Bunsen Burnout & Vexing Vulnerabilities — When Tell Tale Economic Signals Flash Falsities

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A quick perusal of the financial press revealed a treasure trove of write-ups on PIMCO’s Richard Clarida, the recently named nominee to be Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board. Coverage of one Michelle Bowman, nominated the same day to serve as a governor on the Board was, however, scant.

Given the dearth of warm bodies on the Board of late, I thought it only fair to provide a bit of color on the woman who goes by the nickname “Miki.” Bowman is presently the State Bank Commissioner for Kansas and has been since January 2017. Her designated role on the Board would fill the regulator of community banks position created by Congress in 2014. Much of the coverage ends there.

Did you know, though, that Bowman is a fifth-generation banker and holds a law degree? Her family’s bank has been around for 135 years. She has also served in Washington at the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA in the George W. Bush administration. Prior to that, she was a congressional adviser to former Kansas Senator Bob Dole. That’s not to say she is unaware of how very global the banking system is. Bowman ran a government and public affairs consultancy in London for five years through 2009.

As reported by the Kansas City Business Journal, Bowman is a known known in the Senate. Senator Jerry Moran, a member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, said Bowman’s breadth of experience, “will bring a unique and important perspective to the Board.”

Her nomination is welcome news. The value of community banks in our country cannot be discounted – they are the tie that binds so much of our rural economy to the broader financial system. Innovation is not confined to the Silicon Valleys that sprinkle our nation, nor should it be. And yet, according to George Mason University, the number of banks with assets of $10 billion has declined 27% from 8,263 in 2000 to 5,961 in 2014. The situation is sure to have continued to degrade given inappropriately onerous regulations that have been enacted since then, even as large banks have grown by over a third.

So yes, I will be listening to her confirmation hearing and do look forward to the intellectual diversity and pragmatism she would bring to the Board. We need a strong community bank advocate. Let’s hope Miki Bowman fulfills that role with vigor.

Back on our Bloomberg monitors, the biggest banks and heftiest tech darlings have taken it on the chin of late. Maybe supreme dominance isn’t all it’s cut out to be. Or the stocky stocks could simply have gotten ahead of themselves against a backdrop of inflation that refuses to abate. Overvaluation and rising costs are certainly not ideal bedfellows.

As for what’s to come, there may not be a scheduled press conference following next week’s FOMC meeting, but I’m not convinced May 3rd will be the usual lame duck nonevent. Should we prepare for an unexpected announcement? Who knows? Maybe Powell has finished ruminating on whether press conferences should follow every FOMC meeting and is of the mind to announce that they will. Perhaps the May statement would be a fitting platform to roll out the news. Markets haven’t priced in a miniscule probability of a May rate hike for nothing. I’ll be all ears. You should be as well.

If nothing else, Powell, who founded the Industrials Group in his years at Carlyle, may be paying as close attention as we are to the earnings parade. Has he also noticed companies lamenting how quickly input and labor costs are rising? A shift to more hawkish inflation language would do the trick in validating that Powell & Co. are concerned inflation is more than a cyclical phenomenon. No doubt the inflation debate will continue to rage on with all eyes on the core PCE release Monday morning.

For my take on where we are in the cycle and how inflation plays into the dynamic, please enjoy this week’s installment, Bunsen Burnout & Vexing Vulnerabilities: When Tell Tale Economic Signals Flash Falsities.

Consider this my third and final appeal to recognize the legacy of Bloomberg Senior Economist Rich Yamarone, who passed away suddenly at the age of 55 last fall. As my friend and colleague David Rosenberg, a close friend of Rich’s for 16 years reminded us in his own entreaty, “contributions are the bedrock of scholarship.” Please join David and me in giving to the Richard A. Yamarone Memorial Scholarship in Economics at Brooklyn College. I too have humble beginnings in academia, but that has only served to fortify my loyalty to the institutions that schooled me in the fine art of thinking for myself. Please follow the link below if you are so inclined and to those of you who have answered my call, a huge debt of gratitude.


NOTE: Donors should enter “Richard A. Yamarone Memorial Scholarship” in the comments box provided to ensure that their gift will be allocated to the Yamarone Scholarship. 


Hoping you take a moment to listen in, and wishing you well,




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