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Thu, 29th June 2017

Anirudh Sethi Report

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Archives of “deflation” Tag

Yellen: “I Don’t Believe We Will See Another Crisis In Our Lifetime”

If there was any confusion why the Fed intends to keep hiking rates, even in the face of negative economic data and disappearing inflation, it was put to rest over the past 2 days when not one, not two , not three, but four Fed speakers, including the three most important ones, made it clear that the Fed’s only intention at this point is to burst the asset bubble.

First there was SF Fed president John Williams who said that “there seems to be a priced-to-perfection attitude out there” and that the stock market rally “still seems to be running very much on fumes.” Speaking to Australian TV, Williams added that “we are seeing some reach for yield, and some, maybe, excess risk-taking in the financial system with very low rates. As we move interest rates back to more-normal, I think that that will, people will pull back on that,

Then it was Fed vice chairman Stan Fischer’s turn, who while somewhat more diplomatic, delivered the same message: “the increase in prices of risky assets in most asset markets over the past six months points to a notable uptick in risk appetites…. Measures of earnings strength, such as the return on assets, continue to approach pre-crisis levels at most banks, although with interest rates being so low, the return on assets might be expected to have declined relative to their pre-crisis levels–and that fact is also a cause for concern.”

 Fischer then also said that the corporate sector is “notably leveraged”, that it would be foolish to think that all risks have been eliminated, and called for “close monitoring” of rising risk appetites.

Charles Evans Flips From Hawkish To Dovish, Says Fed “Could Wait Until December” Before Next Hike

Earlier today, NY Fed president Bill Dudley sparked a hawkish storm in the markets, when in a bizarre statement he doubled down on the Yellen’s “hawkish hike” rhetoric, and  made it seem that easing is now perceived by the Fed as a bad thing:

  • FED’S DUDLEY: HALTING TIGHTENING CYCLE NOW WOULD IMPERIL ECONOMY

Then moments ago, today’s second Fed speaker of the day, Chicago Fed’s dovish, FOMC voter Charles Evans delivered a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde statement, where first, in his prepared remarks and during the subsequent Q&A in New York he sounded rather hawkish, while speaking to reporters after the event he flipped at emerged as his usual old dovish self.

First, here are the highlights from the dovish Evans:

  • “I think where we are with the funds rate right now is kind of in line with my outlook.”
  • “US fundamentals are good, no reason this won’t continue”
  • Evans sees a “high threshold to change the Fed’s balance sheet unwind plan”
  • Evans said there are only “small differences” in whether the FOMC hiked rates 2, 3, or 4 times in 2017.
  • Evans says he didn’t dissent last week because “we’re at a point where the real economy is really doing quite well”
  • Evans agreed with Yellen and others that the reductions in the balance sheet should gradual and like “watching paint dry”.
  • “I can’t just sort of say, it’s without risk to continue with very accommodative low interest rates”
  • “Beginning to adjust the balance sheet is one of the easier, more natural things to do, soon, sometime this year”

Analysts debate possible September start for Fed balance sheet run-off

Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said on Wednesday that the central bank could begin shrinking its $4.5tn balance sheet “relatively soon“, and while she demurred on a specific date, some analysts have now pegged that announcement for September — although others aren’t so sure.

Over the past few months, analysts have tried to piece together a clearer picture of the Fed’s timing for moving on the three expected interest-rate increases this year, as well as when it intends to start the process of unwinding its massive balance sheet.

On Wednesday, the Fed moved forward with its second rate rise of 2017 and unveiled some details of its plan to shrink the balance sheet that has grown to a massive size in the wake of the financial crisis. That has left analysts to ponder when to expect the Fed’s next moves at its four remaining meetings of the year. 

In a note following today’s announcement, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said in a report that they now expect the balance sheet normalisation to begin in September, with the third rate increase of 2017 penciled in for December:

Six big events coming up on the economic calendar in the day ahead

1 )Japan jobs and consumers

Japan releases April jobs numbers and retail sales at 02330 GMT. Economic data in Japan still doesn’t move the market much but if the improvements from early this year can continue, a big conversation about the BOJ will have to take place. Keep a close eye on retail sales.

