The Dark Power Behind the Financial Asset Bubbles – Whose Fool Are You?

“While everyone enjoys an economic party the long-term costs of a bubble to the economy and society are potentially great. They include a reduction in the long-term saving rate, a seemingly random distribution of wealth, and the diversion of financial human capital into the acquisition of wealth.
As in the United States in the late 1920s and Japan in the late 1980s, the case for a central bank ultimately to burst that bubble becomes overwhelming. I think it is far better that we do so while the bubble still resembles surface froth and before the bubble carries the economy to stratospheric heights. Whenever we do it, it is going to be painful, however.’
Larry Lindsey, Federal Reserve Governor, September 24, 1996 FOMC Minutes
‘I recognise that there is a stock market bubble problem at this point, and I agree with Governor Lindsey that this is a problem that we should keep an eye on…. We do have the possibility of raising major concerns by increasing margin requirements. I guarantee that if you want to get rid of the bubble, whatever it is, that will do it.’
Alan Greenspan, September 24, 1996 FOMC Minutes
“Where a bubble becomes so large as to pose a threat the entire economic system, the central bank may appropriately decide to use monetary policy to counteract a bubble, notwithstanding the effects that monetary tightening might have elsewhere in the economy.
But how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade? And how do we factor that assessment into monetary policy? We as central bankers need not be concerned if a collapsing financi

This post was published at Jesses Crossroads Cafe on 27 DECEMBER 2017.

From ‘Definitely Transitory’ to ‘Imperfect Understanding’ In One Press Conference

This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Alhambra Investments. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission.
When Janet Yellen spoke at her regular press conference following the FOMC decision in September 2017 to begin reducing the Fed’s balance sheet, the Chairman was forced to acknowledge that while the unemployment rate was well below what the central bank’s models view as inflationary it hadn’t yet shown up in the PCE Deflator. Of course, this was nothing new since policymakers had been expecting accelerating inflation since 2014. In the interim, they have tried very hard to stretch the meaning of the word ‘transitory’ into utter meaninglessness; as in supposedly non-economic factors are to blame for this consumer price disparity, but once they naturally dissipate all will be as predicted according to their mandate.
That is, actually, exactly what Ms. Yellen said in September, unusually coloring her assessment some details as to those ‘transitory’ issues:
For quite some time, inflation has been running below the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run objective. However, we believe this year’s shortfall in inflation primarily reflects developments that are largely unrelated to broader economic conditions. For example, one-off reductions earlier this year in certain categories of prices, such as wireless telephone services, are currently holding down inflation, but these effects should be transitory. Such developments are not uncommon and, as long as inflation expectations remain reasonably well anchored, are not of great concern from a policy perspective because their effects fade away.
Appealing to Verizon’s reluctant embrace of unlimited data plans for cellphone service was more than a little desperate on her part. Even if that was the primary reason for the PCE Deflator’s continued miss, it still didn’t and doesn’t necessarily mean what telecoms were up to was some non-economic trivia.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on December 26, 2017.

Stocks, Yield Curve Slammed After China Hike, Draghi Taper, & Tax Tumult

Did Senators Lee and Rubio (and Hatch) just go full “Leeroy Jenkins”?
A surprise China rate hike (and disappointing retail sales) sparked weakness in Chinese stocks…
Mario Draghi managed to talk the Euro and Bund yields lower (despite attemptting to raise inflation forecasts)…
Since the FOMC meeting, Bonds and Bullion are well bid as stocks and the dollar sink…

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 14, 2017.

Dear Janet Yellen: Here Is Your Own Watchdog Warning About Financial Stability Risks In “Red And Orange”

In the most interesting exchange during Janet Yellen’s final news conference, CNBC’s seemingly flustered Steve Liesman asked Janet Yelen a question which in other times would have led to his loss of FOMC access privileges: “Every day it seems the stock market goes up triple digits on the Dow Jones: is it now, or will it soon become a worry for the central bank that valuations are this high?”
Yellen’s response was predictable, colorfully so in fact.
Of course, the stock market has gone up a great deal this year. And we have in recent months characterized the general level of asset valuations as elevated. What that reflects is simply the assessment that looking at price-earnings ratios and comparable metrics for other assets other than equities, we see ratios that are in the high end of historical ranges. And so that’s worth pointing out. But economists are not great at knowing what appropriate valuations are, we don’t have the terrific record. And the fact that those valuations are high doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily overvalued.


This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 14, 2017.

