So, apparently, according to Jon Hilsenrath, "QE to Infinity" is actually "finite" after all. There is no doubt that the Federal Reserve will do everything in its power to try and "talk" the markets down and "signal" policy changes well in advance of actual action. However, that is unlikely to matter. The problem with the financial markets today is the speed at which things occur. High frequency trading, algorithmic programs, program trading combined with market participant's "herd mentality" is not influenced by actions but rather by perception. As stated above, with margin debt at historically high levels when the "herd" begins to turn it will not be a slow and methodical process but rather a stampede with little regard to valuation or fundamental measures. The reality is that the stock market is extremely vulnerable to a sharp correction. Currently, complacency is near record levels and no one sees a severe market retracement as a possibility. The common belief is that there is "no bubble" in assets and the Federal Reserve has everything under control. Of course, that is what we heard at the peak of the markets in 2000 and 2008 just before the "race for the door." This time will be no different.
Critics of Japanese policy worry about its potential failure, here is a discussion of what happens if it succeeds.
In a weekend dominated by discussion of the "Taper Tantrum", i.e., interpretations of what Hilsenrath "said" after the close on Friday, what the Fed wanted him to say, what the market's response to what he said or did not say would be, and what the next steps may be, we present this convenient annotation of Hilsenrath's complete recital courtesy of Mike O'Rourke from Jones Trading.
Put down the Sunday newspaper; grab a pot of coffee; and call 'mom' and tell her she has to read this. Doug Rudisch has written a far-reaching summary of the true state of the world and 'why policy has failed'. Simply put, there is no faith in the system; real underlying faith and trust in the system, as opposed to the confidence born from economic steroid injections or entitlements. There also is a subtle but important distinction between faith and trust versus confidence. Faith and trust are longer term and more powerful concepts.There is more going on than a temporary lull in animal spirits that current fiscal and monetary policy will cure. If that was the case, it would be working already... We have ended up with a system where the worst of the risk takers have the ability to take the most risk and are currently taking it at extreme levels. We wish we could be more prescriptive and offer more solutions for the problems. But in order to solve a problem, you must first realize you have one. With respect to the Fed, we don’t think the U.S. realizes it has a problem.
While the stance of monetary policy around the world has, on any conceivable measure, been extreme, the question of whether such a policy is indeed sensible and rational has not been asked much of late. By rational we simply mean the following: Is this policy likely to deliver what it is supposed to deliver? And if it does fall short of its official aim, then can we at least state with some certainty that whatever it delivers in benefits is not outweighed by its costs? We think that these are straightforward questions and that any policy that is advertised as being in ‘the interest of the general public’ should pass this test. As we will argue in the following, the present stance of monetary policy only has a negligible chance, at best, of ever fulfilling its stated aim. Furthermore, its benefits are almost certainly outweighed by its costs if we list all negative effects of this policy and do not confine ourselves, as the present mainstream does, to just one obvious cost: official consumer price inflation, which thus far remains contained. Thus, in our view, there is no escaping the fact that this policy is not rational. It should be abandoned as soon as possible. This will end badly...
There is a term for when asset prices become detached from fundamentals, it’s called “A BUBBLE.”
The words "Shit Heel" come to mind.
David Einhorn's Q1 Investor Letter: "Under The Circumstances, It Is Curious That Gold Isn’t Doing Better."Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/10/2013 14:27 -0400
Sadly, not much in terms of macro observations this quarter or discussions of jelly donuts, but a whole lot on the fund's biggest Q1 underperformer, Apple and the hedge fund's ongoing fight for shareholder friendly capital reallocation as well as proving Modigliani-Miller wrong. And then this cryptic ellipsis: "Under the circumstances, it is curious that gold isn’t doing better." Say no more, David. We get it.
The Chairman is about to take the lectern to discuss bank structure and competition at the SIFI conference at the Chicago Fed. His prepared remarks are likely to be a little less exciting than the Q&A where the world will be watching for the words "buy, buy, buy", "mission accomplished", or "taper". Charles Evans will be his lead out man. Finally, since Bernanke will be discussing shadow banking, or the source of some $30 trillion in shadow money always ignored by Keynesians, Monetarists and Magic Money Tree (MMT) growers, a topic we have discussed over the past three years, here is the TBAC's own summary on how Modern Money really works.
