In case you misunderstood and judged the market's reaction to Janet Yellen's first FOMC statement, the ultimate Fed mouthpiece is out with a few clarifying words (well 712 words posted in under 4 minutes). The Wall Street Journal's Jon Hilsenrath clarifies "The Fed stressed it has not changed its plan to keep interest rates low long after the bond-buying program ends," and added further that "the Fed said explicitly for the first time that it likely would keep short-term rates lower than normal, even after inflation and employment return to their longer-run trends." While noting a bigger consensus of members around a 2015 rate 'liftoff', Hilsenrath is careful to point out that the Fed also blamed the weather for not having a clue.
As Bill Clinton once famously stated; "What is....is" and while the current market "IS" within a bullish trend currently, it doesn't mean that this will always be the case. This is why, as investors, we must modify Clinton's line to: "What is...is...until it isn't." That thought is the foundation of this weekend's "Things To Ponder." In order to recognize when market dynamics have changed for the worse, we must be aware of the risks that are currently mounting.
While Janet Yellen fell back on the ubiquitous central banker statement that she "would do all that [she] can" it was Dallas Fed's Richard Fisher who raised the most eyebrows yesterday. In a speech in Mexico City, the central banker said he was concerned about "eye-popping levels" of some stock market metrics warning that the Fed must monitor the signs carefully to ensure bubbles were not forming. While other Fed members have paid lip-service to bubbles, Fisher explicitly discussed stocks in the context of the dot-com boom of the late '90s warning of "the ghost of 'irrational exuberance'" and worried about corporate bonds too.
It is still all about the Yen carry which overnight tumbled to the lowest level since November, dragging the Nikkei down by 4.8% which halted its plunge at just overf 14,000, only to stage a modest rebound and carry US equity futures with it, even if it hasn't helped the Dax much which moments ago dropped to session lows and broke its 100 DMA, where carmakers are being especially punished following a downgrade by HSBC of the entire sector. Also overnight the Hang Seng entered an official correction phase (following on from the Nikkei 225 doing the same yesterday) amid global growth concerns and has filtered through to European trade with equities mostly red across the board. Markets have shrugged off news that ECB's Draghi is seeking German support in the bond sterilization debate, something which we forecast would happen a few weeks ago when we pointed out the relentless pace of SMP sterilization failures, with analysts playing down the news as the move would only add a nominal amount of almost EUR 180bln to the Euro-Area financial system. Elsewhere, disappointing earnings from KPN (-4.3%) and ARM holdings (-2.5%) are assisting the downward momentum for their respective sectors.
With the market more bullishly positioned, more euphoric, and more levered than almost any time in history, it is perhaps worth "pondering" what some of the risks to this optimism could be...
- Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his mission’s accomplished (WaPo)
- Japan’s Nikkei 225 Extends Six-Year High on U.S. Data (BBG)
- Retailers blend stores, e-commerce to snag holiday stragglers (Reuters)
- Storm wreaks havoc in Britain, France ahead of Christmas (Reuters)
- Big Rally to Pump Up Wall Street Bonuses (WSJ)
- Obamacare Sign-Up Extended as Record 1 Million Use Site (BBG)
- Merkel Hits Wall With Europe Fix (WSJ)
- Boaz Weinstein Loses for Second Year as European Bet Sours (BBG)
- UniCredit has reached an agreement to sell almost €1 billion in nonperforming loans to Cerberus (WSJ)
- U.S. mortgage applications fall as refinance hits five-year low (Reuters)
- Cohen Said to Have Warned Friend About Possible Federal Investigation (NYT)
- ‘Duck Dynasty’ Dad Risks $500 Million With Gay-Sin Remark (BBG)
"The powers of financial capitalism had (a) far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent meetings and conferences. The apex of the systems was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland; a private bank owned and controlled by the world's central banks which were themselves private corporations. Each central bank... sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world." - Carroll Quigley, member of the Council on Foreign Relations
Last month, we offered a plain language translation of the Warsh op-ed, because we thought it was too carefully worded and left readers wondering what he really wanted to say. Translation wasn’t necessary for Fisher’s speech, which contained a clear no-confidence vote in the Fed’s QE program. Now William Poole is more or less saying that we have no idea what’s truly behind the Fed’s decisions. But he doesn’t stop there. He’s willing to make a prediction that you wouldn’t expect from an establishment economist... Poole’s refreshingly honest take on the Fed’s inner workings – from someone who truly knows what goes on behind the curtains – is more than welcome.
