Morning Report: More anecdotal evidence of wage inflation

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2926.5 -3.75
Eurostoxx index 381.96 -1.98
Oil (WTI) 75.37 0.07
10 year government bond yield 3.07%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.71%

 

Stocks are lower this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Home prices rose 0.1% MOM and 5.5% YOY during August, according to CoreLogic. This growth rate was the slowest pace in two years, and reflects the decline in affordability due to higher rates and prices.  The areas of undervaluation are concentrated primarily in the Midwest, parts of the South and parts of inland CA.  One thing to keep in mind is that overvaluation / undervaluation is based on incomes and is therefore a moving target.

 

Corelogic overvalued

 

Speaking of incomes, Amazon has just increased its minimum wage to $15 an hour and will lobby Washington to increase the Federal minimum wage as well. Amazon has been under relentless pressure from the left, and finally gave in. Lobbying for a hike in the Federal minimum wage is interesting. Perhaps that was the price Amazon had to pay to get the left to leave it alone, however Amazon probably can afford to pay its workers higher wages than the brick and mortar retailers with which it competes. So it might make business sense for them to do that. Amazon already punches well below its weight margin-wise, so the Street might not like it so much.

 

Bottom line for rates: we are seeing enough anecdotal evidence of increasing wages that it is going to start showing up in the numbers. The big question is whether it throws the Fed off their planned normalization policy. Janet Yellen (who probably is representative of most of the FOMC voting members) wanted to let the labor market run hot for a while. I don’t think Powell is any different. Until we see a move up in the core PCE inflation ratings, I don’t think the Fed will deviate from its plan to wrap up this tightening cycle next year. We have had a lot of hikes already in 2018, and rate hikes act with a 3 month to 1 year lag.

 

Aside from labor, rising oil prices are something to watch as well. The Fed generally focuses on core inflation (ex-food and energy) but eventually higher commodity prices become embedded into other prices. Oil is trading at $75 right now, and OPEC seems happy to let the price run. There is talk of $100 oil again.

Morning Report: Gen X hit hardest by Great Recession

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2733 19.7
Eurostoxx index 382.97 2.89
Oil (WTI) 74.32 0.2
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.85%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.54%

Stocks are higher this morning on rumors that the Trump Administration is dialing back its plans for tariffs on European autos. Bonds and MBS are flat.

The minutes from the June FOMC meeting are coming out at 2:00 pm today. Be careful locking around then since they could be market-moving.

The service economy continues to plow ahead, according to the ISM Non-Manufacturing Survey. Higher input prices, tariffs, and labor shortages are the biggest worries. Trucking shortgages are increasing prices, and that has the potential to push up inflation since it touches just about every business, at least indirectly.

The economy added 177,000 jobs last month according to the ADP Survey. This was a touch below street estimates. Note that ADP numbers have generally been higher than the government’s for the past several months. The Street is looking for 191,000 jobs in tomorrow’s payroll report. While the payroll number will be important, for the bond market, it will all come down to the average hourly earnings number.

Initial Jobless Claims ticked up to 231,000 last week. Separately, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas noted there were 37,000 announced job cuts in May.

Tariffs on about $34 billion worth of Chinese exports are set to go into effect tomorrow. Beijing has announced it will retaliate with more tariffs the “instant it goes into effect.” Trade fears have been weighing on the stock market, and we are seeing some effects in commodity prices. Today’s minutes will probably discuss the issue at length. On one hand, this trade war is pushing up commodity prices, which is inflationary and should encourage the Fed to lean hawkish, at least at the margin. On the other hand, trade wars are an economic drag, which should encourage more dovishness. The Fed generally considers commodity inflation to be transitory, so on net trade wars should encourage dovishness, at least at the margin.

Oil prices have been a problem for while now, as WTI crude now trades close to $75 a barrel. Oil prices have been rising due to Venezuela issues and pressure on Europe to not buy Iranian oil. Trump tweeted that OPEC should increase production, which caused Saudi Arabia to announce it would increase output and Iran to announce that his pressure on them have added about $10 to the price of oil in the first place.  At the end of the day however these issues affect North Sea Brent prices, which really only matter to East Coast refineries. The rest of the country uses US domestic oil. Higher gas prices do make consumers surly and the Administration wants to see them down ahead of midterms this fall.

Here are the hottest real estate markets in June, according to Realtor.com. Note it isn’t the names you would think.

Interesting chart in today’s Journal about which breaks down the labor force participation rate by age cohort. The press keeps harping on the job market for entry level workers (essentially the Millennial Generation) however if you look at the labor force participation rate for that cohort, it is lower than the year 2000, but not by much. Nor is the problem the 55+ cohort (baby boomers). They are close to all-time highs. It is Gen X that is the issue – their cohort peaked around 83% in 2000 and now is closer to 80%. It is this generation that was hit hardest by the Great Recession (nailed right during the peak earnings years) and has yet to recover.

labor force participation rate by age cohort