The world is all abuzz with the good feelings radiating from the aftermath of the Trump victory. However, no matter how long the U.S. equity market rallies, be certain that Trump is not draining the swamp of Washington, D.C. He is proving to be a caretaker. Today’s pick of Elaine Chao for Transportation Secretary is just more of the same. Ms. Chao is certainly qualified. After all, she has an MBA from Harvard, but being a past member of the Bush Cabinet means we are using old, worn-out tires. The Transportation Secretary will be overseer of many of the INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS the Donald has promised to deliver. The pork barrel these projects will be dipped in will be beyond lucrative and the wife of Mitch McConnell ought not to have been given this role.
Posts Tagged ‘Mario Draghi’
The Mario Draghi brought forth a new and improved standard of “truth obfuscation” at Thursday’s ECB press conference. When Draghi answered a question about the ECB basing its policy on politics he answered: “We are not in a political game.” In his “perception” there is NO POLITICAL WAR BETWEEN THE ECB AND ITS MEMBER NATIONS. This is of course unadulterated nonsense as everything the ECB does is political. During the ECB’s initial state of decision-making, then-President Wim Duisenberg said, “WE HEAR BUT WE DO NOT LISTEN.” The ECB claimed it pays attention to political discussion but its policy is set by objective criteria. Duisenberg brought proof to the nonsense of objectivity as the ECB kept its interest rates ridiculously low to aid the Germans in their cost of financing German unification and making the implementation of the HARTZ IV labor restructuring easier to easier to absorb for the German government. Duisenberg’s policy of negative real yields put severe pressure on the EURO as it dropped in value from its initial price of 117.5 to 82.5 which created credit problems for all of Europe but the Germans. As usual, it raises the question, WHOSE EURO IS IT?
President Mario Draghi takes center stage tomorrow and as usual the press conference will be critical. The ECB official announcement is at 6:45 CDT with the presser 45 minutes later. The consensus is for no change in rates or the current 80 BILLION EUROS in large-scale asset purchases. I would argue that if Mr. Draghi wishes to increase the ECB balance sheet tomorrow HE OUGHT TO INCREASE QE to at least 90 BILLION EUROS. But ought does not imply WILL. The past week has brought severe criticism of Draghi and the ECB from two of the most prominent monetary authorities in Europe. First, Gillian Tett had an article in last Friday’s Financial Times titled, “Investors Are Ill Equipped For Our Unfathomable Future.” Tett reports on the views of Axel Weber, who should have been the President of the ECB, instead of Draghi. Weber said the banking system is much stronger today than for many years. But, Axel warns that financial markets are much more unstable than the banks. Markets are not free markets “because of heavy government intervention.”
The reverberations from Merkel’s Boner will be systemic in nature. The more I think about the ridiculousness of Chancellor Merkel’s ill-advised comment about not financially supporting Deutsche Bank, the greater my fear of a cataclysmic credit event. According to a recent Zero hedge piece, DB has many trillions of derivatives on its books. Yes, it is notional value but as we learned with Lehman notional value is irrelevant when counterparties to Deutsche’s SWAPS and other credit derivatives demand their collateral back. In today’s shadow banking environment, the rehypothecation of credit through securitized instruments compounds the problems of a default or bankruptcy.
On the Santelli Exchange, me and Rick discussed the very weak ISM non-manufacturing and its impact on the FOMC. The surprise weakness sent PRECIOUS METALS soaring, the DOLLAR lower, BONDS AND EUROPEAN SOVEREIGNS HIGHER and EQUITY MARKETS moderately higher. The FED is under the microscope from so many analysts but the surprise of the day was the OP-ED piece by Professor Larry Summers in the Washington Post. Summers put an academic gloss on the erudite review of Jackson Hole but this sentiment is key: “My second reason for disappointment in Jackson Hole was that Fed Chair Janet Yellen, while very thoughtful and analytic, was too complacent to conclude that even if average interest rates remain lower than in the past, I believe that monetary policy will, under most conditions, be able to respond effectively. THIS STATEMENT MAY RANK WITH FORMER FED CHAIRMAN BEN BERNANKE’S UNFORTUNATE OBSERVATION THAT SUBPRIME PROBLEMS WOULD BE EASILY CONTAINED,” [emphasis mine]. This is a harsh assessment from a fellow academic, but more importantly it is a stinging criticism of the FED’s forecasting history.
