Following yesterday's latest Taper Tantrum, it was critical to get a smattering of bad global overnight news to provide the ammunition for the algos that not all in the world is fine and the easy monetary policy will continue indefinitely pushing stocks ever higher at the expense of the global economy. Sure enough first China, and then Europe complied, following the biggest China Flash PMI miss and drop in 6 months, followed shortly thereafter by a miss and a drop in the Eurozone Composite PMI down from 51.9 to 51.5, below expectations of an increase to 52.0, primarily on the back of a decline in the Service PMI from 51.6 to 50.9, with 51.9 expected even as the Mfg PMI rose modestly from 51.3 to 51.5. The country breakdown showed a significant deterioration in France and an improvement in Germany. But the biggest overnight driver by a wide margin was the Yen, which tumbled nearly 100 pips and the USDJPY hit an overnight high of just over 100.90, which pushed the Nikkei up by almost 2%, and kept the futures well bid. However, what has confused algos in recent trading is the expected denial by Draghi of a negative interest rate, which while good for the EURJPY that drives the ES, what is the flipside is that this means less easing by the ECB, and thus interpreting the data does not result in a clear BTFD signal. Which may be a problem because should stocks close red today it will be the first 4 day drop in who knows how long.
Considering Jan Hatzius and NY Fed's Bill Dudley are close Pound & Pence drinking buddies, when it comes to assessing what the Fed "meant" to say, one should just throw the embargo-minutes penned Hilstanalysis in the garbage and just focus on what the Goldman chief economist thinks. His summary assessment: the minutes were relatively neutral, March is the most likely first taper date although "December is still possible."
It took Hilsenrath just under a minute to pump out his 1057 (excluding the title) word thesis on the FOMC minutes. As usual, this is indicative of a comfortable embargo cushion which one can be assured was unbreached, as anything else would be very illegal. "Federal Reserve officials had a wide-ranging discussion about the outlook for monetary policy at their Oct. 29-30 policy meeting. The bottom line was that they stuck to the view that they might begin winding down their $85 billion-per-month bond-buying program in the “coming months” but are looking for ways to reinforce their plans to keep short-term interest rates low for a long-time after the program ends. They struggled to build a consensus on how they would respond to a variety of different scenarios. One example: What to do if the economy didn’t improve as expected and the costs of continuing bond-buying outweighed the benefits? Another example: How to convince the public that even after bond buying ends, short-term interest rates will remain low."
With the schizophrenia that seems to have availed across the FOMC members (hawks are doves, doves are hawks, tapering is not tightening, etc.) it is not surprising that the minutes reflect some confusion:
- *FOMC SAW `SEVERAL SIGNIFICANT RISKS' REMAINING FOR ECONOMY
- *FED TAPER LIKELY IN COMING MONTHS ON BETTER DATA, MINUTES SHOW
- *METLIFE FOUNDATION, SESAME WORKSHOP PARTNER TO PROVIDE FINL
- *FOMC SAW DOWNSIDE RISKS TO ECONOMY, LABOR MARKET `DIMINISHED'
- *FOMC SAW CONSUMER SENTIMENT REMAINING `UNUSUALLY LOW'
- *FOMC SAW RECOVERY IN HOUSING AS HAVING `SLOWED SOMEWHAT'
So summing up - when we get to an unknown point in the future with an unknown state of parameters, we may do an unknown amount of tapering - maybe possibly. Pre-Minutes: SPX 1791, 10Y 2.75, EUR 1.3444, Gold $1262
To the DOJ, a $13 billion receipt is the "largest ever settlement with a single entity." To #AskJPM, a $13 billion outlay is a 100%+ IRR. And perhaps more relevant, let's recall that JPM holds $550 billion in Fed excess reserves, on which it is paid 0.25% interest, or $1.4 billion annually. In other words, out of the Fed's pocket, through JPM, and back into the government. Luckily, this is not considered outright government financing.
If one was a foreigner visiting for the first time, one would think Space Available was the hot new retailer in the country. Thousands of Space Available signs dot the bleak landscape, as office buildings, strip malls, and industrial complexes wither and die. At least the Chinese "Space Available" sign manufacturers are doing well. The only buildings doing brisk business are the food banks and homeless shelters. However, reports like the recent one from SNL Financial – Branch Networks Continue to Shrink - are emblematic of the mal-investment spurred by the Federal Reserve easy money policies, zero interest rates, and QEternity... In a truly free, non-manipulated market the weak would be culled, new dynamic competitors would fill the void, and consumers would benefit. However, extending debt payment schedules of the largest zombie entities and pretending you will get paid has been the mantra of the insolvent zombie Wall Street banks since 2009.
