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."
What inventory boosts give in the current quarter, inventory lack of boosts take from future quarters. At least that is what Goldman's Jan Hatzius just stated in his note summarizing not only the just released Q3 GDP, but his first Q4 tracking forecast, which he cut from 2.0% to 1.5%. To wit: "GDP grew more quickly than expected in Q3, but the surprise came mainly from a larger-than-expected inventory contribution and a smaller-than-expected decline in government spending. Consumer spending and business fixed investment were less strong. Initial jobless claims declined as expected with no special distortions noted by the Labor Department. We started our Q4 GDP tracking estimate at 1.5%."
The extreme experiment of current US monetary policy has evolved (as we noted yesterday), from explicit end-dates, to unlimited end-dates, to threshold-based end-dates. Of course, this 'threshold' was no problem for the liquidty whores when unemployment rates were extremely high themselves, but as the world awoke to what we have been pointing out - that it's all a mirage of collapsing participation rates - the FOMC (and sell-side strategists) realized that the endgame may be 'too close'. Cue Goldman's Jan Hatzius, who in today's note, citing two influential Fed staff economists, shifts the base case and forecasts that the Fed will lower its threshold for rate hikes to 6.0% (and perhaps as low as 5.5%) as early as December (as a dovish forward-guidance balance to an expected Taper announcement).
This morning US futures are an unfamiliar shade of green, as the market is poised for its first red open in recent memory (then again the traditional EURJPY pre-open ramp is still to come). One of the reasons blamed for the lack of generic monetary euphoria is that China looked likely to buck the trend for more monetary policy support. New Premier Li Keqiang said in a speech published in full late on Monday that adding extra stimulus would be more difficult since printing new money would cause inflation. "His comments are different from what people were expecting. This is a shift from what he said earlier this year about bottom-line growth," said Hong Hao, chief strategist at Bank of Communications International. Asian shares struggled as a result slipping about 0.2 percent, though Japan's Nikkei stock average bounced off its lows and managed a 0.2 percent gain. However, in a world in which the monetary tsunami torch has to be passed every few months, this will hardly be seen as supportive of the "bad news is good news" paradigm we have seen for the past 5 years.
Yesterday Goldman explained why glorious and abysmal job numbers would both be sufficient to propel the Stalingrad and Poor to new ATH. So far, they were right. And while the number was not exactly abysmal (ironically, the market is now hung up on weaker than expected data just to make sure Uncle Ben and Uncle Janet stay around as long as possible), it was, as Goldman's Jan Hatzius just announced, "somewhat weaker than expected, as the disappointment on September payroll growth was only partly offset by back-month revisions, while average hourly earnings grew more slowly than expected." He said a bunch of other things too, but the most notable was that "this report makes it more likely that the Fed pushes the first reduction in the pace of its asset purchases into 2014... we think that March is the most likely date under our economic forecast." And since it is now obvious that the Fed is completely oblivious to what ongoing QE does to high quality collateral (which it is now soaking up at a pace of 0.4% in 10Yr equivs per week), full steam ahead it is. We expect Dudley to get his Hatzius marching orders shortly.
Remember: what Goldman wants, Goldman gets. The only question is whether Jan Hatzius and Bill Dudley have had their talking point convergence meeting over a tasty lobster club sandwich at the Pound and Pence already today...
Enter Goldman Sachs, whose Alex Phillips just said that: "If a longer-term resolution can be reached over the coming days, we would expect the downside risk from the fiscal debate to be limited to about 0.5pp in Q4, compared to our current growth forecast of 2.5%." In other words, pro forma for the 14 day government shutdown (and continuing) Goldman has just cut its Q4 GDP forecast from 2.5% to 2.0%. And to think this was the year that Jan Hatzius was desperately praying his optimism (for the 4th year in a row - and who can possibly forget Hatzius boosting its Q4 2010 GDP estimate from 4% to 5.8% - and the same every year since) would finally be rewarded. Sorry Jan: we were right again, you were wrong. Again.
