Archive for the ‘Currency’ Category

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Disabusing You of an ECB Tapering

June 28, 2017

On Tuesday, Mario Draghi, the Magician of Frankfurt, created a temporary maelstrom in global bond markets by hinting at a possible end to the ECB’s current QE program. While Draghi suggested that low rates were still a necessity to ensure that the European recovery remains on pace, the ECB president raised the issue that deflation was no longer a threat for the EU. Sovereign debt YIELDS rose dramatically as volatile hedge fund positions were liquidated and speculators sold bund, oat and BTP futures. On Wednesday, the ECB “explained” that Draghi’s statements were misconstrued and did not deviate from current ECB policy. ECB Vice President Vitor Constancio claimed Draghi was “totally” in line with existing ECB policy.

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Notes From Underground: Some Perspective on Wednesday’s FOMC Meeting

June 13, 2017

The FED has painted itself into the proverbial corner by pre-announcing a rate hike. The market will be listening to Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference, which takes place at 1:30 CDT, a half hour after the Fed releases its statement and summary of economic projections. The market is expecting some discussion Fed’s balance sheet unwind, but Yellen will be cautious as she won’t want to cause a large selloff in the Treasuries led by the algo-driven headline readers. Tomorrow morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the CPI data, alongside the Census Bureau’s retail sales data. Market consensus is for tepid numbers on both releases.

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Notes From Underground: Is the Yield Curve Taunting the Fed?

June 6, 2017

There were many responses to last night’s post regarding one of my favorite topics: the yield curve. The airwaves have been filled with opinions about the impact of the 2/10 curve on bank stocks and other financial asset valuations. Long-time readers know that I often note the significance of the shape of the curve for hinting at possible investment opportunities. Last year the 2/10 curve FLATTENED (a relative term) to long-term support levels at 74.8 basis points and then steepened out to about 150 basis points as the market feared a Trump inflation scenario.

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