A few years back Chairman Bernanke was asked by a financial reporter how confident he was that the Fed could easily start the process of withdrawing from the accommodation of “unorthodox” monetary policy. Some might argue (ourselves included) that the answer 'should' be something like “very confident” or “We feel we have the right tools and the right people to manage that process”. Instead the answer given was “100%”. At last week's press conference, Chairman Bernanke, in CitiFX Technicals' view, looked like the “cat that got the cheese", despite the more downbeat message he was giving? Why? Because he got his way. In their “conspiracy theory” interpretation it is likely that Janet Yellen’s nomination will indeed be announced in the near future and that tapering is now firmly back off the table despite the guidance given in recent months to the contrary. Bonds seem to agree (so far).
Men have had their stab at making the world into what they wanted and they made a pretty poor show of it all we might say when we look at the economy.
There was a time, long ago, when some still believed the myth that the Federal Reserve, and the selection of its Chairman, were supposed to be apolitical and impartial. Luckily, that was a long time ago, because otherwise some may question not only the logic, but the motives, behind what the media reports is an aggressive push by White House officials to "muster support among Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee to back Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen," according to Reuters which cited three sources said on Friday, laying the groundwork for her expected nomination to the Fed's top job. If the White House is suddenly intent on picking Mrs. Yellen (or is that Mister?), one wonders just how diluted her "runner up" credibility at the Fed would be, since it has been made quite clear she was continuously Obama's B (or lower) grade choice to head the Fed, with Summers at the very top. And of course, a just as important question is how even more diluted is Obama's credibility and political brand if a few ultra-liberal Senators can impose their choice for next Fed head over that of both Larry Summers, of the "Committee to save the world" and the president himself.
It is undeniable that America is thoroughly addicted to fiat stimulus. Every aspect of our economy, from stocks, to bonds, to banks, and by indirect extension main street, is now utterly dependent on the continued 24/7 currency creation bonanza. The stock market no longer rallies to the tune of increased retail sales, growing export markets or improved employment expectations. In fact, “good” economic news today is met with panic and market sell-offs! Why? Because investors and banks still playing equities understand full well that any sign of fiscal improvement might mean the end of the private Federal Reserve’s QE pajama party. They know that without the Fed’s opiate-laced lifeline, the economy dies a fast and painful death. All mainstream economic news currently revolves around the Fed, as pundits clamor to divine whether the latest signals mean the free money will flow, trickle, or dry up. At the edge of the Federal Reserve’s 100th anniversary, it is vital that we see the current developments for what they really are – history changing, in a fashion so violent they are apt to scar America forever.
- Expectations for Fed to begin to taper asset purchases by USD 10-15bln
- Ranges for pace of Treasury purchases: high USD 45bln, low USD 25bln
- Ranges for pace of MBS purchases: high USD 45bln, low USD 30bln
- Some see FOMC lowering unemployment threshold from current 6.5%
- Summary of Economic Projections and Press Conference from Fed Chairman Bernanke follow the announcement
With Syria now quickly fading from the headlines and Wall Street believing that Yellen is a "shoe in" for the Fed, what headwinds still remain for the markets ahead...
Gold and silver futures surged 2.1% and 3.6% respectively and the dollar fell on the open in Asia prior to determined selling which again capped precious metal prices. Analysts and media attributed the price gains on the withdrawal of Larry Summers from the race to be the new Fed Chairman, leaving Janet Yellen as the new frontrunner.
When the tracking of potential Ben replacement candidates for Fed Chairman by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, and InTrade prop bet replacement, started it had Janet Yellen as a solid favorite. Shortly thereafter, as news leaked that Obama's favorite was Larry Summers, and as the president made it quite clear Yellen's candidacy was certainly not on the front Burner with the "Mr. Yellen" Freudian slip, Summer's odds soared and hit a contract high of 85% last week. Over the weekend, anyone who had put money on Summers, was Harvarded and lost all capital at risk, and now, it is Yellen who is once again firmly in the lead with her odds soaring right back to just why of 90%, and well-ahead of second placed Don Kohn at 17%. Ironically, while the market never actually corrected for the "market negative" that Larry Summers' candidacy is now spun to be, it is surely uncorrecting now that he is out.
It had become clear that the President's own political base in the Senate were not going to support Mr. Summer's ascendancy. The eye of the Press will now turn to Mr. Kohn, Ms. Yellen, who does not seem to have the support of Mr. Obama, and the long, though interesting shot, of Stanley Fischer. Mr. Obama appears to be easing into a lame duck presidency far earlier than once thought and the reality of Obamacare will hit Main Street on October 1 which may tip the scales further out of his control. It may not be either the best of times or the worst of times but very volatile times that mark this week.
"Market response - will add to downward pressure on bond yields and may be worth another 10-15bps on the downside. FX terms - hard to see it as anything but USD negative for now. Main buying opportunities probably high current account deficit EM, AUD,and JPY. Discussion of waning Summers odds had been in market last week so we would see impact on JPY in 0.5-1.0 percent range. Whether this puts Yellen in driver's seat is unclear, so this Wednesday tapering and FOMC forward guidance are still the focus. We still think tapering schedule rather than FOMC language will be the main market driver."
I am writing to withdraw my name for consideration to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
It has been a privilege to work with you since the beginning of your Administration as you led the nation through a severe recession into a sustained economic recovery built on policies to promote employment and strengthen the middle class. This is a complex moment in our national life. I have reluctantly concluded that any possible confirmation process for me would be acrimonious and would not serve the interests of the Federal Reserve, the Administration, or ultimately, the interests of the nation’s ongoing economic recovery. I look forward to continuing to support your efforts to strengthen our national economy by creating a broad based prosperity and to reform our financial system so that no President ever again faces what you and your economic team faced upon taking office in 2009.
"A broad-based tax cut, for example, accommodated by a program of open-market purchases to alleviate any tendency for interest rates to increase, would almost certainly be an effective stimulant to consumption and hence to prices. Even if households decided not to increase consumption but instead re-balanced their portfolios by using their extra cash to acquire real and financial assets, the resulting increase in asset values would lower the cost of capital and improve the balance sheet positions of potential borrowers. A money-financed tax cut is essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman's famous "helicopter drop" of money ."
- Ben Bernanke, Deflation: Making Sure "It" Doesn't Happen Here, November 21, 2002
It seems this morning's trial balloon has set the gamblers off as PaddyPower shows that the probability of Larry Summers becoming the next Fed Chair has soared to over 85%. Just six short weeks ago Summers was a long-shot 20% probability and Yellen the shoe-in at 75%. In the meantime, despite over 300 economists putting pen to paper to demand more of the same monetary policy that has not worked; Summers is now more probable that Yellen was at the start. Of course, given today's reaction, traders may start to position for the seemingly inevitable though we suspect that - as usual - we will be told that stocks near their highs are already discounting this and any other potential change.
Earlier today, when we observed the overnight "news" floated by Japan's Nikkei we cautioned that the Nikkei is best known not for breaking news but for floating trial balloons. In other words, the report was merely leaked to gauge the market response. Sure enough, the response was gauged, and here comes the official news, shooting down this latest trial balloon.
- White House Is Saying Reports In Japanese Press That Obama Is Set To Name Larry Summers Are Wrong - Dow Jones
Sure enough, any modest USD strength accumulated on the overnight rumor, is now being promptly unwound.