The bombs are going to drop – increased forward guidance on rates and decreased direct bond purchases – but these policies in and of themselves are just tactical. What’s really at stake is the strategic meaning of these policies, the belief system that takes hold (or doesn’t) around the power of the Fed to create market outcomes. Over the next three or four months we’re going to see quite a battle for the hearts and minds of investors, with both “sides” employing the Narrative of Don’t Fight the Fed. On the one hand you will have the Fed, with their Jericho Trumpet of Hilsenrath et al shrieking at you a new interpretation of the Narrative: ZIRP is the source of the Fed’s power, not QE, so tapering is no big deal. On the other hand you also have the Fed, but the Fed of the past several years and the way it has trained the market to believe that the portfolio rebalancing effect … i.e., the behavioral impact of QE that Bernanke has directly credited with driving up the stock market … is what really matters. And if that’s your reality, then tapering is a big deal, indeed. I’ll be monitoring all this closely at Epsilon Theory in the weeks ahead.
All five regulatory agencies put to a vote and approved the Volcker rule on Tuesday, supposedly, as The WSJ reports, ushering in a new era of tough oversight that drills to the core of Wall Street's profitable markets and trading businesses. As President Obama just ordered via Bloomberg:
- *OBAMA SAYS VOLCKER RULE WILL MAKE FINANCIAL SYSTEM SAFER
Of course, now the various regulators line up at the trough demanding more funding to cover all the details of all the pages of all the new laws that all of the banks will now have to address on all of their trades...
The % of NYSE stocks above their 200-day moving averages has a strong bearish divergence similar to previous plunge-preceding divergences. As BofAML notes, this points to diminishing momentum for market breadth and preceded pullbacks in the range of 15%-20% in 2010 and 2011; increasing the risk for a US equity market pullback in 2014.
They will try the head-fake taper. They must. It will be backstopped by and saturated in statistical lying, and everyone will have trouble parsing the probable effect because the chronic dishonesty loose in this land will have deformed and impaired all metrics of true value. At the heart of whatever remains of this economy is fire, and the officers of the Federal Reserve are playing with it. Pretty soon, we’ll get the un-taper, the final surrender to the crack-up boom that awaits before the western world has to go medieval.
While much has been said about the benefits of Bernanke's wealth effect to the asset-owning "10%", just as much has been said about the ever deteriorating plight of the remaining debt-owning 90%, who are forced to resort to labor to provide for their families, and more specifically how their living condition has deteriorated over not only the past five years, since the start of the Fed's great experiment, but over the past several decades as well. However, in the case of America's "servant" class, Al Jazeera finds that their plight is now worse than it has been at any time over the past century, going back all the way to 1910!
Tapering may not be tightening, as the Fed will keep repeating until someone actually believes it (the Fed may be right, however it's not what the Fed thinks or does, but the next most levered counterparty who is the risk factor, and whose potential selling is what is keeping everyone on their toes), but the just completed 3 Year auction just priced at a yield of 0.631%, precisely where it priced in August, the month before the last "consensus" taper announcement at the September FOMC, and above the 0.581% where the 3 Year was in June when the Taper Tantrum peaked. The short-end may not be panicking yet, but the enthusiasm for bonds is certainly not where it used to be, especially when one considers 3 Years priced in the mid-0.3% range from September 2011 until May 2013.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, copy 'em, and then beat 'em. While everyone's attention has been glued to Bitcoin (and its various smaller and less viable for now alternative digital currencies), JPMorgan has submitted a patent which appears to set the scene for a competing centralized network to Bitcoin. As LetsTalkBitcoin noted first, the "Method and system for processing internet payments using the electronic funds transfer network," states that Chase's technology is a "new paradigm." Moreover that it permits the creation of "virtual cash" (also referred to as "web cash") with a "real-time digital exchange of value." Without naming the virtual currency or any competing payments system by name, the bank takes a swipe at the crytocurrency model, adding that sees “a new marketplace” emerging for “low dollar, high volume, real-time payments with payment surety for both consumers and producers.”
Since fundamentals have been irrelvant for years, the only possible (short-term) guide in a market in which the only thing that does matter is the Fed's balance sheet, are trends (as Hugh Hendry put it so appropriately) here are some technical trade ideas from Bank of America, on the EURUSD, Treasurys, the S&P500 and WTI.
Volcker Rule - Who cares? I know we are supposed to care more about this convoluted rule, but we just can’t. The concept that somehow “prop” trading brought down the banks seems silly. The idea that market making desks were a dangerous part of the equation is ludicrous. They could have fixed this with a few simple changes, but that would have meant some blame would have had to be shifted onto the regulators...
Back in September, courtesy of an unprecedented discrepancy between the JOLTS "net turnovers" (or hires less separations) print, which traditionally has been the equivalent of the NFP's establishment survey monthly job additions, we highlighted just what happens when the BLS has caught itself in a estimation lie, and is forced to adjusted the data set both concurrently and retroactively to correct for cumulative error. We suggested that as a result of this public humiliation, the BLS would have no choice but to ramp up its monthly net turnovers print in order to "catch up" to what the monthly payrolls survey indicated is America's "improving" jobs picture. Sure enough, when moments ago the latest October JOLTS survey was released, the October "net turnovers" number soared from 155K in September to a whopping 260K in October, more than eclipsing the revised NFP print of 200K job gains in October, and leading to the second highest JOLTS turnover print since February's 271K, and before that - going back all the way to the 287K in February of 2012. And yes, this was in the month when the government had shut down and the result was supposedly major, if temporary, job losses.
We can only imagine the upward revisions to 'current' GDP that will occur due to the largest mal-investment-driven wholesale inventory build in over 2 years. The 1.4% MoM gain is over 4x the expectation and biggest beat since Q4 2011, when - just as now - a mid-year plunge was met by a rabid over-stocking only to see the crumble back into mid 2012. As we noted previously, 56% of economic "growth" this year was inventory accumulation (cough auto channel stuffing cough) and this print merely confirms "hollow growth" continues. The problem with inventory hoarding, however, is that at some point it will have to be "unhoarded." Which is why expect many downward revisions to 'future' GDP as this inventory overhang has to be destocked.
And so it is done (as we detailed here)... and due to be put in place as of April1st 2014 (rather ironically). The 100-plus-pages of rules and regulations prohibit two activities of banking entities: (i) engaging in proprietary trading; and (ii) owning, sponsoring, or having certain relationships with a hedge fund or private equity fund. But the kicker...
"requires banking entities to establish an internal compliance program designed to help ensure and monitor compliance with the prohibitions and restrictions of the statute and the final rule."
Great! Because self-regulation worked so well in the past for the financial services industry.
Despite the ratings agencies (Moody's Dec 5th and S&P Nov 22nd) seemingly premature raising of the outlook for the nation's sovereign credit rating (from negative to stable), economic hardship in Spain looks likely to continue as loan defaults surge and the unemployment rate remains the second highest in the EU.