A dispassionate discussion of the major forces impacting the investment climate in the week ahead.
Of the 8 "most important ever" FOMC decisions in 2013, this one is undisputedly, and without doubt, the 8th. As Jim Reid summarizes, what everyone wonders is whether today’s decision by the FOMC will have a bearing on a few last-minute Xmas presents around global financial markets. No taper and markets probably breathe a sigh of relief and the feel-good factor might turn that handheld game machine into a full-blown PS4 by Xmas day. However a taper now might just take the edge off the festivities and leave a few presents on the shelves. Given that the S&P 500 has pretty much flat-lined since early-mid November in spite of better data one would have to say that some risk of tapering has been priced in but perhaps not all of it. Alternatively if they don’t taper one would expect markets to see a pretty decent relief rally over the rest of the year. So will it be Santa or Scrooge from the Fed tonight at 2pm EST?
As DB notes, it appears that markets continue to steadily price in a greater probability of a December taper judging by the 2bp increase in 10yr UST yields, 1.2% drop in the gold price and an edging up in the USD crosses yesterday. Indeed, the Atlanta Fed’s Lockhart, who is considered a bellwether within the Fed, kept the possibility of a December tapering open in public comments yesterday. But his other comments were quite dovish, particularly when he said that he wants to see inflation accelerate toward 2% before reducing asset purchases to give him confidence that the US economy was not dealing with a “downside scenario”. Lockhart stressed that any decision by the Fed on QE would be data dependent - so his comments that the government shutdown will make coming data "less reliable" than might otherwise have been, until at least December, were also quite telling. The dovish sentiments were echoed by Kocherlakota, a FOMC voter next year. In other words, an Oscar-worthy good-cop/bad-cop performance by the Fed's henchmen, confusing algotrons for the second day in a row.
A dispassionate overview of the investment climate and what to expect this week.
It's gotten beyond silly: with less than a day to go until the first X-Date, beyond which if Jack Lew is correct (he isn't) all hell will break loose if the US doesn't have a debt deal in place, stocks couldn't care less, Bills continue to sell off, carry traders only care how big the central banks' balance sheets are, all news are generally shunned and yet stocks have soared 600 DJIA points on Harry Reid's relentless optimism a deal will get done, even though so far none has. Today, as we observed on Monday, we expect more of the same: stocks and futures will ignore the reality that the midnight hour will come and go with no deal in place, but will continue to explode higher as Harry Reid's latest set of "optimism" headlines hits the tape in low volume trading. We expect the first big hope rally around POMO time, then shortly after Senate comes back in Session, around noon. Then for good measure, another one just before market close. Why not: it's not like the "market" even pretend to be one anymore. Keep an eye on today's 4-Week bill auction before noon. It should be a far bigger doozy than yesterday's longer-dated bills.
Think data leaks, in which the FOMC sends minutes to its banker supervisors a day in advance, where HFT algos pay millions to get key data to their collocated servers 10 milliseconds early, where journalists freely breach embargos and/or "secure" government lock-rooms are bypassed with a simple text message, are purely a US phenomenon? Think again. As Citi explains, today we saw just this taking place in the City.
Big picture and dispassionate discussion.
Despite earlier comments from Obama on Tuesday night, who called for a pause in authorizing military strikes on Syria, which led to another drop in crude prices overnight, the drop has since reversed and both WTI and Brent Crude contracts are trading in the green. Whether this is the result of a note by Goldman analysts who noted that the Brent crude sell-off was overdone and that they see no improvement regarding the conflict in Libya which is constraining oil production, or because Russia is once again throwing hurdles in the international process to force Syrian disarmament, is unknown. The lack of any key catalysts and no USDJPY levitation, led to most global markets unchanged, and futures currently trading sideways. What is not trading sideways is Apple which is down over 2% to just over $480 as all hopes of a China Mobile deal fall apart, coupled with pervasive critical panning of the new iPhones which, aside for the commodity version, is just the old iPhone with an extension that allows the NSA's new fingerprint database to be filled in record time.
