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Fed Policy

Nov 05 2021

Fed Taper—Not A Policy Error

  • Nov 5, 2021

We believe concerns about central-bank policy error are mostly a foreign issue, because they have moved much more aggressively than the Fed. The market has shown no indication of a Fed-policy mistake and we are still on board with the reflation trade.

Nov 05 2021

No Bark, No Bite?

  • Nov 5, 2021

If NBER is correct that a new economic expansion began in mid-2020, then this cycle is unfolding in “dog years.” After limiting between-meal snacks earlier this year, champion-breeder Jay Powell has informed his pack of canines that their portions will also be reduced as of later this month.

Nov 05 2021

Aging Prematurely

  • Nov 5, 2021

Regardless of one’s view on the maturity of today’s economic and market cycles, it’s hard to deny that the continuation of extraordinarily-loose economic policies is now causing those cycles to age prematurely. And no doubt it’s contributing to the premature “graying” of many market participants. 

Sep 08 2021

A Good Thing To Have In Reserve

  • Sep 8, 2021

It seems investors care mostly that the authorities have fiercely defended the S&P 500’s status as the World’s Reserve IndexTM. A decade of QE should have taught us that when the Fed conducts a decade’s worth of QE in little more than a year, U.S. Large Cap stocks benefit the most. 

Aug 06 2021

Liquidity Letdown?

  • Aug 6, 2021

Stock market liquidity might seem plentiful, with the Fed still buying $120 billion in bonds per month under the all-too-predictable continuation of what was first billed as an emergency operation. However, the steadiness of QE masks a major second-quarter reversal in “excess liquidity.”

Aug 06 2021

Sharing The Punch Bowl?

  • Aug 6, 2021

The gap between YOY growth rates in M2 and nominal GDP just flipped negative after four quarters of record-high readings. In other words, the recovering economy is now drinking from a punch bowl that the stock market once had all to itself. Similar drinking binges occurred in 2010 and 2018, both of which then experienced corrections north of 15%.

Jul 08 2021

Are High Prices A Form Of “Tightening?”

  • Jul 8, 2021

It’s certain that today’s cyclical bout of inflation will prove “transitory,” if only because the word itself is practically meaningless. Our time on earth will also prove transitory, and so too will the current stock market mania—to the shock of most of the nearly 20 million “investors” on the Robinhood platform.

Jun 05 2021

Ulterior Fed Motives?

  • Jun 5, 2021

In an echo of last decade, the Fed has come under fire for keeping crisis-based monetary policies in place well after a crisis has subsided. Predictably, the Fed rationalizes its uber-accommodation by citing the slowest-to-recover data series from a set of figures that already suffer from an inherent lag (labor market indicators).

Jun 05 2021

We’re The Government And We’re Here To Help

  • Jun 5, 2021

Our trusted civil servants must have found a list of our old Economic/Interest Rates/Inflation components and began to “discontinue” those once invaluable to us and other Fed watchers. It’s a hindrance, but we still have the one that is most correlated to stock prices and it’s free: The ever-expanding balance sheet.

Jun 05 2021

Time To Start Thinking About “Thinking About…”

  • Jun 5, 2021

The COVID collapse showed the Fed could abandon its clunky forward guidance and make the appropriate “pivot” when the facts changed. Now that facts have changed for the better, the Fed is right back to the rigid and dogmatic approach that characterized Fed-speak for almost all of the last economic expansion.

Jun 05 2021

What Should Quants Count?

  • Jun 5, 2021

On May 25th, Fed Chair Jerome Powell promised to pull back emergency support “very gradually over time and with great transparency.”

“Very gradually?” No one doubts that. But “with great transparency?” Not a chance...

Mar 05 2021

More On The “Rate-of-Change” In Rates…

  • Mar 5, 2021

The liquidity and interest-rate backdrop for stocks has been favorable to such an extreme that we’ve cautioned any minor diminution in this condition could trip up the stock market. On that score, the monetary aggregates and the Fed’s balance sheet don’t pose much concern. On the other hand...

