Friday, February 19, 2021

Just Charts of Demographics...with Multiple Variables (or hot topics for your next cocktail party)

Some folks want to make economics seem complicated. It ain't. Any who, some charts depicting the US economy...through demographics.

First, 15 to 54 year old US population (blue line) and those employed among that population (green line). You may note the end of population growth among them in '07 and not only the end but a significant decline in employment among them since '07. This is the population segment that undertakes most of the credit (creating the new $'s via undertaking debt...vs. elderly who destroy $'s via deleveraging/paying off their loans), buys most the homes, spends the most, earns the most. The lack of growth among them is paramount in understanding what took place in '08 as potential new home buyers ceased to exist and banks gave credit to anyone to keep the party going...'08 (and what has come since) was an entirely predictable demographic caused crisis.

Same as above but plus Federal Reserve set Federal Funds Rate % (black dashed line) and it's relationship to marketable federal debt (red shaded area). When working age population growth ceased, the Federal Reserve implemented ZIRP (free money to the largest banks) and likewise free money to Congress. The explosion in debt since is entirely due to the Federal Reserve's encouragement via their interest rate policy.
Same as above but inclusive of Federal Reserve balance sheet (aka, QE...yellow line) and Wilshire 5000 (representing all publicly traded US equities...light blue line). Since the end of working age population and employment growth, virtually free money has been passed to the largest and best connected US institutions / individuals. This, alongside the Federal Reserve purchasing Treasury bonds (to artificially lower the cost of federal government borrowing and boost the supply of dollars chasing the remaining assets) and mortgage backed securities (to artificially lower mortgage rates) has resulted in an asset explosion. This explosion has rewarded asset holders with vast riches and punished young adults, the poor, those on fixed incomes. These folks in the latter group get none of the asset wealth effect but instead get the fast rising costs of living due to the asset appreciation. When the Federal Reserve continually suggests they aren't responsible for the exploding US is a bald faced lie.
Same as above, but focusing on the 15 to 54 year old employment to population ratio (not the silly unemployment numbers the BLS puts out...just dividing the population by those employed among them...white line). The Federal Reserve has two Congressionally mandated jobs..."promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long term interest rates." You can forget stable prices (as the Fed has, via a system of discounting inflation) and just focus on full employment. As you'll note, the US has achieved "full employment" four times since the inclusion of females into the workforce...'89, '00, '07, '19...each time with employment around 75% of the available population. But note the declining rates, resulting in greater debt, resulting in soaring asset bubbles (and once those failed) notice the soaring QE and zero interest rate policy...resulting in the greatest rise in asset appreciation in US history. Asset holders made rich (for being asset holders)...those with little or no assets made poor (for not being asset holders). Simple stuff.
Below, again 15 to 54 year old horizontally moving population plus falling employed among them, ever lower Federal Funds Rate, and ludicrously vertical Wilshire 5000. In case you are wondering, this asset explosion is not a naturally occurring phenomenon against over a decade of zero working age population growth and seven million fewer employed among them. Nah, this looks like a currency collapse in progress...and once it goes vertical (Wilshire, Bitcoin, etc.) know you haven't got much longer to go (although we likely have significantly further to go in the vertical explosion...before the whatever it is that follows). Second and third charts below throws Bitcoin into the mix, putting it's meteoric rise into context against demographics and the Federal Reserve's demographically driven Treasuries buying spree (and the concurrent hard stop of foreign buying of Treasuries).

While nobody can say whether immigration will return to high levels, fertility rates and births are scraping record lows...and simply gauging the feeder population that is the 15 to 24 year olds (chart below of population / employed among them), you should have a fairly good idea of why a return to a growing working age US population isn't likely.

