"We are not clueless," Kevin Warsh notes in this September 16th 2008 Federal Reserve transcript (as the entire financial system was imploding around them); but it is the final 'debate' in this brief section that sums up what Marc Faber has feared all along. Adjective or Abverb?
"When the market is in the depressive phase of what President Lockhart referred to as a bipolar disorder, crafting policy to satisfy it is like feeding Jabba the Hutt—doing so is fruitless, if not dangerous, because it simply will insist upon more." - Fed's Dick Fisher
The world may have been crashing and burning, and as Bernanke admitted in March 2008, "At some point, of course, either things will stabilize or there will be some kind of massive governmental intervention, but I just don’t have much confidence about the timing of that" (guess which one it was), but at least the Fed ended the catastrophic 2008 yeat on a high note. The chart below shows the number of the time the FOMC committee had an moment of levity as captured by [Laughter] in the FOMC transcripts. Perhaps not surprisingly, the December 2008 meeting, when the market was in free fall, saw the biggest number of laugh lines in the entire year.
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.
Looking ahead, Thursday will be a busy day with the ECB (plus Draghi’s press conference) and BoE meetings. Some are expecting the ECB to cut rates as early at this week although most believe the rate cut will not happen until December. Draghi will likely deflect the exchange rate’s relevance via its impact on inflation forecasts. This could strengthen the credibility of the forward guidance message, but this is just rhetoric — a rate cut would require a rejection of the current recovery hypothesis. They expect more focus on low inflation at this press conference, albeit without pre-empting the ECB staff new macroeconomic forecasts that will be published in December.
Overnight trading started with Asian markets continuing where yesterday's S&P 500 fizzle ended, wishing Summers could withdraw from Fed running again, as both the Nikkei and SHCOMP were well lower by the close. Perhaps all the easy multiple-expanding, headline-driven money is made, or perhaps economic fundamentals will finally start having to justify a 17x multiple on the S&P (a good is good regime for those who may be too young, or old, to remember), but overnight US futures were dull, and no doubt anticipating today's start of the "Most important FOMC meeting ever", which concludes tomorrow with an announcement by the Fed of what and how much (if any) tapering it will commence with an eye toward halting QE next summer, although more realistically what will happen is an Untaper being announced before then. While the start of the FOMC meeting is the main event, today we get CPI, TIC flows and the NAHB housing market index. Today's POMO is another modest $1.25-$1.75 billion in the long-end sector.
First, Summers steps away; Second, Geithner politely declines; and now - just as his odds of becoming the next Fed Head begin to rise, Donald Kohn drops the following headline bomb-shells at a Brookings' event this morning
KOHN: BAIL-IN NEEDED TO PROTECT FINANCIAL SYSTEM FROM TOO BIG TO FAIL FIRMS
KOHN: VERY EASY MONETARY POLICY CAN CREATE DANGEROUS RISKS
Kohn: Problems can arise when one policy [monetary or financial regulation] is leaning so hard in one direction
That should be enough to effectively remove himself from the running... It seems we are back to the lowest common denominator Fed-head - so much for American exceptionalism again.
Gold and silver futures surged 2.1% and 3.6% respectively and the dollar fell on the open in Asia prior to determined selling which again capped precious metal prices. Analysts and media attributed the price gains on the withdrawal of Larry Summers from the race to be the new Fed Chairman, leaving Janet Yellen as the new frontrunner.
When the tracking of potential Ben replacement candidates for Fed Chairman by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, and InTrade prop bet replacement, started it had Janet Yellen as a solid favorite. Shortly thereafter, as news leaked that Obama's favorite was Larry Summers, and as the president made it quite clear Yellen's candidacy was certainly not on the front Burner with the "Mr. Yellen" Freudian slip, Summer's odds soared and hit a contract high of 85% last week. Over the weekend, anyone who had put money on Summers, was Harvarded and lost all capital at risk, and now, it is Yellen who is once again firmly in the lead with her odds soaring right back to just why of 90%, and well-ahead of second placed Don Kohn at 17%. Ironically, while the market never actually corrected for the "market negative" that Larry Summers' candidacy is now spun to be, it is surely uncorrecting now that he is out.
It had become clear that the President's own political base in the Senate were not going to support Mr. Summer's ascendancy. The eye of the Press will now turn to Mr. Kohn, Ms. Yellen, who does not seem to have the support of Mr. Obama, and the long, though interesting shot, of Stanley Fischer. Mr. Obama appears to be easing into a lame duck presidency far earlier than once thought and the reality of Obamacare will hit Main Street on October 1 which may tip the scales further out of his control. It may not be either the best of times or the worst of times but very volatile times that mark this week.
While the only market moving event of note had nothing to do with the economy (as usual), and everything to do with the Fed's potential propensity to print even more dollars and inject even more reserves into the stock market (now that Summers the wrongly perceived "hawk" is out) some other notable events did take place in the Monday trading session. Of note: while India's August inflation soared far higher than the expected 5.7%, rising to 6.1% from 5.79% (making life for the RBI even more miserable, as it is fighting inflation on one hand, and a lack of liquidity on the other), in Europe inflation decelerated to 1.3% from 1.6% in July driven by a drop in energy prices, while core inflation was a tiny 1.1%. In a continent with record negative loan growth this is to be expected. Additionally, as also reported, Merkel appears to be positioned stronger ahead of this weekend's Federal election following stronger results for her CDU/CSU, if weaker for her broader coalition. In Libya, oil protesters said they would continue stoppages at oil terminals until their demands are met in yet another startling outcome for US foreign intervention. Finally, some headline on Syria noted a Kerry statement "will not tolerate avoidance of a Syria deal", while Lavrov observed that it may be time to "force Syria opposition to peace talks." And one quote of the day so far: "Don't want market to become excessively exuberant" from the ECB's Mersch- just modestly so?
UPDATE: *GEITHNER STILL DOESN'T WANT TO BE CONSIDERED FOR FED CHIEF: WSJ
The next chairman's main job is going to be deciding how soon and how aggressively to pull back on Fed programs; and as none other than Fed whisperer John Hilsenrath notes, Larry Summers' withdrawal increases the likelihood of continuity in central-bank policy for the next few years - meaning any Fed wind-down of its easy-money programs will be slow and gradual. Of course he posits Yellen and Kohn as potential front-runners but throws Tim Geithner and Roger Ferguson back into the mix. Business-as-usual is back and the doves are in control - all the Fed needs now is bigger deficits to enable it to keep the pumps primed...
"Market response - will add to downward pressure on bond yields and may be worth another 10-15bps on the downside. FX terms - hard to see it as anything but USD negative for now. Main buying opportunities probably high current account deficit EM, AUD,and JPY. Discussion of waning Summers odds had been in market last week so we would see impact on JPY in 0.5-1.0 percent range. Whether this puts Yellen in driver's seat is unclear, so this Wednesday tapering and FOMC forward guidance are still the focus. We still think tapering schedule rather than FOMC language will be the main market driver."
Confused by all the trial balloons, meandering daily Op-Eds (most of which written by novice journalists with even more bizarre agendas), and "paddy power" market updates? Then here is Scotiabank's Guy Hasselman with his latest rundown on just where we stand in the race for the next Fed chairman.
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