Joseki

Commentary

Quarterly Economic Update

 

We produce The Leopard View, a quarterly economic update with key assertions and commentary, for our network. From our most recent edition...


 

Current Economic Assertions and Changes (1 March 2019)

10-year U.S. Treasury rate is 2.75%, down 31 basis points (bps) or 10.13%

WSJ prime rate is 5.50%, up 25 bps; up 100 bps or 23.53% year over year

Real U.S. GDP growth (annualized) for Q4 (BEA first and second estimate 228 Feb) is 2.6%; 2017 GDP growth (same period) was 2.3% (as stated above 2018 full-year GDP growth was 3.1%)

CPI inflation 1.6% for 12 months ended January

The U.S. Dollar vs major currencies index is 91.04, up 5.5% from one year ago

U.S. unemployment is 4.0%, up 0.3% from last quarter; the highest unemployment rate of the past decade was 10.0% in Oct 2009

Labor force participationis 63.2%, up 0.3%; historical peak was 67% Q1 2000

Brent crude oil priceis $66.91 per barrel, up 7.59% from last quarter and up 4.12% from a year ago

U.S. real household debt as a percentage of assets is 12.4%, down 0.1%; historical peak was approximately 20% in 2008/2009 

U.S. net government debt to GDP 88.0%

U.S. equities (broad market) are up 13.2% YTD, up 7.09% trailing 12 months

Corporate profits are up 6.15% year-over-year (Q3 2018, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis)

S&P Case-Schiller U.S. National Home Price Index is 205.35, up 4.72% year-over-year through December 2018, 11.23% greater than previous peak of 184.62 in July 2006

S&P Case-Schiller Las Vegas Home Price Index is 190.28, up 12.56% year-over-year through December 2018, 18.93% lower than previous peak of 234.71 September 2006

 

Commentary

Current Situation: With all of the noise and turmoil around politics, the US is performing quite well. 2018 GDP growth was 3.1%, exceeding the administration’s target of 3%. The China trade negotiations seem to be approaching a favorable resolution, as indicated by the market’s reactions to current news. US equities returned 7.09% for the trailing 12 months, up 13.12% YTD, indicators of the “votes” of those with skin in the game. The Federal Reserve has backed away from historical indicators for interest rates, recognizing that even with the growth in GDP, inflation is tame (actually coming in lower than the Fed’s target range). The US is the country where human and financial capital is seeking to invest. I speculate that our current economic measures of productivity do not adequately capture the productivity impact of technology. As an example, searching for a car to share with my 16-year old I was able to “see” over 100 automobiles, select one and negotiate a deal within less than one hour. This is an example of a project that would have taken days a decade or two ago.

A question I’m considering: Are we developing our human capital to maintain and increase our competitive advantage? How do we make this assessment? Do we have a strategy for human capital development?

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” Voltaire

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited.” Plutarch