One of the worst trading days this year has even market bulls warning investors to brace for sharper pullbacks and volatility in days to come.</p>
<p>” />   Fears over Argentina’s default sent equity markets tumbling Thursday, as analysts say that investors are becoming less forgiving of worrisome economic and geopolitical news, warning that a stock correction could be looming. The S&P 500 fell 39.4 points or 2%, or to close at 1,930.67, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average saw its gains for the year erased after falling 317.06 points or 1.9% to 16,563.30. The S&P/TSX Composite slid 194.08 points or 1.3% to 15,330.74. “We are witnessing … classic signs of an impending correction,” said Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch who was once seen as the biggest cheerleader of the current rally. “We expect volatility will rise in coming months. TORONTO — North American stock markets had their biggest one-day tumble since early February on Thursday but analysts were hard-pressed to identify a single reason for the drop. The S&P/TSX composite index in Toronto fell 194.08 points to 15,330.74, as a number of big Canadian corporations missed earnings forecasts, but the index remained up about 1,736 points since the beginning of the year. New York’s Dow Jones industrials plunged 317.06 points to 16,563.3, leaving the index below where it started the year by about a dozen points. The Nasdaq lost 93.13 points to 4,369.77 and the S&P 500 index declined 39.4 points to 1,930.67.   The loonie closed down 0.02 of a cent to And volume is less than usual with many market participants on holidays. But the stock market declines also come at a time when many investors have registered substantial gains. “You get thinner markets and it doesn‘t take much to move things around,” said Wes Mills, chief investment officer Scotia Private Client Group. “Clearly everyone has made good money and there is no evidence that people are taking money off the table yet. It‘s probably just an overdue correction in a thin summer market with a combination of factors.” Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., which is making a hostile takeover bid for Botox maker Allergan, posted a quarterly net profit of $126 million or 37 cents a share. Adjusted income was $651 million, or $1.91 per share, missing estimates of $1.98 a share, and its shares fell $9.59 or 7% to $127.83. Barrick Gold Corp. delivered a US$269-million quarterly net loss and $159-million of adjusted earnings in the second quarter, missing analyst estimates on both counts. The adjusted profit amounted to 14 cents US per share, two cents below estimates. Barrick shares dipped 44 cents to $19.70. 91.71 cents US. The U.S. Federal Reserve indicated Wednesday that it will keep short-term interest rates low “for a considerable time” after it ends its bond purchases, likely in October. The Fed is expected to start hiking rates mid-2015, but stronger than expected economic growth in the second quarter has investors concerned that the Fed could raise rates sooner. Argentina moved into a debt default for the second time in 13 years after a deadline of midnight Wednesday night came and went without a deal with bondholders.</p>
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Stocks Slide With Portugal Bonds as Treasuries, Gold Gain

European stocks fell and Portuguese bonds dropped as concern deepened over missed debt payments by a company linked to the nation’s second-largest bank. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures signaled a selloff earlier this week will resume, while the yen, Treasuries and gold gained.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost 1.3 percent at 8:35 a.m. in New York, led by a gauge of banks dropping to this year’s low. Financial bond risk increased in Europe for a fifth day. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures fell 0.9 percent. Portugal’s 10-year bond yield rose 11 basis points to 3.88 percent while Treasuries gained and the yen advanced against all but one of its 16 major peers. Indonesian stocks climbed to a one-year high as polls showed Jakarta’s Governor Joko Widodo won the presidency. West Texas Intermediate oil slid 0.3 percent to $101.62 a barrel while gold climbed 1.1 percent.

Bonds of Europe’s most-indebted nations declined as speculation resurfaced that the euro region remains vulnerable to shocks as it emerges from the sovereign debt crisis. The sell-off comes after minutes of the Federal Reserve latest meeting showed yesterday some policy makers were concerned investors may be growing too complacent. The value of global equities climbed to a record $66 trillion last week, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg
One-month rupiah forwards added 0.2 percent as unofficial counts showed Jakarta… Read More
“The concern of an event like this is always determining whether it’s occurring in isolation or whether it’s the first domino,” said Lawrence Creatura, a fund manager at Federated investors Inc. in Rochester, New York. His firm manages about $363.8 billion. “People will shoot first and ask questions later when news like this hits. It’s a classic flight to safety across the equity, commodities and bond markets. Portugal has been perceived as a weaker link so it’s not a particular surprise they’re encountering this kind of trouble now.”

Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign the labor market is strengthening, a government report showed today.

Peripheral Bonds

Portuguese bonds fell for a fourth day. The yield on 10-year Italian notes rose six basis points to 2.94 percent and Spain’s rate jumped six basis points to 2.82 percent. The Markit iTraxx Europe Senior Financial Index of credit-default swaps on 25 European banks and insurers rose two basis points to 71 basis points, the highest since June 4.

While Portugal’s central bank said Banco Espirito Santo SA, the nation’s second-largest lender, is protected after its parent missed debt payments, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded a company in the group citing a lack of transparency and links to other companies.

