Federal Reserve | timiacono.com - Part 4

U.S. Debt and Equities Since 1981

Doug Noland’s weekly commentary that provided some hard numbers to back up Bill Gross’ recent claim that the end may be nigh for the global financial system as we know it seemed to just be crying out for someone to make a stacked bar chart or two, so, voila!

Of course, for data points that span 33 years, you have to somehow adjust this to take into account population growth and inflation. Looking at stocks and bonds as a percentage of GDP seems like the right thing to do here, so, again, voila!

Less dramatic, to be sure, but equally disturbing when you think about it.

I mean, what, aside from the grotesque multi-decade expansion and current size of the global financial system itself, is so different between 1981 and 2014.

Much Ado About German Bond Yields

Funny things happen in math when you work with very small numbers very close to zero and, since bond yields have been in that range for some time now but have recently been heading higher, the financial media is fascinated by this, either because they’re bored with what’s going on in the world and are amusing themselves in any way they can or they simply don’t understand that this sort of math is just silly (granted, it’s not silly if you bought European bonds two months ago and now want to sell, but that’s not the point here).

A good example of this kind of silly math is to calculate a P/E ratio for a stock with infinitesimally small (but non-zero) earnings where the result is an unusually large number – say, a P/E of 10,200. Of course if you had divided by zero (which is, effectively what you’re doing here), you get something like #DIV/O! or “Cannot divide by zero”, but this doesn’t stop people from doing it when it’s not zero, but very close to zero.

Anyway, the recent ascent of bond yields in general and German bond yields in particular has attracted quite a bit of attention lately for reasons that should be obvious when looking at the chart below via investing.com.

Any time you get this big of a move away from zero, all kinds of crazy math results such as that contained in German Bond Investors Just Lost 25 Years of Yield in 14 Days at Bloomberg and people are just fascinated by it.

Q2 GDPNow Now Available

Much is being made about how yesterday’s report of a widening U.S. trade deficit in March has pushed first quarter economic growth into negative territory, from a rate of +0.2 percent to somewhere around -0.5 percent (subject to further revisions).

Naturally, analysts think things will improve as we head toward summer, but it’s worth looking at what the Atlanta Fed’s GDP Now measure has to say about Q2 growth, seeing as they nailed it in Q1 as noted here last week.

Of course, there’s not a whole lot of data available for the second quarter yet – the April ISM Manufacturing Index is about it as far as I can tell from the Atlanta Fed website.

Nonetheless, their forecast is based on something, rather than the perpetually optimistic outlook from most economists and other analysts in the “Blue Chip consensus” who, collectively, missed the Q1 growth rate by a country mile.

This story at The Nation about Baltimore’s economic ills that have led to this city being the country’s latest hotspot on police conduct and inequality points to a Pew Research poll from a couple of years ago that provides the following take on how vastly different household assets and debts are between blacks and whites in the U.S.

Note that these are averages, not medians, and the latter would show a much more accurate picture of the “typical” black or white American.

Nonetheless, the asset-to-debt ratios and the components of each offer compelling evidence of just how broad the economic/financial divide currently is between races.

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