When Janet Yellen delivered her speech on Friday morning the markets reacted to the dovish overtones via buying of SPOOS, GOLD, BONDS and selling the U.S. dollar. The initial action was less muted as the algo headline readers first though Chairwoman’s words mildly HAWKISH, but as key words were measured in context the sense was Yellen was being dovish in not leaning toward a September rate increase. Yellen did give us a significant barometer of data measurement. It seems that 190,000 increase over a three-month moving average is the FED‘s BOGEY. This Friday’s estimate is 180,000, which now puts more pressure on its importance because of September’s FOMC meeting. As usual, Yellen said,”… the economic outlook is uncertain, and so MONETARY POLICY IS NOT ON A PRESET COURSE,” (emphasis mine).
Janet Yellen and company are discussing the wrong issue. A FED FUNDS rate hike has already taken place due to the increase in LIBOR rates, which has led to a pricing of the December eurodollar futures contract, currently trading at 99.08–an effective six month yield of 92 BASIS POINTS. This due to the Oct. 14 regulatory compliance deadline for money market funds. In order to ensure there’s enough liquidity to protect against unknown outflows, institutional prime funds are shortening the maturities of their commercial paper, CD holdings, pushing up the CP/CD rates and LIBOR with it. Some prime funds have converted to government-only to circumvent the impending regulations, which has created more demand for U.S. Treasuries. (According to the SEC’s July money market report, govt funds had inflows of $77 billion while prime funds saw outflows of $41 billion.) As a result, the TED spread has widened 15 BASIS POINTS during the past two months. The September eurodollar/fed fund futures spread is trading at 53 basis points. WHAT THE FED HAS TO DO IS BEGIN SHRINKING ITS BALANCE SHEET BY 100 BILLION ASSETS A MONTH. Why?
It’s tough to enjoy the final days of summer when the FED can’t just relax their wind pipes. The continued contradictions emanating from those who sit in the same meetings is jeopardizing the Fed’s credibility … AGAIN. Last Monday, San Francisco Fed President John Williams published an economic letter in which he posed the concept of either raising the inflation targets, or the Fed ought to target a NOMINAL GDP level. This was perceived to be an extremely DOVISH view as it would keep the FED on HOLD far longer than the market currently predicts. The problem was that Williams had voiced a HAWKISH view just two weeks earlier. The quick about-face makes me wonder if the Fed’s logo should be the Roman god Janus.
Last Thursday, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney rationalized the Monetary Policy Committee’s aggressive liquidity addition by citing the desire to head off any risk to economic growth and thus increase in unemployment. Rather than wanting to let the markets digest the impact of the Brexit vote, the BOE moved to “reduce uncertainty.” No matter that the British pound had depreciated by 13%, that the Footsie 100 had rallied more than 10% and bond yields actually dropped to record lows.
Wow! Was it quiet in today’s market? The simple answer is yes but Notes From Underground never takes things at face value. The global markets digested Friday’s “robust” employment report and seemed content with the market results: stronger dollar, stronger equities, higher yields and selling of precious metals. The euro and gold were steady today, but the yen and Swiss were weak as the safe haven’s were shunned as the risk-on trade is back en vogue. I have no problem with the market’s assessment of the jobs data but there were other stories that piqued my interest.
This is a brief note attached to a spot I did today with CNBC’s Rick Santelli where we discussed the Bank of England’s decision in full. To my great surprise Mark Carney delivered monetary policy on three fronts: 1. Cut the benchmark rate; 2. Began a new round of QE with purchases of 60 billion pounds of Treasury debt with a 10 billion corporate bond buy kicker; and 3. An enhanced Facility Lending Scheme now labeled as Long-Term Funding Scheme (TFS), which is an imitation of the ECB’s TLTRO, which is meant to get the banks lending the additional BOE-provided liquidity. The British domestic banks will incur penalties if they fail to pass the cheap credit into the financial system. My view still stands. The POWER OF THE TFS IS AMPLE STIMULUS AND THE CARNEY-LED MPC SHOULD HAVE HELD THE RATE CUT AND QE IN RESERVE.
