Citi: If NEW QE, Then Buy Gold
Some very curious thoughts ahead of tomorrow's FOMC announcement from none other than Citigroup:
Why QE3 FX impact may fizzle
There are several major differences between QE3 now and past QE. The one that is least remarked on is that the world outside the US is much less attractive now than in March 2009 or August 2010 when previous QEs were announced. In earlier QEs, EM was much more attractive, having shrugged off the debt crisis, there was an attractive destination for the liquidity the Fed was injecting into the global economy. Now the term ‘global leadership’ is linked to the US with its 2% (plus or minus) growth rate, and pessimism over Chinese, Brazilian, Indian and other major EM economies. So the downside risk is that the new liquidity sloshes around the banking system rather than being used for investment abroad. The outcome would change if China embarked on a major stimulus programme, though for now investors are not positioning themselves for such an expansion.
In addition, we are struck by the somewhat skeptical reaction of investors and colleagues to the Fed’s analysis of the benefits from past rounds of QE. In particular the Fed’s benefit calculation explicitly assumes that the level of stimulus is a function of the size of the Fed’s balance sheet, so keeping the Fed’s balance sheet fixed would not result in any diminution of stimulus. Most clients and traders feel that rates would back up significantly if the Fed were to stop expanding the balance sheet. In that world, subsequent rounds of QE just keep rates where they are rather than lower them and the cumulative benefits are much less pronounced. There is a strong view in markets that 1) the Fed have to do a big QE, given the expectations that have been built up, and 2) the added liquidity will have a marginal effect. Taken together this raises the risk that the assets that will benefit are those sensitive to liquidity, such as money substitutes and Treasuries, rather than assets that are sensitive to real business cycle expansion.
Two things here: Citi has finally figured out that the Fed will be unable to herd cats and instead of investors positioning to buy the assets that the Fed demands they should buy, i.e., stocks with a 100X P/E, a far simpler trade will be the one that has worked for years - to simply frontrun the Fed in what it will buy, as explained here months ago, when we showed why the performance of the long-bond has surpassed that of the S&P by a factor of almost 200%.
Second, and more imporantly, let's recall that "money substitutes" = gold. So... Citi basically said that tomorrow Ben Bernanke is about to (again) become a goldbug's best friend.