Monetary Policy

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Live Webcast Of Ben Bernanke Testimony





Ben Bernanke will deliver the semiannual report on monetary policy to the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday. The market is hoping and praying that the Chairsatan will make it rain. He won't. In fact, as explained earlier, it is likely that Ben will say absolutely nothing of significance today and in a world in which only the H.4.1 matters, this is not going to be taken well by the market. Of course, if Benny does crack and promises to push the S&P to 1450 just in time for the re-election, all bets are off.

 
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Guest Post: The First Spanish Cut





And so it begins...Last Friday the Spanish government published a proposal to cut government expenditure and raise taxes to reduce the fiscal deficit by 56.4billion euros by 2015.  I have outlined why austerity will not work in Europe, but it looks like this is a lesson Europeans will have to learn for themselves--for a second time.  The writing is on the wall in Ireland, who ailed in the same ways that Spain is currently ailing, but what Lord Merkel wants, Lord Merkel gets.  The immediate malaise from these austerity measures will be large-scale social unrest, which is already being planned by many of the 50% of the country's unemployed young people.  Regardless of one's stance on the economic merit of austerity, what is indisputable is that riots are real and riots do not end well.  With nothing to lose, this round of Spanish austerity protesting has the potential to end in catastrophe.

 
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Previewing Bernanke's 10 AM Congressional Testimony





When it comes to insight into what is on Ben Bernanke, nobody is quite as capable as the firm that runs not only the NY Fed, but virtually every other central bank in the world: Goldman Sachs. Below we present Jan Hatzius' thoughts on what to expect when Bernanke takes the stand at 10 am today when he delivers the first day of his semi-annual Humphrey Hawkins presentation to Congress. Many expect him to hint at more QE, and lately a tempest in a teapot (to use the parlance of our times) has erupted over the possibility that the Fed will lower IOER to 0 or even negative. Here is what Goldman has to say about that: "we do not expect an IOER cut at this time." In fact, Goldman is rather skeptical Bernanke will hit at much if anything, especially with bond yields already at record lows: after all, how much more frontrunning of the Fed's bond or MBS purchases is there? Instead look for much more grilling on the Fed's role in Lieborgate: congress is now realizing it is woefully behind its UK political cousins when it comes to reaping points from years of global Libor manipulation. More importantly, Maxine et al have finally finished all those "Libor for absolute corrupt idiots" books they ordered almost a month ago so they are truly prepared.

 
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This Is The Note That Has Led To A Modest, If Transitory Bounce, In The Market





The reason for the ramp in risk as attributed by various buyside desks as to what recently has become the trademark of more hope, prayer and magic from Jefferies' (yes, Jefferies is driving the market for once, who wouldathunk it) David "SPOOS" Zervos, whose latest note that the Fed will follow the ECB and cut its overnight excess reserves rate to -0.25% has picked up some traction, and is causing a modest rise in risk markets. Here is the problem: the Fed will NOT do this, and certainly will not do this for months and months as not only would it destroy the US money market, general colalteral, unsecured and virtually every other overnight market instantaneously (and not even Ben is that dumb to trade a few trillion in private sector overnight funding for 10% in the S&P), but even as Zervos says this is nothing short of a thought experiment in what may happen: "Whether it happens or not is not the point. The issue is that we are not priced for it AT ALL." Correct David: they are unprepared because it will not happen. The Fed will do much more LSAP, and even that other flow-based lunacy, NGDP targeting, before it decides to blow up overnight markets (not to mention destroy the entire Primary Dealer risk analytics system all of which is based on positive flow from Reserves). Because if the Fed telegraphs it is ending the inflows from reserves experiment started 3 years ago, we better be having 4% GDP growth. Reality check: we have 1.1% Q2 annualized GDP. Finally, that whole ECB experiment with negative Deposit Rates led to... absolutely nothing... correction: it led to yet another plunge in Spanish and Italian yields: something the Fed is quite aware of.

 
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Key Events In The Coming Week And... Bonds, PIIGS Bonds





Via Goldman, here are the key economic events to look forward to in the coming relatively quiet week. And out of DB, we get a list of the key PIIGS bond auctions and bailout events in the immediate and near-term future.

