There’s a lot of chatter out there that the Fed will hold off on a taper announcement, but will put some sort of limit on the overall size of this latest round of QE launched in September 2012. In other words, monthly purchases will continue at the current rate, but this will no longer be a QE-forever program. From a CK game perspective, placing a limit on the QE program is a more market-negative statement than a taper. This is what I’m going to be watching for tomorrow, along with whatever dovish (market-positive) language is inserted around forward guidance on rates. And then the battle for meaning and interpretation will be joined …
In last month's 2 Year bond auction we highlighted that the end of the declining Bids to Cover trend has arrived for good, after the 3.54 BTC priced at the second highest since February. Today's just concluded 2 Year slammed the door shut on any fears that there may be declining broad bid side demand, after the Bid to Cover of 3.767 printed at nearly the same level as January's 3.675, but well higher, making it the highest BTC since last November's 4.07. The market demand at the time of auction confirmed this, with the When Issued trading at 0.352% at 1 PM, only to see the final yield on the $30 billion auction cross at a very strong 0.345%. Finally, the internals were just as strong, with Direct bidders taking down 30.24%, well above the November 27.3% and the TTM average of 23.5%, while Indirects took a slightly softer 21.55%, leaving Dealers with their usual fare of just around half, or 48.21% to be precise. Bottom line: if there was some concern in the recent 3 Year auction, the complete lack of market jitteryness today showed that the market is certainly not worried about any Fed rate hikes until after 2015.
Current price levels and related trends are similar today, Bloomberg's Rich Yamarone warns, to recent periods when deflation fears forced the Federal Reserve to ease policy. To determine the course of monetary policy, the Fed, Yamarone notes, looks at a number of indicators. What is worrying today is that several of them – production and employment – are moving in a somewhat softer direction (despite MSM propaganda). For those optimists leaning toward the potential for a more vibrant economic recovery, a word of caution: Comparisons to month-ago or even year-ago levels may be deceiving. However, given the fragility of the economy and the Fed’s unprecedented policy actions, a renewed threat of deflation leaves policy makers with few options.
Cronyism Strikes Again: Ex-Microsoftee Married To Democrat Congresswoman Set To Take Over Obamacare ExchangeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/17/2013 - 13:05
Having done a bang up job on the Healthcare.gov rollout (after retaining virtually every private sector company with relevant skills to fix the 500 million-lines-of-code monster), Jeff Zients, as we reported previously, is set to become director of the National Economic Council (perhaps he will next roll out a database where America's unemployed sign up). But what is more notable is that his replacement in leading the overhaul of the Obamacare exchanges is a former executive from Microsoft. Kurt DelBene, whose wife just happens to be Democratic Congresswoman Suzan DelBene. What could possibly go wrong as cronyism brings Blue Cross together with the Blue Screen of Death?
If policymakers were gunfighters, they’d be out of bullets: They have run out of effective policy tools to improve the economy.
So the question is simple: If there is a recession in 2014, and policymakers are out of bullets, how will it play out across the American economy?
USD strength, precious metal weakness, long-bond selling, and stocks tanking - all on the back of the ultimate driver of exuberance, the JPY-carry trade's leverage. With VIX pressing higher (over 16.5%) and credit spreads widening further, it seems hedges (or simply reducing exposure) into tomorrow's FOMC is the order of the day...
Over the past month, an interesting conflict emerged between Putin's Russia and, well, some unelected person's Europe. The conflict was over who would be the Ukraine's big brother, and strategic ally for the future, and whether the Ukraine would snub Europe, i.e. the West, and reorient to its Soviet Union roots, by aligning with Russia. Moments ago, the fight over Ukraine ended. Russia won.
- PUTIN SAYS GAZPROM TO SELL GAS TO UKRAINE AT $268.50
- PUTIN: RUSSIA TO USE SOVEREIGN WEALTH FUND TO INVEST IN UKRAINE
- PUTIN SAYS RUSSIA TO INVEST $15B IN UKRAINIAN SECURITIES
- SILUANOV SAYS UKRAINE TO SELL $15B BONDS TO RUSSIA IN 2013-14
Europe, like a jilted lover, was sad but understood it had been bested:
- GERMANY’S STEINMEIER: EU’S OVERTURE TO UKRAINE FELL SHORT
- STEINMEIER: EU MAY HAVE UNDERESTIMATED RUSSIA DETERMINATION
Despite higher rates, collapsing mortgage applications, lower affordability, and fast money exiting the market, the NAR just won't back off their exuberant optimism that it will all end well. With the biggest beat of expectations in 7 months, the NAHB sentiment index re-spiked back to 58 - levels not seens since November 2005. Only the NorthEast saw prospective buyer traffic drop notably (we are sto be blamed on the weather) as the survey saw a surge in the single-family-home-sales sub-index.
