FOMC preview

My guess is the GDP forecast the Fed is now getting from it’s staff is not a downgrade from previous forecasts, and may even be an upgrade due to:

  • The blowout durable goods numbers
  • The drops in claims following the high unemployment number
  • The private forecasts on average show 65,000 new jobs and unemployment falling to 4.9 on Friday
  • Anecdotal reports from big cap old line corps show no recession in sight
  • But still data dependent with ADP, GDP, and deflator tomorrow am

Yes, it has been about domestic demand, but they now realize exports have taken up the slack and are holding up employment and real gdp, as well as contributing to inflation.

Staff inflation report will show deterioration of both headline CPI and core measures, along with tips fwd breakevens moving higher and survey info showing elevating prices paid and received. And food/fuel/import and export prices all trending higher, risking core converging to headline CPI.

Higher crude prices are now attributed to higher US demand by the markets and the Fed.

Many ‘financial conditions’ have eased:

  • LIBOR has come down over 150 bp since the Dec 18 meeting even as FF are down only 75. mtg rates way down as well, and at very low levels.
  • Commercial mortgage rates somewhat higher, but from very low levels previously
  • Equities have firmed up since the soc gen liquidations (and look very cheap to me)

The last bit of system risk is from a downgrade of the monolines and that risk seems to be diminishing.

The ratings agencies have been reviewing them intensely for 6 months, and both the capital of the monolines and the credit quality of the insured bonds must still be adequate for the AAA rating. And in any case the risk is to go to AA, not to junk, meaning that credit per se isn’t the issue at all. The issue is forced selling by those who can’t legally hold insured bonds if the rating drops. That’s a very different issue.

Wouldn’t surprise me that if tomorrows numbers are as expected, and the fed cuts 50, markets start to look at that as possibly the last move, and reprice accordingly, with FF futures trading closer to a 3% trough than a 2% trough.

An unchanged decision may also result in a near 3% FF futures trough, with a couple of 25 cuts priced in.


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2 Responses to FOMC preview

  1. warren mosler says:

    Yes, agreed with all (though i did read it very quickly) and have been writing much the same for a long time. check out the ‘mandatory readings’ on this website and my other papers over the years at http://www.mosler.org

    meanwhile, those forces described are firmly in place, and while i do attempt to analyze them let me know if i slip into promoting them, thanks!

    Reply

  2. Hoover printing presses says:

    “An unchanged decision may also result in a near 3% FF futures trough, with a couple of 25 cuts priced in.”

    Warren I fear I have become what keynes warned of, because I do take such interest in your postings and Bernanke has given weight that investor expectations are a large force on our planet today – is this wise? Is this the best way mankind can come up with to steer our future? A large casino?

    So much focus on inflation expectations and fed interest rate cuts expectations, you seem to be the very individual Keynes was warning about too though – using his intelligence to “beat the gun” as keynes said because of the importance placed on “liquidity” – I believe from reading below keynes was becoming very disenchanted with “liquidity” and feel these memes can be as aptly applied to currency markets as any other organized market.

    Let’s give the mike to John Maynard Keynesa, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, chapter 12, “The State of Long-Term Expectation”:

    The considerations upon which expectations of prospective yields are based are partly existing facts… partly future events which can only be forecasted… future changes in the type and quantity of the stock of capital-assets and in the tastes of the consumer, the strength of effective demand from time to time during the life of the investment under consideration, and the changes in the wage-unit in terms of money…. We may sum [these] up… as being the state of long-term expectation….

    It would be foolish, in forming our expectations, to attach great weight to matters which are very uncertain…. For this reason the facts of the existing situation enter, in a sense disproportionately, into the formation of our long-term expectations; our usual practice being to take the existing situation and to project it into the future, modified only to the extent that we have more or less definite reasons for expecting a change….

