Glen Campbell Dead at 81 | Variety

Country legend Glen Campbell, whose crossover hits “Gentle on My Mind,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” forged a lasting bridge between country and pop music, died Tuesday. He was 81.

In 2011, Campbell announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and mounted a well-publicized farewell tour. His official Twitter posted the news. His daughter, Ashley Campbell, also shared a heartfelt message…..

Campbell was hardly the first country artist to break out of the rural regional radio ghetto — the Nashville Sound of Patsy Cline and Jim Reeves had produced several wide-appeal hits in the early ’60s — but his influence in expanding country music’s parameters and fanbase was substantial. His signature hits often combined orchestral arrangements and traditional pop hooks with countrified lyrical themes and vocal stylings, catalyzing both the “countrypolitan” and soft rock subgenres that would proliferate in the 1970s. (John Denver and Kenny Rogers both owe much of their careers to Campbell’s example.)

He sold more than 45 million records in his career and topped the country singles chart 12 times.

Crossover came naturally to the tall, solidly built Campbell, who enjoyed a pre-stardom career as a prolific session musician for rock, pop and country acts alike. He possessed a calmly authoritative tenor and impeccable guitar chops, but his genial, easygoing charm as a performer was thrown into sharp relief by his hotheaded offstage character, with his reputation marred by substance abuse and allegations of domestic violence. Later becoming a born-again Christian, Campbell continued to maintain a steady audience well into his seventh decade, opening his own theater in Branson, Mo.

Born into a sharecropping family in a tiny town in southwestern Arkansas, Campbell was the seventh of 12 children. Picking up guitar at an early age, he left home at age 14 to pursue music, eventually landing in Los Angeles, where he fathered his first child at age 17. Out west, Campbell soon found himself an in-demand session musician with the now-storied studio conglomerate dubbed the Wrecking Crew, recording guitar parts for such varied acts as Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, the Monkees, Merle Haggard and Elvis Presley.

Campbell reached the height of his session player power in 1965, when he became a touring member of the Beach Boys — playing bass to compensate for the absent Brian Wilson — as well as contributing guitar parts to the group’s landmark “Pet Sounds” album. All the while, Campbell had been erratically pursuing a solo career, recording mostly unremarkable singles for Crest Records and later Capitol. Though he broke onto country radio a few times, he began to lose favor with Capitol label heads, who by the mid-’60s were pondering dropping him from the roster.

Fortunately they didn’t, as Campbell’s career experienced a sudden, dramatic upswing in 1967, when he recorded a rendition of John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind.” Though the 45 barely breached the top-40 singles chart, the titular LP was a runaway success, topping the country album chart and reaching No. 5 on the pop charts.

Follow-up single “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” was an even bigger hit, reaching No. 2 on the country chart and marking the beginning of Campbell’s collaborations with songwriter Jimmy Webb, whose compositions would provide Campbell with hits for years to come. Underscoring the universality of the burgeoning star’s appeal, Campbell won four Grammys for the two songs at the 1967 awards — two in country categories, the other two in pop categories.

This turned out to be the opening salvo in a remarkable streak of hits for the singer. Starting with “Gentle,” Campbell managed to rack up seven consecutive country album chart-toppers over a two year period, recording such iconic tracks as “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife” and a string of duets with Bobbie Gentry. LP “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” won Campbell an album of the year Grammy in 1968.

Source: Glen Campbell Dead: Country Legend Was 81 | Variety

This oil price rally has reached its limit – On Line Opinion

Good summary of the oil market by Nicholas Cunningham – posted Friday, 4 August 2017:

There are several significant reasons why oil prices have regained most of the lost ground since the end of May….

  1. OPEC cuts;
  2. US shale expansion is slowing;
  3. Several OPEC members have promised deeper cuts; and
  4. Drawdowns in U.S. crude oil inventories suggest the market is finally rebalancing.

But inventories are still high, not just in the U.S. And the US (despite shale slowing), Libya and Nigeria are all expected to increase output.

Also, the recent rally is largely attributable to short-covering rather than hedge funds taking fresh long positions.

