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  • Writer's picturen ev

2022 has been a rollercoaster year

Everyone was calling for the end of the world and we very nearly got it with the invasion of Ukraine and Putin's threats of nuclear war. But that is not what the FinTwitarity was calling for. Rate hikes would crush the economy and a recession would be upon us quicker than Powell could utter "Transitory Has Been Retired".

Yesterday we had the US Jobs report and wage data. The US unemployment rate has stuck at 3.7% whereas the high-frequency data that is NFP came in better than expected with the previous month's reading adjusted higher too. The inflationary threat of increasing wages was the key to the data as both this latest month's reading plus the previous month's reading came in higher than expected. Wages will have to rise to keep up with the cost of living, which in turn will keep prices higher. The net effect though here is very few changes apart from asset prices staying higher. So be smart, and be an asset holder! Technology is ultimately deflationary so things will balance out soon enough.

As can be seen from the graph above the 263k additional jobs are at the lower end of what has been seen over the last couple of years but if you consider that pre-pandemic averages were below 200k per month, yesterday's reading was healthy.

What is not healthy is the labor force participation rate, which is struggling again to push to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, we're starting to see it roll over and back to the early 1970's levels which was a concern before and should be a concern now.

But are the people in need of financial support?

The above 2 graphs show that the level of insurance claims and unemployment benefits being dolled out are at manageable levels and show no concerning trends higher which would signal that those wanting to work were struggling to find work. Which makes the LFPR figures suggest that more people are retiring or just falling out of the system. Boomers will be coming into peak retirement age soon and that means Social Security spending will be on the rise, which feeds into GDP and deficit spending figures.

The latest Atlanta fed GDPNow estimates are still positive for US GDP but down over 1% from the peak reading in November. More fiscal spending and economic activity would put us back into the 4% but recent data has shown a slowdown in manufacturing via the ISM data (49.0 v's 49.7 exp and a contraction) and an increase in imports which is a drag on GDP.

Of course, this has all been engineered by the Federal Reserve to combat inflation. The idea is that by tightening monetary policy they would kill demand and risk a recession and increasing unemployment.

The CPI data shows that CPI, Core CPI, and Trimmed CPI have started to roll over and headline figures drop from their peaks. Median CPI has still to drop but looks to be slowing at least.

For a whole 12 months now, the eurodollar yield curve has had a worrying inversion. It started off ever so shallow in December 2021, but now as we enter the 12-month, we see that the fall-off in rates expectations in 2023 is steep/severe. This is not a healthy curve and is the market telling us that there will be a point in time when the Fed reverses the course of action because the Fed follows the markets.

The current probabilities for a rate hike are 78.2% in favor of a 50bps rate hike which would go along with the rhetoric from the Fed Chair this week.

Fed Chair Powell stated in his speech at the end of November 2022 that the Fed will be slowing down the rate hikes, which is the opposite of the speech in June 2021 where he said that the rate hike cycle would commence sooner rather than later. The above two charts show the Effective rate from the Fed versus forward short-term inflation rates. What we have seen in the past is that when the Fitted Instantaneous FWD rate crosses under the Market Yield on US Treasury Securities with a 2-year maturity, the EFFR tends to follow lower soon after. As you can see on the chart directly above, this has now occurred. And the eurodollar prophecy takes a step closer to being realised.

The US500 (S&P500) and US100 (Nasdaq100) charts are trending higher. The descending trendline on the US500 which originated around the time the Fed began to raise rates has been tested this week, specifically on the date of Fed chair Powell's speech. It proved to be resistance but for most traders, this will not hold and there will be upside potential for those that held from the October lows. The US100 showed an inverse head & shoulders pattern that developed and was completed from October to November this year. We now have upward targets that could push price action to the September swing highs and possibly the April swing high.

To back up the bullish sentiment in the benchmark and tech indices we saw that of the 100 companies within the Nasdaq over 50% of them are now trading above their 200 daily moving average. For the S&P500 this figure is above 60%.

The US dollar index has been falling these last couple of months as traders started pricing in the possible reduction in rate hikes and we took out a decent liquidity level yesterday at $104. This has helped commodity prices and major forex crosses regain some lost ground. However, I am of the belief that some of the previous strength in the US dollar came from the sales and exports of US oil. The latest EIA data shows a record level of exports this week just gone. So we could see a slowdown in the depreciation of the greenback. The lower the dollar goes the more likely we are to get an acceleration in the appreciation of the Nasdaq and other major indices.

The biggest drag on the Nasdaq etc. this year has to be the amount of taxation we saw. Thankfully this level has come off its peak and has also broken the rising trend of taxation. This is a very good development.

As mentioned before the labor force participation rate could be signaling the increase in US citizens retiring from the jobs markets. And my thesis is that this will increase Social Security spending in 2023. If we do not see a repeat of high tax in 2023 but see the amount of spending going up, we should not witness the same drag on the economy as we did in April 2022 and September 2022. The US is a deficit-spending economy as it consumes more than it exports and the government spends on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Defense to whatever degree is needed.

After the massive April tax drain, we have also seen an increase in the number of loans and credit being generated which has helped the US economy grow and at this moment there is no signal to suggest that there is a credit crunch occurring which would lead to a recession.

To conclude, for all of the doom and gloom mongers out there, anyone who is currently bullish and long the markets is in a good place. The longer this trend continues the higher the shorts will get squeezed and then we get into the FOMO longs etc. For a quick look at what you should be doing, just do the opposite of the dumb money as seen in the AAII weekly report, or wait for some of the signals that I have pointed to as when the institutions have reversed course.

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