The Rise of the New Middle-Class theme lets India air traffic take off and much more

Month to month economic and industry data can fluctuate, which is why we look at the data over a longer term. While passenger air traffic spiked in February, we see the annual growth rate of more than 20% over the last several years reflecting the growing economy and rising disposable income that are drivers of our Rise of the New Middle Class investing theme. In addition to incremental spending on travel, other areas benefitting from this theme include leisure spending, housing and furnishings, premium branded apparel, higher end autos, restaurants and connected devices. In short, those devices and activities that denote some degree of status have been achieved.

Even though Goldman Sachs (GS) lowered its real gross domestic product (GDP) forecast on India for the year to March 2019 to 7.6% from 8%, the level of growth is far stronger than anything expected in the US, a country that sees more signs of our Middle-Class Squeeze investing theme.

 

Passenger air traffic in India grew at the fastest pace in 13 months in February, even as fears mount over demand weakening due to rising air fares.

The number of passengers flown last month jumped almost 24% on-year to 10.7 million, according to government data.Air travel in India traditionally records a spurt from October through March, rebounding from a lean period in the previous months.

The country’s air travel has grown at an annual pace of more than 20% in the past few years as rising incomes and the advent of no-frills carriers prompted more people to shun trains for long-distance travel.

The south Asian nation is already the third-largest aviation market behind the U.S. and China with domestic traffic of more than 100 million passengers.

Source: India aviation traffic rises at fastest pace in 13 months- Nikkei Asian Review

Japan, China, and the U.S. working-age populations a headwind to global growth

Japan, China, and the U.S. working-age populations a headwind to global growth

A new report from Deloitte highlights one of the downsides of our Aging of the Population theme – the simple fact that economic growth is tied to the number of working-age people in a country’s population. Given prospects for a rising working population, India is widely expected to be the driver of global growth in the coming years while Japan, China, and the U.S. contend with a shrinking working age population. According to Gallup, worldwide 32% of working-age adults are employed full time, and that likely means global growth will be challenged in the coming years as that working-age population shrinks further.

A new report by Deloitte Insights, however, says that China will soon be playing second fiddle to India as the biggest driver of global growth.The report, entitled Ageing Tigers, hidden dragons, argues that there is a “third wave” of economic growth in Asia.

The first wave was led by Japan in the 1990s before China took over. But the Chinese-led second wave has already peaked, making way for a third wave driven by India.

The third wave will be mostly driven by a massive increase in workers. Over the next decade, India’s working-age population will rise by 115 million. This is more than half of the 225 million expected across Asia as a whole.

Within two decades, India’s potential workforce will rise to 1.08 billion.

But it’s not just an increase in workers that will help propel the Indian economy. The new workers will be “much better trained and educated than the existing Indian workforce”, says Deloitte.

Meanwhile, Japan’s working-age population will shrink by more than 5 million, and China’s by 21 million, over the next 10 years.

In fact, India’s working population will soon outstrip China’s. While China’s population is already ageing, this won’t happen in India until halfway through the century.

China’s ageing problemImage: DeloitteChina’s ageing population will slow down its growth potential. While its one-child policy is no longer in force, the effects are still being felt. Soon, there will be fewer people of working age. Not only that, but because of the one-child policy, China’s population has aged faster than elsewhere.

As a result, China won’t feel the full benefit of its years of economic growth. “This is yet to seep into the consciousness of most of the world, which still regards China simply as a country with an extremely large population,” states Deloitte.

Source: China will grow old before it gets rich. | World Economic Forum

Gallup data confirms the rising middle class in Asia is more than China & India

Gallup data confirms the rising middle class in Asia is more than China & India

Nothing better than having an organization like Gallup issue confirming data for our Rise & Fall of the Middle-Class investing theme. While most tend to understandably focus on China and India given the size of their respective populations, Gallup’s finding remind us upward economic mobility is occurring in other emerging Asian economies. This target market expansion is poised to attract U.S. companies looking to offset waning growth in more mature economies that are contending with the falling middle-class as well as Cash-Strapped Consumer.

Majorities in most Asian economies surveyed in 2016, including some of the region’s least-developed countries, expect that children today will have better living standards when they grow up than their parents did. This includes more than 90% of residents in poor countries such as Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The pace of economic progress explains much of the difference between opinions in countries at the top and bottom of the list. Countries at the top of the list, where residents are most optimistic about the next generation’s standard of living, enjoyed strong gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates of over 6% last year. Their economies have seen dramatic improvements recently, aided by increased foreign investment and low labor rates.

Bangladesh’s economy, for example, has grown by more than 6% in 10 of the past 12 years.However, among countries at the top of the list, current per capita income levels are low compared with those of other countries. According to the World Bank, Bangladesh ranked 145th in the world in terms of per capita income last year, and Myanmar ranked 146th. These are two of the world’s least-developed countries, where people have relatively short life expectancies. Yet, residents in Bangladesh and Myanmar express great hope for rising living standards — not because of their country’s current level of development, but because of the positive trend and momentum of its development.

