Well, it took three years, but finally the Goldman Sachs-based head of the New York Fed, Bill Dudley, admitted what we all knew. From a speech just given by NY Fed's Bill Dudley at the 2014 AEA meeting in Philadelphia:
"We don't understand fully how large-scale asset purchase programs work to ease financial market conditions"
Or, in other words, "we still don't know how QE works." It just does (thank you Kevin Henry). And this coming from the people who want their word to become equivalent to gospel in a time when QE is being phased out and replaced with forward guidance. Luckily, at least the Fed knows all about how "forward guidance" works.
The recent strength of the euro and sterling seemed to evaporate, while the yen and dollar-bloc currencies recovered. Is this a major trend change or was it simply reflecting some position adjustment in a thin market?
Worried about being priced out of the housing market once again? Concerned that longer-term fixed rates will rise? It seems the general public, guided by the always full of fiduciary duty - mortgage broker - has reverted to old habits and is charging back into Adjustable-Rate Mortgages. As The LA Times reports, ARMs, which all but vanished during the housing bust, are back - accounting for 11.2% of homes purchased in November (double that of the year before)! While not the Option Arms of yesteryear, it would appear people, pushing for lower monthly payments, remain completely oblivious to the word "adjustable" when they shift their risk to the shorter-end. Though, as the 'experts' continue to tell us, rising rates won't affect housing negatively - not at all...
Over the past two weeks, Trust Preferred (or TruPS) CDOs have gained prominent attention as a result of being the first, and so far only, security that the recently implemented and largely watered-down, Volcker Rule has frowned upon, and leading various regional banks, such as Zions, to liquidate the offending asset while booking substantial losses. But... what are TruPS CDOs, and just how big (or small) of an issue is a potential wholesale liquidation in the market? Courtesy of the Philly Fed we now have the extended answer.
Dolllar weakess is largely concentrated against euro and sterling and those handful of currencies that move in their orbits. The US dollar is firm against the dollar-bloc and yen and many emerging market currencies.
Global monetary conditions remain easy and despite the Fed's decision to taper, peak monetary accommodation is not here yet.
• the risk of runs and asset fire sales in repurchase (repo) markets;
• excessive credit risk-taking and weaker underwriting standards;
• exposure to duration risk in the event of a sudden, unanticipated rise in interest rates;
• exposure to shocks from greater risk-taking when volatility is low;
• the risk of impaired trading liquidity;
• spillovers to and from emerging markets;
• operational risk from automated trading systems, including high-frequency trading; and
• unresolved risks associated with uncertainty about the U.S. fiscal outlook.
"Step right up and try your luck...spin the wheel and watch where she lands...everybody's a winner" - sometimes if you listen hard enough you can almost hear the Carney coaxing unwary investors to step up and try their luck in a game that has been rigged against them. During the last two decades, we have been amazed to watch as individuals strolled through the doors of the Wall Street casino to try their luck by betting "against the house" for a dream of riches. Just as with anyone who has ever gone to Vegas - you will win sometimes but the "house" wins most of the time. However, there are always the "professional gamblers" that can do better than the average most of the time. Why? Because they understand "risk" in its various forms...
Each quarter the Fed releases their assessment of the economy along with their forward looking projections for three years into the future. The reality is, however, is that the Federal Reserve simply cannot verbally state what they really see during each highly publicized meeting as it would roil the markets. Instead, they use their communications to guide the markets expectations toward reality in the hopes of reducing the risks of market dislocations. The most recent release of the Fed's economic projections on the economy, inflation and unemployment continue to follow the same previous trends of weaker growth, lower inflation and a complete misunderstanding of the real labor market. Reminiscent of the choices of Goldilocks - the reality is that the Fed's estimates for economic growth in 2013 was too hot, employment was too cold and inflation estimates were just about right. The real unspoken concern should be the continued threat of deflation and what actions will be available when the next recession eventually comes.
The FOMC decided to cut the pace of its asset purchases to $75bn/mo, but offset this with a qualitative enhancement to the forward guidance. The Committee's assessment of the economic outlook was somewhat more upbeat. We see today's statement as slightly hawkish relative to expectations. The fact that President Rosengren dissented and President George did not is consistent with that.
The "swap" of $10 billion of asset purchases for a lower employment threshold and lower-rates-for-longer forward guidance knne-jerked stocks dramatically higher (for now). But while that was occurring, the Wall Street Journal's Hon Hilsenrath was busy preparing 712 words in a record-setting 3-minutes to explain how the Fed remains data-dependent... and will remain dovish for longer than previously thought.
There seem to be two camps at Deutsche Bank these days: one, lead by the observant and somewhat contrarian Jim Reid, who recently asked the all important question about 2014 ("what if there is a recession?"), who accurately observed that something "structurally changed" since the great financial crisis (pretty clear what), and who even dared to suggest that the Fed will never taper, especially with the economy so late in the cycle already. And then there is Joe LaVorgna, best known for having a losing track record to Groundhog Phil. It appears that this morning Joey emerged from his lair deep inside 60 Wall, sniffed the cold air, and saw the shadow of a $10 billion taper, which is what he predicts the Fed will do tomorrow.
The Federal Reserve holds its last policy meeting of 2013 in the week ahead. In UBS' view there are four possible surprises that could affect the markets. From the odds of a taper to adjusting forecasts and from forward-guidance communication to the chances of a cut in the IOER, the FOMC meeting in the week ahead presents upside and downside risks to the dollar in the near term; even if UBS believes the longer-term will see USD strength against both the EUR and JPY.
After posting a surprising drop in November to -2.21, or only its first negative print since a freak first half of 2013 aberration, the spin was quick to explain away the drop with the government shutdown, which surprisingly affected precisely nothing else in the economy but just a few diffusion indices (and led to epic surges in various PMI prints). Moments ago, the December Empire Fed PMI print came out, and it was once again a dud, printing at 0.98 on expectations of a rise to 5.00 which also was the fifth consecutive miss to expectations in a row. The decline was driven by ongoing weakness in New Orders, which remained negative at -3.54, while Unfilled Orders tumbled deep into the red, from -17.11 to -24.10, while inventories supposedly cratered from -1.32 to -21.69. We say supposedly because other recent surveys have shown that the surge in inventory accumulation from Q3 into Q4 has continued.
Thinking like the Fed
To know your enemy, you must become your enemy -Sun Tzu
In war, poker, chess and many other endeavors, wise old hands will advise you to think like your opponent. We’ll try a related idea here by seeing if we can think like the members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). Specifically, we’ll pretend to write part of the statement for the FOMC’s December 17/18 meeting.