Capital Brief: Can Trump Beat Back The Three-Headed Monster?

Takeaway: Trump's Triple Threat; Slow Bern; Clinton's Comfort Zone

Editor's Note: Below is a brief excerpt from Hedgeye Potomac Chief Political Strategist JT Taylor's Capital Brief sent to institutional clients each morning. For more information on how you can access our institutional research please email


Capital Brief: Can Trump Beat Back The Three-Headed Monster? - JT   Potomac under 1 mb


It’s been exactly one year since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president and through many highs and more lows than anyone ever expected, he finds himself on the ropes again. Seven out of ten Americans give Trump unfavorable marks beating out Hillary Clinton’s high negatives by a healthy margin - and Clinton is now up 8-12 points over Trump in the general election.


Negative views of Trump are rising among a number of groups, jumping by double digits among liberals and conservatives, and among both Republican women and Democratic men. Even Republican leadership is scratching their heads and dodging questions regarding the presumptive nominee as the Republican party image faces historic lows.


Trump faces major challenges on three fronts: Clinton and the Dems, the media, and his fellow Republicans. He now has one month left to win over the Republicans and stanch the bleeding as the threat of a three-headed monster will be too difficult to overcome this fall.


In the beginning, few believed Bernie Sanders was a serious challenger to Clinton, but when the dust settled, Sanders won 23 primaries and more than 12 million votes, all while energizing progressives with calls for a political uprising. Sanders, who has spent most of his political career on the sidelines, is now a major symbol and is expected to play a feature role at July’s convention. He’s vowed to help Clinton defeat Trump and shepherd his supporters her way - but don’t forget to read the terms and conditions. Sanders will take his time before endorsing while aggressively pushing his leftist policy agenda to Clinton, party leaders and convention power brokers.


Despite her success, Clinton ran a rather uneven primary failing to understand and then extinguish the Sanders threat from the onset. Her victory speech after CA marked a turning point and now, on top of an multi-million dollar advertising assault, robust voter turnout, and her prudent response to the tragedy in Orlando, Clinton is becoming more comfortable with her message and her measured attacks on Trump. She’s engaging the people and opening up more on the trail - but still needs to inject much-needed confidence back into party, win over Independents and doubtful voters.

Cartoon of the Day: Brexit

Cartoon of the Day: Brexit - Brexit cartoon 06.16.2016


A few catalysts to keep an eye on: 

  1. The Fed (Yellen went dovish yesterday and equities turned red on that into the close)
  2. Brexit (what if they do exit?)
  3. Mean Reversion and performance chasing

Investors Losing Faith In Flippant Fed

Investors Losing Faith In Flippant Fed - Fed birdbrain cartoon 06.15.2015


For those of you keeping score, this year the Fed has shocked markets pivoting from hawkish to dovish a dizzying number of times. Here's the rundown:


Hawkish, December

Dovish, March

Hawkish, May

Dovish, June


Investors Losing Faith In Flippant Fed - Hawk dove cartoon 06.06.2016


Investors are justifiably frazzled and have scrambled to keep up with all the flip-flopping. When Yellen went hawkish in May, during a speech at Harvard University, she remarked that investors should "probably" expect a rate hike in the coming months.


Taking the Fed chair at her word, investors thought there was a greater than 50% chance the Fed would hike rates in July (see below). 


Today, markets think that possibility is essentially zero.


Click image to enlarge

Investors Losing Faith In Flippant Fed - rate hike prob 6 16


What's happening here?


Well, the Fed revised its dot plot (which shows each participant's expectations for future rate hikes). Interestingly, six Fed officials now see just one rate hike in 2016 versus just one participant suggesting as much in March. 


Investors Losing Faith In Flippant Fed - fed dot plog


It was quite the about-face for most FOMC members. As we noted earlier this week, San Francisco Fed head John Williams was publically calling for up to five rate hikes at the outset of this year. 


Then reality set in.


Here's what central planners have failed to fix:



(To name a few...)