2) French GDP

The second look at Q1 French GDP is due at 0645 GMT. No change from the +0.3% q/q and +0.8%. An uptick would add to the optimism that we heard from Draghi earlier today.

3) German inflation

The German regional CPI numbers will begin to trickle out at 0700 GMT, starting with Saxony. After they’re all in, the national numbers will be released. However, in terms of trading, the market has it all figured out before the national number at 1200 GMT, so watch the regional figures for the trend.

4) US PCE

This one is huge. The Fed hasn’t made up its mind about a June 14 hike and inflation is a big reason why. If PCE head and core numbers miss, there will be a major rethink about what’s coming in two weeks. The y/y deflator is expected at 1.7% with core forecast at 1.5%. The data is due at 8:30 am ET (1230 GMT)

5) Consumer confidence

Sentiment surveys have been great since the US election but it hasn’t been the best month for faith in the new administration. Could that make consumers think again? Probably not but we’ll find out when the numbers are released at 10 am ET (1400 GMT).

6) Fed’s Brainard Part 3

We heard from Brainard twice late last week but she never really dove into the monetary policy debate. At both appearances, however, she alluded to worries about soft inflation. Maybe she was just waiting to get the latest PCE data before sending a signal. We’ll find out at 1 pm ET (1700 GMT).

FOMC meeting minutes: Balance sheet plan would raise rolll off caps every 3 months

Tightening likely appropriate soon” most Fed officials said

Other comments:
  • Prudent to only evidence a slowdown is transitory
  • Fed officials still saw gradual tightening as appropriate
  • FOMC expected consumer spending to rebound in coming months
  • Fed staff outline plan for gradual phaseout of reinvestment
  • Most Fed officials: inflation data reflects transitory factors
  • Nearly all Fed officials favorite staff proposal on rolloff caps
  • risks from some elevated commercial property values
  • a few Fed officials concern progress on inflation goal slowed
  • jobless rate of 4.5% at or below Fed officials long run levels
  • almost all Fed officials favor starting to shrink assets in 2017
  • deregulation could raise financial risks according to several Fed officials

The meeting minutes can be found here….

Here’s one chart that could see the Fed pause on a hike today

It’s all about the wages

The fed hike case is built on a strong consumer led recovery. That’s good when people have money to spend, and when wages give them that money to spend. The wages (average hourly earnings) in the jobs reports report showed pay running at a decent 2.8% y/y. Today we get the inflation adjusted wage numbers in the CPI report and they don’t look as hot.

Last month, year on year real average weekly wages dropped for the first time since the start of 2014.

US real average weekly wages y/y

That’s not good news for the supposedly strong consumer and rate hikes won’t make the situation any better.

I’m quite surprised that the Fed will be raising so quickly after the Dec hike instead of letting that hike filter through, and monitoring the effects. To me that suggests that behind the scenes there’s something they are worried about. If they’re willing to hike in a moment when their whole basis for hikes (the consumer) might start finding things tougher, there’s something amiss.

It’s a straw clutch to try and find anything that could derail the hike tonight but there’s plenty of evidence in why they might throw in some additional caution about future hikes, and the wages numbers today may aid that sentiment.

2016 Debt Binge Produces (Surprise!) 2017 Inflation; Guess What That Means For 2018?

Just as everyone was finally accepting the idea of deflation and negative interest rates, inflation decides to pay a return visit. In the past week, articles with the following headlines appeared in major publications around the world:

Swiss inflation rises at highest monthly rate in 5 years

China February producer inflation fastest in nearly nine years

Year-over-year import prices at highest level in five years

ECB keeps bond-buying, rates unchanged amid inflation flare-up

Food inflation doubles in a month as UK shoppers start to feel the pinch

What happened? Well, towards the end of 2015 most of the world’s major governments apparently got spooked by deflation and decided to ramp up their borrowing and money creation. China, for instance, generated the following stats in 2016:

  • New loans totaling 12.65 trillion yuan, or $1.8 trillion.
  • M2 money supply growth of 11%.
  • Debt-to-GDP ratio jump from 254% to 277%.

