Posts filed under “Economy”

Is the Fed a Leading or Lagging Indicator?

That’s the question for today:  Is the Fed an Indicator that leads the market, or do they lag?

That question was provoked by this rather interesting graphic, courtesy of Gary B. Smith at

click for flaming monkees to sing and dance


chart courtesy of Real Money

What I believe this chart reveals is that the Fed’s action trails the prior market cycle, but can lead the next cycle.

For example, the Fed was steady in the mid-to late 1990s, while the market rallied higher.  (They cut a few times to deal with LTCM, but that was rather brief). The Fed started hiking in 1999, and kept tightening straigh thru early 2001. They were clearly late to the party in trying to rein in both inflationary pressures and the 1999 exuberence. That rate hiking cycle lagged.

If you are a bit of a contrarian, then you may wish to consider the Fed’s tightening as an early warning that the cycle was long in the tooth. Shorting into a Fed tightening — when you get the approriate technical confirmations — ain’t a bad strategy.   

In the 1999 cycle, for example, the market were way ahead of the Fed, and had already anticipated a slowdown. By the time the Fed started cutting rates, we were already deep into a recession.

The next tightening cycle began in June 2004. But as the chart makes clear, the markets had already rock-n-rolled: Waiting for the Fed means you missed the big lift off of 2003.

Indeed, what a Fed rate cutting cycle should suggest to you is that thigns already are el-stinko, and you want to begin looking for when to step back into the market.

So the answer to a query — Does the Fed lead or lag? — is Yes, a little of both.


Don’t Fret the Fed
Gary B. Smith, 5/3/2005 8:30 AM EDT

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Understanding the Post-Bubble Economy

"Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again."

– John Maynard Keynes, Tract on Monetary Reform


- Economists and fundamental analysts often miss cycle turns.
- There’s always another recession — and expansion — coming (eventually).
- Learn to separate hand-wringing permabears from credible commentators.

If you have been listening to the financial press recently, you might be shocked (shocked!) to learn that inflation has been increasing and the economy is slowing.

You don’t say?

Of course, readers aren’t just now discovering that this economy has been suffering from inflationary pressures for more than two years, as a chart of the CRB shows.

It’s the same with GDP. Follow the numbers: The third-quarter 2003 number was 7.8% (originally reported as almost 9%), the next quarter’s was 4.2% (originally 6%+) and 2004′s quarterly data came in at 4.5%, 3.3%, 4.0% and 3.8%.

This week, we learned the first quarter of 2005′s number of 3.1% was way below consensus expectations. While some will tell you that 3%+ GDP growth is pretty decent, it’s the trend of waning momentum that is the issue. An early mentor of mine used to admonish traders to not look at the photo, but to watch the full movie instead.

So much for the idea of kinda-sorta-eventually-efficient markets hypothesis.

Slowing GDP and rising inflation have been discussed on this site for over a year now. The investing issue with macroeconomic concerns is not the actual data, but how — and when — that data affects psychology. It’s a question of timing. The commentators who are first now discovering weak GDP and inflationary pressures are not much help to you once the ocean is flat again.

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Economists react to GDP

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