Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

The trend in US corporate profits is what you think it is

by Rebecca Wilder

The trend in US corporate profits is what you think it is

In my research for an article about the cross section of national income, I ran across this piece in Forbes by Tim Worstall. In this article, he uses proprietary Bloomberg and WSJ data for 2012 corporate offshore cash holdings to assess that corporate profits abroad are driving a reasonable share of the increase in the BEA’s measure of corporate profits: (see my post from Monday, or Ed Dolan’s post from June):

“there’s a simple enough explanation for at least part of it: simply globalisation.

Now what is it that we know about American companies and their profits? Something that has rather changed over the past decade or so? Yes, that’s right, we’re in a huge period of globalisation. So much so that US companies are now making very large profits outside the US economy. Apple AAPL -1.58% is making phones (or having made for it) in China and selling them in Europe. This isn’t, in any real sense, part of the US economy. The same goes for Google GOOG -1.53%, Microsoft MSFT -11.37% and however many other companies you want to study. Profits are being made offshore, out there in the global economy.”

But this is just wrong. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (see Table 12 of the BEA Q1 2013 release), aggregate corporate “rest of the world” profits – i.e., large US corporations with earnings abroad – declined $8.9 billion in 2012.

Tags: Comments (5) | |

Chart for the day: Growing on Imports

by Rebecca Wilder
Chart for the day: Growing on Imports
Or should I say barely contracting on imports. In the traditional sense, growth in imports does not make a whole lot of sense. Normal economies import and export things, such that statistical agencies subtract the dollar amount of things that are made in other economies but consumed domestically (imports) out of their tally of spending on goods and services (GDP) in order to avoid double counting items. So if I spend $20 on candy at store in some resort town – $9 on taffy made in Monterey, California and $11 on chocolate made in Belgium – the government only counts the $9 candy made in Monterey as part of US GDP.

If imports is the sole positive growth contribution for GDP, that’s tantamount to production falling on goods and services but we don’t want to double-count the drop in spending of imported goods when calculating GDP, so it’s added back.

Tags: , Comments (4) | |

Follow up to yesterday’s post: Euro area consumption and Investment in Q2 2013

by Rebecca Wilder 

Follow up to yesterday’s post: Euro area consumption and Investment in Q2 2013

Yesterday I illustrated the unsustainable accounting growth engine of imports occurring in the euro area (EA). Today I’ll present more of a forward looking analysis on private domestic demand within the euro area: consumption and investment. If current levels of real retail sales hold at the euro area level, then the contributions to growth in Q2 2013 will likely be ever so slightly healthier amid a pickup in private consumption.

Consumption Yesterday we received the May 2013 data on euro area real retail sales, of which the quarterly growth pattern (after revisions, which is very important because this index is heavily revised) has a 70% correlation with euro area real private consumption. A simple bivariate regression predicts that real consumption will grow 0.3% in the second quarter of 2013, holding all else equal and provided the level of real retail sales does not change in June. This would be a material increase from its meager 0.04% contribution to real GDP growth in Q1.

Tags: , Comments (0) | |

Unhealthy developments across the euro area labour market

by Rebecca Wilder

Unhealthy developments across the euro area labour market

There are many ways to define rebalancing within the euro area: relative prices, trade, productivity, unit labor costs, etc. I’d argue that one could see it in the employment data as well, although it will take a long time to work its way through. Basically, Spaniards should move to Germany and vice versa to enjoy higher income and lower input costs, respectively, when looking for work or planning a business. Well, a lucky 5,000 young Spaniards will get the chance for apprenticeship in Germany thanks to a recent deal between Germany and Spain. But with 770,100 Spaniards aged 15-24 unemployed in Spain, 5,000 German jobs is not going to go very far. So what’s happened to date?

Eurostat released its annual detailed report of the labour force in Europe. I dug around a bit and found some interesting stats. The gist of what I found is the following: employment in the periphery markets has plummeted with no seeming end in site. Notably, 2012 employment levels in Portugal and Greece are 299,000 and 356,000 lower than their respective 2000 levels.

