Uninspiring day. Light ROff, but nothing major.
In absence of hard data, subject to rumours and sentiment.
The last time we saw a bevy of regurgitated European rumors shortly refuted was last Friday. Today we get a redux, following a hard push by none other than Spiegel (precisely as we predicted a month ago: "And now, time for Spiegel to cite "unnamed sources" that the EFSF is going to use 3-4x leverage") to imagine a world in which the ESM can be leveraged 4x to €2 trillion. This is merely a replay of last fall when Europe's deus ex for 2 months was clutching at a cobbled up superficial plan of 3-4x EFSF leverage, which ultimately proved futile. Why? Because, just like in 2011, one would need China in on this strategy as there is simply not enough endogenous leverage in either the US or Europe which would make this plan feasible. And China, we are sad to say, has a whole lot of its own problems to worry about right about now, than bailing out the shattered dream of a failed monetary unions still held by a few lifelong European bureaucrats, which this thing is all about. As expected, moments ago Germany refuted everything. Via Reuters: "Germany's finance ministry said on Monday that talk of the euro zone's permanent bailout fund being leveraged to 2 trillion euros via private sector involvement was not realistic, adding that any discussion of precise figures was "purely abstract." This also explains why we devoted precisely zero space to this latest leverage incarnation rumor yesterday: we were merely waiting for the refutation.
Dick Fisher speaks: "Just recently, in a hearing before the Senate, your senator and my Harvard classmate, Chuck Schumer, told Chairman Bernanke, “You are the only game in town.” I thought the chairman showed admirable restraint in his response. I would have immediately answered, “No, senator, you and your colleagues are the only game in town. For you and your colleagues, Democrat and Republican alike, have encumbered our nation with debt, sold our children down the river and sorely failed our nation. Sober up. Get your act together. Illegitimum non carborundum; get on with it. Sacrifice your political ambition for the good of our country—for the good of our children and grandchildren. For unless you do so, all the monetary policy accommodation the Federal Reserve can muster will be for naught.”"
- Obama, Romney tiptoe around housing morass as they woo voters (Reuters) ... just as ZH expected
- Poll Finds Obama in Better Shape Than Any Nominee Since Clinton (Bloomberg)
- Romney on Offense, Says Obama Can’t Help Middle Class (Bloomberg)
- Fed’s Fisher Says U.S. Inflation Expectations Rising (Bloomberg)
- Citigroup Warns Irish Investors to Plan for Losses (Bloomberg)
- Central Banks Flex Muscles (WSJ)
- China says U.S. auto trade complaint driven by election race (Reuters)
- Brussels sidesteps China trade dispute (FT)
- How misstep over trading fractions wounded ICAP's EBS (Reuters)
- Ex-CME programmer pleads guilty to trade secret theft (Reuters)
- Income squeeze will persist, says BoE (FT)
- South African miners return to work, unrest rumbles on (Reuters)
If you live long enough—knock on wood—pretty soon it’ll add up to real money.
Yesterday, when the market was plunging (by less than a whopping 1%, yet magically defending the 13K "retirement off" threshold in the DJIA), we wondered: where is the Fed's favorite messageboard: WSJ "journalist" Jon Hilsenrath. We found out at 3 am, when instead of releasing another soon to be refuted rumor of more easing, we discovered that the scribe was busy doing something very different: discussing the pros and cons of the Chairsatan's legacy.
The case for ultra easy monetary policies has been well enough made to convince the central banks of most Advanced Economies to follow such polices. They have succeeded thus far in avoiding a collapse of both the global economy and the financial system that supports it. Nevertheless, it is argued in this stunningly accurate paper via none other than the Dallas Fed (and BIS economist William White), that the capacity of such policies to stimulate “strong, sustainable and balanced growth” in the global economy is limited. Moreover, ultra easy monetary policies have a wide variety of undesirable medium term effects - the unintended consequences. They create malinvestments in the real economy, threaten the health of financial institutions and the functioning of financial markets, constrain the “independent“ pursuit of price stability by central banks, encourage governments to refrain from confronting sovereign debt problems in a timely way, and redistribute income and wealth in a highly regressive fashion. While each medium term effect on its own might be questioned, considered all together they support strongly the proposition that aggressive monetary easing in economic downturns is not “a free lunch”. Absolute must read!
Following last month's plunge in the Dallas Fed Manufacturing data (which was its biggest miss in 14 months and lowest print in 10 months), today's -1.6 print was the biggest jump in 7 months. From last month's -13.2, against an expectation of -7 this month, the -1.6 'beat' was very 'impressive' though obviously still negative. Critically though, once again, much of the rise in the index is predicated on the hope-section of the survey as while current activity indices such as production, new orders, and growth rates fell (and inventories rose), their corresponding future expectation indices all rose (even though expectations of the general activity index were mixed). Notably, the Prices Paid index jumped the most in 19 months. Once again it appears that good is bad, bad is better, but terrible is awesome; as the market's entirely lost discounting mechanism has no idea what to do with this flashing red headline.
Some in the markets think that the Fed effectively targets equity prices, meaning that to predict Fed policy, one merely needs to track the US stock market. There is a curious circularity to this view, however: the Fed will not launch QE3 so long as stock prices are high, yet the stock market is high because it anticipates QE3. BofAML's chart-of-the-day is intrguingly similar to our 'QE Hopeyness' chart as it shows that stock and bond prices have decoupled since the summer, as QE3 expectations overwhelmed the weaker macroeconomic data to buoy equities. Now that recent data have improved, yields have risen - but so too have stocks. This "heads I win, tails you lose" aspect of stock prices rising regardless of the macro backdrop, BofAML believes, makes them a far less useful signal for Fed officials. Moreover, it creates the risk that the equity market could sell off after the 12-13 September FOMC meeting if the Fed disappoints. Right now, however, we are in an anti-Goldilocks period in which the data are too hot for clear-cut Fed easing, but too cold to support a sustained rebound — anything but "just right".
The presidential season has started in earnest. First to hit the hustings was the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Eric Rosengren, who, true to his blue-state roots, pressed the case for an open-ended asset purchase program. Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher made the red-state argument for easing off the monetary gas pedal. Increased chatter from Fed officials is a marker Morgan Stanley's Vince Reinhart has long-identified as signifying increased chance of Fed action. And we are hearing it. But why do Fed officials talk so much in advance of action? Fed officials must be disappointed by an economic outlook that falls short of both of their objectives. They individually think that policy can do better, but they cannot collectively agree on how.
With expectations for a muddle-through slight positive print, the headline Dallas Fed index just printed at -13.2 (exp. 1.9). This is its lowest level since September of last year and the biggest miss of expectations since May of last year. The headline index is teetering on the edge of its worst levels since 2009 as the month to month change in the general business activity index dropped a massive 19pts - its largest drop since April 2005. Specifically it appears the outlook for capital expenditures was among the largest sub-index to have its hope crushed - and this strongly suggests (and confirms) a sub-50 ISM print.
Fed governors regurgitate it time and again to rationalize their policies.
Reflecting on yesterday's monetary-policy-hope-driven rally, UBS' Art Cashin prefers to focus on Richard Fisher's very frank (and succinct) speech on the limits of monetary policy and the importance of fiscal policy. Urging everyone to read it, and send it to your Congressman and Senators, he reminds us that Fisher is the only Fed policymaker to have been a banker and a money manager, and in the words of Richard Fisher, he worries that: "there is a growing sense that we are unwittingly, or worse, deliberately, monetizing the wayward ways of Congress."