The U.S. auto industry is a very important economic driver. Sales have risen for eight straight years, last year setting a new record of 17.55 million vehicles. Much of what the Federal Reserve sees as an economic recovery is really the upturn in the car industry since the bailout of GM in 2009.
As you know, dear reader, I have been following the pension issue for the last year. Here are just some recent headlines: from Texas, “Without a Fix, Teacher Healthcare Fund is Empty Next Year”, from Modesto, California “City Considers Freeze on Hiring and Promotions as Pension Costs Loom”, and “Emotions Run High as Kentucky Retirement Systems Pension Hole Grows.” These stories go on and on and on.
Record auto sales have been propped for up for years by low interest rates, loosening auto lending standards with terms being stretched to the max and a wave of leases, all of which have allowed the American consumer to trade up to more expensive vehicles while maintaining low monthly payments.
Yesterday we got the latest numbers (February) for Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE), the Fed’s favourite price inflation measure. It’s their favourite because it does the best job of suppressing the real rate of inflation.
If you don’t want to know something, don’t ask the question.
The traditional Investment Banking equity research model is about to undergo a radical transformation. New regulations set to go into effect in 2018 in Europe require Investment Banks to break out the pricing of equity research charged to their buy side clients so that clients can be billed for research directly rather than paying indirectly through inflated commissions.
We have been waiting for the Trump narrative to exhaust itself so that real news can be taken seriously again. Yesterday, we may have got the first signs of that exhaustion.
The S&P500 Index (SPX) is once again flirting with its 20 day moving average which has defined underlying support for the SPX since the current rally began with the Trump election victory. The SPX has not had consecutive daily closes below its 20 dma (the blue line in the following chart) since early November; it has touched its 20 dma numerous times but closed below it only once. The pattern continued last week when the SPX rebounded after trading just below its 20 dma on Thursday.
On Wednesday of this week, the U.S. has a debt ceiling again. Since the deal between Speaker John Boehner and President Obama in October of 2015, the debt ceiling has been suspended, allowing the President to borrow as much as he wanted. Not anymore. Now the Treasury will be limited to borrowing no more than what is outstanding on March 15th, approximately $20 trillion, unless Congress ups the limit.