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Fed Policy

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.”

May 07 2019

Tariff Man Tampers With Toppy Market

  • May 7, 2019

Beware of those who write about stock market history, especially when they speak of cause and effect. The truth is that the “why” can never be known.

May 06 2019

Signs Of Spring For Financials

  • May 6, 2019

Signs of spring are popping up everywhere in the Financials sector. S&P Financials was easily the top- performing sector in April and several sub-industries have been bubbling higher in our Group Selection discipline.

Apr 05 2019

On The Cutting Edge—End Of Fed Hikes?

  • Apr 5, 2019

The Fed not only signaled no rate hike for the rest of 2019, but also committed to unwinding its balance-sheet reduction program, starting in May and ending in September. The market took it one step further and priced in a rate cut in the second half of 2019.

Mar 29 2019

The Cycle Is Over If Confidence Fades Further

  • Mar 29, 2019

The “Expectations” component of the Consumer Confidence survey has been wobbly in the last few months, but the latest report, released on Tuesday, showed the first meaningful hit to consumers’ “Present Situation” since the stock market first began to struggle 14 months ago (Chart 1).

Mar 01 2019

Assessing The Cyclical Risks

  • Mar 1, 2019

With all the excitement over the Fed’s shift in rhetoric and the excellent subsequent market action, there’s a danger of losing sight of the broader cyclical backdrop for U.S. stocks. Remember, the economy is still operating beyond government estimates of its full-employment potential, and it’s not as if the Fed has actually eased policy—as it did successfully at a similar late-cycle juncture in the fall of 1998 and (ultimately unsuccessfully) in the summer of 2007.

Feb 07 2019

It Wasn’t Powell Who Panicked

  • Feb 7, 2019

The Fed’s “Christmas capitulation” seems to get most of the credit for the stock market rebound, but we’re not exactly sure how, or even if, the Fed capitulated at all.

Feb 07 2019

Did The Doves Swoop In And Save The Day?

  • Feb 7, 2019

Just a few months ago, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell boasted a reputation as a straight-talking, sound-money banker.

Oct 05 2018

Odds Of Outperforming?

  • Oct 5, 2018

In September, the percentage of S&P 500 stocks outperforming the S&P 500 index fell to 40.7%, the lowest reading since mid-2012. Breadth has followed a conventional path over the course of this unconventional bull market; in the current phase, the odds of outperformance are steadily diminishing.

Sep 08 2018

Beware The Policy “Narrative”

  • Sep 8, 2018

It’s been amusing to watch the narrative surrounding Fed policy evolve as the market has rallied.

Dec 07 2017

The Chart The Fed Forgot

  • Dec 7, 2017

The Fed has long claimed itself to be “data dependent” while providing less and less information on those data points it considers most relevant. We can’t know what’s on that list, but we certainly know what isn’t: the ISM Manufacturing Composite, which (prior to the current cycle) provided an excellent gauge of the Fed’s policy bias.

Nov 07 2017

Enjoying It While It Lasts

  • Nov 7, 2017

We don’t think the current stock market upleg is over.

May 05 2017

Stock Market Observations

  • May 5, 2017

The S&P 500 has labored beneath its March 1st bull market high for the last two months while underlying breadth and leadership trends have remained mostly favorable.

Jan 20 2017

Why The Treasury Department Should Watch The Tape

  • Jan 20, 2017

In recent years the Fed has been more forthright than ever about the importance of the wealth effect as a transmission mechanism of monetary policy. But this (or any) policy effect hardly exists in a vacuum, and the Fed would do well to recognize that stock market swings have played an increasingly important role in the country’s fiscal balance.

 

Dec 07 2016

Policymakers’ Shell Game

  • Dec 7, 2016

We considered the launch of the QE tapering program in January 2014 as the formal onset of the Fed’s tightening campaign, and that view seemed to be on the mark when High Yield bonds, and then stocks,  unraveled over the next couple of years—although the final losses in the DJIA and  S&P 500 fell short of what we expected.

Dec 07 2016

Rising Rates: Not Always A Death Knell

  • Dec 7, 2016

While the Dow Jones Bond Indicator has stood the test of time, history shows that rising bond yields are not always a bearish stock market phenomenon.

Dec 07 2016

Putting “Our Spin” On The Positive Spin

  • Dec 7, 2016

Bull markets seem to create their own moods that lead to fundamental developments being viewed in a mostly favorable light.