Economics

Yellen Fed & Monetary Policy: “Running it Hot”

September 24, 2016
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Yellen Fed & Monetary Policy: “Running it Hot”

The September Fed meeting issued few surprises; fed funds were not hiked, as was telegraphed by the Brainard speech. While the Fed maintained interest rates, in the press conference, Yellen once again, found a way to interject incremental dovishness, driving interest rates lower, and asset prices up. The playbook of the Yellen Fed for the past 3-years continues. The new focus of the Fed revolves around finally acknowledging that the Philips Curve is a rubbish inflation model, and that more slack exists in the labor market, and the economy, than previously believed, hindering an acceleration in inflation pressures. Cynics will observe that this new found slack wasn’t focused on by hawkish Fed Governors, up until September 10th, when talk of two hikes this year were still be floated. The...

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Big in Japan; Can the Fed trump the BOJ?

September 21, 2016
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Big in Japan; Can the Fed trump the BOJ?

VIX back to the 15 range ahead of a consequential Fed meeting, deep into the economic cycle. Volatility crush continues into actual central bank announcements. Zombie US markets can’t go down but can’t rally either. After recent, underwhelming ECB announcements, markets sense more to come from the Fed, yet a gasping sense reigns omnipresent. What, actually, can the Fed do? After a litany of hawkish babble, commentary, from Fed governors this month, indicating the potential for two rate hikes. Can the expectation fall all the way to zero hikes in 2016? Just on an employment report that missed by 20,000 jobs? It seems that getting expectations down to no hikes in 2016 is the only way to deliver a “dovish surprise”. In this context, market action will be difficult to predict at 2:00...

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Inmates Running the Asylum; Fed Policy 8-years into Recovery

September 16, 2016
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Inmates Running the Asylum; Fed Policy 8-years into Recovery

Last week, a Fed Governor, made comments hitting Bloomberg, that the Fed was not a handmaiden to the markets. The comments, not part of a major speech, and difficult to find on Google, were striking, and provocative, conjuring memories of a period when this would never need to be said. Today’s baffling Fed communication strategy involves speeches of voting members, non-voting members, incorporates guidance, including some guidance that makes its way to the cover of the WSJ through Jon Hilsenrath, and includes a full blown black-out period where no comments are allowed at all. What happened to the time when there was a Fed meeting, and sometimes unexpected things happened? Post-financial crisis, markets are viewed as fragile by policy makers. The extent to which markets are actually fragile is debatable,...

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Volatility Suppression Challenged

September 12, 2016
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Volatility Suppression Challenged

Since the BREXIT rebound/rip, it’s been an exceptionally stable summer. Few predicted that the unexpected BREXIT vote, would be an unequivocal positive to markets. The tell, quite clear after the fact, was the global rate plunge, and the US 10-year yield sinking to the 1.35% range, around the 4th of July. The perfect combination arose to send markets to all-time highs during the summer, a scary event (BREXIT) that lowered global rates, took the Fed off the table, and led to stimulus as far as the eye could see in Europe/elsewhere, all while not really impacting the US economy. As long as “lower-for-longer ” (interest rates), a BREXIT residual, remained in-play, volatility suppression reigned, and equities could grind higher. While the dynamic persisted all summer, it came undone the...

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On Brexit

June 28, 2016
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On Brexit

What a tumultuous 5 days. The lurching feeling is all the more acute after a period of one-way markets (up) and declining volatility. With polls shifting towards “Remain” last week, the prospect of all-time highs in the S&P 500 held an aura of inevitability. The unexpected Brexit vote, by a solid 4 point margin, tanked stocks for two consecutive sessions, eliminated Fed rate hike expectations for 2016, and catapulted gold. Monday’s continuation of trend points to Brexit being something larger than a one-off event catching market participants all on one side of a trade. The shock to the construct of the EU will impact financial markets through the end of the current cycle, which is already in late stages (7-years old). Perhaps, Brexit will be a tipping point, or...

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Valuing the Yellen Put

April 7, 2016
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Valuing the Yellen Put

The Yellen Put, follows a line of Federal Reserve inspired put options, valuable to market participants of specific Fed Chair eras. The rationale behind the Fed Chair put is simple; with the Federal Reserve so vigilant to support any downtick in the economy and/or markets with interest rate cuts (Greenspan), quantitative easing (Bernanke), and ZIRF (Zero Interest Rates Forever – Yellen) investors receive downside protection from the Fed. Actually paying for downside protection vis-a-vis real put options takes on a ludicrous feel; markets don’t go down much, and if they do, they never stay down. Duh. That markets are increasingly policy driven is a reality of the current investment/economic cycle. 2016 investors are learning (through force) just how valuable the Yellen Put is. Janet Yellen is the most dovish...