But there is a wild card:

The one variable that could upend all market forecasts is Venezuela, which has been in economic turmoil for quite some time but is entering a new phase of crisis. The involvement of the U.S. government, which is retaliating against Venezuela for what it argues is a step towards dictatorship, threatens to accelerate the oil production declines in the South American nation.

If Venezuela sees its exports disrupted in a sudden way, the ceiling for oil prices in 2017 could be quite a bit higher than everyone expects at the moment. Otherwise, there is not a lot of room on the upside for oil prices in the short-term.

…it could go up, it could go down, but not necessarily in that order.

Using fundamentals to predict short-term cycles is at best a 50/50 proposition. It’s normally best to stick to technicals (for short time frames). Looks like a secondary rally in a bear market.

Nymex Light Crude

Source: This oil price rally has reached its limit – On Line Opinion – 4/8/2017

Boris Johnson wrong to link Australia’s economic growth to the resources boom

In criticizing Boris Johnston, Ross Gittins at The Herald, unwittingly highlights the hubris of the economics profession:

When Boris Johnson, Britain’s Foreign Minister, visited Oz lately, he implied that our record 26-year run of uninterrupted economic growth was owed largely to the good fortune of our decade-long resources boom.

Johnson, no economist, can be forgiven for holding such a badly mistaken view – especially since many Australian non-economists are just as misguided. They betray a basic misconception about the nature of macro-economic management and what it’s meant to do.

It’s clear that Johnson, like a lot of others, hasn’t understood just why it is that 26 years of uninterrupted growth is something to shout about.It’s not that 26 years’ worth of growth adds up to a mighty lot of growth. After all, most other countries could claim that, over the same 26-year period, they’d achieved 23 or 24 years’ worth of growth.

No, what’s worth jumping up and down about is that little word “uninterrupted”. Everyone else’s growth has been interrupted at least once or twice during the past 26 years by a severe recession or two, but ours hasn’t.

That’s the other, and better way to put it: we’ve gone for a record 26 years without a severe recession.But now note that little word “severe”. As former Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens often pointed out, we did have a mild recession in 2008-09, at the time of the global financial crisis, and earlier in 2000-01.

So, yet another way to put the Aussie boast is that we’ve gone for a period of 26 years in which the occasional increases in unemployment never saw the rate rise by more than 1.6 percentage points before it turned down again.

What you (and Boris) need to understand about macro-economic management is that its goal isn’t to make the economy grow faster, it’s to smooth the growth in demand as the economy moves through the ups and downs of the business cycle.

This is why macro management is also called “demand management” and “stabilisation policy”. These days, the management is done primarily by the Reserve Bank, using its “monetary policy” (manipulation of interest rates), though both the present and previous governor have often publicly wished they were getting more help from “fiscal policy” (the budget).

When using interest rates to smooth the path of demand over time, your raise rates to discourage borrowing and spending when the economy’s booming – so as to chop off the top of the cycle – and you cut rates to encourage borrowing and spending when the economy’s busting – thereby filling in the trough of the cycle.This is why the economic managers find it so annoying when the Borises of this world imagine that the decade long resources boom – the biggest we’ve had since the Gold Rush – must have made their job so much easier.Just the opposite, stupid. Introducing a massive source of additional demand in the upswing of the resources boom made it that much harder to hold demand growth steady and avoid inflation taking off.

But then, when the boom turned to bust, with the fall in export commodity prices starting in mid-2011, and the fall in mining construction activity starting a year later, it became hard to stop demand slowing to a crawl.

We’re still not fully back to normal.This is why the macro managers’ success in avoiding a severe recession for 26 years is a remarkable achievement, and one owed far more to their good management than to supposed good luck (whether from China or anywhere else).

But what exactly is the payoff from the achievement? Twenty-six years in which many fewer businesses went out backwards than otherwise would have.

Twenty-six years in which many fewer people became unemployed than otherwise, and those who did had to endure a far shorter spell of joblessness than otherwise.

