Calamity Jay Powell Ditches Transitory Inflation Tag, Paves Way for Rate Hike (Compare To Volcker’s Record)

Calamity Jay Powell is no longer mentioning “transitory” when it comes to inflation, but does Powell and the FOMC have the moxie to ACTUALLY raise rates more than a smidge??

(Bloomberg) — Team Transitory is throwing in the towel.

In a clear sign that the Federal Reserve is shifting to tighter monetary policy, Jerome Powell — who’s spent months arguing that the pandemic surge in inflation was largely due to transitory forces — told Congress on Tuesday that it’s  “probably a good time to retire that word.”

The Fed chair, tapped last week for another four-year term, still thinks inflation will ebb next year.

But in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, he acknowledged that it’s proving more powerful and persistent than expected, and said the Fed will consider ending its asset purchases earlier than planned.

A number of economists are forecasting cooling inflation next year, which gives Powell an excuse to NOT raise rates, other than just a bit.

For a little history, inflation was rampant in the 1970s and early 1980s. Fed Chair Paul Volcker, all 6’7 of him, raised the Fed Funds target rate (white line) to 20% on several occasions. The result? Inflation cooled from over 14% in 1980 to 2.46% by 1983. But since 2008, Fed Chairs Bernanke, Yellen and Powell have been the ANTI-Volckers … keeping the Fed Funds Target rate near zero for the the most part and adopted their gut-wrenching quantitative easing programs that are still here today.

Of course, Powell could do what Volcker did (and the Taylor Rule suggests) and raise their target rate to 15% to cool inflation.

But does Powell and the other FOMC members have the moxie to really cool inflation? Frankly, no. Powell until yesterday played the TRANSITORY card and still believes that inflation will cool by 2022.

True, the Federal government has binged on borrowing (up 172% since January 2009). And with Biden and Congress trying to spend trillions more (much of which will be added to the public debt rolls, so increasing interest rates ala Volcker is very problematic.

And then there is always the good ‘ole excuse not to raise rates if needed. Other than admitting that The Fed is monetizing Federal government spending to which there is no end in sight.

Given Fauci’s alleged strong belief in “science” he could play Esqueleto in a remake of Nacho Libre.

Calamity Jay? Powell Weighs Faster Tapering of Bond Buys Amid High Inflation (Market Pukes, Dow Drops 500 Points, West Texas Crude Drops 6.56%)

Calamity Jay Powell testified in front of the US Senate Banking Committee. He rattled markets by going hawkish about inflation, then gave The Fed an out by playing the COVID CARD (the latest Omicron Variant). Aka, the DEATH CARD.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the strong U.S. economy and elevated inflation could warrant ending the central bank’s asset purchases sooner than planned next year, though the new omicron strain of Covid-19 poses a fresh risk to the outlook.

“It is appropriate, I think, for us to discuss at out next meeting, which is in a couple of weeks, whether it will be appropriate to wrap up our purchases a few months earlier,” Powell said Tuesday. “In those two weeks we are going to get more data and learn more about the new variant.”

Powell made the comment in response to questions during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington. The Fed is currently scheduled to complete its asset-purchase program in mid-2022 under a plan announced at the start of November; policy makers next meet Dec. 14-15, where they could make a decision to accelerate the tapering.

On his remarks, the stock market puked.

Well, if Powell followed the Taylor Rule, he would really scare Congress with raising The Fed Funds Target Rate to 14.94% based on an inflation rate of 6.20%.

And then we have HOUSE price inflation of near 20%. But The Fed doesn’t consider than inflation.

Then we have oil prices retreating -4.59%. Not, not due to Biden releasing the National Petroleum Reserve (NPR). Rather it is FEAR of The Fed raising rates and a corresponding slowdown in economic growth.

Calamity Jay Powell.

US Home Prices “Slow” To +19.51% YoY In September (Phoenix AZ Sizzles At +33.1%, Chicago Slowest At 11.8%)

When I told Benzinga’s Phil Hall in an interview a while back that I thought US home price growth would slow, I didn’t consider the never-ending COVID epidemic (now with the Omicron Variant taking the stage. But at least the CoreLogic Case-Shiller National home price index (HPI) “slowed” in September from +19.84% to +19.51%.

Once again, low available inventory of houses for sale coupled with outlandish Fed stimulus has resulted in a housing crisis where home price growth (+19.51%) exceeds hourly wage growth (+5.76%) by almost 4x.

Where are all the home prices above 10% YoY? Every one of the 20 metro areas covered by Case-Shiller. Phoenix AZ leads at +33.1%. Chicago IL is the “slowest” at 11.8%.

Although Columbus OH is the growth hub of the state, Case-Shiller only reports Cleveland. So here is Columbus’s all-transactions home price growth for Q3: +16.2% YoY placing Columbus at the top of the midwest metro areas of Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis and Cleveland.

