BLAME THE FED GAME
Just one month into 2014, investors from Illinois to Istanbul are finding the tide going out fast for stocks and other riskier investments.
(…) After years of unprecedented monetary stimulus propping up the world’s financial markets, investors are now confronting the reality of an end to the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying program, which, as expected, the central bank reduced by another $10 billion on Wednesday. (…)
Some even argue that the long-simmering troubles in emerging markets will draw global investors to U.S. stocks.
But the landscape seems to have shifted from one where unprecedented central-bank stimulus enabled markets to steamroll past issues that might have otherwise spooked investors. (…)
The pullback from emerging-market currencies showed no signs of a pause, with the Hungarian forint and Russian ruble bearing the brunt of selling pressure.
Meanwhile: Fed Sticks to Script
The Federal Reserve—unfazed by recent selloffs in emerging markets or disappointing U.S. job gains in December—said it would scale back its bond-buying program for the second time in six weeks, pressing ahead with a strategy to wind down the purchases in small and steady steps.
The Fed said it would cut its purchases of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities to $65 billion a month, from $75 billion, and officials suggested they would continue reducing the purchases in $10 billion increments in the months ahead. The first cut, from $85 billion, was announced in December and made in January. (…)
Though they have been watching developments in emerging markets closely, Fed officials made no mention of these trends in the statement released Wednesday after their two-day policy meeting.
U.S. economic growth “picked up” in recent months and was expected to continue at a “moderate pace,” the Fed said. Though job-market indicators were mixed, “on balance” the labor market “showed further improvement,” the Fed said. (…)
“MIND YOUR OWN BIZ”: Citigroup summarizing the Fed statement:
From the viewpoint of domestic US economic conditions the Statement is completely anodyne. From the point of view of EM, the Fed has just said “hasta la vista, baby“
Confused? Here’s a great read that puts things into their proper perspective: Emerging Markets – Emerging Crisis or Media Hysteria?
Here’s the conclusion but the whole post is well worth reading:
Currently the financial press is working investors into a hysteria surrounding building stress in emerging markets. Stress in emerging markets is nothing new and pops up in specific countries on a yearly basis; however, there is always a risk that country-specific stress can spill over into a global contagion similar to what occurred in 1997-1998. The best way to determine when the risk spills over into something more dangerous is to monitor CDS readings globally as well as the price action in gold. If CDS readings remain muted then we are dealing with country-specific flare ups, but if they spike to levels higher than what has occurred over the last few years and gold surges we need to become more defensive.
With all that said, there is a bright side to the weakness in emerging markets and commodities for developed markets: a disinflationary stimulus similar to what occurred in the late 1990s and, more recently, since 2011…with the caveat that contagion does not result.
Dr. Ed explains the disinflationary stimulus:
The woes of emerging economies could temper the Fed’s tapering in coming months by strengthening the dollar, which could push US inflation closer to zero. The JP Morgan Trade-Weighted Dollar Index has been trending higher since mid-2011. A strong dollar tends to depress inflation.
Indeed, the US import price index excluding petroleum has been falling over the past 10 months on a y/y basis through December, when it was down 1.3%. A stronger dollar would be bad news for commodity producers, especially in the emerging economies. When the dollar is rising, commodity prices tend to fall. Weak commodity prices have depressed the currencies of commodity-producers Canada and Australia over the past year.
The latest FOMC statement noted that near-zero inflation could be a problem for the US economy: “The Committee recognizes that inflation persistently below its 2 percent objective could pose risks to economic performance, and it is monitoring inflation developments carefully for evidence that inflation will move back toward its objective over the medium term.”
The S&P 500 hast retreated 4% and is now right on its 100 day m.a. from which it has bounced back three times since June 2013 and which is still rising. If that fails to hold, the next major support is the 200 day m.a. at 1705, another 4% decline.
The Rule of 20 P/E is back into undervalue territory but, at 18.2, is not screaming “buy”. At the 200 day m.a., it would be 17.6, right in the middle of the range between “deep undervalue (15) and fair value (20). This is all about shifting sentiment. Let’s wait for the earnings season to end in a couple of weeks. We also might have a better view of a possible soft patch.
HOUSING WATCH: BEAZER HOMES FEELS THE HOUSING SLOWDOWN IN ITS LAST QUARTER
Total home closings were flat at 1,038 closings, with the average sales price from closings up 19%. New orders dropped 4%.
The 4-week average of the purchase index is now down about 12% from a year ago. (CalculatedRisk)
In its preliminary GDP estimate for the quarter, statistics institute INE said Thursday that Spain’s GDP rose 0.3% in the fourth quarter from the third. This is in line with a previous estimate by the country’s central bank, and statements made by Finance Minister Luis de Guindos.
GDP was down 0.1% in the fourth quarter from the same period of 2012, INE said, with a better contribution from internal demand offset by a smaller contribution from the export sector.
For the whole of 2013, the Spanish economy—the euro zone’s fourth-largest—contracted 1.2%, INE added.
The fourth-quarter reading compares with 0.1% growth in the third quarter from the second, and a 1.1% contraction in the third quarter from the same quarter of 2012.
THE (MIDDLE) CLASS OF 2001 VS THE (NOT SO MIDDLE) CLASS OF 2011
From BloombergBriefs: The latest tax data from the IRS (2011) illustrates the fairly grim reality the American middle class faces.
And this telling, and warning, chart: