February 19 recap

Might be a revealing day coming up.

I’m watching for markets to begin to link higher oil prices to the potential for higher interest rates, rather than the reverse as has been the case since August.

With oil up to the mid 97 range this am, the question is whether short term interest rates move higher due to possible Fed concerns about inflation, even with weak growth and continuing financial sector issues. Even Yellen recently voiced concerns about energy prices now feeding into core inflation measures which are now above her ‘comfort zone.’ And Friday Mishkin said more than once in a short speech that the Fed had to be prepared to reverse course if inflation expectations elevate.

Yes, credit spreads are a lot wider, but when, for example, I ask the desk if any of the wider AAA’s are ultimately money good, I get a lot of uncertainty. So it seems to me in many cases markets are functioning to price risk at perceived potential default levels? So some of the current spreads may be wider than they ‘should be’ but maybe not all that much?

Yes, the financial sector has been damaged (and damnaged).

Yes, housing is weak without the bid for subprime housing of 18 months ago.

And yes, the consumer has slowed down some.

However, exports are booming like a third world country- growing around 13% per year, also do to financial market shifts, this time away from $US financial assets.

This is offsetting weakening domestic demand and keeping gdp positive, at least so far.

Meanwhile, it looks like a full blow 1970’s inflation in the making if food, fuel, and import/export prices keep doing what they are doing.

And with Saudi production continuing to creep up at current pricing, seems demand is more than strong enough for them to keep hiking prices.

And suddenly Yellen and Mishkin, both doves, substantially elevate their anti inflation rhetoric, as core levels have gone just beyond even their comfort zones.