Posts filed under “Think Tank”

Morning stuff and the aftermath of the FOMC statement

Following the very dovish FOMC statement, the odds of a 25 bps rate hike by April have fallen to 36% from 54% yesterday and the odds of a hike by June have fallen below 100% for the first time. In response, inflation expectations 10 yrs out have risen to 2.12%, up from 2% just one week ago and are at the highest level since Aug ’08. The BoE left rates unchanged as expected and raised the total size of their asset purchases by 25b pounds but that was less than expected and they did say they expected inflation to rise sharply above the 2% target in the near term in part due to higher energy prices and the pound is higher in response. Their inflation outlook in the medium term is more uncertain. The ECB also left rates unchanged after Euro region retail sales unexpectedly fell in Sept. CSCO #’s have the futures well above fair value ahead of Jobless Claims and Q3 Productivity data at 8:30am. Retail comps look mostly better than expected so far.

Category: MacroNotes

The Fed and the Unemployment Rate cont’d

David R. Kotok co-founded Cumberland Advisors in 1973 and has been its Chief Investment Officer since inception. He holds a B.S. in Economics from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, an M.S. in Organizational Dynamics from The School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Masters in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Kotok’s articles and financial market commentary have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and other publications. He is a frequent contributor to CNBC programs. Mr. Kotok is also a member of the National Business Economics Issues Council (NBEIC), the National Association for Business Economics (NABE), the Philadelphia Council for Business Economics (PCBE), and the Philadelphia Financial Economists Group (PFEG).


November 4, 2009

In response to the recent piece we wrote about the Fed and the unemployment rate, Bloomberg anchor Kathleen Hays emailed the following: [Richmond Fed president] “Jeff Lacker told me he could see the Fed tightening before unemployment comes down when I interviewed him last month on The Hays Advantage.”

Kathleen also sent a recent NY Fed staff report (number 397) entitled “Monetary Tightening Cycles and the Predictability of Economic Activity.” We thank her for this response and we have posted the NY Fed staff study on our website, Also there is our original October 31 commentary.

We have several items to raise for discussion.

First point.

The NY Fed study seems to examine a separate issue than the study we cited. The authors looked at the unemployment rate AFTER the Fed had stopped tightening. In our view that may be helpful from a policy-issue perspective but it does not help us to determine whether the Fed will start to raise rates BEFORE the unemployment rate peaks.

As portfolio managers we are concerned with the latter. Academics can use the former to debate the efficacy of Fed policy making. We do not have that luxury. We must spend our days managing clients’ money in real time, not debating policy outcomes after the fact. We have to deal with what the policy is doing or will do to the financial markets. When government gets it wrong, which they often do, it is our clients who will pay the price for their errors.

Second point.

Read More

Category: Federal Reserve, Think Tank

Ben the Bartender

Ben the Bartender is working the after hours party as the Fed will keep rates at “exceptionally low levels…for an extended period.” Also with respect to inflation, the commentary is identical to the Sept 23rd meeting which is highly dovish, this even as gold is at a record high, the CRB index is up 8%…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Bianco on Fed Action

Today’s FOMC Meeting – Fed Likely to Signal Economy Improving, Keep Interest Rates Low Federal Reserve officials may today indicate their $1 trillion injection into the economy is helping to revive growth without requiring an increase in interest rates from near zero, economists said. Policy makers will probably maintain their commitment to keeping rates…Read More

Category: Federal Reserve, Think Tank

Inflation expectations rising to the highest since Sept ’08

Ahead of the 2:15pm FOMC statement, the implied inflation rate today in the 10 yr TIPS is rising to 2.08%, matching the highest level since Sept 1st ’08 when the fed funds rate was at 2%. Of course much has changed since with the economy but it highlights the dilemma the Fed faces with their…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

ISM services

The ISM services index was a touch below expectations at 50.6 vs forecasts of 51.5 and it’s down from 50.9 in Sept. Business Activity did rise a hair to 55.2, the highest since Oct ’07. Unlike the rise in the employment component in the ISM manufacturing report, services employment fell 3.2 pts to 41.1, the…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

ADP jobs report

ADP said the private sector shed a net 203k jobs in Oct, a touch more than expectations of a drop of 198k. It is though the smallest amount of job losses since July ’08 but is now running 21 straight months. Sept was revised up by 27k to a loss of 227k. The goods producing…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

When does Ben say no?

