Politics, Policy, Economics - Since 2010

A core economic indicator I have continually improving since November 2016 has been confidence. Animal spirits blowing strong.  See —> A...

What Do Firms Think About The New Tax Law?





A core economic indicator I have continually improving since November 2016 has been confidence. Animal spirits blowing strong. 

See —> AtlantaFed Post 
Atlanta Macroblog Post

Gold prices experienced some volatility in recent weeks, with upward pressures sending them higher by mid-February, followed by a p...

Precious Metals: Outlook March 2018




Gold prices experienced some volatility in recent weeks, with upward pressures sending them higher by mid-February, followed by a price moderation at the end of the month as competing downward pressures strengthened. On 9 March, gold closed the trading day at USD 1,322 per troy ounce, which was 0.7% higher than on the same day in February. The price was 9.9% higher than on the same day last year and was up 1.4% on a year-to-date basis. The moderation at the end of February was led by a strengthening U.S. dollar, expected tightening in global interest rates and subdued retail demand in India. Nevertheless, fears of a potential trade war followed U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to place import tariff s on steel and aluminum, supporting demand for gold, as it both increased the precious metal’s appeal as a hedge against uncertainty compared to U.S. bonds and equities, and put downward pressure on the U.S. dollar. In addition, gold demand in most Asian hubs was robust in recent weeks as activity increased following regional holidays. However, strong U.S. jobs data posted on 9 March limited gold’s gains. FocusEconomics analysts see gold prices moderating marginally in the coming quarters then bouncing back gradually in 2019. Competing pressures arising from the global geopolitical climate and developments in trade relations should continue to support demand, while monetary policy tightening in major economies is expected to weigh on the asset’s appeal. FocusEconomics analysts project gold prices to average USD 1,305 per troy ounce in Q4 2019. In 2019, gold prices are expected to rise, averaging USD 1,343 per troy ounce in Q4.

Silver prices were up slightly over the last month in the first week of March after losing ground at the outset of February. They recovered in recent days due to upbeat industrial demand amid a stronger global economic picture. On 9 March, silver closed the trading day at USD 16.7 per troy ounce, which was 2.6% higher than on the same day in February. However, the price was down 2.0% on a year-to-date basis and was 2.5% lower than on the same day in 2017. While reports indicated a small supply surplus of silver in 2017 after four consecutive years of deficit, due to higher scrap supply, analysts predict that silver will post a supply deficit this year, propping up prices. Along with a decline in global mine supply, stronger demand for industrial usage of silver from solar panel makers and the auto sector as it moves towards increased electrification, has placed upward pressure on prices. Moreover, the recent upturn in prices came as President Trump decided to impose hefty tariff s on imported steel and aluminum, shaking up markets and intensifying fears of a full-blown trade war. This fueled more safe-haven demand for silver. However, the president’s anticipated meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, could ease geopolitical tensions and dampen safe-haven demand. Prices are expected to rise this year as supply remains constrained and demand from industrial applications continues to grow. Expectations of higher jewelry demand and higher volatility in fi nancial markets are also seen driving up prices. FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast panelists expect prices to rise moderately this year, averaging USD 17.4 per troy ounce in Q4 2018. The panel sees silver prices rising further in 2019, to an average of USD 18.3 per troy ounce in Q4.

Palladium prices passed the USD 10,000 per troy ounce mark in mid-February but have since come down; weak automotive demand and increased political uncertainty put downward pressure on the commodity. On 9 March, palladium closed the day at USD 984 per troy ounce, which was up 1.5% from the same day in February and was 6.8% lower on a year-todate basis. Nevertheless, March’s price was up 30.5% from the corresponding day in 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to enact tariff s on steel and aluminum led to a broader sell-off of commodities that also swept precious metals such as palladium. Although prices in the short term are likely to be aff ected, strong fundamentals are expected to remain in place this year and next. Developments in the automotive industry are closely tied to the outlook for palladium, and recently put downward pressure on prices. New vehicle sales in the U.S. declined in February year-on-year, and this year growth in new car sales is expected to moderate overall. This should put downward pressure on palladium prices, as palladium is widely used for auto catalysts in gasoline cars. However, as diesel cars are losing popularity, especially in Europe, gasoline car demand stands to benefit. As a result, the outlook for palladium prices remains bright overall. The recent Republican tax cuts in the U.S. should furthermore provide a boost to private consumption in the country, boding well for car sales. Palladium prices are expected to remain fairly stable this year. Analysts polled this month project the price of palladium to average USD 1,056 per troy ounce in Q4 2018 and remain broadly on the same level in 2019. They expect an average of USD 1,041 per troy ounce in Q4 2019.