Back in November 2011, when the ECB failed to fully sterilize its weekly outstanding amount of bond purchases under its now defunct SMP program (replaced with the even more impotent OMT non-existent "bond buying" program), it caused a plunge in the Euro and sent European stocks reeling over fears what this may mean for European bank liquidity. This happened just as Europe was "turmoiling" and the ECB announced the flooding of the European banking system with hundreds of billions in excess liquidity via the collateral-soaking LTRO 1 and 2. A few hours ago, the very same thing happened after the ECB found only 109 bidders for today's weekly attempt to sterilize €184 billion in outstanding SMP holdings, and instead got bids for only €152.3 billion of the total leading to a €32 billion shortfall. This happened just a month after another failed ECB sterilization on November 26. The market barely noticed.
The fraud that has been the US government and its effects on the Potemkin economy should be obvious by now. Yet our politicians continue to pretend the economy is growing and recovering. It is not. It is in a death spiral that their interventions caused and continue to feed. For years short-run corrections were avoided or mitigated by this falsifying of economic signals. The intent was to send false signals to economic actors, to encourage them to behave in ways that helped short-term results but were harmful long-term. The cost was to make the economy weaker and less efficient. The economy has been wasted. These short-term highs have place it in grave danger.
"I got up this early to talk, not to listen," Jim Grant berates Fed-apologist Steve Liesman as the two go head-to-head over the fallacy that QE has been a success. "The Fed can change how things look, it cannot change what things are," is the single-sentence summation of the mirage that the Fed's "dangerous monetary manipulation" has created...
As we noted earlier today, if there was one piece of news that could tip the scales away from a December taper announcement, it was a November inflation number that came in below expectations. Which it did: the headline November inflation print came in unchanged, on expectations of a 0.1% increase for the month, and up 1.2% for the year, below the 1.3% expected. However, before you BTFATH, note that core inflation - the Fed's preferred metric - actually was higher than expected, with prices ex food and gas, rising 0.2% in November on expectations of a 0.1% increase. Indeed, looking at the components, the headline inflation number was dragged down by gasoline prices which dipped 1.6% in November and overall Energy costs which fell 1.0%. Also notable: apparel inflation was -0.4% in November - the third consecutive month of declines. However, back to the core number, annual inflation was up 1.7% Y/Y just shy of the Fed's target, while core service inflation is up 2.4%.
Once again the precious metals market is moving in a highly efficient EKG-like manner - this time to the downside. As the US markets awake, Gold has been hit with heavy selling, retracing all of yesterday's gains, and Silver the same after some overnight shenanigans as Europe opened. The fits and starts with which these markets trade is remarkable - yet we suspect tomorrow will bring even more. Notably this drop in the PMs is also accompanied by further weakness in Bitcoin, a sell-off in bonds and USD strength (the latter of which suggest taper concerns).
Yesterday afternoon, Zions Bancorp, Utah's biggest lender, stunned the financial community with a regulatory filing in which it announced that as a result of the final Volcker Rule implementation, it will need to make some very dramatic changes to its balance sheet, which would also have a follow through, and quite adverse, impact on its income statement. To wit: "Under the published rule, the Company would no longer have the ability to hold disallowed securities until the anticipated recovery of their amortized cost. Therefore, as of December 15, 2013, Zions anticipates that in the fourth quarter of 2013 it will reclassify all covered CDOs that currently are classified as “Held to Maturity” into “Available for Sale,” and that all covered CDOs, regardless of the accounting classification, will be adjusted to Fair Value through an Other Than Temporary Impairment non-cash charge to earnings. The net result would eliminate substantially all of the accumulated other comprehensive income adjustment to equity related to the covered securities." The implications of this announcement could be severe, and in a worst case scenario, as Sterne Agee notes, could "roil the market"...
- Fed’s $4 Trillion Assets Draw Lawmaker Ire Amid Bubble Concern (BBG)
- Ex-Goldmanite Fab Tourre fined more than $1 million (WSJ)
- EU Banks Shrink Assets by $1.1 Trillion as Capital Ratios Rise (BBG)
- Japan to bolster military, boost Asia ties to counter China (Reuters)
- China condemns Abe for criticizing air defense zone (Reuters)
- Insider-Trading Case May Hinge on Phone Call (WSJ)
- Republicans Gird for Debt-Ceiling Fight (WSJ)
- Mario Draghi pushes bank union deal (FT)
- German Coalition Plans More Pension Money (WSJ)
- Oil Supply Surge Brings Calls to Ease U.S. Export Ban (BBG)