Are the markets ready (and, more importantly, able) to withstand higher rates? Well, with the Fed tapering another $10 bn last week to a chorus of "meh" from the markets, it certainly seems to suggest that this whole taper thing is going to trundle along harmlessly until it's been completed without disruption, but Grant Williams has a very nasty feeling about all this. Essentially, the central bank heads all around the globe are engaged in a must-win confidence game. They 'have' to make people believe that everything is under control and getting better, BUT at the same time they must ALSO make them believe that the accommodative policies currently in place will be here, essentially, forever (forever in market-time is normally about 18 months to two years). Bernanke gave us ZIRP; now Draghi — damned by his own lack of earlier action — has been forced to add NIRP to the acronym lexicon of modern finance. In reality, it's not about Zero Interest Rate Policy or, for that matter, Negative Interest Rate Policy. It's about Broken Interest Rate Policy. BIRP!
There has been no forward progress in US hourly compensation over the last half century. How it is possible that the world’s richest and most technologically advanced economy ever, operating during a 50-year period that included the invention of the Internet … the triumph of capitalism in China and Russia … and a landing on the moon – that is the most bountiful half-century in human history – failed to make its most important component parts better off. And at the bedrock level, we find the explanation: Fed policies are dangerous claptrap.
The May surge in airfare prices was so dramatic and unexpected, that on a compounded annualized basis (CAGR), the May surge in airline fares was a whopping 97%: the highest since 1999, and the third highest ever.
So, sorry America: you are stuck where you are, eating food that has rarely if ever cost more, fueling up with gas that is approaching it all time high summery prices. Enjoy Yellen's "noise."
This week brings PMIs (US and Euro area ‘flash’) and inflation (US PCE, CPI in Germany, Spain, and Japan). Among other releases, next week in DMs includes [on Monday] PMIs in US (June P), Euro Area Composite (expect 52.8, a touch below previous) and Japan; [on Tuesday] US home prices (FHFA and S&P/Case Shiller) and Consumer Confidence (expect 83.5, same as consensus), Germany IFO; [on Wednesday] US Durable Goods Orders (expect -0.50%, at touch below consensus) and real GDP 1Q anniversary. 3rd (expect -2.0%) and Personal Consumption 1Q (expect 2.0%), and confidence indicators in Germany, France and Italy; [on Thursday] US PCE price index (expect 0.20%), Personal Income and Spending, and GS Analyst Index; and [on Friday] Reuters/U. Michigan Confidence (expect slight improvement to 82, same as consensus), GDP 1Q in France and UK (expect 0.8% and 0.9% yoy, respectively), and CPI in Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan.
Following last night's laughable (in light of the slow motion housing train wreck that is taking place, not to mention the concurrent capex spending halt and of course the unwinding rehypothecation scandal) Chinese PMI release by HSBC/Markit (one wonders how much of an allocation Beijing got in the Markit IPO) which obviously sent US equity futures surging to new record highs, it was almost inevitable that the subsequent manufacturing index, that of Europe, would be a disappointment around the board (since it would be less than "optical" to have a manufacturing slowdown everywhere in the world but the US). Sure enough, first France (Mfg PMI 47.8, Exp. 49.5, 49.6; and Services PMI 48.2, Exp. 49.4, Last 49.3) and then Germany (Mfg PMI 52.4, Exp. 52.5, Last 52.2; Services 54.8, Exp. 55.7, Last 56.0), missed soundly, leading to a broad decline in the Eurozone PMIs (Mfg 51.9, Exp. 52.2, Last 52.2; Services 52.8, 53.3, Last 53.2), which meant that the composite PMI tumbled from 53.2 to 52.8: the lowest in 6 months.
Simple overview of the week ahead.
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."
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).
On the day after Chairman Yellen’s press conference, investors aggressively bid up inflation trades across numerous asset classes. Gold and silver rallied sharply, TIPS implied inflation breakevens widened (despite a new slug of 30-year supply), Treasury yields rose, and the yield curve steepened. Based on investor positioning and market sentiment (CFTC’s Commitment of Traders data show record net short positions exceeding $1.5 trillion in notional rates exposure among speculators in the eurodollar futures markets), there’s decent potential for additional gains in these inflation expressions in the days and weeks ahead.
As of this moment, US equity futures are perfectly unchanged despite what has been an almost comical reactivation of the 102.000 USDJPY tractor beam. Considering the pair has been trading within a 75 pips of the 102.000 level for the past month, one has to wonder when and what the next BOJ Yen equilibrium level will be reset to. Oddly enough, even as the USDJPY is very much unchanged, the Nikkei continues to rise suggesting that, as Nikkei reported, the GPIF is already investing Japanese pension funds in stocks. Which is great for the Nikkei catching up with the global bond bubble, what is not so great is what happens when the market realizes that the largest holder (excluding the BOJ) of JGBs is dumping, and the world's most illiquid major sovereign bond market rushes for the exits. Just recall the daily halts of Japanese bond trading from the summer of 2013 - we give it 3-6 months before it returns with a vengeance.
The only thing that can be said about Janet Yellen’s simple-minded paint-by-the-numbers performance yesterday is that the Keynesian apotheosis is complete. American capitalism and all political life, too, is now ruled by a 12-member monetary politburo, which is essentially accountable to no one except its own misbegotten doctrine that prosperity flows from the end of a printing press.
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.
Yellen has got to be the most dovish Fed chairperson going into the most important policy initiative withdrawal phase ever to be recorded since the inception of the Federal Reserve!
Don't worry about the surging food and gas prices you face each and every day... Janet Yellen says "it's just noise" and is actually "evolving exactly as they expected." It is this kind of mind-blowingly ignorant of the facts statement that has the central banks of the world losing more and more credibility (just take a look at the dot plot's 0.5 to 4.25% rate expectations for 2015). The following exchange between Yellen and Liesman is simply priceless in its ignorance.
it is suddenly not fun being a Fed president (or Chairmanwoman) these days: with yesterday's 2.1% CPI print, the YoY rate has now increased for four consecutive months and is above the Fed's target. Concurrently, the unemployment rate has also dipped well below the Fed’s previous 6.5% threshold guidance, in other words the Fed has now met both its mandates as set down previously. There have also been fairly unambiguous comments from the Fed’s Bullard suggesting that this is the closest the Fed has been to fulfilling its mandates in many years. Finally, adding to the "concerns" that the Fed may surprise everyone were BOE Carney’s comments last week that a hike “could happen sooner than the market currently expect." In short: continued QE here, without a taper acceleration, merely affirms that all the Fed is after is reflating the stock market, and such trivial considerations as employment and inflation are merely secondary to the Fed. Which, of course, we know - all is secondary to the wealth effect, i.e., making the rich, richer. But it is one thing for tinfoil hat sites to expose the truth, it is something else entirely when it is revealed to the entire world.