Finally, here's how this plays out regarding the most fundamental of human needs...shelter or I'll stretch out to the 15-64yr/old population and employed among them versus annual housing starts and the Federal Funds Rate (%). The Federal Reserve purchasing of MBS / QE has artificially pushed mortgage rates to record lows to induce an artificial housing frenzy amid a secular turn to outright declining potential buyers and soaring quantity of potential sellers (elderly who already own homes). If I didn't know better, I'd think the Fed hates young adults and is setting them up to be the bag holder of an awful oversupply of very expensive housing when the bottom invariably falls out...again.
Some say these are the seeds of the second American revolution as a class of unelected, undemocratic central bankers enrich a tiny majority at the expense of the majority...but I just like making colorful charts.

Extra Credit - 15 to 74 year old population / employees
For those curious how this looks on the widest possible cross section of population/potential employees, the following are the same charts but showing the 15 to 74 year old population and employees among them.

Last chart is pretty important, because it really highlights the declining participation of the aging population...suggesting that "full employment" will be significantly lower than '06 and '19 at much greater expense and require significantly greater QE to enable it all.
Invest (wtf) accordingly.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Global Depopulation - Two paths, One Destination

Play along with me while we consider the ultimate barometers of economic wellbeing that are fertility rates and births across the developed world, China, and the RoW (rest of the world).  How fertility rates have freefallen to predominantly negative rates. How the developed nations fertility rates turned negative first, then China, then most the RoW (& soon nearly the entire world).

A quick perusal of the chart of global fertility rates, by income groups below, shows a sharp and sustained drop in global fertility since 1970. It is well understood how (and why) China did this...less well understood how (and why) the developed world got there first and has sustained it for decades. My supposition is that declining fertility rates worldwide are primarily due to central bank set interest rate policies which have consistently encouraged debt and asset inflation well ahead of real income inflation. These rising costs of living have particularly punished those with little or no offsetting assets...chief among these, young adults among the childbearing population. The decades long squeeze has slowed marriages to a crawl and sent births tumbling. Given family formation and childbirth are a choice now with widely available contraception...the choice is increasingly, no.

Data below is from UN World Population Prospects 2019...future fertility and birth estimates are a more realistic average between UN median and low estimates.

Below, annual births per income groupings (plus average group gross national incomes per capita are called out). Births only continue to rise among the very poorest and least able to consume. Births among all other income groups are in secular decline. From a consumption standpoint, it takes nearly 50 more poor consumers to replace the consumptive decline of every one high income consumer, nearly 12 more poor to replace the loss of every one upper middle income consumer, 10 more poor to replace the consumptive loss of every 1 Chinese consumer. The math on the ongoing declines among high, middle-upper, Chinese, and now even lower middle income consumers being replaced by the poorest, lowest consumers comes nowhere near penciling.
Perhaps it's time to consider what role the Federal Reserve and developed nation central banks have had in this collapse...particularly versus the Chinese population control approach of a one child policy?  The developed nations, via interest rate policy, appear to have achieved consistently lower birth rates than China's autocratic approach. Given the stated central bank focus of environmentalism, clearly the most important component in controlling emissions, resource depletion, etc. is controlling the quantity of consumers (particularly among those that have high rates of consumption). It has been five decades in the turning of this ship...but now organic demand (quantity of 0 to 65 year old consumers w/ capability to consume) is set to fall indefinitely. Absent the population/consumer growth of the consumer nations, there is no transmission mechanism for lower middle and low income nations to export there way to higher gross national incomes, per capita. In fact, the lower middle and low income nations are likely to see their portion of the pie begin falling dramatically as developed demand for their goods and labor consistently wanes.

