Gold is 3.6% higher this week and is now over 9% higher year to date. The dollar saw sharp falls this week on growing doubts that the Federal Reserve will be able to raise interest rates. The gains this week were due to increasing concerns about the U.S. and global economy.
Following years of QE-inspired excess returns, investors in 2016 suddenly find themselves embroiled in a broad and brutal bear market. The 10-year rolling return loss from commodities (-5.1%) is currently the worst since 1938, and equal-weighted US stock index down 25% from recent highs. However, in BofAML's view, the pertinent question for investors is whether the current bear market represents a healthy "reset" of both profit expectations and equity and credit valuations, or more ominously, the onset of a broader economic malaise that will require a major policy intervention in coming months to reverse.
If the Wall Street Journal meant to reach for reassuring comfort, they fell far short. After spending late summer last year and into the fall proclaiming that manufacturing didn’t matter (12%), the newest round of talking points are “false positives.” In other words, manufacturing and industry does matter, after all, but just “not enough” to tip into full recession. Last year was supposed to be “the” year because of faith in only the BLS’ numbers. It was advertised as full deliverance of the promises of QE and ZIRP, but instead 2015 delivered only recessionary impressions.
Investors are too complacent (the Minsky-Moment). Too many are still trying to profit from the Fed subsidy of past stimulus. Investors remain loaded in risk assets, incentivized by the need to beat peers and benchmarks and comforted into complacency by the Fed ‘put’. The true level of risk is being ignored. The pervasive mentality of seeking maximum risk has become a terrible risk/reward trade for two main reasons...
In addition to the Fed's credibility, one other privately-controlled organization that has seen its credibility completely crushed in recent months is the Goldman economic forecasting team (if not the team that "forecasts" Fed monetary policy, simply because Goldman controls the Fed and tells it what to do; as such what Goldman "thinks" the Fed will do is usually ironclad) whose Jan Hatzius "for what it's worth" forecast above trend growth for the US economy in 2014. So, "for what it's worth", here is Goldman jobs report post-mortem (in a parallel report Goldman just cut its Q3 GDP forecast from 2.0% to 1.9%), in which the bank admits that the report was a disaster, and that as a result "we now see action at the December meeting as a close call."
From a financial market psychology standpoint it is however very important that central bankers don’t appear clueless. A majority of market participants needs to be able to suspend disbelief to an sufficient extent, i.e., they must be able to share in the collective hallucination that central bankers actually do know what they are doing. When it is no longer possible to maintain this facade, many things are likely to be suddenly questioned – and among these is the question whether it makes sense to remain exposed to yet another gargantuan asset bubble.
While we have exposed the ugly under-belly of today's jobs data, mainstream media is spinning it as a 'Goldilocks' report with enough hits-and-misses for every hawk or dove. The market's initial reaction signals rising expectations of a September rate hike but, as Goldman's Jan Hatzius explains, they continue to expect the FOMC to keep policy rates unchanged at the September 16-17 meeting.
And it's far from over.
It is absolutely normal for employers to completely miss the signs of impending doom. The 2007 extreme occurred just before the carnage of mass layoffs that was to begin a couple of months later. Employers were still clueless that the end of the housing bubble would have devastating effects. If they were clueless then, they are in an advanced state of delirium and delusion now. The devastating 1973-74 bear market, which cut the value of stocks by 50%, was in its early stages. This was an early example of employers being late to the funeral. Similar employer hoarding of workers has been associated with bubbles in the more recent past and has led to massive retrenchment, usually within 18 months or so.
Peering into the froth of a cappuccino, we noticed various sized bubbles. There is a fine line between froth and bubbles. As we continued our gaze, both eventually disappeared. Stirring made the frothy bubbles disappear more quickly. Markets are beginning to stir (more later). Unsustainable states ultimately end.
UK debt has continued to rise throughout the recovery and has soared to an eye-watering £1.48 trillion. In recent days, a slew of foreign exchange analysts have warned that the pound is vulnerable to falling in value. The incumbent government have not reined in public and trade deficits and have been accused of juicing the property market and the economy to postpone a crisis until after the election.
Sentiment in general remains poor and all the focus is on gold's weakness in dollar terms, despite gold's strong gains in euro terms in 2014 and so far in 2015. Poor sentiment is of course bullish from a contrarian perspective and suggests all the froth has been washed out of the gold market.
After the abysmal March payrolls number, there were expectations in the whisper forecast of today's initial claims that there would be a sizable jump in initial unemployment claims, one that may break the streak of 4 consecutive prints under 300K. It did not happen, and in fact the number which was released moments ago by the BLS indicated continued strength in the US labor market, where there was 281K initial claims in the past week, just under the 283K expected and higher than the revised 267K from last week. This is the lowest level for this average since June 3, 2000 when it was 281,500. The previous week's average was revised down by 250 from 285,500 to 285,250.
With all deference to Dr. Richard Fisher, the surging dollar is not good for either the economy or ultimately a stronger labor market. This is particularly the case when the dollar is only stronger because the rest of the world is on the brink of recession and or deflation. The negative impact of a surging dollar in a weak economic environment will more than likely outweigh any positive inputs for the U.S. consumer. Time will tell, but the evidence is mounting that the we are likely closer to the end of the current economic cycle than the beginning.
Payroll employment continued to grow at a strong pace, exceeding consensus expectations. The unemployment rate fell due to lower participation. With the final employment report in hand before the upcoming FOMC meeting, we think the Committee will modify its forward guidance on March 18. Our forecast remains for the first hike in the fed funds rate to occur in September, but today's data affords the possibility of a hike as early as June