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Did The Fed’s Monetary Policy Experiment Just Fail?

Did The Fed’s Monetary Policy Experiment Just Fail?

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestemntAdvice.com,

Did the Fed’s “monetary policy…

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This article was originally published by Zero Hedge
Did The Fed's Monetary Policy Experiment Just Fail?

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestemntAdvice.com,

Did the Fed’s “monetary policy experiment” fail? The recent dislocation between consumer confidence and the financial markets may indicate just that.

“U.S. consumer sentiment dropped sharply in early August to its lowest level in a decade, in a worrying sign for the economy as Americans gave faltering outlooks on everything from personal finances to inflation and employment,” – Reuters

However, to understand why I am asking the question, we have to revisit whatBen Bernanke said in 2010 to support the idea of a second round of “Quantitative Easing.”

“This approach eased financial conditions in the past and, so far, looks to be effective again. Stock prices rose, and long-term interest rates fell when investors began to anticipate the most recent action. 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.”

What he is referring to is known as “Animal Spirits.”

Animal spirits came from the Latin term “spiritus animals,” which means the “breath that awakens the human mind.” Its modern usage came about in John Maynard Keynes’ 1936 publication, “The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money.” Ultimately, “animal spirits was adopted by Wall Street to describe the psychological factors driving investor actions.

Specifically, Ben Bernanke realized that investors would respond to that stimulus and increase asset prices by providing accommodation.

In other words, as long as individuals “believe” the Fed is lifting asset prices higher, they take action buying stocks and driving asset prices higher. Thus, investor actions deliver the desired outcome.

It Was All Going According To Plan

Since the Fed began its monetary interventions, the correlation between the asset prices and confidence remains high.

As noted, the entire premise of monetary policy was to spur consumer spending. Everything seemed to be according to plan.

The problem was that while the Fed lifted asset prices, the economy didn’t strengthen as expected. As discussed recently:

“However, while the Federal Reserve got the desired outcome of increasing asset prices, “quantitative easing” failed to “trickle down.” Despite the massive expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet and the surge in asset prices, there was relatively little translation into wages, full-time employment, or corporate profits after tax which ultimately triggered very little economic growth.

“Since 2007, the stock market returned nearly 200%, which is more than twice the growth in GDP and nearly 4-times the growth in corporate revenue. (I use SALES growth as it happens at the top line of income statements and is not subject to as much manipulation.)”

Again, it was all going according to plan, sort of.

Until now.

Did The Monetary Policy Experiment Just Fail?

“Over the past half century, the Sentiment Index has only recorded larger losses in six other surveys, all connected to sudden negative changes in the economy,” Richard Curtin, chief economist for the University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers, said in a release. Two of those larger month-over-month movers were April 2020 amid the pandemic and October 2008, during the financial crisis.” – CNBC

The decline was extremely sharp.

“Not only was the release dramatically worse than the last update, but it was a huge miss relative to expectations. Today’s release came in 11 points below expectations. The only other month going back to 1999 that even comes close was a 9.9 point miss in February 2004.” – Bespoke Investment Group

The mainstream analysis missed that the correlation between confidence and markets broke down in 2019. Notably, while the Fed is engaged in monetizing $120 billion in debt monthly, higher asset prices isn’t inflating confidence.

That breakdown of consumer confidence will likely show up in consumption in the coming quarter. Such is mainly due to stimulus and other financial supports fading.

A decent warning sign such may be the case was the weak retail sales report this past week. The large gap between retail sales and employment will likely get filled sooner than expected and not necessarily by higher employment.

If the most giant “monetary policy experiment” just failed, the Fed has an enormous problem.

The Problem For The Fed

Over the next couple of weeks, all eyes are on the Fed. Lately, there has been an abundance of communication from Fed members discussing the need to “taper” its monetary interventions.

As Morgan Stanley recently noted:

“If the July FOMC minutes suggest that there was strong consensus and Chair Powell’s indication on tapering at Jackson Hole is therefore much firmer, we could see that as consistent with the FOMC gearing up to move on tapering sooner.”

Such is something the markets are probably not ready for.

So far, market participants have ignored weakening economic data, the collapse of Afghanistan, and rising risks of infections across the U.S. As long as the Fed is engaged in providing liquidity, the “risk of missing out” outweighs being more conservative with allocations.