The British Pound dropped 1.5% in response to the aggressive BOE action, the Footsie equity index was up almost 2% and the British gilts rallied as the yields on the long-end of the curve dropped 16 basis points. Carney followed his central bankers down the rabbit hole of “got to do something” for there is a supply shock. My criticism is that the BOE governor acted too quickly and should have let markets continued to seek out the real effects of the Brexit vote. Why are central bankers so terrified of the signals that markets provide about the economy? I will focus on the British pound and the GILTS as a weighing mechanism of market sentiment as we move forward. There is still much to digest concerning Brexit and Prime Minister May has shown herself to be flexible in confronting the EU.
***Tomorrow’s unemployment data is expected to reveal nonfarm payrolls of around 175,000 with a 0.2% increase in average hourly earnings and a jobless rate of 4.8%. Be patient as revisions to last month’s large increase may impact any strong number. If the number is above 280,000 there will be talk of September’s FOMC meeting being in play for a rate rise but after today’s BOE action the FED will be cautious because if Carney fears a large negative impact or supply shock from Brexit Janet Yellen will be loath to raise rates in the face of global headwinds.
Patience is advised in response to a summer market having to decode a great deal of economic nuance. But the most interesting asset class tomorrow will be the U.S. bonds and its reaction to very strong data. Today the U.S. Treasuries rallied strongly on the BOE action, confirming again that global bond markets are all connected by relative value trades. A large nonfarm payroll will test the durability of relative value and most certainly lead to a flattening of the yield curves.
Notes From Underground: The Low Yield of Well-Heeled Boys (Trafficking In Central Bank Counterfactuals)August 3, 2016
Tomorrow the key economic release will be the Bank of England’s interest rate decision. The market is 98% certain there will be at least a 25 basis point rate cut to 0.25%. A majority of analysts also believe that the BOE will increase its asset purchases (QE) from its long, stable level of 375 billion pounds. I DON’T THINK THE BOE IS GOING TO BE AGGRESSIVE AND WILL WAIT TO SEE FURTHER EVIDENCE OF ECONOMIC DATA TO CONFIRM A SOFTENING IN ACTIVITY IS UNDERWAY. A rate cut will accomplish NOTHING except a slight drop in the currency. The recent economic data has been soft but after all the vituperative speech and dire predictions after the vote to LEAVE the European Union, the economy was expected to pause until the market could sort out the hyperbole of negativity.
Was today risk on or risk off? The U.S. dollar continued its recent weakness as the world’s major currencies all rallied against the “safe haven” greenback. The Reserve Bank of Australia cut its interest rate last night but even the Aussie dollar gained against its sister fiat currency. Global equity markets were down as the Japanese Nikkei was weak as the inverse correlated Yen was higher by one-and-a-half percent. Yes, equity markets failed to send the U.S. currency higher.
This week brings Prime Minister Abe’s fiscal plan, the Reserve Bank of Australia’s rate decision, the Bank of England’s monetary results and U.S. nonfarm payrolls on Friday. So let’s put some perspective to tonight’s main events. The RBA will announce its overnight interest rate and consensus is calling for a 25 basis point CUT to 1.5%. Analysts believe that the weakness in the natural resource sector is aiding the reduction in capital expenditure. Also, Aussie inflation is at the bottom of the RBA‘s target range, which provides rationale for the RBA. I am not so sure of a CUT for this is coming at the end of Governor Stevens’s term at the RBA. Dr. Phillip Lowe will take over September 16 so this is the penultimate meeting for Mr. Stevens.
On Wednesday, the FOMC left its interest rate policy in tact as it awaits more data before deciding to change interest rates. The FOMC statement wanted to reflect some underlying hawkishness but the market is reticent to accept the veracity of Fed releases. The DOLLAR initially rallied as the algo deemed the “hawkish” language a positive for the dollar and bearish for the precious metals but upon a very quick review the market reversed and now demands that the Fed reveal its Missouri lineage and “SHOW ME.” The yield curve gave the FED some credence by flattening in response to a change in some of the rhetoric, “near-term risks to the economic outlook have diminished.” This provides the FED the flexibility to respond to self-diagnosed headwinds in an effort to keep rates at present levels for as long as the DOVE can fly. The FED is pinned not by U.S. data but by the actions of the ECB and the BOJ.