In Europe, the European Central Bank ramped up its bond buying program, pumping about a trillion newly-created euros into the Continental economy:

WSJ: America Can’t Escape the Debt Vortex: Total obligations … hit 370% of GDP

The Wall Street Journal on ‘credit bubbles’:

  • Credit bubbles usually pop at some point and the consequences aren’t pretty
  • The stock-market crash of 1929 followed a credit boom, and so did the crash of 2008
  • In both cases, Washington overreacted, producing a 10-year depression in the 1930s and a weak recovery after the 2009 recession
The piece goes on (this is a summary, link to the full piece below), bolding mine:
Lacy Hunt, an economist with Hoisington Investment, estimated at a recent conference held by Grant’s Interest Rate Observer that debt of all kinds in the U.S. now totals more than $69 trillion. That’s more than double the $30 trillion recorded by Fed statisticians as recently as 2000. If the Hunt figure is correct, then total debt is now about 370% of GDP, up from 294% in 2000.
The article concludes:
  • There isn’t much the Fed can do about this except make it worse
  • Nor is there much that Mr. Trump can do except make it worse. But he seems intent on that-threatening trade wars against America’s biggest trading partners. If the president blocks their ability to earn dollars, he diminishes their ability to bail us, and themselves, out of the global debt slough. The past decade of government and Fed profligacy is not his fault, but that still isn’t an argument for recklessness. If this ends in tears, Mr. Trump will get the blame.

The Fed Is Preparing $1 Trillion In QE For The Next Recession: Deutsche

While in recent weeks there has been a material increase in Fed balance sheet normalization chatter, according to a new report from Deutsche Bank analysts, it may all be for nothing for one simple reason: should the US encounter a recession in the next several years, the most likely reaction by the Fed would be another $1 trillion in QE, delaying indefinitely any expectations for a return to a “normal” balance sheet.

As a reminder, as of this month, the duration of the latest expansionary cycle – as defined by the NBER – has reached 93 months, surpassing the 92 months of the 1982-1990 cycle, and is now the third longest in history. Should the cycle persist for another 27 months, or just under two and a half years, it would be the longest period of “economic growth” in history.

Next Week -Watch out :Week ahead: Greece, Fed minutes, Buffett letter

Don’t be fooled by the the holiday-shortened trading week in the US. Next week promises to give investors plenty to watch, including the Greek bailout, minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting, Bank of England governor Mark Carney’s testimony, retail earnings and Warren Buffett’s annual letter.

Here’s what to look for in the coming days.

Greece

The meeting has also gained additional significance, as the last major one slated before European elections begin next month, starting with the Dutch.

“With the two largest eurozone economies facing elections this year, we believe it is in
their policymakers’ interests to contain any potential risks from Greek disruption,” said economists at Nomura. “We therefore expect some transitory agreement to be reached at least at the eurozone level, with the IMF decision on programme participation likely to be delayed even further”.

Carney testimony

Following Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s semi-annual testimony to Congress, investors get to hear from her UK counterpart when Mark Carney testifies before the UK parliament’s Treasury Committee on Tuesday. Mr Carney’s testimony comes after the BoE upgraded its economic forecast, while leaving its inflation forecast and interest-rate policy on hold.

“Since the inflation report was published two weeks ago, we’ve seen downside surprises to wage growth, inflation, and retail sales,” said strategists at TD Securities. “So even after the IR was more dovish than markets expected, we may see a further dovish tone with the IR testimony given the soft tone of the recent data releases.”

Fed minutes

The Federal Reserve will release the minutes of its last monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, though they may seem dated since investors have just heard from Ms Yellen. In her testimony to Congress this week, she painted an upbeat view of the US economy and warned that it would be “unwise” to wait too long before raising interest rates.

Bank of America economists say they believe the minutes will reflect “a great deal of focus on both upside and downside risks,” even as Fed officials “become increasingly constructive on the outlook for the economy.”

Moreover, any discussion on the Fed’s balance sheet is likely to garner interest. “Yellen reiterated the view that the primary tool remains rates and that the balance sheet will only be addressed once the normalization of the fed funds rate is well under way,” said the folks at Bank of America. “We expect the minutes to reinforce this view, but there might be some discussion among members on the issue.”