Federal Reserve Bank of New York
In case you misunderstood and judged the market's reaction to Janet Yellen's first FOMC statement, the ultimate Fed mouthpiece is out with a few clarifying words (well 712 words posted in under 4 minutes). The Wall Street Journal's Jon Hilsenrath clarifies "The Fed stressed it has not changed its plan to keep interest rates low long after the bond-buying program ends," and added further that "the Fed said explicitly for the first time that it likely would keep short-term rates lower than normal, even after inflation and employment return to their longer-run trends." While noting a bigger consensus of members around a 2015 rate 'liftoff', Hilsenrath is careful to point out that the Fed also blamed the weather for not having a clue.
If the U.S. economy is getting better, then why are major retail chains closing thousands of stores? If we truly are in an "economic recovery", then why do sales figures continue to go down for large retailers all over the country? Without a doubt, the rise of Internet retailing giants such as Amazon.com have had a huge impact. Today, there are millions of Americans that actually prefer to shop online. But Internet shopping alone does not account for the great retail apocalypse that we are witnessing. In fact, some retail experts estimate that the Internet has accounted for only about 20 percent of the decline that we are seeing. Most of the rest of it can be accounted for by the slow, steady death of the middle class U.S. consumer. Median household income has declined for five years in a row, but all of our bills just keep going up. That means that the amount of disposable income that average Americans have continues to shrink, and that is really bad news for retailers.
The mirage of prosperity created by massive levels of debt has begun to show it foundational cracks. Without increased levels of personal savings, production and investment there is little ability to achieve stronger economic growth. While we can certainly "hope" for something different, there are some basic laws which are insurmountable. The physics of debt is one of them.
We at the Fed are the platonic guardians of the global financial system. And our logic is undeniable….
There appears to be a somewhat interesting controversy afoot in explaining the reason for the emerging markets panic and in establishing a solution for it. The approach of Gavekal would simply like to keep the Ponzi scheme of past years rolling forward.
On December 24, we posted an update on Germany's gold repatriation process: a year after the Bundesbank announced its stunning decision, driven by Zero Hedge revelations, to repatriate 674 tons of gold from the New York Fed and the French Central Bank, it had managed to transfer a paltry 37 tons. This amount represents just 5% of the stated target, and was well below the 84 tons that the Bundesbank would need to transport each year to collect the 674 tons ratably over the 8 year interval between 2013 and 2020. The release of these numbers promptly angered Germans, and led to the rise of numerous allegations that the reason why the transfer is taking so long is that the gold simply is not in the possession of the offshore custodians, having been leased, or worse, sold without any formal or informal announcement. However, what will certainly not help mute "conspiracy theorists" is today's update from today's edition of Die Welt, in which we learn that only a tiny 5 tons of gold were sent from the NY Fed. The rest came from Paris.
With the market more bullishly positioned, more euphoric, and more levered than almost any time in history, it is perhaps worth "pondering" what some of the risks to this optimism could be...
Forensic Asia, a Hong-Kong-based reserch firm issued a "sell" recommendation on HSBC on the basis of "questionable assets" on its balance sheet. As The Telegraph reports the analysts involved actually worked at HSBC for 15 years and suggest the ginat bank could have overstated its assets by more than £50bn and ultimately need a capital injection of close to £70bn before the end of this decade. "HSBC has not made the necessary adjustments, during the quantitative easing reprieve...The result has been extreme earnings overstatement, causing HSBC to become one of the largest practitioners of capital forebearance globally... This charade appears to be ending."
If we have learned anything since the global financial crisis peaked in 2008, it is that preventing another one is a tougher job than most people anticipated. Not only does effective crisis prevention require overhauling our financial institutions through creative application of the principles of good finance; it also requires that politicians and their constituents have a shared understanding of these principles. Today, unfortunately, such an understanding is missing. “Firefighting is more glamorous than fire prevention.” Just as most people are more interested in stories about fires than they are in the chemistry of fire retardants, they are more interested in stories about financial crashes than they are in the measures needed to prevent them. That is not a recipe for a happy ending.
Below is a recent correspondence from our friend Lars Schall, an independent financial journalist, and the German Central Bank, the Deutsche Bundesbank, regarding the exact whereabouts and specifications of Germany’s national gold reserve.
2013 Was A Year Of Calm In The World Of Finance ... 2014 May Not Be So Calm ... Highlights Of Year - German Gold Repatriation, Record Highs In Yen, Huge Chinese Demand - Lowlights Of Year - Massive Paper Sell Offs in April/June and First Deposit Confiscation and Capital Controls ...
Just as in the 1930s the Fed fueled deflation by not making credit available, today the opposite seems to be the case – low rates are fueling deflation and preventing markets from clearing.
While we identified long ago the "wealth effect" nerve center of the New Normal, one thing largely unavailable, was pictures of this trading desk with seemingly no sell buttons. Until now: below, courtesy of Wall Street on Parade, we present a modest compilation of not only what the current NY Fed trading desk looks like but also compare it to its predecessor, as it appeared on vintage photos from the 1930s
From consumer and retailer surveys to quantitative data such as household spending and private jet bookings, ConvergEx's Nick Colas has amassed a collection of 10 clues about this year's holiday shopping season. On the plus side, disposable personal income and consumer spending on discretionary items are rising, and travel to Palm Beach via private jet is quite popular this Christmas season. However, consumer confidence surveys are particularly weak, and consumer debt has ballooned to a 5-year high. Roughly equal parts good and bad, Colas' collection of holiday spending indicators points to a mediocre (at best) 2013 shopping season (as we noted earlier).