St Louis Fed
As we noted earlier this week, the Fed is growing increasingly concerned of a bubble forming in the financial markets. Previously we noted that Janet Yellen was issued warnings regarding this.
Does anything about 2014 remind you of 2008? The long lists of visible stress in the global financial system and the almost laughably hollow assurances that there are no bubbles, everything is under control, etc. etc. etc. certainly remind me of the late-2007-early 2008 period when the subprime mortgage meltdown was already visible and officialdom from Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan on down were mounting the bully pulpit at every opportunity to declare that there was no bubble in housing and the system was easily able to handle little things like defaulting mortgages. The party, once again, is clearly ending and raises the question: "If asset bubbles no longer boost full-time employment or incomes across the board, what is the broad-based, “social good” justification for inflating them?"
In the aftermath of the recent Wall Street Journal profile piece that, rather meaninglessly, shifted attention to Bill Gross as quirky manager (who isn't) to justify El-Erian's departure and ignoring Bill Gross as the man who built up the largest bond fund in the world, the sole head of Pimco was eager to return to what he does best - thinking about the future and sharing his thoughts with one of his trademark monthly letters without an estranged El-Erian by his side. He did that moments ago with "The Second Coming" in which the 69-year-old Ohian appears to have pulled a Hugh Hendry, and in a letter shrouded in caveats and skepticism, goes on to essentially plug "risk" assets. To wit: "As long as artificially low policy rates persist, then artificially high-priced risk assets are not necessarily mispriced. Low returning, yes, but mispriced? Not necessarily.... In plain English – stocks, bonds and other “carry”-sensitive assets would outperform cash."
There’s good propaganda and bad propaganda. Bad propaganda is generally crude, amateurish Judy Miller “mobile weapons lab-type” nonsense that figures that people are so stupid they’ll believe anything that appears in “the paper of record.” Good propaganda, on the other hand, uses factual, sometimes documented material in a coordinated campaign with the other major media to cobble-together a narrative that is credible, but false. The so called Fed’s transcripts, which were released last week, fall into the latter category... But while the conversations between the members are accurately recorded, they don’t tell the gist of the story or provide the context that’s needed to grasp the bigger picture. Instead, they’re used to portray the members of the Fed as affable, well-meaning bunglers who did the best they could in ‘very trying circumstances’. While this is effective propaganda, it’s basically a lie, mainly because it diverts attention from the Fed’s role in crashing the financial system, preventing the remedies that were needed from being implemented (nationalizing the giant Wall Street banks), and coercing Congress into approving gigantic, economy-killing bailouts which shifted trillions of dollars to insolvent financial institutions that should have been euthanized. What I’m saying is that the Fed’s transcripts are, perhaps, the greatest propaganda coup of our time.
A dispassionate and analytic of the macro developments for the week ahead.
The strength of the real estate market should not be measured by price appreciation, or the number of new and existing home sales. It should be measured by the support of underlying fundamentals and whether they can help to withstand economic cycles without policy makers having to go hog wild just to avoid a total collapse.
So how healthy is the real estate market today?
If the stock market were already crashing then it would be simple to blame the dismally sad rash of dead bankers in the last week on that - certainly that was reflected in 1929. However, for the third time in the last week, a senior financial executive has died in what appears to be a suicide. As Bloomberg reports, following the deaths of a JPMorgan senior manager (Tuesday) and a Deutsche Bank executive (Sunday), Russell Investments' Chief Economist (and former Fed economist) Mike Dueker was found dead at the side of a highway in Washington State. Police said the death appeared to be a suicide.
When in doubt... make it up.
