As more and more pundits discuss the spectre of inflation, with gold flying to all time highs which many explain as an inflation hedge, not to mention stock price performance which is extrapolating virtual hyperinflation, the market "truth" as determined by Fed Fund futures and options is, and continues to be, diametrically opposite. In fact, compared to even a month ago, the percentage of market participants who see the probability of the Fed rate as determined by the June 23, 2010 FOMC decision, at 0.5% and/or below is 88.4%, nearly double the 46.2% on October 1. In a little over a month, the inflationists have gone from being a majority to being barely over 10%! Whether this is due to the continued "exceptional" language in the most recent FOMC statement, or due to the continued deflationary deterioration in the economy, is frankly, irrelevant.
Another way to observe just how much credibility Mr. Geithner has with his daily claims of "dollar strength support" is the below chart tracing the convictions of those believing the Fed Fund rate will be at or below the current baseline of 0-25 bps. As one can see the yellow and red line have hit records: virtually nobody believes that even in 6 months the Fed will do anything to increase rates, regardless of how much liquidity they pump into the system, regardless of what happens to M2 and M3, regardless of whether gold or the S&P hits the 2,000 mark (and one or the other very well might).
The most graphic way to visualize this is based on actual Fed Fund futures and options: the below charts demonstrate the path of highest probability determined by actual traded instruments. It is one thing to parade on TV how inflation has gripped the economy and how people should spend, spend, spend or in the worst case speculate, speculate, speculate by buying GE stock that trades with the volatility of a Tasmanian devil on crystal meth.
The rate probability determined by the futures spot curve a year from now suggests a Fed fund rate of about 0.65% (yellow line). The most likely path probability (thick red line) ends at about 0.75% a year from today. The Fed is certain to do nothing to the rate until June of next year.
Yet even expectations may not be reflecting reality, when reality is massaged and doctored courtesy of factually plain wrong or "adjusted" economic releases by the government. The reason why even micro-inflationists may be wrong is that if one takes the Taylor Rule and extrapolates into the future, based on realistic assumptions, the outcome is quite shocking.
The chart below demonstrates what the implied Fed Fund rate should be today based on the Taylor Rule: a whopping -6.15%! In other words, due to the Fed's inability to charge people money to hold monetary assets (negative rates), QE is expected to inflate assets to the point where the deteriorating economic data drowns out the implied negative number. In practice, the Taylor result means that the economy is still bogged down in a deep deflationary slump. One side effect: look for Excess Reserves to keep rising so long as the direct threat of deflation not wiping out trillions of bad debts at bank balance sheets, persists. Another side effect: look for the Fed's "assets" to start growing exponentially quite soon as the deflationary threat truly takes hold.
What few people realize and what is most troubling, is that despite the Fed's QE program, the current Taylor implied Fed Fund Rate of -6.15% is in fact lower than what it was in January 2009: as we discussed at the time, the Taylor implied rate then was a deja vuish -6%. And this was just as Ben Bernanke was finalizing the $1.7 trillion Quantitative Easing inflation/liquification program. It stands to reason that Quantitative Easing has been not only a failure, but has resulted in a monetary environment that is actually worse than it was at the peak of the crisis. That's what central planning intervention will do an otherwise efficient economy.
So what happens if we project into the future? There is no sense in trusting the government to provide objective data: recall that recently the BLS itself stated that it was going to reduce payroll data by over 800 thousand. As a result we perform a hypothetical extrapolation into the future, using David Rosenberg's estimate of a baseline 13% unemployment into 2010. While the number is likely aggressive (yet real unemployment is materially worse: plugging the U-6 number of 17.5% into the Talor equation and you get a ridiculous, and hopefully, unrealistic deflationary number), we believe we are too generous with CPI estimates, which will likely continue being persistently low for a long time, especially with such government subsidy packages as Cash For Clunkers. As a result we get a Taylor implied rate of -4.2% by October 2010.
All this means is that Bernanke is very likely about to unleash Quantitative Easing 2: If the $1.7 trillion already thrown at the problem has not fixed it, you can bet that the Chairman will not stop here. Furthermore, as the Fed has the best perspective on the economy, which is certainly far worse than is represented, the Fed has to act fast before things escalate even more out of control. Which is why Zero Hedge is willing to wager that not only will the agency/MBS program not expire in March as it is supposed to, but that a parallel QE process will likely begin very shortly.
The end result of all these actions, of course, is that the value of the dollar is about to plummet: when Bernanke announces that not only will he not end QE but that he will launch another version of the program, expect the dollar to take off on its one way path to $2 = €1. And when that happens, look for global trade to cease completely. In its quest to continue bailing out the banking system and rolling the trillions of toxic loans it refuses to accept are worthless (for if it did, equity values in the banking system would go, to zero immediately), the Fed will promptly resume destroying not only the US middle class, but the entire system of global trade built through many years of globalization. Look for America to end up in an insulated liquidity bubble in a few short years, trading exclusively with its vassal master: the People's Republic of China.