Coincident Economic Indicator
The US economy continues to strengthen over the stall speed levels seen from late 2012
through early 2014. The economy has picked up from one / third speed to two / thirds
with my CEI through May at + 2.0% yr/yr. There is a continuing drag on the economy from
low employment growth plus flat real incomes reflecting modestly higher inflation and
low wage and entitlements growth. Household confidence has improved and consumers are
willing to borrow more and this has helped sustain faster business sales and production growth.
Moreover, economic recovery / expansion is broadening out. Overall, still far from pretty but
better than it was.
Business Profits Indicators
My proxy for business sales -- the value of industrial output measured yr/yr -- was up 6.5% in
May. This is the strongest reading since mid - 2012, and hits my projection for what sales should
be doing for the remainder of the year. Profit margins should be expanding now on the
stronger volume growth and an improving selling price / cost ratio as a little extra pricing
power has developed. The one negative here was a faster build in inventories relative to sales
earlier this spring. This may be part of a bounce back from the nasty winter, but keep an eye
Production capacity shrunk from 2009 - 2011, but is recovering modestly, rising to + 2.4% yr/yr
in May. The addition of real capital for business is a healthy long term development, although
further strength in the growth of production and delivery capacity may eventually slow share
buybacks with a pivot in budgets.
Stronger business sales this year is crimping the growth of financial liquidity that may be
available to flow into the capital markets. The partial offset for equities investors is faster
- Peter Richardson
- Retired chief investment officer and former NYSE firm partner with 50 plus years experience in field as analyst / economist, portfolio manager / trader, and CIO who has superb track record with multi $billion equities and fixed income portfolios. Advanced degrees, CFA. Having done much professional writing as a young guy, I now have a cryptic style. 40 years down on and around The Street confirms: CAVEAT EMPTOR IN SPADES !!!