“The markets’ responses to the latest US Federal Reserve Board’s interest rate and balance sheet decisions were telling…
“The nature of the Fed’s announcements – a majority of the members of its Open Market Committee expect no rate increases this year and the Fed plans to end the shrinking of its balance sheet by the start of October – ought to have been positive for the stock market. Instead the Dow Jones index ended more than half a percentage point down…
“There is a fundamental reason why what might previously have been regarded as good news by the markets (equity investors don’t like rising interest rates because they make bonds more attractive) wasn’t embraced enthusiastically by the markets.
“That’s because the Fed’s expectations of where rates might be at the end of this year and, indeed, in 2020, are based on its assessment of the economic outlook for the US. It’s not bullish…
“The impact of the tax cuts for business and wealthy individuals is waning; the trade policies have punctured China’s growth rate, slowed growth in the global economy and damaged the profitability and competitiveness of trade-exposed US businesses; US companies used the tax cuts to buy back their shares rather than invest, and consumer confidence and spending are faltering.
“With Trump saying the US tariffs on China’s exports will remain in place “for a substantial period of time” until China shows it is complying with the terms of the trade deal now being negotiated, the likelihood an early end to the damage being down to the world’s two largest economies is receding.
“With the Federal funds rate set within an historically low range of 2.25 per cent to 2.5 per cent and the balance sheet massively expanded relative to pre-crisis levels, the US financial system remains awash with cheap liquidity.
“Those are not settings that would reflect the super-charged growth targets Trump said he could deliver. Instead the Fed’s sudden shift in thinking and policies ought to have him worried about his re-election prospects and the rest of us worried about an even more significant global slowdown.”
“The worst agricultural downturn since the 1980s is taking its toll on the emotional well-being of American farmers. In Kentucky, Montana and Florida, operators at Farm Aid’s hotline have seen a doubling of contacts for everything from financial counseling to crisis assistance.
“In Wisconsin, Dale Meyer has started holding monthly forums in the basement of his Loganville church following the suicide of a fellow parishioner, a farmer who’d fallen on hard times. In Minnesota, rural counselor Ted Matthews says he’s getting more and more calls.”
“Are you sitting down for this? According to a recent survey, one in five American adults have nothing saved for retirement or emergencies. A further 20 percent have squirreled away only 5 percent or less of their annual income to meet certain financial goals.
“Less than a third of all Americans have saved at least 11 percent or more.”
“US tariffs on Chinese imports could remain in place for a “substantial period of time”, even extending beyond the reaching of a trade deal between Washington and Beijing, US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday.
““We’re talking about leaving [the tariffs] for a substantial period of time because we have to make sure that if we do the deal with China, that China lives by the deal,” Trump told reporters outside the White House.”
“China’s rising unemployment adds to the economic woes of a shrinking labour force, which had declined every year since its 2011 peak to 897.3 million in 2018, with 775.9 million people employed.
“That puts pressure on the government to create 11 million new jobs this year to cap the surveyed urban unemployment rate at around 5.5 per cent and registered unemployment rate within 4.5 per cent.”
“Iranian leaders vowed on Thursday to control soaring prices, bring stability to the national currency and create jobs as the nation marked the end of a year of economic crisis fuelled by renewed U.S. sanctions.
“Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a new year speech that the Islamic Republic successfully resisted the U.S. sanctions, and called on the government to boost national production to face enemy pressures.”
“The United Nation’s high commissioner for human rights said Wednesday that recent U.S. sanctions that are aimed to topple Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro threaten to deepen the nation’s crisis.
“Commissioner Michelle Bachelet told the Human Rights Council of the U.N. that Venezuela’s “pervasive and devastating economic and social crisis” started before the U.S. first levied sanctions.”
“Rates have been at the historic low for a year and the bank gave no indication of plans to cut them any time soon despite slowing growth. The decision disappointed the powerful National Confederation of Industries, which issued a statement saying “the weak performance of economic activity shows that Brazil must reduce rates.”
“Brazil’s economy is still bearing the scars of the record recession in 2015-2016, with growth barely above one percent in the past two years. Recent economic indicators, though, show signs of a contraction in 2019.”
“Rolling power cuts that are blighting South African business and bringing the country’s streets to a grinding halt may continue indefinitely, the minister responsible for the nation’s bankrupt power company has warned.
“Lengthy blackouts were imposed across Africa’s most industrialised economy for a sixth day as the demand for power outstripped supply. Pravin Gordhan, the public enterprise minister, admitted to “a huge struggle ahead of us to overcome this crisis”.”
“The political wrangling over the past months has alarmed donors who have kept Tunisia afloat with loans granted in exchange for a promise of reforms such as cutting a bloated public service. The president’s son has accused Chahed of failing to tackle high inflation, unemployment and other problems.
“…since 2011, nine cabinets have failed to resolve Tunisia’s economic problems, which include high inflation and unemployment, and impatience is rising among lenders such as the International Monetary Fund.”
“Amid Haiti’s ongoing political and economic crisis and a mere six months after the government of Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant was sworn into office, the lower chamber of deputies dismissed the newly formed government by a vote of 93 in favour, six against, while three abstained.
“Lower Chamber President Gary Bodeau noted that neither Céant nor any of his cabinet ministers were present.”
“As Yemen’s war grinds into its fifth year with peace efforts stalling, ten-year-old Afaf’s father sees little hope he will be able to give his starving daughter the food or healthcare she needs.
“Across Yemen’s remote mountain villages, the country’s war-induced economic crisis has left parents like Hussein Abdu destitute, hungry and watching their children waste away from malnutrition and unclean water.”
“One of the UK’s major toilet tissue importers has been stockpiling to ensure it can maintain supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit. German-owned Wepa has stockpiled an extra 600 tonnes of finished product, or about 3.5m rolls, in UK warehouses.
“UK boss Mike Docker said Wepa was now chartering ships to import materials, rather than use trucks. Last week, Morrisons’ chief executive said the supermarket had seen an increase in demand for toilet paper. David Potts speculated it might be related to people stockpiling goods ahead of the end of the March deadline for the UK to leave the EU.”
“Banks and other financial companies are shifting more assets and jobs out of the United Kingdom as the country lurches towards Brexit.
“Financial services companies in Britain have announced plans to move £1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) into the European Union, according to consultancy EY. That’s up from an earlier estimate of £800 billion ($1.1 trillion).”
“The European Union now has the lowest average number of primary dealers since the global financial crisis, trading body AFME said on Wednesday, as falling turnover in government bond markets have depressed trading revenues.”
“Economic conditions around the globe are steadily getting worse, and FedEx has slashed its revenue forecast for the second time this year with its Chief Financial Officer directly citing the faltering global economy…
“…as the global economy continues to deteriorate, we could quickly have a giant mess on our hands, because the global financial system is far more vulnerable today than it was in 2008.”