Something to be thankful for: the US government has finally stopped holding back the recovery

It’s no secret that spending cuts (and tax hikes) have retarded America’s growth for the past four years. But data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis suggests that the era of austerity may finally have ended.

The following chart shows the contribution of government and private spending to annual GDP growth, since the start of 2005:

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Opec price wars, then and now

Some wise comments from our esteemed FT colleagues on Opec’s price war:

Cutting production only makes sense if there is strong reason to believe that the glut is temporary; and even then it makes better sense in low-cost fields, where not too much capital is tied up, than in high cost ones. Unless, of course, the oil price falls below the operating cost of a high cost field. That is thought to be about $7 a barrel in the North Sea. That is the economic reason why everything depends on Opec, which still controls much of the low-cost oil in world trade.

For the moment, most observers are betting that Opec is bluffing about a price war (which would in any case be the correct strategy) but this begs the question of maintaining internal discipline which is already frayed. Gulf peace and the addition of 2m barrels a day of Iranian supplies, could be the last straw.

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FirstFT (the new Lunch Wrap)

Missouri’s governor ordered 2,200 more guardsmen into Ferguson after a night of violence in several US cities sparked by a decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. (FT, NYT)

The decision made this a rare case – grand juries nearly always choose to indict in cases that don’t involve police officers. The Washington Post visualised what happened based on the scenario laid out by St Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch. (FiveThirtyEight, WaPo $)

In the news

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Markets Live: Wednesday, 26th November, 2014

Live markets commentary from FT.com 

ECB, QE and so long to that damn negativity

On the potential death of that long awaited negative deposit rate, interesting thoughts from HSBC’s Steven Major below if sovereign quantitative easing does eventually raise its head in Europe.

But first, a necessary nod to QE skepticism from Peter Stella:

Rather amazingly, a crude quantitative measure of ECB stimulus—the sum of refinancing operations and securities held for monetary policy purposes—peaked the very month of Dr. Draghi’s [whatever it takes] speech. Those who are now seeking QE apparently believe that, despite the inverse correlation between quantitative stimulus and actual results, an increase in the size of the ECB balance sheet will lead to an outcome superior to that associated with the increase in policy “size” evident above during the 14 months prior to the Draghi speech. During that time, the sum of ECB monetary operations instruments expanded by 168 percent without any discernible palliative impact on markets. So if the definition of insanity is repeatedly trying the same behavior and expecting different results, the market would appear slightly insane. Or perhaps it is simply guilty of failing to fully comprehend the complexity of monetary operations, and more specifically, which monetary medicines work and which do not.

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Further reading

Elsewhere on Wednesday,

- The story of the first painting to sell for over £1m. Simpler times.

- The day I lost a sh*t-ton of money.

- Economists aren’t in the prediction business.

- Is Uber really in a fight to the death?  Read more

FirstFT (the new 6am Cut)

Missouri’s governor ordered 2,200 more guardsmen into Ferguson after a night of violence. The decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, led to protests in several US cities. (FT, NYT)The decision not to indict made this a rare case – grand juries nearly always choose to indict in cases that don’t involve police officers. The Washington Post visualised what happenedbased on the scenario laid out by St Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch. (FiveThirtyEight, WaPo $)

In the news

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Baltia: the oldest, newest, airline that isn’t

In the first of what may be an occasional series on the wonderful world of stock promotion, meet Baltia, which describes itself as “America’s newest airline”.

Airline may be stretching the term, however. The company has one aircraft, an ageing Boeing 747 sitting in a Michigan hangar.

The newness is also suspect, given that the company has been in an almost perpetual state of preparation to fly for 25 years. It was first organised in New York on “August 24, 1989 to provide air transportation to Russia and, the then, Soviet Union countries”. It hasn’t sold a ticket since, but it has sold a lot of stock. Read more

Crystal balls

Late November brings widespread publication of methods for roasting turkey and predictions for the year ahead. You probably won’t spatchcock your bird, but it can be fun to entertain the idea of something radical.

So, submitting to the tyranny of the calendar, here is a sample of the themes set to shape the world from banking’s prognosticators and their attempt to make them new and interesting.

Cheaper oil and economic divergence feature, as well as politics and stake in the ground contrariness, but there is also considerable low-ing: low volatility, low returns and even “lowflation”… Read more

FirstFT (the new Lunch Wrap)

A grand jury decision not to charge a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, unleashed a wave of violent protests in the St Louis suburb. The Federal Aviation Administration diverted St Louis-bound flights because of reports of gunshots fired into the sky. This timelineruns through the investigation and events since the August shooting. (FT, Washington Post $, NYT $)

Hagel steps down Chuck Hagel has stepped down as defence secretary as Barack Obama moves to shake up his national security team but few believe this will quell criticism of his foreign policy. Among possible successors is Michele Flournoy who would be the first woman to run the Pentagon. (FT, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic) Read more

Jim Rogers’ contrarian view on Russia

The rouble may be down more than 25 per cent versus the dollar this year, but the currency’s recent slide won’t be enough to dissuade legendary investor and author Jim Rogers from adding to his Russia investments.

Rogers told the Financial Times on Tuesday his bullish case was based on the view there had been a fundamental change in the Kremlin’s mindset when it came to the treatment of foreign investors. This, he said, had led him to about-turn on his previous scepticism about the country’s potential and views he had set from the moment he had first visited the country over 46 years ago. Read more

Markets Live: Tuesday, 25th November, 2014

Live markets commentary from FT.com 

Wriggle room, the CNY, and the PBoC

More on that Friday PBoC rate cut — and just as China goes ahead and cuts its 14-day repo operation rate by another 20bp to 3.20 per cent too. That move on Tuesday, according to Nomura, suggests that the PBoC will continue to ease monetary policy… which would be true to form.

As Barc note, “the policy rate cut suggests that China is once again following the typical sequence in a monetary easing cycle – the pace of CNY appreciation is often slowed in advanced, followed later by the same directional moves in the policy rate and banks’ required reserve ratio.” Read more

Further reading

Elsewhere on Tuesday,

- Citi analysts thought everyone knew ‘Hold’ meant ‘Sell’.

- “Merkel is obsessed with demography and economic competitiveness. She loves reading charts.”

- In defense of John Hussman.

- Fatas on McCloskey on Piketty. Read more

FirstFT (the new 6am Cut)

A grand jury has decided that a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, should not face charges. The decision unleashed a wave of violent protests in the St Louis suburb, which has seen unrest since August when the shooting happened. This timelineruns through the investigation and events in Ferguson since the shooting. (FT, Washington Post $, NYT $)

In the news

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Are some workers “slacker” than others?

We don’t really understand why inflation-targeting central bankers closely monitor the job market.

For starters, there is something unseemly about connecting consumer price inflation to theories of labour market “slack”. The implication of ideas such as the “non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment” is that innocent people should lose their jobs if the weighted-average nominal cost of goods and services rises a bit faster than an arbitrary target. Read more

Oil-price decline: the bank-exit liquidity theory

We’re all about unexpected consequences of “liquidity illusion-syndrome” these days, so it was exciting to discover a liquidity-focused assertion from Citi’s Edward Morse and team on Monday about the recent oil price decline, one that ties together a few ideas about how commodity markets relate to bank intermediation.

As a reminder, we have postulated that much of the decline is less related to sudden spot imbalances as it is to the curve’s “definancialisation”. The connection Citi has now made is between the commodity sell-off and regulatory burdens placed on banks’ commodity operations.

It adds to a discussion developed in an April paper by David Bicchetti and Nicolas Maystre, which questioned whether the recent correlation reversal in commodities was indeed connected to the closure of banks’ commodity departments. Read more

Lies, damned lies, and liquidity expectations

Last Friday we warned about the “liquidity illusion” in the market, and the degree to which it becomes part and parcel of regulatory efforts to bring the concept of caveat emptor back to the marketplace.

Which leads us on Monday to flag a paper the Committee on the Global Financial System (CGFS) published on the same day, focusing on similar themes, rubber-stamped by William Dudley of the New York Fed.

Entitled, market-making and proprietary trading: industry trends, drivers and policy implications, it notes (our emphasis): Read more

FirstFT (the new Lunch Wrap)

Asian stocks surged on China’s interest rate cut last week, which renewed hopes of faster growth in the region’s biggest economy or at least a slower decline in GDP. Analysts see this as the first in a run of easing measures as it is more likely to provide debt service relief than boost GDP growth. There is also some doubt whether the People’s Bank of China’s first cut in two years will actually cut financing costs for smaller companies or whether it will continue to channel loans to big state-owned firms. (WSJ $, Bloomberg)

The easing measures in China and Japan have raised expectations that neighbouring Asian central banks will follow suit. (FT) Read more

Markets Live: Monday, 24th November, 2014

Live markets commentary from FT.com 

Signal vs noise from the PBoC

Indeed, nobody expects the PBoC…

But, despite Friday’s surprise announcement, as SocGen’s Wei Yao says: “due to the further rate liberalisation announced at the same time, there is actually no de facto rate cut.”