Source: Many in Asia See Better Living Standards for Next Generation

The Tematica take on Fed hikes, balance sheet contraction and other works of creative fiction

The Tematica take on Fed hikes, balance sheet contraction and other works of creative fiction

As we all know by now, the Fed exited its September monetary policy meeting yesterday. Chairwoman Janet Yellen said that in the Fed’s view, the domestic economy is on solid enough footing to handle another Fed rate increase before the end of the year as well as the initiation of the Fed’s plan to unwind its $4.5 trillion balance sheet. This view effectively brushes aside the fact that the Fed’s inflation target has yet to be realized, despite its herculean monetary policy efforts, and in the near-term, the economy is headed for a tumble following hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and maybe more depending on how Hurricane Maria develops.

In recent days, we’ve seen several cuts to GDP expectations for the current quarter, including from the Atlanta Federal Reserve as well as several investment bank economists. The general thinking is that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma trimmed roughly 1% off of economic activity. With the bulk of the damage coming in September, including what we have yet to experience with Maria, we’ll have a fuller sense of the trifecta’s extent in October when we get the September data.

The market reaction to the FOMC statement is that it was more hawkish than what had already been priced in. While the market was priced at a 50/50 chance for a rate hike before the end of the year, the now infamous dot-plot shows that 12 of the 16 members expect one more hike this year, with one expecting two. In sharing the committee’s view Chairwoman Yellen remarked, “The median projection for the federal funds rate is 1.4 percent at the end of this year, 2.1 percent at the end of next year, 2.7 percent at the end of 2019, and 2.9 percent in 2020.”

This means the next rate hike, which is now likely to occur in December,  will be a quarter point in nature, and based on the Fed’s forecast the three targeted rate hikes in 2018 are likely to be of the same magnitude. As Yellen shared this, she once again cautioned the Fed will remain “data dependent” in its thinking. As the markets recalibrate from a 50% likelihood to the new 70% that we will see another hike in 2017, gold lost $10 per ounce, the dollar gained some strength and the yield on the 2-year rose 4 basis points while the long bond has barely moved, flattening the yield curve.

From our perspective, with a recovery that is increasingly long in the tooth (something that is not likely lost on Yellen and the Fed heads), we see the Fed looking to regain monetary stimulus firepower ahead of the next eventual recession. To be clear, we’re not calling for one, just recognizing that at some point one will happen – it’s the nature of the business cycle. As we share that reality, we’d also note that historically the Fed has a very good track record of boosting rates as the economy heads into a recession.

We’d like to point out that while most are viewing these minutes as more hawkish than expected, the phrasing of their economic analysis has become more sedate. Oh for the days when we didn’t need to analyze every little word out of the Fed like a bunch of teenagers assessing the meaning of their crush’s every utterance! The Fed’s assessment of unemployment has dropped the reference to “has declined,” leaving just “unemployment rate has stayed low.” With respect to spending, the wording has gone from “continued to expand” in July to “expanding at a moderate rate.” As for the dot plots, of the four FOMC members who expected two more hikes in 2017, only one remains.

As much as the Fed will likely try to avoid that and preserve Yellen’s time as chairwoman, it’s different this time. Next month, the Fed will begin unwinding its balance sheet that bulked as a result of its quantitative easing measures. The Fed admits to “months of careful preparation,” but let’s be real here, this is unlike anything we have seen before as the Fed expects to boost interest rates further. Yes, the Fed will baby step with its balance sheet as its targets selling no more than “$6 billion per month in Treasuries and $4 billion per month for agencies” in 2017. In 2018, however, those caps will rise to “maximums of $30 billion per month for treasuries and $20 billion per month for agency securities.” Given the Fed’s balance sheet weighs in at a hefty $4.5 trillion, this is poised to be a lengthy process and we suspect that as well intended as the Fed’s thinking on this is, odds are there are likely to be some unintended consequences.

The question we continue to ponder is whether the economy is strong enough to not falter as the Fed ramps its selling while boosting rates. Even the Fed sees GPD falling from its 2.4% forecast this year to “about 2 percent in 2018 and 2019. By 2020, the median growth projection moderates to 1.8 percent.” To get to that 2.4%, we need the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow forecast for 2.2% in Q3 to materialize, which we think is going to be tough given the impact of this season of insane storms, as well as at least a 3% bump in Q4. Our bets are that’s about as likely as either of us giving up chocolate.

As we mull this forecast vs. the business cycle, we must keep in mind the Fed is ever the cheerleader for the economy and tends to be optimistic with its GDP forecasts. We prefer to be Rhonda Realist vs. Debbie Downer or Cheery Charles, and when we triangulate the Fed’s comments, we continue to think it’s underlying strategy is to re-arm itself for the next downturn.