In “Why the Fed Won’t Taper in December,” we pretended to write the first paragraph of the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) statement for next week’s meeting. By thinking about the likely mix of upgrades and downgrades to its assessment of the economy, which is the crux of that paragraph, we argued that we can find clues to policy decisions. Our results tell us to expect a deferral of the committee’s tentative plans to taper its securities purchase program. You may suggest, though, that economic data doesn’t always tell you what the FOMC will do. Because we agree, we’ve also taken a different approach: listening to Fedspeak and working through the math on the committee’s consensus view. This, too, leads us to think there won’t be a taper this month. Here’s our math, starting with the biggest QE supporters and ending with Chairman Bernanke...
We warned here (and here most recently), the most insidious way in which the Fed's ZIRP policy is now bleeding not only the middle class dry, but is forcing companies to reallocate cash in ways that benefit corporate shareholders at the present, at the expense of investing prudently for growth 2 or 3 years down the road. It seems the message is being heard loud and very clear among 'some' of the FOMC members; most notably Richard Fisher:
"Without fiscal policy that incentivizes rather than discourages U.S. capex (capital expenditure), this accommodative monetary policy aimed at reducing unemployment (especially structural unemployment) or improving the quality of jobs is rendered flaccid and less than optimally effective... I would feel more comfortable were we to remove ourselves as soon as possible from interfering with the normal price-setting functioning of financial markets."
Perhaps Yellen (and others) will listen this time?
Rebellious Fed head Lacker fired at “implicit guarantees” to bail out bank creditors. Covered liabilities, the size of US GDP.
Following a brief hiatus for the Veterans Day holiday, the spotlight will again shine on treasuries and emerging markets today. The theme of higher US yields and USD strength continue to play out in Asian trading. 10yr UST yields are drifting upwards, adding 3bp to take the 10yr treasury yield to 2.78% in Japanese trading: a near-two month high and just 22 bps away from that critical 3% barrier that crippled the Fed's tapering ambitions last time. Recall that 10yr yields added +15bp in its last US trading session on Friday, which was its weakest one day performance in yield terms since July. USD strength is the other theme in Asian trading this morning, which is driving USDJPY (+0.4%) higher, together with EM crosses including the USDIDR (+0.6%) and USDINR (+0.6%). EURUSD is a touch weaker following a headline by Dow Jones this morning that the Draghi is concerned about the possibility of deflation in the euro zone although he will dispute that publicly, citing Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung who source an unnamed ECB insider. The headline follows a number of similar stories in the FT and Bloomberg in recent days suggesting a split in the ECB’s governing council.
With the debt ceiling debate/government shutdown now behind us, at least until the end of the year, we can now return to normal programming. Next week will be a rash of economic data that was pent up by the government shutdown from employment to inflation data. However, in the meantime, here are four things to ponder over this weekend...
"There's no alternative in making monetary policy but to communicate as clearly as possible, and that's what we tried to do," is how Bernanke defended the Fed's actions over the last six months. But, as the WSJ's Jon Hilsenrath rather snarkily explains, the Fed's 'communications strategy' was a stumbling effort to let the public know what was going on as their efforts to telegraph strategy left investors confused at key points about where it was heading, and some misread Mr. Bernanke's intentions about the bond-buying program and interest rates.
Despite the best efforts to squeeze shorts from the European close (end of POMO), the afternoon session punctuated by Fed's Fisher notable comments pushed stocks back lower with the S&P joining the Dow in the all-FOMC-gains-gone club. Financials and Materials (-1.5% from FOMC) are the worst performers since Bernanke did not say "Taper" and while stocks have given it all back, bonds remain at their highs (in price) and lows (in yield) from that un-announcement. Treasury yields dropped 2-3bps more today (still down 15-20bps depending on maturity) as growth hopes fade. JPY strength was trumped by EUR weakness today which pushed the USD higher from overnight opening lows (from China PMI and Merkel) but by the close the USD was unch. Gold and silver were holding positive until Fisher's comments and they slid to -0.5% or so. WTI dropped 1.2% to $103.50. The S&P had its 3rd down day in a row for the first time in 5 weeks (as momo names join the financials among the leaders lagging).