It’s Central Bank Bonanza Day: European Stocks Slide Ahead Of ECB; S&P Futs Hit Record High

One day after the Fed hiked rates by 25 bps as part of Janet Yellen’s final news conference, it is central bank bonanza day, with rate decisions coming from the rest of the world’s most important central banks, including the ECB, BOE, SNB, Norges Bank, HKMA, Turkey and others.
And while US equity futures are once again in record territory, stocks in Europe dropped amid a weaker dollar as investors awaited the outcome of the last ECB meeting of the year: the Stoxx 600 falls 0.4% as market shows signs of caution before the Bank of England and the European Central Bank are due to make monetary policy decisions as technology, industrial goods and chemicals among biggest sector decliners, while miners outperform, heading for a 5th consecutive day of gains. ‘The Federal Reserve raised interest rates last night, but they weren’t overly hawkish in their outlook. This has led to traders being subdued this morning,’ CMC Markets analyst David Madden writes in note.
The stronger euro pressured exporters on Thursday although overnight the dollar halted a decline sparked by the Fed’s unchanged outlook for rate increases in 2018, suggesting “Yellen Isn’t Buying Trump’s Tax Cut Talk of an Economic Miracle.”
That said, it has been a very busy European session due to large amount of economic data and central bank meetings, with the NOK spiking higher after the Norges Bank lifted its rate path, while the EURCHF jumped to session highs after SNB comments on CHF depreciation over last few months. The AUD holds strong overnight performance after a monster jobs report which will almost certainly be confirmed to be a statistical error in the coming weeks, while the Turkish Lira plummets as the central bank delivers less tightening than expected. Meanwhile, the USD attempts a slow grind away from post-FOMC lows.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 14, 2017.

Witchy Woman: Yellen’s Last FOMC Meeting (Fed Funds Rate Rises To 1.5% As Balance Sheet Begins Slow Unwind)

This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Snake Hole Lounge. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission.
Yes, this was Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s last Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. And the FOMC raised, as widely expected, the Target rate (upper bound) to 1.50%.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner by Anthony B Sanders ‘ December 13, 2017.

Watch Live: Janet Yellen’s Last FOMC Press Conference

Grab your handkerchief, it’s gonna be a tear-jerker. Having managed to get through her term as Fed Chair without a ‘crisis’, unlike her three previous colleagues, it would appear Janet Yellen has managed to jump ship at the perfect time. Will she leave her last press conference with a ‘hanging chad’ of uncertainty about extreme asset valuations, or toe-the-line for Powell that everything is awesome?

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 13, 2017.

FOMC Hikes Rates As Expected: Expects 3 Hikes, Faster Growth As Two Dissent

With a 98.3% probability heading in, there was really no doubt the most-telegraphed rate-hike ever would occur, but all eyes are on the dots (rate trajectory shows 3 hikes in 2018), inflation outlook (unchanged), and growth outlook (faster growth in 2018), and lowered unemployment outlook to below 4%. The Fed also plans to increase its balance sheet run off to $20 billion in January.
*FED RAISES RATES BY QUARTER POINT, STILL SEES THREE 2018 HIKES *FED SEES FASTER 2018 GROWTH, LABOR MARKET STAYING `STRONG’ *FED: MONTHLY B/SHEET RUNOFF TO RISE TO $20B IN JAN. AS PLANNED The dissents by Evans and Kashkari are significant as they send the signal that there is a significant fraction of the FOMC that would like to put off additional rate hikes until inflation is moving back closer to 2%. You could expect additional dissents in March if the FOMC goes ahead with a hike then, unless inflation rebounds by then.
On the other hand, the median target “dot” for 2020 rose to 3.063% vs 2.875% in September; suggesting even further tightening in store.
The Fed’s forecasts improved for growth and unemployment, while keeping inflation unchanged:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 13, 2017.

2 Charts That Might Define the Fed’s Jerome Powell Era

In September, we proposed a theory of the Fed and suggested that the FOMC will soon worry mostly about financial imbalances without much concern for recession risks. We reached that conclusion by simply weighing the reputational pitfalls faced by the economists on the committee, but now we’ll add more meat to our argument, using financial flows data released last week. We’ve created two charts, beginning with a look at cumulative, inflation-adjusted asset gains during the last seven business cycles:

According to the way that the Fed defines its policy approach, our first chart stamps a giant ‘Mission Accomplished’ on the unconventional policies of recent years. Recall that policy makers explained their actions with reference to the portfolio balance channel, meaning they were deliberately enticing investors to buy riskier assets than they would otherwise hold. Policy makers hoped to push asset prices higher, and they seem to have succeeded, notwithstanding the usual debates about how much of the price gains should be attributed to central bankers. (See one of our contributions here and a couple of other papers here and here.) But whatever the impetus for assets to rise, it’s obvious that they responded. In fact, judging by the data shown in the chart, policy makers could have checked the higher-asset-prices box long ago, and with a King Size Sharpie.

This post was published at FinancialSense on 12/13/2017.

The Stock Market and the FOMC

An Astonishing Statistic
As the final FOMC announcement of the year approaches, we want to briefly return to the topic of how the meeting tends to affect the stock market from a statistical perspective. As long time readers may recall, the typical performance of the stock market in the trading days immediately ahead of FOMC announcements was quite remarkable in recent decades. We are referring to the Seaonax event study of the average (or seasonal) performance across a very large number of events, namely the past 160 monetary policy announcements and the 10 trading days surrounding them. It looks as follows:

This post was published at Acting-Man on December 12, 2017.

The Fed’s Fantasy on Neutral Interest Rates

In her testimony to the Congress Economic Committee on November 29, 2017, the Fed Chair Janet Yellen said that the neutral rate appears to be quite low by historical standards. From this, she concluded that the federal funds rate would not have to increase much to reach a neutral stance.
The neutral rate currently appears to be quite low by historical standards, implying that the federal funds rate would not have to rise much further to get to a neutral policy stance. If the neutral level rises somewhat over time, as most FOMC participants expect, additional gradual rate hikes would likely be appropriate over the next few years to sustain the economic expansion.
It is widely accepted that by means of suitable monetary policies the US central bank can navigate the economy towards a growth path of economic stability and prosperity. The key ingredient in achieving this is price stability. Most experts are of the view that what prevents the attainment of price stability are the fluctuations of the federal funds rate around the neutral rate of interest.
The neutral rate, it is held, is one that is consistent with stable prices and a balanced economy. What is required is Fed policy makers successfully targeting the federal funds rate towards the neutral interest rate.
This framework of thinking, which has its origins in the 18th century writings of British economist Henry Thornton1, was articulated in late 19th century by the Swedish economist Knut Wicksell.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on December 11, 2017.

Banks and the Fed’s Duration Trap

This is a syndicated repost courtesy of theinstitutionalriskanalyst. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission.
Atlanta | Is a conundrum worse than a dilemma? One of the more important and least discussed factors affecting the financial markets is how the policies of the Federal Open Market Committee have affected the dynamic between interest rates and asset prices. The Yellen Put, as we discussed in our last post for The Institutional Risk Analyst, has distorted asset prices in many different markets, but it has also changed how markets are behaving even as the FOMC attempts to normalize policy. One of the largest asset classes impacted by ‘quantitative easing’ is the world of housing finance. Both the $10 trillion of residential mortgages and the ‘too be announced’ or TBA market for hedging future interest rate risk rank among the largest asset classes in the world after US Treasury debt. Normally, when interest rates start to rise, investors and lenders hedge their rate exposure to mortgages and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) by selling Treasury paper and fixed rate swaps, thereby pushing bond yields higher.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner by (Admin) Bill Patalon ‘ November 30, 2017.

BMO Sees Risk Of Curve Inverting “As Early As March 2018”

Over the weekend, we published an analysis from Citigroup looking at how long after the yield curve inverts do investors “have to worry.” The results were interesting: as Citi wrote, while sometimes inversion provides a timely signal for the economic cycle a la 2000, “where Professor Curve predicted almost the ding-dong high in the SPX”, other times, like the 2006 inversion, dished up 7 months of pain for equity bears, with 18% further upside for the SPX. The same occurred for the 1989 episode where equities continued to rally 22% into the 1990 recession.

Whatever the timeframe between inversion and subsequent events, however, the curve first has to invert. So when will that happen. One bank provided a surprising answer earlier this week, when Morgan Stanley forecast a “completely flat” yield curve around the time of the FOMC’s September meeting.
Now, in its 2018 rates outlook, BMO’s Ian Lyngen and Aaron Kohli have unveiled a far more aggressive forecast, warning that there is a “risk of an inverted 2s/10s curve as early as the March meeting – if not, then by June.”
Here are the details, as excerpted from the report:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 30, 2017.

Best Beige Book Anecdotes: “It’s No Longer Possible To Build A Starter Home For Under $200K In Cleveland,” And More

While many, and certainly the FOMC, tends to gloss over the periodic Beige Book report, it does provide a snapshot of the US economy, if not in quantiative terms, then in qualitative anecdotes, some of which can be rather amusing at times.
First, here are the big picture economic assessments of the Nov. 29 Beige Book, which was prepared by the St. Louis Fed based on information collected on or before Nov. 17, 2017. First, on overall economic activity, courtesy of Bloomberg:
Retail spending largely flat; outlook for holiday sales generally optimistic Residential real estate activity remained constrained, with most districts reporting little growth in sales or construction All districts reported that manufacturing activity expanded, with most describing growth as moderate Some respondents concerned or uncertain about impact of potential changes to taxes and other policies Employment and Wages:
Reports of tightness in the labor market widespread Wage growth modest or moderate in most districts; increases most notable for professional, technical, and production positions that remain difficult to fill Many districts reported that employers were raising wages and increasing their use of signing bonuses and other nonwage benefits to retain or attract employees

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 29, 2017.

