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Archive for the 'Equities' Category

WRKO interview

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 16th January 2014

Interview with Barrie Armstrong

Posted in Equities, Housing | No Comments »

Another look at Q3 GDP

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 23rd December 2013

Third-Quarter Growth in U.S. Revised Higher on Services

By Victoria Stilwell

Decmeber 20 (Bloomberg) — The economy expanded in the third quarter at the fastest rate in almost two years as Americans stepped up spending on services such as health care and companies invested more in software.

Jump in healthcare??? And the software gain was the new ‘intellectual’ category.

Gross domestic product climbed at a revised 4.1 percent annualized rate, the strongest since the final three months of 2011 and up from a previous estimate of 3.6 percent, Commerce Department data showed today in Washington. The gain exceeded the most optimistic projection in a Bloomberg survey.

Inventories accounted for a third of the increase in GDP in the third quarter, showing companies were confident about the prospects for demand. Stronger retail sales in October and November underscore the Federal Reserves view that the worlds largest economy is improving.

Right, a boom in unsold inventories. Especially cars, where the inventory was on the high side even for the November spike in sales to 16.4 million (annual rate) from a shutdown depressed 15.2 million for October. And it looks like December total vehicle sales are back down below the two month average, which means the inventory to sales ratio is even worse. No surprise Jan auto production cutbacks have already been announced.

You have equity markets supporting household net worth, rising home values and also payroll gains and falling unemployment, so we do really look for consumption to start picking up, said Robert Rosener, associate economist at Credit Agricole CIB in New York, whose forecast for growth of 3.8 percent was the highest in the Bloomberg survey. This is a very good sign for momentum going into the fourth quarter.

The median forecast of 72 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a 3.6 percent gain in GDP, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S. Forecasts ranged from 3.3 percent to 3.8 percent. Stocks rose after the figures, with the Standard & Poors 500 Index advancing 0.6 percent to 1,820.78 at 11:46 a.m. in New York.

Services Spending

Consumer purchases, which account for almost 70 percent of the economy, increased 2 percent, more than the previously reported 1.4 percent, the revised data showed.

Better but still weak year over year, and, again, healthcare spending of some sort accounted for much of the upward revision.

Spending on services contributed 0.32 percentage point to third-quarter growth, up from a previously reported 0.02 percentage point. In addition to the pickup in outlays for health care, Americans spent more on recreational services.

Outlays for non-durable goods climbed at a 2.9 percent rate in the third quarter, led by more spending on gasoline.

Inventories increased at a $115.7 billion annualized pace in the third quarter, the most in three years, after a previously reported $116.5 billion annualized rate. In the second quarter, they rose at a $56.6 billion pace.

Stockpiles added 1.67 percentage points to GDP last quarter, little changed from the 1.68 percentage-point contribution in the previous reading.

More Optimistic

While economists grew more optimistic about demand in the fourth quarter, GDP will nonetheless be restrained as the pace of inventory growth cools.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. economists project the economy will grow 2 percent from October through December, up from the 1.5 percent rate they had penciled in prior to the Commerce Departments Dec. 12 retail sales report. Barclays Plc has raised its fourth-quarter tracking estimate to 2.3 percent from 2 percent before the retail figures.

Domestic final sales, which exclude inventories, increased 2.5 percent in the third quarter compared with a previously reported 1.9 percent increase.

Corporate spending on equipment rose 0.2 percent, compared with a previous reading of no change. Business investment in intellectual property was revised up to a 5.8 percent increase from 1.7 percent, reflecting more spending on software.

Further investment will depend on how much confidence companies have that the economy will accelerate.

Capital Spending

Honeywell International Inc., whose products range from cockpit controls to thermostats, expects capital expenditures in the range of $1.2 billion or more in 2014, up about 30 percent from this year.

Were very disciplined in terms of cap-ex, Chief Financial Officer David Anderson said on the companys 2014 guidance call on Dec. 17, referring to capital expenditures. We really have to see the whites of the eyes of the economic return characteristics to really commit.

Economic indicators are pointing to just a continued resilience, not exuberance, but resilience and expansion in the U.S. economy, Anderson added.

Todays report also included corporate profits. Before-tax earnings rose at a 1.9 percent rate after climbing at a 3.3 percent pace in the prior period. They increased 5.7 percent from the same time last year.

Profit growth continues to slow, even with the higher GDP.

Residential real estate is underpinning the economy, as rising prices boost household wealth and growing demand helps the industry overcome rising mortgage rates.

Home Construction

Home construction increased at a 10.3 percent annualized rate in the third quarter. While slower than the 13 percent pace previously reported, the figure primarily reflected revisions to brokers commissions and other ownership transfer costs, todays report showed.

Data from the Commerce Department this week showed that housing starts jumped 22.7 percent to a 1.09 million annualized rate, the most since February 2008, while permits for future projects also held near a five-year high, indicating that the pickup will be sustained into next year.

Slower growth in home construction and most homebuilders reporting flattish sales, especially after mortgage rates went up, and mortgage purchase apps continue to be down about 10% from last year as well. Let me suggest that 22% jump of the initial release of November housing starts seems suspect as there are no reports of a leap higher in home sales or construction from the housing companies or mortgage originators. And permits were in fact down.

Other signs show that fiscal drag, which weighed on growth during 2013, will start to ease. U.S. lawmakers this week passed the first bipartisan federal budget produced by a divided Congress in 27 years, easing $63 billion in automatic spending cuts and averting another government shutdown.

Yes, it could have been worse, but a variety of tax cuts do expire at year end, as do extended unemployment benefits. But the bottom line is the federal deficit (the ‘allowance’ the economy gets from Uncle Sam) is likely to fall to under $500 billion in 2014, after falling from just under $1 trillion in 2012 to just over 600 billion in 2013. And worse, the automatic stabilizers are extremely aggressive this time around, where 2% growth cuts the deficit maybe by as much as 4% growth cut it in past cycles.

Government outlays increased 0.4 percent in the third quarter, led by a 1.7 percent gain in state and local spending that was the same as the previous reading. Federal spending decreased 1.5 percent.

They fail to mention that state and local tax receipts also rose, so overall the closing of the state and local budget deficits from the recession means there is less fiscal support from the states.

Tighter fiscal policy has made stimulating the U.S. economy even more of an uphill battle for the Fed. The central bank this week announced it would scale back its bond-purchase program by $10 billion, to $75 billion a month, after seeing an improved outlook for the labor market.

This has been done in the face of a very tight, unusually tight fiscal policy for a recovery period, Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Dec. 18 during a press conference at the conclusion of a meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee.

I’m hoping for a good economy as well, but with housing and cars- the main engines of domestic credit growth- coming off the boil, and Uncle Sam’s allowance payments to the economy (deficit spending) down to less than $50 billion/mo (3% of GDP%) and falling from closer to $80 billion/mo not long ago, seems to me the jury is still out.

A few of last week’s charts:

Posted in Credit, Deficit, Economic Releases, Employment, Equities, GDP | No Comments »

Hussman view of equity valuation

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 25th November 2013

What’s new here is somehow Hussman has picked on the idea that corporate profits fall as the federal deficit falls. He stops short of suggesting we need a higher federal deficit, of course.

After all his endless inane out of paradigm raving against federal deficits it might take him a few months to reverse course. ;)

Nor does he mention the well known Levy Profit Equation from maybe 75 years ago that shows same, or Wynne Godley’s work or any of the MMT sources that he no doubt perused regarding sector balances.

An Open Letter to the FOMC: Recognizing the Valuation Bubble In Equities

By John Hussman

Posted in Equities, Government Spending | No Comments »

Fed minutes, comments on full text

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 21st August 2013

Comments in below and highlights mine:

Developments in Financial Markets and the Federal Reserve’s Balance Sheet
The Manager of the System Open Market Account reported on developments in domestic and foreign financial markets as well as the System open market operations during the period since the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) met on June 18-19, 2013. By unanimous vote, the Committee ratified the Open Market Desk’s domestic transactions over the intermeeting period. There were no intervention operations in foreign currencies for the System’s account over the intermeeting period.

