Last week, it was confirmed that the US Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 8.3% year-on-year. Given that July’s CPI of 8.5% was a little less than the previous month’s 9.1%, a continued downtrend would have been an indicator that US recession was showing signs of recovery. August’s number – in slight excess of forecasted estimates – this indicator doesn’t hold water. Since the announcement, the S&P 500 dropped 4.32% over the day.
In Bank of America’s Fund Manager Survey edition in July (which was discussed in an earlier article), it was estimated by the survey organizer that CPI month-on-month pivots has no means for reducing inflation rises by the end of the year.
One means of combating inflation would be for the US Federal Reserve raising rates to mop up the money supply. However, as per estimations made of CPI changes versus that in the Fed Rate, it would be around a year until CPI changes stabilize.
Now, an earlier article had indicated how data suggests that both the “working-class” population segment (i.e. predominantly those without a college degree) and the “middle-class” segment (i.e. predominantly those with a college degree) in the U.S. had been driven to consider debt as a primary spend versus consumption. This affects growth outlook in the U.S. economy that is already battling inflation woes. However, despite over a year of steady inflationary pressure, U.S. authorities have been unwilling to call the current period a recession. The primary reason for this is the U.S. job market: data indicates that unemployment is low, thus rationalizing their argument that there is no potential recession.
On a purely quantitative basis, this argument holds water. However, on a qualitative basis, this argument has some worrying trends to contend with. The first one is trends in CEO pay vs average pay. As per a study published by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in August 2021, CEO pay in the US has been skyrocketing relative to that of average worker pay (which includes both “working-class” and “middle-class” segments) since the mid-nineties.
In total terms, from 1978 to 2020, “realized” CEO compensation increased 1,322.2% — more than 60% faster than stock market growth (depending on the market index used) and substantially faster than the slow 18.0% growth in the typical worker’s compensation over the same period. From a relatively humble ratio of a little over 30X in the late seventies, this gap was 351X by the end of 2020. Also, interestingly, big pay gap highs have nearly always been followed by an economic downturn in the 21st century, following which the pay gap rationalizes to a degree.
The same study by EPI also examined evidence to conclude that CEO compensation grew much faster than the earnings of the top 0.1% of wage earners in the country, thus putting paid to arguments in some circles that increasing CEO compensation also implies a commensurate increase in pay of “productive workers”. For instance, data showed top 0.1% annual earnings growing 341% from 1978 to 2019, which is only a third as much as the 1,096% growth of our measure of realized CEO compensation for the same period. As of 2020, the gap between CEO pay gap was at a near-8 year high and trending further upwards.
In another study published in May this year that examined historical data, the EPI arrived at an interesting conclusion: low wage earners are less likely to leave an employer and seek higher wages elsewhere.
When this tendency was analyzed in residual terms (i.e. one that accounts for living costs across the board), it becomes clearer that low-wage earners and very high wage earners are less likely to while those in the “middle class” are more likely to. While very high wage earners are likely to have an inherent ownership interest, low wage earners typically used to find no significant upgrades in wages.
Given the middle class’ relative proximity to the top 0.1% wage earners and CEO – at least in terms of working relationships – this implies that the wage gap affects the middle class on a qualitative basis far more. However, in an inflationary setting, “labour elasticity”, i.e. an ability to jump from one employer to another, stiffens considerably. This leads to a phenomenon known as “non-engagement” wherein an employee does the bare minimum in order to remain employed and have no psychological connection to their workplace as opposed to those striving (“engaging”) to make personal gains via achievements. “Disengagement”, on the other hand, implies that employees feel their needs are not met.
Earlier this month, survey specialist Gallup published the results of a survey which showed an interesting phenomenon: while average disengagement has largely stabilized, average engagement has been dropping for nearly two years now.
During Q2 2022, the proportion of “engaged” workers remained at 32% while the proportion of “actively disengaged” increased to 18%. The ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is now 1.8 to 1, the lowest in almost 10 years. Managers, i.e. those more likely to be “middle class”, experienced the greatest drop in engagement. This means that 50% of the U.S. workforce is “not engaged”.
Given the trends in “engagement” loss, productivity now becomes incumbent on fewer and fewer people than ever before. The intertwining factors are thus: with rising inflation affecting input costs and high CEO/top 0.1% wage earners pay comes pressure on maintaining bottom lines. Maintaining wages along “other ranks” becomes the go-to option in many cases.
Interestingly, the US Federal Reserve’s Wage Growth tracker confirms this trend and adds a lot of interesting subtext to make inferences from.
Firstly, college degree holders – the “middle class” hasn’t experienced as great an increase in wages as “hourly wage” earners. This shows that, despite a lesser elasticity being imputed, the “working class” is both keenly affected by inflation and demanding a redressal in their situation. Secondly, “job stayers” – generally long-term “active engagers” – have seen the least wage increase while “job switchers” – generally “non-engaged” workers – have seen the highest increase in wages.
Qualitatively, “active engagers” tend to be have a positive impact on company profitability. Sacrificing them on the altar of expediency, if true, is a dire indicator for the outlook. There’s also another perspective: today’s “job switcher” is tomorrow’s “job stayer”. If “job stayers'” wages continue to flounder, increasing “active engagers” and stabilizing strong contributors will be increasingly difficult for companies. In this event, maintaining a positive outlook on corporate growth has yet another impediment.
