Coincident Economic Indicator -- Sept. 2014
Measured yr/yr, this important measure of US economic activity stood at 2.3%. Real sales
and production gains remain OK, but the income side of the equation is still lagging at 1.8%.
The momentum of hiring has picked up some, but the real wage rose by just 0.3% as
employers hold the line on wages. Tightfistedness at the payroll window continues to hold
back the economy. It has led to a longer and deeper period of de-leveraging by households in
the wake of the recession and has contributed significantly to a reluctance by consumers to begin
to leverage up again five years into economic recovery. Consumer Debt Service
Business Sales And Profits
Business sales in current $ have been at 6% yr/yr in recent months. Transactions volume has
been running slightly stronger than I expected, but pricing power remains anemic. Pricing has
recently turned negative for materials and energy resource providers. My selling price /
cost ratio has turned negative and is partially offsetting profit margin improvement stemming
from higher volumes. On balance, profits yr/yr are up, but would likely be stronger with a
better pricing environment. The ongoing refusal by business to reward workers for productivity
gains inhibits both business volume and pricing power.
The growth of the economy in current $ is exceeding that of the liquidity provided by private
finance. Hence, the capital markets are more reliant on dwindling growth of liquidity provided
by the Fed as it unwinds the QE 3 program. Portfolio manager cash reserves increased
modestly in Sep., but players are having to do more selling of securities to make new placements.
Without more QE and assuming the economy holds up in the months ahead, this process will
- 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 !!!