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Canadian Shelter Inflation Poses Difficulties

The July CPI report for Canada, and as expected, the annual rate of inflation remains high courtesy of comparisons to lockdown pricing in 2020. I am largely on the side of “Team Transitory”: the punchy annual inflation rates will subside once we are pa…

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This article was originally published by Bond Economics

The July CPI report for Canada, and as expected, the annual rate of inflation remains high courtesy of comparisons to lockdown pricing in 2020. I am largely on the side of “Team Transitory”: the punchy annual inflation rates will subside once we are past weak comparisons, and some of the supply disruptions are cleared.

The chart above shows the annual inflation rates for all items (“headline”) and ex-food and energy (“core”) CPI. Although the latest surge looks impressive, we should not that we had a few such jump in the inflation targeting era (after 1992). So this is not exactly uncharted territory.

However, my conviction about the transitory-ness is somewhat soggy.

From a global perspective, disruptions to supply chains are not disappearing quickly. Shipping is in turmoil, and the crypto industry is snarfing up semiconductors, and I am unsure when that will clear. (This is nature’s revenge on the younger generation of electrical engineers who had the insane desire to stick advanced digital electronics in practically everything. Folks, toaster technology largely peaked without even needing a vacuum tube, never mind a transistor.)

Chart: Canada Shelter Inflation

From the Canadian perspective, the shelter component of the CPI is quite energetic. The black solid line in the chart above shows the annual inflation rate of the shelter component of the CPI — which has a weight of 30.03% of the entire basket. It is in the neighbourhood of 5% — which is roughly where it peaked in the 1990s and 2000s cycles.

The standout performer is the red dashed line — homeowner’s replacement cost. This component of the CPI (5.61% of the total basket) is how house prices work their way into the CPI. It is based on the price index for new homes (but not existing).

Although it seems likely that the homeowner replacement cost inflation will tone down, it is less obvious why shelter cost inflation will drop back to 2%. Given the weight of shelter, it might be difficult to keep inflation near target.

Canada’s current situation is the result of relying on mainstream economic theory. The inflation target was given the highest priority, with thinking about inflation reliant on aggregates and unmeasurable variables like the output gap. Meanwhile, the demonisation of fiscal policy and the elevation of monetary policy meant that rate cuts were the hammer in a world full of nails.

If we stripped away the mainstream framing, Canada’s macro policy was simple: pump huge amounts of air into an already bubbly housing sector via rate cuts to boost aggregate demand. However, supply constraints meant that the animal spirits in real estate drove costs to the moon. The existence of laid of food service employees is not going to do much to suppress lumber prices on any reasonable time frame.

At this point, I do not see any easy way out. Rate hikes would likely cool enthusiasm for real estate expenditures, but the question is how to avoid something going horribly wrong. Raising rates ahead of the United States creates the possibility of speculative inflows to Canadian dollar assets, cutting into exporters’ competitiveness. Like last cycle, everyone has to hope that the Canadian economy will somehow rebalance away from sell each other houses at ever-rising prices.

Email subscription: Go to https://bondeconomics.substack.com/ 

(c) Brian Romanchuk 2021

Economics

US Hog Herd Hit By Largest Monthly Drop Since 1999

US Hog Herd Hit By Largest Monthly Drop Since 1999

US hog herds experienced the most significant monthly drop in two decades, according to…

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US Hog Herd Hit By Largest Monthly Drop Since 1999

US hog herds experienced the most significant monthly drop in two decades, according to new data from the USDA. The reason behind the drop is because farmers decreased hog-herd development over the last year due to labor disruptions at slaughterhouses plus high animal feed. 

USDA data showed the US hog herd was 3.9% lower in August than a year ago. It was the largest monthly drop since 1999 after analysts only expected a decline of about 1.7%, according to Bloomberg

On Monday, hog futures soared in Chicago after the news of tightening supply. Since contracts hit a seven-year high in June, they have plunged from $120 to $80 but have since recovered in recent days to $90. 

Supply chain woes at slaughterhouses, and declining cold pork storage in US warehouses, have pushed up pork consumer prices to record highs. 

