News about the spread of the Ebola virus has been an increasing focus for market participants in recent days. Despite rising media coverage, Ebola seems to have had little discernible effect on consumer sentiment to date. However, as Goldman Sachs notes, the "fear factor" associated with Ebola appears more significant than in past instances of pandemic concern. While expert opinion sees the likelihood of a significant outbreak of Ebola in the US as very low, it is likely any negative macroeconomic consequences are most likely to be transmitted through fear or risk-aversion channels.
I don't want to spoil the revelations of "This American Life": It's far better to hear the actual sounds on the radio, as so much of the meaning of the piece is in the tones of the voices -- and, especially, in the breathtaking wussiness of the people at the Fed charged with regulating Goldman Sachs. But once you have listened to it -- as when you were faced with the newly unignorable truth of what actually happened to that NFL running back's fiancee in that elevator -- consider the following:
- You sort of knew that the regulators were more or less controlled by the banks. Now you know.
- The only reason you know is that one woman, Carmen Segarra, has been brave enough to fight the system. She has paid a great price to inform us all of the obvious. She has lost her job, undermined her career, and will no doubt also endure a lifetime of lawsuits and slander.
So what are you going to do about it? At this moment the Fed is probably telling itself that, like the financial crisis, this, too, will blow over. It shouldn't.
Reflecting on the farce that was the FOMC statement and press conference yesterday, Bloomberg's Richard Breslow jabs that it appears Janet Yellen's 'splaining can be summed up, "we can’t know what considerable time means because we’re told it’s a very nuanced concept." In other words, we are just not smart enough, leave it to the PhDs in the room. Even Goldman was struggling to find the dovish side reflecting that market movements were more driven by positioning than anything new policy-wise. As Breslow sums up so eloquently, "a 'true normal' balance sheet remains a very distant dream, perhaps end of decade, and who knows if they’ll ever get back there."
Since it is the NY Fed, headed by an ex-Goldmanite, which will ultimately be tasked with exiting 6 years of "unconventional monetary policy" - at some point during this "recovery" if not now or any time soon for that matter - it is probably best to listen to Goldman for its post-mortem on what the chairwoman did or did not say. Which is why we present a "Q&A" with Goldman's head economist, Jan Hatzius, known to occasionally exchange a sandwich and the occasional policy guidelene, with NY Fed's Bill Dudley at the Pound and Pence, in which he explains how Yellen managed to be both more dovish and more hawkish than the "market" expected.
Having confirmed yesterday that China's "Stealth QE" is absolutely uber-bullish (despite PBOC playing it down themselves), Goldman is out after the close (having seen stocks give all their post-FOMC gains back) to confirm the "Fed is still dovish" meme...
Treasury Secretary Lew's comments on tax reform yesterday indicate that in the absence of legislative activity to address the expatriation of US-based companies, the Treasury will lay out its own plans "in the very near future." Goldman interprets this to mean an announcement in the next couple of weeks. While the substance of the Treasury's forthcoming announcement is still unknown, Lew's comments seemed consistent with Jan Hatzius' expectation that the steps the Treasury will announce will be incremental and not enough to fundamentally alter the outlook for these transactions.
Confused by what Janet Yellen said? As it turns out, so is everyone else, where the prevailing sentiment across the sell-side analysts was that Yellen was not dovish enough. Then again, with expectations bordering on Yellen giving the "BTFATH" green light, there is no way she was not going to disappoint...
In the four months since we last wrote about the upcoming midterm election, the outlook has changed only incrementally. As Goldman notes, although there were a few surprising retirements and primary election results over the last few months, none of these seem to have significantly affected the overall prospects for control of the House or Senate. However, as the election draws near, the potential effects of a Republican Senate majority seem likely to become more of a focus for market participants.
The July FOMC minutes generally had a slightly hawkish tone, warns Goldman's Jan Hatzius, emphasizing that labor market slack had improved faster than expected and that the labor market was now closer to what might be considered normal in the longer run. Overall, these remarks suggest that the change in the labor market language found in the July FOMC statement - shifting focus to broader labor market indicators rather than the unemployment rate specifically - was not intended to be a dovish change, as some commentators thought at the time. Finally, some participants noted some evidence of stretched valuations in specific markets.
As always, for the best take of what the Fed was thinking, skip Hilsenrath and go straight to the people who provide it with its talking points. Here is Goldman's Jan Hatzius with hos post-mortem of the just released FOMC minutes.
The official measure of Q1 productivity growth currently looks likely to be revised down to almost -6% (annualized) - the worst in almost 70 years. As Goldman points out, even on a longer-term basis, the 4-, 8-, and 12-quarter trends are all in a 0.2%-0.6% range when the Q1 estimates are included, dramatically below consensus 2% estimates of the long-term trend. While Goldman notes productivity is a very noisy series, because it is calculated as the difference between noisy GDP numbers and noisy hours worked numbers; if these numbers are an accurate representation of the long-term trend, the implications for the long-term growth in US living standards would be very negative.
Who best to summarize what Yellen just said (aside from Bernanke of course, however he will demand at least $250,000/hour for his profound insight), than the bank which actually runs the NY Fed: Goldman Sachs. So without further ado, here is Goldman's Jan Hatzius on what Yellen really said. "BOTTOM LINE: The Q&A of Yellen's semi-annual monetary policy testimony contained a few bits of interesting information, including a slightly hawkish shift in her description of when FOMC participants think the first rate hike may occur."
Goldman Admits Market 40% Overvalued, Economy Slowing, So... Time To Boost The S&P Target To 2050 From 1900Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/12/2014 17:24 -0400
Recall that it was Goldman's David Kostin who in January admitted that "The S&P500 Is Now Overvalued By Almost Any Measure." It was then when the Goldman chief strategist admitted there was only 3% upside to the bank's year end target of 1900. Well, that hasn't changed. In his latest note Kostin says that "S&P 500 now trades at 16.1x forward 12-month consensus EPS and 16.5x our top-down forecast... the only time S&P 500 traded at a higher multiple than today was during the 1997-2000 Tech bubble when margins were 25% (250 bp) lower than today. S&P 500 also trades at high EV/sales and EV/EBITDA multiples relative to history. The cyclically-adjusted P/E ratio suggests S&P 500 is now 30%-45% overvalued compared with the average since 1928." And this is where Goldman just goes apeshit full retard: "we lift our year-end 2014 S&P 500 price target to 2050 (from 1900) and 12-month target to 2075, reflecting prospective returns of 4% and 6%, respectively."
With all eyes firmly focused on the dismal Q1 GDP print and summarily dismissing it as 'noise', backward-looking, 'weather', and 'exogenous'; today's worrying spending data has sent the serial extrapolators among the sell-side economist herd scrambling to downgrade over-exuberant Q2 GDP expectations (five so far). One glance at this chart is all one needs to know about the "bounce back" in pent-up demand spending (that is not there). As Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi's Chris Rupkey told Bloomberg, "Don’t start betting on those 3% GDP numbers yet." This only trumped Goldman Sachs 'oh-so-embarrassed-again' Jan Hatzius who slashed his exuberant 4% Q2 GDP growth estimate to 3.5% (for now).
"...we think that Q1 GDP was an aberration, and is not representative of the strengthening underlying trend in US growth." There is nothing we can add to such brilliant weatherman insight as what Jan Hatzius from Goldman just unleashed on the unwitting muppets (all of whom can't wait for Goldman's second above-consensus GDP forecast to pan out... unlike the last time in 2010). In brief: Goldman just boosted their Q2 tracking GDP from 3.8% to 4.0% because Q1 GDP imploded. And scene.