Mar 05 2021

Ruminations On The Fed, Past And Present

  • Mar 5, 2021

If the “Maestro’s” image was dinged from being the “original bubble-blower,” imagine what will happen to Jay Powell’s if stock valuations mean-revert alongside interest rates and inflation over the next few years.

Feb 05 2021

Early-Cycle “Overheat?”

  • Feb 5, 2021

Equities continue to benefit from an odd combination of faith and doubt in the Federal Reserve: Faith that the “Fed put” under financial markets is struck closer to the price of the “underlying” than ever before, and doubt that limitless liquidity will trigger a dangerous rise in consumer prices. In all fairness, this glass half full assessment is hardly a theoretical one, but one based on years of empirical evidence. 

Dec 05 2020

A 40-Year Inflationary Echo

  • Dec 5, 2020

When measured by the gains in stocks, gold, and house prices, there has been just one other occasion in which asset inflation was as “broad” as today—late 1980. But the differences in underlying fundamentals between then and now couldn’t be more stark. 

Dec 05 2020

A “Fed” Conundrum

  • Dec 5, 2020

“Don’t fight the Fed” has been great advice for stock market investors over the last nine months. For 2021, that won’t cut it. It should be: “Don’t believe the Fed.”

Nov 06 2020

Liquidity: As Good As It Gets?

  • Nov 6, 2020

Stock market manias thrive on buzzwords, and if there’s a single one that captured the essence of the late 1990s’ boom it was “productivity.” In today’s version, our top candidate is “liquidity”—and we doubt anyone would argue.

Oct 07 2020

Inflation In The Wrong Places?

  • Oct 7, 2020

Long before policymakers’ extreme response to the COVID collapse, we feared that the Fed’s interventions were suppressing important signals from the stock and bond markets. But we now suspect that hyper-expansionary policies are suppressing price signals from the “real” economy as well.

Sep 18 2020

Inflation: Looking Beyond The CPI

  • Sep 18, 2020

The Fed is hell-bent on generating inflation of 2% or higher in an over-supplied world that we think should probably be experiencing mild deflation. Their success or failure at this mission will be critical for asset allocators. For equity managers who must remain fully invested, however, the more important question might be not whether the Fed can generate higher inflation, but where.

 

Sep 05 2020

An Unwelcome Surprise?

  • Sep 5, 2020

Several measures of U.S. economic “surprises” have soared to all-time highs in the last couple of months, showing that even economic forecasters have finally learned to play the corporate game of  “under-promise then over-deliver.” Mind you, that’s only 30 years after most industrial firms eliminated the role of “staff economist.”

Sep 05 2020

Can Money Growth Trump All Else?

  • Sep 5, 2020

In 2019 and 2020, our regard for time-tested valuation tools resulted in tactical portfolios being underexposed to stocks during a pair of tremendous rallies. Now, the critique is that we don’t appreciate the brilliance of today’s policymakers and their miraculous ability to pivot just when the stocks (and, in the latest case, the economy) need it most.

Sep 05 2020

The Tab For “Freebies” Keeps Escalating

  • Sep 5, 2020

There’s an underlying faith that bureaucrats at the Fed and Treasury will keep good and bad businesses, alike, afloat—and overvalued. We’re still trying to unearth a single historical analog that merits such confidence.

Sep 05 2020

Musings On A Manic Market

  • Sep 5, 2020

Officially, those quick to pronounce the move off March lows as a new bull market have been proven correct with new S&P 500 all-time highs. Fundamentally, though, there’s enormous risk in Large Cap valuations, regardless of where one believes we are in the economic cycle.

Sep 05 2020

Keep Safe

  • Sep 5, 2020

A truly skilled writer would attempt to build up a little suspense before revealing the central theme of this section. But in this makeshift world of sixty-game baseball schedules and seven-inning doubleheaders, who has the time or patience for that?

Sep 05 2020

A New Proposal To The Fed: Buy Bank Stocks!

  • Sep 5, 2020

While most economic numbers have been positive, the fly-in-the-ointment was the latest Senior Loan Officers’ Survey. Banks have tightened their lending standards across the board.

