Morning Report: The Fed stands pat 11/3/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2096.8 5.0
Eurostoxx Index 333.8 0.7
Oil (WTI) 45.5 0.1
US dollar index 87.8 0.0
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.82%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.3
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104.2
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.64

Stocks are mixed this morning after the Fed maintained interest rates. Bonds and MBS are down.

The Fed maintained interest rates at current levels yesterday. The meat of the statement: The labor market continues to strengthen, household spending is improving while business spending remains a weak spot. Inflation is ticking up but remains below the target rate. Esther George and Loretta Mester dissented, wanting to hike at this meeting. Bonds rallied maybe a basis point on the statement.

This morning the Bank of England said that it doesn’t plan on cutting interest rates this year, which is causing a global sell-off in sovereign debt.

Announced job cuts fell 31% to 30,740 according to outplacement firm Challenger Gray and Christmas. This report looks at press announcements of job cuts, which may or may not ever materialize. Regardless, it does make the case that companies are holding onto their workers. In fact, this was the lowest October since 1999. Job cuts were most in the computer industry (largely related to HP), while cuts in the energy patch are slowing down considerably from earlier this year.

Initial Jobless Claims ticked up to 265k last week, which is still an extraordinarily low number. Separately, the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index ticked up.

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index dropped to 54.8 from 57.1 in September. This means the service economy is growing, however growth is decelerating. Transportation and Construction is leading the charge, while mining and educational services are lagging.

Productivity broke out of its long slump with a 3.1% increase in the third quarter. Output increased 3.4% and unit labor costs increased 0.3%. Increasing productivity is good news as it means wages can increase without generating inflationary pressures. Productivity has been disappointing ever since the economy bottomed, however.

Both Republicans and Democrats look back wistfully on the 50s and the 60s. These years were an economic glory time, where unemployment was extraordinarily low, jobs were plentiful and high paying, and a single income was sufficient to support a family. The Third Quarter of the 20th Century basically began with the end of the Korean War and concluded with the oil shocks of the early 70s. Both parties want to bring back those times. Is that realistic? Probably not. The postwar decades were an extraordinary period where the US had no international competition, and not only had to satisfy its own demand, it had to satisfy the demand of Europe and Asia. The US earned what economists call “economic rents” and they were split between organized labor and government. By the late 70s, Europe was back on its feet and both old and new competitors were emerging from Asia. These economic rents were competed away (as they inevitably are). While this was good news for consumers and stockholders, it was bad news for union workers in general. Anyone who wants to bring back the salad days of the 50s and 60s needs to come up with a plan to get Angela Merkel to invade Poland. Donald Trump’s vision of pre-free trade America won’t get you there. Neither will the left’s vision of an “smart” paternalistic regulatory state and 90%+ marginal tax rates.

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