St Louis Fed
"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"
While the pile of debt keeps growing and monetary intrusion becomes more drastic by the day, there’s almost no talk of inflation. A growing number of investors ask themselves this question.
Normally, we would report the change in total consumer debt (revolving and non-revolving) in this space, but today we will pass, for the simple reason that the number is the merely the latest entrant in a long series of absolutely made up garbage. It appears that in the "quiet period" of data releases, when the BLS realized its "non-critical", pre-update 8MHz 8086-based machines are unable to boot up the random number generator spreadsheets known as "economic data", Ben Bernanke decided to quietly slip a modest revision to the monthly consumer credit data. A modest revision, which amounts to a whopping $180 billion cumulative increase in non-revolving credit beginning in January 2006.
Next "Subprime Crisis" Expands As Student Loan Defaults Hit $146 Billion, Highest Default Rate Level Since 1995Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/01/2013 08:22 -0500
Almost exactly one year ago we wrote "The Next Subprime Crisis Is Here: Over $120 Billion In Federal Student Loans In Default" in which we took the latest (2009 three year cohort) loan default data on Federal Student Loans released by the Department of Education and applied it to the total amount of student loans outstanding, which back then was $914 billion. Yesterday, ED.gov provided its annual update - this time to the 2010 three year and 2011 two year cohorts - and to nobody's major surprise, learned that things just got even worse. To wit: "The national two-year cohort default rate rose from 9.1 percent for FY 2010 to 10 percent for FY 2011. The three-year cohort default rate rose from 13.4 percent for FY 2009 to 14.7 percent for FY 2010." Putting this in context, according to Bloomberg defaults have risen to the highest level since 1995. The irony that this is happening in the aftermath of Bernanke's disastrous ZIRP policy is not lost on anyone.
In the upcoming week markets will continue to focus on these fiscal issues in the US, now that a temporary Government shutdown past Tuesday is assured. Still on the fiscal side but outside the US, look forward to Prime Minister Abe announcing his final decision on the VAT hike as well as unveiling a widely anticipated economic stimulus package. Finally, fiscal policy also played a role in the Italian political instability with four ministers resigning from the coalition Government. The backdrop to these events is a rapid deterioration of the political climate after former PM Berlusconi was convicted of tax evasion by a High Court.
When even the Fed's personal trusted scribe, the WSJ's Jon Hilsenrath, who at least on one occasion saw substantial editorial influence by the NYFed on his upcoming article (dealing with his "prize winning" investigation into Stephen Friedman), accuses the Fed of failing to communicate, one can imagine just how badly the streams of telegraphing futures step by the Marriner Eccles central planners must have gotten crossed. From Hilsy: "Federal Reserve officials created new uncertainty about how much farther they will push their easy-money policies—and new questions about how effective they are at communicating their thinking—with the decision to stand pat on the pace of their bond purchases for now.... Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke also seemed to walk away from some of the guidance he had given in June on how the bond-buying program would play out over the next year, making it even less clear when the program will end." This is ironic, because it was none other than Hilsenrath back on May 10 who wrote "Fed Maps Exit from Stimulus" in which he first laid out that "Federal Reserve officials have mapped out a strategy for winding down an unprecedented $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program meant to spur the economy—an effort to preserve flexibility and manage highly unpredictable market expectations." How does it feel to have been used Jon?
A quiet week to send off August ahead of a deluge of key data next week and as the fateful Septembr 18 FOMC announcement approaches. Still, quite a few macro events to keep track of.
Last week it was the Nasdaq, today it was the Eurex Exchange, which broke down "due to technical issues" shortly after 2 am Eastern and which was offline for over an hour. Further keeping a lid on liquidity and upward momentum is today's UK market holiday which has resulted in a driftless move lower across European stocks, following a red close in the Nikkei225. It only means that the inevitable ramp up in the disconnected from all fundamentals and reality market will have to come only during US trading hours when the NY Fed trading desk steps up its POMO-aided levitation.
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a front-page article reporting that the monetary-policy “doves,” who had forecast low inflation in the United States, have gotten the better of the “hawks,” who argued that the Fed’s monthly purchases of long-term securities, or so-called quantitative easing (QE), would unleash faster price growth. The report was correct but misleading, for it failed to mention why there is so little inflation in the US today. Those who believe that inflation will remain low should look more thoroughly and think more clearly. There are plenty of good textbooks that explain what too many policymakers and financial-market participants would rather forget.
Not much in terms of economic data but lots of corporate news with the official Q2 earnings season kick off, as well as a plethora of Fed speakers which in a centrally-planned world, is all that matters.
Barry Ritholtz is convinced that once the current short-term bounce is over with, the recent cyclical bear market in gold will resume. The reality is of course that neither Mr. Ritholtz, nor anyone else actually knows the future. Therefore, he cannot know whether the bear market is or isn't over. However, judging from the remainder of his post, he actually seems to think that the secular bull market in gold is over. In our opinion there is no evidence for that, and we will explain below why we think that he and others in the long term bear camp are wrong. Further below is the evidence marshaled by Mr. Ritholtz (actually, apart from the technical analysis he provides, it isn't really evidence at all – it reads like an unsupported opinion). Sure enough, gold has no yield, no conference calls, and no income statements (paraphrasing Jim Grant). That is actually the beauty of it. But that does not mean it 'has no fundamentals', nor does it means that it 'cannot be an investment'. We comment on his article (and its errors) further below.
From Bill Gross: "In trying to be specific about which conditions would prompt a tapering of QE, the Fed tilted overrisked investors to one side of an overloaded and overlevered boat. Everyone was looking for lifeboats on the starboard side of the ship, and selling begat more selling, even in Treasuries. While the Fed’s move may ultimately be better understood or even praised, it no doubt induced market panic. Without the presence of a “Bernanke Put” or the promise of a continuing program of QE check writing, investors found the lifeboats dysfunctional. They could only sell to themselves and almost all of them had too much risk. A band somewhere on the upper deck began to play “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”"