In response to questions from members of the Senate Banking Committee at her confirmation hearing, Janet Yellen emphasized the need to maintain a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy in light of the disappointing economic recovery. Her comments were broadly in line with what Goldman would have expected, and by-and-large were very similar to statements made by Chairman Bernanke in the past; confirming moar of the same blindness to bubbles, lots of tools, and over-optimism.
... And why does the Fed, with $1.3 trillion in cash parked at foreign commercial banks or more than half of the reserves created under QE1, 2 and 3, continue to bail out non-American banks?
In his parting act, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has decided to continue printing some $85 billion per month (6% of GDP per year) and spend those dollars on government bonds and, in the process, keep interest rates low, stimulate investment, and reduce unemployment. Trouble is, interest rates have generally been rising, investment remains very low, and unemployment remains very high. As Lawrence Kotlikoff points out, echoing our perhaps more vociferous discussions, Bernanke’s dangerous policy hasn’t worked and should be ended. Since 2007 the Fed has increased the economy's basic supply of money (the monetary base) by a factor of four! That's enough to sustain, over a relatively short period of time, a four-fold increase in prices. Having prices rise that much over even three years would spell hyperinflation.
As the S&P 500 continues to push to one new high after the next, the bullish arguments of valuation have quietly given way to "it's all about the Fed." The biggest angst that weighs on professional, and retail investors alike, are not deteriorating economic strength, weak revenue growth or concerns over the next political drama - but rather when will the Fed pull its support from the financial markets. For the Federal Reserve, they are now caught in the same "liquidity trap" that has been the history of Japan for the last three decades. Should we have an expectation that the same monetary policies employed by Japan will have a different outcome in the U.S? More importantly, this is no longer a domestic question - but rather a global one since every major central bank is now engaged in a coordinated infusion of liquidity. Will the Federal Reserve "taper" in December or March - it's possible. However, the revulsion by the markets, combined with the deterioration of economic growth, will likely lead to a quick reversal of any such a decision.
There are three dimensions to the broader investment climate: the trajectory of Fed tapering, the ECB's response to the draining of excess liquidity and threat of deflation, and Chinese reforms to be unveiled at the Third Plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
As we enter into the two final months of the year, it is also the beginning of the seasonally strong period for the stock market. It has already been a phenomenal year for asset prices as the Federal Reserve's ongoing liquidity programs have seemingly trumped every potential headwind imaginable from Washington scandals, potential invasions, government shutdowns and threats of default. This leaves us with four things to ponder this weekend revolving around a central question: "Does the Fed's Q.E. programs actually work as intended and what are the potential consequences?"
"A liquidity trap is a situation described in Keynesian economics in which injections of cash into the private banking system by a central bank fail to lower interest rates and hence fail to stimulate economic growth. A liquidity trap is caused when people hoard cash because they expect an adverse event such as deflation, insufficient aggregate demand, or war. Signature characteristics of a liquidity trap are short-term interest rates that are near zero and fluctuations in the monetary base that fail to translate into fluctuations in the general price levels." Importantly, this evidence is mounting that the Federal Reserve has now become trapped within this dynamic. The important point is that, for the first time that we are aware of, someone (of apparent note to the status quo) has verbally stated that we are indeed caught within a liquidity trap. This has been a point that has been vigorously opposed by supporters of the Federal Reserve actions.
Many have asked us to expand on how the rapid expansion of money supply leads to an effect the opposite of that intended: a fall in economic activity. This effect starts early in the recovery phase of the credit cycle, and is particularly marked today because of the aggressive rate of monetary inflation. The following are the events that lead to this inevitable outcome. And while many central bankers could profit by reading and understanding this article, the truth is they are not appointed to face up to the reality that monetary inflation is economically destructive, and that escalating currency expansion taken to its logical conclusion means the currency itself will eventually become worthless.
"We see upside surprise risks on gold and silver in the years ahead," is how UBS commodity strategy team begins a deep dive into a multi-factor valuation perspective of the precious metals. The key to their expectation, intriguingly, that new regulation will put substantial pressure on banks to deleverage – raising the onus on the Fed to reflate much harder in 2014 than markets are pricing in. In this view UBS commodity team is also more cautious on US macro...