It can’t be emphasized enough (I’ve emphasized it here, here and here) that there’s a close link between the Fed’s narrowing focus and the core, theoretical models that economists developed in the decades after World War II. These model builders naïvely ignored boom-bust cycles in credit and asset markets, just as the Fed disastrously eliminated the relevance of these cycles from its policy framework. Or, more precisely, policymakers reversed Martin’s maxim, spiking the punch bowl when credit and asset markets weaken but dismissing the case for action when the 'party gets going'. In order to explain, we thought it might be interesting to create one of those island economy stories to demonstrate a problem with the Fed’s policy framework - how the Fed’s inflation target can cause policymakers to do the exact opposite of what they should be doing.
Overview of these week's key developments
Japan goes to bed with another absolutely ridiculously volatile session in the books following a 5%, or 637 point move higher in the PenNIKKEIstock Market closing at over 13514, which if taking the futures action going heading to Sunday night into account was nearly 1000 points. With volatility like this who needs a central bank with price stability as its primary mandate. The driver, as usual, was the USDJPY, which moved several hundred pips on delayed reaction from Friday's NFP data as well as on a variety of upward historical revisions to Japanece economic data, but not the trade deficit, which came at the third highest and which continues to elude Abenomics. Fear not: one day soon consumers will just say no to Samsung TVs and buy Sony, or so the thinking goes. erhaps the most interesting news out of Asia was the spreading of FX vol tremors to a new participant India, which is the latest entrant into the currency wars, even if involuntarily, where the Rupee plunged to 58, the lowest ever against the dollar.
Succinctly summarizing the positive and negative news, data, and market events of the week...
If we see the economy as a system, we understand why removing or suppressing feedback inevitably leads to financial crashes. The essential feature of stable, robust systems (for example, healthy ecosystems) is their wealth of feedback loops and the low-intensity background volatility that complex feedback generates. The essential feature of unstable, crash-prone systems is monoculture, an artificial structure imposed by a central authority that eliminates or suppresses feedback in service of a simplistic goal--for example, increasing the yield on a single crop, or pushing everyone with cash into risk assets. Resistance seems futile, but the very act of suppressing feedback dooms the system to collapse.
Following April's surprising drop in crude imports which led to a multi-year low in the March trade balance (revised to -$37.1 billion), the just released April data showed an 8.5% jump in the deficit to $40.3 billion, if modestly better than the expected $41.1 billion. This was driven by a $2.2 billion increase in exports to $185.2 billion offset by a more than double sequential jump in imports by $5.4 billion, to $222.3 billion. More than all of the change was driven by a $3.2 billion increase in the goods deficit, offset by a $0.1 billion surplus in services.The Census Bureau also revised the entire historical data series, the result of which was a drop in the March deficit from $38.8 billion to $37.1 billion. In April 233,215K barrels of oil were imported, well above the 215,734K in March, and the highest since January. Furthermore, since the Q1 cumulative trade deficit has been revised from $126.9 billion to $123.7 billion, expect higher Q1 GDP revisions, offset by even more tapering of Q2 GDP tracking forecasts. And since the data is hardly as horrible as yesterday's ISM, we don't think it will be enough on its own to guarantee the 21 out of 21 Tuesday track record, so we eagerly look forward to today's POMO as the catalyst that seals the deal.
All traders walking in today, have just one question in their minds: "will today be lucky 21?" or the 21st consecutive Tuesday in which the Dow Jones has closed green.
All else is irrelevant.
The Bank of Japan has embarked on one of the most inflationary policies ever undertaken. Pledging to inject $1.4 trillion dollars into the economy over the next two years, the policy is aimed at generating price inflation of 2% and further depreciating the Yen. The idea is to fight “deflation” and increase exports. Mises’ key insight was in looking at the long-term effects of such a policy, and in the process he examined the logic behind the short-term results as well. The ineffectiveness of the policy in the long run is apparent when one understands how prices – both domestic and foreign – interact to determine exchange rates. Exports will be promoted in the short run, though the effect will be cancelled in the long run once prices adjust. If the policy is ineffective in the long run, Mises demonstrated that the short-run gains are illusory. The same monetary policy aimed at depreciating the currency to promote international trade will reap domestic chaos.
Joseph Eugene Stiglitz was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001. We have constructed the world in which we live on recognition and awards. But, they are just for giving. They are not for anything else. We take no heed of what the ones that have been recognized might have to say or declare. They can go blue in their face, we have delusions of grandeur. Who gave them the prize anyhow?