In support of the Committee’s longer-run planning for improvements in the implementation of monetary policy, the Desk report also included a briefing on the potential for establishing a fixed-rate, full-allotment overnight reverse repurchase agreement facility as an additional tool for managing money market interest rates. The presentation suggested that such a facility would allow the Committee to offer an overnight, risk-free instrument directly to a relatively wide range of market participants, perhaps complementing the payment of interest on excess reserves held by banks and thereby improving the Committee’s ability to keep short-term market rates at levels that it deems appropriate to achieve its macroeconomic objectives. The staff also identified several key issues that would require consideration in the design of such a facility, including the choice of the appropriate facility interest rate and possible additions to the range of eligible counterparties. In general, meeting participants indicated that they thought such a facility could prove helpful; they asked the staff to undertake further work to examine how it might operate and how it might affect short-term funding markets. A number of them emphasized that their interest in having the staff conduct additional research reflected an ongoing effort to improve the technical execution of policy and did not signal any change in the Committee’s views about policy going forward.

This would tend to work against the larger banks to the extent larger depositors could access the Fed directly.

Staff Review of the Economic Situation
The information reviewed for the July 30-31 meeting indicated that economic activity expanded at a modest pace in the first half of the year. Private-sector employment increased further in June, but the unemployment rate was still elevated. Consumer price inflation slowed markedly in the second quarter, likely restrained in part by some transitory factors, but measures of longer-term inflation expectations remained stable. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its advance estimate for second-quarter real gross domestic product (GDP), along with revised data for earlier periods, during the second day of the FOMC meeting. The staff’s assessment of economic activity and inflation in the first half of 2013, based on information available before the meeting began, was broadly consistent with the new information from the BEA.

Modest growth and inflation low and stable.

Private nonfarm employment rose at a solid pace in June, as in recent months, while total government employment decreased further. The unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in June, little changed from its level in the prior few months. The labor force participation rate rose slightly, as did the employment-to-population ratio. The rate of long-duration unemployment decreased somewhat, but the share of workers employed part time for economic reasons moved up; both of these measures remained relatively high. Forward-looking indicators of labor market activity in the near term were mixed: Although household expectations for the labor market situation generally improved and firms’ hiring plans moved up, initial claims for unemployment insurance were essentially flat over the intermeeting period, and measures of job openings and the rate of gross private-sector hiring were little changed.

Manufacturing production expanded in June, and the rate of manufacturing capacity utilization edged up. Auto production and sales were near pre-recession levels, and automakers’ schedules indicated that the rate of motor vehicle assemblies would continue at a similar pace in the coming months. Broader indicators of manufacturing production, such as the readings on new orders from the national and regional manufacturing surveys, were generally consistent with further modest gains in factory output in the near term.

Real personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased more slowly in the second quarter than in the first. However, some key factors that tend to support household spending were more positive in recent months; in particular, gains in equity values and home prices boosted household net worth, and consumer sentiment in the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers rose in July to its highest level since the onset of the recession.

Slower PCE increase and stocks and the Michigan survey mentioned subsequently reversed some.

Conditions in the housing sector generally improved further, as real expenditures for residential investment continued to expand briskly in the second quarter. However, construction activity was still at a low level, with demand restrained in part by tight credit standards for mortgage loans. Starts of new single-family homes were essentially flat in June, but the level of permit issuance was consistent with gains in construction in subsequent months. In the multifamily sector, where activity is more variable, starts and permits both decreased. Home prices continued to rise strongly through May, and sales of both new and existing homes increased, on balance, in May and June. The recent rise in mortgage rates did not yet appear to have had an adverse effect on housing activity.

Subsequently mortgage apps continued to fall as rates rose.

Growth in real private investment in equipment and intellectual property products was greater in the second quarter than in the first quarter.2 Nominal new orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft continued to trend up in May and June and were running above the level of shipments. Other recent forward-looking indicators, such as surveys of business conditions and capital spending plans, were mixed and pointed to modest gains in business equipment spending in the near term. Real business expenditures for nonresidential construction increased in the second quarter after falling in the first quarter. Business inventories in most industries appeared to be broadly aligned with sales in recent months.

Real federal government purchases contracted less in the second quarter than in the first quarter as reductions in defense spending slowed. Real state and local government purchases were little changed in the second quarter; the payrolls of these governments expanded somewhat, but state and local construction expenditures continued to decrease.

Didn’t mention tax collections were up.

The U.S. international trade deficit widened in May as exports fell slightly and imports rose. The decline in exports was led by a sizable drop in consumer goods, while most other categories of exports showed modest gains. Imports increased in a wide range of categories, with particular strength in oil, consumer goods, and automotive products.

Exports subsequently firmed some.

Overall U.S. consumer prices, as measured by the PCE price index, were unchanged from the first quarter to the second and were about 1 percent higher than a year earlier. Consumer energy prices declined significantly in the second quarter, although retail gasoline prices, measured on a seasonally adjusted basis, moved up in June and July. The PCE price index for items excluding food and energy rose at a subdued rate in the second quarter and was around 1-1/4 percent higher than a year earlier. Near-term inflation expectations from the Michigan survey were little changed in June and July, as were longer-term inflation expectations, which remained within the narrow range seen in recent years. Measures of labor compensation indicated that gains in nominal wages and employee benefits remained modest.

Inflation remained low.

Foreign economic growth appeared to remain subdued in comparison with longer-run trends. Nonetheless, there were some signs of improvement in the advanced foreign economies. Production and business confidence turned up in Japan, real GDP growth picked up to a moderate pace in the second quarter in the United Kingdom, and recent indicators suggested that the euro-area recession might be nearing an end. In contrast, Chinese real GDP growth moderated in the first half of this year compared with 2012, and indicators for other emerging market economies (EMEs) also pointed to less-robust growth. Foreign inflation generally remained well contained. Monetary policy stayed highly accommodative in the advanced foreign economies, but some EME central banks tightened policy in reaction to capital outflows and to concerns about inflationary pressures from currency depreciation.

Not much prospect for meaningful export growth.

Staff Review of the Financial Situation
Financial markets were volatile at times during the intermeeting period as investors reacted to Federal Reserve communications and to incoming economic data and as market dynamics appeared to amplify some asset price moves. Broad equity price indexes ended the period higher, and longer-term interest rates rose significantly. Sizable increases in rates occurred following the June FOMC meeting, as investors reportedly saw Committee communications as suggesting a less accommodative stance of monetary policy than had been expected going forward; however, a portion of the increases was reversed as subsequent policy communications lowered these concerns. U.S. economic data, particularly the June employment report, also contributed to the rise in yields over the period.

Stocks down, term interest rates higher, job growth a bit lower subsequently.

On balance, yields on intermediate- and longer-term Treasury securities rose about 30 to 45 basis points since the June FOMC meeting, with staff models attributing most of the increase to a rise in term premiums and the remainder to an upward revision in the expected path of short-term rates. The federal funds rate path implied by financial market quotes steepened slightly, on net, but the results from the Desk’s July survey of primary dealers showed little change in dealers’ views of the most likely timing of the first increase in the federal funds rate target. Market-based measures of inflation compensation were about unchanged.

Over the period, rates on primary mortgages and yields on agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS) rose about in line with the 10-year Treasury yield. The option-adjusted spread for production-coupon MBS widened somewhat, possibly reflecting a downward revision in investors’ expectations for Federal Reserve MBS purchases, an increase in uncertainty about longer-term interest rates, and convexity-related MBS selling.

Spreads between yields on 10-year nonfinancial corporate bonds and yields on Treasury securities narrowed somewhat on net. Early in the period, yields on corporate bonds increased, and bond mutual funds and bond exchange-traded funds experienced large net redemptions in June; the rate of redemptions then slowed in July.

Market sentiment toward large domestic banking organizations appeared to improve somewhat over the intermeeting period, as the largest banks reported second-quarter earnings that were above analysts’ expectations. Stock prices of large domestic banks outperformed broader equity indexes, and credit default swap spreads for the largest bank holding companies moved about in line with trends in broad credit indexes.