As we bid farewell to the dog days of summer, here are some issues that will set the agenda for the month ahead:
1. Friday’s employment data made the picture murkier for the FOMC meeting later this month. The nonfarm payrolls were on the weak side, and, as Art Cashin correctly pointed out on CNBC, the bigger issue was a drop in the hours of the work week, which when measured in terms of jobs gained/loss resulted in a loss of 300,000 jobs. The FED jaw flappers keep orally pushing for a rate hike on September 21 but this jobs report clouds the issue.
The talking heads report ad nauseam that several Fed members believe a rate hike possible but as I wrote last week, if the fed funds rate is not raised the critical component of the FOMC release will be the outcome of the vote. If Stanley Fischer doesn’t vote for a RATE HIKE then HE SHOULD RESIGN FROM THE FOMC. It is that simple for if Chair Yellen prevails in achieving another 9-1 vote then it is without question Yellen’s FOMC and all other ivory tower mouthpieces should remain silent. The Federal Reserve Board is under mounting criticism due the inconsistency of its members’ public pronouncements. The FED‘s credibility is being called into question, a potentially disastrous situation in a FIAT CURRENCY SYSTEM.
2. The G-20 meeting presented great selfies and photo-ops but little else. THIS MEETING REFLECTED THE STRAINS IN THE GLOBAL ORDER WHICH HAVE BEEN “PAPERED OVER” BY THE CENTRAL BANKS. Japan set the tone of the meeting by releasing a paper to the G-20 warning the world and especially Europe about the negative fallout from an acrimonious end to the BREXIT negotiations. Japanese corporations have massive investments in British capital projects and if British exports are to be penalized then Japan threatened to remove production and jobs from the U.K. and other European centers. I THINK THE JAPANESE WANTED TO SEND A MESSAGE TO ALL THE PARTIES IN THE BREXIT DISCUSSION, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, THIS WAS JAPANESE OFFICIALS RETALIATING FOR BEING SINGLED OUT AS A CURRENCY MANIPULATOR AT THE PREVIOUS G-20 MEETING. Japan prevented the Chinese from making them the focal point … yet again.
Before the release of the G-20 Communique, the U.S. and China held a bi-lateral meeting and one of the main issues discussed between Presidents Obama and XI was foreign currency movements. A fact sheet released after the meeting said, “China and U.S. Agree to Refrain From Competitive Currency Devaluations.” It may be a major political victory for the Chinese if the U.S. Treasury was deemed to be a serial currency manipulator in a similar vein of the PBOC. And this would be a serious blow to U.S. prestige. The actual language of the final communique was generic and sanitized: “We affirm our previous exchange rate commitments, including that we will refrain from competitive devaluations and we will not target our exchange rates for competitive purposes.” This is nonsense of the first order for as many critics of the Fed and ECB have argued over the previous six years: QE POLICY is a domestic monetary program with a weakened currency as a desired outcome. The G-20 reference is mere political posturing for the domestic constituency.
3. The Reserve Bank of Australia and the ECB have scheduled meetings this week. Tonight at 11:30 CDT the RBA will announce its interest rate intentions. The consensus is for no change from its current 1.5% overnight cash rate. The Aussie dollar is very weak against the Kiwi dollar, its main trading partner, so I’m in agreement with consensus. The important point is that it’s Governor Stevens’s last meeting and what he says about the Chinese economy should be of interest. THURSDAY will be an important day as Mario Draghi will hold a press conference following the ECB’s meeting. President Draghi has been very quiet of late and has allowed his underlings to speak about policy. Draghi didn’t even attend the Jackson Hole Conference. The European economy is sputtering. Italy is facing a November referendum. And, more importantly, German Chancellor Merkel’s CDU party suffered a miserable election result on Sunday with the anti-Euro AfD party garnering the largest increase in support.
The media paints the AfD success as a response to an anti-immigrant agenda. There may be an element of fact in that but the German middle class is raising its voice against the FINANCIAL REPRESSION foisted upon German savers as a product of ECB policies. If President Draghi is threatened by German domestic politics look for an increase in the ECB QE program to 90/100 billion euros a month from 80 billion in an effort to build the ECB balance sheet, weakening the euro and simultaneously pushing borrowing costs lower. Draghi is a man in a hurry as the political winds turn against the ECB. The problem for Draghi is that the massive QE programs promoted by Bernanke and the BOJ have failed to have the desired effects. Bloated balance sheets for the sake of bailing out debt-stressed nations provide political fodder for the anti-euro political tide rising across the EU. Mario Draghi has grabbed unlimited power for the ECB, BUT FOR HOW LONG? Yes, our work has just begun.
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.