American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition” last Friday, October 14, 2016. In our view, that’s yet another win for “Good Old American Know-How,” the United States’ remarkable ability to successfully and consistently export our ideas — along with our manufactured goods — to the rest of the world. Dylan has been one of our great exports for over 50 years now.
This week, the Federal Reserve (Fed) will issue its Beige Book — a qualitative assessment of business, banking, consumer, and agricultural conditions on Main Street in each of the Fed’s 12 regional districts, including the Minneapolis district (Dylan’s home district), ahead of the November 1 – 2, 2016 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. We expect the Fed’s Beige Book to reflect an economy that’s growing modestly, accompanied by rising wage and price pressure amid growing consumer and business anxiety ahead of the U.S. presidential election next month.
Although Dylan is notoriously press-shy and has never thought of himself as a “topical songwriter,” his catalogue of more than 500 songs provides even the casual listener with plenty of observations on life, love, and, if you look hard enough, even the economy and financial markets! This week, we take a look at the state of the U.S. economy, global economy, and financial markets through some of the more famous — and not so famous — lyrics from Bob Dylan’s songbook. We’re calling it Bob’s Beige Book.
—We sit here stranded, though we’re all doing our best to deny it—
Visions of Johanna | Blonde on Blonde (1966)
This line could really be sung by any central banker these days. From Fed Chair Janet Yellen to Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank (ECB), central bankers continue to look to fiscal policy to aid in reinvigorating the global economy. Markets will hear from Draghi this Thursday, October 20, 2016, after the ECB’s policy meeting. While markets don’t expect much out of the ECB this week — with some market participants expecting Draghi to signal the scaling back of its quantitative easing program — we expect Draghi once again to make a plea to governments in Europe to enact some pro-growth spending policies soon.
—Your old road is rapidly aging—
The Times They Are A-Changin’ | The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
Increased infrastructure spending would very likely be part of any increase in government spending in the United States and perhaps overseas as well. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have talked about initiating infrastructure spending if elected, although they have proposed vastly different ways to pay for it. Clinton plans to raise taxes to fund the infrastructure build, while Trump will likely cut spending elsewhere and increase borrowing to fund his infrastructure proposals. We will hopefully hear more specifics on these plans in the third and final presidential debate, set for this Wednesday, October 19, 2016, in Las Vegas.
—Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call, Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall—