Recent problems in Asia ex-Japan appear solvable. But the time for reform is now if the region's to take the next leap forward in its economic development.
As we head for the fateful FOMC announcement on September 18, US data have continued to moderate. Accordingly, the consensus seems to be converging on a $10-15 billion initial reduction in monthly purchases (mostly focused on the Treasury side and less so on MBS) with any 'tightening' talk tempered by exaggerated forward-guidance discussions and the potential to drop thresholds to appear more easy for longer, since as CS notes, assuming Fed policymakers have learned anything in the last four months, they must know that the markets view “tapering” as “tightening,” even though they themselves for the most part do not. Thus, they are going to need to sugar-coat the message of tapering somehow. But as UBS notes, political risks have grown and there is little clarity on the Fed's thinking about the housing market. This leaves 3 crucial surprise scenarios for the FOMC "Taper" outcome.
An increasing cacophony of prognosticators are of the status-quo sustaining belief that stock and bond prices will rally next week when the Fed announces the taper. As Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann notes, the thinking goes that alleviation of the uncertainty will cause a "relief rally." However, as Haselmann notes, since the Fed has provided 5 years’ worth of massive stimulus that has launched asset prices to record highs, the commencement of the withdrawal process is significant... and any relief rally that ensues next Wednesday should be sold. His thoughts extend from Indonesian central bank's dilemma to European political instability, and the next stage of the Syrian crisis...
Wealth has besotted people since time immemorial. It’s accrued, amassed, hidden, stolen and we would even die sometimes for it, or at least knock someone off more than likely to get what they have.
1:1 In the beginning, Ben Bernanke hath said, let there be liquidity.
1:6 And so each among them sayeth the following benediction: “May the Fed bless you and keep you; may the Fed extend its balance sheet to shine upon you; and may the Fed lift up asset prices and protect you from harm”
It would appear that the new normal's Bond gurus are struggling with the weight of the 'Taper'-ing, deleveraging, 'special-repo'-ing, government-repress-ing, EM-crisis-ing world of extreme fast money flows that the Fed has thrust upon us. Just 3 short months ago, Jeff Gundlach said that he "expects the absolute highest for the 10-year yield this year is 2.4%, but he expects it to stay closer to 2%." However, as the 10Y yield presses up towards 3.0%, he told CNBC (in this brief but insightful clip on world flows and how he sees markets playing out) that "the 10Y Yield may go up to as highs as 3.1% by year-end," because "investors have switched from "I don't care about volatility, I want income" to "I don't care about income, I dont want volatility." He sees no sign of that changing...
This chart seems to sum up our fiscal challenges as well as anything else...
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. It’s a mammoth of a reform bill and runs 844 pages (plus 350 pages of annexes). A needed overhaul of the 1986 law, but it will have its downsides too.
Japanese finances are in a shambles and very soon investors are going to run screaming from the Yen and JGB markets.
Moments ago, Syria relented to the main gating condition that would prevent an all out escalation, and as Russia urged it to, has permitted an inspection of last Wednesday's alleged chemical weapons attack by UN inspectors. The WSJ reports that "Syria would allow United Nations inspectors currently present in Damascus immediate access to areas around the capital where the opposition accused the regime of using chemical weapons against fighters and civilians five days ago. A presenter on Syrian state television reading a statement attributed to an unnamed official at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the agreement was reached after a meeting between Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and Angela Kane, the U.N. disarmament chief, who arrived in Damascus on Saturday." Of course, since demand for said inspection was just a strawman as the last time the UN inspected a "certain" chemical weapons attack by Assad it found "rebels may have used sarin" instead, and the US was absolutely certain Syria would not relent to an inspection thus allowing a full scale military attack, the US is now downplaying compliance with this key demand, by saying it is too little too late.
The 10Y Treasury yield has jumped nearly 130bp from its low point in early May. Given the tight ranges and low volatility of yields during the most of QE era, this kind of move in just over 3 months seemed stunning to some investors. Consequently, the question that has come up often recently is: what has been driving Treasury yields? As UBS' Boris Rjavinski notes, several years ago a rate strategist would give you a straightforward and predictable answer: inflationary expectations, economic growth projections, and current and future monetary policy. But now, as Rjavinksi notes, central banks and politics in the driver seat. Volatility will remain elevated as we await key messages from the Fed in September, and U.S. political calendar will start to heat up as we approach the “drop-dead” dates to fund the government and extent the dent ceiling.
Following yet another rout in Asia overnight, which since shifted over to Europe, US equity futures have stabilized as a result of a modest buying/short-covering spree in the 10 Year which after threatening to blow out in the 2.90% range and above, instead fell back to 2.81%. Yet algos appear confused by the seeming USD weakness in the past few hours (EURUSD just briefly rose over 1.34) and instead of ploughing head first into stock futures have only modestly bid them up and are keeping the DJIA futs just above the sacred to the vacuum tube world 15,000 mark. A lower USDJPY (heavily correlated to the ES) did not help, after it was pushed south by more comments out of Japan that a sales tax hike is inevitable which then also means a lower budget deficit, less monetization, less Japanese QE and all the other waterfall effect the US Fed is slogging through. Keep an eye on the 10 Year and on the USD: which signal wins out will determine whether equities rise or fall, and with speculation about what tomorrow's minutes bring rife, it is anybody's bet whether we get the 10th red close out of 12 in the S&P500.
As is well-known by now, one of the main reasons why the Fed's hands are tied when it comes to the future of QE, is the dramatic drop in the US budget deficit which cuts down on the amount of monetizable gross issuance (read Treasurys) and for which a big reason is that the GSEs have shifted from net uses of government cash to net sources. So in what may be the best news for Bernanke, and/or his successor, we learn that according to a report written by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) inspector general and reviewed by Reuters, "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are masking billions of dollars losses because of the level of delinquent home loans they carry."
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.