And yet, here's the lead in yesterday's FOMC statement:


"Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in April indicates that the pace of improvement in the labor market has slowed while growth in economic activity appears to have picked up."


That's simply not true which is why we'll reiterate once again...


Fade Rosy Fed Forecasts

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Drake: Why The Central Planning #BeliefSystem Is Breaking Down



In this excerpt from The Macro Show, Hedgeye Senior Macro analyst Christian Drake gives subscribers a brief tutorial on one of our top three Macro Themes.

NEWSFLASH: The Central Planning #BeliefSystem Is Breaking Down

Takeaway: The dollar is strengthening & U.S. equities are selling off after Yellen & Co went dovish yesterday. The #BeliefSystem is breaking down.

NEWSFLASH: The Central Planning #BeliefSystem Is Breaking Down - central bank cartoon 04.22.2016


It's happening.


Make no mistake. The #BeliefSystem that central planners can arrest economic gravity is breaking down. That's what we said in our 80-slide 2Q Macro Themes deck, released in April, and that's precisely what's playing out in macro markets today.


Despite dovish Fed rhetoric yesterday, the U.S. dollar is strengthening and equity markets are selling off, in direct opposition to Yellen & Co's intent.



Meanwhile, policymakers at the Bank of Japan have watched the Yen strengthen today too, with the JPYUSD cross hitting year-to-date highs, and the Nikkei self-destructing (it lost 3% today alone).


Keep in mind that Yen strength came after the BOJ announced today that it will continue to conduct open market operations at an annual pace of 80 trillion yen ($760 billion) and is maintaining its negative interest rate policy.



Here's additional analysis from Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough in a note sent to subscribers earlier today:


"They’re really out on the central banking #BeliefSystem in Japan – on the heels of reiterating 80T (T = Trillion Yen), the Yen ramped +1.7% (vs USD) to yet another YTD high, and the Nikkei continued to crash, -3.1% overnight (-7.2% on the week) and -26.1% from last year’s cycle peak in Global Equities (July)"


Take a look at a chart of the Yen:



And here's the Nikkei crash. Not good...



Need to understand the #BeliefSystem breakdown fast?


Here's the full description from our 2Q Macro Themes deck:


Click to enlarge

NEWSFLASH: The Central Planning #BeliefSystem Is Breaking Down - q2 macro themes


We're reiterating that call this morning.


We'll leave you with this brief message from CEO Keith McCullough:



More to come.



NEWSFLASH: The Central Planning #BeliefSystem Is Breaking Down - central banker house of cards

Hedgeye Guest Contributor | Thornton: My Scary Chart Revisited

Editor's Note: Below is a Hedgeye Guest Contributor research note written by Dr. Daniel Thornton. During his 33-year career at the St. Louis Fed, Thornton served as vice president and economic advisor. He currently runs D.L. Thornton Economics, an economic research consultancy. 


A brief note on our contributor policy. While this column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Hedgeye, suffice to say, more often than not we concur with our contributors. In the piece below, Thornton asks and answers a key question:


"Are the increases in equity and house prices since the end of the last recession (June 2009) due to economic fundamentals and are therefore sustainable, or are they excessive and, therefore, not sustainable?"


Hedgeye Guest Contributor | Thornton: My Scary Chart Revisited - Bubble bath 9.9.14


Two readers, an old friend and a friend and former colleague, suggested that the trend line in my graph might be somewhat less scary if I had estimated it over the entire sample rather than the period 1973Q1 to 1994Q4. One of the two also asked why I calculated the ratio using disposable income rather than GDP. Another reader asked whether the most recent rise in household net worth could be due to an increase in personal saving. I decided I should look into these issues. Here’s what I found.


Graph 1 below is the scary graph I presented in My Scary Chart, with a trend line estimated over theentire sample added. The new trend line (red) does suggest that the and real estate bubbles were slightly smaller relative to trend. However, there is no meaningful difference for the recent rise in household net worth. I did not choose the 73-94 period deliberately to make things look bad. I chose it because 1973 is about when the series stopped trending down and early 1995 is the when the NASDAQ and other equity price indices began rising more rapidly.


