Posts filed under “Bailouts”
Tapering Is Now Tightening
David R. Kotok
July 19, 2014
For a long time, as we saw it, tapering and the threat of tapering (as in last year’s taper tantrum) did not constitute tightening. Today we explore why we believe the situation has now changed.
In order to understand why tapering was not tightening initially, we must momentarily set aside all influences on US Treasury note and bond interest rates that fall outside of the Federal Reserve’s program. Pretend for a minute that foreign exchange flows, geopolitical risks, inflation expectations, deflation expectations, sovereign debt biases, preferred habitat buyers, and a million other things are all neutral. They never are, but for this exercise pretend that they are so.
We have observed and commented on QE and the expansion of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet for several years, as the Fed emphasized intermediate- and long-term maturities as a mechanism by which to absorb the net issuance of US Treasury securities.
Let’s think of it this way. The federal deficit was $1 trillion, and the Fed was buying securities at the rate of $85 billion per month, or approximately $1 trillion yearly. Thus, the Fed purchased the entire amount of issuance that the federal government presented to the market. If all things were otherwise neutral, the market impact was zero. There was no influence to change interest rates; hence they could stay very low.
But in the economic recovery phase, the federal deficit commenced shrinking sooner than the Fed commenced tapering. There reached a point at which the Fed was acquiring more than 100% of the net new issuance of US government securities. At that point, the Fed’s buying activity was withdrawing those securities from holders in the US and around the world. Essentially the Fed was bidding up the price and dropping the yield of those Treasury securities, and it was doing so in the long-duration end of the distribution of those securities.
The Fed has taken the duration of its assets from two years prior to the Lehman-AIG crisis all the way out to six years, which is the present estimate. It is hard to visualize the Fed taking that duration out any farther. There are not enough securities left, even if the Fed continues to roll every security reaching maturity into the longest possible available replacement security. We can conclude that the duration shift, otherwise known as a “twist,” is over. A six-year duration of the Fed’s balance sheet is about all one can reasonably expect them to obtain.
Now the Fed commences the tapering process, incrementally stepping down its purchases of $85 billion per month to lesser amounts. The Fed has said that it will complete that task and reach zero before the end of this year. The target month is October. The current rate of purchases is $35 billion a month, or approximately $400 billion at an annualized run rate.
The federal deficit has declined as well. Because of the shrinkage of the deficit, the run rate of Fed purchases and issuance by the US government are still about the same as the amount of Fed purchases. Before, the balance was $1 trillion issued and $1 trillion absorbed by the Fed. Presently, it is approximately $400 billion issued and $400 billion absorbed by the Fed. The Fed is on a glide path to zero, but the deficit remains a long way from zero. In July, August, September, and October of this year, for the first time, the net issuance of US government securities will exceed the absorption by the Fed as it tapers.
The process of tapering is a gradual one that has been discussed by Fed officials continuously, and it is clear that, in the absence of some extreme reaction, they are going to sustain this path. What does that mean?
By autumn, we will see issuance of US government securities at a rate of somewhere close to $400 billion annualized, whereas Fed absorption will be at zero. The Fed will continue to replace its maturities, but that practice will not add duration or supply any stimulus.
In July, August, September, and October, for the first time, the change in rate between what the Fed absorbs and what the Treasury issues will result in a shift. That shift is a tightening.
Will the markets respond to that tightening? We do not know. Have they responded to similar shifts in history? Absolutely. Could the shift be dramatic? We do not know. Could the response be benign? Yes. Could the response increase volatility and intensify market reactions to other events, many of which we have, for the purposes of this discussion, been assumed to be neutral? Absolutely.
We are about to get back to a neutral place. The neutral place means the impact of issuance of debt by the government will again become a significant factor even if the rate is $400 billion per year. The other factors that we listed above and many more that have not been listed here are about to become more direct and substantial influences on interest rates. The reality is that their effects over the last seven years have been dampened by Fed policy.
