Archive for August, 2017

Notes From Underground: The Unemployment Data? I Suppose It’s Meaningless

August 31, 2017

It’s the first Friday of the month so that means we will have the jobs report at 7:30 CDT and 7:29:59 if you are a high frequency trading operation you do the math. Consensus is for 180,000 non-farm payrolls and the overall rate remaining unchanged at 4.3%. The most important piece is the average hourly earnings (AHE), which is predicted to be 0.2% which is lower than the July data. Regardless, with the economic impact from Hurricane Harvey still an unknown the FED will be kept from raising interest rates at its September meeting. But if the AHE is strong the FED may move to commence shrinking its balance sheet because Lael Brainard has already informed us that the FED analysts theorize that QT has far less economic impact then a RISE in the fed funds rate.

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Notes From Underground: Missiles Over Hokkaido

August 29, 2017

First of all, no matter what analysis we do it always pales in light of the human suffering that natural disasters bring upon people around the world. I am fortunate to be in a dry room, with warm clothes, food and, of course, an internet connection. It is often said that water is far worse than wind when it comes to the impact of hurricanes and typhoons. The human misery that deals with 40 inches of rain in a three-day period makes our prayers go out to all those affected by the devastation. Stop and take an inventory of the blessings we have on a daily basis. Houston, we can hear you.

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Notes From Underground: Arthur’s Song, Lost Between the Moon and New York City

August 28, 2017

A long-time reader of Notes From Underground posted a comment to a previous post promoting long GOLD/short YEN. When I asked him about this trade he noted the onset of currency wars. There is no question, as I have regularly shown that many foreign central banks’ currency’s strength is a reason to maintain very low interest rates and if in place QE programs. I certainly agree with Arthur about this narrative. But from a relative value perspective the Japanese yen has already benefited from its weakening versus the EURO, Aussie, Kiwi, Canada and Swiss franc.

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Notes From Underground: It’s All About the Narrative

August 27, 2017

The Kansas City Fed Symposium was steeped in boredom as all the hype failed to live up to the expectations of the media. The excitement centered around Mario Draghi potentially dropping hints about the beginning of quantitative tightening (QT). Rick Santelli spoke with former FOMC Governor Mark Olson, who rightfully predicted Chair Yellen would not reveal any sense of Fed intentions but he was dead wrong about Draghi. Olson opined that Yellen put the spotlight on President Draghi, but the ECB President must have suffered stage fright as he very bland when speaking to concerns about the Trump administration’s move to economic nationalism. There was not a single word about ECB policy.

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Notes From Underground: Can Jackson Hole Foster a “Dynamic Global Economy”?

August 22, 2017

This is the topic of discussion for this week’s meeting in Jackson Hole. For the Federal Reserve system, this is a statement, but I raise it as a question. A long-held theme of this BLOG has been that what the Federal Reserve, ECB, BOJ, BOE and other central banks promote as certainty supported by mathematical models I maintain IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.

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Notes From Underground: Its Was a Great Week for S&Ps

August 20, 2017

The news was extremely positive for the equity markets last week. FOUR key points:

  1. Retail Sales proved to be much stronger than consensus;
  2. The FOMC minutes were very DOVISH as the FED was concerned about the inability of upward inflation to gain traction;
  3. The demise of anti-globalist Steve Bannon was greeted with cheers on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. News of the removal resulted in a rally in the S&Ps on Friday, but it was short-lived; and
  4. The bobble heads of the access media reported the dismissal as an elevation of the Davos-inspired crowd, represented by the Gary Cohn wing of the Trump administration.

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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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