“Don’t Fight The Fed” Has Been Good Advice in the Past

The Fed’s statement from its meeting last week contained few surprises but was slightly hawkish on a close reading. “Don’t fight the Fed” has been good advice in the past.  Maybe it’s different this time.  Maybe not. The year-end 2015 and 2016 “dot plot” forecasts for rates rose roughly 0.25% amidst slightly lower growth and inflation forecasts. Moderate economic growth continues, but homebuilding is not looking like a big GDP growth driver in 2014, yet inflation remains low, and there is little pressure on the Fed to hurry. Its balance sheet won’t shrink anytime soon, however. Continue reading

Mind the Gap

Economic fundamentals (the “real economy”) have been struggling to catch up with the buoyant behavior of financial markets and, eventually, these diverging patterns (gaps) will have to be reconciled. On the economic side, the main global structural imbalances (a mountain of debt, a lack of aggregate demand) remain very much in place and the multiple transitions that all the major economic areas are facing are far from being completed. The recent market dynamics would be inconceivable in a “normal” market cycle, but nothing is impossible in the fantastic world of Quantitative Easing (QE) and money printing. Continue reading

Did Fears of the Fed Spark Bond Market Selloff?

Last week in the capital markets: Bonds sold off globally in the week before the Fed meeting.

It was a quiet week for economic news, and the geopolitical front was relatively quiet (less fighting but more sanctions in Europe, moving toward a bigger effort against ISIS) but fears that the Fed is behind the curve seemed to be the ones that led investors and traders to act last week. Continue reading

ECB Tackles Low Growth and Falling Inflation

Attended by the world’s top central bankers, the European Central Bank (ECB) met in August for its regular monthly meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I thought I would share some insights from Tanguy Le Saout, Pioneer’s Head of European Fixed Income.

Anticipation was running high that the ECB would announce further measures to help tackle Europe’s twin problems of low growth and falling inflation. In a surprising move, ECB President Mario Draghi, deviated from his prepared speech. These and other unscripted remarks appeared to signal a significant shift in ECB policy. It raised hopes for the imminent announcement of a Quantitative Easing (QE) program and caused a substantial fall in European bond yields and the euro currency. With expectations high, did the ECB deliver? Continue reading

Summer Ends Quietly…with a Market-Moving Speech

Last week in the capital markets: A Quiet Last Week of August.  Economic news again suggested the U.S. economy is fine, while Asia and Europe are facing headwinds.  Mario Draghi’s dovish-sounding speech at Jackson Hole a week ago was probably more market-moving than anything that happened last week. Continue reading

“Whatever it Takes” Two Years Later: What’s New?

Today is the second anniversary of Mario Draghi’s “Whatever it takes” pronouncement during the darkest days for the euro. Let me share with you some thoughts on how that event probably changed the course of the Eurozone.

Draghi’s speech did what it was supposed to do – it preserved the euro and it calmed the economy and the financial markets – without costing a single euro. The most important measure of success is that after the speech, the Outright Monetary Transaction Program (OMT), which allowed the European Central Bank (ECB) to buy short-term bonds from euro governments, was not utilized even once. The bottom line: The speech and the program were nothing more than a communications initiative, albeit an extremely adept one.

Continue reading

Labor Market Looking More “Healed” Than “Healing”

Observations on the Capital Markets – Week Ended July 18, 2014

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s Congressional testimony this week, in my view, was not pointing to bubbles. In her testimony, she suggested that valuations of social media and biotech stocks and lower-rated corporate debt appear “stretched.”  Some observers suggested she was saying we are in a bubble.  But I have a different perspective: I think she was saying, in effect, “yes, prices are high in some niches, but not generally.” In any case, it’s doubtful Yellen is shifting her focus from less-than-full-employment to the question of possible market bubbles. Continue reading

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