The big payoff from avoiding severe recessions – or keeping them as far apart as possible – is to avoid a massive surge in long-term unemployment that can take more than a decade to go away – and even then does so in large part because people give up and claim disability benefits or become old enough to move onto the age pension.

Dr David Gruen, a deputy secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, has demonstrated that, though the US economy had a higher proportion of its population in employment than we did, for decades before the global crisis, since then it’s been the other way around.”The key lesson I draw from this comparison is that the avoidance of deep recessions improves outcomes in the labour market enormously over extended periods of time,” he concluded.

“What you (and Boris) need to understand about macro-economic management is that its goal isn’t to make the economy grow faster, it’s to smooth the growth in demand as the economy moves through the ups and downs of the business cycle.”

Well how’s that been working for ya, Ross, over the last three decades. Attempts at smoothing the global economic cycle (primarily led by the US Fed) have achieved two of the most severe recessions in the last century. Smoothing out the natural creative destruction of the capitalist system allows imbalances to build. Periods of uninterrupted growth may be longer, but when the dam wall breaks, as it did in 2008, the severity of the backlash when the economy tries to restore equilibrium (or “balance” as us non-economists like to describe it) threatens to break the very foundations of the financial system.

Not exactly a time for high-fives and self-congratulation for the economics profession. To me economics should focus on the study of unintended consequences, of which there are many examples in the last 30 years.

The presumption that macro-economists can improve on the performance of an economy by constant intervention has clearly been demonstrated to be a fallacy.

Mechanical engineers in the 1800s were confronted with a similar problem when building large steam engines that worked under variable load. Attempts to smooth the load using a governor, adjusting braking in response to detected acceleration or deceleration was the obvious solution. But these governors created a feedback loop — highlighted by James Clark Maxwell in his famous 1868 paper On Governors to the Royal Society of London — that made these giant steam engines prone to self-destruct.

Constant interference with market forces in an effort to smooth economic growth has a similar effect on the economy. The lag between an actual event and its measurement, reporting and subsequent monetary policy response is susceptible to creating a feedback loop that amplifies the cycle instead of smoothing it, causing the system to self-destruct.

Economists on graduation should be required to make a pledge similar to the Hippocratic oath of the medical profession which starts with the words: “First do no harm….”

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

~ Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Source: Boris Johnson was wrong to link Australia’s economic growth to the resources boom

Nasdaq and S&P500 meet resistance

July labor stats are out and shows the jobless rate fell to a 16-year low at 4.3%. Unemployment below the long-term natural rate suggests the economy is close to capacity and inflationary pressures should be building.

Unemployment below the long-term natural rate

Source: St Louis Fed, BLS

But hourly wage rates are growing at a modest pace, easing pressure on the Fed to raise interest rates.

Hourly Wage Rates

Source: St Louis Fed, BLS

Fed monetary policy remains accommodative, with the monetary base (net of excess reserves) growing at a robust 7.5% a year.

Hourly Wage Rates

Source: St Louis Fed, FRB

Our forward estimate of real GDP — Nonfarm Payroll * Average Weekly Hours — continues at a slow but steady annual pace of 1.79%.

Real GDP compared to Nonfarm Payroll * Average Weekly Hours

Source: St Louis Fed, BLS & BEA

The Nasdaq 100 has run into resistance at 6000. No doubt readers noticed Amazon [AMZN] and Alphabet [GOOG] both retreated after reaching the $1000 mark. This is natural. Correction back to the rising trendline would take some of the heat out of the market and provide a solid base for further gains. Selling pressure, reflected by declining peaks on Twiggs Money Flow, appears secondary.

Nasdaq 100

The S&P 500 is also running into resistance, below 2500. Bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow warns of moderate selling pressure but this again seems to be secondary — in line with a correction rather than a reversal.

S&P 500

Target 2400 + ( 2400 – 2300 ) = 2500

ASX banks spoil the iron ore party

I underestimated the strength of iron ore which has now broken resistance at 70, suggesting that a bottom is forming. Strength of the latest rally indicates that the next correction is likely to find support at 60.

Iron Ore

The Resources sector responded, with the ASX 300 Metals & Mining index headed for a test of its February high at 3200 after recovering above support at 3000.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

Banks have been on the receiving end, however, with the ASX 300 Banks index testing short-term support at 8500. A Twiggs Money Flow peak below zero warns of strong selling pressure. Breach of 8500 would signal another test of primary support at 8000.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 continues to form a narrow line, consolidating between 5600 and 5800. Declining Twiggs Money Flow, with a peak below zero, warns of selling pressure. Breach of support at 5600 remains likely, despite the iron ore rally, and would signal a primary down-trend.

ASX 200

A new health insurance system in the United States | Catallaxy Files

By Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus:

Donald Trump may be finding it difficult to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). But what is he trying to replace it with? It seems nothing that will contain costs and provide a reasonable level of health care to all Americans. Capitalist or socialist or communist one should not in a first world country accept a health care system which fails many people.

If Trump wants to look overseas for a new model, he could do worse than adopting the Australian system. While our Medicare and private health insurance system has a number of deficiencies and needs substantial reform, it is far and away better than the US system where an initial simple consultation to a doctor costs a minimum of USD 200.

According to OECD data, the cost of health care in the United States is $9451 per capita compared to $4420 in Australia. The World Bank has Australia’s health costs at 9.1 per cent of GDP while in the US it is 17.1 per cent of GDP. The European Union average is 10 per cent of GDP.

Think of the implications if the US could bring its health costs down to Australian levels. It would save USD 1.5 trillion each and every year. And by bringing in a Medicare-like system the US would give better access to health care by all Americans.

If Trump wants to go down as a hero in the United States he should work in that direction. No other President or Congress has been able to make such major health care reforms in the USA or to address the powerful lobby groups which work to maintain the status quo.

What caught my eye was this interesting comment posted by flyingduk:

I am a senior Dr working in SA. The health system has become Godzilla. It is a rampaging beast eating every resource thrown at it and producing little of value in return. Our hospitals and our ambulances are packed full of hopeless cases and self inflicted disasters. We are pointlessly throwing ever more $ at elderly people with complex, end of life medical conditions. We are spending enormous amounts on meth addicts, alcoholics and the morbidly obese. Most of this money evaporates with nothing to show for it. The ‘health’ system has ceased to be a health system. It has become an ‘illness’ system. It cannot go on like this. Its going to collapse.

So a state-funded system has its problems as well. But there is an alternative. From Margherita Stancati at WSJ online:

Like other European countries, Italy offers universal health-care coverage backed by the state. Italians can go to a public hospital, for example, without involving an insurance company. The patients are charged a small co-pay, but most of the bill is paid by the government. As a result, the great majority of Italians don’t bother to buy private health insurance unless they want to seek treatment from private doctors or hospitals, which are relatively few.

Offering guaranteed reimbursements to public hospitals, though, took away the hospitals’ incentive to improve service or rein in costs. Inefficiencies were rampant as a result, and the quality of Italy’s public health care suffered for years. Months-long waiting lists became the norm for nonemergency procedures—even heart surgery—in most of the country.

Big changes came in 1997, when Italy’s national government decentralized the country’s health-care system, giving the regions control over the public money that goes to hospitals within their own borders…..

In much of the country, regions have continued to use the standards of care and reimbursement rates recommended by Rome. Some also give preferential treatment to public hospitals, making it more difficult for private hospitals to qualify for public funds.

Lombardy, by contrast, has increased its quality standards, set its own reimbursement rates and, most important, put public and private hospitals on an equal footing by making each equally eligible for public funds. If a hospital meets the quality standards and charges the accepted reimbursement rate, it qualifies. Patients are free to choose between state-run and publicly funded private hospitals at no extra cost. Their co-pay is the same in either case. As a result, public and many private hospitals in Lombardy compete directly for patients and funds.

…..Around 30% of hospital care in Lombardy is private now—more than anywhere else in Italy. And service in both the private and public sector has improved.

