Real Interest Rates
*YELLEN SAYS FED COMMITTED TO ACCOMMODATION TO SUPPORT RECOVERY
Markets will be hanging on every word of what is likely Janet Yellen's first monetary policy speech and even more so the Q&A afterwards as she suggests that a considerable time is more than 6 months, and the delicate balance she has to play between admitting the economy is ugly while admitting that QE is over no matter what... all the while maintaining some semblance of credibility. One has to wonder if the ripfest rally of the last 24 hours is a buy the rumor ramp ahead of a sell the Yellen news event as once again she is tested...
The EU agreement on a common rulebook for handling bank failures, including bail-ins, is in danger of unravelling over the fine print restricting when a state can intervene to rescue a struggling bank. It is important to realise that not just the EU, but also the UK, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most G20 nations have plans for depositor bail-ins ...
The monetary watchdog says so...
The reasons to hold gold (and silver), and we mean physical bullion, are pretty straightforward. So let’s begin with the primary ones:
- To protect against monetary recklessness
- As insulation against fiscal foolishness
- As insurance against the possibility of a major calamity in the banking/financial system
- For the embedded 'option value' that will pay out handsomely if gold is re-monetized
The punch line is this: Gold (and silver) is not in bubble territory, and its largest gains remain yet to be realized; especially if current monetary, fiscal, and fundamental supply-and-demand trends remain in play.
Bill Gross lost "Bob" this week. The death of his cat sparked some longer-term reflection on the hubris of risk-takers, the mirage of magnificent performance, and the ongoing debate in bond markets - extend duration (increase interest rate risk) or reduce quality (increase credit risk). As the PIMCO boss explains, a Bull Market almost guarantees good looking Sharpe ratios and makes risk takers compared to their indices (or Treasury Bills) look good as well. The lesson to be learned from this longer-term history is that risk was rewarded even when volatility or sleepless nights were factored into the equation. But that was then, and now is now.
Being that markets are unrigged and all, at least according to every single proponent of HFT that is, futures have done their overnight levitation as they have every day for the past month driven by the one staple - the Yen carry trade - even if in recent days the broader market slump during the actual daytrading session mostly impacted biotechs yesterday. And since any news is good news, we don't expect today's main event, the ECB's rate announcement and Draghi press conference, both of which are expected to announce nothing new despite Europe's outright inflationary collapse which most recently dropped to 0.5%, the lowest since 2009.
Contrary to most consensus views (including Citi's FX technical group) EURUSD has failed to move lower in 2014. Why?
As we explained in great detail recently, the abundance of so-called cash-on-the-sidelines is a fallacy, but even more critically the we showed the belief that these 'IOUs of past economic activity' would immediately translate into efforts to deploy them into future economic activity is also entirely false. Simply put, there is no relationship between corporate cash and subsequent capital expenditure, nor is the level of capital expenditure even well-correlated with the level of real interest rates. At this point, as John Hussman explains, it should be clear that the mere existence of a mountain of IOUs related to past economic activity is not enough to provoke future economic activity. What matters instead is the same thing that always matters: Are the resources of the economy being directed toward productive uses that satisfy the needs of others?
Imagine that you are speeding down one of those long and lonesome stretches of highway that seems to fall off the edge of the horizon. As the painted white lines become a blur, you notice a sign that says "Warning." You look ahead for what seems to be miles of endless highway, but see nothing. You assume the sign must be old therefore you disregard it, slipping back into complacency. A few miles down the road you see another sign that reads "Warning: Danger Ahead." Yet, you see nothing in distance. Again, a few miles later you see another sign that reads "No, Really, There IS Danger Ahead." Still, it is clear for miles ahead as the road disappears over the next hill. You ponder whether you should slow down a bit just in case. However, you know that if you do it will make you late for your appointment. The road remains completely clear ahead, and there are no imminent sings of danger. So, you press ahead. As you crest the next hill there is a large pothole directly in your path. Given your current speed there is simply nothing that can be done to change the following course of events. With your car now totalled, you tell yourself that there was simply "no way to have seen that coming."
Diversification with a solid strategy
Fed Chair Janet Yellen will deliver her inaugural monetary policy testimony on February 11 and 13. Her prepared remarks will be released at 8:30amET and the testimony will begin at 10amET. Goldman, unlike the market of the last 3 days, believes that Ms. Yellen is likely to "stick to the script" in her first public remarks since taking over from Bernanke but they look for additional color on the following issues: (1) the recent patch of softer data; (2) the Fed's thinking on EM weakness; (3) the hurdle for stopping the taper; (4) the amount of slack in the labor market; and (5) the future of forward guidance.
Because the ultimate outcome of this monetary cycle hinges on how, when, or if the Fed can unwind its unwieldy balance sheet, without further damage to the economy; most likely continuing stagnation or a return to stagflation, or less likely, but possible hyper-inflation or even a deflationary depression, the Bernanke legacy will ultimately depend on a Bernanke-Yellen legacy. But what should be the main lesson of a Greenspan-Bernanke legacy? Clearly, if there was no pre-crisis credit boom, there would have been no large financial crisis and thus no need for Bernanke or other human to have done better during and after. While Austrian analysis has often been criticized, incorrectly, for not having policy recommendations on what to do during the crisis and recovery, it should be noted that if Austrian recommendations for eliminating central banks and allowing banking freedom had been followed, no such devastating crisis would have occurred and no heroic policy response would have been necessary in the resulting free and prosperous commonwealth.
Nine Event Risks for the week ahead: identified, discussed and assessed.
Back in December 2013, as we do after every periodic bout of irrational exuberance by Goldman's chief economist Jan Hatzius et al (who can forget our post from December 2010 "Goldman Jumps Shark, Goes Bullish, Hikes Outlook" in which Hatzius hiked his 2011 GDP forecast from 1.9% to 2.7% only to end the year at 1.8%, and we won't even comment on the longer-term forecasts) designed merely to provide a context for Goldman's equity flow and prop-trading axes, we said it was only a matter of time before Goldman (and the rest of the Goldman-following sellside econo-penguins) is forced to once again trim its economic forecasts. Overnight, two months after our prediction, the FDIC-backed hedge fund did just that, after Goldman's Hatzius announced that "we have taken down our GDP estimates to 2½% in Q1 and 3% in Q2, from 2.7% [ZH: actually 3.0% as of Thursday] and 3½% previously."
Ten days ago, the few carbon-based habitual gamblers left in the market stopped and read Goldman's report which, as we said, may have 'just killed the music' with its slam of the market saying the "S&P500 is now overvalued by almost any measure." Recall: "The current valuation of the S&P 500 is lofty by almost any measure, both for the aggregate market as well as the median stock: (1) The P/E ratio; (2) the current P/E expansion cycle; (3) EV/Sales; (4) EV/EBITDA; (5) Free Cash Flow yield; (6) Price/Book as well as the ROE and P/B relationship; and compared with the levels of (6) inflation; (7) nominal 10-year Treasury yields; and (8) real interest rates. Furthermore, the cyclically-adjusted P/E ratio suggests the S&P 500 is currently 30% overvalued in terms of (9) Operating EPS and (10) about 45% overvalued using As Reported earnings." Since then, many of Goldman's client must have been displeased that David Kostin refuses to drink from the punchbowl anymore, and sent in their complaints. However, Goldman has refused to budge and issued a follow up defense to its thesis that stocks are overvalued more than at any other time except the tech bubble with "Valuation fact vs. fiction part 2: Responding to common questions about S&P 500 valuation."