    The state of confidence, as they term it, is a matter to which practical men always pay the closest and most anxious attention. But economists have not analysed it carefully…. Our conclusions must mainly depend upon the actual observation of markets and business psychology…. The outstanding fact is the extreme precariousness of the basis of knowledge on which our estimates of prospective yield have to be made. Our knowledge of the factors which will govern the yield of an investment some years hence is usually very slight and often negligible. If we speak frankly, we have to admit that our basis of knowledge for estimating the yield ten years hence of a railway, a copper mine, a textile factory, the goodwill of a patent medicine, an Atlantic liner, a building in the City of London amounts to little and sometimes to nothing; or even five years hence. In fact, those who seriously attempt to make any such estimate are often so much in the minority that their behaviour does not govern the market….

    With the separation between ownership and management which prevails to-day and with the development of organised investment markets, a new factor of great importance has entered in, which sometimes facilitates investment but sometimes adds greatly to the instability of the system. In the absence of security markets, there is no object in frequently attempting to revalue an investment to which we are committed. But the Stock Exchange revalues many investments every day and the revaluations give a frequent opportunity to the individual (though not to the community as a whole) to revise his commitments. It is as though a farmer, having tapped his barometer after breakfast, could decide to remove his capital from the farming business between 10 and 11 in the morning and reconsider whether he should return to it later in the week. But the daily revaluations of the Stock Exchange, though they are primarily made to facilitate transfers of old investments between one individual and another, inevitably exert a decisive influence on the rate of current investment. For there is no sense in building up a new enterprise at a cost greater than that at which a similar existing enterprise can be purchased; whilst there is an inducement to spend on a new project what may seem an extravagant sum, if it can be floated off on the Stock Exchange at an immediate profit. Thus certain classes of investment are governed by the average expectation of those who deal on the Stock Exchange as revealed in the price of shares, rather than by the genuine expectations of the professional entrepreneur. How then are these highly significant daily, even hourly, revaluations of existing investments carried out in practice?

    In practice we have tacitly agreed, as a rule, to fall back on what is, in truth, a convention. The essence of this convention — though it does not, of course, work out quite so simply — lies in assuming that the existing state of affairs will continue indefinitely, except in so far as we have specific reasons to expect a change. This does not mean that we really believe that the existing state of affairs will continue indefinitely. We know from extensive experience that this is most unlikely…. [T]he above conventional method of calculation will be compatible with a considerable measure of continuity and stability in our affairs, so long as we can rely on the maintenance of the convention…. But it is not surprising that a convention, in an absolute view of things so arbitrary, should have its weak points. It is its precariousness which creates no small part of our contemporary problem of securing sufficient investment. Some of the factors which accentuate this precariousness may be briefly mentioned.

    (1) As a result of the gradual increase in the proportion of the equity in the community’s aggregate capital investment which is owned by persons who do not manage and have no special knowledge of the circumstances, either actual or prospective, of the business in question, the element of real knowledge in the valuation of investments by those who own them or contemplate purchasing them has seriously declined.

    (2) Day-to-day fluctuations in the profits of existing investments, which are obviously of an ephemeral and non-significant character, tend to have an altogether excessive, and even an absurd, influence on the market….

    (3) A conventional valuation which is established as the outcome of the mass psychology of a large number of ignorant individuals is liable to change violently as the result of a sudden fluctuation of opinion due to factors which do not really make much difference to the prospective yield; since there will be no strong roots of conviction to hold it steady. In abnormal times in particular, when the hypothesis of an indefinite continuance of the existing state of affairs is less plausible than usual even though there are no express grounds to anticipate a definite change, the market will be subject to waves of optimistic and pessimistic sentiment, which are unreasoning and yet in a sense legitimate where no solid basis exists for a reasonable calculation.

    (4) But there is one feature in particular which deserves our attention. It might have been supposed that competition between expert professionals, possessing judgment and knowledge beyond that of the average private investor, would correct the vagaries of the ignorant individual left to himself. It happens, however, that the energies and skill of the professional investor and speculator are mainly occupied otherwise. For most of these persons are, in fact, largely concerned, not with making superior long-term forecasts of the probable yield of an investment over its whole life, but with foreseeing changes in the conventional basis of valuation a short time ahead of the general public. They are concerned, not with what an investment is really worth to a man who buys it “for keeps”, but with what the market will value it at, under the influence of mass psychology, three months or a year hence. Moreover, this behaviour is not the outcome of a wrong-headed propensity. It is an inevitable result of an investment market organised along the lines described. For it is not sensible to pay 25 for an investment of which you believe the prospective yield to justify a value of 30, if you also believe that the market will value it at 20 three months hence.

