Undun! Fed’s $8.6 Trillion Balance Sheet in Focus as Banks Seek Cash (25 BPS Increase At Next Meeting Then DOWN To 3.820% By Jan 2024)

Undun. The Fed’s balance sheet, that is.

For all the focus on whether the Federal Reserve is about to pause its interest-rate hikes, there’s another critical policy decision sure to draw plenty of attention come Wednesday: What the central bank does with its massive pile of bond holdings.

The banking-sector turmoil that has only appeared to deepen, combined with a previous increase in funding pressures, has left financial markets keenly attuned to what the Fed will say about its $8.6 trillion balance sheet. 

Until this month the stash had been shrinking as part of the Fed’s efforts to return it back to pre-pandemic levels. But now it has started to expand again as the Fed acts to bolster the banking system through a slate of emergency lending programs. Its latest step came Sunday, when it moved with other central banks to boost US dollar liquidity.

Some say financial-stability concern may spur policymakers to dial back the runoff of its bond portfolio, a process known as quantitative tightening that’s designed to drain reserves from the system. Still, others argue that even if the Fed does pause its rate increases, the central bank’s overarching goal of taming inflation means it’s unlikely it will signal any shift this week in efforts to shrink the holdings of Treasuries and mortgage-backed debt. The one exception, they note, would be if stress in the banking sector were to become much more severe.

The Fed’s move to backstop US banks “clearly expands the Fed’s balance sheet,” said Subadra Rajappa, head of US rates strategy at Societe Generale SA. If usage of the Fed’s liquidity facilities is “small and contained they probably continue QT, but if the take-up is large then they probably stop as it then starts to raise concerns over reserve scarcity.”

The fate of the Fed’s portfolio is a subject of debate after the collapse of several US lenders led the central bank to create a new emergency backstop, known as the Bank Term Funding Program, which it announced March 12. Banks borrowed $153 billion from the Fed’s discount window — lenders’ traditional liquidity backstop — in the week ended March 15, Fed data show, a record that eclipsed the previous all-time high set during the 2008 financial crisis. They also tapped the new program for $11.9 billion.

The central bank’s various liquidity programs added about $300 billion to the Fed’s balance sheet last week, reversing about half of the reduction the Fed has achieved since the runoff began last June. But some economists say the two programs can work in tandem, with the banking efforts targeting financial stability and QT remaining a steady part of the Fed’s plan to remove the support it provided during the pandemic.

It looks like a 25 basis point increase at the next meeting, then cuts in The Fed Funds Target Rate to 3.820% by January 2024.

The labor market is still tight. So tight, we get this!!

Gov’t Gone Wild! US Treasury 2-year Yields Down -32 Basis Points As Gold Soars 3.8% On Banking Nerves And Sloppy Joe’s Budget Proposal

Its Gov’t Gone Wild! Insane spending budget by “Sloppy Joe” Biden, Yellen asking Warren Buffet for banking advice (seriously??), a war in Ukraine that America doesn’t seem to actually want to win, etc. But its the banking system where banks are getting crushed by rising inflation and interest rates (but failed to hedge). Sigh.

As I always told my investments and fixe-income students at University of Chicago, Ohio State University and George Mason University, a 10 basis point change in the 2-year and 10-year US Treasury yield is a big deal. This morning, the US Treasury 2-year yield fell -32 basis points while the 10-year Treasury yield fell -14.8 basis points.

At the same time, gold 3.8% and silver rose 4.7% on banking fears.

While it shouldn’t pass the House vote (but you never know in Mordor on The Potomac), Sloppy Joe’s budget proposal is a joke.

  1. Debt would hit a new record by 2027, rising from 98 percent of GDP at the end of 2023 to 106 percent by 2027 and 110 percent by 2033. Nominal debt would grow by $19 trillion, from $24.6 trillion today to $43.6 trillion by 2033.
  2. Deficits would total $17.1 trillion (5.2 percent of GDP) between FY 2024 and 2033, rising to $2.0 trillion, or 5.1 percent of GDP, by 2033.
  3. Spending and revenue would average 24.8 and 19.7 percent of GDP, respectively, over the next decade, with spending reaching 25.2 percent of GDP and revenue totaling 20.1 percent by 2033. The 50-year historical average is 21.0 percent of GDP for spending and 17.4 percent of GDP for revenue.
  4. Proposals in the budget would reduce projected deficits by $3 trillion through 2033, including $400 billion through 2025 when it could help fight inflation. The budget proposes $2.8 trillion of new spending and tax breaks, $5.5 trillion of revenue and savings, and saves $330 billion from interest.
  5. The budget relies on somewhat optimistic economic assumptions, including stronger long-term growth, lower unemployment, and lower long-term interest rates than the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The budget assumes 0.4 percent growth this year, 2.1 percent growth next year, and 2.2 percent by the end of the decade – compared to CBO’s 0.1 percent, 2.5 percent, and 1.7 percent, respectively. The budget also assumes ten-year interest rates fall to 3.5 percent by 2033, compared to CBO’s 3.8 percent.

