Chair Yellen is no Joe Namath

All I’m going to say is the Fed chair Yellen is no Joe Namath.

On Wednesday in a speech the Fed head said, “Will I say there will never, ever be another financial crisis? No, probably that would be going too far. But I do think we’re much safer and I hope that it will not be in our lifetimes and I don’t believe it will.”

Namath guaranteed the New York Jets would win Super Bowl III and backed it up.

Yellen, who seems to be on the path of bursting asset bubbles with a credit-busting, rate-raising strategy, also said, “asset valuations are somewhat rich if you use some traditional metrics like price earnings ratios, but I wouldn’t try to comment on appropriate valuations, and those ratios ought to depend on long-term interest rates.”

Even if you discount the 2.5% drop in Google yesterday on the huge European regulator’s $2.7 billion fine for skewing its search results, stocks sold off hard on her comments.

Now I’m not one to pandered to ageism, however at 70 years old, Chair Yellen has a different time horizon than the rest of us.

But if the Fed thinks it can burst stocks, art and home asset bubbles by constricting credit in a low inflation environment, then Yellen & Co are looking at a possible deflationary crisis, which they have little in their toolbox to combat.

One can think that the Fed can always lower rates again and expand its balance sheet to fight deflation, but that’s just continuing the boom/bust cycles.

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Markets ignore Euphrates line in the sand

This will be a brief posting today, since I have to remove a large tree limb that came down on my wife’s art studio during Monday’s storm.

As I wrote yesterday, the markets are immune to a sell off despite global events. Monday’s development in the Middle East.

Humans are said to have developed in the Euphrates Valley, well this week we could see the ramping up of our demise in the same region as US-Russian warplanes may be having dog fights over the Crescent of Civilization.

Given this difficult situation where the Pentagon came out and said that US fighters will defend the airspace against all hostile actors, equity markets hit new highs, the VIX, or fear index, almost had a 9-handle and bonds are at very low yields. It’s too strange to be true.

Look no further than the price of crude. At $44 a barrel there is no premium being paid for the unrest in the Gulf Oil states as well as Middle East.

I’ll have more on this as I dig further, but there’s a limb that needs to be removed from the roof.

No fear or loathing in the markets

Do you recall the days when markets would pull back when there was a terrorist event in the world?

When investors would at least pause when the fired FBI Director was speaking on Capitol Hill about events and conversations with the White House?

Some of these market participants would even sell when the Federal Reserve raised rates. Speaking of the Fed — the ultimate backstop on falling security prices — it said last week it would begin pulling some $2 trillion out of the markets over the next 2 years or so.

What did we get from the markets?  Crickets

These investors used to be called skittish. But they seem to be gone. They have been muscled out by money that seems to know something. There are so many signs that the market is ready for a pull back.

What that something is that the markets know could certainly be helpful to small investors.

However, this is the time market pros say when the “dumb money” comes into the market. Small investors seeing new record highs most days and who have been on the sidelines fearing a repeat of 1987, 2001 and 2008.

I’m of the opinion that you don’t need to catch the last 5% move upwards, when the risk is you could get caught in a 50% downside collapse. It’s not a zero-sum game, you can take some profits and leave some positions for the possibility markets will go higher.

 

Fed’s rate hike hurts the ailing US consumer

I stand corrected. The Federal Reserve raised rates by 0.25 points Wednesday.

However, that does not mean it was correct to do so.

If you look at the US economy right now we have a slowing economy as GDP projections of +3% for the quarter are being pulled back to sub 2%. We also have inflation targets that are well below the Fed’s 2% target. Right now it’s at 1.6%.

The US has credit constriction you don’t have to look any future than look at the retail sector to see that the cost of cash is rising and more difficult to attain.

The growing asset bubbles are no longer the sure-fire collateral for extending credit.

So into this environment, the Fed takes it funds rate to a range between 1% and 1.25%. We already see that the consumer has tapped out on credit card usage with available credit at a years low-level, while outstanding balances hit all-time highs.

Student loan debt also at all-time high levels and mortgages for new and existing homes have been flat to slightly lower as rates rise. Car loans are persona non grata for originations and resale in the market due to low quality (think NINJA mortgages) and high quantity.

So why would the Fed raise rates at this time? To put another bullet in the chamber in case it needs to lower them again. To also tell Wall Street to tighten its reigns on credit and bring the bond market inline with other asset classes.

However this rates rise only affects us on the downside. We will pay more for credit and still get little to no interest on our savings.

And how the markets reacted tells you there is little change in either stocks or bonds. It was expected.

Now the Fed also announced the beginning of a plan to unwind its $4.5 trillion balance sheet. These were toxic mortgages and other troubled assets along with plenty of treasury bills and notes.

Now the Fed reinvest those proceeds as they mature, next year it will pare back the reinvestment according to a schedule that will be phased in.

There are lots to say about this and I will address it in the near future, but let’s just say I don’t believe the unwinding will be able to be pulled off beginning in 2018 for reasons I will address later.

$10,000 bitcoin can’t happen with these exchange outages

While bitcoin was dropping like a stone on Monday with sellers clamoring for the exit, thereby crashing the Coinbase exchange, another digital crypto-like token, ethereum, soared to record highs.

Other exchanges like BTC-e, tweeted on Monday that it was hit by a distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS. Their website was back online at 4:00pm EST.

This was the second outage for Coinbase in the last three weeks and both outages were when bitcoin was falling.

So what is with the bitcoin exchanges, that they work fine when there are $200-$500 run ups in price, but fail miserably on the downside? And why can’t they get their stories straight?

For any cryptocurrency to gain broader appeal safeguards must be put in place to give each investor equal opportunity to buy and sell. The last thing anyone needs is a government to step in to regulate the market.

Another question is how is it that a digital currency exchange is developed that is not robust enough to handle spikes in traffic? The exchanges are built with the express purpose of having scalability. It’s not like you built a physical market and then people started trading it online and you were caught short.

The exchanges by using the ploy of server outages due to traffic or DDoS attack at a critical junction are setting themselves up for comparison with Mt. Gox and its implosion some years ago.

If you want to see a $10,000 bitcoin price, these exchanges — and there are about 10 of differing sizes on bitcoin — must come together to execute sales for each other if one exchange goes down.

You can’t expect neophytes, new to the cryptocurrency markets, to be able to manage navigating different exchanges to find one to buy or sell on.


The Federal Reserve is schedule to announce Wednesday the result of its two-day meeting on whether to raise rates another quarter point.

I’ve written numerous times that Yellen & Co. will not raise again this year.

So I’ll stand by that and say the Fed will stand pat and wish to monitor the markets and inflation and stand ready to raise at upcoming meetings, but will stand pat today.

While the low rates have created numerous asset bubbles from stocks to bitcoin, the tightening of credit will have a disastrous effect on the overall economy. GDP is looking at below 2% for the quarter after coming off a sub 1% first quarter.

That’s my call we will see at around 2PM EDT whether I am right or not.