Banco Espirito Santo tumbled 17 percent before the Portuguese securities regulator said it stopped trading in the shares pending an announcement. Espirito Santo Financial Group SA, which owns 25 percent of the lender, fell 8.9 percent before the company suspended trading earlier in stocks and bonds, saying it’s “currently assessing the financial impact of its exposure” to Espirito Santo International, which has missed payments on short-term paper.

Fugro Tumbles

More than nine shares declined for every one that advanced in the Stoxx 600, with trading volumes 72 percent higher than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The gauge of banks tumbled 2.7 percent to the lowest since Dec. 18.

Banco Popular Espanol SA (POP) dropped 4.8 percent. The Spanish lender said it postponed a planned issue of the riskiest bank debt because of “heightened volatility” in credit markets.

Fugro NV (FUR) sank 20 percent, the most since November 2012, after the Dutch deepwater-oilfield surveyor forecast a drop in profit margin and writing off of as much as 350 million euros ($477 million). Skanska AB lost 2.5 percent after the Nordic region’s biggest construction company by global revenue said it will scale down operations in Latin America after booking 500 million kronor ($73.7 million) in project writedowns and restructuring costs.

Jobless Claims

The S&P 500 index (SPX) rebounded 0.5 percent yesterday following two days of losses.

Jobless claims declined by 11,000 to 304,000 in the week ended July 5, the fewest in more than a month, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 45 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 315,000.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said yesterday that a surprisingly fast decline in unemployment will fuel inflation and back the case for higher interest rates.

The Jakarta Composite Index added 1.4 percent to 5,095.20, heading for its highest close since May 2013. The rupiah gained 0.7 percent to 11,555 per dollar, according to prices from local banks, after touching the strongest level since May 22.

Both Widodo, known as Jokowi, and his opponent Prabowo Subianto claimed victory in yesterday’s presidential vote. Jokowi had about a five percentage point lead in the poll, according to unofficial counts from two survey companies that declared him the winner. Official results aren’t due for about two weeks. Bank Indonesia will probably hold its reference rate at 7.5 percent today, according to the median of 21 estimates from economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland companies listed in Hong Kong advanced 0.3 percent, after losing 1.6 percent yesterday, its biggest decline in two weeks. The Shanghai Composite Index slipped less than 0.1 percent, extending yesterday’s 1.2 percent retreat.

China Exports

China’s overseas shipments fell short of the 10.4 percent expansion that was the median of 47 economists’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Imports grew by 5.5 percent in June, less than the 6 percent increase projected. The trade surplus fell to $31.6 billion for June, from $35.92 in May. Data yesterday showed producer prices fell last month at the slowest pace in more than two years.

“Extreme cautiousness towards China’s economy has receded overall, with the government showing signs it will step in to support growth when needed,” said Mari Oshidari, a Hong Kong-based strategist at Okasan Securities Group Inc.

West Texas Intermediate oil dropped to $102.01 a barrel. Gasoline inventories increased by 579,000 barrels last week as a measure of consumption slid, the Energy Information Administration said yesterday. Brent declined 0.2 percent to $108.10 a barrel, the ninth consecutive decline in the longest streak since May 2010. The crude closed at a two-month low yesterday amid signs that Libya, the holder of Africa’s largest crude reserves, will boost exports, while Iraqi production remains unaffected by an insurgency.

Treasury Sale

Gold for immediate delivery jumped to $1,342.23 an ounce, the highest since March 19. Palladium rose 0.3 percent to $876.25 an ounce, the 14th consecutive advance and the longest streak since June 2000. Cotton fell 0.4 percent to the lowest price since July 2012 on ample supplies.

The yield on 10-year Treasuries dropped five basis points to 2.50 percent. The rate on 30-year notes declined five basis points to 3.33 percent as the U.S. prepares to sell $13 billion of the debt.

Greece’s five-year note yield increased 11 basis points 4.33 percent. The government sold 1.5 billion euros of three-year notes via banks, priced to yield 3.5 percent. That’s higher than forecasts earlier this week for a rate of about 3 percent from HSBC Holdings Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

The yen strengthened 0.3 percent to 101.36 per dollar and gained 0.3 percent to 138.31 per euro.

Australia’s dollar retreated from the highest in a week, falling against all of its 16 major counterparts after the nation’s jobless rate climbed. The Aussie weakened 0.4 percent at 93.74 U.S. cents.

Bill Gross : U.S. Still Faces Permanent Slump

When the Federal Reserve meets this week, the Wall Street Journal reports the most challenging question won’t be where to push interest rates in the near term, but where they belong years into the future. The WSJ indicates policy makers have believed the benchmark interest rate — known as the federal-funds rate — should be about 4% in a balanced economy, but officials are now debating whether interest rates need to remain below that threshold long after the economy returns to normal (i.e. once inflation is stable at 2% and unemployment around 5.5%).

Pimco, the world’s largest bond manager with close to $2 trillion in assets under management, believes the federal funds rate will remain well below the “neutral” policy rate of 4% once the economy returns to full health. The firm is predicting a “new neutral” rate of 2% (nominal), given the highly leveraged economy. In the video above, Pimco founder and CIO Bill Gross says the difference is “critical” as the neutral policy rate “basically determines the prices of all assets.”