Municipal bond yields rose sharply over the intermeeting period, increasing somewhat more than yields on Treasury securities. In June, gross issuance of long-term municipal bonds remained solid and was split roughly evenly between refunding and new-capital issuance. The City of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing reportedly had only a limited effect on the market for municipal securities as it had been widely anticipated by market participants.

Credit flows to nonfinancial businesses showed mixed changes. Reflecting the reduced incentive to refinance as longer-term interest rates rose, the pace of gross issuance of investment- and speculative-grade corporate bonds dropped in June and July, compared with the elevated pace earlier this year. In contrast, gross issuance of equity by nonfinancial firms maintained its recent strength in June. Leveraged loan issuance also continued to be strong amid demand for floating-rate instruments by investors. Financing conditions for commercial real estate continued to recover slowly. In response to the July Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices (SLOOS), banks generally indicated that they had eased standards on both commercial and industrial (C&I) and commercial real estate loans over the past three months. For C&I loans, standards were currently reported to be somewhat easy compared with longer-term norms, while for commercial real estate loans, standards remained somewhat tighter than longer-term norms. Banks reported somewhat stronger demand for most types of loans.

Financing conditions in the household sector improved further in recent months. Mortgage purchase applications declined modestly through July even as refinancing applications fell off sharply with the rise in mortgage rates. The outstanding amounts of student and auto loans continued to expand at a robust pace in May. Credit card debt remained about flat on a year-over-year basis. In the July SLOOS, banks reported that they had eased standards on most categories of loans to households in the second quarter, but that standards on all types of mortgages, and especially on subprime mortgage loans and home equity lines of credit, remained tight when judged against longer-run norms.

Mortgage purchase applications subsequently continued to fall as rates rose.

Increases in total bank credit slowed in the second quarter, as the book value of securities holdings fell slightly and C&I loan balances at large banks increased only modestly in April and May. M2 grew at an annual rate of about 7 percent in June and July, supported by flows into liquid deposits and retail money market funds. Both of these components of M2 may have been boosted recently by the sizable redemptions from bond mutual funds. The monetary base continued to expand rapidly in June and July, driven mainly by the increase in reserve balances resulting from the Federal Reserve’s asset purchases.

Ten-year sovereign yields in the United Kingdom and Germany rose with U.S. yields early in the intermeeting period but fell back somewhat after statements by the European Central Bank and the Bank of England were both interpreted by market participants as signaling that their policy rates would be kept low for a considerable time. On net, the U.K. 10-year sovereign yield increased, though by less than the comparable yield in the United States, while the yield on German bunds was little changed. Peripheral euro-area sovereign spreads over German bunds were also little changed on net. Japanese government bond yields were relatively stable over the period, after experiencing substantial volatility in May. The staff’s broad nominal dollar index moved up as the dollar appreciated against the currencies of the advanced foreign economies, consistent with the larger increase in U.S. interest rates. The dollar was mixed against the EME currencies. Foreign equity prices generally increased, although equity prices in China declined amid investor concerns regarding further signs that the economy was slowing and over volatility in Chinese interbank funding markets. Outflows from EME equity and bond funds, which had been particularly rapid in June, moderated in July.

Staff Economic Outlook
The data received since the forecast was prepared for the previous FOMC meeting suggested that real GDP growth was weaker, on net, in the first half of the year than had been anticipated. Nevertheless, the staff still expected that real GDP would accelerate in the second half of the year. Part of this projected increase in the rate of real GDP growth reflected the staff’s expectation that the drag on economic growth from fiscal policy would be smaller in the second half as the pace of reductions in federal government purchases slowed and as the restraint on growth in consumer spending stemming from the higher taxes put in place at the beginning of the year diminished. For the year as a whole, the staff anticipated that the rate of growth of real GDP would only slightly exceed that of potential output. The staff’s projection for real GDP growth over the medium term was essentially unrevised, as higher equity prices were seen as offsetting the restrictive effects of the increase in longer-term interest rates. The staff continued to forecast that the rate of real GDP growth would strengthen in 2014 and 2015, supported by a further easing in the effects of fiscal policy restraint on economic growth, increases in consumer and business confidence, additional improvements in credit availability, and accommodative monetary policy. The expansion in economic activity was anticipated to lead to a slow reduction in the slack in labor and product markets over the projection period, and the unemployment rate was expected to decline gradually.

The staff’s forecast for inflation was little changed from the projection prepared for the previous FOMC meeting. The staff continued to judge that much of the recent softness in consumer price inflation would be transitory and that inflation would pick up somewhat in the second half of this year. With longer-run inflation expectations assumed to remain stable, changes in commodity and import prices expected to be modest, and significant resource slack persisting over the forecast period, inflation was forecast to be subdued through 2015.

The staff continued to see numerous risks around the forecast. Among the downside risks for economic activity were the uncertain effects and future course of fiscal policy, the possibility of adverse developments in foreign economies, and concerns about the ability of the U.S. economy to weather potential future adverse shocks. The most salient risk for the inflation outlook was that the recent softness in inflation would not abate as anticipated.

Participants’ Views on Current Conditions and the Economic Outlook
In their discussion of the economic situation, meeting participants noted that incoming information on economic activity was mixed. Household spending and business fixed investment continued to advance, and the housing sector was strengthening. Private domestic final demand continued to increase in the face of tighter federal fiscal policy this year, but several participants pointed to evidence suggesting that fiscal policy had restrained spending in the first half of the year more than they previously thought. Perhaps partly for that reason, a number of participants indicated that growth in economic activity during the first half of this year was somewhat below their earlier expectations. In addition, subpar economic activity abroad was a negative factor for export growth. Conditions in the labor market improved further as private payrolls rose at a solid pace in June, but the unemployment rate remained elevated. Inflation continued to run below the Committee’s longer-run objective.

Participants generally continued to anticipate that the growth of real GDP would pick up somewhat in the second half of 2013 and strengthen further thereafter. Factors cited as likely to support a pickup in economic activity included highly accommodative monetary policy, improving credit availability, receding effects of fiscal restraint, continued strength in housing and auto sales, and improvements in household and business balance sheets. A number of participants indicated, however, that they were somewhat less confident about a near-term pickup in economic growth than they had been in June; factors cited in this regard included recent increases in mortgage rates, higher oil prices, slow growth in key U.S. export markets, and the possibility that fiscal restraint might not lessen.

Consumer spending continued to advance, but spending on items other than motor vehicles was relatively soft. Recent high readings on consumer confidence and boosts to household wealth from increased equity and real estate prices suggested that consumer spending would gather momentum in the second half of the year. However, a few participants expressed concern that higher household wealth might not translate into greater consumer spending, cautioning that household income growth remained slow, that households might not treat the additions to wealth arising from recent equity price increases as lasting, or that households’ scope to extract housing equity for the purpose of increasing their expenditures was less than in the past.

The housing sector continued to pick up, as indicated by increases in house prices, low inventories of homes for sale, and strong demand for construction. While recent mortgage rate increases might serve to restrain housing activity, several participants expressed confidence that the housing recovery would be resilient in the face of the higher rates, variously citing pent-up housing demand, banks’ increasing willingness to make mortgage loans, strong consumer confidence, still-low real interest rates, and expectations of continuing rises in house prices. Nonetheless, refinancing activity was down sharply, and the incoming data would need to be watched carefully for signs of a greater-than-anticipated effect of higher mortgage rates on housing activity more broadly.

Subsequently mtg purchase apps fell further and there has been anecdotal evidence of mortgage originators cutting staff, while homebuilder confidence has continues to firm.

In the business sector, the outlook still appeared to be mixed. Manufacturing activity was reported to have picked up in a number of Districts, and activity in the energy sector remained at a high level. Although a step-up in business investment was likely to be a necessary element of the projected pickup in economic growth, reports from businesses ranged from those contacts who expressed heightened optimism to those who suggested that little acceleration was likely in the second half of the year.

