During a lengthy and technical-jargon-ridden response, Fed Chair Janet Yellen attempted to defend the fact that she is holding rates around 350bps below "fair" value based on The Taylor Rule. Her argument, simple, John Taylor - the model's creator - is using the wrong rate. Fellow PhD economist Taylor was not amused and responded rapidly on Twitter...
Just last week the European Central Bank (ECB) unveiled a self-produced exposé on its now openly celebrated trading operation. Only an Ivory Tower’d academic or Ph.D economist who’s never spent a day in the real world of business and/or market place could envision this as helping to bolster an image of surety or confidence.
Futures on the S&P 500 slipped 0.3%, as U.S. equities are on track to extend losses for a sixth day. Europe's Stoxx 600 fell to a four-month low, sliding 1% for its sixth decline in seven days, and U.S. crude retreated for a sixth day in the longest losing streak since February. Bond yields sank to records in Germany, Australia after Japan as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said next week’s U.K. vote on European Union membership was a factor in the decision to hold interest rates steady. The Yen surged more than 2% as the Bank of Japan refrained from adding any new stimulus,
I think the first rate hike cycle is over. What Janet Yellen said in response to my question, and if you look at what has happened to the rate hike cycle, is pretty profound. It's as close to the Fed getting to capitulation as I've ever seen, about the efficacy of Fed policy, about the outlook for the economy.
"Yellen sounds like she doesn't have confidence anymore. She is backing away from any forecast. She is simply saying, 'I really don’t want to forecast anymore.' We are done with this forecasting game. The subtext is that 'we've been so wrong forecasting the data, we should stop'."
There is another cycle here that is much more influential on the current market dynamic and should be much easier to spot.When the Fed talks up the economy and promises rate increases, the dollar usually rallies. When the dollar rallies, U.S. multi-national corporate profits take a hit, and the market falls. When the market falls, economic confidence falls and puts pressure on the Fed to maintain easy policy.This is a loop that the Fed does not have the stomach to break.
"...we tried carefully to look at evidence of potential financial instability that might be brewing and some of the hallmarks of that, clearly overvalued asset prices, high leverage, rising leverage, and rapid credit growth. We certainly don’t see those imbalances. And so although interest rates are low, and that is something that could encourage reach for yield behavior, I wouldn’t describe this as a bubble economy."
Earlier today, CNBC's Steve Liesman made two very important, in fact "critical", if about one year overdue, discoveries. The first one was that Americans are angry. The second discovery is that angry Americans largely support Trump over Hillary.
Following yesterday's dollar spike which, which topped the longest rally in the greenback in one month, the prevailing trade overnight has been more of the same, and in the last session of this holiday shortened week we have seen the USD rise for the fifth consecutive day on concerns the suddenly hawkish Fed (at least as long as the S&P is above 2000) may hike sooner than expected, which in turn has pressured WTI below $39 earlier in the session, and leading to weakness across virtually all global risk assets.
The last thing the Fed can bear is for a recession that may be bubbling just under the surface to boil over into full view in the months heading into the election. If that occurs, we all may be seeing a great many press conferences from Mar-a-Lago. That is a development that I’m sure Janet Yellen wants to avoid at all costs.
What happened? It's possible the Fed has seen the market reaction and become alarmed by the complacency. It's true, the probabilities for even a June rate hike—let alone April--declined dramatically in the face of the Fed meeting. That may have alarmed the Fed, and so some members may feel the need to keep the markets more alert.
SF Fed president and flipflopper extraordinaire John Williams told Market News International in an exclusive interview that "he will be advocating for another interest rate hike as early as the April meeting of the Fed's rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee - or, failing that, at the June meeting - provided the economy continues to do as well as it has been." Maybe, or maybe not: "for now, though, the Fed is considering raising rates, not lowering them. Williams says such a move would be "appropriate" if inflation data continues to move toward 2% in coming months as he expects."