 
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Does QE Really Work? The Evidence To Date





The market's hopes and dreams for the next LSAP remain high. As gold inches higher, tail-risks priced out (expectations for extreme FX moves are considerably lower than sentiment would suggest), and US equity vol expectations (and put skews) are crushed; the equity market clearly remains 'at a premium' in its notional indices given what is sheer lunacy in earnings expectations going forward. The question every investor should be asking is not when QE or even if QE, but so-what-QE? As Credit Suisse notes, given the deterioration in US economic activity (and the extension of Operation Twist) the FOMC will probably wait until its September meeting (and remember the trigger for further pure QE is a long way off for now). The most critical question remains, will additional QE work? After all, few would argue that US interest rates are too high or that banks in the US need still more excess reserves. Two things stand out in their analysis of how QE is supposed to work (transmission mechanisms) and its results to date: QE1 was more effective than QE2, and it's easier to find QE's effect on Treasury yields than on real economic performance. Perhaps more concerning is that the potential negative effects of such unconventional monetary policy has received little attention (aside from at fringe blogs here and here).

 
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Is Keynesianism Running Dry?





Even though the policy mix is extraordinarily stimulating, developed-world economies just cannot embark on a virtuous circle of recovery. Worse still, as Pictet points out in this excellent brief, governments, whose finances have been bled dry, are powerless to boost demand. This all suggests, they note, that Keynesian policies have failed. With no credit to dispense, State-administered Keynesianism is, in effect, bankrupt as government spending levers can no longer be activated. The implications are plain for all to see: once governments apply a brake to public spending, growth slows considerably. Economies of the developed world have become addicts, ‘hooked’ on government spending. A fresh approach to economic policy is needed. But policymakers will need to be both bold and brave as excess lending will always and inevitably lead to artificially-driven economic growth as it breaks the link between the cycles of innovation and economic growth. At a time when capitalism is being accused of the most reprehensible wrongdoings, policymakers will need to display great courage to promote the virtues of entrepreneurship and business.

 
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Deciding The Fate Of The Euro





As Euro area policymakers continue to ‘muddle through’ the crisis, everyone's favorite FX Strategist - Goldman's Thomas Stolper, summarizes the decline in the EUR so far as due to slower growth and easier monetary policy, together with growing EUR short positions. Of course, the root cause of both developments is the political crisis in the Euro area. The uncertainty about the stability of the institutional framework of the Euro area forces front-loaded fiscal tightening, which in turn damages growth. In response, the ECB eased policy more than expected, while the Fed, did not ease as much or as early as many projected. Despite today's ecstacy in EURUSD, Stolper believes the EUR is unlikely to strengthen materially as long as this situation persists especially as the potential for the ‘fiscal risk premium’ to rise on the back of daily headlines that are dominated by disagreement and dispute remains. In an effort to clarify his thinking, Stolper identifies eight key issues that will determine the outlook for the Euro. Most of them relate to the Euro area crisis. The most interesting ones are possibly the timing of a recovery in the periphery, the ability of France and Germany to develop a common vision for further integration, and the evolution of fiscal policies in major economies outside the Euro area. He concludes that the risks in the near term remain substantial.

 
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Guest Post: Fed Has No Hammer, Uses Handsaw And Chisel To Pound Nails





The Fed is promising once again to pound nails with the only tools in its toolbox, a saw and a chisel. The "nails" the Fed is trying to pound down are unemployment and deflation. Needless to say, whacking these big nails with a handsaw and a chisel is completely useless: they can't get the job done. The Fed claims all sorts of supernatural powers to sink nails at will--"unconventional monetary policy," quantitative easing, money dropped from helicopters and so on. But all it really has are two tools which have no positive effect on unemployment or the real economy.

  1. The Fed can manipulate interest rates to near-zero
  2. The Fed can shove "free money" to the banks

That's it. That's all the tools the Fed has in its toolbox. Let's consider what these tools accomplish in the real world.

 
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Overnight Summary: No More SSDD





Something is different this morning. Whether it is the aftermath of yesterday's inexplicable 10 Year auction demand spike, or more explicable plunge in the ECB's deposit facility usage, or, the fresh record low yield in the supreme risk indicator, Swiss 2 Year bonds, now at under 0.5%, market participants are realizing that the status quo is changing, leading to fresh 2 year lows in the EURUSD which was at 1.2175 at last check, sliding equity futures (those are largely irrelevant, and purely a function of what Simon "Harry" Potter does today when the clockworkesque ramp at 3:30pm has the FRBNY start selling Vol like a drunken sailor), and negative yields also for German, French, and Finland, with Austria and Belgium expected to follow suit as the herd scrambles into the "safety" of the core (which incidentally is carrying the periphery on its shoulders but who cares about details). Either way, Europe's ZIRP is finally being felt, only not in a way that many had expected and hoped and instead of the money being used to ramp risk, it is further accelerating the divide between risky and safe assets. Look for the Direct take down in today's 30 Year auction: it could be a doozy.

