It has been commonplace to speak of central bank independence - as if it were both a reality and a necessity. Discussions of the Fed invariably refer to legislated independence and often to the famous 1951 Accord that apparently settled the matter.  While everyone recognizes the Congressionally-imposed dual mandate, the Fed has substantial discretion in its interpretation of the vague call for high employment and low inflation. It is, then, perhaps a good time to reexamine the thinking behind central bank independence. There are several related issues.
- First, can a central bank really be independent? In what sense? Political? Operational? Policy formation?
- Second, should a central bank be independent? In a democracy should monetary policy—purportedly as important as or even more important than fiscal policy—be unaccountable? Why?
- Finally, what are the potential problems faced if a central bank is not independent? Inflation? Insolvency?
Risks surrounding the looming release of the latest jobs report by the BLS later on in the session failed to weigh on sentiment and heading into the North American open, stocks in Europe are seen higher across the board. The SMI index in Switzerland outperformed its peers since the get-go, with Swatch Group trading up over 3% after the company said that it expects good results for 2013 at operating profit and net income level. At the same time, in spite of stocks trading in the green, Bunds remained better bid, with peripheral bond yield spreads wider as market participants booked profits following the aggressive tightening observed earlier in the week amid solid Spanish bond auctions, as well as syndications by Ireland and Portugal. Fake Chinese trade data failed to boost Chinese stocks, which dropped anoter 0.7% and is just 13 points above 2000 as Shanghai remains one of the world's worst performing markets since the financial crisis. The yoyoing Nikkei was largely unchanged. All eyes today will be fixed on the headline streamer at 8:30 when the latest nonfarm payrolls report is released.
Financial markets have become increasingly obviously highly dependent on central bank policies. In a follow-up to Incrementum's previous chartbook, Stoerferle and Valek unveil the following 50 slide pack of 25 incredible charts to crucially enable prudent investors to grasp the consequences of the interplay between monetary inflation and deflation. They introduce the term "monetary tectonics' to describe the 'tug of war' raging between parabolically rising monetary base M0 driven by extreme easy monetary policy and shrinking monetary aggregate M2 and M3 due to credit deleveraging. Critically, Incrementum explains how this applies to gold buying decisions as they introduce their "inflation signal" indicator.
In 2013, corporations injected roughly half of the total POMO cash used by the Fed to push the S&P straight-line higher.
Bottom line for financials is that 2014 is looking to be a tough year, even if the Sell Side wants to believe that growing earnings is still possible on flat revenue
December 23rd, 1913 is a date which will live in infamy. That was the day when the Federal Reserve Act was pushed through Congress. Many members of Congress were absent that day, and the general public was distracted with holiday preparations. Now we have reached the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve, and most Americans still don't know what it actually is or how it functions. But understanding the Federal Reserve is absolutely critical, because the Fed is at the very heart of our economic problems. Since the Federal Reserve was created, there have been 18 recessions or depressions, the value of the U.S. dollar has declined by 98 percent, and the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger. This insidious debt-based financial system has literally made debt slaves out of all of us, and it is systematically destroying the bright future that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have. The truth is that we do not have to have a Federal Reserve. The greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was when we did not have a central bank. If we are ever going to turn this nation around economically, we are going to have to get rid of this debt-based financial system that is centered around the Federal Reserve. On the path that we are on now, there is no hope.
As an economist, it is getting more difficult to understand the logic underlying current monetary policy in the U.S. There are two main channels by which economists think monetary policy can influence growth and employment. The first is to lower interest rates to spur investment and consumption spending. The second is to induce inflation so real wages drop, spurring output and employment. Since 2008, the central bank has reduced interest rates to almost zero with little to show for it. Since the first channel has failed, only the second channel remains; however, inflation causes an “information extraction” problem.
As reported yesterday, following a surge in various short-term and money market rates in the aftermath of the Fed's taper announcement, the PBOC admitted after the close that it used Short-term Liquidity Obligations (SLO) to add funding to the market, and in doing so, bailing out money markets - the same product that nearly collapsed the financial system in the aftermath of Lehman. The bank didn't specify when it added the funds but, in another direct echo of the June panic, the PBOC said it is prepared to add more. However, it seems the market was less the convinced, and despite an early plunge in the seven day repo rate by over 2%, it suddenly and rapidly reversed direction and instead blew out hitting a whopping 9%, the highest since the June near-crash of the Chinese banking sector. The outcome: China said it injected another $50 billion to bailout and stabilize its money markets in what is increasingly looking like a replay of this summer's liquidity lock up. Perhaps the PBOC hinting at tapering at a time when the Fed is actually doing so is not the smart choice...
