"We don’t believe the Chairman’s intentions have changed. Regardless, the Chairman’s credibility is once again damaged. If the Dollar breakdown continues, it will be a sign that the market believes the Chairman has again lost control over policy. The asset clearly in the best position in such an environment is Gold. After such a notable correction in the past 9 months, the precious metal once again becomes a very attractive global asset if monetary policy in the largest economy of the world spins out of control." - Mike O'Rourke
The U.S. economy weakened appreciably in the first quarter of 2013. But what if this weakness persists into the second quarter just completed, and worsens still in the second half of this year? Q1 GDP, as reported on June 26th, was revised lower to just 1.8%. And various indications suggest that Q2 could come in slightly lower still, at 1.6%. Might the U.S. economy be guiding to a long-term GDP of 1.5%? That’s the rate identified by such observers as Jeremy Grantham – the rate at which we combine aging demographics, lower fertility rates, high resource costs, and the burdensome legacy of debt. After a four-year reflationary rally in just about everything, and now with an emerging interest rate shock, the second half of 2013 appears to have more downside risk than upside. Have global stock markets started to discount this possibility?
If you’ve wondered what the next recession might bring in the way of U.S. corporate earnings, you don’t have long to wait for an answer. Analysts expect the 30 companies of the Dow Jones Industrial Average to post a meager 0.7% top line growth for the upcoming Q2 2013 reporting season. If recent history – think all the way back to Q1 2013 – is any guide, that means we’ll actually see a decline in revenues for the just completed quarter once all the numbers are out. And with Q1 posting an average negative 0.6% top line comparison to last year, that will constitute a “Revenue recession” for these large and generally well-managed multinationals. If that makes you question why U.S. stocks are still up 15% on the year, look to both corporate profits (still at record highs) and the anticipation for a better second half. Hope may not be a strategy, as the old saying goes, but it certainly moves markets.
In case you missed the late announcement, Ben Bernanke is scheduled to deliver a speech on Wednesday afternoon, covering the Federal Reserve Bank’s track record through its 100 year history. Presumably, he’ll also spend time defending current policies, in both prepared remarks and the question-and-answer session to follow.
In advance of what could be a market-moving talk, it seems appropriate to consider what’s been said in the past about the Fed’s policy record. I suggest seeing if you can name the source of each of the following excerpts...
On occasion of an address to economists at a conference in France, Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann reminded the audience that 'the ECB cannot solve the crisis', because it is due to structural reasons and therefore requires structural reform. Weidmann rightly fears that governments will begin to postpone or even stop their reform efforts now that the ECB has managed to calm markets down. In a Reuters article on the topic, a number of people are quoted remarking on ECB policy. What is so interesting about this is how far removed from reality general perceptions are when it comes to judging current central bank policies. In short, Weidmann wants to end the three card Monte, whereby commercial banks buy the bonds issued by governments because they don't have to put any capital aside for the purpose, which bonds they then can in turn pawn off to the central bank for refinancing purposes. Weidmann wants to see the connection between banks and sovereigns severed, a connection that has been fostered by governments over many centuries in order to enable them to spend more than they take in through tax revenues.
Not much in terms of economic data but lots of corporate news with the official Q2 earnings season kick off, as well as a plethora of Fed speakers which in a centrally-planned world, is all that matters.
The central bank "reason" goal-seeked for today's US overnight ramp - because it sure wasn't fundamentals with both German exports (-2.4%, Exp. +0.1%) and Industrial Production (-1.0%, Exp. -0.5%) missing - was the weekend Spiegel story that despite the unanimous decision by the ECB last week to keep rates unchanged, ECB chief economist Peter Praet and Mario Draghi himself had insisted on a 25 bps rate cut. They were, however, stopped by seven council members from the northern euro states, including Weidmann, Knot and Asmussen. As a result, Draghi was steamrolled in the final vote. Yet somehow this is bullish for risk, pushing equity futures higher and peripheral debt spreads lower, even as the EURUSD has drifted higher. Of course, one can't have an even more dovish ECB as a risk on catalyst alongside a rising Euro, but who cares about news, fundamentals, or logic at this point. All that matters is that US futures are higher, which was especially needed following yet another rout in the Shanghai Composite which dropped 2.44% back under 2,000 following news that China's Finance Ministry has told central government agencies to cut expenditures by 5% this year, and a 1.4% drop in the PenNikkeiStock225 on a weaker USDJPY. Remember: all is well in the global economy (whose forecast is about to be cut by the IMF) if the US is generating a record number of part-time jobs.
This week's events placed in a broader context.