After seven months of investigating Goldman Sachs' legal and compliance divisions, former NYFed examiner Carmen Segarra found numerous conflicts of interest and breach of client ethics (specifically related to three transactions - Solyndra, Capmark, and the El Paso / Kinder Morgan deal) that she believed warranted a downgrade of Goldman's regulatory rating. Her bosses were not happy, concerned that this action would hurt Goldman's ability to do business, and, she alleges, they urged her to change her position. She refused, and as Reuters reports, she was fired and escorted from the building. “I was just documenting what Goldman was doing,” she said. “If I was not able to push through something that obvious, the [NY Fed] certainly won’t be capable of supervising banks when even more serious issues arise.”
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."
While the issue of whether they will or won't taper is certainly still not clear, the WSJ's John Hilsenrath notes that the other dilemma facing the Fed is whether to reduce their purchases of Treasurys, mortgage-backed securities or both. According to officials, Hilsenrath notes, there were two lines of thinking at the Fed on how to structure a pullback from the bond programs and the issue would be discussed at the meeting. Goldman's Jan Hatzius has posited that "Fed leadership probably views MBS purchases as more effective in boosting economic activity than Treasury purchases," but as Hilsenrath notes, some Fed officials prefer a simpler-to-communicate strategy of proportional cutbacks to both MBS and Treasuries. The fact that Hilsy is reporting this suggests that a Taper is somewhat inevitable - as we have noted since the Fed remains cornered. On average, the market expects a $6bn taper on Treasuries and $3 billion for MBS.
With bonds and stocks rallying (and the USD dropping) notably in the last few days, one could be forgiven for believing the Taper is off but Goldman's baseline forecast remains for a $10bn reduction in asset purchases - probably all in Treasuries - and $15bn is possible (though recently mixed labor data may choke that a little) and a strengthening of forward-guidance. As they note, the current redction in uncertainty (or rise in complacency some might say) has the potential to offset the tightening in financial conditions, barring another major outbreak of DC strife in the run up to the debt ceiling in late October/early November. However, what is most notable is Goldman's expectation that the Fed will start walking-back its unemployment-rate threshold as it has been clearly shown not to be a good catch-all indicator of broad economic and labor market performance. So it's data-dependent - but the data is unreliable at best and false at worst.
"While the August employment report was a moderate disappointment, we believe it is probably not weak enough to prevent the FOMC from tapering in September. However, it does raise the likelihood of a "dovish taper," which could include a small size of the overall adjustment to purchases, and which we think would likely coincide with an enhancement of the forward guidance."
While we found it modestly comedic (and certainly ironic) that CNBC's crack team celebrated the recovery from the initial knee-jerk drop in stocks after the FOMC by top-ticking that suspension of reality; we suspect the following post-mortem from Goldman on the minutes is what confirmed concerns across the street... "Minutes from the July 30-31 FOMC meeting were generally consistent with our view that tapering of asset purchases is likely to occur at the September meeting, coincident with an enhancement of the forward guidance."
As the disconnect between payroll data and GDP grows, and the schrodinger reality of a non-farm-payroll print and JOLTs data increases; it will not come as a total surprise to Zero Hedge readers that Goldman Sachs has finally been forced to admit that investors have been fooled by the relative importance of jobs data. While the payrolls data has the largest financial market effect of all economic indicators (by a large margin), Jan Hatzius finds that neither payrolls (or Advance GDP) provide any incremental information about the broad strength of the economy.
Back in late 2012, Goldman's Jan Hatzius did precisely what he did at the end of 2010: predicted that after many years of delays, the US economy would finally soar higher on the back of the reignition of the virtuous cycle driven by now endless Fed micromanagement of virtually every aspect of the economy. We mocked him in 2010 (6 months later he pulled his call following a series of embarrassing mea culpas), and did the same in 2012. So here we are, 8 months later, and this much-delayed recovery has been "delayed" again - just as we thought. Of course, once bitten by the fringe blogosphere, Jan is not willing to pull his recovery call for the second time in a row despite deteriorating GDP and employment data, and instead (like everyone else) if placing his faith with the Fed, despite five consecutive years of disappointment from St. Ben. Maybe this time it will be different... although it won't. In the meantime, from a glass fully full (which is where it was supposed to be by this time in the year), the Goldmanite has now reduced his economic assessment to half that.