In May 22 testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke issued another of many similar positive interpretations of central bank policy. Yet again, he continued to argue that quantitative easing has decreased long-term interest rates and produced other benefits. The Fed's polices have not produced the much-promised re-acceleration in economic growth. The standard of living - defined as median household income - has fallen back to the level of 1995. The best approach would be for the Fed to recognize the failure of QE and end the program immediately, thereby allowing price distortions in the markets to correct themselves. By ending the illusion that the Fed can take constructive actions, this might even serve to force federal government leaders to deal with the growing fiscal policy imbalances. Otherwise, debt levels will continue to build and serve to further limit the potential for economic growth.
Despite rising gas prices, rising mortgage rates, slowing income growth and the rise of 'low-quality' part-time jobs, 'con'sumer 'con'fidence 'con'tinues to rise to post-recession highs. However, as Citi's FX Technicals group notes, for the 3rd time in the last 17 year period we may be looking at a 4-year-4-month rise in consumer confidence before a turn lower again; and in spite of the Fed's rosy forecasts (and the market's expectations), we should be careful being too quick to believe that the sluggish economic dynamic that has 'dogged us' for the last 6 years is yet fully behind us.
The optimism over the housing recovery has gotten well ahead of the underlying fundamentals. While the belief was that the Government, and Fed's, interventions would ignite the housing market creating an self-perpetuating recovery in the economy - it did not turn out that way. Instead it led to a speculative rush into buying rental properties creating a temporary, and artificial, inventory suppression. The risks to the housing story remains high due to the impact of higher taxes, stagnant wage growth, re-defaults of the 6-million modifications and workouts and a slowdown of speculative investment due to reduced profit margins. While there are many hopes pinned on the housing recovery as a "driver" of economic growth in 2013 and beyond - the data suggests that it might be quite a bit of wishful thinking.
Everything is going to be just great. Haven't you heard? The stock market is at an all-time high, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that inflation is incredibly low, and the official unemployment rate has been steadily declining since early in Barack Obama's first term. Of course we are being facetious, but this is the kind of talk about the economy that you will hear if you tune in to the mainstream media. They would have us believe that those running things know exactly what they are doing and that very bright days are ahead for America. And it would be wonderful if that was actually true. Unfortunately, as I made exceedingly clear yesterday, the U.S. economy has already been in continual decline for the past decade.
Stocks in Europe recovered from a cautious start to the trading session and gradually edged back into positive territory, though the DAX index in Germany under performed following less than impressive earnings by SAP. Company’s shares fell around 3% after the company trimmed its outlook for 2013 software revenue, blaming slowing economic growth in China. Elsewhere, Akzo Nobel shares fell 5% in early trade after the company said that its Q2 net profit almost doubled from the same period last year thanks to the sale of its North American paints division and a tax gain. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the weekly jobs report, Philadelphia Fed survey for the month of July and earnings report releases from Morgan Stanley, Verizon, BlackRock and Google. Finally, today is the second day of Bernanke's semi-annual testimony.
Farewell "Housing Recovery" - Housing Starts Miss Most Since January 2007, Permits Have Biggest Miss In HistorySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/17/2013 09:16 -0400
In all the noise surrounding Bernanke's rehash of statements made countless times before, today's only relevant data point - June housing starts and permits - was largely ignored. And one can see why: printing at 836K, the starts number was the lowest since August 2012, the second largest sequential drop (down from 928K in May) since 2011 and the biggest miss to expectations of 957K since January 2007! And worse, permits which printed down from 985K to only 911K on expectations of a 1 million headline number, just posted their largest miss... in history.
Bernanke today testifies on monetary policy before the House Financial Services Committee (formerly the Humphrey-Hawkins). The testimony will be released at 8:30 am NY with Q&A after his testimony. Tomorrow he testifies before the Senate Banking Committee but the prepared remarks are the same for both days. Indeed it’s likely that the Q&A will be where all the fun starts. As DB says, he will likely try to pull off the trick of continuing to prepare the groundwork for tapering but try to give bond markets something to help them fight off the pressure of higher yields. With no post-meeting press conference planned for the July 30th/31st FOMC, and Bernanke not scheduled to speak publicly until he appears at the Global Education Forum event on August 7th, this week’s testimony may well be the only remarks we hear directly from the chairman for some weeks.
