Fed economists say they don’t think inflation rates are rising. They think the most recent reading is a fluke. But why does anyone take them seriously? Prakash Loungani, an economist working for the IMF, undertook a study (published in 2001 in the International Journal of Forecasting); there were no surprises in it. “The record of failure to predict recessions is virtually unblemished,” he reported. That was in 2001. Surely, by 2014, the experts had managed to stain their pathetic record with some success? Nope. Loungani and a colleague, Hites Ahir, took another look. They examined 77 different national economies, of which 49 were in recession in 2009. In 2008, how many economic forecasters saw the recessions coming a year later? Go ahead, dear reader, take a guess. The answer is zero.
With the Eurozone going to the extreme of negative interest rates and the IMF belatedly revising downwards their expectations of US economic growth, deflation is now the favored buzzword. It is time to untangle myth from reality and put deflation in context.
As Komal Sri-Kumar points out in this harsh (but fair) discussion of the Fed, (as Tim Iacono notes) the central bank’s abysmal track record on forecasting economic growth and how they have a fantastic track record for “taking the punch bowl away” far too slowly should worry all. "The Fed has been wrong every time on its growth forecast and overly optimistic," Sri-Kumar rants, adding that "the Fed is wrong in terms of its benevolence to the markets." The current environment reminds him of early 2008 noting there are "lots of characteristics which are similar and it worries me a lot." Simply out, "they’ve had five years of quantitative easing, big bond purchases, quintupling of the Fed balance sheet. And we don’t have sustainable economic growth," but the great medication is not working, and "the remedy is that you have to take the shock."
Once Central Banks get out of markets, and I know some critics think that once they get in they are here to stay, healthy volatility and actual price discovery should come back to asset classes.
While the price analogs of the last few year's exuberance in US equity markets are enough to worry all but the most systemically bullish "believer"; we suspect the following article from the LA Times In the Spring of 1987 will raise a few hairs on the back of the neck of perpetually optimistic extrapolator... "One of the largest bullish factors is burgeoning worldwide liquidity..."
Having been told by she-that-knows that low volatility is not a signal of complacency, it appears Citi's Matt King disagrees. Unlike 2004-2007's "virtuous" cycle of low vol begetting low vol, 2013-2014's lower volatility is leading to a decidedly "vicious" circle that will likely not end well for the Fed and the world's central banks' "financial stability" mandates.
Spend any time watching business media, and you could not help but notice the extreme amount of optimism about the financial markets. Despite weak economic data and geopolitical intrigue, the complacency and "bullishness" are at extreme levels. Considering that the markets have been primarily advancing on the back of continued flows of liquidity from the Federal Reserve combined with artificially suppressed interest rates; what do you think the impact on the financial markets will be? “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” - Andy Grove
As oil prices have risen on geopolitical concerns (that have been printed away by central banks in stocks), so gas prices at the pump in the US have risen to their highest for this time of year since 2008 (and that did not end well). We are not alone in our concern as Morgan Stanley's (and esx Fed) Vince Reinhart warns that a more extreme jump in oil prices would be enough to stall the recovery (lowering real GDP growth by 1.7 percentage points one year out; and perhaps more worryingly, raise CPI growth by about 3.6pp, lowering real consumer spending growth by a full two percentage points).
According to the latest CapGemini wealth report the number of high net worth individuals increased by nearly 1.8 million in the past year, the second biggest surge since 2000, which also happened to be the crazy days of the first tech bubble (not to be confused with the current tech bubble). In other words, the epic, unprecedented stock bubble reflated by the world's coordinated central banks, has succeeded. Succeeded, that is, if its goal was to make the world's richest people wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. As for everyone else, just over 7 billion people, better luck next time.
An interesting dynamic taking place in financial markets on Thursday as Gold saw some substantial buying interest up $22 to the $1295 an ounce area.
Larry Fink told the world this morning that central banks are holding a floor under stock prices (but wouldn't expect to see large price increases) - and judging by the gamma imbalances in volatility-land, they are using options markets to unriggedly manage that implicit put. However, given the utter dominance of the machines in the market and any reaction when real volume hits stocks (always down), we thought, courtesy of Nanex, a gentle reminder of just how quickly the Fed put disappears would be useful in this new "we can never get hurt, valuations are within norms, there is no complacency" normal.
Gold has surged over $41 and silver over 70 cents to over $1,314 and $20.46 per ounce or 3% and 4.2% respectively as oil ticks higher on the tinder box that is Iraq ... Faber recently said how he will “never sell his gold”, he buys “more every month” and believes storing gold in Singapore is "safest”.
Many market participants are scratching their head as to whether the low VIX levels are an anomaly or some kind of utopian new normal. JPMorgan's Quant Derivatives shop warns the current environment is not similar to the great moderation of 2004-2007 as volatility appears to be disconnected from fundamentals and pressured by structural effects, including central bank intervention, low trading volumes, and pressure from option hedging. Crucially, based on an examination of 'gamma imbalances', the current (low) volatility regime may change significantly after the June expiry.
As he said all along "investors should have some exposure to gold" and Marc Faber has been adding recently as gold (and gold stocks) are so much cheaper than over-inflated stocks. Faber holds around 25% of his assets in gold becaquse he believes eventually the monetary policies of central banks will lead to a further loss of purchasing power in the value of paper money. The CNBC anchor is perturbed as the market is selling gold and buying stocks; to which Faber rebuffs; investors are shunning gold "because the media doesn't like gold, nobody at CNBC owns gold. Nobody at Bloomberg owns gold. Gold is being constantly talked down by the media, and Fed officials, and economists, who also don't own any gold. They're all stocked up in equities." "When people talk about people who are optimistic about gold, they call them 'gold bugs.' A bug is an insect. I don't call equity bulls 'cockroaches.' Do you understand? There is already a negative connotation with the expression of 'gold bug.'"