And then we have Sloppy Joe and Statist Janet Yellen meeting with mega donor Warren Buffet for advice on dealing with the banking crisis … made by Biden’s energy policy and insane Covid spending by the Administration. And, of course, The Fed’s “too low for too long” monetary policy. What is 92-year old Warren Buffet going to say?

Meanwhile, Fed Funds Futures are pointing to one more rate hike then a series of rate cuts down to 3.737 by January 2024.

Gold and silver are where its at!

This should be Joe Biden’s campaign slogan if he actually decides to run for reelection in 2024.

The NEW Banking Crisis In One Chart (Hint: Inflation = Fed Rate Hikes = Treasury/MBS Duration Increases = Bond Losses = Bank Runs) Bond Volatility Highest Since 2008

So, the Biden Administration made a horrible error by guaranteeing deposits at Silicon Valley Bank for deposits over $250,000. Essentially, Biden bailed out big tech that kept their deposits at SVB.

But what triggered the run on SVB and other banks? Simple. Biden and Congress spent like drunken sailors with Covid and The Federal Reserve went nuts printing money. Viola! We got inflation. But with inflation came The Fed’s attempt to get inflation back to its 2% target (difficult since Biden/Congress refuse to return spending to pre-Covid levels). But as interest rates rise, duration (weighted average life of MBS) rose dramatically meaning that risk increased. But banks like SVP ignored the risk, or didn’t hedge, or were spending time worrying about non-bank related issues.

So, what happened? Banks are holding Treasuries and MBS (orange line) that are getting clobbered with rate hikes (yellow line).

Talk about volatility. Today, the 2-year Treasury yield is up over 20 basis points as bond volatility hits levels last seen in 2008, just prior to the subprime credit crisis.

So, Biden’s bailout of SVP depositors stopped the deposit run for the moment. But if The Fed keeps hiking rates, banks are going to be hurting worse and worse. They could rebalance their portfolios and/or hedge. But with Uncle Spam (Biden) at the helm, bailouts are always on the table.

Mortgage Purchase Applications Increased 6.9% In Weekly Survey (But Purchase Apps Down 42% YoY, Refi Apps Down 76% YoY As Fed Tightens Monetary Noose)

Mortgage applications increased 6.9 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending March 3, 2023.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 6.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 9 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 9 percent from the previous week and was 76 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 7 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 9 percent compared with the previous week and was 42 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

Today, we saw mortgage rates climb further to 7.11% as the US Treasury yield curve (10Y-2Y) descends into Mortgage Mordor as The Fed continues to tighten.

South Of The Border? Price Of Insuring Against US Debt Default Rises To 76.75, More Expensive Than Mexico, Almost As Expensive As Guatemala

South of the border, down Mexico (and Guatemala) way.

What a mess in Washington DC. While House Republicans are at lagerheads with Senate Democrats and Resident Biden over Federal spending cuts, the price of insuring against a debt default just rose to 76.75.

How bad it that? Put it this way. Millions are fleeing Mexico and Guatemala and coming to the US. But Mexico has a lower cost of insuring against a debt default than the USA. And Guatemala is almost as expensive as the USA.

It will all be over soon, according to CDS prices.

Maybe the USA needs Gene Autry as Homeland Security Chief instead of Alexander Mayorkas. Even Smiley Burnette would be better at securing the border than Mayorkas.

Uh-oh! January Personal Consumption Expenditures Soar 1.8% MoM, PCE Deflator UP 5.4% YoY, 2-year Treasury Yield Rises 10 Basis Points (Here Comes The Fed!)

Not really a surprise, but January’s personal spending numbers came in hot at 1.8% MoM. Also, Personal Consumption Expenditures PRICE index (aka, inflation) rose to 5.4% YoY.

Here comes The Fed! The 2-year Treasury yield rose 10 basis points this morning.

Pelsoi and Schumer (with McConnell) got the gold mine and American consumers got the shaft.

United States Yield Curve 3M10Y Most Inverted In 30+ Years! (But Other Assets Signaling Cooling Odds Of Recession)

The first headline I saw when I turned on Bloomberg.com was “DOJ Officials Find More Classified Documents at President Biden’s Home.” This is an improvement! So far, the task has been handled by Biden’s private attorneys who don’t have proper security clearance; at least the Justice Department is finally getting involved!

But back to the US yield curve. It is now the most inverted in 30+ years as M2 Money growth stalls. Inverted yield curves have preceded recessions in the past.

But as China reopens and Europe is experiencing a warmer winter than expected (meaning that Europe has sufficient natural gas reserves) and US inflation cooling,

we are seeing market-implied odds of a recession falling in January.

I am still betting on a recession in the second half of 2023.

Shanghai To LA Shipping Costs Decline 81% From Peak As Fed/Fed Gov Stimulypto Slows To 2010 Levels (M2 Money Growth Slows To 2.6% YoY)

Liz Ann Sonders, Chief Investment Strategist, Charles Schwab & Co, wrote today “Collapse in shipping rates continues to look unreal … cost to ship 40-foot container from Shanghai to Los Angeles has fallen by 83% from peak, by far largest drop on record (bringing level to lowest since June 2020)”

Yes, Liz Ann, shipping costs from Shanghai to Los Angeles are plunging. But why?

