This is at a time when we have real economic growth barely above 2% and nominal growth of just over 3% (abysmal by any standards) after six years of monetary easing and 5 years of QE1; QE 2; Operation twist; QE “infinity” and huge fiscal deficits. After last week Citi notes it is not clear that this set of policies is going to end anytime soon. It seems far more likely that these policies will be continued as far as the eye can see and even if there are “anecdotal” signs of inflation this Fed (Or the next one) is not a Volcker fed. This Fed does not see inflation as the evil but rather the solution. Gold should also do well as it did from 1977-1980 (while the Fed stays deliberately behind the curve). Unfortunately Citi fears that the backdrop will more closely resemble the late 1970’s/early 1980’s than the “Golden period” of 1995-2000 and that we will have a quite difficult backdrop to manage over the next 2-3 years.
Here are six things to ponder this weekend:
1. Inflation Debate Continues
2. The Obamacare Nightmare
3. The Disconnect Between "Main Street" and "Wall Street"
4. Payroll Number Become Even More Manipulated
5. Congress Living The High Life At The Taxpayers Expense
6. What If The "Fear Trade" Bubbles Up?
Last night Japan reported August CPI/inflation news that at least on the surface were astoundingly good: at 0.8%, the core CPI (excluding fresh irradiated food) was more than expected and higher than July's 0.7%. And yet, even the most absurdly clueless economist is silent this morning in their praise of Abenomics, which supposedly has succeeded in its one goal - bringing sexy inflation back. Why? Perhaps the reason is that whereas Keynesian inflation in which prices and wages are broadly if modestly rising as a result of a properly functioning monetary system, is indeed just what the Doctor of modern economics ordered, soaring input costs driven by FX differentials and current account flows, "offset" by plunging wages is precisely the opposite of what Abenomics was supposed to be. Which is exactly what is going on in Japan.
Following yesterday's modest bounce in equities punctuated by the traditional last minute spike, sentiment has reverted lower once again, driven by the uncertainty surrounding debt ceiling talks in the US, where lawmakers have until next Tuesday to agree to a spending bill, or much of the government will shut down. The Senate will vote on a spending bill later today, which will then be sent back to the House putting republicans in a quandary (Politico explains the complications surrounding the GOP's "Plan C"). It was reported that US House leaders are considering postponing action on a bill to extend the US government's borrowing power, with the leadership discussing a change of strategy to complete action on the stopgap spending bill before debating the debt-limit debate. In FX, GBP strengthened across the board this morning after BoE’s Carney said he does not see a case for more quantitative easing.
Following the FOMC surprise, no less than twelve Fed speeches will provide some "clarifications" on where the Fed now stands. It is very likely that this subject will continue to dominate the discussions of market participants. At the same time, US data will get scrutinized after the recent weakening and to see how warranted the Fed's concerns were. Two US consumer sentiment surveys, durable goods orders, and the third reading of Q2 GDP are important. In addition, monthly consumption and income data for August provide more information on the third quarter and of course there will be interest in the latest weekly claims numbers after some distortions in recent readings.
Investors may be trapped in a ‘greater fool theory’ in thinking they can all unwind risk at the same time. Over-regulation, shrinking bank balance sheets, and fewer market makers mean that market liquidity is challenged. Retracting Fed dollars is always far more difficult than creating them, particularly in the current environment. The FOMC scientists have been working in their lab tweaking models to assess marginal benefits, but it is blinding them from seeing the underlying risks that are building. They openly ask what signs of troubles are evident, but the morphine drip has been in use for so long that they can’t see that the current calm may be replaced with an uncontrollable monster unleashed when the sedation fades.
Schizophrenic Bank Of India Stuns World With Inflation-Fighting Rate Hike, While Pursuing More Liquidity Boosting PoliciesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/20/2013 06:55 -0500
Global central bankers really need to work on their "clear" communication skills: first, the Fed shocked everyone by not tapering on Wednesday, and now, in his first decision since taking over the reins of the Reserve Bank of India, its new head Raghuram Rajan, stunned the world even more, and all 36 analysts who predicted an unchanged decision by the central bank, with the first hike of the country's repurchase rate since 2011, by 25 bps to 7.5% in an attempt to rein in inflation. And just to keep the confusion to a maximum, the RBI also piled on the stunners by concurrently pursuing various other policies that contradicted the repo rate hike, and directly seek to inject even more liquidity into the market, thus offsetting any inflation-battling measures.
It has been a quiet start to Quadruple Witching Friday (expiration of stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single stock futures) but expect that to change, as erratic price action is a recurring hallmark of Quad Witches, especially with persistent low volume and markets that tend to shut down for no reason. So far stocks have traded steady in Europe this morning, credit spreads widened and Bunds traded in positive territory as market participants positioned for the much-anticipated German elections which are to be held on Sunday, with exit polls to be made available after the close of polling stations at 6pm local time. Ahead of that, and as reported here previously, Germany’s AfD Eurosceptic party could win enough support in the general election on Sunday to gain seats in the German Bundestag, an opinion poll published for a leading newspaper has forecast for the first time. Basic materials and utilities underperformed in Europe, with RWE trading sharply lower in Germany after the company announced plans to cut its dividend by half (and with the Adidas fiasco yesterday, one wonders just how bad things in Europe really are).
