Posts filed under “Data Analysis”

Real Fed Fund Rates

Last week, we looked at the historical range of Federal Reserve Funds since 1946. 

It was a simple mean reversion, and did not incorporate the post WWII price controls, the 1970s inflation spike, or the Bretton Woods agreement.

As such, some implied that it overstated Fed Funds rate. Marketwatch’s Rex Nutting had the suggestion that it would be instructive to look at real versus nominal Fed rates (see update 2).

After the Fed meeting, Rex did just that, and analyzed the real (after inflation) Fed Funds Rate. His conclusions? 

"Adjusted for the increase in the consumer price index, the real federal funds rate has averaged 1.75% since 1956. Currently, the real rate is about 1.10%, with a fed funds rate of 4.75% and a trailing inflation rate of 3.65%.

To bring rates back to the 50-year average, the Fed would need to raise rates or lower inflation by a cumulative 0.65%."

Ahhh, but that’s a simple mathematical exercise (like ours) that does not consider all the variations in economic time periods — including periods of "low inflation and modest growth, times of high inflation and no growth."

Which raises the obvious question:  What has the Fed Funds Rate looked like in similar periods of high productivity and high growth? 

"The Fed achieved a soft landing in the economy in 1995. From late 1994 through mid-1998, the Fed managed to keep the fed funds rate relatively steady between 5.25% and 6%. The economy prospered, growing at an average rate of 3.7%. Inflation averaged 2.5%.

During that time, the real fed funds rate averaged 3.1%, two full percentage points higher than today.

This analysis suggests that, in a period of high productivity and high growth, it may take a somewhat higher real funds rate to keep inflation low.

If the Fed wants a 3.1% real funds rate, it might have to boost nominal rates another 2 percentage points to 6.75%. The Fed probably wouldn’t have to do all eight quarter-point hikes, because that much tightening would probably have some impact on lowering the inflation rate (otherwise, why do it?).

If inflation rates moderated to 2.5% or so under the pressure of Fed tightening, the Fed could probably stop at 5.50%

That’s my number (as well Lehman Brothers). To get there requires three more 1/4 point hikes.

As to that soft landing, I would point out that the 1995 was a period in the middle of a secular Bull Market. Technology, networking and computers were the prime drivers, creating a virtuous cycle that powered the economy and markets higher. It was an organic business cycle expansion that kept going until it reached an upside blowoff in Spring 2000.

That is quite different than the present stimulus driven economy. The Fed’s tools are not being used to moderate this hot economy; Rather, they are slowly removing the economic stimulus namely, pulling interest rates up from 46 year lows.

Those are the prime differences between 1995 and 2005:  a secular bull market driven by organic economic expansion, versus an economy that has been driven purely by a combination of government (war spending, tax cuts, deficit spending) and Monetary (rate cuts, increased money supply) stimulus.

>

Source:
Monetary policy still far from normal
Rex Nutting
MarketWatch, 8:24 PM ET Mar 28, 2006
http://tinyurl.com/o5p9l

Category: Data Analysis, Federal Reserve, Fixed Income/Interest Rates

CEO Pay

Category: Data Analysis, Economy, Politics

Does the CPI Reflect Reality?

Category: Data Analysis, Federal Reserve, Inflation

Historical Fed Fund Ranges

Category: Data Analysis, Federal Reserve, Inflation

CEO Options: Luck — or something else?

The WSJ streak of taking very interesting columns and hiding them on Saturday continues.

Yesterday, they asked: Are some CEOs reaping millions by landing stock options when they are most valuable amatter of dumb luck — or something else?

Excerpt:

"On a summer day in 2002, shares of
Affiliated Computer Services Inc. sank to their lowest level in a year.
Oddly, that was good news for Chief Executive Jeffrey Rich.

His
annual grant of stock options was dated that day, entitling him to buy
stock at that price for years. Had they been dated a week later, when
the stock was 27% higher, they’d have been far less rewarding. It was
the same through much of Mr. Rich’s tenure: In a striking pattern, all
six of his stock-option grants from 1995 to 2002 were dated just before
a rise in the stock price, often at the bottom of a steep drop.

Just
lucky? A Wall Street Journal analysis suggests the odds of this
happening by chance are extraordinarily remote — around one in 300
billion. The odds of winning the multistate Powerball lottery with a $1
ticket are one in 146 million.

Suspecting such patterns aren’t
due to chance, the Securities and Exchange Commission is examining
whether some option grants carry favorable grant dates for a different
reason: They were backdated. The SEC is understood to be looking at
about a dozen companies’ option grants with this in mind.

The
Journal’s analysis of grant dates and stock movements suggests the
problem may be broader. It identified several companies with wildly
improbable option-grant patterns. While this doesn’t prove chicanery,
it shows something very odd: Year after year, some companies’ top
executives received options on unusually propitious dates.

The
analysis bolsters recent academic work suggesting that backdating was
widespread, particularly from the start of the tech-stock boom in the
1990s through the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform act of 2002. If so,
it was another way some executives enriched themselves during the boom
at shareholders’ expense. And because options grants are long-lived,
some executives holding backdated grants from the late 1990s could
still profit from them today."

The chart below implies that the odds against these being random are quite high. (I guess Sarbanes Oxley didn’t root out all the corporate corruption after all).

Last week it was the mortgage resets, and this week its CEO Options. Great stories, buried on the front page — of the Saturday edition . . .

Source:
The Perfect Payday
CHARLES FORELLE and JAMES BANDLER
WSJ, March 18, 2006; Page A1
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB114265075068802118.html

How the Journal Analyzed Stock-Option Grants
CHARLES FORELLE
WSJ, March 18, 2006; Page A5
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB114265125895502125.html

Read More

Category: Corporate Management, Data Analysis

February CPI Tame

Category: Data Analysis, Federal Reserve, Inflation, Investing

How Have Economic Reports Been Running?

Category: Data Analysis, Economy

NFP: Final thoughts

Category: Data Analysis, Employment

Why do we overweight NFP ?

Category: Data Analysis, Employment

Can M3 be Saved?

Category: Data Analysis, Federal Reserve, Politics