Rickards Warns "The Market's Got It Wrong"

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by James Rickards via The Daily Reckoning,

Janet Yellen’s mantra is, “It’s transitory!”

That’s Yellen’s typical response to a long litany of data that shows the U.S. is in the grip of a powerful disinflationary trend that may lead to outright deflation - a central banker’s worst nightmare.

The Fed has a publicly announced 2% inflation goal, which they consider to be price stability. In fact, 2% inflation cuts the purchasing power of the dollar by 75% in the course of an average lifetime. The Fed would tell you to ignore that.

Why 2% inflation is considered “price stability” is a subject for another day. For now, let’s just accept the Fed’s definition and see how the Fed responds from a policy perspective.

The Fed carves out food and energy prices from inflation. That gets to something called “core” inflation.

The Fed’s preferred metric is calculated monthly by the U.S. Commerce Department as the personal consumption expenditure (PCE) deflator. The Fed’s preferred interval is monthly data compared to the same month one year earlier, or “year-over-year,” YOY.

With a 2% target for PCE core YOY, what’s the actual time series of data? Here it is:

  • December 2016: 1.9%
  • January 2017: 1.9%
  • February 2017: 1.9%
  • March 2017: 1.6%
  • April 2017: 1.6%
  • May 2017: 1.5%
  • June 2017: 1.5%
  • July 2017: 1.4%
  • August 2017: 1.3%

An objective analyst would give the Fed credit for coming close to their target in late 2016. This is precisely why the Fed embarked on a path of rate hikes. The Fed raised interest rates in December 2016, March 2017 and June 2017.

The chart below is taken from a presentation given by Janet Yellen on September 26, 2017. The black horizontal line is the Fed’s 2% inflation target. The blue line represents actual PCE inflation; the red line represents PCE “core” inflation with food and energy prices removed, (the Fed’s preferred method). The downward trajectory of the red line should be disturbing to the Fed, but is routinely dismissed as “transitory.”

Where's the inflation?

What happened next?

To answer that question, bear in mind that monetary policy works with a lag. That insight is one of Milton Friedman’s few economic contributions that has stood the test of time.

The Fed has been tightening in fits and starts since Bernanke’s “taper talk” in May 2013. This has resulted a consistent pattern in which Fed tightening slows the economy, then the Fed flips to ease, and the economy picks up steam, which leads to another round of tightening, and another slowdown.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

The Fed’s late 2016, early 2017 tightening cycle has now come home to roost. In the latest nine-month time series, shown above in the table and chart, inflation was flat or down in every month, and dropped a total of 0.6%.

That’s huge. The Fed’s range for this purpose is 0% to 2%. The floor is 0% because the Fed must avoid deflation. The ceiling is 2% because that’s the Fed’s announced target. A 0.6% drop covers 30% of the target range. It’s a quite significant move, and all in the wrong direction.

What’s Yellen’s reaction to this in-your-face data? In effect, she says. “It’s transitory!”

First Yellen blamed a price war among cell phone service providers. Then she blamed the strong dollar, which tends to lower import prices (with a strong dollar you get more for your money abroad so unit costs decline).

Then she blamed health care costs because they’re government administered and not responsive to Fed monetary policy. Then she blamed hurricane damage from Harvey, Irma and Maria.

It’s always something.

Why are Yellen and her colleagues in denial about the persistence of disinflation? Why are they insisting that an obvious trend is merely “transitory?”

The first analytic flaw is Yellen’s belief in the Phillips Curve. This model presents an inverse relationship between unemployment and inflation. As unemployment goes down, labor scarcity leads to wage increases above growth potential. This leads to inflation.

The Fed assumes that because of low unemployment today, inflation must be right around the corner.

The only problem with the Phillips Curve is that it does not exist. It has no empirical support. In the late 1970s and early 1980s we had high unemployment and high inflation. Today we have low unemployment and low inflation. Both results are the exact opposite of what the Phillips Curve would predict.

Yellen also believes that monetary ease, acting with a lag, feeds inflation. Therefore it is necessary to tighten policy before inflation arrives in order to avoid getting behind the curve.

Monetary policy does act with a lag, but it does not directly cause inflation. It may add fuel to a fire, but it’s not the catalyst. The Fed has created $3.5 trillion of new money since 2008, yet there has been no appreciable amount of inflation for nine years.

The cause of inflation is not money supply but psychology. It is expressed as velocity — the speed at which money is turned over through lending and spending. Velocity depends on behavioral psychology, or what Keynes called “animal spirits,” regardless of the amount of money around.

Yellen sees inflation under every rock despite the lack of empirical evidence. In fact, the evidence as revealed in the time series of PCE data above points toward disinflation and deflation.

Reality is catching up with the Fed.

They will respond by taking a “pause” on an interest rate hike in December. This is the opposite of current market expectations.

What about the prospects for disinflation and Fed easing?

The most important development is recent strength in the U.S. dollar. This has the effect of lowering import prices, which feeds into the U.S. manufacturing supply chain. Cheaper imports also put a lid on the ability of competing U.S. producers to raise their own prices.