Farmers are experiencing a challenging environment of skyrocketing feed prices and other commodity prices used to maintain and growing pig herds, along with the labor disruptions at slaughterhouses that sometimes force them to cull herds. 

Soaring supermarket meat prices have been devastating for working-poor families who allocate a high percentage of their incomes to basic and essential items. The Biden administration spent most of the year ignoring the dramatic increase in food prices and only addressed the issue earlier this month by blaming meatpackers. The administration even had the nerve to say that if meat prices are taken out of the equation, troubling grocery inflation would be lower. 

To sum up, shrinking hog herds means pork prices will stay high. 

Tyler Durden Tue, 09/28/2021 - 20:25
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Economics

Volatility Roars Back

The surging 10-Year Treasury yield spooks tech investors … watch out for Evergrande default volatility… another debt ceiling showdown

It’s like…

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The surging 10-Year Treasury yield spooks tech investors … watch out for Evergrande default volatility… another debt ceiling showdown

It’s like when you’re flying, feel a few jolts of turbulence, then see the “seatbelt” sign flash on.

Investors are experiencing some market turbulence – and buckling up is probably a good idea.

There are three things troubling markets right now. Let’s look at them to get a sense for how significant they might be.

As I write Tuesday morning, the markets are deep in the red thanks to the soaring 10-Year Treasury yield.

After falling under 1.2% in early August, the yield on the 10-Year Treasury has been pushing higher over the last two months.

That “push” turned into a full-blown “leap” last week, as the yield jumped from roughly 1.3% to over 1.5% as I write.

I’ve circled this one-week spike of about 18% on the chart below.

Source: MarketWatch.com

This is significant because the yield on the 10-Year Treasury is a major barometer for how traders are feeling about the market and inflation-risk.

A rising yield also serves as a major headwind for technology stocks. Given this, it’s no wonder that our hypergrowth tech expert, Luke Lango, has been monitoring this surge.

From Luke’s Early Stage Investor update yesterday:

The 10-year Treasury yield broke above 1.5% today, continuing its sharpest ascent since February.

Yields have now risen about 20 basis points since the Fed’s meeting last week, as investors are bracing for the Treasury market’s biggest buyer to become a seller before year-end.

This move makes sense, and more importantly, it’s nothing to worry about.

***Why Luke is urging a levelheaded response

Luke points out that while yields might have further to climb, they should return to lower levels due to a handful of reasons.

Back to Luke with those details:

The fact of the matter is that yields were too low, so now they’re correcting higher, but they won’t go much higher from here because there are structural forces in place that will keep them lower for longer.

For one, you have secular deflationary pressures via the expansion and improvement of productivity-boosting and cost-reducing technologies, like automation, artificial intelligence, and virtualization platforms.

For another, you have persistently strong demand for risk-free assets from risk-adverse funds like pension funds – in a market where “cash is trash” and valuations are a bit too stretched to attract major allocations from these risk-adverse funds.

You also have the fact that the labor market will face long-term headwinds from automation technology threatening to disrupt large swaths of the labor market. That will put a floor on how low the unemployment rate can go, which will keep the Fed on the sidelines.

Not to mention, the Fed serves the U.S. government, and the U.S. government has accumulated a lot of debt over the past few years (especially the past 24 months) … so, in order to keep interest payments low for its “boss,” the Fed is incentivized to keep rates lower for longer. Same with every other central bank in the world, for that matter.

Long story short, there are simply too many secular forces at play here for yields to rise much higher. Make no mistake. They will move higher. But at a very slow and gradual pace

The second reason why Luke isn’t alarmed by the yield spike is because he’s focusing on what matters – the long-term growth story, along with earnings.

Back to Luke:

Near-term movements in the yield curve will dictate near-term price action.

But the long-term value of our stocks will be driven by the long-term earnings growth trajectories of our companies.

So long as our companies produce lots of earnings over the next few years, our stocks will move higher – regardless of where yields end up.

Even though the long-term is what matters, for now, the short-term is volatile – and painful. But Luke stresses this is a temporary problem that’s actually an opportunity:

All in all, things look great.

Let the yield volatility resolve itself in the coming weeks. Let tech stocks chop around. Buy the dip when the volatility settles.

