In the past, when discussing the goalseeking C-grade excel jockeys at the Congressional Budget Office (or CBO), we have not been technically full of reverence. After all when one uses a phrase such as this one: "What do the NAR, Consumer Confidence and CBO forecasts have in common? If you said, "they are all completely worthless" you are absolutely correct", it may be too late to worry about burned bridges. We do have our reasons: as we pointed out last year, following the whole US downgrade fiasco when the Treasury highlighted the CBO's sterling work in presenting a US future so bright, Timmy "TurboTax" G had to wear shades, we said "according to the same CBO back in 2001, net US indebtedness in 2011 would be negative $2.436 trillion, the ratio of debt held by the public to GDP would be 4.8%, total budget surplus would be $889 billion, and GDP would be $16.9 trillion." As we know now they were off only by a modest $17.5 trillion on that debt forecast. Yet we never attributed to malice and bias and outright corruption, what simple stupidity and gross incompetence could easily explain. Until today that is, when following a WSJ article, we are left wondering just how deep does the CBO stench truly go and whether its employees are far more corrupt than merely stupid?
As widely expected by Zero Hedge, barely a few months after the arrival of former Goldmanite Mario Draghi to head ECB, the ECB's balance sheet exploded by nearly $1 trillion. Naturally, such is the way of central banks infiltrated by tentacles of the squid: no surprises. Which brings us to the first Fed meeting of 2012 and its public manifestation: the FOMC's January 25 statement. As is well known, while the Goldman addition to the ECB is a recent development, its agent at the Fed, the head of the FRBNY Bill Dudley has been there for a quite a while - in fact ever since the tax-challenged Mike Judge character impersonator left to become Treasury Secretary. As was suggested on Zero Hedge, it was the meetings of Bill Dudley with Goldman's Jan Hatzius at the Pound and Pence, and of course elsewhere but these are the only public recorded ones, that have shaped monetary policy more than anything. In other words, if anyone can predict, not to say define, US monetary policy, it would be Jan Hatzius. Below are his just released "thoughts" on what to expect on Wednesday. What is odd is that whereas a month ago Goldman was convinced that an LSAP version of QE was imminent, now the firm has become substantially less optimistic. Is it time to manage down expectations? To wit: "Given the improvement in the economic indicators and the easing of financial conditions that has occurred in the meantime, we believe it is less central now. While Fed officials are certainly not targeting a tightening of conditions, we doubt that they will "bend over backwards" to deliver a dovish surprise relative to current market expectations." So just how much QE3 is priced in if Goldman is already doing disappointment damage control. Or did Goldman finally wise up and realize that the only effective Fed statement is the one that surprises. So if Goldman does not publicly expect QE3, and we do in fact get a notice thereof, it will have an immediate knee jerk reaction on risk, and of course, Gold. These and many more questions shall be answered at 12:30 pm on Wednesday.
As US markets remain in hibernation for a few more hours, Goldman picks out the five critical questions that need to be considered in the context of 2012's economic outlook. Jan Hatzius and his team ask and answer a veritable chart-fest of crucial items from whether US growth will pick up to above-trend (and remain 'decoupled' from Europe's downside drag), whether inflation will find its Goldilocks moment this year and if the US housing market will bottom in 2012 (this one is a stretch). Summarizing all of these in a final question, whether the Fed will ease further, the erudite economist continues to expect an expansion of LSAP (focused on Agency MBS) and an official re-adjustment to an inflation targeting environment. Their view remains that a nominal GDP target combined with more (larger) QE improves the chances of the Fed meeting its dual mandates (unemployment target?) over time but expectations for this radical shift remain predicated on considerably worse economic performance in the economy first (as they expect growth to disappoint). We feel the same way (worse is needed) and recall our recent (firstly here, then here and here) focus on the shift in the balance of power between the Fed and ECB balance sheets (forced Fed QE retaliation soon?).
Nobody could have seen this coming: "With most of the news on first-quarter growth now in, the GDP “bean count” looks even softer than it did a couple of weeks ago. The most recent disappointments have come on the export side—with trade now set to subtract significantly from growth in the quarter—and from inventories. Consequently, we are downgrading our real GDP growth estimate to 1¾% (annualized), from 2½% previously (and from 3½% not too long ago)." Some other things nobody will be able to predict: Hatzius dropping full year GDP from 4% to 2.25%; Goldman's downgrade of precious metals, Kostin's 2011 S&P 500 price target reduction by 20%, and Goldman getting its New York Fed branch to commence monetizing $1.5 trillion in debt some time in October.
