Morgan Stanley’s Stephen Roach takes a look at what may be the most important appointment President Bush makes — and he does not come away very confident about it:
"And that, I’m afraid, brings me to the most controversial point of all — the selection process, itself. With the consent of the US Senate, the choice of selecting a new Fed chairman falls to the President. Generalizing on the basis of George W. Bush’s most recent senior appointments, I suspect the President will look for three key traits in a new Fed chairman — familiarity, loyalty, and a pro-growth bias. This is not meant to be critical. It is a carefully determined observation based on the President’s record. In the case of a Fed Chairman, those criteria imply that President Bush will probably not select the next Paul Volcker — a tough, independent policy maker who might be predisposed toward “tight money.” While this is inconsistent with the President’s statement on this matter at a recent press conference, in the end, I still believe George W. Bush will opt for a trusted team player who shares the goals and objectives of his political agenda.
This could well pose a serious problem for US financial markets. With America’s external financing critically dependent on the foreign confidence factor, any doubts over central bank independence will not go over well. That’s especially the case for a US economy beset with record imbalances, a potential inflation scare, and bubble-like conditions in asset markets. Foreign investors have been extraordinarily generous in the terms they have offered for funding America’s external deficit. In part, that generosity may reflect the “Greenspan factor” — the confidence that investors have in Alan Greenspan’s adroit management of periodic international financial crises. With the Greenspan factor about to be taken out of the confidence equation, any fears of an “easy money” Fed could well prompt foreign investors to exact concessions in those financing terms in the form of a weaker dollar and higher real interest rates."
Or, to rephrase Mr. Roach’s concerns, consider this:
UPDATE: October 10, 2005 8:06am
Stephen Roach (from Zurich)
Morgan Stanley, Oct 07, 2005
October 7, 2005 10:58 a.m.
The WSJ notes that "the U.S. economy lost jobs in September for the first time in over two years as economic convulsions from Hurricane Katrina damped the job market. The Labor Department said Friday that nonfarm payrolls declined by 35,000 jobs last month. That marked the first decline since May 2003, when the labor market was struggling to get back on its feet after being set back by the 2001 recession. The drop was the largest since a decline of 54,000 jobs in April 2003.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate rose to 5.1%. Does the September employment report present an accurate picture of the labor market after Katrina? What does it mean for the economy going forward? Economists weigh in."
* * *
These were the two most interesting comments, in my opinion:
We doubt that this report has captured all the job losses caused by this storm and none of those that may have been triggered by Hurricane Rita. (For instance, the city of New Orleans last week announced that its loss of revenues was forcing it to cut workers this month.) Thus, next month’s report could reveal additional storm-related job losses. When re-hiring resumes, monthly job gains will tend to generate above-trend growth in employment. It is going to be especially difficult for at least the next two to three months to gauge the underlying national trends in the job market.
– David Resler and Gerald Zukowski, Nomura Securities International
We can’t ignore the pain in the Gulf Coast, but we shouldn’t ignore either that for the rest of the country the economy looks to be in good shape. The Fed is more concerned about rising inflation than weakening growth and this report should strengthen that case. With today’s report, I see no reason to expect the Fed to slow its measured pace, but they won’t see any need to go for a half-point bump either. Stripping out energy prices, almost all of the underlying inflation numbers are benign. Wall Street may not like today’s report, but Main Street should like it just fine.
(emphasis added, absurdity in the original)
– Bill Cheney, John Hancock Financial Services
There’s more after the jump . . .
October 7, 2005 10:58 a.m.