State hospitals have improved their service levels while private hospitals have lowered costs in response to the increased competition. A win for the taxpayer and for patients.

Source: A new health insurance system in the United States | Catallaxy Files

ASX stalls

Iron ore is testing resistance at 70. Respect would warn of another test of primary support at 53, while breakout would suggest that a bottom is forming and the next correction is likely to find support at 60.

Iron Ore

The Resources sector remains wary, with the ASX 300 Metals & Mining index retreating after a false break above resistance at 3050.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The ASX 300 Banks index retraced from resistance at 8800, heading for a test of the rising trendline and short-term support at 8500. Twiggs Money Flow continues to warn of selling pressure despite indications from APRA that they are unlikely to require further capital raising. Reversal below 8500 would warn of another test of primary support at 8000.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 has stalled, consolidating between 5600 and 5800 over the last two months. Declining Twiggs Money Flow, with a peak below zero, warns of selling pressure. Breach of support at 5600 is more likely, with an ensuing down-trend, but a lot depends on how iron ore behaves in the next few weeks.

ASX 200

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

~ Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Nasdaq soars

GDP results for the second quarter of 2017 reflect recovery from the soft patch in 2016.

Nominal GDP compared to Nonfarm Payroll * Average Weekly Hours * Average Hourly Rate

Source: St Louis Fed, BLS & BEA

Nominal GDP for Q2 improved to 3.71%, measured annually. This closely follows our intial estimate calculated from Nonfarm Payroll * Average Weekly Hours * Average Hourly Rate.

Real GDP, after adjustment for inflation, also improved, to a 2.1% annual rate.

Real GDP compared to Nonfarm Payroll * Average Weekly Hours

Source: St Louis Fed, BLS & BEA

Bellwether transport stock Fedex is undergoing a correction at present but selling pressure appears moderate. Respect of medium-term support at 200 is likely and would confirm the primary up-trend (and rising economic activity).

Fedex

The Nasdaq 100 gained more than 20% year-to-date, from 4863 at end of December 2016 to 5908 on July 28th. Growth since 2009 has been consistent at around 20% a year but now appears to be accelerating. To my mind that warns sentiment may be running ahead of earnings, increasing the risk of a major adjustment. But there is no indication of this at present.

Nasdaq 100

The S&P 500 continues its advance towards 2500 at a more modest pace. Bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow warns of selling pressure but this seems to be secondary in nature, with the indicator holding well above zero.

S&P 500

Target 2400 + ( 2400 – 2300 ) = 2500

Around the markets: Hong Kong & India bullish

Canada’s TSX 60 continues to test resistance at the former primary support level of 900. Bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow warns of strong selling pressure. Decline below 880 would confirm a primary down-trend, with an initial target of 865*.

TSX 60 Index

* Target calculation: 900 – ( 935 – 900 ) = 865

The Footsie recovered above 7400 but bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow warns of long-term selling pressure. Another test of primary support at 7100 remains likely.

FTSE 100 Index

European stocks are taking a beating, with the Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50 Index testing support at 3400. Sharp decline on Twiggs Money Flow warns of selling pressure. Breach of 3400 would warn of a test of 3200.

DJ Euro Stoxx 50 Index

* Target calculation: 3650 – ( 3650 – 3450 ) = 3850

India’s Sensex remains in a bull market.

BSE Sensex

* Target calculation: 29000 + ( 29000 – 26000 ) = 32000

As does Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index.

Hang Seng Index

* Target calculation: 24000 – ( 24000 – 21500 ) = 26500

While China’s Shanghai Composite index ranges between 3000 and 3300. Government interference remains a concern.

Shanghai Composite Index

ASX 200: It’s down to iron ore

Iron ore encountered resistance at $70 per ton. Another test of primary support at $53 is likely. But a failed down-swing would be a bullish sign.