Below, the female childbearing populations of the differing income groupings. The long declining female childbearing populations of the developed (despite immigration) coupled with severely negative fertility rates versus the decelerating childbearing growth and decelerating fertility rates of the lower middle (India, etc.) and low income groupings. Like most things, there is likely a tipping point at which the lack of organic population/consumer growth can no longer be hidden by debt and population growth among the poor and elderly. We are likely there.
Seventy years of Federal Reserve interest rate policy managing the dollar as the global reserve currency...with two distinct periods. Thirty years of interest rate hikes, followed by 40 years of interest rates cuts. Below, federal funds rate against the basis of global demand represented by the high and low income global child bearing populations, and resultant debt that declining rates have fostered.
Looking at the same groupings, but on a year over year change basis. It appears that changing global demand (inflation) and the annual change in the global childbearing consumer population have moved in sync decades. This doesn't seem to be a coincidence. Essentially, rates were hiked while demand growth was rapidly rising, suffocating commensurate capacity growth...pushing inflation and turning a growing population away from further population growth. Then as demand growth was decelerating, rates were dropped encouraging oversupply of new capacity...and deflation.  Almost simultaneous to the onset of the declining childbearing population, ZIRP was initiated. ZIRP has ushered in asset hyper-inflation (enriching primarily institutional and elderly asset holders) amid stagflation and population decline among the consumer childbearing population...and decelerating growth among the low consumer nations childbearing population.
Looking at the wider consumer vs. low-consumer under 65 year old populations, FFR%, and resultant debt. The consumer supertanker, that is the consumer under 65 year old population, has turned downward...even inclusive of immigration (factored into the chart below). The decades of interest rate cuts until arriving at ZIRP and the resultant inverse relationship of debt growth are fairly easy to see...and only when viewing their impact on population growth can their true purpose be seen.
Looking at the same as above, except on a year over year annual change basis. ZIRP, exploding debt (resulting in asset hyper-inflation), and global consumer depopulation are no coincidence.
Lastly, where the majority of global population growth is happening among the elderly...essentially an echo of where the world was almost seven decades ago except this population is living decades longer than the generations that came before them. But growth among this population is massively deflationary as elderly are credit averse and tend to pay down/off their debts...essentially destroying currency faster than the young population can create money via new debt.
It would appear that the seven decades of global reserve currency management coinciding with the unprecedented downturn in fertility, births, and population growth are highly correlated. The power to artificially determine interest rates, rather than trust in a free market, has reverberations throughout business, finance, and economics. But interest rate policy also seems to have guided birth rates and ultimately the population of this planet. Like most things, I doubt the Federal Reserve would even dignify this with a comment or discussion...but the data suggesting the Federal Reserve (BoJ, ECB, BoE, etc.) has, is, and will likely continue to be guiding depopulation (in like goal to China...but differing in method), while simultaneously choosing winners/losers for decades to come, seems fairly compelling.

In case there are still those that wonder at the transmission of declining interest rates/ debt asset appreciation...absent resultant GDP growth...please study the charts below charts of the Wilshire 5000 (representing all US equity) which has now doubled GDP. And finally the impact of shifting wealth to the few on the births among the many.
Focus on the Wilshire 5000 (representing soaring US asset inflation).
Finally, who is winning/losing based on asset inflation...chart below shows surging net worth of the top 10% of Americans (now owning over 70% of total wealth) versus declining portion among those with little to no assets (bottom 90% of Americans now holding less than 30% of the pie).
Portion of net worth by top 10% / bottom 90% versus annual US births.
Below, Census US birth estimates from 2000, '08, '12, '14, and '17 (estimating births through 2050) based on economic models and Fed's accommodative lending rates...and the reality seen on the ground. When inputs result in an entirely unexpected (?) output...perhaps a model adjustment is called for? Nah. Just do more of what didn't work.
Gauging US annual births (regardless parents status as legal/illegal) versus Federal Funds Rate, US marketable debt, Federal Reserve's balance sheet (below).
And dividing the future responsible for paying/servicing that debt (annual births) vs. the sins of the past that will be their lifelong yoke. Looking more like Bitcoin or what gold/silver would look like if their paper versions weren't being rehypothecated even faster than currency dilution. At some point, young will refuse to carry that weight any longer (and the $ will likely suddenly, violently become worthless in terms of fixed quantities of things like physical gold/silver).
Invest accordingly!!!...even if it may be the foundation of the second American civil war (dancing in an immoral system as long as the music plays)!?!