He tells us the biggest investment theme for the next five years will be, “how far does the Fed go in terms of their tightening and their journey back up, as opposed to down,” as the central bank moves to get out of the business of buying treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities, and begins to raise rates from near zero.

The head of the International Monetary Fund on Monday said the Fed should move rates up only gradually when it finally begins to lift borrowing costs, Reuters reports.

While tightening may be the next phase of the monetary policy story, what does Gross think about the impact of the Fed’s easy money policies and how successful they have been over the last five years — with rates held near zero and the balance sheet expanded by trillions of dollars?

 

He says, “so far, so good.” Gross credits the Fed for over five years of “beautiful deleveraging,” as hedge fund titan Ray Dalio calls it. Gross also sees success in other factors, including real economic growth of 2%, institutions being shored up, the stock market being close to record highs and employment growing at 200,000 a month. He says it remains a legitimate question what the central bank can do when it stops buying bonds and starts raising rates, though, conceding that things could get ugly.

And while 2% growth is less than stellar considering a historical norm of 3.5% to 4%, the lower growth is inline with what Pimco dubbed the “new normal” for the economy back in 2009. More recently, economists such as Larry Summers have advanced the idea that the U.S. may be facing secular stagnation — a permanent slump, with the economy hindered by structural issues such as demographics and the automation of jobs.

Related:  Has the U.S. Economy Entered a ‘Permanent Slump’?

In the video below, Gross says he agrees we are in a secular stagnation period and says it is difficult to get out of. He jokes that Summers “took our [new normal] idea and called it secular stagnation,” adding, “come on, Larry … give Pimco some credit!” Check out the bonus video for more.

 

 

 

Nobel Prize Economist Warns of U.S. Stock Market Bubble

An American who won this year’s Nobel Prize for economics believes sharp rises in equity and property prices could lead to a dangerous financial bubble and may end badly, he told a German magazine.

Robert Shiller, who won the esteemed award with two other Americans for research into market prices and asset bubbles, pinpointed the U.S. stock market and Brazilian property market as areas of concern.

“I am not yet sounding the alarm. But in many countries stock exchanges are at a high level and prices have risen sharply in some property markets,” Shiller told Sunday’s Der Spiegel magazine. “That could end badly,” he said.

“I am most worried about the boom in the U.S. stock market. Also because our economy is still weak and vulnerable,” he said, describing the financial and technology sectors as overvalued.

He had also looked at “drastically” higher house prices in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil in the last five years.

“There, I felt a bit like in the United States of 2004,” he said, adding he was hearing arguments about investment opportunities and a growing middle class that he had heard in the United States around the year 2000.

The collapse of the U.S. housing market helped trigger the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

“Bubbles look like this. And the world is still very vulnerable to a bubble,” he said.

Bubbles are created when investors do not recognize when rising asset prices get detached from underlying fundamentals.

Related Stories

Is The Fed Running A Ponzi Scheme

Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme Looks Like a Joke Compared to This

By Michael Lombardi, MBA for Profit Confidential

 

The “Bernie” Madoff name became famous while the stock market was falling during the credit and financial crisis. He was responsible for running one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history—if I recall correctly, it was a $65.0-billion scheme. But as the scam got bigger, Madoff couldn’t go on. He was caught, prosecuted, and sentenced to more than 100 years in jail.

What did we learn from the Madoff ordeal? At the very least, we learned Ponzi schemes eventually become impossible to hide, no matter how smart and cunning the perpetrator.

Wednesday of this week, we learned that the Federal Reserve’s Ponzi scheme of printing paper money and giving it to the government via the purchase of U.S. Treasuries will go on.

While the Fed says it wants to keep the “stimulus” going until the economy gets better, as I have written in these pages many times, the Fed cannot stop printing because if it did stop, three things would happen: 1) the stock market would collapse; 2) housing prices would fall; and 3) the government would have no real buyer for its debt (especially in light of China and Japan pulling back on buying U.S. Treasuries).

Madoff’s $65.0-billion Ponzi scheme is nothing when I look at the U.S. national debt figures. While it looks like we are beyond the point of no return, our national debt level would have to double from $17.0 trillion to $34.0 trillion before our debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio matches that of Japan. (And don’t for a moment think that’s not going to happen!)

In 2011, only two years ago, we heard Congress debate whether they should increase our national debt limit or not. The theater of a government shutdown was on for a while; it drove key stock indices lower and bond yields higher. Now we’re at square one again. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew sent a letter requesting an increase in our national debt limit by October, or the U.S. economy would face a risk of default.

The bottom line, dear reader, is that the U.S. government is broke. To keep the government afloat from now until Congress passes a new national debt limit, the government has stopped investing into the pensions of federal government workers.

I don’t for a second doubt that Congress won’t raise the national debt limit—it will; it has done just that 78 times since 1960. Why would this time be any different?

What has happened so far—the massive printing of paper money—is just one part of the puzzle. The Ponzi scheme is complex and has many moving parts. The government’s failure to clamp down on spending is the main problem.

In the 11 months of the fiscal 2013 year, the U.S. government has incurred a budget deficit of $755 billon, according to the Bureau of Fiscal Services. (So much for those estimates that said the U.S. government budget deficit would be below $700 billion this year!)

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects the U.S. government to continue posting budget deficits until 2015, when it says the annual budget deficit will equal two percent of the gross domestic product of the U.S. economy. (Source: Congressional Budget Office, September 17, 2013.) I don’t buy that prediction for a moment. Interest costs on the national debt alone could be a huge problem going forward.

For the government’s fiscal year ending this September 30, the U.S. government expects to have incurred $414 billion in interest payments alone. Assuming a national debt of $16.7 trillion, this equates to an interest rate of about 2.5%. But interest rates are rising!

And the more the national debt increases, the higher the interest payment. Think what will happen once interest rates in the U.S. economy start to climb higher, and when creditors start asking for higher returns due to our massive amount of national debt. Even if our national debt doesn’t change and interest rates go back to normal (it’s going to happen), the interest payments on the national debt would rise to over $900 billion a year!

Bring Social Security liabilities into the picture, and the future looks even more gruesome. According to the Pew Research Center, every day 10,000 Americans reach retirement age. (Source: Pew Research Center, December 29, 2010.) With the financial crisis having placed pressure on retirement savings, retirees are now relying on Social Security more than ever.

Right now we are seeing the government hoping investors will keep re-investing in U.S. bonds while the Fed picks up the slack. But what happens when they say, “We want our money back?” It will make Madoff’s Ponzi scheme look like a joke.

 

Who Will Replace Bernanke At The Fed ?

  • Larry Summers, the man suspected to become the next Federal Reserve chairman, withdrew his name from the running last night. “I have reluctantly concluded that any possible confirmation process for me would be acrimonious and would not serve the interest of the Federal Reserve, the Administration or, ultimately, the interests of the nation’s ongoing economic recovery,” Summers wrote to the president.
  • The dollar immediately weakened on the news that Summers was out. Emerging markets, on the other hand, rallied. Market-watchers are pointing to the fact that Summers was perceived as more hawkish — meaning less likely to use monetary policy to juice the economy —than his main rival and current frontrunner Janet Yellen.
  • Many are now predicting (and for some, hoping) that Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen will win the nomination. Writes our Josh Barro: “She’s a key architect and proponent of the Fed’s appropriately accommodative monetary policies. Her selection would reassure financial markets that easing would continue as appropriate. And she doesn’t have Summers’ track record of undermining his initiatives by unnecessarily alienating people.” Other names being floated are Jack A. Bass, former Fed Vice Chairmans Don Kohn and Roger Ferguson. Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has held steady that he does not want the job.

Today In the Market

    • This morning at 9:15 A.M. we’ll get U.S. industrial production figures. Economists are expecting a 0.5% increase in August after July’s 0% print.
    • Later this week, the Federal Reserve will hold its two-day FOMC meeting. Economists are expecting the Fed to “taper” its $85 billion a month purchasing plan of Treasury notes and mortgage-backed bonds. On weaker economic news, many on Wall Street are predicting a “taper lite” – a reduction in bond purchases of $10 billion per month, bringing the total monthly purchase down to $75 billion (as opposed to the previous market consensus of $70 billion).
  • UPDATE
  • Stocks & bonds rally, dollar dips as Summers quits Fed race
    1 hour ago – Reuters
    Stocks & bonds rally, dollar dips as Summers quits Fed raceBy Ryan Vlastelica

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks and Treasuries rallied on Monday as investors saw the withdrawal of Lawrence Summers from the running to head the Federal Reserve as making a more gradual approach to monetary tightening more likely.

    Further boosting risk assets around the world, and weighing on the U.S. dollar, were signs of progress in Syria following a Russian-brokered deal aimed at averting U.S. military action, all of which helped propel world shares <.MIWD00000PUS> to a five-year high.

    Summers’ surprise decision came just before the U.S. Federal Reserve meets on Tuesday and Wednesday to decide when, and by how much, to scale back its asset purchases from the current pace of $85 billion a month.

    Investors wagered that U.S. monetary policy would stay easier for longer should the other leading candidate for Fed chair, Janet Yellen, get the job.

    The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 142.01 points, or 0.92 percent, at 15,518.07. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index <.SPX> was up 13.20 points, or 0.78 percent, at 1,701.19. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 16.20 points, or 0.44 percent, at 3,738.39. Gains in the Nasdaq were limited by a 1.7 percent decline in Apple Inc <AAPL.O> shares.

    European shares <.FTEU3> rose 0.5 percent while the MSCI all-country world equity index rose 1 percent. Markets had perceived Summers as less wedded to aggressive policies such as quantitative easing and more likely to scale stimulus back quickly than Yellen, who is second in command at the Fed.

    “His passing as a contender for the top role has left in its wake a significant risk-on rally,” said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co in New York.

    It was even possible a first Fed interest rate rise could be pushed out to 2016, rather than 2015 as currently expected, added Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. Going by Yellen’s past speeches, he said she would most

    probably prioritize reducing unemployment.

    “Yellen looks like the clear front-runner and seems to be the public’s popular choice,” he said. “The Fed will shoot to lower the unemployment rate to the full employment level, and this means the new target could be more 5.5 percent, not 6.5 percent.”