    Thus the professional investor is forced to concern himself with the anticipation of impending changes, in the news or in the atmosphere, of the kind by which experience shows that the mass psychology of the market is most influenced. This is the inevitable result of investment markets organised with a view to so-called “liquidity”. Of the maxims of orthodox finance none, surely, is more anti-social than the fetish of liquidity, the doctrine that it is a positive virtue on the part of investment institutions to concentrate their resources upon the holding of “liquid” securities. It forgets that there is no such thing as liquidity of investment for the community as a whole. The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelop our future. The actual, private object of the most skilled investment to-day is “to beat the gun”, as the Americans so well express it, to outwit the crowd, and to pass the bad, or depreciating, half-crown to the other fellow.

    This battle of wits to anticipate the basis of conventional valuation a few months hence, rather than the prospective yield of an investment over a long term of years, does not even require gulls amongst the public to feed the maws of the professional; — it can be played by professionals amongst themselves. Nor is it necessary that anyone should keep his simple faith in the conventional basis of valuation having any genuine long-term validity. For it is, so to speak, a game of Snap, of Old Maid, of Musical Chairs — a pastime in which he is victor who says Snap neither too soon nor too late, who passes the Old Maid to his neighbour before the game is over, who secures a chair for himself when the music stops. These games can be played with zest and enjoyment, though all the players know that it is the Old Maid which is circulating, or that when the music stops some of the players will find themselves unseated.

    Or, to change the metaphor slightly, professional investment may be likened to those newspaper competitions in which the competitors have to pick out the six prettiest faces from a hundred photographs, the prize being awarded to the competitor whose choice most nearly corresponds to the average preferences of the competitors as a whole; so that each competitor has to pick, not those faces which he himself finds prettiest, but those which he thinks likeliest to catch the fancy of the other competitors, all of whom are looking at the problem from the same point of view. It is not a case of choosing those which, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practise the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.

    If the reader interjects that there must surely be large profits to be gained from the other players in the long run by a skilled individual who, unperturbed by the prevailing pastime, continues to purchase investments on the best genuine long-term expectations he can frame, he must be answered, first of all, that there are, indeed, such serious-minded individuals and that it makes a vast difference to an investment market whether or not they predominate in their influence over the game-players. But we must also add that there are several factors which jeopardise the predominance of such individuals in modern investment markets. Investment based on genuine long-term expectation is so difficult to-day as to be scarcely practicable. He who attempts it must surely lead much more laborious days and run greater risks than he who tries to guess better than the crowd how the crowd will behave; and, given equal intelligence, he may make more disastrous mistakes. There is no clear evidence from experience that the investment policy which is socially advantageous coincides with that which is most profitable. It needs more intelligence to defeat the forces of time and our ignorance of the future than to beat the gun. Moreover, life is not long enough; — human nature desires quick results, there is a peculiar zest in making money quickly, and remoter gains are discounted by the average man at a very high rate. The game of professional investment is intolerably boring and over-exacting to anyone who is entirely exempt from the gambling instinct; whilst he who has it must pay to this propensity the appropriate toll. Furthermore, an investor who proposes to ignore near-term market fluctuations needs greater resources for safety and must not operate on so large a scale, if at all, with borrowed money — a further reason for the higher return from the pastime to a given stock of intelligence and resources. Finally it is the long-term investor, he who most promotes the public interest, who will in practice come in for most criticism, wherever investment funds are managed by committees or boards or banks. For it is in the essence of his behaviour that he should be eccentric, unconventional and rash in the eyes of average opinion. If he is successful, that will only confirm the general belief in his rashness; and if in the short run he is unsuccessful, which is very likely, he will not receive much mercy. Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally….

    Reply

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