Exchange-Traded Products (ETPs) offer substantial potential to gain magnified exposure with potential losses limited to only the invested amount and no further. Learn more about Exchange Traded Products providing exposure on either the upside or the downside to the S&P 500 as well as the upside or the downside to the Nasdaq-100.
Sandeep joined Leverage Shares in September 2020. He leads research on existing and new product lines, asset classes, and strategies, with special emphasis on analysis of recent events and developments.
Sandeep has longstanding experience with financial markets. Starting with a Chicago-based hedge fund as a financial engineer, his career has spanned a variety of domains and organizations over a course of 8 years – from Barclays Capital’s Prime Services Division to (most recently) Nasdaq’s Index Research Team.
Sandeep holds an M.S. in Finance as well as an MBA from Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago.
Violeta joined Leverage Shares in September 2022. She is responsible for conducting technical analysis, macro and equity research, providing valuable insights to help shape investment strategies for clients.
Prior to joining LS, Violeta worked at several high-profile investment firms in Australia, such as Tollhurst and Morgans Financial where she spent the past 12 years of her career.
Violeta is a certified market technician from the Australian Technical Analysts Association and holds a Post Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance and Investment from Kaplan Professional (FINSIA), Australia, where she was a lecturer for a number of years.
Julian joined Leverage Shares in 2018 as part of the company’s premier expansion in Eastern Europe. He is responsible for web content and raising brand awareness.
Julian has been academically involved with economics, psychology, sociology, European politics & linguistics. He has experience in business development and marketing through business ventures of his own.
For Julian, Leverage Shares is an innovator in the field of finance & fintech, and he always looks forward with excitement to share the next big news with investors in the UK & Europe.
Oktay joined Leverage Shares in late 2019. He is responsible for driving business growth by maintaining key relationships and developing sales activity across English-speaking markets.
He joined LS from UniCredit, where he was a corporate relationship manager for multinationals. His previous experience is in corporate finance and fund administration at firms like IBM Bulgaria and DeGiro / FundShare.
Oktay holds a BA in Finance & Accounting and a post-graduate certificate in Entrepreneurship from Babson College. He is also a CFA charterholder.
Terms and Conditions
If you are not classified as an institutional investor, you will be categorised as a private/retail investor. At this time, we cannot send communications directly to private/retail investors. You are welcome to view the contents of this website.
If you are an ‘Institutional investor’, you affirm either that you are a Per Se Professional Client, or that you wish to be treated as an Eligible Counterparty Client, both as defined under the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, or an equivalent in a jurisdiction outside the European Economic Area.
The value of an investment in ETPs may go down as well as up and past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Trading in ETPs may not be suitable for all types of investor as they carry a high degree of risk. You may lose all of your initial investment. Only speculate with money you can afford to lose. Changes in exchange rates may also cause your investment to go up or down in value. Tax laws may be subject to change. Please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved. If in any doubt, please seek independent financial advice. Investors should refer to the section entitled “Risk Factors” in the relevant prospectus for further details of these and other risks associated with an investment in the securities offered by the Issuer.
This website is provided for your general information only and does not constitute investment advice or an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any investment.
Nothing on this website is advice on the merits of any product or investment, nothing constitutes investment, legal, tax or any other advice nor is it to be relied on in making an investment decision. Prospective investors should obtain independent investment advice and inform themselves as to applicable legal requirements, exchange control regulations and taxes in their jurisdiction.
This website complies with the regulatory requirements of the United Kingdom. There may be laws in your country of nationality or residence or in the country from which you access this website which restrict the extent to which the website may be made available to you.
United States Visitors
The information provided on this site is not directed to any United States person or any person in the United States, any state thereof, or any of its territories or possessions.
Persons accessing this website in the European Economic Area
Access to this site is restricted to Non-U.S. Persons outside the United States within the meaning of Regulation S under the U.S. Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”). Each person accessing this site, by so doing, acknowledges that: (1) it is not a U.S. person (within the meaning of Regulation S under the Securities Act) and is located outside the U.S. (within the meaning of Regulation S under the Securities Act); and (2) any securities described herein (A) have not been and will not be registered under the Securities Act or with any securities regulatory authority of any state or other jurisdiction and (B) may not be offered, sold, pledged or otherwise transferred except to persons outside the U.S. in accordance with Regulation S under the Securities Act pursuant to the terms of such securities. None of the funds on this website are registered under the United States Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended (the “Advisers Act”).
Exclusion of Liability
Certain documents made available on the website have been prepared and issued by persons other than Leverage Shares Management Company. This includes any Prospectus document. Leverage Shares Management Company is not responsible in any way for the content of any such document. Except in those cases, the information on the website has been given in good faith and every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy. Nevertheless, Leverage Shares Management Company shall not be responsible for loss occasioned as a result of reliance placed on any part of the website and it makes no guarantee as to the accuracy of any information or content on the website. The description of any ETP Security referred to in this website is a general one. The terms and conditions applicable to investors will be set out in the Prospectus, available on the website and should be read prior to making any investment.
Leverage Shares exchange-traded products (ETPs) provide leveraged exposure and are only suitable for experienced investors with knowledge of the risks and potential benefits of leveraged investment strategies.
This website is maintained by Leverage Shares Management Company, which is a limited liability company and is incorporated in Ireland with registered offices at 2 Grand Canal Square, Grand Canal Harbour, Dublin 2.
By clicking you agree to the Terms and Conditions displayed.