Iron Ore

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining displays a similar pattern, retreating below 3000 after testing 3050. A failed down-swing that ends above 2750 would be a bullish sign, while breach of support at 2750 would confirm the primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

APRA eased pressure on the big four banks to raise more capital; the ASX 300 Banks index responding with a rally to 8800. Retracement that respects support at 8500 would be a bullish sign, signaling continuation of the up-trend. The industry is still light on capital but recent remarks by APRA chair Wayne Byres indicate that they are prepared to tolerate a more gradual adjustment rather than a new round of capital raising. Dividends may still come under pressure, however, in banks with high payout ratios.

ASX 300 Banks

ASX 200 consolidation between 5600 and 5800 continues. Declining Twiggs Money Flow flags selling pressure. Breakout from the consolidation will indicate future direction but this is likely to be dominated by mining (iron ore) and the banks. If both are pulling in the same direction, the index is likely to follow. Banks are increasingly bullish but the question-mark over iron ore remains.

ASX 200

VIX hits record low

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) made a new low of 9.30 indicating record low levels of stock volatility. High levels of stock buybacks and large ETF fund inflows may both have contributed, but this is only the third time in its 27-year history that index has broken below 10%. The first was in late 1993. The second, in late 2006, was followed a year later by a massive market snap-back. This time is no different. Volatility is unlikely to remain at such low levels and eventually we will see a market down-turn, accompanied by high volatility, but there is no crystal ball that can tell us whether this will be in one year or five.

CBOE Volatility Index (VIX)

Corporate bond spreads are also falling, with the spread between lowest investment grade Baa (10-year) and equivalent Treasury yields at their lowest point since 2008.

Corporate Bond Spreads

Source: St Louis Fed & Moody’s

The yield curve is flattening but remains comfortably above a flat or negative yield curve when
the yield differential (10-year minus 3-month yields) falls below zero. A negative yield curve is a reliable warning of recession within 12 months.

Yield Differential

Source: St Louis Fed

The Freight Transportation Services Index displays a steady increase in economic activity.

Freight Transportation Services Index

Source: St Louis Fed & US Bureau of the Census

And the S&P 500 continues its advance towards 2500.

S&P 500

Target 2400 + ( 2400 – 2300 )

Weekly Top Themes from Bob Doll | Nuveen

  1. U.S. monetary policy should remain equity-market friendly. In her comments last week, Janet Yellen stated that the neutral rate for the fed funds rate is “currently quite low,” and rates would not have to rise much more to become neutral. In our view, a neutral fed funds rate is closer to 2% than the 3% currently implied by the fed funds futures market. If this is accurate, it would likely be good news for economic growth, corporate earnings and the stock market.
  2. Global monetary policy is starting to normalize, but still supports stocks. The Bank of China raised rates by 25 basis points last week and other central banks are becoming less dovish. We think this is good news since it reflects improving global economic growth, while overall policy remains easy. Central banks are still promoting liquidity, which should support equities and other risk assets.
  3. Inflation remains surprisingly low. Although economic growth is improving and the Fed is normalizing, inflation has not increased similarly. Inflation should eventually react to tightening labor markets, but the process is taking a long time.
  4. If the “Goldilocks” environment persists, we think equities can continue to make all-time highs. Low inflation, slow-but-positive economic growth, climbing earnings and a cautious Fed have contributed to record-high stock prices. We think these conditions should remain in place for at least the next 6 to 12 months.
  5. Active fund manager performance has improved. According to Merrill Lynch, 54% of active large cap U.S. equity managers outperformed their benchmarks for the first half of the year and more than half also outperformed for the last four months. This is the longest such streak since Merrill Lynch began tracking this data in 2009, and it marks the first time a majority of managers outperformed for the first half of a year.

Global monetary policy supportive of stocks, low inflation and slow-but-stable earnings growth. Nothing much wrong here. Inflation is the one to watch though. A surge in wage rates as the labor market tightens would tighten monetary policy, with a domino effect on earnings and stock performance.

Source: Weekly Investment Commentary from Bob Doll | Nuveen

Icarus trade continues, with the next global crisis further away than you think

Good to see Ambrose Evans-Pritchard weighing in on the (absence of) the next global financial crisis:

….If corporation tax drops to 25 per cent and incentives are offered to repatriate up to $US4 trillion of US corporate cash held offshore – tinder for stock buy-backs – you might see the sharemarket’s price earnings ratio breaking the all-time high of the dotcom boom.

Whether any of this stimulus is wise is another matter. The Bank for International Settlements chides central banks for making a Faustian Pact long ago, rescuing markets every time there is trouble but letting asset bubbles run unchecked in the good times.

They have created “intertemporal” imbalances that require ever lower real interest rates with each cycle. The deformity is worse today than before the Lehman crisis after eight years of emergency stimulus.

The global debt ratio is 40 percentage points higher at 327 per cent of GDP. Nobody knows what the sensitivity may be to even a modest degree of tightening.

Yet if the Sword of Damocles hangs ever over us, that does not mean it is about to fall. My humbling discovery after decades of amateur observation is that such episodes take longer to play out than you imagine.

I was convinced that the global financial system was spiralling into crisis at least 18 months before Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Lehman Brothers collapsed over those terrifying weeks of late 2008.

That was a bad call. Even disasters have their proper sequencing.

Source: Icarus trade continues, with the next global crisis further away than you think

Australia: APRA capitulates to Big Four banks

From Clancy Yeates at The Age:

Quelling investor fears over moves to strengthen the financial system, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority on Wednesday said major banks would have until 2020 to increase their levels of top-tier capital by about 1 percentage point, to 10.5 per cent.

The target was much more favourable to banks than some analyst predictions, with some bank watchers in recent months warning lenders may need to raise large amounts of equity or cut dividends to satisfy APRA’s long-running push for “unquestionably strong” banks.

Markets are now confident banks will hit APRA’s target, estimated to require about $8 billion in extra capital from the big four, through retained earnings or by selling new shares through their dividend reinvestment plans…..

“The scenario where banks had to raise significant capital appears to be off the table for now,” said managing partner at Arnhem Asset Management, Mark Nathan.

Mr Nathan said the banks’ highly prized dividends also looked “safer”, though were not likely to increase. National Australia Bank and Westpac in particular have high dividend payout ratios, which could put dividends at risk from other factors, such as a rise in bad debts……

APRA’s chair Wayne Byres said the changes could be achieved in an “orderly” way, and the new target would lower the need for any future taxpayer support for banks.

“APRA’s objective in establishing unquestionably strong capital requirements is to establish a banking system that can readily withstand periods of adversity without jeopardising its core function of financial intermediation for the Australian community,” he said.

APRA chairman Wayne Byres used the words “lower the need for any future taxpayer support.” Not “remove the need…..” That means banks are not “unquestionably strong” and taxpayers are still on the hook.

A capital ratio of 10.5% sounds reasonable but the devil is in the detail. Tier 1 Capital includes convertible (hybrid) debt and risk-weighted assets are a poor reflection of total credit exposure, including only that portion of assets that banks consider to be at risk.

Recent bailout experiences in Europe revealed regulators reluctant to convert hybrid capital, included in Tier 1, because of fears of panicking financial markets.

Take Commonwealth Bank (Capital Adequacy and Risks Disclosures as at 31 March 2017) as a local example.

The Tier 1 Capital Ratio is 11.6% while Common Equity Tier 1 Capital (CET1), ignoring hybrids, is more than 17% lower at 9.6%.

But CBA risk-weighted assets of $430 billion also significantly understate total credit exposure of $1,012 billion.

The real acid-test is the leverage ratio which compares CET1 to total credit exposure. For Commonwealth this works out at just over 4.0%. How can that be described as “unquestionably strong”?

Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari conducted a study last year in the US and concluded that banks need a leverage ratio of at least 15% to avoid future bailouts. Even higher if they are considered too-big-to-fail.

Round the world: India & Hong Kong advance, Canada falters

Canada’s TSX 60 retraced to test resistance at the former primary support level of 900. Respect is likely and would signal a bear market. Decline of Twiggs Money Flow/Trend Index below zero would strengthen the bear signal. Medium-term target for the decline is 865*.

