If this plan fails to bring about economic growth in Japan, or worse still fails to bring about growth and unleashes inflation, then it’s GAME OVER for Central Bankers. Their one great claim “we’re not doing enough QE” will have been proven to be total bunk.
Preview of tomorrow's Bernanke testimony and FOMC minutes.
Another event-free day in which the only major economic data point was the release of UK CPI, which joined the rest of the world in telegraphing price deflation, despite bubbles in the real estate and stock markets, printing 2.0% Y/Y on expectations of a 2.3% increase, the lowest since November 2009 and giving Mark Carney carte blanche to print as soon as he arrives on deck. In an amusing twist of European deja-vuness, last night Japan's economy minister who made waves over the weekend when he said that the Yen has dropped low enough to where people's lives may be getting complicated (i.e., inflation), refuted everything he said as having been lost in translation, and the result was a prompt move higher in the USDJPY, quickly filling the entire Sunday night gap. That said, and as has been made very clear in recent years, data is irrelevant, and the only thing that matters, at least so far in 2013, is whether it is Tuesday: the day that has seen 18 out of 18 consecutive rises in the DJIA so far in 2013, and whether there is a POMO scheduled. We are happy to answer yes to both, so sit back, and wait for the no-volume levitation to wash over ever. The US docket is empty except for Dudley and Bullard speaking, but more importantly, the fate of Jamie Dimon may be determined today when the vote on the Chairman/CEO title is due, while Tim Cook will testify in D.C. on the company's tax strategy and overseas profits.
It’s painfully clear for all to see that the majestic United States is now firmly caught in the rapacious stranglehold of financial elites which have completely captured it in a grotesque gamed monetary process. Our country’s once idealistic and industrious free market economy has been hijacked and is undeniably being fraudulently and overtly financialized by the craven clutches and maniacal machinations of a contemptible self-seeking banking class. They have become nothing more than avaricious parasites disgustingly feeding from the grand trough of our treasured human ingenuity and self-respecting industry.
In the absence of major data releases, the focal point of the week for markets becomes the release of the minutes of the May FOMC meeting. The most notable change in the statement was the inclusion of the new language: “the Committee is prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes.” In the May meeting minutes, the market will be looking for any clarification of the motivation behind this change as well as any evidence that the committee members may be becoming less comfortable with the unemployment rate threshold or more specific about tapering timelines and dates.
QE Halt Would Be 'Too Violent' for Market: Fed's Fisher
A quiet day unfolding with just Chicago Fed permadove on the wires today at 1pm, following some early pre-Japan market fireworks in the USDJPY and the silver complex, where a cascade of USDJPY margin calls, sent silver to its lowest in years as someone got carted out feet first following a forced liquidation. This however did not stop the Friday ramp higher in the USDJPY from sending the Nikkei225, in a delayed response, to a level surpassing the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the first time in years. Quiet, however, may be just how the traders at 72 Cummings Point Road like it just in case they can hear the paddy wagons approach, following news that things between the government and SAC Capital are turning from bad to worse and that Stevie Cohen, responsible for up to 10-15% of daily NYSE volume, may be testifying before a grand jury soon. The news itself sent S&P futures briefly lower when it hit last night, showing just how influential the CT hedge fund is for overall market liquidity in a world in which the bulk of market "volume" is algos collecting liquidity rebates and churning liquid stocks back and forth to one another.
Central bankers overshadow the economic data in the week ahead.
Is a $400,000 house with NINJA loan normal? How about a $200,000 REO with missing appliances, a dead yard, a long list of maintenance and no financing? Maybe normal is a $300,000 flip after the flipper fixed everything and colored up the yard, and did some upgrades to the interior. Some may suggest that normal is more like a $300,000 sale with a 5.5% fixed rate and 20% down. Then again, it may be more normal if this $300,000 sale is financed with a 3.5% down FHA loan at 4%. Of course, all of the above is actually referring to the same house. So what is normal? At the moment, we know prices are going up in certain markets, and so are sales. Mortgage rates are higher now than when QE3 started in September 2012. Investors are gobbling up everything in sight in their favored target markets. As an example, they are buying 30% of the houses in Southern California, 38% in Phoenix and 53% in Vegas. First time buyers do not stand a chance. The percentage of home ownership is declining. Are policy makers happy with these results? Are these intended or unintended consequences of public policies?