The main story overnight is without doubt the dramatic plunge in the Yen, which following the breach and trigger of USDJPY 100 stops has been a straight diagonal line to the upper right (or lower for the Yen across all currency crosses) and at last check was approaching 101.50, in turn sending the USD higher in virtually all jurisdictions. However it is not so much the Yen weakness that was surprising - a nation hell bent on doubling its monetary base in two years will do that - but the accelerating response in neighboring countries all of which are seeing Japan as the biggest economic threat suddenly and all are scrambling to respond. Sure enough, midway through the evening session, Sri Lanka cut its reverse repo and repurchase rate to 9% and 7% respectively, promptly followed by Vietnam cutting its own refinancing rate from 8% to 7%, then moving to Thailand where the finance chief Kittiratt called for a rate cut exceeding 25 bps, and more jawboning from South Korea suggesting even more rate cuts from the export-driven country are set to come as it loses trade competitiveness to Japan. Asian financial crisis 2.0 any minute now?
Despite "the most inappropriate monetary policy in history," and warnings of bubbles, Bloomberg notes that South Korea’s 'surprise' rate cut overnight was the 511th reduction worldwide since June 2007 (and show no signs of stopping the Einsteinian madness). Behind the stepped up stimulus: another swoon in the global economy barely five years after it fell into its deepest recession since World War II. Citi's G10 Macro surprise index shows that the major economies began coming in below forecasts in the middle of March and the index is now near its weakest since last August.
This is not Thursday Humor - though perhaps it should be. First, the Japanese promoted bond-buying as not just patriotic, but a manly endeavour that will get you the girls; but now the idea of inflating assets has been taken one step further. The Japanese have argued that 'sex sells bonds' in the past but now, as Reuters reports, the lingerie-maker Triumph's Japanese division has launched a special edition "growth strategy" Abenomics Bra. "We hope that, as the Japanese economy grows, we can also help bust sizes to get bigger," a spokewoman noted as the bra features a rising trendline, three arrows pointing up, and promises a 2% increase in volume with extra padding. The analogy of an exogenous force maintaining a natural force at an unsustainable size is just too easy - as, just as in the real-life, at some point that 'supportive bra' of monetary policy has be removed.
With another listless macro day in the offing, the main event was the previously mentioned Bank of Korea 25 bps rate cut, which coming at a time when everyone else in the world is easing was not too surprising, but was somewhat unexpected in light of persistent inflationary pressures. Either way, the gauntlet at Abenomics has been thrown and any temporary Japanese Yen-driven export gains will likely not persist as it is the quality of products perception (sorry 20th century Toshiba and Sony), that is the primary determinant of end demand, not transitory, FX-driven prices. And now that Korea is set on once again matching Japan in competitiveness, the final piece of the Abenomics unwind puzzle has finally clicked into place. Elsewhere overnight, China reported consumer price inflation increasing by 2.4%, on expectations of a 2.3% rise, driven by a 4% jump in food costs: hardly the thing of Politburo dreams. Or perhaps the PBOC can just print more pigs, soy and birdflu-free chickens? On the other hand, PPI dropped 2.6% in April, on estimates of a 2.3% decline, as China telegraphs it has the capacity, if needed, to stimulate the economy. This is ironic considering its inflation pressures are externally-driven, and come from the Fed and the BOJ, and soon the BOE and ECB. And thus its economy stagnates while prices are driven higher by hot money flows. What to do?
While notably 'not' the Fed's opinion, Dallas Fed head Richard Fisher provided more than a few compellingly truthy comments in this excellent discussion with CNBC's Rick Santelli. It is fiscal policy that is holding us back, he warns, "we have a massive fog here," and despite the extremely accommodation monetary policy, we are not seeing the transmission to job creation." The "conditions of total uncertainty," mean the politicians are holding us back; but it is when Santelli asks him about the Fed's exit that things get a little uncomfortable, "no central bank anywhere on the planet has the experience of successfully navigating a return home from the place in which we now find ourselves." When pressed he exposes the flaw (much to the chagrin of Kuroda and Bernanke we suspect), "somewhere we have to have practical limits as to where we can build the balance sheet. We're moving in the direction of a $4 trillion balance sheet. We know we can't go on forever."