Federal Reserve and Federal government stimultypo has wound down. M2 Money YoY growth is the lowest since 2010 and no, it isn’t the result of Mayor Pete’s magical skills at clearing the logjam at Los Angeles ports. It is the slowing of Federal stimulus (or stimulypto).

Here is Liz Ann Sonders tweet.

Let’s see if 1) The Fed continues to hike and 2) will House Republicans halt the insane spending, particularly since the start of Covid in 2020.

Blackhawks! Where Interest Rates Are Headed In One Chart (Fed Blackhawks Versus Doves)

The Federal Reserve’s DOTS PLOT shows where each Fed official’s projection for the central bank’s key short-term interest rate is headed. As of the September 21, 2022 Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, the prediction of future Fed target rates is decidedly DOWNWARD SLOPING.

The Fed hawks, those that want to tighten monetary policy, are Bowman, Waller, Kashkari, Mester and George. The Fed doves (or those who are neutral) are Biden recent appointees Barr, Cook, Jefferson, Logan, Collins. Note that Brainard and Bostic are the only technical doves.

I call the hawks at The Fed “The Blackhawks” since their mission of fighting inflation may lead to a recession. And Bowman, Mester and George are Lady Blackhawks.

On a different note, I am always amazed at First Lady Jill Biden’s wardrobe. She looks like she shops as La-Z-Boy furniture stores.

‘Fragile’ Treasury market is at risk of ‘large scale forced selling’ or surprise that leads to breakdown (Fed tighening to fight Bidenflation as a recession becomes imminent, Dow Futures UP 770 Points For Monday)

Things are getting interesting in DC, to say the least. The US is 100% likely to face a recession in the next 12 months while The Federal Reserve is on its crusade to fight inflation caused by … The Federal Reserve, Biden’s green energy shenanigans and massive, irresponsible Federal spending that even Former Obama economist Lawrence Summers warned would cause inflation. So what will The Fed do? Lower rates and expand their assets purchases to fight the impending recession OR keep tightening to fight Bidenflation? But where we are now is that the fixed-income market could be in big, big trouble.

According to MarketWatch, the world’s deepest and most liquid fixed-income market is in big, big trouble.

For months, traders, academics, and other analysts have fretted that the $23.7 trillion Treasuries market might be the source of the next financial crisis. Then last week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen acknowledged concerns about a potential breakdown in the trading of government debt and expressed worry about “a loss of adequate liquidity in the market.” Now, strategists at BofA Securities have identified a list of reasons why U.S. government bonds are exposed to the risk of “large scale forced selling or an external surprise” at a time when the bond market is in need of a reliable group of big buyers.

“We believe the UST market is fragile and potentially one shock away from functioning challenges” arising from either “large scale forced selling or an external surprise,” said BofA strategists Mark Cabana, Ralph Axel and Adarsh Sinha. “A UST breakdown is not our base case, but it is a building tail risk.”

In a note released Thursday, they said “we are unsure where this forced selling might come from,” though they have some ideas. The analysts said they see risks that could arise from mutual-fund outflows, the unwinding of positions held by hedge funds, and the deleveraging of risk-parity strategies that were put in place to help investors diversify risk across assets.

In addition, the events which could surprise bond investors include acute year-end funding stresses; a Democratic sweep of the midterm elections, which is not currently a consensus expectation; and even a shift in the Bank of Japan’s yield curve control policy, according to the BofA strategists.

The BOJ’s yield curve control policy, aimed at keeping the 10-year yield on the country’s government bonds at around zero, is being pushed to a breaking point.

Well. Bidenflation certainly isn’t helping, but Statist Economist and Cheerleader Janet Yellen can’t bring herself to blame green energy policies, rampant Federal spending or irresponsible Federal Reserve policies for the crisis.

You will note the differences between today and the financial crisis of 2008-2009. The financial crisis gave us a massive surge in government securities liquidity thanks to then Fed Chair Ben Bernanke imitating Japan’s Central Bank and buying US government securities. Fast forward to today and the liquidity index hasn’t budged much since 2010 (except for a little blip around the Covid Fed intervention of early 2020), but we are now seeing near 40-year highs in inflation and a barely declining Fed balance sheet. And M2 Money YoY (mostly commercial bank deposits) are crashing.

I am guessing that The Fed will pivot given that stock futures are way up for Monday. The Dow Jones mini is up 770 points and the S&P 500 mini is up 88.75 points.

Bond market futures (specifically the US Ultra Bond) is down for Monday, meaning yields will be climbing.

While perusing MarketWatch, I noticed this headline from the uber-attention whore Nouriel Roubini: “New Yorkers are ‘stupid’ for moving to Texas, Florida: Wall Street’s ‘Dr. Doom’.” Seriously? Nouriel, you aren’t talking to friends in a Bleeker Street bar. Like Bernanke.

I remember giving a speech at The Brookings Institute in Washington DC. Talk about stranger in a strange land. One person who I was debating got frustrated and said “You are such a … Republican!!!” As if that was the worst slur he could throw at me.