Second, the September employment report came out last Friday. A Reuters survey of economists had expected the economy to add 90,000 jobs in September.

How many did it really add?

Zero. Less than zero, actually. The economy shed 33,000 jobs. This was the first time in seven years that the U.S. economy lost jobs.

This may be due to the hurricanes, but coming on top of the weak inflation data that came out recently, it will certainly give the Fed more than enough reason to hit the “pause” button on a December rate hike.

Finally, Yellen’s term as Chair expires at the end of January 2018, just a few months away. It appears she will not be reappointed by Trump. The current favorite to replace her is Kevin Warsh, as I told readers my earlier this year.

The December 2017 FOMC meeting will be Yellen’s last. She does not want her legacy to be that of the Fed Chair who caused a recession by tightening into weakness. That would repeat the classic Fed blunder of 1937.

Yellen’s legacy is secure because she was able to begin rate hikes and balance sheet normalization, both of which reversed the easy money policies of Ben Bernanke. She will rest on those laurels and not take a risky rate decision on her way out the door.

Eventually the markets will figure this out. Right now markets are giving a nearly 90% chance of a rate hike in December based on CME Fed Funds futures. That rate will drop significantly by December 13 when the FOMC meets again with a press conference. (There’s another meeting on November 1, but no one expects any policy changes then).

As market probabilities catch up with reality, the dollar will sink, the euro and gold will rally, and interest rates will resume their long downward slide.

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Reaper's picture

Markets are theater directed by the Fed.

TahoeBilly2012's picture

Hard to figure out Rickards. He seems a nice sort of fellow, but you never here him comment on Pizzagate or anything of the sort. According to him he is vvery well connected. You would think he knew something about how evil the cabal is.

Stuck on Zero's picture

There's an old saying: "You cannot control what you cannot measure." The Fed relies on phoney contrived statistics to control the economy so we get a phoney, contrived economy.

venturen's picture

you don't think they actually care about the economy...there measurement is hourly speech fees for ex-Federal Reserve and Think Tank stipends.

 

99% of the people could died and they could care less! They rescued the BANKS....to RESCUE THE BANKERS....no more, no less!

Winston Churchill's picture

Once CIA, always CIA. He's a mouthpiece of the Cabal that runs the world.

His prognostications are what the Cabal hopes will happen,have planned to happen.

Russia and China have no intention of complying however.Their feints and delaying tactics have worked

uptil now, but the Cabal is finally seeing that it was for naught.

China is still receiving and unloading Nork bulk ore carriers in their ports with Russians playing intermediary.

Good cop, bad cop.

willy up the creek's picture

I agree about Rickards.  He does seem nice, earnest and all.  And, apparently, he's had very significant experience.  But, he now is a total Agora whore.  Kind of tarnishes the picture, if you will.

fx's picture

"markets are wrong" - this clown has been claiming that for decades now. Of course, since there are hardly real markets anywhere now, something has structurally changed. If this moron Rickards would at least be capable of grasping that one fundamental shift, he may start to get some stuff right.

gaoptimize's picture

The markets are wrong because they are in denial that the real economy is dying:

"...The Fed has created $3.5 trillion of new money since 2008, yet there has been no appreciable amount of inflation for nine years."

It matters not how much money they create if it isn't circulating:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/M2V

It's like giving a blood transfusion to someone in cardiac arest.

 

LawsofPhysics's picture

Almost, but not quite.

That money has indeed been circulating, it's just that it is circulating among a select few in banking and finance!!!!

You do realize that if all that new money did ciculate among everyone you would have approximately a 1,500 to 1,600 % increase in prices!!!!! 

No matter, such "let the majority eat cake" monetary experiments have been tried before!!!

get long sharecropping and guillotines!

 

venturen's picture

maybe a check of London, NY, and Silicon Valley real estate, private jets, holiday homes....would give you a better insight to where the money went?

secretargentman's picture

More important than knowing that the market has got it wrong is knowing when the market is going to come to it's senses. 

Crisismode's picture

The "market" will never come to its senses . . .

. . . becase it is irretrievably broken.

It needs to collapse and be put out of its misery

and replaced with something untouched by any

government agency whatsoever.

 

grasha87's picture

Here is my channel with my reviews on Austrian Economics books, and there are more to come. Here is my latest book review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKOWT02pxGI

derryb's picture

Markets are directed by perception. The FED attempts to direct perception.

Badsamm's picture

This guy sure has a lot to say all of a sudden. I would love to shove that bald head through a wood chipper

Cash2Riches's picture

The markets if free, would know exactly what needs to be done. Sadly, this is not the case and as Jim Rickards notes, we are setting ourselves up for an epic fail. Gold will be the only true winner in this outcome and those who were smart enough to start stacking before the collapse occurs. We are going through a huge transitionary period in time.

http://jimrickards.blogspot.com/2017/10/central-banks-are-transitioning-...

Liberaldisdain's picture

Sure it does, now keep shorting moron. 

manasaputrah's picture

There is nothing Honorable about Yellen. She was never qualified to do the job of running the Fed.