Note: Please click on all charts for a closer look.

Tags: , , Comments (0) | |

Unemployment Rates Across the Euro Area – Tough Times in Key Markets

by Rebecca Wilder

Unemployment Rates Across the Euro Area – Tough Times in Key Markets

Today Eurostat released its unemployment rate figures for the month of August. The Euro area unemployment rate held firm at 11.4% for the third consecutive month. Spain still has the highest unemployment rate in the euro area, 25.1%, and Greece is catching up quickly, 24.4% (in June, which is the latest data point).
The chart below illustrates the level of the unemployment rate and its month-month change for the euro area 12 countries.

The periphery are under performing the average, with Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland leading the way. Internal devaluation, or driving up the unemployment rate to reduce relative prices with demand, is really taking its toll. Respectively, the unemployment rates in Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland are 178.9 ppt, 234.2 ppt, 93.9 ppt, and 212.5 ppt above their pre-crisis minimums (loosely defined since January 2008) – a simple average of 179.9 ppt above the joint minimum for these four countries. The average euro area 17 unemployment rate is just 56.2 ppt above its 7.3% pre-crisis minimum. Hard days in the periphery, to be sure. Against this backdrop, weekend protests in Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, and Rome are not a surprise.
I further point out the troubling trend in the French labor market, as the new government presents its fresh austerity budget for 2013.

This budget is highly dependent on tax revenue and positive growth momentum, which is likely to disappoint amid such deterioration in domestic demand. See Ambrose Evans-Pritchard on the expected budget impact.

cross posted with The Wilder View…Economonitors

Tags: , , Comments (0) | |

Policy transmission mechanism: Broken in Italy, better in Spain

by Rebecca Wilder

Policy transmission mechanism: Broken in Italy, better in Spain
Yesterday, the Financial Times reported that borrowing costs for small businesses in the periphery were rising relative to the core using the ECB’s release of July MFI interest rate data. I highlighted this point exactly on August 1 following Draghi’s now famous London speech, where he cautioned that monetary transmission mechanism is ‘hampered’.

As opposed to the FT, though, I would argue that the transmission mechanism is at least not getting worse in Spain and Portugal, and worsening in Italy. Italy is the only periphery economy (where data is made available) where the corporate borrowing costs are higher since the peak of corporate lending rates in the Euro area in July 2011.

The FT is wrong. It takes Spain as the case study and uses the incorrect corporate lending rate information. Specifically, according to the FT (bolded by RW):

The interest rate charged by banks on a corporate loan of up to €1m lasting between one and five years – which would typically be taken out by a small business – was 6.5 per cent in July in Spain, according to the ECB figures.

True, the rate on new business loans up to and including €1 mn with maturity of 1-5 years did see an average borrowing rate of 6.5% in July. However, corporate loans up to and including €1 mn with maturity of greater than 5 years saw a drop in borrowing costs of 1.4% in July to 5.17% . The 5.17% rate is the rate that should be quoted, rather than the 6.5% rate.

The 2012 Euro area stock of outstanding debt shows clearly that 57% of corporate loans had been made with maturity of greater than 5 years – the ECB provides no breakdown of loan data by maturity at the country level, so the FT must have been referring to the ECB’s Euro area data as the ‘typical loan’.

As demonstrated in the chart below, the story is much more complicated than the FT curtly portrays – it’s not just ‘Spain’ versus ‘Germany’. French corporate borrowing costs barely budged since July 2011. Furthermore, the corporate borrowing rates in Spain are improving rather materially compared to those in Italy and Portugal.

