention to raise rates at a "gradual" pace will be upended. The NFIB survey of small businesses--mostly very small--shows employers are having as much trouble recruiting staff as at the peak of the boom in 2006.
Economic activity in Mexico during the past few months has been stronger than most observers expected. Growth has certainly moderated from the relatively strong pace recorded during the second half of last year, but data for January and February show that it is still quite strong.
Economic data released yesterday underscored that Brazil emerged from recession in the first quarter, but further rate cuts are needed. Indeed, the monthly economic activity index--the IBC-Br--fell 0.4% monthto- month in March, though this followed a strong 1.4% gain in February.
Comments by Mr. Draghi in Washington last week point to a high bar for an adjustment to the QE program. The ECB president noted that while asset purchases and negative interest rates have driven a notable improvement in confidence and asset prices, the real key to the central bank's policies' success is a lasting boost to investment, consumption and inflation.
Manufacturing confidence in France remained resilient in the fourth quarter. The INSEE sentiment index rose to 103 in December from 102 in November, lifted by a jump in firms' own production expectations, and a small increase in the new orders-to-inventory ratio. We think production will increase in Q4, lifted by energy output, but the recent jump in the year-over-year rate is unlikely to be sustained, even if we factor in the marginal increase in new orders this month.
January's public finance data, released today, take on particular importance because they are the last to be published before the Chancellor delivers his first Budget on March 8. The public finances nearly always swing into surplus in January, primarily because the deadline for individuals to submit self-assessment--SA--tax returns for the previous fiscal year is at the end of the month. Firms also pay their third of four payments of corporation tax for their profits in the current fiscal year.
Markets have responded strongly to the ECB's announcement that it will be buying corporate bonds as part of QE. Net corporate debt issuance of non-financial firms jumped €16B in March, the biggest monthly increase since January 2014. The 12-month average, however, was stable at €3.6B, and a sustained increase in net debt supply partly depends on firms' appetite for financial engineering
If the economy is to enter recession, falling business investment probably will have to be the main driver. Growth in consumer spending likely will slow sharply over the next year as firms become more cautious about hiring new workers and inflation begins to exceed wage growth again.
French manufacturers recovered their optimism towards the end of Q3. The headline INSEE manufacturing sentiment index rose to 103 in September, from 101 in August, and the composite business confidence gauge also increased. A rebound in transport equipment firms' own production expectations was the key driver of the recovery.
As a general rule, the best forecast of ADP payrolls in any given month is the official estimate for private payrolls in the previous month. This partly reflects the simple observation that payroll trends, once established, tend to persist, but it also is a consequence of ADP's methodology. The ADP number is generated from a model which combines both data collected from firms which use ADP for payroll processing, and lagged official data. The latter appear to be more important in determining in the month-to-month swings in the ADP number. ADP does not hide the incorporation of lagged official data in its model--you can read about it in the technical guide to the report--but neither does it shout it from the rooftops.
Margins for German manufacturing firms remained depressed at the start of the second quarter. The headline PPI rose 0.1% month-to-month in April, pushing the year-over-year rate down marginally to -3.1% from a revised -3.0% in March. Falling energy prices are the key driver of the overall decline in the PPI.
A classic indicator of impending recession is the emergence of excessive levels of inventory across the economy. The pace of businesses inventory accumulation typically lags sales growth, so when activity slows, usually in response to higher interest rates, firms are left with unsold goods.
This week's GDP figures showed that firms invested only sparingly in 2016, but their financial fortunes have been bolstered by a recovery in profits. The gross operating surplus of all firms rose by 4.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, the biggest increase for 11 quarters. This pushed the share of GDP absorbed by profits up to 21.3%, just above its 60-year average of 21.2%.
The latest money and credit data highlight that the financial fortunes of firms and households have begun to differ markedly. Private non- financial corporations--PNFCs--are enjoying strong growth in their broad money holdings. The 1.2% month-to-month increase in PNFC's M4 was the largest rise since August 2016, and it lifted the year- over-year growth rate to 9.3%, from 9.0% in May.
The big story in global macro over the past 18 months or so has been the gigantic transfer of income from oil producers to oil consumers. The final verdict on the net impact of this shift--worth nearly $2T at an annualized rate--is not yet clear, because the boost to consumption takes longer than the hit to oil firms ' capex, which began to collapse just a few months after prices began to fall sharply. But our first chart, which shows oil production by country as a share of oil consumption, plotted against the change in real year-over-year GDP growth between Q2 2014 and Q2 2015, tells a clear story.
The hefty upward revision to Q3 inventories means we have to lower our working assumption for fourth quarter GDP growth, because the year-end inventory rebound we previously expected is now much less likely to happen. Remember, the GDP contribution from inventories is equal to the change in the pace of inventory accumulation between quarters, and we're struggling to see a faster rate of accumulation in Q4 after the hefty revised $90B third quarter gain. Inventory holdings are in line with the trend in place since the recession of 2001; firms don't need to build inventory now at a faster pace.
Business investment has been resilient to the slowdown in the wider economy so far, with year-over-year growth in the first three quarters of 2015 averaging a very respectable 6.2%. Outside the oil sector, firms are generating healthy profits and can borrow cheaply.
The key labor market numbers from today's February NFIB report on small businesses--hiring intentions and the proportion of firms with unfilled job openings--were released last week, as usual, ahead of the official jobs report.
The stagnation of GDP in August, following five consecutive month-to-month gains, confirms that the economy's momentum in prior months was simply weather-related.
The minutes of the September 19/20 FOMC meeting record that "...it was noted that the National Federation of Independent Business reported that greater optimism among small businesses had contributed to a sharp increase in the proportion of small firms planning increases in their capital expenditures."