"In this respect the Gini coefficient had apparently reached in 2006 the previous high seen in 1929, prior to the Great Depression. This is a reminder that capitalism’s natural way of dealing with excesses is via business failure and liquidation; which is why wealth distribution would have become much less extreme as a consequence of the 2008 crisis if losses had been imposed on creditors to bust financial institutions, for example owners of bank bonds, in line with capitalist principles; as opposed to the favoured ‘bailout’ approach pursued for the most part by Washington. This means, unfortunately, not that the problem has been avoided but that the ‘great reckoning’ has been deferred to another day as the speculative classes have continued to game the system by resort to carry trades actively encouraged by the Fed and other central bankers, which is why fixed income markets freak out when they see signs of an exit."
While the skeleton crew of market participants are still digesting yesterday's uber-dovish, "forward guidance" conversion by the BOE and ECB, driven in response to the Fed's increasingly tight (at least relatively) monetary policy, they now have month's biggest economic and market catalyst to look forward to. In a day which promises to be rife with illiquidity as the bulk of US market participants are within 100 feet of a sandy beach, we are about to get the number that will shape the market's mood for the next month: will the Fed's tapering planes be strengthened in response to strong NFP, or not. As Deutsche accurately points out, the curveball to throw in is that June-August numbers have tended to be seasonally weak over the whole period we have data (back 70+ years) and again over the last 10 years. Today's number is therefore going to be fascinating. A number between 150-200k is unlikely to change anyone’s opinion on the Fed whereas a number below might start to build a case for a taper delay. Above 200k and the September taper momentum will build. Such a high number (especially in a weak seasonal period) is unlikely to be great for markets but the ECB/BoE might have cushioned some of the hawkish blow for now. For the record the market is expecting 165k on payrolls and 7.5% (DB same) for unemployment. A full NFP preview post is coming shortly.
While we all eagerly await for the final 80 pips in EURUSD to trickle down before Stolper's latest "long EURUSD" masterpiece is stop lossed out in under a week and precisely in line with expectations, here comes Goldman with its latest fade reco, this time in the form of a "Top Trade for 2013" (supposedly this means an epic muppet steamrolling instead of just the occasional Kermit speed bump), namely to go long UK equities (the FTSE 100 Dec 13 futures) with a target of 7100 and a stop loss below 5950 (or 6% lower). If Stolper is any guide, this should be the easiest 6% imaginable. Of course, the hypocrisy of Goldman upgrading the UK market following its tentacle being appointed to run UK monetary policy, and the Bank Of England, with the sole purpose of boosting the UK "wealth effect" (and Goldman bonuses), does not escape us...
There has been much angst over Bernanke's recent comments regarding an "improving economic environment" and the need to begin reducing ("taper") the current monetary interventions in the future. What is interesting, however, is the mainstream analysis which continues to focus on one data point, to the next, to determine if the Fed is going to continue its interventions. Why is this so important? Because, as we have addressed in the past, the sole driver for the markets, and the majority of economic growth, has been derived solely from the Federal Reserve's programs. The reality is that such analysis is completely useless when considering the volatility that exists in the monthly data already but then compounding that issue with rather subjective "seasonal adjustments." The question, however, is whether such "QE" programs have actually sparked any type of substantive, organic, growth or simply inflated asset prices, and pulled forward future consumption, for a short term positive effect with negative long term consequences? The recent increases in interest rates, combined with still very weak wage growth, higher costs of living and still elevated unemployment is likely to keep the Fed engaged for the foreseeable future as any attempt to remove its "invisible hand" is likely to result in unexpected instability in the financial markets and economy.
Confused what the (non) news of today's "unprecedented" forward guidance announcement by the ECB means? Shocked that the ECB is about as dovish as it has ever been? Then SocGen is here to explain, if only for all those who are seemingly stunned that the ECB isn't planning on hiking rates, or even "tapering" any time soon.
The all important ECB press conference is set to begin momentarily. Will Draghi answer questions regarding the readiness of the OMT's use in Portugal whose short end has exploded this morning, or will he be forced to wait for the German court's decision first? Or maybe Draghi will finally have some comments on either the ongoing Monte Paschi scandal or the recently revealed Italian derivative debacle which took place under Draghi's watch. We somehow doubt it...
*DRAGHI SAYS ECB RATES TO STAY LOW FOR EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME
*DRAGHI: IMPROVEMENT IN FINANCIAL MARKETS SHOULD REACH ECONOMY
*DRAGHI SAYS INFLATION RATES MAY BE VOLATILE THROUGHOUT YEAR
*DRAGHI: RECENT TIGHTENING OF MARKET RATES MAY WEIGH ON GROWTH
While it was not surprising that the BOE did nothing to change its rate or QE program, it was surprising (to some) that in the first official statement following the appointment of Goldman's Mark Carney as head of the Bank of England, the bank did mention that forward guidance and intermediate thresholds would likely be considered at the August assessment. Which, of course, is code for expect a major change in monetary policy. And now we also know the date, meaning that some time in August Goldman's latest central bank head will proceed doing what Goldman central bank heads do best: crush currencies in order to boost nominal, not real, returns and ensure another record Goldman bonus pool.