Japan’s core CPI (which excludes perishables) surged 0.7% y/y in July, but the upturn is largely due to higher prices for energy that reflect rising import prices due the yen’s weakness. Despite global exuberance at Abe's "progress", BNP notes that there are still no signs of price growth for rent and service prices, factors behind Japan’s protracted deflation. Crucially, BNP believes that Abenomics could lead to four possible medium-term outcomes: (1) Continued deflation (35% probability), (2) Financial repression (40%), (3) High inflation (15%), and(4) Happy end to deflation via revived trend growth (10%). Furthermore, even if this happy ending scenario were to unfold, that does not mean that structural problems, like the swelling public debt and insolvent social welfare, will be headed for resolution.
In plain terms, the Fed has proven beyond even a hint of a doubt that it is simply flying by the seat of its pants, with no clear game plan or eventual outcome in mind. The Fed is simply going to keep doing what it’s done for five years until something breaks.
For what it's worth, here is Goldman's Jan Hatzius with a Q&A on the Fed's announcement, which now sees the first tapering to start in December, QE to conclude (three months after their prior forecast), and expects the first rate hike to take place in 2016: 8 years after the start of the financial crisis: "We now expect the QE tapering process to start at the December 2013 FOMC meeting and to conclude in September 2014, three months later than before. Our baseline is that the first step will consist of a $10bn cut in Treasury purchases. These steps remain data dependent in all respects--timing, size, and composition. A change in the explicit forward guidance for the federal funds rate is also likely, probably at the same time as the first tapering step. Our baseline is an indication that the 6.5% unemployment threshold is conditional on a forecast of a near-term return of inflation to 2%, and that a lower threshold would apply otherwise. But there are also other options, such as an outright inflation floor or an outright reduction in the unemployment threshold. Our forecast for the first hike in the funds rate remains early 2016. The reasons are the large output gap, persistent below-target inflation, and some weight on "optimal control" considerations."
The day when the Fed will begin the unwind of its latest QE program (for the fourth time) has finally arrived (as has the day when an impeachment committee will vote whether to ban Berlusconi from public office, but understandably that is getting far less press). In a few short hours the answer to all those questions of whether and how much of the taper was priced in, will be revealed. But while the Taper discussions will dominate the airwaves, as they have for the past five months, there actually were some news in the world that had nothing to do with the US Politburo in charge of capital markets and the US economy, located in the Marriner Eccles building. Here is a brief summary.
Deflation - A derangement of money or credit, a symptom of which is falling prices. Not to be confused with a benign, i.e., downward shift in the composite supply curve, a symptom of which is also falling prices. In a genuine deflation, banks stop lending. Prices tumble because overextended businesses and consumers confront the necessity of selling assets in order to raise cash. When prices fall because efficient producers are competing to deliver lower-priced goods and services to the marketplace, that is called “progress.” In 2013, central bankers the world over define deflation as a fall in prices, no matter what the cause. Nowadays, to forestall what is popularly called deflation, the world’s monetary authorities are seemingly prepared to pull out every radical policy stop. Where it all ends is one of the great questions of contemporary finance.
If the Fed was looking for any confirmation as it entered its two day meeting that its monetary machinations are boosting inflation, at least according to the BLS' hedonically, seasonally-adjusted CPI indicator, it did not get it. August CPI just printed at a measly 0.1% increase from July, below the 0.2% expected, and down from 0.2% last month. This was the lowest monthly increase in overall inflation since May, and the biggest miss to expectations in 4 months. On a Y/Y basis overall prices roses 1.5%, below the expected 1.6% and well below the 2.0% inflation in July. Core inflation excluding food and energy rose 1.8% in line with the expected number, and higher than the 1.7% a month ago. Perhaps the best news is that according to the BLS, "the index for nonalcoholic beverages declined in August, falling 0.1 percent." It is unclear what if any hedonic adjustments were used in this particular calculation. As a reminder, the Fed has been "targeting" 2.0% inflation, and failing. So since in the Fed's eyes inflation continues to not be an issue, how long until the Fed proceeds to target NGDP, unanchors inflation expectations, and finally launches Bernanke's helicopter as we speculated recently?
Overnight trading started with Asian markets continuing where yesterday's S&P 500 fizzle ended, wishing Summers could withdraw from Fed running again, as both the Nikkei and SHCOMP were well lower by the close. Perhaps all the easy multiple-expanding, headline-driven money is made, or perhaps economic fundamentals will finally start having to justify a 17x multiple on the S&P (a good is good regime for those who may be too young, or old, to remember), but overnight US futures were dull, and no doubt anticipating today's start of the "Most important FOMC meeting ever", which concludes tomorrow with an announcement by the Fed of what and how much (if any) tapering it will commence with an eye toward halting QE next summer, although more realistically what will happen is an Untaper being announced before then. While the start of the FOMC meeting is the main event, today we get CPI, TIC flows and the NAHB housing market index. Today's POMO is another modest $1.25-$1.75 billion in the long-end sector.