The effect of Fed policy on US-denominated assets has been to create a continued upward bias in the prices of those assets. Stocks, bonds, real estate, collectibles, and any asset that is sensitive to interest rates have had the benefit of this extraordinary policy for five or six years. That support is coming to an end.
At Cumberland, we have no idea whether the transition will be benign and gradual or abrupt and volatile. There is no way to know. Therefore, we have taken a cash reserve position in our US ETF and US ETF Core accounts. We are maintaining that position as we navigate this transition period of July, August, September, and October. After years of stimulus, we’ve reached a tipping point that remaps the investing landscape in ways we cannot clearly foresee: for the rest of this year, tapering will be tightening.
David R. Kotok, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Chair Janet L. Yellen: Monetary Policy and Financial Stability At the 2014 Michel Camdessus Central Banking Lecture, International Monetary Fund, Washington, D.C. July 2, 2014 It is an honor to deliver the inaugural Michel Camdessus Central Banking Lecture. Michel Camdessus served with distinction as governor of the Banque de France and was one of…Read More
Source: BCA Today’s chart comes to us from Chen Zhao of the Bank Credit Analyst, who writes in a research report: The financial services industry have (sic) begun to feel the pinch of the fallout from low volatility and zero interest rates. The average return delivered by hedge funds has fallen sharply since the…Read More
Remarks Before the Peterson Institute of International Economics
Commissioner Kara M. Stein
June 12, 2014
Thank you, Adam, for the kind introduction. I also would like to thank the Peterson Institute for International Economics for hosting me today.
I, like all of you in this room, believe we need to have strong, vibrant capital markets if we want to have a healthy, job-creating economy. Our capital markets must be built on a foundation that is strong enough to withstand the next storm. During the Great Recession, we started a discussion about how to help insulate us when the next crisis comes.
The next financial crisis may come from any direction. My job is to help figure out where the next crisis may come from, and how to minimize the damage it would cause. That means we must identify systemic risks and mitigate them. Today, we have convened to continue this conversation and discuss what the SEC can do to better prevent the buildup and transmission of risks that can take down our entire financial system.
I’m going to begin our discussion today with a quick reminder of how we got here. And then, I’m going to focus on the three key areas where the SEC can play a critical role in addressing systemic risks. First, we need to step outside of our silo and think broadly and cooperatively with our fellow regulators, both domestic and international. Second, we need to focus on improving the stability and resiliency of the short-term funding markets, including securities lending and repurchase agreements (repo). Third, we need to re-examine how we evaluate capital, leverage, and liquidity within the financial institutions and funds we regulate.
With the financial crisis in the rear view mirror, many forget the forces that converged in 2007. Some even deny the impact of the recession, optimistically viewing our financial markets and our economy as inoculated from a virus that spread quickly and wreaked havoc on a global economy. Yet, studies demonstrate that the Great Recession continues to affect both attitudes and behaviors. A recent survey found that the generation entering the workforce now – the Millennials, who are 21 to 36 years old – have the same fiscally conservative views as the generation that exited the Great Depression. Millennials are skeptical of the financial markets and long-term investing, yet we increasingly depend on them to invest and drive our economy.
I, too, am crisis-scarred. And I share a dream with these Millennials. I dream of never facing another financial crisis. I want to do my part to avoid ever having to face another one. The events of 2008 are indelibly etched into my memory. In 2008, while I was working for Senator Jack Reed, our country’s economic leaders began closed-door briefings with members of Congress. Concerned about the unfolding financial crisis, the Chair of the Federal Reserve and the Secretary of Treasury pleaded for help and for an unprecedented financial intervention to stave off another Great Depression. They wanted tools to protect our Nation from an invisible force that came to be known as systemic risk. A comprehensive strategy was developed to stabilize our economy and unlock the credit markets in order to save our financial system.
Post Credit Crisis Job Creation Source: Oregon Office of Economic Analysis Last week’s jobs report has returned the U.S. economy back to its peak pre-recession levels of employment. (there is a debate about the quality of jobs being created, but we shall save that conversation for another time). As the Oregon Office of Economic…Read More