The Hoisington Quarterly Review and Outlook is one of the
cornerstones of my reading on where the economy is headed. Van
Hoisington and Lacy Hunt do a masterful job of turning data points into
cogent, well-argued themes.
This month they waste no time in dissecting the Fed’s recent move to QE3 and similar efforts in Europe, arriving at the conclusion that “While prices for risk assets have improved, governments have not been able to address underlying debt imbalances. Thus, nothing suggests that these latest actions do anything to change the extreme over-indebtedness of major global economies.”
Their expectation: global recession. The only issue left to sort out, they say, is How deep will the downturn be?
They make the interesting observation that with each injection of liquidity by the Fed, commodity prices have surged: “During QE1 & QE2 wholesale gasoline prices jumped 30% and 37%, respectively, and the Goldman Sachs Commodity Food Index (GSCI-Food) rose 7% and 22%, respectively. From the time the press reported that the Fed was moving toward QE3, both gasoline and the GSCI Food index jumped by 19%, through the end of the 3rd quarter.”
The QE picture gets even muddier. The unintended consequence of the Fed’s actions, say Lacy and Van, has been to actually slow economic activity: “The CPI rose significantly in QE1 and QE2 (Chart 1). These price increases had a devastating effect on worker's incomes (Chart 2). Wages did not immediately respond to commodity price changes; therefore, there was an approximate 3% decline in real average hourly earnings in both instances. It is true that stock prices also rose along with commodity prices (S&P plus 36% and 24%, respectively, in QE1 and QE2). However, median households hold a small portion of equities, and thus received minimal wealth benefit.”
They proceed to tear apart the wealth effect that the Fed is banking on to restimulate the economy, drawing on several solid studies. They also make the key point that “When the Fed actions lead to higher food and fuel prices, the shock wave reverberates around the world, with many foreign economies being hit adversely. When prices of basic necessities rise, the greatest burden is on those with the lowest incomes since more of their budget is allocated to the basic necessities such as food and fuel.”
The next few years are not going to be pretty. We’re looking right into the teeth of a rolling global deleveraging recession—the End Game, I’ve called it. And the decisions we make in the next couple years about how to handle our debts and budget deficits—here in the U.S., in Europe, in China and Japan, and elsewhere—are going to be absolutely crucial.
Hoisington Investment Management Company (www.hoisingtonmgt.com) is a registered investment advisor specializing in fixed-income portfolios for large institutional clients. Located in Austin, Texas, the firm has over $4 billion under management, composed of corporate and public funds, foundations, endowments, Taft-Hartley funds, and insurance companies.
My daughter Abbi is coming into town tonight from Tulsa with her fiancé, and most of the family will gather over the weekend for dinners and fun. And her twin Amanda is expecting, so another grandchild is in the future as well. Family and friends are among the few permanent fixtures in a world that seems to change almost weekly.
I was with Pat Cox of Breakthrough Technology Alert on Tuesday night. We watched the debate and then went deep into the night talking about the future. And got up the next day and did the same between meetings. We ended up doing a tag team that night for Hedge Fund Cares, which raised a lot of money to help abused children. I talked about the global landscape (which was not so upbeat) and he talked about the changes we see in the biotech world; and we then both answered questions, which was more fun, as we got to think about the marvelous the future that is shaping up. Such totally amazing things are happening. I am really quite the optimist over the longer term.
Have a great weekend, and look for your next Thoughts from the Frontline in your inbox Monday.
Your bullish on the future but bearish on governments analyst,
Outside the Box
Quarterly Review and Outlook
Third Quarter 2012