Watch Live: Senate Banking Committee ‘Grills’ Trump’s Fed Chair Nominee Jerome Powell

Update (11:45 am ET): As Powell’s testimony draws to a close, analysts at Stone & McCarthy noted that – as expected – the future Fed chair’s comments were “generally dovish”.
The hearing was largely free of surprises. As it neared its close, Powell offered his thoughts about the blockchain and digital currencies (one day they could impact the Fed’s policies, but right now they’re too small to matter), and the mysterious roots of low inflation (the Fed is still struggling to determine if it’s due to transitory factors, or some kind of fundamental shift.
Here’s Stone & McCarthy:
In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Powell fielded questions mainly on the topics of raising interest rates, shrinking the balance sheet, and his views on “tailoring” regulation. Powell maintained the view that it is appropriate to gradually increase short-term rates against a backdrop of healthy, consistent growth with a strong labor market. He did not address inflation issues. He said GDP growth should be about 2.5% in 2017, and looking forward to “something pretty close to that” next year. Powell declined to specifically say if he would vote for another rate hike at the December 12-13 FOMC meeting. He did say “conditions are supportive” for another rate hike and “the case for raising rates at the next meeting is coming together”.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 28, 2017.

The Yellen Put – Friend Or Foe?

The term ‘Greenspan Put’ was coined after the stock market crash of 1987 and the subsequent bailout of Long Term Capital Management in 1998. The Fed under Chairman Alan Greenspan lowered interest rates following the fabled event of default and life continued.
The idea of the Greenspan Put was that lower interest rates would cure the market’s woes. Unfortunately, the FOMC has since fallen into a pattern whereby longer periods of low or even zero interest rates are used to address yesterday’s errors, but this action also leads us into tomorrow’s financial excess. As one observer on Twitter noted in an exchange with Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari:
‘Central Bankers are much like the US Forest Service of old. Always trying to manage ‘nature’ and put out the little brush fires of the capitalist system, while they seem incapable of recognizing they are the root cause of major conflagrations as a result.’
When the Federal Open Market Committee briefly allowed interest rates to rise above 6% in 2000, the US financial system nearly seized up. Long-time readers of The Institutional Risk Analyst recall that Citigroup (C) reported an anomalous spike in loan defaults that sent regulators scrambling for cover. The FOMC dropped interest rates at the start of 2001 – nine months before the 911 terrorist attacks – and kept the proverbial pedal to the metal until June of 2004.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 27, 2017.

2017: The Year of the Bubbles

2017 may well go down in history as the year of the bubble.
We’ve talked a lot about the stock market bubble in recent months, but there are a whole slew of bubbles floating around out there – most of them created by loose monetary policy that has dumped billions of dollars of easy money into the world’s financial systems over the last eight years.
Even the Federal Reserve has taken notice of the stock market bubble and seems to be a bit spooked by the monster it created. According to the most recent FOMC minutes released by the Fed, several participants ‘expressed concerns about a potential buildup of financial imbalances,’ in light of ‘elevated asset valuations and low financial market volatility.’
But the stock market isn’t the only bubble that’s blown up over the last year. Earlier this month, Mint Capital strategist Bill Blain warned us about the bond bubble.

This post was published at Schiffgold on NOVEMBER 27, 2017.

FOMC Signals Dovish Inflation Concerns, Warns “Sharp Reversal” In Markets Could Damage Economy

With a dumping dollar and collapsing yield curve since November’s FOMC, all eyes are on the Minutes for any signals of The Fed hawkishly ignoring inflation concerns but instead a few Fed officials opposed near-term hikes (on the basis of weak inflation). Furthermore, several Fed officials warned of the potential for bubbles, “in light of elevated asset valuations and low financial market volatility, several participants expressed concerns about a potential buildup of financial imbalances.”
Bloomberg’s Brendan Murray highlights the key aspects of The Fed Minutes
Consistent with their expectation that a gradual removal of monetary policy accommodation would be appropriate, many participants thought that another increase in the target range for the federal funds rate was likely to be warranted in the near term if incoming information left the medium-term outlook broadly unchanged. Nearly all participants reaffirmed the view that a gradual approach to increasing the target range was likely to promote the Committee’s objectives of maximum employment and price stability.
A few other participants thought that additional policy firming should be deferred until incoming information confirmed that inflation was clearly on a path toward the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective.
Several participants indicated that their decision about whether to increase the target range in the near term would depend importantly on whether the upcoming economic data boosted their confidence that inflation was headed toward the Committee’s objective. A few participants cautioned that further increases in the target range for the federal funds rate while inflation remained persistently below 2 percent could unduly depress inflation expectations or lead the public to question the Committee’s commitment to its longer-run inflation objective.
In light of elevated asset valuations and low financial market volatility, several participants expressed concerns about a potential buildup of financial imbalances. They worried that a sharp reversal in asset prices could have damaging effects on the economy.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 22, 2017.