Don Pancho's picture

If you want a good look at the markets i find that the gold and silver markets give you a good insight into what strings are being pull check this Article out. http://www.silverdoctors.com/silver/silver-news/gold-silver-overnight-st...

 

grasha87's picture

Here is my channel with my reviews on Austrian Economics books, and there are more to come. Here is my latest book review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKOWT02pxGI

mily's picture

Amen, long gold and usurys. 80% rate hike odds must be decreased, i guess it will be uber dove bullard delivering the message to the markets, if, of course, jim "shill" rickards is correct

I am a Man I am Forty's picture

I wish Rickards would be quiet and quit trying to predict things because he gets it wrong all of the time.  Especially his investment recommendations.

thesonandheir's picture

Incorrect - he was one of the few that guessed Brexit and Trump not to mention euro run from 1.05 up to 1.20.

indygo55's picture

Right and he does say you can't time these things. He is always reminding us of His snowflake and the avalanche analogy. But the fundamentals are there. This thing will blow. No one knows when but its getting close.

 

small axe's picture

SPX is a gauge of monetary and political respression. It stopped indicating the direction of the real economy long ago.

Record highs day after day ... bull market in repression.

And then it breaks

mily's picture

Patience my son, the air is getting thinner. Looks like forced buying by short gamma crowd (checkout HFXAX in stockcharts below), same as ealier on this year in feb/march, they must be in so much pain right now

http://stockcharts.com/h-sc/ui?s=HFXAX&p=D&yr=2&mn=0&dy=0&id=p18550095741

syzygysus's picture

Warsh it?  I told them to Flush it!

 

 

SirBarksAlot's picture

What follows a long period of deflation?

LawsofPhysics's picture

LOL indeed!!!

Question; "What follows a long period of global deflation?"

Answer; "Global Weimar!!!"

The Germans are probably the best prepared to handle this...

...hedge accordingly!

omi's picture

Just please, shut the F up. Market will turn when it will turn.

rejected's picture

Soooooo Rickards says we need more inflation.$16 per pound of bacon isn't enough. $40,000 for a POS car isn't enough. And Granny surviving on her monthly SS is a tragedy. 

Yes,,, the last thing Americans need is more bang for their buck.  And jobs,,, gee less waiters and lawn servicing technicians!  How will we survive?

Boy, we're sure not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

 

small axe's picture

And Granny, who saved all her life, watches in her golden years as her savings lose half their value in 20 years under the Fed's 2% inflation regime.

It's a crime, pure and simple, and the Fed is the perpetrator.

derryb's picture

He doesn't say we need more inflation - he says the FED says we need more inflation and that they are wrong.

grasha87's picture

Here is my channel with my reviews on Austrian Economics books, and there are more to come. Here is my latest book review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKOWT02pxGI

Hikikomori's picture

Economic experts are wrong much more often than markets are.

onthedeschutes's picture

Jim, you lost me when you used the term "markets" without the quotes...as though they are actually real markets.

LawsofPhysics's picture

What a load of horseshit.  The Fed serves it's owners/shareholders, PERIOD.

If you could create as much "money" as you wanted and get people to exchange the product of their labor (i.e. their energy and work/risk) for your worthless paper/digits, eventually you could OWN EVERYTHING!

All this central bank talk and eCONomic talk of growth forever and ever in a biosphere with finite resources is in fact a CON.

wake the fuck up, power corrupts "folks" and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

"Full Faith and Credit"

FreeShitter's picture

Rickards again....this bald fuck is irrelevant.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Indeed. In fact, there is no "market".

The Fed can in fact do whatever the fuck they want, so long as people accept their paper/digital promises in exchange for the products of their labor.


anarchitect's picture

"The cause of inflation is not money supply but psychology. It is expressed as velocity — the speed at which money is turned over through lending and spending. Velocity depends on behavioral psychology, or what Keynes called “animal spirits,” regardless of the amount of money around."

This is careless writing.  Inflation is directly proportional to both.

But he's probably right that there will be no rate hike in December.  His predictions on this have been good.

brushhog's picture

I like Rickards but I dont agree that he his predictions have been good....if you look at his earlier predictions this year he said the fed would hike 4x in 2017. He also very recently predicted that the fed would hike in december to get rates up before a recession. IMO Rickard's analyses are usually solid, logically he makes alot of sense...but he changes his short term predictions quite often....not that that is necessarily a bad thing.

Crisismode's picture

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

John Maynard Keynes

 

 

 

smacker's picture

That may be the only thing I have in common with JM Keynes. It makes sense to reconsider one's position on anything based upon new facts/new information. Sadly few people do it, preferring to stick with their original dogma to avoid looking weak and indecisive.

Anarchyteez's picture

Exactly. That was the whole point he was making.

NO DEC RATE INCREASE.

ejmoosa's picture

One does not generate velocity when one prints money endlessly.

If someone needs a dollar, they to not have to up what they are willing to pay for that dolalr(interest) when the Fed will meet that demand repeatedly.

The Fed keeping rates artificially low is masking the Fed's own inflation metrics.

The rest of us?  We are paying more for everything BUT dollars.