Let’s move on to the second source of today’s volatility.

***The threat of a broader fallout from Evergrande is also worrying investors

Let’s begin with yesterday’s update from our Strategic Trader team of John Jagerson and Wade Hansen:

The Evergrande situation in China is continuing to put traders on edge.

A default seems very likely, and most of the world’s major financial institutions have material direct or indirect exposure to that risk.

To make sure we’re all on the same page, Evergrande is an enormous Chinese real estate company that is failing to meet its debt payments.

Last Thursday, the troubled company missed an $84 million payment. It owes another $47.5 million tomorrow.

The broader fear is that this could be a “Lehman Brothers” meltdown for China. Real estate makes up roughly 30% of the Chinese GDP, so a collapse would have a very real impact on their broader economy. It’s reported that Evergrande alone helps sustain more than 3.8 million jobs each year (directly employing about 200,000).

Yesterday, legendary investor, Louis Navellier, also updated his Accelerated Profits subscribers on this situation. Here he is speaking to this broader fear:

A housing bust would have a pretty big impact on the Chinese economy.

Some economists are even predicting that if Evergrande fails, it could cause China to slip into a recession — and, of course, these fears are part of the reason why the stock market sold off hard last Monday.

The good news is neither Louis nor our Strategic Trader team believe significant economic contagion from a default will reach the U.S. However, we could be in for market volatility. Given this, it’s impacting where John and Wade will be looking for trade set-ups.

Back to their update on this note:

We should be cleareyed about the risks and potential for volatility as we get closer to 3rd quarter earnings season in October.

We expect volatility to rise, and we don’t plan on targeting any trades in energy or basic materials, but we also don’t see much risk of a major drawdown yet.

As I write Tuesday, the latest news is that Beijing is urging government-owned property developers to buy up some of Evergrande’s assets. So, it’s not a direct bailout, though it’s a bailout.

From Reuters:

Authorities are hoping, however, that asset purchases will ward off or at least mitigate any social unrest that could occur if Evergrande were to suffer a messy collapse, they said, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

We’ll update you as events unfold here, but don’t be surprised if markets suffer another mini-panic if we get bad news from China.

***Finally, partisan politics could upset markets

The debt ceiling deadline is this Friday.

Last night, Senate Republicans voted against a House-backed bill that would have suspended the debt limit. They objected to how the bill was attached to a broader spending bill pushed by Democrats.

From Bloomberg:

Without a shift in position by one of the two parties, the decision to combine the temporary funding measure and the debt ceiling leaves the U.S. on course for a government shutdown and defaults on federal payments as soon as next month.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, without a suspension or raising of the ceiling, there will be a risk of default between Oct. 15 and Nov. 4.

Moody’s Analytics suggests that a prolonged shutdown, were it to happen, would cause another recession, destroying approximately $15 trillion in household wealth and 6 million jobs.

Our politicians are aware of this and don’t want to be responsible, so what we’re seeing is partisan brinksmanship. However, the closer we get to Friday without that solution, the greater the risk of more market volatility.

But remember, we saw this in 2011, when the debt ceiling showdown led to a downgrade in U.S. AAA sovereign credit, and again in 2018 as U.S./China trade tensions were growing. Both times brought plenty of anxious hand-wringing, yet both times we moved past it.

Bottom-line, fasten your seatbelt as these three issues work themselves out. It could get worse before it gets better – but it will get better.

Have a good evening,

Jeff Remsburg

The post Volatility Roars Back appeared first on InvestorPlace.

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Economics

Owner-Equivalent Rent Shock On Deck As Actual Rents Surge By Most On Record

Owner-Equivalent Rent Shock On Deck As Actual Rents Surge By Most On Record

Another month, another record surge in US rents to a new all time…

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Owner-Equivalent Rent Shock On Deck As Actual Rents Surge By Most On Record

Another month, another record surge in US rents to a new all time high.

According to the Apartment List national index, US rents increased by 2.1% from August to September, and although month-over-month growth has slowed slightly from its July peak when the sequential growth rate was 2.6%, rents are still growing much faster than the pre-pandemic trend. Since January of this year, the national median rent has increased by a staggering 16.4%. To put that in context, rent growth from January to September averaged just 3.4% in the pre-pandemic years from 2017-2019.