As a parent, the easiest thing to do is say yes to the kids and give them what they want. What’s harder is to say no and instill some discipline. The Fed faces a similar issue today in deciding when to say no to extraordinarily easy money. Ben’s in a no win situation for now…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

King Report: Political Bombshells

> A political bombshell exploded in the US last night. While the largest impact is on Democrats, there were clear warning shots fired at GOP nabobs. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent over $100 million to retain his office; but he only procured 51% of the votes. Polls gave Mike a 12 to 16pt lead…RINOs…Read More

Category: Politics, Think Tank

Just Desserts and Markets Being Silly Again

My long time readers are familiar with Jeremy Grantham of GMO as I quote him a lot. He is one of the more brilliant and talented value managers (and I should mention very successful on behalf of his clients). He writes a quarterly letter which I regard as a must read. I have excerpted parts of his recent letter, where the chief investment strategist really takes the current financial system follies to task. Typical of his great writing and thinking is the quote from this week’s Outside the Box selection:

“I can imagine the company representatives on the Titanic II design committee repeatedly pointing out that the Titanic I tragedy was a black swan event: utterly unpredictable and completely, emphatically, not caused by any failures of the ship’s construction, of the company’s policy, or of the captain’s competence. “No one could have seen this coming,” would have been their constant refrain. Their response would have been to spend their time pushing for more and improved lifeboats. In itself this is a good idea, and that is the trap: by working to mitigate the pain of the next catastrophe, we allow ourselves to downplay the real causes of the disaster and thereby invite another one. And so it is today with our efforts to redesign the financial system in order to reduce the number and severity of future crises.”

You can get the full letter at (You will have to register).

Your glad to be back home at least for a week,

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box

Just Desserts and Markets Being Silly Again

by Jeremy Grantham

Just Desserts

I can’t tell you how surprised, even embarrassed I was to get the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Yes, I had passed the dreaded chemistry A-level for 18-year-olds back in England in 1958. But did they realize it was my third attempt? And, yes, I will take this honor as encouragement to do some serious thinking on the topic. I will also invest the award to help save the planet. Perhaps that was really the Nobel Committee’s sneaky motive, since there are regrettably no green awards yet. Still, all in all, it didn’t seem deserved. And then it occurred to me. Isn’t that the point these days: that rewards do not at all reflect our just desserts? Let’s review some of the more obvious examples.

1. For Missing the Unmissable

Bernanke, the most passionate cheerleader of Greenspan’s follies, is picked as his replacement, partly, it seems, for his belief that U.S. house prices would never decline and that at their peak in late 2005 they largely just reflected the unusual strength of the U.S. economy. As well as missing on his very own this 3-sigma (100-year) event in housing, he was completely clueless as to the potential disastrous interactions among lower house prices, new opaque financial instruments, heroically increased mortgages, lower lending standards, and internationally networked distribution. For these accumulated benefits to society, he was reappointed! So, yes, after the fashion of his mentor, he was lavish with help as the bubble burst. And how can we so quickly forget the very painful consequences of the previous lavishing after the 2000 bubble? Rewarding Bernanke is like reappointing the Titanic’s captain for facilitating an orderly disembarkation of the sinking ship (let’s pretend that happened) while ignoring the fact that he had charged recklessly through dark and dangerous waters.

2. The Other Teflon Men

Larry Summers, with a Financial Times bully pulpit, had done little bullying and blown no warning whistles of impending doom back in 2006 and 2007. And, famously, in earlier years as Treasury Secretary he had encouraged (I hope inadvertently) wild and reckless financial behavior by helping to beat back attempts to regulate some of the new and most dangerous instruments. Timothy Geithner, in turn, sat in the very engine room of the USS Disaster and helped steer her onto the rocks. And there are several others (discussed in the 4Q 2008 Letter). You know who you are. All promoted!

3. Misguided, Sometimes Idiotic Mortgage Borrowers

The more misguided or reckless the borrowers, the more determined the efforts to help them out, it appears, although it must be admitted these efforts had limited effect. In comparison, those who showed restraint and either underhoused themselves or rented received not even a hint of help. Quite the reverse: the money the more prudent potential buyers held back from housing received an artificially low rate. In effect, the prudent are subsidizing the very same banks that insisted on dancing off the cliff into Uncle Sam’s arms or, rather, the arms of the taxpayers – many of whom rent.

4. Reckless Homebuilders

Having magnificently overbuilt for several years by any normal relationship to the population, we have decided to encourage even more homebuilding by giving new house buyers $8,000 each. This cash comes partly from the pockets of prudent renters once again. This gift is soon, perhaps, to be extended beyond first-time buyers (for whom everyone with a heart has a slight sympathy) to any buyers, which would be blatant vote-buying by Congress. So what else is new?

Read More

Category: Think Tank