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Tags: Civil | Trade | Cyber | Wars

Are We on the Verge of Civil, Trade, and Cyber Wars?

Are We on the Verge of Civil, Trade, and Cyber Wars?

 (Dollar Photo Club)

Dr. Edward Yardeni By Monday, 27 February 2017 07:49 AM Current | Bio | Archive

We live in turbulent times. The headlines make it sound like the nation is on the verge of a civil war, trade wars, and cyberwars.

The Russians have a spy ship 30 miles off our East Coast. That seems odd, since they’ve been accused of accessing any and all information they want out of the US simply by hacking into our computers from the comfort of their basements.

Little Kim—North Korea’s version of a Stalinist “Big Brother”—is suspected of having had his half-brother fatally poisoned with the nerve agent VX, an internationally banned chemical weapon that can kill within minutes. That should worry anyone in range of his missiles who wasn’t already concerned.

Mexicans are burning effigies of President Donald Trump. Anti-Trump protesters in cities across our country took to the streets last Monday, which was Presidents' Day, for “Not My President’s Day” rallies.

Mutual political enemies reportedly are compiling lists of one another, presumably for nefarious reasons.

How much of all this is fake news, we can’t be sure.

Yet the S&P 500 is up 10.6% since Election Day to a record high (Fig. 1). That’s even though the administration has yet to move forward on actually cutting taxes and repatriating overseas profits, which presumably is why the stock market has been so strong.

Last week, some of the infrastructure-related stocks that have been doing so well since Election Day weakened on news (possibly fake, as we explain below) that the administration may not be ready to do much to stimulate infrastructure spending until next year. The market moved higher regardless, led by the S&P 500 Utilities sector, as bond yields eased--with the US Treasury 10-year yield remaining comfortably in our 2.00%-2.50% range for the first half of the year. That happened despite saber-rattling by the members of the FOMC in the minutes of their January 31-February 1 meeting released last Wednesday (Fig. 2 and Fig. 3).

Most significantly, the minutes said that “many participants expressed the view that it might be appropriate to raise the federal funds rate again fairly soon if incoming information on the labor market and inflation was in line with or stronger than their current expectations.”

That certainly doesn’t preclude a hike at the March 14-15 meeting. Yet even the dollar gave back some of its recent gains last week (Fig. 4). Also notable is that the yield spread between high-yield corporate bonds and the US Treasury 10-year bond yield fell last week to the lowest since September 9, 2014 (Fig. 5). That’s a strong vote of confidence in the economy, for sure.

So far, the market is remaining calmly bullish and ignoring the tempestuous headlines. As for the delays in the bullish items in the Trump administration’s economic agenda, don’t worry, be happy—they’ll probably happen, as Melissa discusses below.

Timing isn’t everything, as long as investors are convinced that Trump will deliver on his bullish goodies in the foreseeable future, i.e., within the next two years. Meanwhile, we can take comfort in the recovery of S&P 500 revenues and earnings. Joe updated our chart publications with the Q4 data released at the end of last week.

Here are the key developments for revenues:

(1) Record high. S&P 500 revenues per share rose to a record high during Q4-2014 (Fig. 6). The severe recession in the energy sector depressed total revenues during 2015. However, total revenues recovered over the past three quarters through Q4-2016. On a per-share basis, it was up 4.5% y/y, the best growth rate since Q3-2014 (Fig. 7). These comparisons have actually been increasingly positive during each of last year’s quarters after falling during each quarter of 2015.

(2) Looking higher ahead. The y/y growth rate of S&P 500 revenues per share is highly correlated with the y/y growth rate in manufacturing and trade sales (Fig. 8). The latter was up 5.2% during December. The growth rate in revenues per share is also highly correlated with the US M-PMI, which rose sharply in January (Fig. 9). The three available Fed district business surveys through February show an incredibly strong increase in their average composite indexes, from 3.2 during October to 25.3 during February (the highest since July 2004!), suggesting that February’s M-PMI will surpass January’s elevated reading (Fig. 10). Also looking up is the weekly series for S&P 500 forward revenues per share. It continues to rise in record-high territory (Fig. 11).

(3) Minor dollar impact. Joe and I continue to be amazed by how little effect the strong dollar has had on S&P 500 revenues (Fig. 12). The trade-weighted dollar is up 23% since July 1, 2014, yet most of the weakness in revenues during 2015 seems to have been energy-related, as evidenced by last year’s recovery in revenues. Perhaps production of goods is so globally intertwined that currencies don’t have the impact they once did on revenues, earnings, exports, and imports. What companies lose on exports, they gain on imports. It’s not as clear how revenues and earnings have become less currency-sensitive. In any event, this highly integrated global system doesn’t augur well for Trump’s attempts to upset it (or vice-versa!).


Dr. Ed Yardeni is the President of Yardeni Research, Inc., a provider of independent global investment strategy research.

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We live in turbulent times. The headlines make it sound like the nation is on the verge of a civil war, trade wars, and cyberwars.
Civil, Trade, Cyber, Wars
Monday, 27 February 2017 07:49 AM
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