Abenomics is riddled with inconsistencies. He wants the world's biggest bond market to sit still while he tells them they are going to lose money year-after-year (if his inflation goals are met). He wants to spark a renaissance by lowering the JPY and creating inflation but he doesn't want real wages to drop. Of course, the CNBC anchor's ironic perspective that the 80% domestic bond holdings of JGBs will 'patriotically sit back and take the loss' is in jest but it suggests something has to give in the nation so troubled. In fact, as Diapason's Sean Corrigan notes, that is not what has been happening, "every time the BoJ is in, the institutional investors are very happy to dump their holdings to them." On the bright side, another CNBC apparatchik offers, this institutional selling will lead to buying other more productive assets to which Corrigan slams "great, so we have yet another mispriced set of capital in the world, that'll help won't it!" The discussion, summarized perfectly in this brief clip, extends from the rate rise implications on bank capital to the effect on the deficit, and from the circular failure of the competitive devaluation argument.
in early May, several weeks before the government directly addressed the people pleading for the Indian population to "contain its passion for gold", the Reserve Bank of India issued a directive prohibiting the granting of advances (i.e., loans) against all non specifically minted gold coins sold by banks (excluding loans against gold ornaments and other jewelry). Ironically, without imposing specific dimensional limitations, there was the risk that India may boldly go where only a bunch of financially illiterate, click-baiting media dilettantes, desperate to pitch the idiotic idea of a "trillion dollar coin" made out of platinum to bypass the debt ceiling limit (at least until the Treasury was forced to firmly crush this nonsense with a just as idiotic public statement), and arbitrage RBI directive loophole to create a massive coin, against which banks would subsequently lend out cash. Today, any hope that India may indeed be the first real source of a trillion dollar coin, one made out not of platinum but gold, were crushed, following a clarification by the central bank that there is a firm, 50 gram weight limit on all permitted "specially minted gold coins."
When you step back and look at the long-term trends, it is undeniable what is happening to us. We are in the midst of a horrifying economic decline that is the result of decades of very bad decisions. 30 years ago, the U.S. national debt was about one trillion dollars. Today, it is almost 17 trillion dollars. 40 years ago, the total amount of debt in the United States was about 2 trillion dollars. Today, it is more than 56 trillion dollars. At the same time that we have been running up all of this debt, our economic infrastructure and our ability to produce wealth has been absolutely gutted. Since 2001, the United States has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities and millions of good jobs have been shipped overseas. Our share of global GDP declined from 31.8 percent in 2001 to 21.6 percent in 2011. The percentage of Americans that are self-employed is at a record low, and the percentage of Americans that are dependent on the government is at a record high. The U.S. economy is a complete and total mess, and it is time that we faced the truth.
Is the coming financial collapse going to be inflationary or deflationary? Are we headed for rampant inflation or crippling deflation? This is a subject that is hotly debated by economists all over the country. Some insist that the wild money printing that the Federal Reserve is doing combined with out of control government spending will eventually result in hyperinflation. Others point to all of the deflationary factors in our economy and argue that we will experience tremendous deflation when the bubble economy that we are currently living in bursts. So what is the truth? Well, for the reasons listed below, we believe that we will see both.
Surging nominal imports and a miss for exports just about sums up perfectly just how the reality of Abenomics is crushing the real economy as the market goes from strength to strength on the hope that recovery is just around the corner. For the 28th month in a row Japan trade deficit has dropped YoY and its 12-month average is now at its worst ever. Energy costs are driving up imports (and adjusted for the devaluation in the JPY, the data is simply horrendous. Of course, there are green shoots - CPI is not deflating as fast as it was... and 'some' inflation expectations are rising (though as we noted here that is simply due to the tax expectations). Contrary to expectations held by some in the bond market, the BOJ did not comment on the sharp fluctuation in JGB yields since April as a result of monetary relaxation - on the basis, we assume, that if they don't mention it, it never happened. The result post a nothing-burger of 'more uncertainty' from the BoJ, the Nikkei keeps screaming higher, JPY rallied then fell back, and JGBs are sliding higher in yield.
#333333; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1.6em; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; background-color: #f8f8f9;">Driving the sentiment was the report that U.S. jobless benefits decreased to their lowest rate since 2007. Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser forecasted that day unemployment will drop to 7% by December 2013 and he favours reducing the Fed’s $85 billion monthly bond purchases next month. Plosser however has no vote on Fed policy this year.
#333333; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1.6em; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; background-color: #f8f8f9;">While hedge funds are seeing outflows of $20.8 billion from gold funds this year, BlackRock Inc. the world’ biggest money manager is still bullish, reported Bloomberg.