Participants reported further signs that the tightening in federal fiscal policy restrained economic activity in the first half of the year: Cuts in government purchases and grants reportedly had been a factor contributing to slower growth in sales and equipment orders in some parts of the country, and consumer spending seemed to have been held back by tax increases. Moreover, uncertainty about the effects of the federal spending sequestration and related furloughs clouded the outlook. It was noted, however, that fiscal restriction by state and local governments seemed to be easing.

No mention of increased state and loval tax collection.

The June employment report showed continued solid gains in payrolls. Nonetheless, the unemployment rate remained elevated, and the continuing low readings on the participation rate and the employment-to-population ratio, together with a high incidence of workers being employed part time for economic reasons, were generally seen as indicating that overall labor market conditions remained weak. It was noted that employment growth had been stronger than would have been expected given the recent pace of output growth, reflecting weak gains in productivity. Some participants pointed out that once productivity growth picked up, faster economic growth would be required to support further increases in employment along the lines seen of late. However, one participant thought that sluggish productivity performance was likely to persist, implying that the recent pace of output growth would be sufficient to maintain employment gains near current rates.

Recent readings on inflation were below the Committee’s longer-run objective of 2 percent, in part reflecting transitory factors, and participants expressed a range of views about how soon inflation would return to 2 percent. A few participants, who felt that the recent low inflation rates were unlikely to persist or that the low PCE inflation readings might be marked up in future data revisions, suggested that, as transitory factors receded and the pace of recovery improved, inflation could be expected to return to 2 percent reasonably quickly. A number of others, however, viewed the low inflation readings as largely reflecting persistently deficient aggregate demand, implying that inflation could remain below 2 percent for a protracted period and further supporting the case for highly accommodative monetary policy.

Both domestic and foreign asset markets were volatile at times during the intermeeting period, reacting to policy communications and data releases. In discussing the increases in U.S. longer-term interest rates that occurred in the wake of the June FOMC meeting and the associated press conference, meeting participants pointed to heightened financial market uncertainty about the path of monetary policy and a shift of market expectations toward less policy accommodation. A few participants suggested that this shift occurred in part because Committee participants’ economic projections, released following the June meeting, generally showed a somewhat more favorable outlook than those of private forecasters, or because the June policy statement and press conference were seen as indicating relatively little concern about inflation readings, which had been low and declining. Moreover, investors may have perceived that Committee communications about the possibility of slowing the pace of asset purchases also implied a higher probability of an earlier firming of the federal funds rate. Subsequent Federal Reserve communications, which emphasized that decisions about the two policy tools were distinct and underscored that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy would remain appropriate for a considerable period after purchases are completed, were seen as having helped clarify the Committee’s policy strategy. A number of participants mentioned that, by the end of the intermeeting period, market expectations of the future course of monetary policy, both with regard to asset purchases and with regard to the path of the federal funds rate, appeared well aligned with their own expectations. Nonetheless, some participants felt that, as a result of recent financial market developments, overall financial market conditions had tightened significantly, importantly reflecting larger term premiums, and they expressed concern that the higher level of longer-term interest rates could be a significant factor holding back spending and economic growth. Several others, however, judged that the rise in rates was likely to exert relatively little restraint, or that the increase in equity prices and easing in bank lending standards would largely offset the effects of the rise in longer-term interest rates. Some participants also stated that financial developments during the intermeeting period might have helped put the financial system on a more sustainable footing, insofar as those developments were associated with an unwinding of unsustainable speculative positions or an increase in term premiums from extraordinarily low levels.

Equities are subsequently down substantially.

In looking ahead, meeting participants commented on several considerations pertaining to the course of monetary policy. First, almost all participants confirmed that they were broadly comfortable with the characterization of the contingent outlook for asset purchases that was presented in the June post meeting press conference and in the July monetary policy testimony. Under that outlook, if economic conditions improved broadly as expected, the Committee would moderate the pace of its securities purchases later this year. And if economic conditions continued to develop broadly as anticipated, the Committee would reduce the pace of purchases in measured steps and conclude the purchase program around the middle of 2014. At that point, if the economy evolved along the lines anticipated, the recovery would have gained further momentum, unemployment would be in the vicinity of 7 percent, and inflation would be moving toward the Committee’s 2 percent objective. While participants viewed the future path of purchases as contingent on economic and financial developments, one participant indicated discomfort with the contingent plan on the grounds that the references to specific dates could be misinterpreted by the public as suggesting that the purchase program would be wound down on a more-or-less preset schedule rather than in a manner dependent on the state of the economy. Generally, however, participants were satisfied that investors had come to understand the data-dependent nature of the Committee’s thinking about asset purchases. A few participants, while comfortable with the plan, stressed the need to avoid putting too much emphasis on the 7 percent value for the unemployment rate, which they saw only as illustrative of conditions that could obtain at the time when the asset purchases are completed.

Second, participants considered whether it would be desirable to include in the Committee’s policy statement additional information regarding the Committee’s contingent outlook for asset purchases. Most participants saw the provision of such information, which would reaffirm the contingent outlook presented following the June meeting, as potentially useful; however, many also saw possible difficulties, such as the challenge of conveying the desired information succinctly and with adequate nuance, and the associated risk of again raising uncertainty about the Committee’s policy intentions. A few participants saw other forms of communication as better suited for this purpose. Several participants favored including such additional information in the policy statement to be released following the current meeting; several others indicated that providing such information would be most useful when the time came for the Committee to begin reducing the pace of its securities purchases, reasoning that earlier inclusion might trigger an unintended tightening of financial conditions.

Finally, the potential for clarifying or strengthening the Committee’s forward guidance for the federal funds rate was discussed. In general, there was support for maintaining the current numerical thresholds in the forward guidance. A few participants expressed concern that a decision to lower the unemployment threshold could potentially lead the public to view the unemployment threshold as a policy variable that could not only be moved down but also up, thereby calling into question the credibility of the thresholds and undermining their effectiveness. Nonetheless, several participants were willing to contemplate lowering the unemployment threshold if additional accommodation were to become necessary or if the Committee wanted to adjust the mix of policy tools used to provide the appropriate level of accommodation. A number of participants also remarked on the possible usefulness of providing additional information on the Committee’s intentions regarding adjustments to the federal funds rate after the 6-1/2 percent unemployment rate threshold was reached, in order to strengthen or clarify the Committee’s forward guidance. One participant suggested that the Committee could announce an additional, lower set of thresholds for inflation and unemployment; another indicated that the Committee could provide guidance stating that it would not raise its target for the federal funds rate if the inflation rate was expected to run below a given level at a specific horizon. The latter enhancement to the forward guidance might be seen as reinforcing the message that the Committee was willing to defend its longer-term inflation goal from below as well as from above.

Committee Policy Action
Committee members viewed the information received over the intermeeting period as suggesting that economic activity expanded at a modest pace during the first half of the year. Labor market conditions showed further improvement in recent months, on balance, but the unemployment rate remained elevated. Household spending and business fixed investment advanced, and the housing sector was strengthening, but mortgage rates had risen somewhat and fiscal policy was restraining economic growth. The Committee expected that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic growth would pick up from its recent pace, resulting in a gradual decline in the unemployment rate toward levels consistent with the Committee’s dual mandate. With economic activity and employment continuing to grow despite tighter fiscal policy, and with global financial conditions less strained overall, members generally continued to see the downside risks to the outlook for the economy and the labor market as having diminished since last fall. Inflation was running below the Committee’s longer-run objective, partly reflecting transitory influences, but longer-run inflation expectations were stable, and the Committee anticipated that inflation would move back toward its 2 percent objective over the medium term. Members recognized, however, that inflation persistently below the Committee’s 2 percent objective could pose risks to economic performance.