In the US, retail sales on Friday will be the main data release. In addition, Congress will return from its 5-week recess on Monday and will likely keep their focus on Syria this week. Finally, San Francisco Fed President Williams (who does not vote on FOMC policy this year) will speak on Monday. Last week, Williams argued that the FOMC should maintain its focus on the unemployment rate, despite its limitations. After Friday's employment report saw the unemployment rate drop again due to falling participation, this issue is likely to resurface. The Fed's communication blackout period begins on Tuesday so Williams will be the last FOMC speaker before the September meeting ends on the 18th.
Bernanke today testifies on monetary policy before the House Financial Services Committee (formerly the Humphrey-Hawkins). The testimony will be released at 8:30 am NY with Q&A after his testimony. Tomorrow he testifies before the Senate Banking Committee but the prepared remarks are the same for both days. Indeed it’s likely that the Q&A will be where all the fun starts. As DB says, he will likely try to pull off the trick of continuing to prepare the groundwork for tapering but try to give bond markets something to help them fight off the pressure of higher yields. With no post-meeting press conference planned for the July 30th/31st FOMC, and Bernanke not scheduled to speak publicly until he appears at the Global Education Forum event on August 7th, this week’s testimony may well be the only remarks we hear directly from the chairman for some weeks.
Sterling is has eclipsed the yen as the main focus in the foreign exchange market. The surprising news that has kicked it to fresh multi-month low was that the BOE is closer to easing policy than has been suspected. While it was a unanimous decision to leave rates on hold as expected, it was a tighter 6-3 vote on new asset purchases.
The market had expected a 8-1 vote. Of particular interest, it is the fourth time Governor King has been outvoted.
The US dollar and yen remain soft. The news stream has encouraged the so-called risk-on trade. The Greek debt buyback appears to have gone well enough that it will get dollop of aid. Spain reportedly received 40 bln euros of bank aid. There seems to be a potential compromise banking supervision in Europe. On top of that, of course, the market expects the Federal Reserve to announce an expansion of its quantitative easing later today and keep the door open to further steps if necessary.
The dollar made new eight month highs against the yen, just shy of the JPY83 level. These dollar gains ahead of the FOMC meeting underscores one of our interpretative points that the old drivers of dollar-yen, like interest rate differentials and general risk appetite, have broken down, trumped by Mr Abe and his aggressive monetary and fiscal rhetoric.
A new week begins. Here are the major global market-moving events to look forward to for both the next week, and for the remainder of October and November.
The European morning session has been fairly quiet, with European equities opening lower following over night reports from China that the People's Bank of China might buy back government debt in the secondary market making the much speculated reserve ratio requirement cut it less likely. With several market closures across the Euro-area thanks to the Assumption of Mary holiday, volumes have been particularly light, and with a distinct lack of European data, market focus was on the release of the Bank of England's minutes for the August rate decision. As expected, the MPC voted unanimously to keep the APF unchanged at GBP 375bln and the benchmark rate unchanged at 0.50%, though some MPC members noted there was a good case for further expansion of QE. The better than expected UK jobs report also helped strength GBP.
- Investors Shift Money Out of China (WSJ)
- Rajoy Risks Riling ECB in Bid to Avoid Union Ire (Bloomberg)
- Romney-Ryan See Fed QE as Inflation Risk Amid Subdued Prices (Bloomberg)
- Spanish savers offered haircut then money back (FT)
- Must wipe all traces of illegality and settle for $25,000: Standard Chartered Faces Fed Probes After N.Y. Deal (BBG)
- Greece debt report backs cuts plan (FT)
- Greece seeks two-year austerity extension (FT)
- Brevan Howard Looks To U.S. To Raise Money For Currency Fund (Bloomberg)
- Can he please stop buying gold? Paulson, Soros Add Gold as Price Declines Most Since 2008 (Bloomberg)
- BOE Drops Reference to Rate Cut as It Considers Policy Options (Bloomberg)
- EU Banking Plans Asks ECB to Share Power, Documents Show (Bloomberg)