Platinum prices continued to fall over the last month in the first week of March. On 9 March, platinum traded at USD 949 per troy ounce, which represented the lowest price since early this year. The print was down 2.1% from the same day of the previous month, but was 2.4% higher on a year-to-date basis. However, the price was up 0.5% from the same day in 2017. Platinum prices remain in a weak spot due to ample global supply, which translated into the first surplus in 2017 in years, and declining demand for the commodity. Supply is rising due to an upturn in refi ned production in South Africa—the leading producer of platinum—which countered lower output from Zimbabwe and North America. Reduced demand from the automotive sector, largely due to decreased usage in Western Europe, is driving down prices. Platinum is mainly used in catalytic converters of diesel-powered cars; however, a wave of bans on diesel cars across European cities to tackle pollution has led to less demand for the vehicles, having a knock-on effect on platinum demand. Platinum prices are expected to climb slightly in 2018 as supply in South African mines shrinks under the strain of chronic under investment. Impala Platinum, the second-largest platinum miner globally, indicated that it would shut four mines over the next two years. While demand is expected to stabilize this year, it could potentially pick up among makers of auto catalysts for petrol cars. Tighter regulations on emissions and favorable platinum prices could prompt them to switch away from palladium, which has long been in supply deficit. FocusEconomics panelists expect prices to average USD 1,000 USD per troy ounce in Q4 2018. Prices are expected to continue to rise and to average USD 1,072 per troy ounce in Q4 2019.

Atlanta has a diverse housing realm. From dense and affluent to barren wastelands and crime ridden areas, Atlanta is a big...

Atlanta Housing Overview March 2018













Atlanta has a diverse housing realm. From dense and affluent to barren wastelands and crime ridden areas, Atlanta is a big city and has the parts to prove it. Population and industry drive a city. As you can see from the table below, Atlanta has a massive population. The Metropolitan Statistical Area is 5.7M and the Combined Statistical Area is 6.3M. The CSA covers 39 counties which is quite immense and plenty of room for growth, in theory. In fact if you include numbers from the CSA in housing stats you wind up with a very low average sale price and even lower average rental price. On the flip side of it if you look at segmented real estate markets inside Atlanta, from Morningside to outside the perimeter in Sandy Springs, these ultra desirable locations - which have at times bad public schools, going against the grain in the Southeast of price / school district coorelation - prices are way above average. Not kidding, in some parts rents are as high as Manhattan averages, and this is not due to the product being ultra high end or even luxury. New homes are popping up everywhere in desirable locations and rents are setting in at above average rates for luxury and higher end rentals.

However, it is important to note that undeveloped areas within the city in locations  just outside city limits remain very affordable, trailing national home value prices. If companies chose to locate in business parks on the outskirts of Atlanta they can offer affordable housing to employees that is above average standards while hovering near national average prices. 

+

REMAX REPORT: Metro Atlanta home prices are up 9.8 percent from a year ago, while the supply of homes for sale has continued to shrink, according to a report from Re/Max. The median sales price of a home sold in the region during February was $225,000, up from a median of $204,900 during the same month of last year, according to the real estate firm. In comparison, the national median sales price was $228,700 – an 8.1 percent increase over the year. - AJC / ReMax


Population (2015 Estimates)[1]
 • Density630/sq mi (243/km2)
 • Urban4,515,419 (9th)
 • MSA5,710,795 (9th)
 • CSA6,365,108 (11th)
























Sources: Trulia, LTCI, Zillow ZHVI,

Above shows the change in mortgage underwriting - from banks to non-banks. Great read below, it includes the statement: Before the financia...

At A Glance: U.S. Mortgage Industry Analysis




Above shows the change in mortgage underwriting - from banks to non-banks. Great read below, it includes the statement: Before the financial crisis, mortgages were the last thing a consumer would default on, Noring says. That flipped in 2009, when people started defaulting on their mortgages first,” he says. “That was a tsunami for everyone in the mortgage business, and we’re still seeing the fallout. Lenders were not prepared to deal with it and didn’t do a great job, plus new rules were coming out that they needed to follow.

I am an analyst by trade so I cannot help but think of market share and the changing landscape of various industries and industry segments. The mortgage industry has long been safe due to the various state laws and their difference in nature. The internet clearly shrinks that. 