Recently Jan Hatzius cut his Q1 GDP as was reported first on Zero Hedge, to 2.5%, even as the Goldman chief economist is still (we give it 2 weeks) keeping his FYE GDP outlook constant (who says bulge brackets don't believe in hockeysticks). Following the just released ugly trade data which as we suspected would lead to even more GDP downgrades, Dudley's successor is out with yet another warning that should come as manna from heaven to those who continue to believe in non-dilutable assets: "Through February, the trade data suggest a large drag on GDP growth in the first quarter and suggest downside risk to our 2.5% forecast." Gee whiz, Jan, if Q1 when the bulk of the tax stimulus is concentrated (which was the reason for Goldman's December bullish 180 on the economy) is unable to post an economic improvement, what is left for the rest of the year, when no more fiscal stimulus is projected, and when, gulp, QE3 is ending? We can't wait to hear your explanation for this.
Goldman's Jan Hatzius, who whether he likes it or not, is probably the biggest variable as to whether there will be a QE3 or not, as every other Wall Street "strategist" immediately parrots what Hatzius says will happen (in no small part due to Hatzius' close relationship with NY Fed's Bill Dudley) has just released a hypothetical Q&A session in which he provides what potential answers to questions during Bernanke's first ever scheduled press conference on April 26 of this year might look like. In order to keep the dodecatuple reverse psychology mystery to a maximum, Hatzius also provides what Goldman's answers would look like pari passu with those of the Fed (which is not all than ironic: after all the Fed gets its teleprompted lines straight from the corner offices at 200 West). So for all forensic linguist/economist/psychologists who are hoping to get an extra ounce of informational clarity on the future of monetization post June 30, here it is. Good luck.
During his presentation to the Senate yesterday (to be followed promptly by another presentation before Congress shortly), Bernanke discussed the impact of the $61 billion spending cut on GDP. In doing so he referenced a report published by Goldman strategists Jan Hatzius and Alec Phillips. He did so incorrectly. And the first thing Hatzius did this morning is to correct the Chairman: "Some have wondered—e.g. in the Q&A portion of Fed Chairman Bernanke’s monetary policy testimony on Tuesday—how such seemingly small cuts could have such a noticeable impact. But it is important to remember that we are talking about a hit to the quarter-on-quarter annualized growth rate of spending here, not about a hit to the level of GDP. For illustration, it is useful to go through a simplified version of the calculation underlying our estimates for the House-passed spending cut." Hatzius clarifies further: "We estimate that the $25bn cut in our budget projections reduces growth in Q2 by around 1 percentage point (annualized); this effect is already incorporated in our forecast that real GDP will grow 4% (annualized). In addition, we estimated that the $61bn cut passed by the House would reduce growth in Q2 and Q3 by 1½-2 percentage point (annualized) in Q2 and Q3. (In other words, relative to the assumptions currently embedded in our forecast, the House-passed package would imply an additional ½-1 percentage point drag on growth in Q2 and an additional 1½-2 percentage point drag in Q3.) Spending would then be maintained at that lower level thereafter, and the effect on GDP growth would dissipate quickly in Q4 and would be essentially neutral by 2012 Q1." So perhaps the Chairman will keep this in mind as this report is surely reference once again today.
Jan Hatzius is the bellwether of the sellside economist crowd. When he was bearish (2009), most were bearish, when he turned bullish (early half of 2010), everyone else followed suit. Then he turned bearish again (early August 2010) and convinced his friend and former co-worker Bill Dudley to launch QE2. Then, in December, he turned very bullish again. And now we are here. We expect Hatzius to be fake bullish for another 3 months max, at which point he will have no choice than to start telegraphing to Jon Hilsenrath that it is time for QE3. In the meantime, for those who are not too familiar with his work, here is an extended interview with Bloomberg TV, in which the GS head economist talks about Goldman's call for 18% gain in stocks this year as well as trends in jobs, inflation and other data indicators.
Ever since his transition from a critical, respected and objective economist to the third coming of A Joseph Cohen, Goldman's Jan Hatzius has become an increasingly irrelevant second fiddle-cum-broken record, and as such his observations have merited less and less attention. His latest spin piece on why the centrally planned US economy will grow within the parameters of "perfection pricing" is merely more confirmation of this sad transition. To wit: "2012 is still a long way off, and the uncertainty surrounding any forecast is large. But if we are right, the implications of this forecast are reasonably benign for the US Treasury market and very benign for the equity market. Indeed, our strategists expect only a moderate increase in 10-year Treasury note yields to 3¾% at the end of 2011 and 4¼% at the end of 2012, as well as an increase in the S&P 500 index to 1500 by the end of 2011." In other words: the debt-fueled Frankenstein of a Goldilocks monster, currently rampaging around on government-funded steroids, is really completely under control. It appears that all the gloves have come off in this last attempt to reflate the global ponzi, and sadly credibility once relevant, is now completely out of the window.
Jan Hatzius, whose recent conversion to an economic bull forced all the Wall Street sell side lemmings to follow suit (just like they did in August when he downgraded the GDP only to start pushing Bill Dudley's buttons for QE2 and ultimately getting it), disclosed earlier that QE 2.1, or an extension to QE2's $600 billion (excluding the $300 billion from QE Lite), is all but certain. After all Jan's calls for QE Lite in January 2010 are precisely what happened. It was also Jan who first demanded QE2 in September, and got that too. Which means that as we expected, the total amount of debt to be monetized this year (between QE lite, QE2 and QE2.1) will be about $1.6 trillion, or more than the entire budget deficit. Now what bond investors are wondering is what happens when the Fed starts unwinding: by now everyone knows how POMO works - buying USTs in the open market. Well, at some point in the next 2 years the Fed, which by then will have about $4 trillion in Treasury securities (assuming all MBS have been prepaid) will have to start selling this paper. Couple that with the $1.5 trillion in debt issuance by the Treasury, and soon America will be faced with the brick wall of such a supply deluge in paper that there will be no way to sell it without hiking rates into double digit figures. This, much more than any unfounded speculation of capital flows from equities to bonds, is what is starting to awake the US bond vigilantes.
It was only two days ago that Goldman upgraded its own bonus pool by saying the economy is now going nowhere but up, up, up. That lasted for 72 hours. Below is Hatzius' (first of many) mea culpa for finaly selling out: "A clearly disappointing report all around, with payrolls up much less than expected and the unemployment rate up. Although hours worked rose only 0.1% in November, this rough proxy for real GDP less productivity changes is tracking at roughly a 2½% annual rate. Flat wages coupled with the small increase in payrolls suggests very little wage and salary growth in November." We give the Goldman "strategist" 3 months before he starts beating the QE 3-666 drums again.
Goldman's Jan Hatzius, who after flipping his view on the economy in early August, and taking all of the street with him, has recently flopped back to a semi-optimistic outlook. What is amusing is that despite his suddenly far more bullish outlook, he, as well as the entire Goldman team, continue to call for $2 trillion in total QE2. Of course the two are completely at odds with each other, but hey - if it means 2011 will be another record bonus year, why leave something as irrelevant as logic stand in the way of that 3rd French Polynesian island. On the other hand, Hatzius is certainly not stupid, so in continuing with his rhetorical device of an hypothetical interrogation, today Hatzius releases his latest Q&A, this time focusing on the future of Quantitative Easing. What is most notable, is that as of today, the Dutch strategist sees the possibility for less QE2 post June, contrary to his recent missives which expected QE2 to continue until the full $2 trillion of expected monetary base "printing" was fulfilled. Then again, as Ireland has so aptly demonstrated today, at this point it is no longer a question of whether any economic policy is viable in the long-run. All that matters is for putting enough lipstick on the bankrupt global pig for another few months at a time, so that yet another sovereign constituency can foot the bills in what has become a rolling global bailout of country after country.
Here is Jan Hatzius' initial read on Bernanke speech. In a nutshell, Hatzius seems to believe that reading between the lines may mean Bernanke will not do QE2, and preserve some of the Fed's mystique, so that all those massive bond managers who get the Fed's data early appear to have a competitive advantage. Alas, they don't. And all those who believe the Fed at this point, now that fiscal stimulus is no longer an option and all out FX war has broken out, has any other option but to buy anything not nailed down, well, we would like to point them to the 9 upcoming POMO monetizations over the next 4 weeks. What is most troubling is that the market has now priced in not only that, excluding some intraday volatility especially on OpEx days, but the expansion of Fed proxy buying of AAPL to $25 billion a week. Hatzius better hope that his attempt to restore some credibility to the Phantom of the Fed is grounded in reality. Because in the off chance he is right, buying a boatload of far OTM broad market puts on November 2 may well end up being the most profitable trade of the year, if not decade.
From Tungstenman Sachs: "Our view remains that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will once again ease monetary policy via unconventional measures in late 2010 or early 2011. Our views have not changed, and today’s comment discusses them in Q&A form. We believe that purchases of US Treasury securities cumulating to $1 trillion or more are the most likely cornerstone of the program; that the September 21 FOMC meeting is probably too early for a big announcement, but that November 2-3 is a possibility; and that it would likely “work” to a limited degree, perhaps boosting real GDP growth by a little under ½ percentage point per $1 trillion in purchases."
Jan Hatzius Presents His List Of Anticipated Fed Action Items Through November 2-3: None; Time To Sell On No Imminent QE2?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 08/24/2010 22:11 -0400
Goldman's Jan Hatzius explains why while he is still convinced that the Fed will ultimately have to undergo QE2, he presents the case why the Fed's hands are now most likely tied through its November 2-3 meeting (and why the J-Hole meeting will be a snoozer), at which point it will be too late for the market to benefit from monetary stimulus. The implication: very bearish for stocks, as Obama's only option for pumping up stocks in advance of the elections (monetary easing) is eliminated. With no means to implement a stock run up into the election (which would become a prompt self-fulfilling prophecy), the market is likely about to tumble.