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China Slowdown Will Plague Markets For Years

January 31, 2016
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China Slowdown Will Plague Markets For Years

What a start to the year. CJF’s contrarian prediction of 1,860 on the S&P came to be on January 20th. Subsequently, the market rallied strongly on the hint of more quantitative easing out of the ECB, and the adoption of negative interest rates by the Bank of Japan. Any doubts that 2016 will be a volatile, and difficult year, should now be erased. After a tumultuous January for investing, a period when seasonality and investment inflows are supposed to support markets, CJF is stepping back to assess big picture dynamics for the global economy and the overall investment environment. At risk of being overly obvious: Something is not quite right with the global economy In the seventh year of recovery since the financial crisis, Brazil is in recession, Russia...

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The Fed Awakens; Creates Negative Global Market Backdrop

December 21, 2015
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The Fed Awakens; Creates Negative Global Market Backdrop

At the widely anticipated December 16th Fed meeting, the Board of Governors did the expected, and finally raised the US federal funds rate by 25 basis points. The rate-hike failed to surprise markets; the move was telegraphed and written about in advance by Jon Hilsenrath in an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, Wednesday morning, before the actual hike. So why did markets soar in anticipation of the hike, soar some more after the hike, and subsequently mini-crash on Thursday and Friday? No good answer on market action from CJF, but the volatility, exaggerated moves, and declining breadth, are all bearish indicators going forward. CJF takes a contrarian view to the initial goldilocks interpretation of the Fed hike; the Fed action is hawkish, creating a major obstacle...

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ISM sinks to post-2009 lows; Industrial Economy Recession a Catch 22 for Fed

December 2, 2015
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ISM sinks to post-2009 lows; Industrial Economy Recession a Catch 22 for Fed

November ISM sank to the lowest level since 2009. Stunning, that the ISM (Institute for Supply Chain Management) survey, formerly known as NAPM (National Association of Purchasing Managers), printed 48.6, the lowest level since the throes of the financial crisis. For perspective, the last time the ISM printed sub-48, in June 2009, the S&P was 900. Today, at 2,100+, the market is a cool 134% higher. The S&P is up by 1,200 handles, after having earned approximately 620, the cumulative EPS for the market from 2010-2015. The market is up at a much faster pace than earnings as the multiple swelled from 12x to 17x. What a 6-years. Awkward that December marks the potential lift-off, delayed that is, of a sea change in Fed policy: the end of ZIRP (zero interest rate...

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Qui n’avance pas, recule

November 16, 2015
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Qui n’avance pas, recule

We all eat at restaurants, go to stadiums, and walk down the street. The tragically successful terrorist attacks in Paris highlight the vulnerability of the human condition at any instant. While this has always been the case, and will continue to be so, civilization, and human progress, over past centuries and decades, reduces the chance of random death from a vulgar, inhumane cause. Radical Islamic terrorism is so deplorable because the aim is to destroy, to undo, to move backwards in time, and to return to a harsher world. The impossibility of the ultimate success of the radical Islamic movement is matched with the fervor of the very small percentage of the world population that supports this movement. To create the scale necessary to carry out such large scale...

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Midsummer Issues Persist; Divergent Global Central Bank Actions Create Challenges

November 10, 2015
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Midsummer Issues Persist; Divergent Global Central Bank Actions Create Challenges

The market moves fast. Thankfully, in the rest of the world, trends of all kinds, generally move at a measured pace. The market overreacts to events and day-to-day happenings based on crowd think and behavioral issues. A change in trend will often start with a subtle data point or indicator, which in hindsight, ignites a big, and sustained move in the market. Now is not one of those times. Late summer fears of China slowdown and EM collapse look to have been overblown, and the severity of the selloff too harsh. But the rally of the past two months also contains elements of overreaction; the underlying drivers and risks from the summer aren’t resolved. The world is fundamentally caught in a new dynamic. Credit expansion reached limits in every...

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Dovish Fed Minutes Ramp Market; Valuing the Yellen Put

October 10, 2015
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Dovish Fed Minutes Ramp Market; Valuing the Yellen Put

The September 16-17th FOMC minutes were released Thursday afternoon, continuing the market’s Beast Mode reaction to Fed dovishness. The S&P 500 completed the best week of the year, barely down-ticking from 1,893 to 2,015. The market rallied 7% from the lows after the September Employment report to the highs yesterday. The 122 handle rally takes the market multiple up one turn (from 15x to 16x multiple). Despite the euphoria of a quick fix, there are a number of reasons for caution after scrutiny of the Fed’s minutes. Yes, the Fed minutes were dovish. Full stop. The Fed awaits more data on improving labor markets despite a 5.1% unemployment rate, and inflation is expected to remain below 2% for some time. All the voting members, other than Lacker, voted against a hike....

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