TSX 60 Index

* Target calculation: 900 – ( 935 – 900 ) = 865

The Footsie is losing momentum, with penetration of successive trendlines and declining Twiggs Trend Index. A test of primary support at 7100 is likely.

FTSE 100 Index

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50 Index, representing the 50 largest stocks in the Euro Zone, found support above 3400. Penetration of the declining trendline would indicate the correction is over and suggest the start of another advance — confirmed if the index breaks its recent (May 2017) high.

DJ Euro Stoxx 50 Index

* Target calculation: 3650 – ( 3650 – 3450 ) = 3850

It’s full steam ahead for India’s Sensex. Trend Index troughs above zero indicate strong buying pressure. Expect some profit-taking at the target of 32000* but any correction is likely to be shallow as the bull market gathers momentum.

BSE Sensex

* Target calculation: 29000 + ( 29000 – 26000 ) = 32000

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index has also reached its target of 26500. Again Trend Index troughs above zero indicate solid buying pressure.

Hang Seng Index

* Target calculation: 24000 – ( 24000 – 21500 ) = 26500

China’s Shanghai Composite index is also rallying but I remain wary of government intervention.

Shanghai Composite Index

ASX buoyant as iron rallies

Iron ore broke resistance at $60 and is headed for a test of $70 per ton. This is a strong rally but it does not signal the end of the bear market. Only when the rally ends and there is another test of primary support at $53 will we be able to gauge long-term sentiment.

Iron Ore

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index broke resistance at 3000, completing a double bottom reversal with a target of 3250. Breach of 2750 is unlikely at present but would signal a primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The ASX 300 Banks index is testing resistance at 8500 but Twiggs Money Flow below zero continues to warn of long-term selling pressure. Breach of 8000 remains likely and would confirm the primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 is consolidating in a small triangle (some would call this a large pennant) between 5600 and 5800. Breakout will signal future direction. A lot will depend on iron ore (China) and the banks, which seem to be pulling in opposite directions at present.

ASX 200

US Retail & Light Vehicle Sales slow

Retail sales growth (excluding motor vehicles and parts) slowed to 2.4% over the 12 months to June 2017.

Retail Sales ex Motor Vehicles & Parts

Source: St Louis Fed & US Bureau of the Census

Seasonally adjusted light vehicle sales are also slowing.

Light Vehicle Sales

Source: St Louis Fed & BEA

Seasonally adjusted private housing starts and new building permits are starting to lose momentum.

Housing Starts & Permits

Source: St Louis Fed & US Bureau of the Census

The good news is that Manufacturer’s Durable Goods Orders (seasonally adjusted and ex Defense & Aircraft) are recovering.

Manufacturing Durable Goods Orders ex Defense & Aircraft

Source: St Louis Fed & US Bureau of the Census

Cement and concrete production continues to trend upwards.

Cement & Concrete Production

Source: US Fed

And estimated weekly hours worked (total nonfarm payroll * average weekly hours) is growing steadily.

Estimated Weekly Hours Worked

Source: St Louis Fed & BLS

All of which suggest that business confidence is growing and consumer confidence is likely to follow. Bellwether transport stock Fedex advanced to 220, signaling rising economic activity in the broader economy.

Fedex

Target: 180 + ( 180 – 120 ) = 240

The S&P 500 broke resistance at 2450, making a new high. Narrow consolidations and shallow corrections all signal investor confidence typical of the latter stages of a bull market. The immediate target is 2500* but further gains are likely.

S&P 500

Target: 2400 + ( 2400 – 2300 ) = 2500

The stock market remains an exceptionally efficient mechanism for the transfer of wealth from the impatient to the patient.

~ Warren Buffett

India: Sensex bullish

Narrow consolidation around 31000 is a bullish sign for India’s Sensex. Breakout above 31500 would signal a fresh advance. Twiggs Trend Index and Twiggs Money Flow both indicate healthy LT buying pressure. Target for an advance is 33000*.

BSE Sensex

* Target: 31500 + ( 31500 – 30000 ) = 33000