Every Federal Reserve Chair since 1979 has faced a notable challenge in the first 12-20 months of their tenure – something akin to capital markets “Bullies” hazing the new kid at school. Paul Volcker had the 1979-1980 Iranian oil shock/recession, Alan Greenspan the 1987 Stock Market Crash, and Ben Bernanke the 2007 Financial Crisis. Their responses shaped market perceptions about Federal Reserve priorities and set the stage for the remainder of their tenures, from Inflation-Fighting Volcker to Save-the-World Bernanke. Now, it is Chair Yellen’s turn...
Are there any conditions now that are actually better than those of 2008? Or are conditions now less resilient, more fragile and more dependent on unprecedented central bank interventions?
The last three times inflation expectations tumbled this low, the Fed was about to launch QE1, QE2, Operation Twist and QE3.
The week's weakness started with the surprise yuan devaluation, but the moves in everythingfrom crude oil to U.S. government debt signal that investors and traders are telling the Fed to hold off for now. Will U.S. policymakers listen? Make no mistake: the Fed marches to its own data-dependent drum. These indicators will only tell you if the central bank has the right tempo to support markets.
With the non-farm payroll report due in just 30 minutes, here is your last-stop summary of what Wall Street is expecting from today's most important data release.
- US Change in Nonfarm Payrolls (Jul) M/M Exp. 225K (Low 140K, High 310K), Prev. 223K, May. 280K
- US Unemployment Rate (Jul) M/M Exp. 5.3% (Low 5.2%, High 5.4%), Prev. 5.3%, Apr. 5.5%
- US Average Hourly Earnings (Jul) M/M Exp. 0.2% (Low 0.1%, High 0.3%), Prev. 0.0%, Apr. 0.3%
There are so many parallels between the current period since 2007 in the U.S. (The Great Recession), the period since 1990 in Japan (Japan’s 2+ lost decades), and the period after 1929 in the US (The Great Depression) because they are all periods of a ‘balance-sheet recession’ (or similarly, ‘secular stagnation'; that it is next to impossible to dismiss the comparison. Using this, there is an important lesson for the Fed to consider now in weighing whether to raise rates.
What is going on here: is it just more seller than buyers, who are frontrunning an epic curve flattening or even inversion as may well happen once the Fed launches its rate hiking cycle? Or is something else happening behind the scenes. We ask because in addition to the normal selloff in cash and derivative products, something far more dramatic took place in the repo market where the repo rate on the 2Y just suddenly plunged out of nowhere.
Here is the paradox as succinctly summarized by Deutsche Bank, which notes that the current -29% year-over-year drop in the CRB index implies YoY headline CPI inflation falling from 0.1% to -0.9% over the next couple of months, or just in time for the September or December FOMC meetings both proposed as the "lift off" date. This would be the largest year-over-year drop since September 2009 (-1.3%) and one of the lowest prints in modern history.
After yesterday's latest drop in stocks driven by "old economy" companies such as CAT, which sent the Dow Jones back to red for the year and the S&P fractionally unchanged, today has been a glaring example of the "new" vs "old" economy contrast, with futures propped up thanks to strong tech company earnings after the close, chief among which Amazon, which gained $40 billion in after hours trading and has now surpassed Walmart as the largest US retailer. As a result Brent crude is little changed near 2-wk low after disappointing Chinese manufacturing data fueled demand concerns, adding to bearish sentiment in an oversupplied mkt. WTI up ~26c, trimming losses after yday falling to lowest since March 31 to close in bear mkt. Both Brent and WTI are set for 4th consecutive week of declines; this is the longest losing streak for Brent since Jan., for WTI since March.
In almost all cases, including the most recent rise, the intermittent change in psychology that drove interest rates higher in the short run, occurred despite weakening inflation. There was, however, always a strong sentiment that the rise marked the end of the bull market, and a major trend reversal was taking place. This is also the case today. Presently, four misperceptions have pushed Treasury bond yields to levels that represent significant value for long-term investors. While Treasury bond yields have repeatedly shown the ability to rise in response to a multitude of short-run concerns that fade in and out of the bond market on a regular basis, the secular low in Treasury bond yields is not likely to occur until inflation troughs and real yields are well below long-run mean values.
The US Treasury sold $25 billion of one-year T-bills at an interest rate of 33bps yesterday, the highest since June 2010. It appears the short-end of the yield curve is increasingly pricing in 'liftoff' sooner rather than later (and the long-end is responding by rallying - lower in yield - as medium term growth expectations fade) but it raises significant questions about the economic trajectory after the hike (and the ebbing confidence in The Fed).
Is China (or the US) the next Greece?
You don’t hear it much, but the S&P 500 has been a bit of a “One trick pony” in 2015. No, it isn’t the 4% weighting in Apple that makes it such; it is the combination of a 15% weighting in Health Care AND that sector’s 12.9% return year to date. When you compare the S&P 500’s price return year to date of 3.37%, you can see that the Health Care sector’s contribution is essentially just over half the market’s price return for 2015 (12.9 times 15% is 1.90 of that 3.37). Layer on the fact that 5 of the 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500 are still down on the year: Materials (-2.7%), Industrials (-2.9%), Telecomm (-0.7%), Utilities (-8.6%) and Energy (-9.7%).