In their discussion of monetary policy for the period ahead, members judged that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy was warranted in order to foster a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions in a context of price stability. In considering the likely path for the Committee’s asset purchases, members discussed the degree of improvement in the labor market outlook since the purchase program began last fall. The unemployment rate had declined considerably since then, and recent gains in payroll employment had been solid. However, other measures of labor utilization–including the labor force participation rate and the numbers of discouraged workers and those working part time for economic reasons–suggested more modest improvement, and other indicators of labor demand, such as rates of hiring and quits, remained low. While a range of views were expressed regarding the cumulative improvement in the labor market since last fall, almost all Committee members agreed that a change in the purchase program was not yet appropriate. However, in the view of the one member who dissented from the policy statement, the improvement in the labor market was an important reason for calling for a more explicit statement from the Committee that asset purchases would be reduced in the near future. A few members emphasized the importance of being patient and evaluating additional information on the economy before deciding on any changes to the pace of asset purchases. At the same time, a few others pointed to the contingent plan that had been articulated on behalf of the Committee the previous month, and suggested that it might soon be time to slow somewhat the pace of purchases as outlined in that plan. At the conclusion of its discussion, the Committee decided to continue adding policy accommodation by purchasing additional MBS at a pace of $40 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $45 billion per month and to maintain its existing reinvestment policies. In addition, the Committee reaffirmed its intention to keep the target federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and retained its forward guidance that it anticipates that this exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored.

Members also discussed the wording of the policy statement to be issued following the meeting. In addition to updating its description of the state of the economy, the Committee decided to underline its concern about recent shortfalls of inflation from its longer-run goal by including in the statement an indication that it recognizes that inflation persistently below its 2 percent objective could pose risks to economic performance, while also noting that it continues to anticipate that inflation will move back toward its objective over the medium term. The Committee also considered whether to add more information concerning the contingent outlook for asset purchases to the policy statement, but judged that doing so might prompt an unwarranted shift in market expectations regarding asset purchases. The Committee decided to indicate in the statement that it “reaffirmed its view”–rather than simply “expects”–that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens.

At the conclusion of the discussion, the Committee voted to authorize and direct the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, until it was instructed otherwise, to execute transactions in the System Account in accordance with the following domestic policy directive:

“Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Federal Open Market Committee seeks monetary and financial conditions that will foster maximum employment and price stability. In particular, the Committee seeks conditions in reserve markets consistent with federal funds trading in a range from 0 to 1/4 percent. The Committee directs the Desk to undertake open market operations as necessary to maintain such conditions. The Desk is directed to continue purchasing longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of about $45 billion per month and to continue purchasing agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of about $40 billion per month. The Committee also directs the Desk to engage in dollar roll and coupon swap transactions as necessary to facilitate settlement of the Federal Reserve’s agency mortgage-backed securities transactions. The Committee directs the Desk to maintain its policy of rolling over maturing Treasury securities into new issues and its policy of reinvesting principal payments on all agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities. The System Open Market Account Manager and the Secretary will keep the Committee informed of ongoing developments regarding the System’s balance sheet that could affect the attainment over time of the Committee’s objectives of maximum employment and price stability.”

The vote encompassed approval of the statement below to be released at 2:00 p.m.:

“Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in June suggests that economic activity expanded at a modest pace during the first half of the year. Labor market conditions have shown further improvement in recent months, on balance, but the unemployment rate remains elevated. Household spending and business fixed investment advanced, and the housing sector has been strengthening, but mortgage rates have risen somewhat and fiscal policy is restraining economic growth. Partly reflecting transitory influences, inflation has been running below the Committee’s longer-run objective, but longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic growth will pick up from its recent pace and the unemployment rate will gradually decline toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate. The Committee sees the downside risks to the outlook for the economy and the labor market as having diminished since the fall. The Committee recognizes that inflation persistently below its 2 percent objective could pose risks to economic performance, but it anticipates that inflation will move back toward its objective over the medium term.

To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee decided to continue purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $45 billion per month. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. Taken together, these actions should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.

The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months. The Committee will continue its purchases of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until the outlook for the labor market has improved substantially in a context of price stability. The Committee is prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes. In determining the size, pace, and composition of its asset purchases, the Committee will continue to take appropriate account of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases as well as the extent of progress toward its economic objectives.

To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee today reaffirmed its view that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens. In particular, the Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that this exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored. In determining how long to maintain a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy, the Committee will also consider other information, including additional measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments. When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent.”

Voting for this action: Ben Bernanke, William C. Dudley, James Bullard, Elizabeth Duke, Charles L. Evans, Jerome H. Powell, Sarah Bloom Raskin, Eric Rosengren, Jeremy C. Stein, Daniel K. Tarullo, and Janet L. Yellen.

Voting against this action: Esther L. George.

Ms. George dissented because she favored including in the policy statement a more explicit signal that the pace of the Committee’s asset purchases would be reduced in the near term. She expressed concerns about the open-ended approach to asset purchases and viewed providing such a signal as important at this time, in light of the ongoing improvement in labor market conditions as well as the potential costs and uncertain benefits of large-scale asset purchases.

It was agreed that the next meeting of the Committee would be held on Tuesday-Wednesday, September 17-18, 2013. The meeting adjourned at 12:30 p.m. on July 31, 2013.

Notation Vote
By notation vote completed on July 9, 2013, the Committee unanimously approved the minutes of the FOMC meeting held on June 18-19, 2013

Posted in Bonds, Credit, Deficit, Employment, Equities, Exports, Fed, GDP, Housing, Inflation, Interest Rates, USA | No Comments »

Michigan survey and a small rant

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 16th August 2013

Funny how sentiment follows stocks…

And how housing has gone flat all year is dismissed.

Not to forget jobless claims are about people losing their jobs and not about anyone getting a job. Yes, claims have correlated to new jobs, but that’s a different matter. For example, ‘at the limit’, you could have 0 claims as no one loses their job, but also no new jobs.

And how about the Fed not pushing back on the higher rates that have slowed mortgage purchase applications? No more ‘doing what it takes’ to error on the side of ‘ease’, because new jobs have been holding at close to a measly 200,000, just enough to keep the participation rate at 30+ year lows? Feels a lot to me like ‘outside pressure’ as discussed? Hard to believe the chairman wants his legacy to be ‘just when things finally looked to be turning he allowed rates to spike and quash it all’???

All in the context of ‘austerity didn’t work in the euro zone or the UK, and now the US is ‘proving’ the same, as private sector credit expansion fails to step up to plate as the public sector deficit is proactively cut and auto stabilizers and demand leakages continue aggressively.

US consumer sentiment much lighter than expected in August

August 15 (CNBC) — U.S. consumers, bracing for higher interest rates and slightly slower economic growth, were a bit less optimistic in August as sentiment retreated from last month’s six-year high, a survey released on Friday showed.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s preliminary reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment slipped to 80.0 from 85.1 in July, the highest since July 2007.

August’s result was well below the 85.5 reading expected by economists.

Consumers’ view of current economic conditions showed the biggest decline, and most expected the pace of growth to ease slightly. However, these changes were not large enough to upend “the prevailing view that the economic expansion will continue,” survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement.

Posted in Equities, Fed, Interest Rates | No Comments »

taper tantrum!

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 15th August 2013

The low jobless claims number seem to have sent markets into full taper mode. Stocks down due to fears of what happens without the presumed Fed support, and bonds higher in yield due to fears of what happens when the Fed slows down purchases.

And so while the ‘better jobs’ outlook that’s driving tapering is arguably good for stocks, markets are saying it’s not good enough to outweigh the higher bond yields and therefore the higher ‘discount rate’ for asset valuations.

Point here is, as previously discussed, the Fed will be cutting back it’s QE unless stocks fall hard enough to change their minds.

Which could very well happen.

While desperate circumstances that drive a large number of people to take on extra jobs at any pay to survive show ‘improvement’ in claims and payrolls, that’s not necessarily good enough for stocks, which look to earnings growth through top line growth, which is looking highly suspect.

And the higher mortgage rates have already pulled the rug out from under mortgage purchase applications and homebuilder stocks, etc. the one green shoot beginning to drive credit expansion.

And Walmart again pointing to the year end tax hikes slowing things down and low income growth keeping them from improving, and nothing in the rest of today’s numbers cause me to think top line is shifting gears, as least not for the better. And more ‘fiscal responsibility’ may be coming soon as both sides agree there is a long term deficit problem, and score political points for doing something about it.

All in the context of the macro issue where for gdp sales = income and a cut in net income from proactive deficit reduction means credit expansion elsewhere has to rise to the occasion to offset ever growing demand leakages.

