Mortgage Backed Securities
There was once a time, perhaps, when unprecedented things happened only occasionally. In today’s financial markets, unprecedented things are commonplace. The Queen in Lewis Carroll’s ‘[Alice] Through the Looking-Glass’ would sometimes believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast. She is probably working in the bond markets now, where believing anything less than twelve impossible things before breakfast is for wimps.
Nothing exposes the fallacies of the Fed’s policies like its horror at the prospect of raising rates even a little bit. Rates have been effectively zero for five years.
Does it really take purportedly intelligent people six years to see that the macros are not responding? Better still, isn’t it time for the Fed to explain the exact channel by which its interest rate pegging and forward guidance is supposed to be transmitted to the main street economy? After all, if these channels are blocked or ineffective - then its flood of liquidity never leaves the canyons of Wall Street. In that event, the central bank actually functions as a financial doomsday machine, inflating the next financial bubble until it bursts. Then, apparently, its job is to rinse and repeat.
What we have here is another powerful case of the Great Immoderation. That is, the havoc that the Fed’s bubble finance policies have visited upon the main street economy. In short, in the name of improving upon the alleged instability of the private economy - absent the Fed’s expert ministrations - the geniuses in the Eccles building have actually caused the rate of housing starts to gyrate wildly. To wit, by a factor of 5X from top to bottom - so far this century.
With more than USD 200bn of Treasury securities held by the Fed due to mature in 2016, the Fed will have to make meaningful monetary policy choices in advance. Fed VP Stanley Fischer commented on SOMA maturities in his speech last Friday, but it appears very few have taken notice as yet and even fewer comprehend the challenge soon confronting The Fed. Many believe that Twist had pushed maturities farther “into the future”. The “future” is Q1 2016. (Note: a shrinking balance sheet is a defacto tightening)
- Goldman Employees Reaped $2 Billion From 2008 Options Last Year (BBG)
- On Bush turf, Obama blames immigration woes on Republicans (Reuters)
- Tougher Internet rules to hit cable, telecoms companies (Reuters)
- Russia's Gazprom says can exempt rebel-held areas from Ukraine gas contract (Reuters)
- Allianz Says Pimco Seeing ‘Substantially’ Lower Outflows (BBG)
- Merkel Faces Stepped-Up Dissent on Greek Bailout in Party (BBG)
- SEC Probes Companies’ Treatment of Whistleblowers (WSJ)
- 2-Year Trek From Turf to Table Delays Cheaper U.S. Beef (BBG)
- Turkish jets violate Greek air space (Kathimerini)
No reason to sell. No reason to buy. That about sums it up. Unfortunately, that is about as optimistic a scenario as we can come up with, supported by equally optimistic growth expectations. In reality, the market has no support. We can only hope that it will not crash at the first sign of trouble. There are always good reasons to own a home, a place to raise a family. However, home ownership via extremely leveraged financing carries enormous and unprecedented risk. We think many potential buyers recognize the risk and are correctly staying out of the market. The new normal in real estate terms is unlikely to be what the market is hoping for.
The surreal nature of this world as we enter 2015 feels like being trapped in a Fellini movie. The .1% party like it’s 1999, central bankers not only don’t take away the punch bowl – they spike it with 200% grain alcohol, the purveyors of propaganda in the mainstream media encourage the party to reach Caligula orgy levels, the captured political class and their government apparatchiks propagate manipulated and massaged economic data to convince the masses their standard of living isn’t really deteriorating, and the entire façade is supposedly validated by all-time highs in the stock market. It’s nothing but mass delusion perpetuated by the issuance of prodigious amounts of debt by central bankers around the globe. But now, the year of consequences may have finally arrived.
With gold already moving today on rumors of an increasingly positive tone towards Switzerland's referendum on the Gold Initiative, Axel Merk notes that it appears widely misunderstood and discusses implications for gold, the Swiss franc and Switzerland as a whole. "Gold is the people’s money, not the government’s money to splurge...gold is a store of value that ought to back the currency in circulation." Ultimately, people should never rely on their government to pursue a gold standard, but consider pursuing their own, personal gold standard.
The problem with what we call the Exit Rule for Bubbles - "you only get out if you panic before everyone else does" – is that you also have to decide whether to look like an idiot before the crash or an idiot after it.
Greenspan told the CFR that "gold is a good place to put money these days given it's value as a currency outside of the policies conducted by governments." "Gold has always been accepted without reference to any other guarantee." When asked where the price of gold was headed in the next five years he said “higher --- measurably" ...
Maybe overzealous bond investors might want to rethink that Yield Chasing Strategy for 2015.
Carmen Segarra said, “I come from the world of legal and compliance, we deal with hard evidence. It’s like, we don’t deal with, you know, perceptions.”
How ironic. Segarra worked at the Fed.
The market is extremely tired and the systemic risks underlying the Financial Crisis are in no way resolved. With investor complacency (as measured by the VIX) at record lows, the Fed withdrawing several of its more significant market props, and low participation coming from the larger institutions, this market is ripe for a serious correction.
Central Banks, Bank CEOs, politicians… all of these people are focused primarily on maintaining CONFIDENCE in the system, NOT on fixing the system’s problems. Indeed, they cannot even openly discuss the system’s problems because it would quickly reveal that they are a primary cause of them.