Notes From Underground: The ECB, FOMC Minutes and Dudley’s Speech

August 17, 2017

On Wednesday, I joined Rick Santelli for a chat, which was centered on the ECB and other central banks’ impact on global equity and debt markets. Just before the appearance, there appeared a Reuters story that said President Draghi would not speak about the ECB’s potential Quantitative Tightening, which my readers know supported what I have been steadfast in my conjecturing about possible ECB actions. IN A NOD TO A READER (hello, AGH), while it appears that all central banks pursue a common policy, THERE’S NO MONETARY EQUIVALENCE. Yes, they all purport to raise inflation the political variables each push for different outcomes.

(Click on the image to watch me and Rick discuss the central banks.)

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Notes From Underground: Draghi, the ECB and Germany

August 15, 2017

The upcoming meeting in Jackson Hole has become the focus of the global investment community. Why? After Draghi’s comments in Sintra, Portugal on June 27 sent global bond yields higher, the financial world will gauge whether¬† Draghi’s speech will signal the beginning of their own balance sheet shrinking. If Draghi were to announce the end of the quantitative easing, the impact would be for the EURO to rise for European BOND YIELDS to rise and, most importantly, the greatest increase in yields would be in the peripheral bonds (and maybe the most significant impact will be on global equity markets). BUT LET ME BE CLEAR, I THINK THIS IS A VERY LOW PROBABILITY EVENT and I will do a deep analysis as to why. Yet again:

1. In yesterday’s Financial Times, there was an article titled, “Draghi Faces Easing Dilemma A Strong Euro Sparks Concern.” The article notes that the STRONG EURO keeps inflation down and therefore prevents the ECB from fulfilling its 2% inflation mandate. Draghi is caught in a dilemma of his own making and there really is no way out as long as it speaks to the idea of a 2% inflation target that is self-imposed by the bank. Many months ago I conjectured that President Draghi would prefer a strong rally in the euro before the September German election. A strong euro silences the Bundesbank as it allows for Draghi to use a strong currency as a measure of the success for the ECB’s policy. If the EURO rallies further it will harm the French, Italian and Spanish economies, which are starting to experience growth, than it will impact the Germans. A one-price euro will not lead to Germany losing its edge within the EU for a single currency prevents that so the peripheral nations will have to engage in wage restraint to sustain its recent growth. The idea of wage suppression will hinder a rise in inflation providing the greatest problem for Draghi’s ECB;

2. In Tuesday’s FT, Thomas Hale and Kate Allen wrote a story titled, “Hopes For European ‘Safe’ Bonds Lean On Pre-Crisis Techniques.”¬† The reporters visit the issues of “aiming to make the continent’s financial system safer, the idea involves taking sovereign bonds from different European countries and packaging them together into safe bonds that would then carry various levels of risk.” This is what we called financially engineered sub-prime debt a decade ago. Take the German bunds, French oats and bundle with Greek, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish sovereign debt and you have a AAA instrument. The urge to create a EUROBOND is the essence of Draghi’s ECB and there are numerous ideas of how to achieve this end. As the article point out, “It is also a way of bringing European sovereign debt markets closer together without explicit ‘mutualisation,’ where debt is collectively issued by multiple countries, an idea that has proved politically toxic in Germany, in particular.”

The politics of the eurobond have become difficult because the Germans are VERY aware that it is the Bavarian Burghers who will be the creditors of the entire project. Every debt instrument must be guaranteed by credible collateral and several of the European peripheral nations lack the credibility of a solid creditor and making matters worse the weak creditors do not have a printing press. Why would Mario Draghi wish to undermine his efforts to backdoor his way to a EUROBOND by slowing the accumulation of debt assets. THE ECB IS NOT THE FED FOR DRAGHI HAS SET IT ON A PATH TO FULFILL THE MANDATE OF THE PRESERVATION OF THE EURO. Draghi needs to maintain the status quo until September 24 when he believes that Chancellor Merkel will prevail in the German election. Merkel has been a willing partner with President Draghi in his efforts to create a more perfect European union;

3. Also in Tuesday’s FT Claire Jones reported on the effort of challenges to the ECB’s QE program. Germany’s HIGH COURT issued an opinion that said some of the ECB’s actions may violate EU law.

In a case brought to Karlsruhe by “… right-wing members of Germany’s establishment” the German Constitutional Court issued a statement that there are “… significant reasons indicate that the ECB decisions governing the asset purchase programme violate the prohibition of monetary financing and exceed the monetary policy mandate of the ECB.” The court decided to refer the case to the European Court of Justice to get a sense of what the ECJ opinion is before hearing the case. The process could take a year before the German Court hears the case. The article cites a point made by German lawyer Hendrik Haag that “the wait for the ECJ decision may well be an elegant way out for the ECB. It may put pressure on the ECB to be a bit quicker with tapering the ECB programme.”

I TOTALLY DISAGREE WITH THIS LAWYERLY ASSESSMENT. In my view it gives the ECB further time to increase the balance sheet so furthering the effort for a EUROBOND. I will await Draghi’s speech from Jackson Hole but again, THE ECB HAS A MUCH DIFFERENT DESIRE THEN THE FED. Mario Draghi will play for time to hope for the best for his guardian angel, Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Heads up: I will be on CNBC with Rick Santelli tomorrow morning around 9:20am CDT.

