Dec 11 balance of risks update

Labor markets remain stronger than expected, right up through this morning’s Manpower survey for next quarter. Inflation risks remain elevated, with estimates of 1.5% PPI and 0.6% CPI the consensus for Thursday and Friday, and CPI core moving higher as well. While several funding spreads have widened vs. fed funds, absolute rates for reasonable quality mtgs. and corp. bonds are down- what the Fed calls an ‘easing of financial conditions’ for this component. And removing the stigma from using the discount window will ease year end issues.

A 0.25% fed funds cut and 0.50% discount rate cut are priced in for today’s meeting, and more cuts are priced in for future meetings. At the same time the balance of risk as highlighted below, with those cuts priced in, seems tilted towards inflation.


Those closest to the Fed expect a 0.25% cut in the fed funds rate and a 0.50% cut in the discount rate. They see the Fed’s motivation as fear of the balance of risks swinging sharply back towards ‘market functioning risk’ if the Fed doesn’t deliver the cuts already priced in. It’s a case of ‘let’s put to bed the market functioning issues first, and then move on to other issues.’

Data Highlights:

  • EMPLOYMENT – better than expectations right up through today:
    • ADP employment strong.
    • Payrolls up 94,000- above expectations.
    • Unemployment rate 4.7% – down slightly.
    • Weekly claims very slightly higher.
  • HOUSING – exceeds expectations:
    • Mortgage applicationsstrong and trending up.
    • New home sales 728k vs. 750k expected, and 716k previous month.
    • Existing home sales 4.97million vs. 5million.
    • Permits 1.178m vs. 1.200million expected, previous month revised to 1.261million from 1.226million.
    • Pending home sales up 0.6% vs. down 1% expected. Previous month revised to up 1.4% from up 0.2%.
    • Housing starts 1.229 vs. 1.117 expected.
    • NAHB housing index 19 vs. 17 expected.
  • AND THE REST is still showing no sign of weakness:
    • CEO survey positive.
    • Q3 GDP revised up to 4.9%.
    • Personal income and spending up .2%, (.1% less than private forecasts), real spending flat.
    • Total vehicles sales over 16 million and unchanged.
    • Factory orders up 0.5% and 0.3%, above expectations.
    • October construction spending down 0.8%, vs. up 0.2% for September, year over year down 0.6%, somewhat below expectations.
    • Durable goods – 0.7% vs. up 0.3% expected but previous month revised from 0.3% to up 1.1&.
    • Capacity Utilization 81.7 vs. 82 expected.
    • Industrial production was down 0.5% vs. up 0.1% expected.
    • Retail sales ex autos up 0.2% in line with expectations, core up 0.1%.
    • Sep trade balance -56.5 vs. -58.5 expected.
    • Consumer confidence down- too many people watching CNBC.
    • CPI consensus (Dec 14): 4.1% YoY from 3.5%, core 2.3% YoY from 2.2%.
    • December Michigan inflation expectations up- one year 3.5% from 3.4%, five year 3.1% from 2.9%.
    • October PCE deflator up 2.9% YoY, vs. 1.8% pre Oct 31 meeting .
    • October Core PCE up 0.2%, up 1.9% YoY, vs. 1.8% pre Oct 31 meeting.
    • OFHEO home price index down 0.4%, first decline since 1994, but still up YoY.
    • Import prices up 1.8% vs. 1.2% expected, YoY up 9.6% vs. 9% expected.
    • Prices received up in all the reported surveys (ISM, Purchasing Managers, region feds, etc.).
    • Prices paid all up except Phil Fed survey prices paid down slightly.
    • Although the net percentage of firms raising selling prices slipped to 14% in November from 15% in October, the percentage of firms planning to raise prices rose to 26% from 22%. The NFIB noted, “There was no significant progress on the inflation front.”
    • 10 year TIPS floater at 1.85% shows expectations of Fed only keeping a real rate of less than 2% for the next ten years.
    • 5×5 TIPS CPI break even rate is down to 2.42% vs. 2.49% October 31.
    • Crude oil is at $89, down from $94 at the last meeting, and vs. about $55 last year.
    • Saudi oil production up, indicating higher demand at the higher prices.
  • MARKET FUNCTIONING/FINANCIAL CONDITIONS – little movement but markets muddling through the ‘Great Repricing of Risk’:
    • Bank loans up, commercial paper down.
    • Assorted losses and recapitalizations but no business interruptions.
    • S&P index down about 1% since October 31, but remains up about 8% for 2007, and substantially up from the inter meeting lows.
    • 3 month FF/LIBOR spread is 73 bp, wider since October 31.
    • Mortgage rates down, jumbo mortgage spreads are wider but off the widest levels.
    • Mortgage delinquencies up, probably within Fed forecasts.