The Federal Reserve has pursued the unprecedented monetary policy of lowering rates to zero and increasing their portfolio from 500 billion to over 4 trillion. But as the Fed reminds us, there is a cost.
Since President Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in November, investors and management teams have been acutely focused on the new administration’s policy proposals. As expected, all 4 key themes discussed on Q4 conference calls are closely linked to Trump's policies and include tax reform, regulation, fiscal spending and trade policy.
The real travesty, and what I think deserves top priority (but I don’t see it), is that we have, in addition to 7.5 million officially unemployed (a number that is closer to 15 million when all the hidden unemployment is accounted for), 23.5 million Americans aged 25-to-54 who reside outside the confines of the labor force. And at a time when job openings are at record highs.
The Fed's latest beige book, perhaps the most boring report released by the Federal Reserve, found 10 of the 12 Fed districts growing at the now ubiquitous "modest or moderate pace" with Cleveland growing only slightly and New York reporting little change for the fourth period in a row. However, despite stagnant growth, margin pressures are building as input prices are rising faster than final goods prices.
The week ahead will be a busy one, with a plethora of events including the Davos shindig, where particular focus will be on Chinese President Xi Jinping, the first Chinese president to attend. China will also announce GDP on Friday, which also marks the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th US president. Tuesday brings Theresa May's long-awaited Brexit speech.
Global markets continued their levitation with the UK returning from vacation, pushing the MSCI Asia Pacific Index higher for the first time in seven days, while oil headed for the longest winning streak in almost seven years ahead of the promised OPEC production cut which is set to begin in just days. The USDJPY rose for a second day, pushing US equity futures higher and the DJIA is once again teasing with the 20,000 mark.
"If rate normalization happens in a steady and more predictable approach, the economy can incorporate this change in rates and psychology and make investment decisions based on the best allocation of capital to productive sources versus riding the asset bubble being generated by the easy-money policies around the globe."
The Fed's latest Beige Book released Wednesday found seven regional Fed districts reporting economic activity as growing at a modest or moderate pace, a decline from 11 in the last report, with strong dollar headwinds among one of the more frequently cited reasons for the weakness.
European, Asian stocks rise as do S&P futures as OPEC ministers gathering in Vienna appeared to be set to announce a deal to cut oil production and prop up global prices. Oil has surged over 7% as a result, also pushing US TSY yields and the dollar higher.
The key economic releases this week are consumer confidence on Tuesday, ISM manufacturing on Thursday, and the employment report on Friday. There are a few scheduled speaking engagements from Fed officials this week. The Beige Book for the December FOMC period will be released on Wednesday.
European shares dipped and U.S. equity-index futures (-0.3%) pointed to a lower open as traders questioned the stability of the Italian banking sector ahead of next weekend's referendum as well as the longevity of the Trumpflation rally, pressuring the dollar. "It's a bit of a pull back in the dollar," said Societe Generale strategist Alvin Tan. "The fall in oil is pushing back U.S. bond yields and that is leading the consolidation in the dollar.. there is more scepticism about an (OPEC) output cut now."
With more than half of the S&P500 reporting Q3 results so far, it appears that the earnings recession may finally be ending mostly as a result of the rise in oil prices which have pushed energy earnings higher relative to expectations on a year over year basis, and especially due to surprisingly strong results in the US banking sector.
US futures were little changed, with European shares lower, and Asian stocks higher as caution returned after last night's Chinese economic data did little to clear up how the world's second largest economy is performing, and provided few positives for investors ahead of the third and final U.S. presidential debate; imminent announcements from both the ECB and the Fed also will keep traders on their toes today.
The key economic releases this week include industrial production on Monday, CPI on Tuesday, and housing starts on Wednesday. There are several scheduled speeches from Fed officials this week. The Beige Book for the November FOMC period will be released on Wednesday.
World stocks started the week in the red Monday as the dollar touched a 7-month high and U.S. and European government bond yields climbed to their highest since June following the Friday speeches by Eric Rosengren and Janet Yellen which hinted the Fed's next step could be to pursue a steepening of the TSY yield curve the same as the BOJ.