She continues, (with our emphasis): Read more

On the hypothetical eventuality of no more petrodollars

Imagine the scenario. It’s 2025 and the volume of home-produced oil is so great that the US is near energy independent as far as crude imports are concerned.

With that energy independence, the amount of dollars flowing out of the US and over to net energy producers (and traditional dollar reserve hoarders) such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Mexico has come crashing down.

So how would such a dollar-flow contraction affect the global economical and political balance?

According to Citi’s credit team, it would likely affect things a lot. Especially so in the credit markets. Though, what’s really interesting … they believe the effects of a petrodollar shortage may already be showing up in credit markets. Read more

Further reading

Elsewhere on Monday,

- Misunderstanding reserve currencies and the gold standard.

- The Streetwise Prof swats goldbugs.

- A defence of multi-billionaire hegde fund inflation truthers.  Read more

FirstFT, the email briefing formerly known as The 6am Cut

This is FirstFT, the FT’s new email briefing written by Amie Tsang in Hong Kong which is replacing the Lunch Wrap and the Cut. All Cut subscribers should now be receiving it in their inboxes. If that isn’t happening do please email firstft@ft.com or alphaville@ft.com.

If anyone reading this is not yet subscribed do please click here. Read more

The economic effects of the Obama immigration order

The first thing to be said about the macroeconomic impact of Obama’s executive order on immigration is that it will be small but not trivial.

The second thing to be said is that although the impact will be small, it will also be positive. Read more

Private money vs totally-public money, plus some history

Let’s close the week off with little bit of “history is just repeating itself” education for both the champions of private cryptocurrency, unaware of the private origins of evil fiat currency, and the “take away the banks’ power to create money!” Positive Money campaign in light of the recent deluge of historically myopic press releases in our inbox.

As the BoE’s historical timeline helpfully points out, the BoE came into being when a private syndicate decided to risk all in 1688 by providing the UK government with funding when no-one else was prepared to do so. This ultimately proved to be a very good decision. It turns out lending money to government on terms you can enforce and control can be very profitable, especially if it leads to wise public investments that improve the wealth of the nation and make it easier to collect taxes as a result. Read more

Halliburton: good things come to those who wait

Apparently, Halliburton’s $34.6bn acquisition of Baker Hughes was a blundered — and costly — deal by the oil services company.

The business press (the FT included) have been brutal in their assessment. My colleagues on Lex, with characteristic subtlety, rebuked Halliburton for creating a bad acquirer template. Others simply said the price, which represented a 54 per cent premium, was too high. The smack-down seemed to top out on Wednesday, when the Wall Street Journal declared Halliburton’s as the worst received deal of the year. Read more

No-one ever expects the PBOC

The People’s Bank of China likes to act unexpectedly. And Friday’s surprise announcement of a Chinese rate cut only confirms that being unexpected is indeed the PBOC’s preferred communications strategy.

As Reuters noted, this is the first Chinese rate cut in two years and lowers the benchmark lending rate by 40 basis points to 5.6 per cent. One-year benchmark deposit rates were lowered by a smaller 25 basis points.

But, as Marc Ostwald at ADM Investor Services International commented in an email, the timing of this move looks to be as much about the sharp appreciation of the Chinese currency versus the yen as the fact that China’s economy is experiencing difficulties, with both Chinese CPI and PPI remaining very benign. Read more

The liquidity monster that awaits

Fears are growing that the next crisis, if it should manifest, won’t come from any of the areas that spawned the 2008 crisis. To the contrary, it will emerge from areas we’ve not really had to worry about to date.

The key areas those in high places are now worrying about: the taken-for-granted presumed liquidity of the system.

This is an easy assumption for the asset management industry to make. For years investment banks have made a business of carrying liquidity risk on their balance sheets, mainly by internalising the inventory nobody else is prepared to hold. This sort of “we’ll buying anything just to make money from making markets” service as a result conditioned the buy-side to presume liquidity risk is something that just doesn’t really manifest anymore. Read more

Markets Live: Friday, 21th November, 2014

Live markets commentary from FT.com