There have been quite a few bold predictions, since the beginning of the year, that the dollar was set to soar and that the great "bond bull market" was dead. The primary thesis behind these views was that the economy was set to strengthen and inflation would begin to seep its way back into the system. Furthermore, the "Great Rotation" of bonds into stocks, on the back of said economic strength, would push interest rates substantially higher. While we have no doubt that at some point down the road that inflation will become an issue, interest rates will rise and the dollar will strengthen - it just won't be anytime soon. A wave of "disinflation" is currently engulfing the globe. The deflationary pressures that weigh on the consumer and the economy are likely going to keep downward pressure on rates for some time to come as the Fed comes to realize that they have been caught in the same "liquidity trap" that has plagued Japan for a generation. The real concern for investors, and individuals, is the actual economy.
The idea that a weak yen is positive for countries outside Japan is gaining traction. This is preposterous and we'll see why as currency wars soon accelerate.
Europe's non-performing loan problem is such an issue that there is increasing bluster that the ECB may take this garbage on to its balance sheet since policymakers realize that bad debts and non-performing loans (NPLs) reduce the capacity of banks to lend, hindering the monetary policy transmission mechanism. Bad debts consume capital and make banks more risk averse, especially with respect to lending to higher risk borrowers such as SMEs. With Italy (NPLs 13.4%) now following the same dismal trajectory of Spain's bad debts, the situation is rapidly escalating (at an average of around 2.5% increase per year). With Periphery non-performing loans totaling EUR 720bn across the whole of the Euro area in 2012 and EUR 500bn of which were with Peripheral banks, it seems the Cyprus deposit haircut 'non-template' may indeed become the key template.
We have often spoken of the disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street. While asset prices are inflated by continued interventions of monetary policy from the Federal Reserve, boosting Wall Street profits and widening the wealth gap between the top 20% of Americans and the rest, "Main Street" continues to suffer a from a rising cost of living and falling wage growth. "How long can the disconnect last between Wall Street and Main Street?" There is no clear answer for that as consumers have shown a willingness to draw down savings rates to historically low levels while quickly returning to cheap credit forgetting the disaster that it caused them not so long ago. However, in reality, when you have a family to feed, clothe and house - it really doesn't matter what is logical, but what is necessary, regardless of the consequences down the road. Of course, for many American's today, the only real difference between now and the "bread lines" of the 30's is that the "bread" is delivered in the mail rather than at the "soup kitchen" on the corner.
It’s amazing what people can trick themselves into believing and even shout about when you tell them exactly what they want to hear. It was disappointing to see Brad DeLong’s latest defense of Fed policy, which was published this past weekend and trumpeted far and wide by like-minded bloggers. If you take DeLong’s word for it, you would think that the only policy risk that concerns hedge fund managers is a return to full employment. He suggests that these managers criticize existing policy only because they’ve made bad bets that are losing money, while they naively expect the Fed’s “political masters” to bail them out. Well, every one of these claims is blatantly false. DeLong’s story is irresponsible and arrogant, really. And since he flouts the truth in his worst articles and ignores half the picture in much of the rest, we’ll take a stab here at a more balanced summary of the pros and cons of the Fed’s current policies. We’ll try to capture the discussion that’s occurring within the investment community that DeLong ridicules. Firstly, the benefits of existing policies are well understood. Monetary stimulus has certainly contributed to the meager growth of recent years. And jobs that are preserved in the near-term have helped to mitigate the rise in long-term unemployment, which can weigh on the economy for years to come. These are the primary benefits of monetary stimulus, and we don’t recall any hedge fund managers disputing them. But the ultimate success or failure of today’s policies won’t be determined by these benefits alone – there are many delayed effects and unintended consequences. Here are seven long-term risks that aren’t mentioned in DeLong’s article...
So much for Europe's "recovery." In a quarter when the whisper was that some upside surprise would come out of Europe, the biggest overnight data releases, European standalone and consolidated GDPs were yet another flop, missing across the board from Germany (+0.1%, Exp. 0.3%), to France (-0.2%, Exp. 0.1%), to Italy (-0.5%, Exp. -0.4%), and to the entire Eurozone (-0.2%, Exp. 0.1%), As SocGen recapped, the first estimate of eurozone Q1 GDP comes in at -0.2% qoq, below consensus of a 0.1% drop. The economy shrank by 1.0% yoy, the worst rate since Dec-09. The decline of 0.5% qoq in Italy means that the economy has been in recession continuously since Q4-11. A 0.2% qoq drop in France means the economy has ‘double-dipped’, posting a second back-to-back drop in GDP since Q4-08. The increase of 0.1% qoq in Germany was disappointing and shows the economy is not in a position to support demand in the weaker member states (table below shows %q/q changes).