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If the soft rate of business-loan growth is an early warning sign, perhaps the August data on retail sales and industrial production due this Friday will offer a degree of confirmation.
If the soft rate of business-loan growth is an early warning sign, perhaps the August data on retail sales and industrial production due this Friday will offer a degree of confirmation.

Concerns Rise as US Business Lending Slips to Six-Year Low

The challenge for economists and investors now: deciding if the weak rate of loan growth is a reliable signal for macro trouble ahead

Concerns Rise as US Business Lending Slips to Six-Year Low

The year-over-year growth rate for commercial and industrial loans eased to 1.6% in July, according to last week’s update by the federal reserve. The deceleration, the slowest pace since April 2011, looks worrisome in the eyes of some analysts.
Jeffrey Gundlach, manager of the DoubleLine Total Return Bond Fund, told CNBC on Tuesday that he’s monitoring the sluggish increase in commercial lending. He noted that historically the Fed had started to “ease interest-rate conditions with this drop in loan growth of this magnitude … But this time the Fed wants to raise rates,” Capital Spectator reported.
Looking at loan growth in isolation as a business-cycle indicator, however, has a mixed record at best. Business lending has been slow to signal rising recession risk since the 1950s. The main exception is the 1990-91 downturn, when the growth rate for loans fell sharply in the months before the National Bureau of Economic Research-defined recession began.
The challenge for economists and investors now: deciding if the weak rate of loan growth is a reliable signal for macro trouble ahead. One reason for skepticism is the generally upbeat profile for the US macro trend, based on data published to date. Last month’s business-cycle review, for instance, reflected a low probability that a new downturn had started.
The latest estimates for third-quarter GDP growth also paint an upbeat profile for the near term. The Sep. 8 GDPNow estimate via the Atlanta Fed projects that output will hold at a solid 3.0% pace in Q3, unchanged from Q2. The New York Fed’s Q3 Nowcast, which uses a different methodology, is weaker at 2.1% (as of Sep. 8), but that’s still firm enough to keep economic activity humming.
Wall Street economists are expecting that the GDP will rise at a healthy rate in the current quarter. CNBC’s Sep. 8 survey reflects a median forecast of 2.9%, which is only fractionally below Q2’s 3% rise.

Early Warning Sign
If the soft rate of business-loan growth is an early warning sign, perhaps the August data on retail sales and industrial production due this Friday (Sep. 15) will offer a degree of confirmation. Using Econoday.com’s consensus forecasts as a guide suggests that the monthly growth rate for both indicators will decelerate vs. the previous month, but that looks like noise by way of the implied year-over-year gains. Indeed, in both cases the annual pace of growth is on track to tick higher for August, a forecast that undercuts the case for expecting an economic slowdown based on the sluggish lending activity.
Forecasts can be wrong, of course, and so weaker-than-expected results for industrial activity and retail spending would raise new questions about what’s in store for the US macro trend in the final months of 2017. Based on what we know right now, however, it’s still reasonable to treat the weak pace of business-loan growth as an outlier.

Dollar Hits Bottom
Gundlach believes that the US dollar has finally hit a bottom—at least for now. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, hit a more than 2-year low of 91.011 on Friday as investors worried about the short-term impact of Hurricane Irma and North Korean tensions on the US economy, CNBC said.
"The dollar for the short term has bottomed," remarked Gundlach, saying the coming bounce could cause the dollar index to "grind" higher to the 96 or 97 level. "But I don't think it's going to endure," he added, predicting the greenback "ultimately takes another leg down."
Gundlach's comments came during his Tuesday webcast for investors in one of his mutual funds, the DoubleLine Total Return Bond Fund.
As one of the few investors on Wall Street to accurately predict Donald Trump's election victory in 2016, Gundlach noted that the dollar originally rocketed upward following the election but has since fallen sharply off those highs.
Reiterating some of his previous concerns surrounding the market, he noted that now is not the time to be accruing risk.

 

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