“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

The Dollar Jumped and Stocks Rallied Last Week … What were The Triggers?

Concerns about the Ukraine and Islamic State remained high last week, but diminished at week-end on news of a cease-fire in Ukraine and NATO resolve to address the Islamic State. The European Central Bank (ECB) surprised markets (bullishly), and U.S. economic news was biased to the positive.

Continue reading

As the Economy Improves, the Fed Recalibrates its Message

As the economy and labor market improve, quantitative easing (QE) is wound down and the first rate hike draws nearer, the language of the Fed evolves accordingly.  Both the minutes of the June FOMC meeting and the remarks of Fed Chair Janet Yellen at Jackson Hole were incrementally less dovish than earlier language.  The pace of these changes suggests that the Fed is comfortable “the ball is in the fairway”…the likelihood of a surprise policy shift is low. Continue reading

Geopolitics Trumped Economics in Last Week’s Capital Markets

Observations on the Capital Markets – Week Ended August 8, 2014

Ukraine developments, more than economic news, seemed to drive the day-to-day pattern of market returns.  Russia first massed troops on the border, prompting NATO to warn of imminent invasion risks, then sent them back to their barracks, keying Friday’s rally.  The conflict is far from over.

Developments in Gaza (a brief cease-fire) and Iraq—where Obama (reluctantly, it seems) authorized airstrikes against ISIS, leaving both domestic hawks and doves feeling unsatisfied—also made the front page, while central banks in Europe, England, Japan, Australia, and India all left policy essentially unchanged—not front page news.  The global composite Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) made a new 9-year high in July at 55.5 ‑ but with war risks high, no one paid much attention.         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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