Notes From Underground: Recapping a Week of Notes

August 13, 2017

Lately, the primary themes in the media revolve around the bombastic rhetoric from the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea. Again, the key to a genuine possibility of warfare will be the beginning of the evacuations of Americans from Seoul, South Korea. The more important elements for global financial markets seems to be directed at ECB President Mario Draghi’s upcoming Jackson Hole speech. In Thursday’s Financial Times, Mohamed El-Erian asked the paramount question concerning the shrinking of central bank balance sheets: “… how many systemically important central banks can effectuate the policy pivot without undermining the over-all liquidity support that has been critical for decoupling asset prices from fundamentals.”

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Notes From Underground: Putting This Week In Perspective

August 10, 2017

Just when the volatility sellers were heading to the beaches to bask in the glow of easy money comes the tweeter-in-chief to crush the complacency. The airwaves were full opiners who warned of a market that is fully valued.Gundlach and Dalio added their two cents for measure, espousing the need to hold GOLD as a hedge against geopolitical uncertainties. Again, it is not political uncertainty but the malfeasance of central banks that should be the concern of global investors. Deflation is the ingredient for central bank panic. As Peter Boockvar reminded his readers today: Gold is a monetary haven.

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Notes From Underground: Shelter From the Storm

August 9, 2017

Not a word was spoke between us,there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point ,had been left unresolved
Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
Come in, she said, I’ll give you shelter from the storm

When Bob Dylan released this song 42 years ago it was on the album Blood on the Tracks. When the FED embarked on its QE1, QE2 and QE3 it was to respond to the blood coursing through the streets of the U.S. financial system. The U.S. banking system was threatened with insolvency and the FED‘s monetary injections sheltered the banking system from a storm of forced systemic liquidation of assets. QE1 coupled with a questionable TARP program did prevent a systemic liquidation but QE2 and QE3 I always believed were superfluous but in the land of counterfactuals it is an impossible point to prove.

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Notes From Underground: Yield Curves Are Needles and Pins

August 7, 2017

I saw her today, I saw her face
It was the face I loved, and I knew
I had to run away
And get down on my knees and pray,that they go away
Still it begins
Needles and pins

These lyrics seem to describe the market’s relationship with Janet Yellen and her FOMC board. When I blog about yield curves it seems to elicit the greatest response as traders are trying to position themselves in a low-risk, high-reward trade. There was a question on last night’s POST from RLD concerning the 2/10 curve and the possibility of buying bank stocks, if my thesis about a steepening curve reaction to QT is correct. This is an interesting query and reflects on the intelligence of the readers of NOTES. The mainstream media reports on the relationship of yield curves and bank stocks in a regular fashion and theorizes that the correlation is high: Steeper curves beget higher bank revenues resulting in higher bank stocks.T he correlation is far from consistent as bank stocks were making highs in 2007 even as the curve dramatically flattened.

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Notes From Underground: Jobs Report Gives the Fed the OK to QT

August 6, 2017

Friday’s unemployment report was on the strong side, although certainly not much stronger than market consensus. Yes, nonfarm payrolls were on the high-end but average hourly earnings were right on target, hours worked remained the same at 34.5 and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.3%, but that could be due to a slight rounding error. The markets traded as if the FED could possibly raise rates in September, but I believe the jobs report provides the impetus for the FED to commence with QT. The U.S. yield curves reacted in such a manner as the 2/10 curve actually rose 3.5 basis points, closing at 91.5.

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Notes From Underground: Unemployment Friday, the Data On Which We’re Dependent?

August 3, 2017

The first Friday of August brings the BLS jobs report. Does it matter for the markets?In my opinion, not unless this number is above 300,000 or the rate falls below 4.1%. Average hourly earnings (AHE) is the critical variable of the economic story. The FOMC and others have been adamant that it is the fear of wage inflation that drives the discussion about either an interest rate increase or a “relatively soon” beginning of quantitative tightening. For our preparation, the market estimate is for a nonfarm payroll number of 170,000, an unemployment rate of 4.4% and, more importantly, a 0.3% increase in AHE. As an aside, a number that Art Cashin likes is the hours worked per week, which is expected to remain at 34.5. The hours worked are examined because even if new jobs aren’t created a strong economy will get employers to seek longer hours for current workers.

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Notes From Underground: I Knew I Would Return

August 2, 2017

Last week’s FOMC meeting proved BORING and left me speechless … but not thoughtless. The only phrase of significance was the use of “RELATIVELY SOON” in placing some forward guidance to the beginning of quantitative tightening (h/t Boockvar). We have no idea what “relatively soon” means but I continue to ask: WHY WAIT? Yes, it may be because the FED is nervous about the potential of DEBT CEILING caused by a Congress filled with know-nothings and do-nothings clogging the day-to-day financing of government operations.

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Notes From Underground: Cleaning Out The Financial News Stables

July 24, 2017

Today, Rick Santelli and I offered insights into this week’s FOMC meeting, coupled with the recent ECB actions. I noted that the Italian BOND FUTURES Monday were trading above the June 27 close when ECB President Mario Draghi roiled global credit markets with his Sintra,Portugal speech, which suggested that the removal of a deflationary scare would allow the ECB to begin tapering its QE program. The fact that Italian 10-year yields are lower today than four weeks ago is indicative of the power of the QE bond purchases. Why?

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