However, the Fed remains trapped between two very tough policy choices.

The system has elevated inflation levels, as indicated by the spread between the PPI and CPI inflation measures. Currently, with PPI at the highest spread to CPI in history, it suggests producers can’t pass on costs to customers. Such equates to weaker profit margins and earnings in the future. However, if they elect to pass those costs onto consumers, such will raise living costs well above wages.

With unemployment levels dropping, and inflation rising, the Fed should be tapering monetary policy.

However, the reduction in liquidity will trigger a decline in asset prices, hinder consumer confidence, and contract economic growth further.

It’s a tough choice.

Conclusion

We agree with Morgan Stanley’s assessment on the likely path of “taper” when it comes.

The path of least resistance is to follow the path most traveled, that is, the playbook established in the last cycle when the Fed began to reduce its purchases of longer-term assets following the 2013 taper tantrum. That playbook included a long lead-time to signal the start, a promise that tapering would be gradual and flexible, and assurances to the market that tapering would have nothing to do with the timing of first rate hike. Indeed, the Fed did not first raise rates until six months following the end of tapering.”

While such is undoubtedly the path of least resistance, it is unlikely the market will like it much. As discussed in “3-Signs Of The Next Bear Market:”

“Therefore, it should also not be surprising that when the Fed starts ‘tapering’ their bond purchases, the market tends to witness increased volatility. The grey shaded bars in the chart below show when the balance sheet is either flat or contracting.”

Notably, the time from the initial tapering of assets and a market correction is almost immediate.

If “monetary policy” has lost effectiveness in supporting consumer confidence and “animal spirits,” the significant risk to investors could be a market decline the Fed cannot halt.

Currently, investors are highly confident the Fed can support markets against any risk.

But what if they can’t?

Tyler Durden Fri, 08/20/2021 - 10:50

Economics

US indices close week mixed, weighed down by tech stocks

Benchmark US indices closed the trading week mixed on Friday September 24 pulled down by losses in technology and healthcare sectors amid mixed global…

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Benchmark US indices closed the trading week mixed on Friday, September 24, pulled down by losses in technology and healthcare sectors amid mixed global cues.

The S&P 500 was up 0.15% to 4,455.48. The Dow Jones rose 0.10% to 34,798.00. The NASDAQ Composite fell 0.03% to 15,047.70, and the small-cap Russell 2000 was down 0.49% to 2,248.07.

Global markets remained volatile this week amid mixed cues. US stocks wavered after news that Chinese real estate giant Evergrande Group was on the brink of a major default.

Its US$300 billion debt bomb has sent shockwaves across the global markets. On Thursday, it entered a 30-day grace period after missing an interest payment deadline.

The Fed's sooner-than-expected timeline for stimulus tapering also weighed on investors' minds. The central bank said this week that it is considering withdrawing its bond-buying program by November. Consequently, an interest rate hike may be imminent.

Separately, the Biden administration is also planning to increase the corporate tax. It is currently debating a spending bill, which is expected to outline the program.

On Friday, the energy and financial stocks were the top gainers on S&P 500 index. Real estate and healthcare stocks were the bottom movers. Six of the 11 index segments stayed in the green.

Shares of Nike, Inc (NKE) fell 6.17% after it lowered its sales forecast. The company said it is facing challenges to meet the demand for shoes and athlete wear due to delays in production and shipping. Nevertheless, its revenue jumped 16% YoY to US$12.2 billion in Q1, FY22.

Meredith Corporation (MDP) stock rose 25.27 percent after news that the magazine publisher is in advanced talks for its purchase by media and internet holding company IAC/InterActiveCorp.

In the healthcare sector, Moderna Inc. (MRNA) fell 4.65%, Dexcom Inc. (DXCM) shed 2.25%, and Waters Corporation (WAT) fell 1.78%. Resmed Inc. (RMD) and Boston Scientific Corporation (BSX) ticked down 1.37% and 1.06%, respectively.

In technology stocks, Enphase Energy Inc (ENPH) declined 3.04%, NVIDIA Corp (NVDA) fell 1.89%, and Adobe Inc. (ADBE) declined 1.48%. Accenture plc (ACN) shed 1.20%, and Salesforce.com Inc. (CRM) gained 2.47%.

In the energy sector, ConocoPhillips (COP) rose 2.43%, EOG Resources Inc. (EOG) gained 2.45%, and Baker Hughes Co (BKR) gained 1.25%. Hess Corporation (HES) and Pioneer Natural Resources Company (PXD) advanced 1.10 and 3.21%, respectively.

In the crypto market, prices tumbled after the Central Bank of China declared crypto transactions illegal. Bitcoin (BTC) fell 5.49%, Ethereum (ETH) fell 7.74%, and Dogecoin (DOGE) declined 6.82%.

Also read: With chipmakers in the spotlight, here’s a peek at five of them

Also read: Top five communication stocks that rode the Q2 rebound

Six of the 11 segments of the S&P 500 index stayed in the green.

Also read: Why are Salesforce (CRM), Affirm (AFRM) stocks in limelight today?

 Futures & Commodities

Gold futures were up 0.03% to US$1,750.40 per ounce. Silver decreased by 1.21% to US$22.405 per ounce, while copper rose 1.20% to US$4.2817.

Brent oil futures increased by 1.04% to US$78.05 per barrel and WTI crude was up 0.93% to US$73.98.

Also Read: In the Spotlight: Top 50 US startups in 2021

Bond Market

The 30-year Treasury bond yields was up 3.15% to 1.985, while the 10-year bond yields rose 3.02% to 1.453.

US Dollar Futures Index increased by 0.27% to US$93.278.

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Economics

China Is Responsible For More Than A Third Of World GDP Growth – This Is A Problem

China Is Responsible For More Than A Third Of World GDP Growth – This Is A Problem

As Deutsche Bank’s FX strategist George Saravelos writes…

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China Is Responsible For More Than A Third Of World GDP Growth - This Is A Problem

As Deutsche Bank's FX strategist George Saravelos writes in a recent research report he has been "on the pessimistic side of the reflation narrative for some time now."

In the note titled "three charts for pessimists", he admits that there are many more things happening to the global economy than easy fiscal and monetary policy, including a large negative supply-shock, in turn leading to sizeable demand destruction; stronger than expected precautionary saving behavior from consumers pushing down r*; and massive structural economic change on the back of COVID-led digitization across multiple sectors. And now we have to add China to the mix.

His first chart below highlights a simple observation: China has been acting as a massive global growth turbocharge since the start of the century, and is responsible for more than a third of world GDP growth. As Saravelos gloomily notes, "systemic risks of the unfolding property developer crisis aside, if the last few months experience are signaling a regime break in Chinese tolerance for what authorities have termed "low quality" growth, the world should take notice."

Back to the developed world, Saravelos' second chart shows there is still a massive hole in the UK labor market. Total hours worked are a whopping near-10% below trend compared to pre-COVID. Yet the market is now fully pricing a Bank of England rate hike early next year. For sure, wages are rising, but as a recent IFS study showed there are still massive disruptions in the UK labor market. It will take a brave central bank to hike in to such a hole. Even if it does, it is hardly positive for the currency.

Finally, there are two parallel universes. The global goods sector is overheated. Look no further than US consumption, which is half a trillion dollars above trend. But the US services sector is twice as large and half a trillion below trend. The analytical value of aggregate GDP metrics is severely lessened in the presence of such massive sectoral dislocations. In recent months, the goods sector has started decelerating faster than the services sector has quickened. How the consumer rebalances spending in coming months will be very important.

We are only at the very beginning of trying to understand the true post-COVID steady state, it will be a long ride.

Tyler Durden Fri, 09/24/2021 - 20:20
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Economics

Finally The Taper Tantrum, Or What’s Wrong With August?

If you’re fortunate to be able to do this long enough, you’re absolutely assured to get caught with your pants down and almost certainly more than once….

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If you’re fortunate to be able to do this long enough, you’re absolutely assured to get caught with your pants down and almost certainly more than once. In the short run, it’s all a crapshoot anyway. Markets fluctuate and never, ever go in a straight line. And just when you claim to be right on top, they yank the rug right out from under your conceit(s).

I’ve spent the past few weeks, really months pointing out how Federal Reserve policymakers via their compliant media hasn’t been able to provoke anything out of bonds. Not for lack of trying. Zilch. Nada. Forget tantrum, a whole lot of nothing even though taper – we’re always told – would spell the death of the bond “bull.” I’ve been almost gleefully highlighting how this policy farce has been greeted as a complete non-issue across all of those markets.