"Rich Will Keep Getting Richer In 2014" - In 2013, Top 300 Billionaires Added Half A Trillion In Net WorthSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/02/2014 13:22 -0400
All the pundits who preach an economic recovery in the US always fall strangely silent when asked to share their thoughts on the following chart (taken from the St. Louis Fed), showing the annual change in real disposable income per capita in the US. What seems to stump them most is that aside from the 2012 year end aberration (due to accelerated distribution of dividends ahead of the 2013 tax hikes) is that in November the series finally posted its first Y/Y decline (-0.1%) since the Lehman collapse. But as the chart notes, the data is "per capita" and as everyone knows, under the New Normal, some "per capitas" are more equal than other "per capitas." Enter the billionaires. As Bloomberg summarizes, "The richest people on the planet got even richer in 2013, adding $524 billion to their collective net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 300 wealthiest individuals. The aggregate net worth of the world’s top billionaires stood at $3.7 trillion at the market close on Dec. 31, according to the ranking. "The rich will keep getting richer in 2014," John Catsimatidis, the billionaire founder of real estate and energy conglomerate Red Apple Group Inc., said in a telephone interview from his New York office.
The Federal Reserve holds its last policy meeting of 2013 in the week ahead. In UBS' view there are four possible surprises that could affect the markets. From the odds of a taper to adjusting forecasts and from forward-guidance communication to the chances of a cut in the IOER, the FOMC meeting in the week ahead presents upside and downside risks to the dollar in the near term; even if UBS believes the longer-term will see USD strength against both the EUR and JPY.
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.
"There are going to be consequences to central bank balance sheet expansion all over the world," Kyle Bass tells Steven Drobny in his new book, The New House of Money, adding "It’s a beggar-thy-neighbor policy, but everyone is beggaring thy neighbor." The Texan remains concerned at QE's effects on wealth inequality and worries that "at some point this is going to ignite and set cost pressures off." While Gold-in-JPY is his recommended trade for non-clients, his hugely convex trades on Japan's eventual collapse remain as he explains the endgame for his thesis, "won't buy back until JPY is at 350," and fears "the logical conclusion is war."
The relatively new Minneapolis Fed president Narayana Kocherlakota is not known for any insightful, original ideas. Before he took over the MinnFed, he was a research economist at the bank in the late 1990s, a consultant there from 1999 to 2009, taught at the University of Minnesota from 2005 to 2010 and was chairman of the U’s department of economics before being named president of the bank. What he is best known for is his epic flip-flopping: from one of the Fed's staunchest hawks early in his presidential career, to a dove so starved for the Fed's monetary liquidity, he often puts even Charles Evans to shame. He is among the first to suggest that the Fed should hold rates at zero until unemployment hits 5.5% (which it never will unless of course the plunge in the labor participation rate continues) something which both Goldman and Yellen have now adopted as gospel. Nobody knows what precipitated this shocking metamorphosis, although it is said Ben Bernanke can be quite persuasive during unrecorded phone calls. Which brings us to the topic of this post: what does a suspiciously reformed Fed dove do when faced with increasingly louder, conflicting voices that challenge the delusion that the only thing that will fix a failing QE is more QE? He fires them of course.
The Fed seems to be facing two major risks: first, premature tapering disrupting markets and triggering global turmoil across asset classes, thereby threatening the fragile economy recovery; second, delayed tapering further fuelling asset price bubbles, which could burst eventually and do major damage. UBS' Beat Siegenthaler notes the September decision suggested a Fed more worried about the fragile recovery than about the potential for asset bubbles and other longer-term problems associated with extended liquidity injections. Whereas it had originally assumed that a gradual tapering would result in a gradual market reaction, Siegenthaler explains it is now clear that the situation is much more binary; and as such, the hurdles for tapering might be substantially higher than originally thought.
Today's "good Fed cop" award goes to St. Louis Fed president James Bullard who has some words of caution which neither he, nor anyone else at the FOMC, will pay attention to:
- BULLARD SAYS RISK OF ASSET PRICE BUBBLES ‘HUGE ISSUE’ FOR FOMC
- BULLARD: LOW RATES, NOT JUST QE, WOULD ACCOUNT FOR ANY BUBBLE
- BULLARD SAYS LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION DECLINE BEGAN IN 2000
- BULLARD SAYS LAND PRICES MAY BECOME ASSET PRICE BUBBLE
- BULLARD SAYS ‘I’M THE BIGGEST INFLATION HAWK’, or better known as dove in hawk's clothing
And the punchline:
- BULLARD: `THERE MAY BE SOME OTHER' ASSET BUBBLE `GOING ON'
Yes: the bubble of Fed "assets"