Just 2 short months ago we warned of the rising voice among the cognoscenti tilting their windmills towards the concept of "helicopter money," as Deutsche bank noted, "perhaps there's an increasing weariness that more QE globally whilst inevitable, is a blunt growth tool and that stopping it will be extremely difficult (let alone reversing it) without a positive growth shock." Committing what Commerzbank calls "the ultimate sin" is now reaching the mainstream as Germany's Der Spiegel notes it is becoming increasingly clear that Draghi and his fellow central bank leaders have exhausted all traditional means for combatting deflation; and many economists are demanding that the European Central Bank hand out money to consumers to stimulate the economy.
"In their discussion of financial market developments, participants observed that movements in asset prices over the intermeeting period appeared to have been importantly influenced by concerns about prospects for foreign economic growth and by associated expectations of monetary policy actions in Europe and Japan."
Amid all of the confusion stemming from the December dissents and disinformation, the hope was that the Minutes might add some color on global risks, inflation, and lift-off timing.
- *FED OFFICIALS SAW RATE RISE UNLIKELY BEFORE APRIL, MINUTES SHOW (Patient)
- *MANY ON FOMC SAW DOWNSIDE RISKS TO U.S. FROM GLOBAL WEAKNESS (Fear)
- *FOMC SAW OIL, DOLLAR MOVES TEMPORARILY PUSHING INFLATION LOWER (Transitory)
So The Fed is positive (jobs, US Econ), negative (global risk contagion), and neither (everything's transitory). Pre-FOMC Minutes: S&P Futs 2018.5, 10Y 1.97%, Gold $1210, WTI $48.16
The December FOMC statement revealed a lack of agreement among Fed officials over communication, BofAML explains, as evidenced by the complicated extension of the forward guidance language and the dissents from both sides of the hawk-dove spectrum. While Standard Chartered expects the Minutes to show The Fed in no rush to raise rates, UBS warns the Minutes “could upset market perceptions of what is important to the Fed’s decision-making process."
Can the US economy ignore or even benefit from the winds of deflation blowing from offshore? With a current CAPE (Cyclically Adjusted PE) in excess of 27X, the US market is clearly answering this question in the affirmative. It is worth pausing to ponder just how much this optimism for a US de-coupling has already been reflected in prices. The Solid Ground was very bullish on global equities from 1Q 2009 to 1Q 2011, but then turned bearish, believing that QE was insufficient to prevent deflation. The failure of QE to generate ever higher inflation is now a matter of record, but very clearly US equities cheered this failure and the need for continual QE from 2011 to 2014.
It has been a busy few days for Germany. In the space of a week, they have warned Greece "there will be no blackmail," adding that a Greek exit from the euro was "manageable," only to hours later deny (clarify) these comments. This was then followed up with beggars-are-choosers Syriza demanding any ECB QE must buy Greek bonds (or else) - which Germany has flatly ruled out - only to see today that Syriza is practically guaranteed to win a "decisive victory" at the forthcoming snap election. So it with a wry smile that we note Bild reports tonight that the German government is preparing for a possible Greek exit, warning of financial system collapse, bank runs, and huge costs for the rest of the EU.
Broadly speaking, as markets recovered from mid 2009 (amid extreme monetary policy experimentation around the world), economic growth and asset prices were in sync around the world. When markets faltered after the end of QE2 in 2011 and the Fed folded on moderation, investors around the world piled into US equity and credit markets chasing the 'easiest' money in the world. Then as China unleashed its own QE-Lite and the Fed confirmed the end of QE, tidal waves of fresh speculative capital flooded a small, illiquid market on the other side of the planet... and hey presto, The Last Bubble market was created.
From Bill Gross: "I’ll leave the specific forecasting for a few weeks’ time and sum it up in a few quick sentences for now: Beware the Ides of March, or the Ides of any month in 2015 for that matter. When the year is done, there will be minus signs in front of returns for many asset classes. The good times are over.... Be cautious and content with low positive returns in 2015. The time for risk taking has passed."
Hope springs eternal that 2015 is the year that the US economy stretches its escape velocity growth as consensus growth expectations at 2.9% are still at their highest since 2005 (although world GDP expectations are falling rapidly). However, as Bloomberg's Rich Yamarone explains, with 5 of the Top 10 economies in the world in or near recession, the wall of worry can be constructed as follows...
"Something Is Not Right" Jeff Gundlach Is "Concerned About Health Of The Economy & Financial System"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/05/2015 20:30 -0500
Having warned of the "terrifying consequences" of oil prices staying this low, DoubleLine's Jeffrey Gundlach, in an extensive interview with Finanz und Wirtschaft, warns he is "beginning to see signs of investor concern around the edges about the health of the economy and about the financial system. Historically, when junk bonds give up the ghost and treasuries remain firm, it is a signal that something is not right." Touching on everything from a string dollar to Indian stocks, and from Oil to bonds, and The Fed, Gundlach concludes, "the only places where there is inflation is in places that are painful. Raising interest rates against that backdrop seems like a poor idea. So I just hope the Fed thinks carefully about what it is doing." Boxed-in much?
The practice of sensible investment becomes difficult when our secondary information sources (“fundamentals”) are inherently subjective. We are coming to appreciate the counsel of a friend who suggested that the merit of gold lies not in its price so much as in its ownership. What matters is that you own it.
The new year is not even a week old and already the volatility fireworks are off, as well as the continued commodity derisking. But while for now US stocks continue to be an island oasis in a turbulent global sea where GDP forecasts decline every single day, the same can not be said about either the Euro, which after crashing overnight to a 9 year low, and rebounding briefly, has continued to decline and is now once again flirting with a key support level, this time 1.19, last reached during the May 2010 first Greek bailout. The catalyst, as usual, Greece which may or may not be leaving the Eurozone shortly, as well as ongoing bets on ECB QE following this morning's regional German inflation data which declined once more and now hints at outright deflation in Europe's strongest nation.
'... assuming equity prices rise by 10% this year, for their bond allocation to stay at 37% (same as of Q3 2014), US pension funds and insurance companies would have to buy $550bn of bonds in 2015."
Today, concerned that Tsipras' ascent to power will mean precisely that, namely more "blackmail" by Greece of Germany and the Eurozone, as a Grexit opens the way for a collapse of the monetary union and a return to the DEM which would cost Germany far more than continuing the annual charade of keeping Greece in the Euro, Spiegel is out with another piece saying "Bundesregierung hält Ausscheiden Griechenlands aus dem Euro für verkraftbar", or loosely translated, the Federal Government considers Greece's exit from the euro manageable. Why is this coming out today? Because moments ago, Tsipras made it quite clear just what he will demand once he gets the power: "Germany had most of nominal value of debt written off in 1953, same should be done for Greece in 2015", adding that Greece wants writedown on nominal value of Greek debt. And so the gloves come off, and the real bluffing begins.
"Don't fall for the trap of myopically following yesterday's winners. Protect yourself, keep your powder dry, and wait for a better day. Think more about getting rich in 2020 or beyond... The Fed has turned the entire investing population into zombies (with a gambling addiction, I might add) wandering aimlessly in search of any tiny extra return to ravenously consume... This has left stock markets as elevated and overvalued as they’ve been since the dot-com mania (and more than they were in 1929 and 2007), which history has shown will likely lead to significant declines ahead."