Aug 06 2020

Measuring The Cost Of “Free”

  • Aug 6, 2020

The S&P 500 and NASDAQ have lately traded as if the hybrid “Fed/Treasury put” entails no cost at all. But dollar alternatives—like forex, precious metals, and crypto-currencies—are saying, “Not so fast!”

Aug 06 2020

Free For All?

  • Aug 6, 2020

The weekly covers of The Economist do a pretty good job of capturing the zeitgeist of global financial affairs, but there’s so much packed into every issue (and enough to do around our shop) that sometimes all we see are the covers. But we have to admit we’re disappointed in The Economist for the week ended July 31st. The “Free Money” theme is at least four months too late!

Jul 08 2020

Stimulus Gone Wild!

  • Jul 8, 2020

Market perma-bulls deserve high marks for their persistence, yet, despite all that’s transpired in 2020, their case is exactly the same as six months ago: Extreme stimulus won’t “allow” a significant stock market drop, nor any further economic deterioration.

Jun 12 2020

Keep An Eye On What Your Stocks Will Buy

  • Jun 12, 2020

News that the Bureau of Labor Statistics may have undercounted the May unemployment rate by six percentage points should remind investors of the danger of taking government economic reports too seriously. Regardless of the figure, though, unemployment is no doubt near its peak for the downturn.

Apr 07 2020

NASDAQ Goes “Parabolic?”

  • Apr 7, 2020

From now ’til eternity, bullish market pundits will always be able to argue that the global spread of the coronavirus “caused” the current global recession and bear market. While the pandemic was certainly the final catalyst, these pages had been detailing the emerging cracks for over a year.

Mar 06 2020

Over-Stimulated?

  • Mar 6, 2020

We can’t count the number of times in the last week we’ve heard analysts worry about “what the Fed might know that we don’t.” In the words of John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!”

Feb 13 2020

The Easy Fed and the “Other” Inequality

  • Feb 13, 2020

Super-easy monetary policy has been blamed for the rise in income and wealth inequality in recent years, and more recently we’d fault the Fed for performance inequality within the stock market.

 

Feb 07 2020

Central Planning Makes A Comeback

  • Feb 7, 2020

Bulls who fashion themselves as contrarians argue that the public is nowhere near as infatuated with the stock market as they were in the late 1990s. It may come as a shock to our readers, but we agree with them.

Feb 07 2020

Liquidity Overflow!

  • Feb 7, 2020

Based largely on the bearish trends in our monetary and liquidity measures, we were correctly negative on stocks throughout most of 2018. It’s therefore especially painful for us that 2019’s market rebound has been credited almost entirely to the “pivot” in most of those measures.

Feb 07 2020

The Alternate Ending?

  • Feb 7, 2020

After last year’s spectacularly successful pivot following the December 2018 plunge, the thinking is that future rate hikes are the bull market’s only threat. Perhaps that will be the case; the belief is certainly well-supported by postwar U.S. economic history, but it also reveals a shocking lapse in short-term memory.

Jan 08 2020

Waiting For The Stimulus To Trickle Down...

  • Jan 8, 2020

Last year the Federal Reserve dumped historic stimulus onto a full-employment economy and an already richly-valued stock market. The stock market obviously loved it.

Nov 07 2019

Monetary Musings

  • Nov 7, 2019

Among six major monetary gauges, five are now graded bullish, compared with just three a few months ago, and zero at the end of 2018.

Oct 05 2019

Making Money In The Money-Losers

  • Oct 5, 2019

Despite an economy operating “beyond” full employment for the past seven quarters, more than one-fourth of the companies in the Leuthold 3000 universe are losing money on a 12-month trailing basis. The Fed has subsidized what’s truly become irresponsible behavior.

Aug 07 2019

The Fed Subsidy Is Wearing Off

  • Aug 7, 2019

Earnings results for the second quarter have so far "beaten" expectations (as they always seem to), but that hasn’t changed the calculus for Small Cap companies. About one-third of them have negative earnings over the last twelve months.

Aug 06 2019

When A Cut Is Not Enough

  • Aug 6, 2019

The recent rate cut managed to bring policy uncertainty back into the market by two seemingly harmless words—”mid-cycle adjustment.”