"... investors are so certain about inflation that there is no insurance value in breakeven contracts. If the liquidity premium hasn’t changed, then current breakevens are consistent with 1.8% expected PCE inflation. In other words, either the market believes that even five years from now, the Fed will not achieve its target or the liquidity premia has jumped to 30bp."
Chicago Fed's Charlie Evans called the drop in rates at the longer-end of the Treasury yield curve "extraordinary," falling just short of screaming "sell, sell, sell bonds" and threw wrench in the Fed's policy path by noting "raising rates at the wrong time would be catastrophic." So it is noteworthy that damage control appears to have been engaged this morning by no lesser Fed mouthpiece than Wall Street Journal's Jon Hilsenrath. Reminding the public of Bill Dudley's fears, when he argued the Fed had the wrong reaction to lower long rates in the 2000s, a mistake that might have contributed to the housing boom that ended disastrously; when instead the Fed should push rates higher sooner or more aggressively than planned.
The 114th Congress formally convened yesterday. In what follows, Goldman Sachs presents its views on some of the central questions regarding the political and policy outlook for the coming year. In general, Goldman expects most of the deadlines Congress faces over the coming year to result in only limited uncertainty, though the debt limit increase that will be necessary later in 2015 is the main potential exception. Additionally, they expect legislation to "audit" Fed monetary policy decisions is likely to pass the House again in 2015, but enactment looks less likely.
For the first time ever, Italy's unemployment rate is more than twice that of its European Union (one region, one monetary policy) neighbor Germany. As Germany's jobless rate fell for the 3rd month in a row to 6.5% (the lowest level in records going back more than two decades), Italian unemployment unexpectedly rose to a record high at 13.4% (well above the euro-region rate of 11.5%). Of course, while these two nations 'economic' state diverges by the most on record, bond yields are at record lows in both - leaving us (and everyone else) questioning, just what it is that ECB QE will do to help Europe's economies?
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.