Much has been said about Yellen's less than stellar first press conference so we will let her own words do most of the talking. First, from the transcript of her prepared remarks and the following Q&A, here are some highlights.
From Jan Hatzius, who needs to coach Yellen much better next time around. Incidentally, this is Goldman's take on the statement and not on Yellen's disastrous press conference: "BOTTOM LINE: The March Summary of Economic Projections (SEP) indicated a more hawkish path of the policy rate than that seen in the December SEP. The statement included a move toward qualitative guidance, but was roughly neutral on net in our view."
"Print Yellen Print" - Meanwhile Russia Warns U.S. Sanctions "Unacceptable", Threatens “Consequences”Submitted by GoldCore on 03/19/2014 15:03 -0400
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Western sanctions over the Crimea dispute were "unacceptable" and “will not remain without consequences." Geopolitical risk shows the importance of owning gold as a hedging instrument and safe haven diversification. As does Yellen's confirmation today that she is going to "print baby print".
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.
Drum roll please... A shift from quantitative thresholds to hand-waving along with lower growth expectations and lower unemployment expectations (and more Fed members seeing rate hikes in 2015) - plenty of confusion in there for everyone... Over to you Janet...
Fed Lowers GDP Forecast, "Dots" Indicate 13 Participants See First Firming In 2015, Up From 12 In DecemberSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/19/2014 14:16 -0400
Yellen's Fed Tightens ($10bn Taper) And Loosens (Lower For Even Longer); Blames Weather - Full Statement RedlineSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/19/2014 14:02 -0400
As expected Janet Yellen's first FOMC statement showed another $10bn taper (more tightening according to Jim Bullard) but the wordy shift from quantitative thresholds to "we'll know it when we see it" qualitative guidance is relatively dovish (despite improved economic outlooks):
- *FOMC SEES `SUFFICIENT UNDERLYING STRENGTH' IN ECONOMY
- *FOMC SAYS IT WILL LIKELY REDUCE QE IN `FURTHER MEASURED STEPS'
- *FED: LOW TARGET RATE APPROPRIATE FOR CONSIDERABLE TIME POST-QE
- *MORE FED OFFICIALS SEE AT LEAST 1% FED FUNDS RATE END OF 2015
- *FED DROPS 6.5% JOBLESS THRESHOLD FOR RAISING FED FUNDS RATE
While Bernanke's last meeting appeared full of disagreement; this time less so (as Plosser and Fisher appeared not to dissent). Full redline to follow.
Pre-FOMC: S&P Futs: 1873.5, Gold $1337, 10Y 2.712%, USDJPY 101.65
The FOMC is now meeting for the first time with Janet Yellen as Chair. Goldman's US team expects the FOMC to deliver an accommodative message...alongside a continued tapering of asset purchases. However, they note, their market views here are likely to shift little in response, as much of that dovishness is arguably already priced, particularly in US rates. SocGen notes that "qualitative guidance" will probably consist of two components: the FOMC’s forecast for the fed funds rate (aka “the dots”) providing a baseline scenario, and a descriptive component signalling the elasticity of this rate path to the underlying economic outlook. SocGen also warns that this transition is worrisome for inflation in 2015. But BofA suggests this is not problem as The Fed will indicate the US economy "lift-off" in late-2015 will save us all.
- How Putin Parried Obama's Overtures on Crimea (WSJ)
- West Readies Tighter Sanctions After Russia Seals Crimea Claim (Bloomberg)
- Putin says U.S. guided by 'the rule of the gun' in foreign policy (Reuters)
- JPMorgan Said to Agree on Commodities Unit Sale to Mercuria (BBG)
- Short Sellers Target Chinese Developers as Rout Deepens (BBG)
- HFT finally under the spotlight: High-Speed Trading Firms Face New U.S. Scrutiny (WSJ)
- Chinese Dollar Bond Investors Demand Higher Yields After Default (BBG)
- According to Joe LaVorgna it's the snow's fault: Deutsche Bank Said to Plan Job Cuts at Investment Bank (BBG)
- Israeli airstrikes kill 1 Syrian soldier, wound 7 (AP)
In an overnight session that had little in terms of macro and news flow, the most notable event was that the Dollar-Renminbi finally crossed above 6.20 which as a reminder is the suggested "max vega" point beyond which even more max pain lies for levered accounts long the Yuan. However, in a world in which nothing is discounted and in which no news matters, the "market" broadly ignored this significant development (which as we explained further yesterday means an accelerated unwind of Chinese Commodity Funding Deals, and a potential drop in global commodity prices), and eagerly awaited today's non-event of an FOMC conference, where nothing new will be announced save for the novelty of it being Yellen's first appearance before the press as the head of the Fed. And of course the Fed will almost certainly scrap the 6.5% employment threshold, as the FOMC scrambles to make the economy appear worse than it is reported to be, in a stark reminder that the biggest optically manipulated tool meant to boost confidence in the recovery was nothing but a number meant to serve political purposes.
On account of the clear decline in the growth momentum of the US price index, many economists have concluded that this provides scope for the Fed to maintain its aggressive monetary stance. Some economists, such as Chicago Fed head Charles Evans, even argue that the declining trend in the growth momentum of the CPI makes it possible for the Fed to further strengthen monetary pumping. This, 'they' believe, will reverse the declining trend in price inflation and will bring the US economy onto a path of healthy economic growth. We suggest that contrary to Evans miracles, a strengthening in monetary pumping will only deepen economic impoverishment by allowing the emergence of new bubble activities and exacerbate existing bubble activities.
Has the market done it again? Two weeks ago, Putin's first speech of the Ukraine conflict was taken by the USDJPY algos - which seemingly need to take a remedial class in Real Politik - as a conciliatory step, and words like "blinking" at the West were used when describing Putin, leading to a market surge. Promptly thereafter Russia seized Crimea and is now on the verge of formally annexing it. Over the weekend, we had the exact same misreading of the situation, when the Crimean referendum, whose purpose is to give Russia the green light to enter the country, was actually misinterpreted as a risk on event, not realizing that all the Russian apparatus needed to get a green light for further incursions into Ukraine or other neighboring countries was just the market surge the algos orchestrated. Anyway, yesterday's risk on, zero volume euphoria has been tapered overnight, with the USDJPY sliding from nearly 102.00 to just above 101.30 dragging futures with it, in advance of Putin's speech to parliament, in which he is expected to provide clarity on the Russian response to US sanctions, as well as formulate the nation's further strategy vis-a-vis Crimea and the Ukraine.
It took only a 60 USDJPY pip overnight ramp to send US equity futures 20 points off the overnight lows in the immediate aftermath of the Crimean referendum, which from a massive risk off event has somehow metamorphosed into a "priced in", even welcome catalyst to buy stocks. The supposed reasoning, and in a world in which Virtu algos determine the price action of the USDJPY from which all else flows based solely on momentum we use the word reasoning "loosely", is that there was little to indicate that the escalation between Russia and Ukraine was set to accelerate further. As we said: an annexation is now seen as risk off, something even Goldman appears unable to comprehend (more on that shortly). In macroeconomic news, European inflation - at least for the Keynesians - turned from bad to worse after the final February inflation print dropped from the flash, and expected, reading of 0.8% to just 0.7% Y/Y, a sequential increase of 0.3% and below the 0.4% expected, confirming that deflationary forces continue to ravage the continent. The only question is how soon until Europe comes up with some brilliant scheme that will help it join Japan in exporting its deflation.
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?