"In this respect the Gini coefficient had apparently reached in 2006 the previous high seen in 1929, prior to the Great Depression. This is a reminder that capitalism’s natural way of dealing with excesses is via business failure and liquidation; which is why wealth distribution would have become much less extreme as a consequence of the 2008 crisis if losses had been imposed on creditors to bust financial institutions, for example owners of bank bonds, in line with capitalist principles; as opposed to the favoured ‘bailout’ approach pursued for the most part by Washington. This means, unfortunately, not that the problem has been avoided but that the ‘great reckoning’ has been deferred to another day as the speculative classes have continued to game the system by resort to carry trades actively encouraged by the Fed and other central bankers, which is why fixed income markets freak out when they see signs of an exit."
According to most commentators, although not an easy task, experienced and wise policy makers should be able to navigate the US economy away from various bad side effects that come in response to a tighter Fed stance. We suggest that whenever the Fed raises the pace of monetary pumping in order to “revive” the economy it in fact creates a supportive platform for various non-productive bubble activities that divert real wealth from wealth generators. Whenever the US central bank curbs the monetary pumping this weakens the diversion of real wealth and undermines the existence of bubble activities - it generates an economic bust. We suggest that there is no way that the Fed can tighten its stance without setting in motion an economic bust. This would defy the law of cause and effect.
No surprise in today's most important economic report: just as we predicted first thing this morning, "In keeping with the tradition of Baffle with BS, we expect the ISM to come in well above expectations to offset the major Chicago PMI disappointment." Just as expected, the headline June ISM just printed at 50.9, a beat of expectations of 50.5, and up from May's 49. And just to make sure everyone is completely baffled with unbelievable BS, while the New Orders number rose from 48.8 to 51.9, and Production (+4.8), Prices (+3), Inventories (+1.5), and Deliveries (+1.3), all rose, it was the time of Employment Index to drop from 50.1 to 48.7: the first sub-50 print since September 2009. In other words, just as every week/strong economic report is offset by a matchin strong/weak economic report a few days later, expect this Friday's NFP to come in blistering and to deny the ISM weak jobs number especially since Goldman is now warning of a "disappointment" to consensus (and with that put the Taper tantrum back front and center).
Mortgage rates have increased more than 1 percentage point since early May, jumping half a percentage point since last week’s FOMC meeting, raising concerns that this rapid rise may derail the housing recovery and dim the outlook for the broader economy, especially in the context of generally tighter financial conditions. As Goldman notes, the rise in mortgage rates may impact the economy through two broad channels: (1) the direct impact on construction activity and home sales, which feed into the residential investment component of GDP, and (2) the indirect effects of lower home prices and less refinancing activity on consumption. Goldman estimates Housing Starts could plunge 11% in the coming quarters, total home sales could drop 7%, residential investment may fall 6 percentage points, could weigh on home prices, and pull up to 0.4 percentage points from real GDP growth - presenting a significant downside risk to their somewhat rosy current outlook.
Richmond Fed's Lacker: "Falling Markets Should Not Be Too Surprising... Further Volatility Seems Likely"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 06/28/2013 09:24 -0400
"Bond and stock markets fell sharply in response, but that should not be too surprising. The Chairman’s statement forced financial market participants to re-evaluate the likely total amount of securities the Fed would buy under this open-ended purchase plan — in other words, how much liquor would ultimately be poured into the punch bowl. Market participants also had to reconsider their estimate of when the Federal Reserve would begin to remove the punch bowl by raising interest rates. These reassessments appear to have warranted price changes across an array of financial assets. As market participants gain additional insight from the words of Federal Reserve officials or by policy actions in coming quarters, further asset price volatility seems likely." - Richmond Fed's Jeffrey Lacker
There is no greater crime in Washington today than speaking truth about the US economy in public. This is why Ben Bernanke is not being reappointed for another term as Fed Chairman.
- Stocks Fall With China in Bear Market as Bonds Decline (BBG)
- Russia defiant as U.S. raises pressure over Snowden (Reuters) ...
- and sure enough: Kerry Warns Hong Kong and Russia on Snowden (WSJ)
- Slow-Motion U.S. Recovery Searches for Second Gear (WSJ)
- PBOC Sees ‘Reasonable’ Liquidity in China’s Financial System (BBG)
- Italy's Berlusconi faces verdict in underage sex trial (Reuters)
- Fed Monetary Course Difficult for a Bernanke Successor to Alter (BBG)
- Another China central bank worry; companies push into lending (Reuters)
- Gold Miner Writedowns at $17 Billion After Newcrest Fallout (BBG)
- Snowden Faces Often-Posed U.S. Fugitive Question: Where to Run? (BBG)
In the real economy on Main Street, the circumstances are different. If you want to buy a house in the US and you need a conventional mortgage, and if you are not a speculator and want to live in dwelling, your costs have now risen substantially.