Political Calculations
Unexpectedly Intriguing!
17 May 2022

Every three months, we take a snapshot of the expectations for future earnings in the S&P 500 (Index: SPX) at approximately the midpoint of the current quarter, shortly after most U.S. firms have announced their previous quarter's earnings.

Since our last update three months ago, Standard and Poor's projections have strengthened, indicating expectations of stronger growth through 2022 and 2023. The following chart illustrates how the earnings outlook has changed with respect to previous snapshots:

Forecasts for S&P 500 Trailing Twelve Month Earnings per Share, December 2017-December 2023, Snapshot on 12 May 2022

The improved outlook for S&P 500 earnings has developed even though the Federal Reserve has begun raising interest rates and is signaling larger rate hikes to squelch excess inflation generated by the Biden-Harris administration's fiscal policies. Since those policies represent a growing headwind for the U.S. economy, it raises the question of how much more improvement would have been seen had the Fed chosen to continue holding the Federal Funds Rate at the zero bound.

Reference

Silverblatt, Howard. Standard & Poor. S&P 500 Earnings and Estimates. [Excel Spreadsheet]. 12 May 2022. Accessed 13 May 2022.

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16 May 2022

After starting the week with a bang, the S&P 500 (Index: SPX) saw its level of volatility die down as investors solidified their forward-looking attention on 2022-Q2.

How long it might stay there is a question that remains to be answered, but the latest update of the alternative futures chart shows the level of stock prices is fully consistent with that assessment.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2022Q2 - Standard Model (m=-2.5 from 16 June 2021) - Snapshot on 13 May 2022

Better still, we've moved out of the period where the echoes of the past volatility of stock prices affected the accuracy of the dividend futures-based model's projections, which had required us to add redzone forecast ranges to the chart to compensate in helping track the S&P 500's latest Lévy flight events.

Since we've already outlined what may come next for the S&P 500 in an update to the previous entry of our ongoing S&P 500 chaos series, let's recap the market-moving news headlines from the week that was:

Monday, 9 May 2022
Tuesday, 10 May 2022
Wednesday, 11 May 2022
Thursday, 12 May 2022
Friday, 13 May 2022

According to the CME Group's FedWatch Tool, the Fed will hike rates by a half-point in June (2022-Q2), followed by a two more half-point hikes in July and September (2022-Q3). The Atlanta Fed's GDPNow tool projects real GDP growth of 1.8% in 2022-Q2, down from last week's projection of 2.3%.

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13 May 2022

Alan Moore has written some highly influential works. Many of which have gone from the page to both the big and small screens, inspiring several generations of storytellers along the way.

He has some interesting advice for anyone seeing to become a good writer:

Alan Moore believes every aspiring writer should read terrible books. Watch and find out why this is an integral part of developing your own style as a writer.

Here's the less than one-and-a-half minute video, which is from Moore’s BBC Maestro storytelling course:

Now, if you're looking for inspiration for terrible books to read, we'll point you to a podcast we mentioned several weeks ago: 372 Pages We'll Never Get Back (Patreon for the freshest episodes, delayed episodes available wherever you get podcasts), which specializes in analyzing what makes the books they read bad while having a lot of fun doing it.

But if you want to read terrible books on your own and you're looking for a list of really badly written books to read, Wikipedia's "List of books considered the worst might serve up some inspiration for you.

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12 May 2022

In March 2022, the United States imported far more goods than it exported, breaking its previoius record for its monthly trade deficit by a wide margin. We thought the occasion of the new record provided an interesting data visualization opportunity, so let's start with the overall summary:

The Largest Monthly Trade Deficit in U.S. Histsory, March 2022

The U.S. exported $179.5 billion worth of goods in March 2022, while importing $297.0 billion. That makes for a monthly trade deficit of $117.5 billion, which is 14.2% larger than the previous record of $102.9 billion set in November 2021.

Because we regularly follow trade between the U.S. and China, we broke out the portions of each of these categories that are attributable to that portion of the U.S.' overall trade with respect to the rest of the world. We find that U.S. exports to China accounted for 7.5% of that total. U.S. imports from China accounted for nearly 16.0% of all it imported from around the world. Netting these numbers out, we find that the U.S.' trade with China accounted for 28.9% of its entire recorded trade deficit in goods for the month.

We decided to dig deeper into the U.S. Census Bureau's trade data to see what it was that added the most to the U.S.' record high trade deficit in March 2022. Those results are presented in the following interactive chart, for which you may need to click through to our site to get the big picture. Hover your cursor over the dots in the chart to get the related surplus (+) or deficit (-) in millions of U.S. dollars.

The biggest portion of the U.S.' record March 2022 trade deficit was in the category for electric machinery. The second largest portion was for heavy mechanical machinery. (Note: nuclear reactors are included in the title for the official category, but this particular class of goods was a very small contributor to the U.S.' trade deficit in March 2022!) The third largest category covers vehicles, which is mostly accounted for by imports of foreign-made automobiles and trucks. The large number of imports recorded during the month may be attributable to progress finally being made in unloading the backlog of large container ships that queued up in large numbers outside U.S. seaports during 2021.

References

U.S. Census Bureau. Trade in Goods with World, Not Seasonally Adjusted. Last updated: 4 May 2022. Accessed 4 May 2022.

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11 May 2022

The latest view from the volcano points to a higher level of economic gloom for the global economy.

The explanation for that worsening situation is the same as last month: the expanding economic sanctions imposed against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine and, more significantly, China's government's continuing lockdown of Shanghai that threatens to expand to other areas of China.

We're seeing the effects of both situations show up at the remote Mauna Loa Observatory, located atop a volcano on the big island of Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which measures the concentration of carbon dioxide diffused in the Earth's atmosphere. The following chart reveals the sharp, steep decline in the pace at which carbon dioxide is being added to the Earth's atmosphere since February 2022.

Trailing Twelve Month Average of Year-Over-Year Change in Parts per Million of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, January 2000 - April 2022

The following tool may be used to convert the decline in the rate of CO₂ accumulation into an estimate of the net GDP loss in the global economy associated with it. If you're accessing this article on a site that republishes our RSS news feed, please click through to our site to access a working version of the tool.

Change in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
Input Data Values
Change in Carbon Dioxide in Atmosphere [Parts per Million]
World Population [billions]

Change in Amount of Carbon Dioxide Emitted into Atmosphere
Calculated Results Values
Carbon Dioxide Emissions [billions of Metric Tonnes]
Estimated Net Change in World GDP [trillions]

Using the default value of a -0.27 parts per million to account for the change in the rate of growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide since February 2022, we find the equivalent net loss to global GDP attributable to the spread of COVID in southeast Asia and to China's fossil fuel shortage is $9.0 trillion. Going back to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in December 2019, the reduction of 0.92 part per million in the rate at which carbon dioxide is being added to the Earth's air corresponds to a net loss to global GDP of $30.6 trillion.

Analyst's Notes

We've updated the population data entry in the version of the tool presented above to reflect Earth's estimated 2021 population. Otherwise, the methodology behind the tool is unchanged from when we first introduced it in 2020.

Meanwhile, since we've forayed into planetary level economic analysis, we should note it has been five months since we developed the first-ever estimate of Mars' GDP. We're about a month away from the end of the latest Martian quarter and our next estimate of Mars' GDP, which is coming due because Martian quarters are roughly twice as long as business quarters on Earth.

References

National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Earth System Research Laboratory. Mauna Loa Observatory CO2 Data. [Text File]. Updated 5 May 2022. Accessed 5 May 2022.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook. 1 July 2021 Population Estimate (World). [Online Article | Archived Document]. Accessed 8 May 2022.

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