Washington Post

From American Banker  The nonbank mortgage banks in question originate approximately 50% of all mortgage loans – representing a $1 trillion market this year alone. - Do brokers generate $50B in US mortgages? I am unaware of secondary market numbers so it is hard to assess. We will have more on the industry published later this month and next. 

Pertinent to cover Russia since Putin has recently won. I noticed a credible source recently guesstimated Putin would be in power until 203...

Russian Economics: An Overview

Pertinent to cover Russia since Putin has recently won. I noticed a credible source recently guesstimated Putin would be in power until 2030. 

I have included Russia’s ”official” Use of GDP report and stats. Details below are from FSSS (Russia), LTCI and from a March 2018 report from our content partner FocusEconomics. 



Use of GDP

2016






2017

I quarter
II quarter
I half
III quarter
9 months
IV quarter
Year
I quarter

at current prices; billion roubles
Gross Domestic Product at market prices
18815.9
20429.6
39245.5
22721.2
61966.8
24076.9
86043.6
20090.9
of which: 








final consumption expenditures
14245.2
14497.0
28742.2
15203.7
43945.9
15876.8
59822.7
15064.1
households 
10357.8
10553.8
20911.6
11218.7
32130.3
11811.1
43941.4
10976.7
public administration
3806.0
3860.7
7666.7
3901.6
11568.3
3981.1
15549.4
3995.6
non-profit institutions serving households
81.4
82.5
163.9
83.4
247.3
84.6
331.9
91.8
gross capital formation
2981.8
4422.6
7404.4
6440.8
13845.2
6286.9
20132.1
3033.5
gross fixed capital formation *
2907.9
3912.4
6820.3
4392.7
11213.0
6899.4
18112.4
3022.1
changes in inventories
73.9
510.2
584.1
2048.1
2632.2
-612.5
2019.7
11.4
net exports of goods and services
1326.3
1064.1
2390.4
712.4
3102.8
1335.7
4438.5
1720.0
statistical descrepancy
262.6
445.9
708.5
364.3
1072.9
577.5
1650.3
273.3

volume indices; at constant prices,
percent of corresponding period of previous year
Gross Domestic Product
99.6
99.5
99.5
99.6
99.6
100.3
99.8
100.5
final consumption expenditures
96.7
95.5
96.1
96.3
96.2
97.5
96.5
102.1
households 
95.7
94.1
94.9
95.2
95.0
96.8
95.5
102.7
public administration
99.6
99.5
99.5
99.5
99.5
99.5
99.5
100.4
non-profit institutions serving households
100.8
100.7
100.8
100.7
100.7
100.8
100.7
100.0
gross capital formation * 
102.5
101.6
102.0
99.9
101.0
102.7
101.5
100.1
exports   
99.7
104.9
102.3
104.2
102.9
103.7
103.1
107.1
imports
92.2
95.4
93.8
96.3
94.8
100.4
96.2
116.5
*    Including aquisition less disposals valuables.


OVERVIEW | Incoming data suggests that Russia’s economic recovery was broadly steady in recent months, although growth likely remained lackluster. The manufacturing PMI fell to the lowest level since July 2017 in February, and the Ural oil price also lost some recent gains. However, industrial production expanded notably in January, after two months of contraction, while exports grew at a double-digit pace in December, the latest month for which data is available. Overall, the economy has come a long way since the 2015–2016 recession, and on 23 February, S&P Global Ratings upgraded Russia to investment grade status after three years at junk— raising the rating from BBB- to BB+ with a stable outlook. The move sparked a rally in Russian assets. President Vladimir Putin's win is a continuation of current economic policy.

In his annual state of the nation address on 1 March, which was postponed to coincide with the election, Putin outlined his key priorities for a fourth presidential term. The speech centered on boosting state spending on infrastructure and social measures, and the president made pledges to raise life expectancy, increase GDP and lower the poverty rate. Concrete details on how these measures would be funded are not yet known, although Putin stated that improving the efficiency of government spending could generate funds. Overall, Russia’s fiscal picture has become brighter thanks to higher oil prices, strong demand for the country’s bonds and a change in fiscal rules, which should give the government room to adjust the budget. Putin also unveiled a wide array of new weapons and struck a bellicose tone in the speech, suggesting that the relationship between Russia and the west will remain tense. Looking ahead, the economy’s moderate recovery should continue this year, benefiting from monetary policy easing, higher oil prices and healthy household consumption. The production cut deal with OPEC will, however, keep oil output limited, capping the country’s export performance. Moreover, the recovery has been lackluster, as the economy is burdened with structural issues and is still to a large extent dependent on the energy sector. FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast panelists see GDP expanding at 1.8% in 2018, which is down 0.1 percentage points from last month’s forecast. Panelists expect the economy to expand 1.8% in 2019.