 
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Fed Minutes: "Few Fed Members Said More Stimulus Would Be Needed"





Just because Bernanke did not explain everything in the post-FOMC conference, here is more:

  • A FEW FOMC MEMBERS SAID MORE STIMULUS WOULD PROBABLY BE NEEDED
  • SEVERAL ON FOMC SAID FED SHOULD STUDY `NEW TOOLS' FOR EASING - C5 Galaxy??
  • FOMC PARTICIPANTS SAW MODERATE GROWTH LIKELY IN COMING QUARTERS
  • FOMC AGREED `IT WAS PREPARED' FOR FURTHER ACTION AS APPROPRIATE
  • FOMC SAW `UNUSUALLY HIGH' UNCERTAINTY FOR JOBLESS, GROWTH
  • SEVERAL OTHER FOMC MEMBERS SAW ACTION NEED IF ECONOMY WORSENS

Well, more stimulus was needed, and we got it in the form of Operation Twist 2. Nothing new, but algos need their flashing read headlines.

 
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Gold Report 2012: Erste's Comprehensive Summary Of The Gold Space And Where The Yellow Metal Is Going





Erste Group's Ronald Stoeferle, author of the critical "In gold we trust" report (2011 edition here) has just released the 6th annual edition of this all encompassing report which covers every aspect of the gold space. What follows are 120 pages of fundamental information which are a must read for anyone interested in the yellow metal. From the report:  "The foundation for new all-time-highs is in place. As far as sentiment is concerned, we definitely see no euphoria with respect to gold. Skepticism, fear, and panic are never the final stop of a bull market. In the short run, seasonality seems to argue in favor of a continued sideways movement, but from August onwards gold should enter its seasonally best phase. USD 2,000 is our next 12M price target. We believe that the parabolic trend phase is still ahead of us, and that our long-term price target of USD 2,300/ounce could be on the conservative side."

 
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Four Key Questions Ahead Of The FOMC Minutes





Today's release of the FOMC's minutes should be helpful in gauging the near-term monetary policy outlook. Goldman's Jan Hatzius (who just cut his Q2 GDP outlook to a way below consensus +1.3%) believes they will confirm his expectations, for the July 31-August 1 meeting, of an extension of forward rates guidance to 'mid-2015', but no move to further asset purchases yet (not expecting NEW QE until late 2012/early 2013). In the minutes, Hatzius notes four specific issues to focus on: how many FOMC members expect further eventual easing, and in what form; how close the committee was to either doing more or less than Twist 2 at the June meeting; how much discussion there was of qualitative changes in the forward guidance; and how much more negative the Fed staff has become about the economic outlook. In other words, the minutes may provide more information about whether the weak data that have arrived since June 20 - another subpar payroll gain of just 80,000 and sharp declines in high-profile business surveys such as the manufacturing ISM and the Philly Fed - are likely to be sufficient to trigger additional moves.

 
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Chart Of The Year: The Fed Has Doubled The S&P Admits... The Fed





Prepare to have your minds blown courtesy of what is easily the most astounding chart we have seen in a long, long time, prepared by the economists at the, drumroll, New York Fed, which finds that absent what the Fed calls "Pre-FOMC Announcement Drift", or the move in the S&P in the 24 hours preceding FOMC announcements, the S&P 500 would be at or below 600 points, compared to its current level over 1300. The reason for the divergence: the combined impact of cumulative returns of in the S&P on days before, of, and after FOMC announcements. But, but, fundamental, technical, coffee grinds, Finance 101, Oprah Winfrey, Jim Cramer and Econ 101 analysis (in declining order of relevance and increasing order of voodoo) all tell us this is im-po-ssible? Because if the Fed is right about the Fed induced drift, it is all about, you guessed it, easy money. 

 
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On Attacking Austrian Economics





Josh Barro of Bloomberg has an interesting theory.  According to him, conservatives in modern day America have become so infatuated with the school of Austrian economics that they no longer listen to reason.  It is because of this diehard obsession that they reject all empirical evidence and refuse to change their favorable views of laissez faire capitalism following the financial crisis.  Basically, because the conservative movement is so smitten with the works of Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek, they see no need to pose any intellectual challenge to the idea that the economy desperately needs to be guided along by an “always knows best” government; much like a parent to a child.  CNN and Newsweek contributor David Frum has jumped on board with Barro and levels the same critique of conservatives while complaining that not enough of them follow Milton Friedman anymore.

To put this as nicely as possible, Barro and Frum aren’t just incorrect; they have put their embarrassingly ignorant understandings of Austrian economics on full display for all to see.

 
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