This week has been loaded with FED OFFICIALS filling the airwaves with thoughts about ending QE or just tapering, with the markets left to discern how, when and how much. Today, the NY FED President presented a speech at the Japan Society in New York City, titled, “Lessons at the Zero Bound: The Japanese and U.S. Experience.” President Dudley compared and contrasted the mistakes made by the Japanese and U.S. monetary authorities and what they had been able to learn from each other. The speech was not critical about recent Japanese monetary moves, which infers that the FED is very comfortable with current BOJ policy. The NYFRB president does tell seem to support Chairman Bernanke in being a ’37er, meaning the FED cannot allow the mistakes made in 1937 by the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve Board to recur. This belief emphasizes that deflation is the most powerful variable that can disrupt the political economy.
Archive for the ‘Fed’ Category
Notes From Underground: Everybody Is Talking At Me, Can’t Hear a Word They’re Saying (Only the Echoes of the Bonds)May 21, 2013
Notes From Underground will resume Thursday night. I wanted to issue an old piece from the day after the Jackson Hole Symposium of August 2012. It refreshes where were then and looking at the world now. Yes, we’ve reissued this piece before, but once you reread, you’ll see it’s still wildly relevant.
I also want to remind my readers: Bernard Connolly will be on with Rick Santelli this Thursday morning on the Santelli Exchange. It takes place between 10-10:30AM CST. Enjoy (and click on link below to read the post)
Now that the FED has provided the U.S. and world financial system with a suit of liquidity, it is trying to figure out how to reduce the amount of material. The word “TAPER” is not my favorite for it fails to define what I believe is the goal of the FOMC. Who cares if the FED reduces it security purchases? That is not the problem. If the economy has any real traction the current balance sheet of more than $3 TRILLION should be quite sufficient to keep interest low. The dilemma is how to remove the LIQUIDITY without causing a collapse in Bernanke’s beloved PORTFOLIO BALANCE CHANNEL.
The much-awaited piece from Jon Hilsenrath about FED “tapering” appeared in the weekend WSJ, and, as promised by the abundant tweets, it delivered very little in providing any new insights into Fed halting of security purchases. The headline, “Fed Maps Exit From Stimulus,” wasn’t a map of any kind and merely seemed to provide the philosopher’s answer to question of what to do when confronted with the fork in the road … TAKE IT. The FED is caught on the horns of a dilemma for it wants to provide some clarity as to how it will end the large-scale asset purchases (LSAP) without sending the market into a downside tailspin. The massive increase in the FED‘s balance sheet has provided the rocket fuel to boost the demand for all types of risky assets but how do they know the economy has enough strength to sustain the rally on its own. It seems that the most important voice now will be Fed Governor Jeremy Stein–more important than Jon Hilsenrath–for he seemed to unnerve Chairman Bernanke with his April 19 speech in which he warned about the distorting impact the Fed was having on risk assets. It seems the Chairman has awoken to the idea that the FED has blown an asset bubble, especially now that the Japanese have added to global liquidity.
First, the RBA finally cut the lending rate by 25 basis points to 2.75%. By the close of the market, the Aussie dollar remained weak as some were surprised by the move. As I promised my readers of NOTES it is the 2/10 yield curve where the indicator of further currency and bank action will be found. The 2/10 steepened a slight three points, but the action ahead will be the key. Failure to take out recent steepener highs will be an indicator that the RBA has more work to do if it wishes to give a boost to the Australian economy.
The last two days has seen two of the world’s key central banks deliver fresh interest rate decisions and there was very little in way of surprises. In a salute to the philosopher Isiah Berlin, I have noted that Chairman Bernanke is a HEDGEHOG and President Draghi a FOX. A hedgehog is one who “views the world through a single defining idea.” The economy is slowing, unemployment is high, inflation is low, so it is appropriate for the FED to buy and continue buying Treasury debt. You say it is not having the desired effect? Buy more. In yesterday’s FOMC statement, the FED noted that ”… FISCAL POLICY IS RESTRAINING ECONOMIC GROWTH.” The meaning of this is that Washington is acting irresponsibly, thus the FED needs to possibly INCREASE its bond and mortgage-backed securities purchases. Whatever it is, QE IS THE ANSWER.
The international distress call is going out from Europe as the overall eurozone unemployment rate reached 12.1%. Germany had a low rate of 5.4% while Spain was more than 27%. So how is the ECB to do deal with the huge discrepancy between the economic performance of its 17 members? If the austerians are being relegated to economic purgatory then the pressure on the ECB to act will be diminished. Cutting rates for the sake of a show of action will be a detraction from the bigger political issue. Why irritate the Bundesbank and Chancellor Merkel by moving the ECB lending rate by a measly 25 basis points?
It appears that the world is awash with Schadenfreude as analysts and pundits are experiencing great satisfaction and joy in the misery of others. Today the European automakers released sales data for March and the numbers were much weaker than the markets had expected. Registrations fell 10 percent and German auto sales dropped 17 percent. It appears that European auto sales in the passenger market are expected to hit 1993 levels. Ford and Peugeot also saw double-digit falls in sales. The euro rally against the YEN is dramatically biting into German car sales and the proof is in the fact that Japanese auto production has increased, and Toyota, Honda and Nissan stock prices have performed very well during the last six months.
This is the question investors all over the world are asking after the massive selloff on Friday. I have argued that gold was a tired bull for the last six months and that global equities had replaced gold as investors’ and traders’ haven and store of value. Gold has done yeoman’s work as a store of value in the world of central bank hyperactivity resulting in negative real yields all over the globe. As gold prices have stagnated, investors have sought out other asset classes to supplant the need for increased risk and hopefully positive returns. Multinational corporations with high dividends have become the new store of value and the rush to unload traditional hard assets for productive real assets has gained traction. The Cypriot debacle scared global investors and sent them scurrying from bank deposits to corporate assets, with a higher yield via dividends and possible appreciation. (Especially if the assets are domiciled in a jurisdiction that has a court system that protects property rights.)
The central banks were in play today and while the Bank of England held to its present course, the Bank of Japan declared that they were now in full battle gear and announced a very aggressive monetary policy agenda. I was surprised by the tenacity of the announced program and certainly by its timing. The recent movements in the YEN, and,especially the EUR/YEN crossrate meant that the BOJ and the Japanese Finance Ministry had some breathing space to allow some of the ill effects of the Cypriot crisis to calm. No such by the BOJ as they “damned the torpedoes and announced full speed ahead.” If other central banks wish to muddle about that is their business but the Japanese are determined to end the deflation that has plagued their economy. The steps that the BOJ announced, which had the greatest impact on the YEN and the Nikkei were: