A sneaky overnight levitation pushed the Spoos above 1800 thanks to a modest USDJPY run (as we had forecast) despite, or maybe due to, the lack of any newsflow, although today's first official Humphrey Hawkins conference by the new Fed chairman, Janet Yellen, before the House and followed by the first post-mortem to her testimony where several prominent hawks will speak and comprising of John B. Taylor, Mark A. Calabria, Abby M. McCloskey, and Donald Kohn, could promptly put an end to this modest euphoria. Also, keep in mind both today, and Thursday, when Yellens' testimoeny before the Senate takes place, are POMO-free days. So things may get exciting quick, especially since as Goldman's Jan Hatzius opined overnight, the third tapering - down to $55 billion per month - is on deck.
BOTTOM LINE: The January employment report contained a confusing set of data, as payroll job growth significantly disappointed, but the unemployment rate declined by one-tenth, reflecting large gains in household employment. Overall we see the report as slightly weaker than expected. Nonfarm payroll employment rose a disappointing 113k in January (vs. consensus +180k). By industry, retail trade declined 13k (vs. +63k in December), while health and education services?normally a consistent support for headline job growth?declined for the second consecutive month (-6k). Construction employment, which declined 22k in December amid adverse weather, added 48k, suggesting little negative weather impact in the January report. Government employment fell 29k, the worst performance since October 2012, split between federal (-12k) and state and local (-17k). Payroll job growth in November and December was revised by a cumulative 34k, consistent with the general tendency for positive back-revisions in the January report. Over the past three months, payroll employment rose an average rate of 154k per month.
Goldman's Global Leading Indicator's January reading and the latest revisions to previous months paint a significantly softer picture of global growth placing the global industrial cycle clearly in the ‘Slowdown’ phase. They add, rather ominously, While the initial shift into ‘Slowdown’ (which we first noted in October) had a fairly idiosyncratic flavor, the recent growth deceleration now looks more serious than in previous months. Of course, as we noted yesterday, Jan Hatzius us rapidly bringing his optimistic forecasts back to this slowdown reality.
Back in December 2013, as we do after every periodic bout of irrational exuberance by Goldman's chief economist Jan Hatzius et al (who can forget our post from December 2010 "Goldman Jumps Shark, Goes Bullish, Hikes Outlook" in which Hatzius hiked his 2011 GDP forecast from 1.9% to 2.7% only to end the year at 1.8%, and we won't even comment on the longer-term forecasts) designed merely to provide a context for Goldman's equity flow and prop-trading axes, we said it was only a matter of time before Goldman (and the rest of the Goldman-following sellside econo-penguins) is forced to once again trim its economic forecasts. Overnight, two months after our prediction, the FDIC-backed hedge fund did just that, after Goldman's Hatzius announced that "we have taken down our GDP estimates to 2½% in Q1 and 3% in Q2, from 2.7% [ZH: actually 3.0% as of Thursday] and 3½% previously."
"BOTTOM LINE: Q4 GDP grew in line with expectations, although the composition was slightly softer than expected. We start our Q1 GDP tracking estimate three-tenths below our prior assumption at 2.7%." - Goldman
Following yesterday's major market drubbing, in which the sliding market was propped up by the skin of Nomura's (and BOJ, and Fed's) teeth at 103.00 on the USDJPY, it was inevitable that with Japan returning from holiday there would be a dead cat bounce in the Yen carry pair, and sure enough there was, as the USDJPY rose all the way back up to 103.70, and nearly closed the Friday gap, before starting to let off some air. However, now that US traders are coming back online, Japan's attempts to keep markets in the green may falter, especially since it only has a couple of ES ticks to show for its efforts, as for the Nikkei which dropped 3% overnight, it has now lost all US "Taper" gains.
If one listens to Goldman's chief economist Jan Hatzius these days, it is all roses for the global economy in 2014... much like it was for Goldman at the end of 2010, a case of optimism which went stupendously wrong. Goldman's Dominic Wilson admits as much in a brand new note in which he says, "Our economic and market views for 2014 are quite upbeat." However, unlike the blind faith Goldman had in a recovery that was promptly dashed, this time it is hedging, and as a result has just released the following not titled "Where we worry: Risks to our outlook", where Wilson notes: "After significant equity gains in 2013 and with more of a consensus that US growth will improve, it is important to think about the risks to that view. There are two main ways in which our market outlook could be wrong. The first is that our economic forecasts could be wrong. The second is that our economic forecasts could be right but our view of the market implications of those forecasts could be wrong. We highlight five key risks on each front here." In short: these are the ten things that keep Goldman up at night: the following five economic risks, and five market view risks.
Since the bank that decides what happens at the NY Fed, and by implication, at the broader Federal Reserve system, is none other than Goldman Sachs, it would be informative to read what none other than Goldman thinks of Ben Bernanke's thesis advisor Stanley Fischer, formerly head of the Bank of Israel, as the next vice chairman - as he is now actively rumored to become shortly. Conveniently, here is just such a Q&A from Goldman's Jan Hatzius - the man who feeds Bill Dudley all his economic and monetary insights over lobster sandwiches at the Pound and Pence.
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.
So much for all the "priced in" hope. At this point a delay past October 17 looks inevitable. But it's ok - despite what all the fearmongers have been saying, the world will not end on October 18, or 19, or later (which as we said earlier would only embolden the GOP to demand much more, until such time as the market really does crash), because as Goldman admits: 'missing the deadline by a few days would probably be manageable." In short, it seems that no deal by October 17 is now a, well, done deal.
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...