CENBANK - MONETARY SECTOR | Inflation edge down in January
In January, consumer prices rose 0.3% from the previous month, a notch below the 0.4% month-on-month rise observed in December. According to the Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat), the result largely reflected a smaller rise in prices for foodstuffs. Inflation remained edged down to a new historic low of 2.2% in January, below December’s 2.5%. Price pressures have fallen notably in 2017, in part due to a solid performance by the ruble. Inflation lies far below the Central Bank’s target of 4.0%. Annual average inflation also declined from 3.7% in December to 3.5% in January, another historical low. Panelists see inflation ending 2018 at 4.0%, which is unchanged from last month’s forecast. For 2019, participants expect inflation to end the year at also 4.0%.

Central Bank cuts key interest rate to 7.50% in February At its 9 February meeting, the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation (CBR) decided to cut the key interest rate by 25 basis points to 7.50%, a move widely expected by market analysts. The decision followed a larger-than-expected 50 basis-points reduction in December and marks the lowest policy rate since June 2014, continuing the CBR’s monetary easing cycle. The Bank’s decision came after inflationary pressures moderated in recent months, with inflation easing to a record-low 2.2% in January, significantly below the official 4% target. Adjusting its assessment of inflation, the CBR noted that permanent factors may be exerting a stronger effect on inflation dynamics than temporary ones, as previously thought. According to the communiqué, effects from a strong rubble and downward pressures from food prices are expected to subside by the end of the first half of 2018. Weak economic activity in the final quarter of 2017 also contributed to the Bank’s decision to cut its policy rate, even as it acknowledged the reasons behind the slowdown remain somewhat uncertain. Against this backdrop, the Bank decided that the buildup of risks has slightly shifted towards the economic growth front. It did not see significant upward risks to inflation in 2018 and saw inflation likely falling short of its target this year. As a result, the CBR highlighted its commitment to continue cutting the policy rate and “complete the transition from a moderately tight to neutral monetary policy in 2018.” The sustained easing of policy should help generate the conditions for inflation to pick up and approach the Bank’s target by the end of 2019 rather than the end of 2018, departing from the assessment at its December meeting. Meanwhile, the Bank maintained its medium-term outlook (2019–2020) from its previous meeting, noting that upside risks to inflation continue to prevail over the risk that inflation will significantly deviate downwards from its target. These upside risks include elevated inflation expectations, lower propensity to save among households and wage growth outpacing productivity growth due to labor shortages.

EXTERNAL SECTOR | Export growth wanes moderately in December Merchandise exports totaled USD 37.9 billion in December, which represents a robust 21.1% increase compared with the USD 31.3 billion observed in the same month of 2016. The expansion was below November’s 25.2% increase. Supportive global conditions and higher commodity prices have led to Russian exports surging in recent months. Imports increased 23.9% annually in December, slightly above November’s 23.5% increase and came in at USD 24.2 billion. The trade surplus came in at USD 13.7 billion, which was larger than the USD 11.8 billion surplus seen in December 2016. The external sector recovered notably in 2017 and the trade surplus rose from 2016’s USD 90.3 billion to USD 115.3 billion. The reading was supported by double-digit growth in exports, which surged 25.9% last year (2016: -16.7%). Imports also expanded at a quick pace, illustrating the economy’s recovery. Imports grew 24.8% in 2017 (2016: -1.3%). The analysts we surveyed this month project Russia’s exports to reach USD 383 billion in 2018. Going forward, panelists expect exports to reach USD 400 billion in 2019.





Please visit Focus for more information.


Consumer Price Index

 (end of period)


2016



2017

II quarter
III quarter
IV quarter
I quarter
II quarter

percent of December of previous year    
Consumer price index for products and services
103.3
104.1
105.4
101.0
102.3
food products (including alcoholic beverages)
103.2
102.4
104.6
101.2
103.4
non-food products
103.8
105.2
106.5
100.9
101.3
services
102.7
104.8
104.9
100.8
102.0



Sources: FocusEconomics and Federal State Statistics Service (Russia).