Archive for July, 2017

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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Notes From Underground: Mario the Magnificent Keeps the Crowd Enthralled

July 23, 2017

Let me be perfectly clear: THE ECB’s THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE WAS DOVISH.

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Notes From Underground: The BOJ and the ECB Provide the Recipe For … ?????

July 19, 2017

Before I preview the BOJ and ECB I want to expound on the piece that I mentioned in the previous post written by Bloomberg reporter Alexandra Harris, who cites the thoughts of JPMorgan strategists Alex Roever and Kim Harano. The piece lists four arguments for bringing forward the FOMC‘s announcement to shrink its balance sheet:

  1. Economic conditions are supportive of balance sheet run-off;
  2. The vast amount of discussion has already prepared the market and September won’t make it any clearer;
  3. Starting NOW buys a “few extra months” of the measurement of the market impact of normalization;
  4. Finally,September is an “awkward time” because of the murky outlook for addressing the debt limit before funding runs out in October.

I agree with all these arguments and would HOPE the FED announces its intention to start shrinking the balance sheet at next week’s meeting, press conference be damned.

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Notes From Underground: And a Honey Pot Is Stuck On His Nose

July 17, 2017

Wow! The Chinese President doesn’t appreciate being caricatured as children’s character Winnie the Pooh so it’s censored from Chinese social media. A Financial Times article noted “attempts to post the Chinese characters for Winnie’s name on Weibo returned the message ‘content is illegal’ although some users appeared able to circumvent the block.” Regardless of whether some of the posts were able to avoid the censors, the point is the same I have been making for eight years on Notes From Underground. A country that does not allow Google to freely operate makes me suspect of all official government data. The greatest comedy was that the financial media was poking at President Xi and the ruling Communist Party Politburo while at the same time citing the most recent economic data as if it was “truth.” The GDP data came in at 6.9%, exceeding guesstimates of 6.8%. Retail sales followed GDP and also beat consensus guesses.

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Notes From Underground: Brainard’s Speech Was So Significant She Delivered It Again

July 13, 2017

Yes, Fed Governor Lael Brainard actually delivered Tuesday’s speech, “Cross-Border Spillovers of Balance Sheet Normalization,” AGAIN. This time it was to the National Bureau of Economic Research Summer Institute in New York City. Of course I jest as to why she redelivered it. Brainard was overshadowed by Chair Yellen’s testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, even though the Fed Chair deviated very little from Wednesday’s House testimony. The interesting thing was that Yellen backtracked on her hubristic statement she made last week about not experiencing another systemic financial crisis in her lifetime. A brazen statement like that is Greenspanish but certainly out of character for the demure Janet Yellen.

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Notes From Underground: Brainard Delivers a Very Significant Speech

July 11, 2017

Tuesday, FOMC Governor Lael Brainard delivered what I deem to be a very important speech, which spoke to the necessity starting to shrink the balance sheet while halting further interest rate increases. The speech, titled, “Cross-Border Spillovers of Balance Sheet Normalization,” is packed with insight into FOMC thinking reminiscent of the powerful speeches of former Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn. I have noted that Brainard is Yellen’s confidant (mere conjecture on my part) similar to how Kohn served as Greenspan’s consigliere, providing great insight into FED policy. Governor Brainard puts forth the reasons for HOLDING fed funds steady while beginning the task of balance sheet shrinkage. Important points to consider:

1. Raising policy rates and reducing central bank balance sheets–appear to affect domestic output and inflation in a qualitatively similar way. This means that central banks can substitute between raising the policy rate and shrinking the balance sheet to remove accommodation;

2. Is there a difference between conventional policy hikes or shrinking the balance sheet on cross-border spillover effects? “Most prominently, the exchange rate may be more sensitive to the path of short-term rates than to balance sheet adjustments, as some research suggests,” (Stavrakeva and Tang, 2016). This issue is what I have discussed for eight years in NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND. Foreign exchange rates are more sensitive to the short-end of the curve than the long-end. A flattening curve has historically been positive for a currency as the interest rate market is signalling that the central bank is too tight for economic conditions. (Brainard cites the example of the FED‘s Operation Twist in the early 1960s.)