Hedgeye Guest Contributor | Thornton: My Scary Chart Revisited - thornton my scary


Graph 2 shows the ratio (not in percentage) of household net worth to GDP. The graph is very similar to Graph 1, except the ratio is necessarily smaller because disposable income is much smaller than GDP. Relative to Graph 1, the trend line over the 73-94 period makes things look even more scary than Graph 1. The trend line over the entire sample makes things look less scary, but things still look pretty scary.


These graphs are more scary during the recent period when one realizes that the large increase in net worth occurred during a period of slow output growth: The economy grew at a 2.1% rate since 2010Q1, much slower than the 3.1% rate during the period 73- 94; a period marked by four recessions, two of which were both long and deep.


Hedgeye Guest Contributor | Thornton: My Scary Chart Revisited - thornton my scary 2


The most recent period has also been marked by anemic inflation; 1.5% compared with 5.2% for the 73-94 period (the PCE index less food and energy). In short, while the economy and inflation have been muddling along, equity and house prices have been booming—there’s no lack of inflation in house or equity prices.


Let’s see whether it is likely that the recent rise in household net worth relative to disposable income is due to an increase in saving. Graph 3 shows personal saving as a percent of disposable income from 1959Q1 to 2015Q4. The percentage increased from 1959 to the mid-1970s. It peaked at 15% in 1975Q2.


From the mid-1970s to the beginning of the financial crisis, the saving rate declined pretty steadily to about 2.6%. The saving rate then rose to a peak of 9.2% in 2012 Q4 only to fall precipitously to about 5.2% where it remains. The increase in saving since the end of the financial crisis is relatively small and short lived. Hence, it seems unlikely that it resulted in an accumulation of net worth sufficient to account for the 100 percentage point increase in net worth.


Hedgeye Guest Contributor | Thornton: My Scary Chart Revisited - thornton my scary 3


Even more compelling is the fact that the saving rate has decline since the mid-1970s while household net worth has increased. The negative relationship between the personal saving rate and household net worth as a percent of disposable income is consistent with households becoming increasingly leveraged—they borrowed more and saved less. Americans aren’t saving too much—they’re saving too little.


So we’ve learned that no matter how you slice it or dice it, my scary graph is still pretty scary. We know that it is extremely unlikely that the recent rise in household net worth, or for that matter, the previous two rises, were not due to households saving more. We also know what happened the last two times that household net worth rose to such heights. We also know that the recent rise in net worth is largely due to large increases in equity and house prices.


So the question is: Are the increases in equity and house prices since the end of the last recession (June 2009) due to economic fundamentals and are therefore sustainable, or are they excessive and, therefore, not sustainable? Several people have suggested that equity prices do not appear to be “out of line” based on PE ratios or other criterion.


When trying to decide which of these is correct, it is useful to keep in mind that there were people saying the same things in October 1929 and October 1987, and February 2000. Indeed, most were betting that stocks were not overvalued right up to the time when the market crashed.


Likewise, most were betting that subprime loans were not “junk” right up to the time when they couldn’t sell them. The few who were betting they were junk did very well. The truth is that no one knows for sure.


But I believe the most recent rise in net worth is also unsustainable. Here are some reasons why in no particular order:


  1. House prices have been rising during a period when economic growth is weak, inflation is low, interest rates are ridiculously low, and the Fed’s theoretically flawed QE policy (see Requiem for QE) helped keep the housing stock from adjusting completely.
  2. The Fed’s zero interest rate policy has distorted the allocation of economic resources and incentivized excessive risk taking.
  3. The rise in net worth is being driven by a rise in asset prices, not by an increase in real capital. I see no way for the net worth to remain at its current level, let alone increase beyond this level.


Conclusion: Household net worth as a percent of disposable income will fall back closer to, if not below, trend. The question is: Will it fall precipitously as it did in 2000 and 2007, or will it decline slowly over time?

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