    DOLLAR DIVE

    The dollar <.DXY> slipped to a near four-week low against a basket of currencies, with the euro up more than half a U.S. cent at $1.3370 after hitting its highest in almost three weeks and sterling at an eight-month high. <GBP/>

    The greenback proved more resilient against the yen, which was hampered by its status as a safe haven and pared early losses to stand at 98.76. Liquidity was lacking, with Japanese markets closed for a holiday on Monday.

    In the latest U.S. data, industrial output rose 0.4 percent in August, as expected, while manufacturing output rose 0.7 percent, a slightly faster rate than had been forecast.

    MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> had gained 1.8 percent overnight as South Korean shares <.KS11> added 1 percent, Australia’s <.AXJO> rose 0.5 percent and Indonesian stocks climbed 3.4 percent <.JKSE>.

    PUSHING OUT THE HIKE

    Sentiment was underpinned by Saturday’s deal between Russia and the United States to demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad account for his chemical arsenal within a week and let international inspectors eliminate all the weapons by the middle of next year.

The Debt Ceiling End Game

Citi FX guru Steven Englander has a new note out this evening titled: No coin + temporary debt ceiling extension + sequester = USD negative.

 

In it he notes that the rejection of the trillion dollar coin idea to avert the debt ceiling is not alone a market moving event, but that the hard language taken by the White House that the choices boil down to clean lift or default raises the odds of a debt ceiling breach.

His take:

So it is possible that we will get a technical default for a few days, but more likely that Congress will give in, vote the debt ceiling up temporarily, and let the automatic sequesters kick in. Mounting risk of a technical default was USD positive in 2011 because it led to cutting of long-risk positions and the USD/Treasury market remained safe havens.  However, it also occurred in an environment of slowing EM growth and intensifying euro zone sovereign risk pressure, so the USD support came from external forces as well. Given that investors are now somewhat long risk again, the position cutting is again likely to be USD positive, however, unattractive US assets were. As was the case in 2011, it is very unlikely that the Treasury will not pay its bills, although even a technical default could have very unforeseen consequences, given the multiple functions that Treasuries play in global financial markets. The more likely scenario of sequester plus grudging debt ceiling rise is USD negative.

It will put more pressure on the Fed to keep pumping liquidity into the US economy without giving any reassurance to investors that long-term fiscal issues are close to resolution.

That seems reasonable. A debt ceiling hike + a full sequester, which would equal a weaker economy and more pumping.

With Europe healing and China rebounding, USD would be the big loser.

QE 4 Update/ Review

English: President Barack Obama confers with F...

English: President Barack Obama confers with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke following their meeting at the White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Big Picture

Link to The Big Picture

  • Our market letter will return in the New Year
What Is The Purpose of QE?

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 02:00 PM PST

As detailed earlier in the month, the Federal Reserve announced more stimulus, otherwise known as QE4, at its recent meeting.

Lots of the discussion thus far has focused on whether or not QE will happen and not on the purpose of QE.

What we discuss below is a good example of economists discussing the probability of QE rather than why QE is necessary or what it will accomplish.

So, what is QE supposed to do?  Bernanke told us in his speech over the summer in Jackson Hole:

“After nearly four years of experience with large-scale asset purchases, a substantial body of empirical work on their effects has emerged. Generally, this research finds that the Federal Reserve’s large-scale purchases have significantly lowered long-term Treasury yields. For example, studies have found that the $1.7 trillion in purchases of Treasury and agency securities under the first LSAP program reduced the yield on 10-year Treasury securities by between 40 and 110 basis points. The $600 billion in Treasury purchases under the second LSAP program has been credited with lowering 10-year yields by an additional 15 to 45 basis points.12 Three studies considering the cumulative influence of all the Federal Reserve’s asset purchases, including those made under the MEP, found total effects between 80 and 120 basis points on the 10-year Treasury yield.13 These effects are economically meaningful.

LSAPs also appear to have boosted stock prices, presumably both by lowering discount rates and by improving the economic outlook; it is probably not a coincidence that the sustained recovery in U.S. equity prices began in March 2009, shortly after the FOMC’s decision to greatly expand securities purchases. This effect is potentially important because stock values affect both consumption and investment decisions.

While there is substantial evidence that the Federal Reserve’s asset purchases have lowered longer-term yields and eased broader financial conditions, obtaining precise estimates of the effects of these operations on the broader economy is inherently difficult, as the counterfactual–how the economy would have performed in the absence of the Federal Reserve’s actions–cannot be directly observed. If we are willing to take as a working assumption that the effects of easier financial conditions on the economy are similar to those observed historically, then econometric models can be used to estimate the effects of LSAPs on the economyModel simulations conducted at the Federal Reserve generally find that the securities purchase programs have provided significant help for the economy. For example, a study using the Board’s FRB/US model of the economy found that, as of 2012, the first two rounds of LSAPs may have raised the level of output by almost 3 percent and increased private payroll employment by more than 2 million jobs, relative to what otherwise would have occurred.15

This is not the first time the Federal Reserve has laid out this argument.  In a November 4, 2010 Washington Post op-ed, the day after QE2 was approved, Ben Bernanke defended their actions with the following passage:

Easier financial conditions will promote economic growth. For example, lower mortgage rates will make housing more affordable and allow more homeowners to refinance. Lower corporate bond rates will encourage investment. And higher stock prices will boost consumer wealth and help increase confidence, which can also spur spending. Increased spending will lead to higher incomes and profits that, in a virtuous circle, will further support economic expansion.