If a similar amount of tightening is achieved through the balance sheet reduction “… while keeping the POLICY RATE unchanged, the exchange rate would appreciate to a SMALLER degree, reflecting the lower assumed sensitivity of the exchange rate to the term premium than to policy rates.” Governor Brainard further supports this view by noting that other countries would not have to act as swiftly to raise rates in response and therefore allow other nations to pick up the slack if the U.S. economy was to slow down. Also, in the case of a managed exchange rate, she cites China in 2015-16 as China responded to the incipient rise in U.S. fed funds rate by squeezing liquidity and depreciating the YUAN.

3. If different monetary regimes are pursuing different policies in trying to contain demand shocks, the cross-border impact on the nation using interest rate policy versus balance sheet shrinkage in the other will probably result in greater foreign exchange rate movements. Brainard notes that the “… downward pressure on term premiums around the globe, especially in those foreign economies whose bonds were perceived as close substitutes.” Certainly this speaks to the BUND/U.S. 10-YEAR NOTE correlation. In this regard the Brainard suggests that the BOJ and ECB present programs provides an opportunity for the FED to reduce the balance sheet without as much disruption as the fungibility of global markets will provide some support to U.S. term premiums.

4. Inflation for Brainard will remain very important. She said, “I will want to monitor inflation developments carefully, and to move cautiously on further increases in the FEDERAL FUNDS RATE, so as to help guide inflation back up around symmetric target.”

I fully expect Chair Yellen to speak to this in her testimony this week. If I am right, the yield curve OUGHT to steepen further. The 2/10 curve closed at 98 basis points Tuesday after holding support levels. The SPOOS and NASDAQ should fine near-term strength as markets believe that FED FUNDS INCREASES ARE ON HOLD. Commodities should return to supply/demand fundamentals and the precious metals OUGHT to repel fears of rising short-term rates. Also, emerging markets should breathe a sigh of relief.

There is much to contemplate in Brainard’s speech, but if she plays Jiminy Cricket to Janet Yellen expect the Fed chair to support this outlook. The FED seems to have been shaken by the recent severe flattening in the yield curves. Other political factors such as the White House tweets and buffoonery cannot be accounted for in an algo-driven world. But I believe that Brainard did more to impact markets than the e-mails of Donald Trump, Jr.

Notes From Underground: G-20 Photo Ops Become Relevant … For a Moment

July 10, 2017

All of the words and photos emanating from Hamburg are figments of the media’s confirmation bias. In Monday’s Financial Times, Wolfgang Munchau had a splendid op-ed titled, “From Brexit to Fake Trade Deals–the Curse of Confirmation Bias.” Munchau calls out the Euro-Japan trade deal headlines for as he points out it was announced on the eve of the G-20 summit in order to embarrass President Trump. I laughed when I read the stories about the aforementioned trade agreement because while EUROCRATS presumed a signed agreement, the FACT is each EU state will have to approve the agreement. So the acrimony from the Euro/Canada trade agreement still reverberates.

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Notes From Underground: G-20 and Unemployment

July 6, 2017

The data “dependent” FED will have a look at the unemployment report Friday and hope to see VERY ROBUST gains in NONFARM PAYROLLS, but most importantly, to see a 0.4% rise in WAGES in order to deflect from  the recent criticism directed at them. The consensus is for an increase of 175,000 jobs and for an average hourly earnings to rise 0.3%. If the data is tepid, the long-end of the curve will attempt to rally, a reversal of the SIGNIFICANT steepening of yield curves seen during the most recent selloff in developed bond markets.

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Notes From Underground: Time It Was and What a Time It Was

July 5, 2017

I use the wisdom of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bookends” to discuss the huge risk that pervades the global financial system. This is not Yra crying wolf or pretending to be a prophet of doom. Notes From Underground deals with profit opportunities. It’s not a cult singing Barry McGuire’s, “Eve of Destruction.” I have not been banging the drum of impending financial disaster, but I have been consistent in noting that negative and zero interest rates, coupled with massive QE programs from the world’s central banks have lifted asset prices on a tsunami of liquidity.

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