While even the smallest cooldown in rent growth is a welcome change for renters, Apartment List's Chris Salviati notes that it’s important to bear in mind that prior to this year, the national index never increased by more than 0.9 percent in a single month, going back to 2017. "Furthermore, we have now entered the time of year when rents are normally declining due to seasonality in the market. In September of 2018 and 2019, for example, rents fell by 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively."

That said, we have a ways to go before US rent - where the median just rose above $1,300 for the first time ever - decline; and with rents rising virtually everywhere, only a few cities still remain cheaper than they were pre-pandemic, and even these remaining discounts are unlikely to persist much longer. At the other end of the spectrum, Apartment List finds 22 cities among the 100 largest where rents have increased by more than 25 percent since the start of the pandemic. That said, there are some early signals that tightness in the market may be beginning to ease: the vacancy index ticked up this month for the first time since last April. And in Boise, ID, which has seen the nation’s biggest price increase since the start of the pandemic, rents finally dipped slightly this month.

The chart below visualizes monthly rent changes in each of the nation’s 100 largest cities from January 2018 to September 2021. The color in each cell represents the extent to which prices went up (red) or down (blue) in a given city in a given month. Bands of dark blue in 2020 represent the large urban centers where rent prices cratered (e.g., New York, San Francisco, Boston), but those bands have quickly turned red as ubiquitous rent growth sweeps the nation in 2021. In 2020, 60 of these cities saw rent prices rise from August to September, but this year, 97 cities got more expensive in September.

In a glimmer of hope for Americans locked out of not only the housing but the rental market, one of the few markets where rents did not increase this month was Boise, ID. Since last March, rents in Boise are up by a staggering 39%, making the city the archetype for rental market disruption amid the pandemic. This month, however, the median rent in Boise fell by 0.1%. While such a small dip certainly doesn’t offer much relief to Boise renters, it may at least signal that the market is finally starting to stabilize. Spokane, WA, another city that has experienced skyrocketing rent growth this year, saw an even more notable decline this month, with rents down 1.8 percent.

Unfortunately, Boise and Spokane represent the exception rather than the rule -- in most of the cities where rents had been growing quickly, that growth is continuing. Tampa, for example, saw rents jump by another 3.9% this month, and the city now ranks 2nd for cumulative rent growth since the start of the pandemic at 36%. Excluding Boise and Spokane, the other eight cities in the chart above experienced rent growth of 3.5%, on average, from August to September, as affordable Sunbelt markets continue to boom. Of particular note, four of the ten cities with the fastest rent growth since last March are suburbs of Phoenix.

A more tangible indicator that demand destruction may be setting in, is that vacancy rates have posted their first increase since March. Indeed, as Apartment List notes, much of this year’s boom in rent prices can be attributed to a tight market in which more and more households are competing for fewer and fewer vacant units. The vacancy index spiked from 6.2% to 7.1% last April, as many Americans moved in with family or friends amid the uncertainty and economic disruption of the pandemic’s onset. Since then, however, vacancies have been steadily declining. For the past several months, the vacancy index has been hovering just below 4%, significantly lower than the 6% rate that was typical pre-pandemic.

This month, however, the vacancy index ticked up slightly, from 3.8 percent to 3.9 percent. Although this is a very minor increase, it represents the first increase of any magnitude since last April. While a few more months of data would be needed to confirm an inflection point, if vacancies are back on the rise again, it would signal that tightness in the rental market is finally beginning to ease and that rent growth will also continue to cool.

Finally, where there may be light at the end of the tunnel in real-time data, we have yet to see the pig even enter the python when it comes to the CPI's Owner Equivalent Rent data series. As shown below, the Apartment List data normally has a 4 month lead to the OER series, which means that as actual rents soar by over 15% Y/Y, OER is either going to skyrocket in the coming quarters or the BLS will have to come up with some very fancy hedonic adjustments why rental inflation should exclude, well, rental inflation.

Tyler Durden Tue, 09/28/2021 - 18:25
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