Italian corporate borrowing are up 0.67% since the peak of EA corporate lending rates in July 2011 (the ECB hiked its policy rate on July 13). Spanish corporates, on the other hand, saw corporate borrowing costs fall the most of all the periphery economies, -1.35% since July 2011.
As demonstrated in the illustration below, the core is benefiting largely from ECB rate cuts compared to the periphery (chart 1 below). However, on a 3-month moving average (the rates moves are pretty choppy in Spain), the transmission mechanism in Spain is improving relative to that Italy and Portugal (chart 2 below). Using the correct data, the FT should have included this information in their article.


Rebecca Wilder
The Wilder View…Economonitors

Tags: , , Comments (2) | |

Dutch Domestic Demand Dragging Real Home Values

by Rebecca Wilder

Dutch Domestic Demand Dragging Real Home Values

Today Statistics Netherlands (CBS) warned ”House Prices Nosedive“.

Prices of existing owner-occupied dwellings sold in July 2012 were on average 8.0 percent down from July 2011. This is the most substantial price drop since the price index of existing residential property was first recorded in 1995.

In real terms and indexed to 2005, home values are down 10.1% over the year in July and dropped 21.3% since the August 2007 peak.

What explains this real depreciation in home values? I’ll give you one chart: the unemployment rate.

The labor market is sinking, and taking with it household demand. Companies probably hoarded labor in the crisis – the peak to trough drop in GDP was 4.9% versus a 1.6% cyclical drop in employment around that period. However, in late 2011 employment peaked and unemployment is surging – the quarterly employment data through March 2012 indicate a peak was seen in Q3 2011.
On balance, the downtrend in Dutch home values is probably here to stay. FYI: the balance sheet of Dutch households and non-profits is roughly 2.5 times levered.

Rebecca Wilder

http://www.economonitor.com/rebeccawilder/2012/08/21/domestic-demand-dragging-real-home-values-in-the-netherlands/

Tags: , Comments (1) | |

The NY Times Is Misleading. And Who Is Correct? Eurostat or China Customs?

The NY Times Is Misleading. And Who Is Correct? Eurostat or China Customs?

by Rebecca Wilder

The NY Times reports quite a dire situation as regards the slump in the value of Chinese exports to the European Union in July:

Data published this month showed that China’s exports to the European Union had sunk 16.2 percent in July to $29.4 billion, compared with July 2011.

This statistic (bolded by yours truly) is misleading.

First, China Customs measures exports in nominal dollars. If you look at Chinese exports measured in, let’s say euros, it doesn’t look quite as bad. In July, exports to the European Union (EU 27) dropped -3.6% over the year measured in euros versus a -16.2% annual decline measured in dollars. The dollar appreciated against the euro over the measurement period so the drop in China’s exports to the EU 27 is much lower in euros.

Note: This is only an approximation since I use the average monthly exchange rate, which is unlikely to align perfectly with China Customs’ measurement period.

An interesting corollary to the FX impact on ‘value’ statistics is the various statistical agencies that report presumably the same statistic. Eurostat publishes import data by partner and in euros. Using the average exchange rate over the month, I calculate the value of EU 27 imports from China reported in dollars for comparison to the China Customs data. Eurostat data is available only through June.
In June, Eurostat reports that EU 27 imports from China dropped -11.1% measured in dollars compared to the reported -1.1% annual reduction in exports from China to the EU 27 by China Customs. Clearly the trend is downward; but the Eurostat data only loosely matches the China Customs data. Balance of payments statistics are subject to large ”errors and omissions”.

Note: In the chart below, Eurostat data is illustrated in the series “EU imports from China”, while China Customs data is illustrated in the series “Exports to EU”.

So who’s right? Eurostat or China Customs? Part of the differentiation involves the timing of the FX moves (remember I use the monthly averages); but that is unlikely the full story here. I’d err on the side of Eurostat, and notice the trend looks pretty bad no matter who’s estimating the trade data.

Rebecca Wilder

cross posted with  The Wilder View…Economonitors

Tags: , , , Comments (1) | |

It’s the Exchange Rate, Stupid

by Rebecca Wilder

It’s the Exchange Rate, Stupid

Eurostat released trade figures today, where the trade balance (exports less imports) surged €3.7 bn in the month of June (link to the .pdf release). The current figures imply a 2012 annualized trade balance of €66.9 bn, which is a meaningful boost to the -€7.4 bn deficit in 2011.

