Posts tagged Fed
Anticipation is everything

It’s difficult to get past the obvious at the moment. Markets have made their bet on further monetary easing, and they’re now waiting for central banks to deliver. Policymakers have been showering markets with promises to “act if needed,” and assurances from those stuck at the zero bound that the toolbox is far from empty. But they haven’t done anything yet, though this is a position that will be closely examined this week. Mr. Draghi will be at the spotlight first today when he delivers his introductory statement at the ECB forum in Sintra. The nebulous 5y/5y forward inflation gauge has crashed to new lows recently, and it seems to me that the consensus now expects a signal from Mr. Draghi that the ECB will cut its deposit rate, or re-start QE, as soon as September, which incidentally will be Mr. Draghi’s last meeting as ECB president. Meanwhile at the Fed, the only question seems to be whether The FOMC cuts by 25 or 50 basis points in the next few months, setting the stage for an interesting June meeting this week. To the extent that markets have priced-in monetary easing in response to the deteriorating trade negotiations between the U.S. and China, it would make the most sense to assume that the much anticipated Osaka sit-down between Mr. Trump and Xi—at the end of June—to be a catalyst for something in markets.

Read More
Is it over yet?

The new year has started like the old one ended; volatile and with confusion among punters and analysts with respect to the notional Narrative™. The volte-face in expectations for U.S. interest rates is a good example. In October, eurodollars were implying a Fed funds rate of just under 3.3% in December 2019 and 2020. At the beginning of the year, they had collapsed to 2.6% and 2.4%, respectively, effectively pricing in an imminent recession, and Fed rate cuts in 2020 to counteract that. Indeed, at some point, the Fed fund futures were even pricing cuts this year, a position that was stung badly on Friday by the hilariously bullish NFP report. Although neither the Fed nor markets know where the terminal/neutral rate—not to mention that this is a moving target—I reckon that the past six months have given us a decent clue. Anything close to 3.5% probably is too high, while sub-2.5% is too low, at least as long as the economy remains in a more-or-less stable expansion. Looking beyond the navel-gazing that is U.S. monetary policy, I am warming to the idea that (equity) markets will pivot towards cyclicals at some point this year, but we are not there yet. Over Christmas, I toyed with the idea that the next shoe to drop would be a downturn in the (hard) global economic data. The numbers have already deteriorated, but I reckon that they could slip further.

Read More
A Great Story

We will probably spend a big part of Q4 deciphering the economic data through the murky looking-glass of U.S. hurricanes and Asian typhoons, so just to be clear. I am still not happy with the trajectory of global leading indicators. Narrow money growth has collapsed, and recent data suggest that the slowdown will worsen in Q3. M1 in China rose 3.9% year-over-year in August, the slowest pace since the middle of 2015, and the trend in the U.S. and Europe also is poor. In the U.S., M1 is growing just under four percent on the year, the weakest since 2008, and the EZ headline also has slowed, though it is robust overall. The crunch in narrow money chimes with central bank balance sheet data. My home-cooked broad index, which includes the SNB and Chinese FX reserves, is now falling on a six-month basis. These data don’t mean the same in all economies—M1 is not a good LEI in the U.S. for example—and the Chinese numbers will turn up soon to reflect recent efforts to ease financial conditions. That said, a slowdown in US dollar liquidity matters for non-US markets, and the Chinese M1 numbers lead by six-to-nine months. The overall story is clear: Global liquidity growth has slowed to a trickle, warning about risks of growth and asset prices.

Read More
Is the Fed's Script Already Written?

I have a feeling that many readers didn’t like my conclusion last week, that the major markets and asset classes are a bit like watching paint dry. I concede that it was a lousy metaphor, but last week provided an excellent example that markets are still playing second fiddle to events elsewhere in the public sphere. The NATO summit in Brussels and Mr. Trump’s visit to the U.K. drew all the headlines*, once again forcing economists and strategists to take on the uncomfortable mantle as armchair political analysts. To the extent that Mr. Trump’s odd ways are the common denominator across most geopolitical risk these days, experience suggests that investors should ignore it. That said, I suspect the resurgence in the dollar has something to do with it. The U.S., and by extension Mr. Trump, wield extensive power in the global economy. The more that the White House throws its weight around—on the laughable premise that the U.S. is being short-changed as part of the post-WWII world order—the stronger the dollar gets. In other words, Mr. Trump can win the trade wars, and extract pounds of flesh from his allies, but if the dollar zooms higher, the end-result could be the opposite of what the president, and his base, set out to achieve in the first place. 

Read More