Egypt and higher oil prices isn’t helping either. It wouldn’t be the first time oil price spikes toppled a suspect economy.


“The retail environment remains challenging in the U.S. and our international markets, as customers are cautious in their spending. Net sales in the first six months were below our expectations, so we are updating our forecast for net sales to grow between 2 and 3 percent for the full year versus our previous range of 5 to 6 percent,” said Holley. “This revision reflects our view of current global business trends, and significant ongoing headwinds from anticipated currency exchange rate fluctuations.”

“Across our International markets, growth in consumer spending is under pressure,” said Doug McMillon, Walmart International president and CEO. “Consumers in both mature and emerging markets curbed their spending during the second quarter, and this led to softer than expected sales. While this creates a challenging sales environment, we are the best equipped retailer to address the needs of our customers and help them save money.

During the 13-week period, the Walmart U.S. comp was negatively impacted by lower consumer spending due to the payroll tax increase and lower inflation than expected. Comp traffic decreased 0.5 percent, while average ticket increased 0.2 percent.

“While I’m disappointed in our comp sales decline, I’m encouraged by the improvement in traffic and comp sales as we progressed through the quarter. The 2 percent payroll tax increase continues to impact our customer,” said Bill Simon, Walmart U.S. president and CEO. “Furthermore, we also expected an increase in the level of grocery inflation, which did not materialize in a meaningful way. We were pleased that both home and apparel had positive comps.

Egypt Spirals Out Of Control

The violence that has plagued Egypt since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi on July 3 has finally spiraled out of control. Clashes broke out across Egypt on Wednesday when police tried to break up two protests in support of Morsi. The Healthy Ministry says at least 525 were killed in the violence, and 3,717 were injured. The interim government declared a month-long state of emergency, a tool Egyptian rulers have frequently used to crack down on perceived threats. Cairo was quiet Thursday morning, but Morsis Muslim Brotherhood party has called for protests later today.

Posted in Employment, Equities, Fed, Government Spending | No Comments »

corp profits and the federal deficit

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 13th August 2013

Funny how little attention, if any, is focused on how corporate profits are a function of federal deficit spending?

Ideology conflicts?

Nothing ‘new’ about the idea that deficit spending and profits are related:

Kalecki’s most famous contribution is his profit equation.

In this model total profits (net taxes this time) are the sum of capitalist consumption, investment, public deficit, net external surplus (exports minus imports) minus workers savings.”

In any case, without an increase in net exports or some kind of material increase in credit expansion the decline in the federal deficit is highly problematic.

Corporate profits and the deficit as a % of GDP:

Full size image

Posted in Deficit, Equities, Government Spending | No Comments »

stocks and the fed

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 13th August 2013

Nothing short of a perceived ‘collapse’ in equity prices is likely to dislodge the Fed.
They don’t target stocks, but the way I like to think about it is they are intimidated by them.

Posted in Equities, Fed | No Comments »

IPO’s and demand

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 9th August 2013

New issues are, functionally, credit expansion, and support GDP to the extent the funds are spent on real goods and services.

But note that the US housing agencies are turning over their profits of about the same $5 billion/mo to the Treasury, which works against GDP, to the extent those funds would have otherwise have been spent on real goods and services.

At the macro level it’s a continual give and take between deficit spending and the demand leakages.

New US listings at post-crisis high in Q3

August 8 (FT) — The market for new US listings is off to its best third-quarter start since before the financial crisis. A total of 28 companies have raised $5.2bn from US initial public offerings since July, which marks the fastest rate of activity and amount raised in the same period since 2007, according to data from Dealogic.

Posted in Equities | No Comments »

US equity funds see highest-ever inflows in July

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 5th August 2013

This kind of flow could drive even Lehman Bros. and Bear Stearns stock prices to new highs:

US equity funds see highest-ever inflows in July

By Ansuya Harjani

August 4 (CNBC) — U.S. equity funds saw a record inflow of $40.3 billion in July, according to data from TrimTabs, as the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average scale new heights in what some are calling an “invincible summer” for the country’s stocks.

“Fund flows in the past two months were by far the most volatile we have ever measured. After ignoring equities and dumping bonds at a record pace in June, fund investors poured record sums into U.S. equities and continued to sell bonds in July,” the investment research firm wrote in a report published late Sunday.

Fund investors ended their “love affair” with bonds this summer, pulling $21.1 billion out of debt mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in July, after record outflows of $69.1 billion in June. The outflows in June and July brought an end to 21 straight months of inflows.

Posted in Equities | No Comments »

profits up, sales down

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 30th July 2013

Good for stocks, bad for people theme:

Renault SA, France’s second-biggest carmaker, last week reported unexpected growth in first-half profit as labor-cost cuts and higher vehicle prices more than offset slumping sales. Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent SA today reported second-quarter earnings that topped analysts’ estimates.

Posted in Equities | No Comments »

stocks bonds qe dynamics

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 27th June 2013

Until markets recognize QE for the tax that it actually is, the QE policy is stabilizing for stocks, destabilizing for bonds.

For example, good economic news is fundamentally good for stocks, but means QE may end, so the effects are offsetting.

Same with bad economic news. Fundamentally bad, but means QE continues, so offsetting.

Bonds are different. Good econ news is fundamentally bad for bonds and means QE may end, both negatives. And bad econ news is fundamentally good for bonds, and means QE continues, also good.

Posted in Bonds, Equities, Fed | No Comments »


Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 24th June 2013

Who would have thought…

Earnings Season Already Looks Like a Train Wreck

By Jeff Cox

June 24 (CNBC) — Companies haven’t even started posting second-quarter earnings results yet, but the early picture isn’t pretty.

The pre-earnings season is often referred to by market insiders as the “confessional”—that time when Corporate America starts letting shareholders know the truth between earnings perception and reality.

If this quarter’s version is a reliable indicator, there will be some serious penance handed out once announcements officially begin in two weeks.

Earnings pre-announcements have been decidedly ugly, running about 7 to 1 negative to positive.

That’s the worst level since the first quarter of 2009, when, in the words of Citigroup chief strategist Tobias Levkovich, “the global economy was sitting on the edge of the abyss undergoing a financial crisis and near systemic meltdown.”

Alcoa traditionally kicks off earnings season, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average component and aluminum producer expected to show profit of 10 cents a share.

But more broadly, Wall Street consensus expects little profit growth in S&P 500 companies for the second quarter.

That could be bad news for stocks, considering that earnings per share collectively has closely mirrored the 140 percent growth in the stock market index since the March 2009 lows.

All the market talk about what the Federal Reserve has in store, Levkovich said, has come “almost without spending any time looking at earnings estimates or trends less than a month before second-quarter results are released.”

“Such a thought process seems ill-founded since earnings matter the most for equities, in our opinion, and there is relatively robust statistical evidence to back up that contention,” he said. “In this respect, we have been a tad shocked by the surge in negative-to-positive pre-announcement trends that make 2009′s surge appear less worrisome in retrospect.”

Indeed, a flat earnings outlook suggests a flat market or worse, particularly after the sour reaction following last week’s pronouncement from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke that the central bank’s $85 billion a month liquidity program could wrap up in 2014.

For his part, Levkovich is no alarmist. His team espouses what it calls a “Raging Bull” theory that sees a strongly positive long-term market outlook.

But his words do fit with an increasingly likely outlook in which the market will be at the least hard-pressed to match the 11.6 percent year-to-date gains on the S&P 500.

Bullish investors have been counting on growth to fuel the next leg of the rally.

Profit outlooks, though, seem too rosy.

S&P Capital IQ projects the third quarter to show 6.7 percent gains and the fourth quarter to register 11.6 percent. Levkovich calls the expectations “a bit too optimistic,” which seems like an understatement considering that most economic indicators outside of housing are showing signs of a slowdown.

He sees the future entailing a healthy pulling back of earnings estimates, which investors should watch closely.

“We suspect that such trimming may come about over the next six months, rather than in one fell swoop,” Levkovich said. “Thus, future estimate cuts could be a drag on equity prices and investors need to shift their attention away from just watching every wiggle out of the Fed.”

Posted in Equities | No Comments »

last update from Rome, home tomorrow

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 24th June 2013

Markets remain in ‘QE off’ mode, with stocks down and longer term rates up.

‘QE on’ was a misguided speculative bubble in any case, as QE is, at best, a placebo, and in fact somewhat of a tax as it removes a bit of interest income.

But obviously global markets view it as a massive stimulus, as per the various market responses.

The real economy, however, continues to suffocate from a too small US federal budget made even smaller by the proactive tax hikes and spending cuts.

Yes, there is some private sector credit expansion trying to fill the ‘spending gap’ caused by the fiscal tightening, but all that and more is needed to keep it all growing in the face of the ongoing automatic fiscal stabilizers that make it an ‘uphill’ battle for the forces of non govt credit expansion.

So seems to me this all leads to lower equity prices as prospects for earnings and growth fade, and, at some point, lower bond yields as expectations for Fed rate hikes are pushed further into the future by the economic reality.

I also look for confidence readings, one of the few ‘bright spots’, to fade with the equity sell off as well.

And, at some point, ‘QE on’ ceases to matter, under the ‘fool me once…’ theory???

And should that happen, and the Fed be exposed as ‘the kid in the car seat with the toy steering wheel who everyone thinks is driving’, no telling what happens…

Posted in CBs, Equities, Fed | No Comments »

Larry Fink talking position

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 29th May 2013

Americans are not saving enough for retirement, which is a bigger issue than tax policy, Fink said.

Posted in Equities | No Comments »

Taper worms at the wheel

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 24th May 2013

The taper worms are still driving things this am.

To the taper worms, tapering equals ‘bonds’ higher in yield and stocks lower in price.

Fundamentally, however, the Fed only tapers if the economy is strong which is good for stocks.

And no tapering means the economy is weak, which is fundamentally bad for stocks and bond friendly (lower yields).

That is, the Fed uses the taper message to signal its economic forecast, and it’s that economic forecast that is fundamentally meaningful for stocks and bonds.

But in this thin/illiquid May market the whims of global hedge funds and portfolio managers rule.

Posted in Bonds, Equities | No Comments »

Thinking Caps On – Grab a Coffee – Sales/Trading Commentary

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 20th May 2013

At: May 14 2013 07:41:14

Consider the following thought experiment. These are the scenarios:
A. The Treasury decides that it will fund itself 30% more in Overnight Bills and reduce issuance across the curve.
B. The Fed announces it will increase QE by 30% (it will remit the net income of this activity back to the Treasury like taxes)
C. Congress announces a new tax on all passive income from USTs, to holders both at home and abroad (ie Central Banks), for all new-issue USTs
D. Lew pre-announces that we will ‘selectively default’ and apply a haircut of on all future Treasury coupon payments of new issues.

Here’s what’s funny. Most intelligent market participants will say things like:
A. Stocks down a few percent on fear of downgrade. Economy slightly weaker or unchanged.
B. Stocks up 5-10% and economy grows another 1% for 1-2yrs; monetary stimulus.
C. Stocks down 5-10% on tax hike (like last year) that maybe corrects. Economy slows 1-2% for a year or so because it’s a tax hike (ie fiscal consolidation).
D. Stocks down 80% and we go into a great depression on steroids. All investment dollars flee the US. I can’t tell you what happens next because my Bloomberg account gets shut down. They might even declare an Internet Holiday.

Here’s what’s craziest: THESE ARE ALL THE SAME THING. The name and the process is different, the OPTICS is different, but the net is the same. There’s the government and there’s everyone else. The government either pays more out – in interest payments or transfer payments or vendor payments, or it takes back more in taxes or default or interest ‘savings.’ Everything the government net gets in ‘revenue’ the rest of the world loses in income. Everything the government dissaves (deficits) the rest of the world saves. Equal and opposite.

[You need to further get around the idea that reserves are overnight bills and there's no such thing as 'monetary base' - just interest rates; that lower discount rates are lower no matter how you get there; that rate cuts are taxes are austerity, even considering the benefit to risk assets from 'lower riskfree discount rates'... it's all basically true if you think abt it long and hard].

Here we are, almost 550 rate cuts into this thing, and inflation everywhere with QE is basically falling (see chart), and incomes are falling everywhere but in the top brackets (see page 9 here for a TRULY SOBERING CHART)… let us never forget that the goal is TO IMPROVE PEOPLE’S QUALITY OF LIFE NOT TO JUICE GDP . Thus economics as a whole also has some major shortcomings. Exporting your way to prosperity is the same as turning your entire population into servants to foreign masters. Disinflation due to lower input costs or better goods or technological gains are good things. HOWEVER if suddenly 20-somethings find social currency in free online friend status rather than cars and houses and weddings – if it makes them happy that’s great but it is also a downward shift in the demand curve that if isn’t replaced leads to someone somewhere being unemployed. These are different issues that shouldn’t all be swept under the ‘disinflation’ rug.

But I digress. Where am I going with all this?
Let’s pretend risk is now in the last 6m-18m phase where everything rallies, everyone in the pool, everyone chases any risk premium to sell, and the underlying income trends are irrelevant. Since I also will posit the Fed isn’t hiking in the next 18 months, I now believe the Fed will entirely miss this risk cycle. Which means they are on hold beyond any trading horizon. So what triggers the end of the cycle? Most would argue – the fear that they ‘tighten’ or ‘hike’ or ‘aren’t on hold anymore.’
To that I disagree…the income and earnings just isn’t there and QE is hurting…in fact the reason the consumer is now tracking +3-4% has been due to a decline in the savings rate (1-handle in q1 as tax hikes hit) that is prone to reverse…it’s MUCH more likely is what triggers the end is that the world starts to understand that QE is a lot like a tax (+ some ‘Richfare’) rather than a stimulus…and that lower rates do raise asset prices for the asset rich but lower incomes and the net to the median person is not what it appears…I see progress on this day every front…TBAC is starting to get it…the inflation markets are starting to get it… we’ll get there … low rates forever…buy blues..

Posted in CBs, Equities, Fed, TREASURY | No Comments »

REINHART: Regarding Hilsenrath//+ Retail Sales

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 13th May 2013

A number of people have inquired about this morning’s front page article in the WSJ by Jon Hilsenrath, “Fed Maps Exit from Stimulus.”

This seems constructed by Jon in a way that is very much reminiscent of the three-day inflation scare and talk of early exit he created last year. Note four points:

1. Jon does not have access to policy makers in the way the WSJ beat reporter once had. The days of Wessel and Ip are over. Bernanke was very reluctant to provide informal guidance to begin with, and the practice virtually ceased with the report of the Subcommittee on Communications at the beginning of last year. Essentially, they decided to speak authoritatively in FOMC statements and everyone was free to offer their own view in the public record after that, but not off camera.

2. The first two paragraphs are an extended, bloated, version of the single sentence in the statement that said “The Committee is prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes.” Those paragraphs don’t say anything more than the Fed has a plan to do its job. This reminds me of the CNBC banner yesterday morning while Bernanke was giving his speech on financial stability. It said “BREAKING NEWS: THE FED IS MONITORING FINANCIAL STABILITY.” It would have been just as informative to run the banner “BREAKING NEWS: THE FED IS STILL IN BUSINESS.”

3. Note that the only two on-the-record, active voices are Charlie Plosser and Richard Fisher. Those two are probably last on the list of reliable co-conspirators for the core of the Committee that makes policy. But those quotes, plus the older Williams’ one, allows Jon to write “Fed officials” to make it sound like he has access to the second floor of the Board. It also lets him bring out the stale dealers survey.

4. Note the inconsistencies in the story. Fed officials want to put more volatility in the market by conveying that QE is a flexible, smoothly adjusting instrument. The problem is that this makes more sense if the effect of QE was on flows, not stocks, which they have studiously denied for four years. By the way, if those conspiring officials want to make clear it won’t be a slow, steady retreat of accommodation, than they better tell Janet Yellen to stop showing the optimal policy path. Good luck to that.

