All I can say with certainty is that stocks are in a dangerous position. They’ve been in one for a while now and the higher they go the more dangerous it becomes.
Today is the big day. Investors are on the edges of their seats, waiting to find out what the Fed will do. Taper? No taper? Or maybe it will taper on the tapering off? Investors don't seem worried... Most of the reports we read tell us the economy is improving. Unemployment is going down. Meanwhile, manufacturing levels are rising. Compared to Europe, the US is a powerhouse of growth and innovation, they say. Compared to emerging markets, it is a paragon of stability and confidence. But wait... What if all these things were delusions... statistical folderol... or outright lies? What if the true measures of the economy were feeble and disappointing? What if the US economy was only barely stumbling and staggering along? As Rick Santelli so uncomfortably asked, "What is Bernanke afraid of?"
There’s a lot of chatter out there that the Fed will hold off on a taper announcement, but will put some sort of limit on the overall size of this latest round of QE launched in September 2012. In other words, monthly purchases will continue at the current rate, but this will no longer be a QE-forever program. From a CK game perspective, placing a limit on the QE program is a more market-negative statement than a taper. This is what I’m going to be watching for tomorrow, along with whatever dovish (market-positive) language is inserted around forward guidance on rates. And then the battle for meaning and interpretation will be joined …
If policymakers were gunfighters, they’d be out of bullets: They have run out of effective policy tools to improve the economy.
So the question is simple: If there is a recession in 2014, and policymakers are out of bullets, how will it play out across the American economy?
Why Obama's Home Affordable Modification Program Failed (Spoiler Alert: Thank Bank Of America et al)Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/16/2013 19:41 -0500
Back when the Executive and Congress at least pretended not to abdicate all power to the Fed, one of the centerpiece programs designed to boost the housing market for the benefit of the poor (as opposed to letting Ben Bernanke make marginal US housing a rental industry owned by a handful of private equity firms and hedge funds), was Barack Obama's Home Affordable Modification Program or HAMP, which attempted to prevent foreclosures by lowering distressed borrowers’ mortgage payments. Under the program, homeowners would be given trial modifications to prove they can make reduced payments before the changes become permanent. The program was a disaster as of the 3 million foreclosures that were targeted for modification in 2009, only 905,663 mods have been successful nearly five years later - a tiny 13% of the 6.9 million who applied (still, numbers which Obamacare would be delighted to achieve). Part of the reason: the program's reliance on the same industry that sold shoddy mortgages during the housing bubble and improperly sped foreclosures afterward. But there was much more. For the definitive explanation of everything else that went wrong, we go to Bloomberg's Hugh Son whose masterpiece released today explains how and why once again the banks - and especially one of them - won, and everyone else lost.
The Federal Reserve System was created on December 23, 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act into law. Today, the Fed has decided to commemorate the event today with all three living Fed chairman delivering remarks. We are sure it will be very exciting but in the interests of 'balance' we offer a few alternative views of the "success" of the venerable monopoly including its cost: since 1913, the dollar has lost nearly 90% of its purchasing power.
Following last night's freak central-planning accident (previously in history known as "selling") in the S&P futures, we said that "we expect Overnight Ramp Capital to arrive promptly or else confidence in central-planning may take a hit ahead of the Wednesday Taperish FOMC, and Thursday's double POMO." A few hours later, even we were surprised by how high the low volume tape managed to drag ES, which staged a dramatic 20 point comeback, on the back of a sharp reversal in FX driven higher by both a stronger Euro (helped by better than expected German and Eurozone PMIs offsetting China PMI weakness, and lack of optimism in the core Japanese Tankan) and a weaker Yen, the two key signals for E-mini directionality. Sure enough, at last check the futures we trading just why of the "independence day" 1776, after briefly breaking the 50-DMA and then being supported by 1760 in the futures. The rest is perfectly predictable central-planning history.
It is perhaps a testament to the ability of the oligarchy (that 1% which owns some 50% of all US assets) to distract and distort newsflow from what really matters, that a century after the creation of the Federal Reserve, the vast majority of Americans are still unfamiliar with the most important institution in the history of the US - an institution that unlike the government is not accountable to the people (if only as prescribed on a piece of rapidly amortizing paper), but merely to a few banker stakeholders as Bernanke's actions over the past five years have demonstrated beyond any doubt. It is for their benefit that Jim Bruce's groundbreaking movie "Money for Nothing" is a must see, although we would urge everyone else, including those frequent Zero Hedge readers well-versed in the inner workings of the Fed, to take the two hours and recall just who the real enemy of the people truly is.
"Twas the Friday before the Friday before Christmas..." and as the year end rapidly approaches the mainstream consensus is that 2014 will be another bouyant year for the stock market despite the impact of a potential Federal Reserve tapering. The optimistic view is an easy one. While it isn't popular, or fun, to look at the non-bullish view it is nonetheless important to consider the risks that could potentially lead to a larger than expected loss of investment capital. There is one simple truth about financial markets and investing: what goes up must come down. It is the downside risk that is most damaging to long term investment returns. Therefore, this week's "Things To Ponder" is a sampling of views and thoughts on what to watch out for as we enter the new year.
A major issue is the growing disparity between rich and poor, the 1% versus the 99%. While the president’s solutions differ from Republicans, they both ignore a principal source of this growing disparity. The source is not runaway entrepreneurial capitalism, which rewards those who best serve the consumer in product and price. (Would we really want it any other way?) There is another force that has turned a natural divide into a chasm… dun, dun, dun… the Federal Reserve. The relentless expansion of credit by the Fed creates artificial disparities based on political privilege and economic power.
Last month, we offered a plain language translation of the Warsh op-ed, because we thought it was too carefully worded and left readers wondering what he really wanted to say. Translation wasn’t necessary for Fisher’s speech, which contained a clear no-confidence vote in the Fed’s QE program. Now William Poole is more or less saying that we have no idea what’s truly behind the Fed’s decisions. But he doesn’t stop there. He’s willing to make a prediction that you wouldn’t expect from an establishment economist... Poole’s refreshingly honest take on the Fed’s inner workings – from someone who truly knows what goes on behind the curtains – is more than welcome.
The 21st century has proven interesting when it comes to Time's choices for person of the year: George Dubya, twice, Barack Obama, twice, Vladimir Putin, Ben Bernanke, and of course, Mark Zuckerberg. And now, moments ago, the Time person of the year 2013 has been revealed: the winner - Pope Francis, best known recently for bashing materialists and those who cry over a 2 point drop in stocks everywhere. Sorry Miley Cyrus - more twerking will be required in 2014 to make up for this epic loss.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
From Bernanke's infamous 2008 "not forecasting a recession" call to Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines 2004 "subprime assets are riskless" commentary, the following 10 "predictions" - as opposed to Wien "surprises" - will go down in infamy for their degree of errant-ness...
We warned here (and here most recently), the most insidious way in which the Fed's ZIRP policy is now bleeding not only the middle class dry, but is forcing companies to reallocate cash in ways that benefit corporate shareholders at the present, at the expense of investing prudently for growth 2 or 3 years down the road. It seems the message is being heard loud and very clear among 'some' of the FOMC members; most notably Richard Fisher:
"Without fiscal policy that incentivizes rather than discourages U.S. capex (capital expenditure), this accommodative monetary policy aimed at reducing unemployment (especially structural unemployment) or improving the quality of jobs is rendered flaccid and less than optimally effective... I would feel more comfortable were we to remove ourselves as soon as possible from interfering with the normal price-setting functioning of financial markets."
Perhaps Yellen (and others) will listen this time?