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke said Thursday that a controversial $600 billion bond buying plan has contributed to a stronger stock market. “Our policies have contributed to a stronger stock market just as they did in March 2009 when we did the first iteration of this program,” Bernanke said at a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. forum on small businesses. “A stronger economy helps small businesses more than larger businesses. Interest rates are higher but that’s mostly because the news is better. It has responded to a stronger economy and better expectations.”

To sum it all up:

• The Federal Reserve buys Treasury bonds in order to push down interest rates, making them an unattractive investment (last shown here, page 6) .

• Investors respond by moving out the risk curve and buying assets like corporate bonds and stocks, pushing them higher.  The Federal Reserve believes this happens via the portfolio balance theory.

• But according to the Federal Reserve, moving out the risk curve does not include buying agricultural or crude oil futures, so do not blame them for higher food or gasoline prices.

• Higher asset prices create a wealth effect, which increases spending and confidence and improves the economy. The Federal Reserve believes this has helped create 2 million jobs.

We agree with half of what is written above.

• QE does produce lower interest rates, or at least the belief that rates are too low.  This then pushes investors out the risk curve which is why stocks have such an immediate and positive reaction whenever QE is speculated.

• The Federal Reserve is playing politics in regards to the effect of QE on commodity prices.  There is no reason to believe the risk curve ends at low-rated stocks.  How much QE affects food and gasoline prices can be debated, but to argue there is no effect at all, and will never be an effect under any scenario, merely because the Federal Reserve does not want to answer for these higher prices, is just wrong.

• The argument that higher asset prices produce a wealth effect is only partially correct.  Two conditions must be met for a wealth effect to ensue.  Net worth must reach a new high and it must be perceived to be permanent.  This is why housing produced such a powerful wealth effect before 2006.  Home prices always went up and their gains were perceived to be permanent.  Currently we have a retracement of losses and a widespread distrust of financial markets.  These conditions will not produce any wealth effect and we believe they have not.

QE is great for Wall Street as it produces more volatility (brokers like this), higher stocks prices (fund managers like this) and draws lots of attention (analysts like this).  It is not good for Main Street because it does not create wealth.  QE’s effects are not perceived to be permanent, so it does not lead to higher GDP or job growth.

What Will The Federal Reserve Do?

In Septmber we noted that the median expectation in a survey of primary dealers calls for $500 billion of additional purchases heavily tilted toward mortgage-backed securities.   If the purpose of QE is to push stock prices higher, then the Federal Reserve has to deliver at least $500 billion in purchases.  Otherwise it will disappoint risk markets.

Right now, if we have to guess, we believe the Federal Reserve will announce purchases of less than $500 billion. In January the Federal Reserve adopted an inflation target of 2.0%.  As we detailed in a conference call last month (transcripthandoutaudio), inflation expectations are running well above this target.  One measure of inflation expectations, the 10-year TIPS inflation breakeven rate, is shown below.  Further, in April, when Bernanke was asked if he would adopt a suggestion from Paul Krugman to expand the target to 3%, he flatly rejected the idea (explained here).

The hawks will argue expected inflation is too high to add more stimulus, an argument which will carry some weight.  The compromise will be a program of less than $500 billion in purchases which will disappoint the markets.

Click to enlarge:

Source: Arbor Research

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rumors of QE4

Go Away Federal Reserve System!

Go Away Federal Reserve System! (Photo credit: r0b0r0b)

The Federal Reserve will hold its last policy meeting of the year next week, and two key issues are expected to dominate the gathering and the market’s attention — the expiration of “Operation Twist” and a potential change in interest rate guidelines.

Implemented in September 2011, Operation Twist was designed to lower rates for mortgages and corporate bonds. The program, which expires at the end of this month, entailed the Fed buying $667 billion (roughly $45 billion per month) in longer-term Treasuries above 6-year durations, while selling the same amount in shorter-term securities under 3-year durations.

The goal of the monetary twist has been to lower long-term rates to fuel consumer and corporate borrowing and spending.

“With Operation Twist ending, that means they’ve run out of short-dated securities to sell in order to purchase more [longer-term securities], so what they’ve got to move to now is buying up pure $40 billion per month of mortgage-backed securities [QE3],” says Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak. “They probably have to compensate for that loss of $40 [billion] to $45 billion per month.”

Rumors of QE4

Wilkinson is touching on concerns that have recently been addressed by various Fed governors. That is, that simply carrying out the third round of quantitative easing is not enough to boost the economy. QE3 is an open-ended program that has the Fed buying $40 billion per month in mortgage-backed securities.

So will the Fed turn Operation Twist into another outright securities purchasing program, essentially becoming QE4? Or are they more confident in the economy given the improvement in the November jobs report?

The market will be watching very closely to see if the Fed changes its tune. The decision on handling Twist’s expiration will be very telling as to how the committee views the recovery and how much stimulus will be pumped into the economy in 2013.