Eurostat breaks down the regional figures further into intra-Euro area (intra-EA) trade and extra-Euro area (extra-EA) trade.

Out of the EA 16, June intra-EA figures are available for just a few countries. Of those countries, the intra-EA trade balance improved in Portugal only, increasing by 0.26 ppt as a share of GDP on the month. From June 2011 to June 2012, where available, otherwise June 2011 to May 2012 (see Table above), the intra-EA rebalancing – i.e., roughly raising the balance of the net-importers and reducing the surplus of the net-exporters – has occurred to a certain degree. Net trade as a share of country GDP fell in Germany, and rose in Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal. France and Ireland worsened their positions, while the Netherlands increased its large trade surplus of 25.1% of GDP over the year.


Except in Portugal and Greece, the intra-EA ‘rebalancing’ is either not necessarily required due to the relatively low imbalances, Spain or Germany, or moving in the wrong direction, France or the Netherlands.
June extra-EA figures are available for all countries. With the help of the real depreciation of the trade-weighted euro over the month, the extra-EA trade balance improved in June across all EA 16 countries except for Ireland, where it fell by 0.2 ppt of GDP. Over the year through June, all countries except the Netherlands saw an improvement in the trade balance as a share of GDP (see Table above).

Given the strong positive momentum in extra-EA net trade and the sluggish shift in intra-EA net trade, I conclude that it’s the depreciation of the real exchange – the 12.7% nominal depreciation of the euro against the dollar, for example, and/or falling relative price levels with extra-EA economies – that’s the primary driver of the improving trade balances in key periphery markets. With the strong exception of Portugal, where the intra-EA balance improved by 2.6 ppt of GDP over the year, the internal (infernal) devaluation of repressing wages through high unemployment has mixed results at best.

Rebecca Wilder

Note: I understand the imbalances lie in the financial accounts as well but this post is dedicated to trade only.
A point on the data: all numbers are seasonally adjusted.

cross posted with The Wilder View…Economonitors

Tags: , , Comments (1) | |

France is Stuck in the Mud

by Rebecca Wilder

According to the Eurostat flash estimate, Euro area GDP fell by 0.2% in both the euro area and the EU27 in the second quarter of 2012. In the first quarter of 2012, growth rates were 0.0% in both zones. On balance, the Euro area is very likely in recession despite the fact that the region successfully skirted the “two negative quarters of growth” rule of recession dating having stagnated in Q1 2012 following a 0.3% contraction in Q4 2011.

The underlying country GDP estimates for Q2, released by the various statistical agencies, do illustrate a deep divide among the growth prospects across the 17-country Euro area in Q2 2012. Here is a select list of reported growth results (all for Q2 2012 in % Q/Q not annualized):

Germany, +0.3%
France , +0.0%
Netherlands, +0.2%
Spain, -0.4%
Italy, -0.7%
Portugal, -1.2%

The French flash release, in particular, caught my eye: “No growth for the third consecutive quarter” is what INSEE titled its publication. The French economy has effectively stalled. Using Eurostat data, the economy has grown just 0.09% (the unrevised numbers) since July 2011. And since Q2 2011, the economy grew just 0.3%. In all, the economy is not technically in recession but it certainly isn’t expanding. To me, the question is, will it go up or down from here?

Compared to history, the current expansion in France has been nothing short of pathetic. Stuck in the mud.

Note: In the chart above, the French dating of business cycles is taken from the OECD, which is available through the FRED database. In the legend, those dates with a (2) indicate short recoveries with an ensuing recession (1 recession and 1 expansion with the same number of quarters as the 2009-2012 expansion). Therefore, the graphs are truncated when the next recession started over the period.

Rebecca Wilder

Tags: , , Comments (11) | |