I believe the central message, which is what I have described in earlier notes: Fed officials want to put as much volatility as possible back into the market before starting to raise rates, provided financial conditions otherwise remain supportive to sustained expansion. They’ll take opportunities to do so on the back of an equity market rally. But Jon Hilsenrath is not the means they will do so.


Karim writes:

  • April retail Sales were strong both in terms of the actual advance and composition. Moreover upward revisions to the control group for Feb and March imply an upward revision to Q1 GDP from 2.5% to 2.8%.
  • The 0.5% advance in the control group for April was more impressive due to the breadth and composition of the gains. In particular, all the major discretionary spending categories were quite strong: electronics 0.8%, clothing/accessories 1.2%, sporting goods 0.5% and restaurants 0.8%.
  • As the chief economist of the ISCS commented the other day on chain store sales for April: It is most likely being boosted by a stronger household wealth effect from higher home and stock market prices. Although it was an improvement of recent months, the pace was still dampened by adverse seasonal weather,
  • With fiscal drag peaking this quarter, and private sector growth maintaining the momentum it has shown since Q4 of last year, its making 3-3.5% growth more plausible in the second half. Most dealer forecasts are still in the 2-2.25% area.


  • Technically, Reinhart is correct: Hilsenrath is not the mouthpiece for the Fed and this is not all new news.
  • But, he is piecing together a story that the Fed wants out there. That the last hiking cycle was too predictable in terms of both pace and size (25bps/meeting). So, the idea that they can taper a bit and skip a meeting; or taper a bit and taper at a greater pace at the next meeting, are ideas they probably want out there.
  • My guess is Bernanke outlines these concepts in greater detail next week at his JEC testimony (May 22) and that if we get another 175k or greater in private payroll growth plus another strong month in retail sales for May, we could see some tapering at the June meeting.
  • Also notable was Bernanke’s comment on Friday that the Fed is ‘looking closely for signs of excessive risk taking”.

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Wholesale sales

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 9th May 2013

Though a bit old, this March release is yet another indicator that shows signs of rolling over.

With the tax hikes and spending cuts, it’s up to private sector credit expansion to rise to the occasion. Should the lost income and lost jobs cause it instead to roll over, we’re looking at negative GDP.

How well do stocks forecast this risk?
Note, for example, the last time private sector credit expansion went into reverse, the S&P rallied to an interim peak of over 1,400 mid May of 2008, in front of a 50%+ sell off.

Not at all that it will happen again, but that markets aren’t all that good at forecasting private sector credit acceleration going into reverse.

Full size image

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placebo’s doing their thing

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 8th May 2013

As previously discussed, financial placebos like QE do cause market participants to alter behavior out of either a misunderstanding of the actual fundamentals, or in anticipation of reactions by others presumed to be misinformed. And while the effects of these activities get reversed, however sometimes the effects are more lasting.

And there are also first order and second order effects. For example, a QE announcement could unleash misinformed fears about ‘money printing’ and ‘currency debasement’ and subsequent portfolio shifting that drives down the currency in the fx markets and drives up the price of gold. And the same misguided fears could cause bond yields to go higher in anticipation of a stronger/inflationary economy, even with the Fed buying bonds in an attempt to take yields lower.

So right now the QE/’monetary policy works if large enough’ placebo is at least partially driving things in both Japan and the US, and today’s announcement of the possibility of the ECB buying asset backed securities is now also at work.

And along the same lines but with a different ‘sign’ is the ideologically driven idea that cutting govt spending in the face of a large output gap- the sequester- is a plus for output and employment. Same for the year end tax hikes.

The underlying fundamental I don’t see discussed is whether private sector credit expansion can continue to sufficiently ‘overcome’ the declining govt deficit spending and satisfy the ‘savings desires’/demand leakages.

The main sources of private sector credit expansion are housing, student loans ($9 billion increase in March), and cars. Since 2009, the private sector credit expansion has managed to stay far enough ahead of the declining govt deficit, which has fallen from about 9% of GDP to about a rate of 6% of GDP by year end (mainly via the ‘automatic fiscal stabilizers’ of higher tax receipts and moderating transfer payments) resulting in about 2% real growth.

The question now is whether the private sector credit expansion can survive the 1.25% of GDP shock of the FICA tax hike and sequesters- which reduce support from the govt deficit to only maybe 4.5% of GDP- and still continue to sufficiently feed the (ever growing) demand leakages enough to generate positive GDP growth.

The stock market is often the best leading indicator of the macro economy, but it has ‘paused’ for two double dips that didn’t happen over the last few years, and it is subject to influence from placebos. Additionally, valuations change as implied discount rates change, and so in this case P/E’s shifting upwards may be discounting interest rates staying low for longer, due to an economy too weak to trigger Fed rate hikes, but strong enough to keep sales and earnings at least flat.

Placebo Surgery Shows Surprising Results

By Kate Melville

Research by Doctor Cynthia McRae of the University of Denver’s College of Education provides strong evidence for a significant mind-body connection among patients who participated in a Parkinson’s surgical trial.

Forty persons from the United States and Canada participated to determine the effectiveness of transplantation of human embryonic dopamine neurons into the brains of persons with advanced Parkinson’s disease. Twenty patients received the transplant while 20 more were randomly assigned to a sham surgery condition. Dr. McRae reports that the “placebo effect” was strong among the 30 patients who participated in the quality of life portion of the study.

“Those who thought they received the transplant at 12 months reported better quality of life than those who thought they received the sham surgery, regardless of which surgery they actually received,” says Dr. McRae. More importantly, objective ratings of neurological functioning by medical personnel showed a similar effect. In the report, appearing in the Archives of General Psychiatry, Dr. McRae writes “medical staff, who did not know which treatment each patient received, also reported more differences and changes at 12 months based on patients’ perceived treatment than on actual treatment.”

One patient reported that she had not been physically active for several years before surgery, but in the year following surgery she resumed hiking and ice skating. When the double blind was lifted, she was surprised to find that she had received the sham surgery.

Although patient perceptions influenced their test scores, when the total sample of patients was grouped by the actual operation they received, patients who had the actual transplant surgery showed improvement in movement while, on average, patients who had sham surgery did not.

Professor Dan Russell at Iowa State, the study’s co-author, says the findings have both scientific and practical implications. “This study is extremely important in regard to the placebo effect because we know of no placebo studies that have effectively maintained the double-blind for at least 12 months. The average length of placebo studies is eight weeks,” according to Russell. Dr. McRae notes that similar results related to the placebo effect have been found in other studies with patients with Parkinson’s disease. She says that there is a need for placebo controls in studies evaluating treatment for Parkinson’s as the placebo effect seems to be very strong in this disease. Dr. McRae also reports that although the sham surgery research design is somewhat controversial and has raised some ethical concerns, the results of this study show “the importance of a double-blind design to distinguish the actual and perceived values of a treatment intervention.”

Knee Surgery Proves No Better Than Placebo

By Katrina Woznicki

July 10, 2002 (UPI) — For individuals suffering from osteoarthritis in their knees, a common type of knee surgery has been found to be no more beneficial than a placebo, a new study revealed Wednesday.

Researchers at the Houston VA Medical Center and at Baylor College of Medicine came to this surprising conclusion after comparing various knee treatments to placebo surgery on 180 patients with knee pain.

The patients were randomly divided into three groups. One group underwent debridement, in which the damaged or loose cartilage is the knee is surgically removed by an arthroscope, a pencil-thin tube that allows doctors to see inside the knee. The second group received arthoscopic lavage, which flushes out the bad cartilage from the healthier tissue. A third group underwent a placebo surgery. They were sedated by medication while surgeons simulated arthroscopic surgery on their knees by making small incisions on the leg, but not removing any tissue.

During a two-year follow-up, researchers found no differences among the three groups. All patients reported improvement in their symptoms of pain and ability to use their knees. Throughout the two years, patients were unaware whether they had received the “real” or placebo surgery.

However, patients who received actual surgical treatments did not report less pain or better functioning of their knees compared to the placebo group. In fact, periodically during the follow-up, the placebo group reported a better outcome compared to the patients who underwent debridement.

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