 

FOMC Rate Policy: Debating Numerical Thresholds

“There’s something else on the table with the Fed though,” says Wilkinson. “They may move to targeting a specific rate of unemployment as a guarantee to when they can stand by the promise of low interest rates.”

The Fed’s current policy is to hold rates near zero through mid-2015. Chatter is growing louder that the Fed will change its guidelines, and instead of tying interest rate policy to a calendar date, they will link it toward set goals for the unemployment and inflation rates. This would directly link rates to the Fed’s dual mandate to promote maximum employment and price stability.

Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen recently joined several other Fed officials calling for specific thresholds to guide policy. These thresholds would not be triggers to change policy, merely guidelines for debate.

“For now, it doesn’t really matter,” Wilkinson says of the possible shift. “As next year progresses we’ll hear more in terms of jawboning from the Fed, how it’s going to go about this process, how it’s going to anchor its inflation expectations, and whether we should be focused on more than purely employment. Inflation is equally important, but there’s a lid on it at around 2%, according to the Fed’s projections. We also have to factor in GDP as well.”

The Fed’s gathering will end Wednesday with a 12:15 p.m. ET policy statement, and a press conference with Fed chief Ben Bernanke will follow a short time later.

Economic Bears Turn Positive

English: Mohamed A. El-Erian, Managing Directo...

English: Mohamed A. El-Erian, Managing Director of the Pacific Investment Management Company, speaking at the World Economic Forum Summit on the Global Agenda 2008 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three prominent bears — David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates, Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive officer at Pacific Investment Management Co., and David Levy, chairman of the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center — separately see some hopeful signs. These include a housing market that is healing, a more competitive manufacturing industry and technological breakthroughs that could boost productivity.

“More so than at any time in the past three years, I’m doing whatever I can to identify silver linings in the clouds,” Rosenberg said.

None of the three is ready to declare the all-clear. While the chances the economy could perform better than expected are “somewhat” higher than before, the downside risks are bigger, said El-Erian, who oversees $1.9 trillion at Pimco in Newport Beach, California. These include the so-called fiscal cliff, which all three agree would trigger a recession if nothing is done to avert its spending cuts and tax increases.

The continued caution of the three economists is reflected in advice they are giving investors. Rosenberg recommends gold- mining stocks and shares of utility companies, the latter as part of a strategy he’s dubbed “Safety and Income at a Reasonable Price.”

‘Be Defensive’

“This is a time to be defensive,” said Levy of the Mount Kisco, New York-based economic forecaster. “We are still in a rocky period.” He has been bullish on Treasury bonds for more than five years and eventually sees yields falling even further. The yield on the 30-year bond was 2.78 percent as of 5 p.m. yesterday in New York, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader data.

El-Erian suggests investors look outside the U.S. for economies that are growing faster and put money in companies and nations with strong balance sheets, includingBrazil’s and Mexico’s local bonds. He said investors also should “actively” manage their portfolios to protect against downside risks and take advantage of upside surprises that might materialize through the use of puts, calls and other trading strategies.

El-Erian and Rosenberg recommended a defensive stance on financial markets about a year ago in separate interviews on Bloomberg Television. Toronto-based Rosenberg said investors should look at dividend-paying health-care, utility and consumer-staples stocks, which are least-tied to changes in economic growth.

Worst Performance

Drugmakers in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index are up 16 percent and producers of household goods have risen 9.7 percent in 2012. Utilities have fallen about 2 percent for the worst performance among the 10 major industries in the gauge.

El-Erian said Dec. 19 that the first part of 2012 would be “risk off” as Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis encouraged demand for safety. Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasuries rose to 2.21 percenton March 30 from 1.88 percent at the start of the year, while theStandard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPXL1) jumped 12 percent. For the year to date, the stock index also is up 12 percent.

The U.S. economy will grow 2 percent next year and 2.8 percent in 2014, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said last month. That is faster than the average for the OECD’s 34 members of 1.4 percent in 2013 and 2.3 percent in 2014.

Both Rosenberg and Levy foresaw the bursting of the housing bubble in 2007, the former when he was chief economist for North America at Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York. They’ve generally been more pessimistic than the consensus of economists since then, with Levy saying the U.S. is experiencing a “contained depression,” and Rosenberg incorrectly forecasting the U.S. would relapse into recession at the start of this year. The previous slump began in December 2007 and lasted 18 months.

More Downbeat

El-Erian and his colleagues at Pimco also have tended to be more downbeat. The 54-year-old former International Monetary Fund economist first used the term “new normal” in May 2009 to describe the probable medium-term path of the global economy. For the U.S., that meant annual growth of about 2 percent.

Since the recovery began in the middle of 2009, GDP has expanded by an average of 2.2 percent, in line with the Pimco forecast and short of repeated projections for faster growth by the Federal Reserve and the White House.

Pimco’s Total Return Fund, the world’s largest mutual fund, is up 10.3 percent this year, beating 95 percent of similarly run mutual funds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

‘A Stinker’

It has attracted about $17 billion in net new money in 2012, according to Chicago-based research firm Morningstar Inc., after losing $5 billion to withdrawals in 2011, when it suffered what William Gross, the company’s co-chief investment officer with El-Erian, called “a stinker.” It eliminated U.S. Treasuries early in the year and missed a rally when investors rushed to the safety of government-backed debt.

One reason Rosenberg, 52, is trying to look on the bright side is because many other economists have turned more bearish.

“That’s raised my contrarian antenna,” he said.

GDP probably will grow 2 percent in 2013, down from a projected 2.2 percent this year, according to the median forecast of 74 economists surveyed by Bloomberg last month.

Among the more hopeful signs, Rosenberg said, is the bottoming out of the housing market. New-home construction rose 3.6 percent to a four-year high in October, according to the Commerce Department.

‘Strong Phase’

“We’re in a strong phase of the recovery,” Martin Connor, chief financial officer of Toll Brothers Inc. (TOL), a Horsham, Pennsylvania-based luxury homebuilder, said during a conference presentation on Nov. 15. “It’s a function of five years of pent-up demand being released.” Affordability and rising prices also are “spurring people to buy.”

The banking industry also is on the mend, Rosenberg said. “The banks are certainly in better position and more willing to lend money than they have been for years,” after buttressing their balance sheets.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank by assets, provided $15 billion of credit for small businesses in the third quarter, up 21 percent from a year earlier, Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said in an Oct. 12 press release.

Rosenberg also is encouraged by what he calls a “secular renaissance” of the U.S. manufacturing industry — with output rising 16 percent during the recovery, according to the Fed — and a surge in American energy production.

Net Exporter

U.S. oil output is poised to surpass Saudi Arabia’s in the next decade, making the world’s largest fuel consumer almost self-reliant and putting it on track to become a net exporter, the International Energy Agency said last month.

Even so, problems remain. Rosenberg said he is particularly worried about continued high unemployment — 7.9 percent in October, up from 4.7 percent five years ago — and its impact on worker earnings.

“This will go down as a wageless recovery,” the Canadian economist said.

Average hourly earnings for production workers rose 1.1 percent in the 12 months to October, the weakest since Labor Department records began in 1965.

The bottom line for Rosenberg: The economy still is “stuck in the mud.”

Pimco’s El-Erian predicts GDP probably will grow 1.5 percent to 2 percent during the next year as President Barack Obama and Congress strike a “mini-bargain” to avoid the fiscal cliff and moderately reduce the budget deficit.

‘Sputnik Moment’

The economy could do better if policy makers can pull off what El-Erian calls a “Sputnik moment” — a critical mass of reforms that restores corporate confidence and unleashes pent-up investment, hiring and demand. Such steps might include measures to tackle youth and long-term unemployment, as well as cutting the deficit.

“There’s tremendous cash on the sidelines,” he said.

David Cote, chief executive officer of Morris Township, New Jersey-based Honeywell International Inc. (HON), says a budget deal alone could do wonders for the U.S.

“There is a prospect for a robust recovery, something bigger than I think most economists are forecasting,” if the White House and Congress can reach a credible agreement to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, he told Bloomberg Television on Nov. 28.

El-Erian, who re-joined Pimco in 2007 after being in charge of managing Harvard University’s endowment, also sees a chance that technological breakthroughs could give the U.S. a productivity-driven boost. At the top of the list is digitalization: the conversion of pictures, sound and other information into a form computers can process.

Economic Impact

“The whole trend is having an impact on very many sectors of the economy,” he said.

The trouble is that while the potential for such pleasant surprises is bigger than before, it isn’t “meaningfully” bigger, according to El-Erian. And the downside dangers are greater, he said. Besides the fiscal cliff, they include the debt crisis in EuropeChina’s challenge in overhauling its export-driven economy and the risk of continued instability in the Middle East.

Levy said the U.S. private sector is in the middle of a prolonged period of cleaning up its balance sheet after decades in which debt grew faster than income.

“We’ve been at this for five years,” he said. “If we’re lucky, it might take a tiny bit less than a decade.” He added he’d be surprised if the U.S. is able to avoid a recession in the next few years.

More Progress

America, though, has made more progress than Europe and Japan in dealing with its debts, Levy said.

“The U.S. will do generally better in this rocky period than much of the rest of the world, because the risks are higher and the problems are bigger in many places overseas,” the 57- year-old economist said. That includes China, where new leaders face decisions on how — and whether — to curb state enterprises, boost access to credit for private companies and raise consumption.

Levy, who served on the board of the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, from 1986 to 2001, said America also will benefit from a “secular improvement” in its trade balance. Driving that improvement: the manufacturing revival, boom in domestic energy output and increased demand for U.S. agricultural exports as developing nations grow richer.

“By the end of this decade, we might be looking at trade surpluses,” he said. The U.S. ran a$415.5 billion trade deficit through the first nine months of this year.

Future business investment also is being stored up as companies put off capital expenditures because of depressed demand for their products, he said. Eventually, such spending will surge, boosting productivity and profits.

“While the U.S. is going through a long-term, rough adjustment period,” Levy told Bloomberg Radio Nov. 13, “we are weathering it.

‘‘We are going to come out the other side,’’ he added. ‘‘And there is a very bright long-term.’

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