With the latest Omicron Variation (sounds like a Star Trek TV show episode), I will bet that The Fed will stay a little longer and keep rates low, leading to home price growth (with limited available inventory) to continue to grow at double digit speeds.

The Fed is printing SOOOO much money that the dollar should have a double eagle on it.

Fear? The Omicron Variant Isn’t Scaring Treasury Investors (Treasury And US Dollar Swaps Curves Calm After Friday’s Flattening)

The latest scare hitting financial markets is the Omicron Variant (or Oh! Macron! Variant in France). While it caused an initial decline in global equity markets {Dow fell 900 points on early reports on Omicron), the Treasury market has been relatively unscathed.

For example, the US Treasury Actives curve dropped last Friday (the orange line represents the Wednesday before Thanksgiving), while the remaining three lines represent last Friday, Monday and Tuesdays (today). In other words, the US Treasury Actives curve has been quiet so far this week after Friday’s flattening.

The US Dollar Swaps curve shows the same dynamics. The dark blue line is last Wednesday, while the remaining lines are last Friday, this Monday and today. Not a lot happening after the initial Omicron fear factor was priced in.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell believes that the omicron variant of Covid-19 and a recent uptick in coronavirus cases pose a threat to the U.S. economy and muddle an already-uncertain inflation outlook.

“The recent rise in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant pose downside risks to employment and economic activity and increased uncertainty for inflation,” Powell said in remarks he plans to deliver to Senate lawmakers on Tuesday. “Greater concerns about the virus could reduce people’s willingness to work in person, which would slow progress in the labor market and intensify supply-chain disruptions.”

Do I detect FEAR in Powell’s voice? The odds of rate increases for next year just fell to one rate increase at the September 2022 meeting.

On the equity side, it seems to be all about whether The Fed will withdraw its support. Back in early 2018, then Fed Chair Janet Yellen and the FOMC started to shrink the Fed balance sheet (green line). This resulted in the “Smart Money Index” declining. The S&P 500 index received a jolt with the Fed stimulus around the COVID outbreak and have taken off like a jackrabbit. Despite the Smart Money Flow index being lower than in 2017.

The VIX and VVIX are elevated showing fear in the equity markets. But much less than when COVID broke out in March 2020. Each spike in VVIX (or the volatility of VIX) is likely when Dr. Anthony Fauci opened his mouth.

So, is Omicron the “planet killer” or just another mild flu-like outbreak? The data is pointing towards the latter, but FEAR may cause it to be a bigger deal than is warranted.

U.S. Pending Home Sales Rebound (+7.5% MoM) To Highest Level Of The Year, BUT 5th Straight Month Of Negative YoY)

A forward-looking gauge of U.S. home purchases rebounded in October to a 10-month high, signaling steady housing demand despite growing affordability concerns among many prospective buyers.

The National Association of Realtors’ index of pending home sales increased 7.5% from a month earlier to 125.2, according to data released Monday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 1% advance.

But it is the fifth straight month of year-over-year declines.

Low mortgage rates and solid job growth have supported housing demand this year as pandemic-weary buyers seek more spacious accommodations. Existing home sales are on track to exceed 6 million in 2021, which would be the strongest in 15 years, Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said.

Yes, humongous stimulus from The Federal Reserve will help push existing home sales to exceed 6 million in 2021.

Still, competition over a scant number of listings — particularly on the lower, more affordable end of the resale market — has pushed prices out of reach for many prospective buyers. Builders have struggled to fill the void as supply-chain delays and labor shortages upend construction schedules, exacerbating the inventory crunch

Yes, inventory of homes available for sale is almost 1/3rd of the homes available in 2010.

Ten years after ... and we have progressively less inventory available.

How The Banking Crisis And Covid Lockdowns Killed Money Velocity (Death Of King Dollar)

I have written numerous times about nothing has been the same since the housing bubble burst and ensuing financial crisis of 2008. The crisis led to bank bailouts (TARP) and banking legislation (Dodd-Frank) giving The Federal Reserve even more power. And then the COVID lockdowns led to even MORE power for The Fed. And a horrid decline in money velocity (the ability of printing money to increase economic growth … or GDP).

But let’s take one step backwards. One the causes of the housing bubble that burst was President Clinton’s infamous National Homeownership Strategy that encouraged “partners” with the Federal government to soften underwriting standards for mortgage lending, particularly for minority households. The intent was to increase the homeownership rate in the US and it worked! Too well. Along with increasing the homeownership rate came rising home prices, culminating with home price growth reaching 14.5% YoY in September 2005. Only to start slowing to a crash.

Of course, the housing bubble was associated with no/low documentation and subprime mortgage lending. But the relaxing of underwriting standards by the National Homeownership Strategy helped fuel the no/low doc and subprime lending crisis. But weakening underwriting standards to increase homeownership rates is a dangerous strategy.