Until yesterday.

Finally, yields backed up both then and today in a notable selloff. Is this the long-awaited tantrum? Could it be something else?

For the former, start with Fed Governor Christopher Waller. Recall on August 2nd how Mr. Waller had appeared on CNBC and became the first voting FOMC member to encourage not just taper but a very quick one so as to clear enough calendar for a hard 2022 liftoff in rates.

Just two days later, it might appear his “go early, go fast” mantra caught on with at least some parts of the yield curve. From August 5 forward, the long end of the Treasury curve has been backing up from that recent mid-year low. August 4 was the last time before what is now a multi-week somewhat modest possibly reflationary action.

Before crowning Waller’s confidence, that particular date – August 4 – should ring a bell. Wasn’t it just last year, 2020, that longer-term bond yields had likewise bottomed out on this same day?

Yes, yes it was:



Obviously, the past two years began under very different circumstances; 2020 taking over from 2019 already close if not in recession (especially outside the US) and then the COVID errors. This year, 2021, opened in nearly opposite fashion with allegedly the whole world picking itself back up from all that damage and doing so boosted by every “stimulus” means known to man. Not just rebound, a fiery inflation-filled recovery. 

Yet, in the middle of both there’s more the same than different – questions about the initial “V” shaped recovery (which did not pan out) last year and then a pretty conspicuous “growth scare” this year many are plain hoping they can blame on delta COVID for the “unexpected” soft patch.

You probably also remember how that same label “growth scare” was also thrown around quite liberally in 2019, too. Back then, the only part of the yield curve anyone is told to pay attention to had inverted, not just provoking rate cuts out of a befuddled Jay Powell but raising mainstream alarms as to impending recession (which may actually have happened, but we’ll never know for sure given the timing of the coronavirus pandemic).

Wouldn’t you know it, the low point for LT UST’s in 2019 turned out to have been…August 28!



If twice could be random coincidence, yet three times is a pattern, what is four or five? Believe it or not, this same calendar shape can be found inside every one of the last five years – even 2018 when yields were more distorted as they neared their Reflation #3 peak. That year, the same sort of mid-year downward drift reaching its floor by August 20, 2018.

And the year before, during globally synchronized growth’s reported arrival, UST rates were, for the most part, moving lower (curve flattening) as the market kept rejecting the idea that there was some legitimately inflationary recovery taking shape. The low in yields for 2017? September 5 (OK, so not August but more than close enough).



Even 2015 and 2016 were pretty close in matching this seasonality; during the latter, yields bottomed out early July and then went up (a lot) later in the Autumn. The year before, 2015, as Euro$ #3 “matured”, again a mid-year low on August 24 (following CNY’s big theatrics) which had been the same day as the eurodollar shortage striking Wall Street equities (flash crash).

While there were a couple days later on in 2015 when the 10-year yield dropped a few bps lower than August 24, still the same general trend overall.

And that trend seems to have become intriguingly normal, manifested as a regular uptick in yields especially during September and October and then lasting through the end of each year (2018 the obvious exception given the eruption of Euro$ #4’s landmine). Quite simple enough, LT yields go up after August

Given this clear regularity, could any of these annual BOND ROUTs!!!! be considered reflationary?

Getting back to the original question, there’s quite a lot of evidence for something(s) other than Governor Waller’s melodramatic CNBC interview – or even the taper announcement and dots this week – which seems more likely to account for the bond market’s longer end behavior over the past five weeks. And this would also encompass the “big” selloff yesterday and today.

These last two days, then, have not been some unusual, tantrum-y eruption (look above at how far yields jumped in early September 2019 even as recession moved into the global forefront). Quite to the contrary, what’s happened so far over the past two months is entirely consistent with what seems to happen every year. Taper doesn’t. 

This could even mean I’m actually off-the-hook, my britches still fashioned tightly right where they need to be. The Fed’s people will continue trying to provoke a bond tantrum because of their need for the public to believe taper is in charge of interest rates, yet right at this moment there’s only evidence that bonds are just doing what they normally do without regard for dots and QE’s.

This only raises the question, of course, what the hell must be going on during the month of August? Sorry for the cliffhanger, but that I’ll save for another day. Feel free, however, to tweet or comment your theories and hopefully during next week’s podcast Emil Kalinowski and I will be able to discuss them.

 



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