What the Market Overlooked in the Personal Consumption Expenditures Report

  • Most market analysts are pointing to the slight miss in May’s headline year-over-year PCE deflator reading of 1.4% vs. 1.5% expected and 1.7% previous.
  • What has been overlooked by most are the strong back-to-back personal income figures of 0.4% m/m in May and 0.3% m/m (revised from 0.4%) in April. While April was revised a tick lower, May’s rebound capped off an impressive two month gain of 0.7% in personal incomes.
  • This runs counter to the prevailing sentiment that the Phillips Curve is broken and wages are not picking up or at least holding their own.
  • The Fed has shifted focus recently, as they often do on a discretionary basis, to focus on financial stability after the epic run up in mega cap tech names, equity  valuations, and market complacency suggested market psychology was fostering an unhealthy rise in market bubble dynamics.
  • The core Fed FOMC members are now willing to overlook taming inflation for the time being as a 15% fall in the energy complex drags down PCE and CPI for the next few months. They still believe continued labor market tightening toward what is deemed to be “full employment” will eventually boost wages and keep inflation expectations on a steady projectory. Other central banks are following suit.
  • Assist FX sees the recent central bank turn toward slightly less dovish rhetoric as supportive of a more sustainable recovery. While asset valuations are still stretched and in bubble territory on a longer term basis as regularly discussed on this site, letting some pressure out of the “everything bubble” is actually productive overall.
  • Letting asset valuations and house price-to-income ratios skyrocket unchecked by a tightening reaction function in monetary policy would be one major catalyst capable of changing our S&P500 bias to negative as prices become increasingly stretched like pulling a thinning rubber band.
  • Assist FX sees moderate Fed action to trim asset purchase reinvestments in September with another 25 bp Fed Funds target increase in December.
  • Our equity, fixed income, and USD bias remains neutral.

EM Currency Stability Set to Continue Near Term

  • Emerging markets are experiencing steady capital inflows and currency appreciation on a broad basis, with a few exceptions.
  • Fears of rapid US interest rate hikes due to sharp increases in economic growth and inflation expectations have subsided due to political dysfunction in the US once again. The new Republican led government has been unable to pass major reforms in healthcare, taxation, regulation, or infrastructure.
  • A period of EM stability is set to continue other than politically inspired turbulence in the Middle East over Qatar and global energy oversupply risk.
  • Value can still be found in broad EM FX vs. USD, CHF, and JPY. Expect supportive trend continuation in CNY, ILS, MXN, ZAR, RUB, and COP.
  • Spain’s troubled Banco Popular was acquired by Santander in what is being viewed as a successful ECB assisted bailout. This has relieved some near term banking system stress in the European periphery. Although Banco Popular common equity and junior debt holders were wiped out, senior debt holders were spared. This reinforces what is theoretically supposed to happen with various investor risk segments in the capital structure, although central bank involvement is not ideal.

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