Note the surge in M1 Money Velocity (GDP/M1) starting in 1994. M1 Velocity grew until Q4 2007, then crashed along with home prices. The second and more sudden crash in M1 Velocity occurred with the COVID outbreak in March 2020 and the ensuing economic lockdowns and the intervention of The Federal Reserve in terms of money printing. M1 Money surged 173% from October 2008 to February 2020 and then another 369% from March 2020 to today. THAT is a Fed Storm Surge!!

M2, the broader definition of money, has not grown as rapidly as M1, but it still grew at an alarming rate. Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic blamed inflation on COVID but not The Fed’s insane money printing or government lockdowns. C’mon man!

Finally, the banking crisis (and TARP bailouts) along with COVID have made consumer purchasing power of King Dollar even worse.

Be careful of government strategies to make housing more “affordable” because they seem to make housing more expensive and can help crash the financial system.

Bitcoin Retreats 20% From All-Time High as Risk Assets Slump (Dow Retreats Almost 1,000 Points, Gold Advances)

It has been a grim Friday. The Dow fell 900 points, 10Y Treasury yields fell 16.1 basis points and West Texas Crude fell to $68.17.

Bitcoin tumbled 20% from record highs notched earlier this month as a new variant of the coronavirus spurred traders to dump risk assets across the globe.

The world’s largest cryptocurrency fell as much as 8.9% to $53,624 on Friday during London trading hours. Ethereum, the second-largest digital currency, dropped more than 12%, while the wider Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index declined as much as 7.5%.  On the other hand, gold rose as cryptos fell, then retreated as cryptos rebounded.

A new variant identified in southern Africa spurred liquidations across markets, with European stocks falling the most since July and emerging markets also slumping.

The Dow is down around 900 points … and look at Europe!

The 10-year Treasury yield is down 16.1 basis points. Most of Europe is down around 8-9 basis points while the UK is down 14.5 BPS.

And West Texas Intermediate crude futures are down to 68.17 from 78.39. No Jen Paski, this isn’t due to Cousin Eddie (Biden) releasing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).

Maybe it was all the tryptophan released by eating turkey.

A day to remember.

Post-Thanksgiving Indigestion: Inflation And Another COVID Scares Spooking Markets (Dow Futures Down 777 Pts, US Treasury 10Y Yield Down 11 BPS, Oil Drops 7%)

Thanksgiving has come and gone. But Americans have a lot to be scared about: inflation (turkey prices were up 24% according to the Farm Bureau and a new COVID outbreak B.1.1.529 — has been identified in South Africa.

Gut-wrenching inflation is already priced in, but yet another COVID outbreak (and the possibility of more economic shutdowns, more vax mandates and more stern lectures from Anthony Fauci) are spooking markets.

Down Futures are down 777 as I write this note.

The 10-year Treasury yield is down 11.2 basis points.

And West Texas Intermediate crude prices are down 6.62%.

Joe Biden: “Save the neck for me Clark!”

Treasuries Curve Flattens Sharply After Data Dump, Fed Minutes (Market Update)

Its Thanksgiving in the USA! Confession: I don’t like turkey. Prime rib with horseradish sauce? You bet!!

Anyway, Treasuries ended mixed Wednesday with the yield curve sharply flatter after a raft of U.S. economic data and minutes of the November FOMC meeting bolstered expectations for an earlier start to Fed rate increases. Two- and 5-year yields reached YTD highs, and 5s30s spread reached narrowest since March 2020. 

Over the past week, the Treasury actives curve rose 13.85 basis points at the 2 year tenor.

Yields ended richer by ~6bp across long-end of the curve, while front-end cheapened almost 3bp; 2s10s flattened more than 5bp, 5s30s more than 6bp; 10-year yields shed ~3bp to ~1.635%
Release of Nov. 2-3 FOMC meeting minutes drew minimal market reaction, as flatter curve held its shape.

The US Dollar Swaps curve rose from the previous week as well.


Minutes said participants considered elevated inflation as likely transitory, “but judged that inflation pressures could take longer to subside than they had previously assessed”

Earlier, front-end and belly sold off after a heavy slate of U.S. economic data including the lowest initial jobless claims tally since 1969

Also during U.S. morning, Fed’s Daly said she would support accelerated tapering of asset purchases, which added to pressure across front-end Treasuries

Subsequently, eurodollars traded heavy over the session as rate-hike premium continued to ramp up in 2022 and 2023; overnight index swaps showed 30% chance of a March hike, while around three hikes — or 75bp — were priced in by the end of next year

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving! In my dreams!

US New Home Sales Decline 23.1% YoY In October As UMich Home Sentiment Plummets

While some economists are cheering the post-COVID economic recovery, I am not among them. Rampant inflation and bad economic policies are plaguing the non 1% of the population.

For example, new home sales dropped -23.1% YoY in October. As consumer sentiment for housing crashed to 63 (baseline of 100).

Why are consumers bummed-out about buying housing? How about rapidly accelerating new home prices???