Today's labour market figures likely will bring further signs that firms are recruiting more cautiously and limiting pay awards, due to still-elevated economic uncertainty.
Yesterday's labour market data showed that growth in households' income has slowed significantly in recent months. Firms are both hiring cautiously and restraining wage increases, due to heightened uncertainty about the economic outlook and rising raw material and non-wage labour costs. Consumers' spending, therefore, will support GDP growth to a far smaller extent this year than last.
Colombia's Q1 GDP report confirms that the economy is improving. Leading indicators and survey data suggest that the recovery will continue over the second half of the year.
Debt issuance by Eurozone non-financial firms is soaring, consistent with the ECB's hope that adding private debt to QE would boost supply. Our first chart shows that the three-month sum of net debt sold in the euro area jumped to a new record of €60.3B in May. A short-term decline in issuance is a good bet after the initial euphoria in firms' treasury departments.
Last week's detailed Q3 GDP data in Germany verified that GDP fell 0.2% quarter-on-quarter, down from a 0.5% rise in Q2, a number which all but confirms the key story for the economy over the year as a whole.
In the absence of market-moving data today, we want to take a closer look at the labor market, and, specifically, the idea that payroll growth is slowing because firms cannot find staff they consider suitably qualified for the jobs available. Every indicator of labor demand, with the sole exception of manufacturing-specific surveys, is consistent with very rapid payroll growth, well in excess of 200K per month.
The improvement in the August services PMI has generated hyperbolic headlines suggesting the U.K. is on a tear despite the Brexit vote. Taken literally, however, the PMIs suggest that the revival in business activity in August only partially reversed July's decline. Meanwhile, the impact of sterling's sharp depreciation on the purchasing power of firms and consumers has only just begun to be felt.
Japanese firms hand out a significant portion of labour compensation through bonuses, with the largest lump awarded in December.
The ECB's corporate bond purchase program began yesterday with purchases concentrated in utilities and telecoms, according to media sources. This is consistent with the structure of the market, and the fact that bond issues by firms in these sectors are the largest and most liquid. But debt issued by consumer staples firms likely also featured prominently.
In one line: Slumping as firms run down inventories.
China's firms aren't passing on tax hikes after all. China takes full advantage of previous oil price declines. Japan's core machine orders better than expected, but that won't help Q2. Japan is heading for a spell of sustained PPI deflation in H2. Better May jobs report will help to keep any BoK rate cuts at bay.
A flawed theory still is circulating that the economy might outperform over the next two quarters because firms will stockpile goods due to the risk of a no-deal Brexit.
We don't directly plug the ADP employment data into our model for the official payroll number. ADP's estimate is derived itself from a model which incorporates lagged official payroll data, because payrolls tend to mean-revert, as well as macroeconomic variables including oil prices, industrial production and jobless claims -- and actual employment data from firms which use ADP's payroll processing services.
By any yardstick, U.K. productivity growth has been terrible in recent years. Output per hour exceeded its pre-recession peak only in the second quarter of 2015, and it has grown at an average annual rate of just 0.6% this decade. U.S. productivity growth has been equally dismal since 2010. But the U.K.'s performance is more worrying, because the productivity slump during the recession suggested scope for a period of catch-up. In the U.S., by contrast, productivity surged during the recession as firms cut headcount sharply.
The latest E.C. survey shows the gap between firms' and households' confidence levels has remained substantial.
Taken at face value, the preliminary estimate of Q2 GDP suggests that the economic recovery weathered Brexit risk well. But growth received support from some unsustainable sources, and also probably was boosted by a calendar quirk. Meanwhile, with few firms or consumers expecting a vote for Brexit prior to the referendum, Q2's brisk growth tells us little about how well the economy will cope in the current climate of heightened uncertainty.
The Tankan survey powered ahead in Q2, pulling away from Q1 and mostly beating consensus. This confirms our impression of the strength of the recovery ,just as Prime Minister Abe's Liberal Democratic Party is trounced at the polls in Tokyo. The drubbing is understandable as the main benefits of Abenomics have gone to the business sector, at the expense of the household sector.
LatAm currencies have risen against the USD so far this year, easing the upward pressure on imported good prices and allowing most central banks to cut interest rates. The first direct effects of stronger currencies should be felt by firms which import high-turnover intermediate or final goods.
The durable goods numbers were among the first short-term indicators to warn clearly of the hit to manufacturing from the rollover in oil sector capex, which began last fall. The trend in core capital goods orders was rising strongly before oil firms began to cut back, with the year-over-year rate peaking at 11.9% in September. Leading capex indicators in the small business sector remained quite robust, but just nine months later, core capex orders were down 6.4% year-over-year, following annualized declines of more than 14% in both the fourth quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of this year.
We're expecting a hefty increase in private payrolls in today's August ADP employment report. ADP's number is generated by a model which incorporates macroeconomic statistics and lagged official payroll data, as well as information collected from firms which use ADP's payroll processing services.
We are expecting a hefty increase in the August ADP employment number today--our forecast is 225K, above the 175K consensus --but we do not anticipate a similar official payroll number on Friday. Remember, the ADP number is based on a model which incorporates lagged official employment data, the Philly Fed's ADS Business Conditions Index, and data from firms which use ADP for payroll processing.
October's money data show that households and firms have regained the appetite for borrowing that they lost immediately after the referendum. But the recent rise in swap rates and the deterioration in consumers' confidence likely will cut short the revival in consumer lending, while persistent Brexit uncertainty likely will continue to subdue firms' investment intentions.
Chief U.K. Economist Samuel Tombs on U.K. Price Increases
Chief U.K. Economist Samuel Tombs on the U.K. CBI Industrial Trends Survey
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