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?
There seem to be two camps at Deutsche Bank these days: one, lead by the observant and somewhat contrarian Jim Reid, who recently asked the all important question about 2014 ("what if there is a recession?"), who accurately observed that something "structurally changed" since the great financial crisis (pretty clear what), and who even dared to suggest that the Fed will never taper, especially with the economy so late in the cycle already. And then there is Joe LaVorgna, best known for having a losing track record to Groundhog Phil. It appears that this morning Joey emerged from his lair deep inside 60 Wall, sniffed the cold air, and saw the shadow of a $10 billion taper, which is what he predicts the Fed will do tomorrow.
Today (like pretty much every other day), it will be all about the Fed and the start of its 2-day FOMC meeting, whose outcome will be influenced by today's 8:30 am CPI report as inflation (Exp. 0.1%) according to many is the only thing stopping the Fed from tapering in light of better than expected recent economic data as well as a clearer fiscal outlook. Or at least that's what the watercooler talk is. The hardliners now agree that since the Fed openly ignored the bond market liquidity considerations in September, that it will plough on through December with no announcement, and potentially continue into 2014 with zero chances of tapering especially now that we approach the end of the business cycle and the Fed should be adding accommodation not removing it. To that end, the consensus still is in favour of January or March for the first taper so markets are not fully set up for a move; conversely a dovish statement would probably result in yet another pre-Christmas, year end market surge, which in the lower market liquidity days of December is likely what the Fed is going for, instead of a volatile, zero liquidity sell off, despite Thursday's double POMO.
The Federal Reserve holds its last policy meeting of 2013 in the week ahead. In UBS' view there are four possible surprises that could affect the markets. From the odds of a taper to adjusting forecasts and from forward-guidance communication to the chances of a cut in the IOER, the FOMC meeting in the week ahead presents upside and downside risks to the dollar in the near term; even if UBS believes the longer-term will see USD strength against both the EUR and JPY.
Since we live in a connected world, in which the central bank "Flow" must, well, flow, one emerging line of thought is that with the Fed set to taper (even by a modest $10 billion per month driven by Treasury market liquidity constraints where the Fed is now monetizing 1% of the entire bond market in 10 Year equivalents every three weeks), the BOJ will have to step in and boost its own monetization by a comparable amount. And as we noted in November, speculation that the BOJ will do just this set off the latest Yen crushing move, which has seen the EURJPY surge higher by a massive 1000 pips all but pricing in any BOJ moves for 2014. However, to be able to do this, Japan will need to provide its central bank with the capacity to monetize as many Treasurys (or more) as possible: after all, Japan like the US is already soaking up a record 70% of all gross issuance. And Japan is ready to comply: as Reuters reports, in the next fiscal year, Japan's budget will exceed 96 trillion yen, or about $930 billion. With Japan's GDP standing currently shy of half a quadrillion Yen (not to be confused with Japan's debt load which is now over the one quadrillion mark), it means the budget will be about 20% of the country's entire economic output.
It has been another session of overnight weakness, in which, to quote Deutsche Bank, "something has changed" as ES algos no longer track every tick of the EURJPY (or other JPY pair variants). Usually in such transition periods where the robots are not sure how to trade risk based on highly leveraged inputs, things go bump in the night, and they did just that with the E-Mini trading just off its overnight lows, despite a notable rise in the EURJPY from yesterday's close. Keep a close eye on the now traditional pre-market ramp in the EURJPY - if unaccompanied by an increase in the E-mini, it may be time to quietly exit stage left.
- Wall Street Exhales as Volcker Rule Seen Sparing Market-Making (Bloomberg)
- GM to End Manufacturing Down Under, Citing Costs (WSJ)
- U.S. budget deal could usher in new era of cooperation (Reuters)
- Ukraine Police Back Off After Failing to Stop Protest (WSJ)
- First Walmart, now Costco misses (AP)
- Dan Fuss Joins Bill Gross Shunning Long-Term Debt Before Taper (BBG)
- China New Yuan Loans Higher Than Expected (WSJ)
- China bitcoin arbitrage ends as traders work around capital controls (Reuters)
- Blackstone’s Hilton Joins Ranks of Biggest Deal Paydays (BBG)