Posts tagged 'Federal Reserve'

Undershooting unemployment is the new overshooting inflation

(The chart frames the upper and lower forecasts of the central tendency, which removes the highest three and lowest three forecasts of the FOMC as a whole. The red line is the midpoint between the two.)

Starting in 2009, the midpoint of the central tendency projections for the long-run unemployment rate climbed from 4.9 per cent to 5.6 per cent during the next three years. Read more

Tapering is tightening?

A funny thing has happened since the Federal Reserve announced it would begin cutting back on its bond-buying on December 18, 2013: the yield curve has flattened like a pancake.

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Government debt and monetary policy

A new paper by several Harvard economists, including former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, argues that a little more than a third of the impact of the Fed’s asset purchase programmes was “offset” by the Treasury’s decision to lengthen the maturity of its outstanding bonds:

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It all makes sense when you realise there are TWO US dollar currencies

Most people know that China’s currency is classified according to trading conditions. There is, for example, CNY, which refers to onshore yuan. There’s CNH, which refers to Hong Kong (offshore) yuan. And then there’s NDF, the non-deliverable forward market.

What differentiates these currencies are the terms and conditions that apply to those particular market zones, and how easy or not it is to transfer currency in and out. As implied yields of the respective markets show (chart via BNP Paribas), the rates of return for all of these markets varies significantly — because they are, to some extent, entirely different currencies:

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The return of the American borrower

The Federal Reserve’s latest flow of funds data shows that US households have rediscovered their credit cards, and lenders are eager to oblige them. Just look at this:

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Money Supply: A “considerable” challenge

Since I wrote about the Fed debate ten days ago, the market consensus has moved rapidly towards a change in the Fed’s “considerable time” language this Wednesday. I was cautious about the timing, however, because this is not straightforward – coming up with new language is quite a challenge.

This is a (very long) attempt to think through the Fed’s options. The bottom line is that “considerable time” may survive in some form on Wednesday, but if so, I’ll be surprised if there is not a significant change to the statement that sets up its eventual departure. Read more

Wealth effect may one day stop being so great for wealthy, says wealthy person

One private equity chief went so far as to publicly thank Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman until last month, whose program of extraordinary economic stimulus has helped push stocks higher, feeding the private equity machine.

“Thank you, Ben Bernanke. I saw him last Thursday, and I thanked him,” Mr. Schwarzman of Blackstone said during a conference in December. “The opportunity for us to be able to attract funds is very, very high.” Read more

All about the eurodollars

Whilst everyone was focused on the ECB on Thursday…

… the Fed pulled this little snippet out of its bag:

As part of the continuing program of operational testing of its policy tools, the Federal Reserve plans to conduct a series of eight consecutive seven-day term deposit operations through its Term Deposit Facility (TDF) beginning in October.

Okay, the Fed has tested term deposits before, so it’s not that mind blowing an announcement in and of itself. The significance, if any, is that it’s subtle confirmation that both reverse repos and TDs will be used in the Fed’s unwind process. The maximum award has also been increased to $20bn. Read more

The Legend of Jackson Hole

It is probably the highest profile event on the Fed calendar: the chair’s opening speech at the Kansas City Fed’s symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The setting is spectacular; the audience runs the world’s central banks. Markets go on high alert for new guidance on policy. To add to the sense of occasion this year, it will be Janet Yellen’s first visit as Fed chair.

The oddity is that Jackson Hole’s reputation as a market mover is largely accidental. It is not an obvious venue for the Fed to communicate policy: what, in fact, could seem more out-of-touch than proclaiming the nation’s economic path from a gorgeous mountain resort in one of the richest zip codes in the USA? It is most likely, therefore, that Yellen’s speech on Labour Markets (the title has been announced) will contain a lot of important analysis but much less red meat on policy. Read more

Federal Reserve finds US households are unwell

The Federal Reserve has just released its first “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households“. It provides some useful context for the ongoing debates about the income distribution and excess savings.

A few particularly dispiriting highlights: Read more

Money Supply: White House on Labour Participation

The White House has joined the debate about declining labour force participation with an excellent report from the Council of Economic Advisers. (The fingerprints of Harvard’s James Stock are in evidence in some punctilious time-series econometrics.)

The CEA reaches similar conclusions to a number of other studies. Most of the decline in labour force participation was demographic, due to an aging population; a modest proportion was due to the recession and its unusual severity. Read more

Money Supply: Fischer worries about macroprudential policy

Note: FT Alphaville is now playing host to posts from the FT’s Money Supply box. Enjoy (and argue away, if you see fit). Here’s Robin Harding, the FT’s US economics editor…

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The Fed as universal banker

The Federal Reserve’s June minutes are out and as usual offer good insight into the FOMC’s thinking when it comes economic confidence and recovery (more positive) as well as its opinion on rates (still dovish).

But they also reveal a new preoccupation with matters related to exit strategy and financial plumbing.

Here’s the section we’re referring to (H/T David Beckworth)

While generally agreeing that an ON RRP facility could play an important role in the policy normalization process, participants discussed several potential unintended consequences of using such a facility and design features that could help to mitigate these consequences. Most participants expressed concerns that in times of financial stress, the facility’s counterparties could shift investments toward the facility and away from financial and nonfinancial corporations, possibly causing disruptions in funding that could magnify the stress.

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Bonfire of the bond funds

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Irrational exuberance, Janet Yellen and the stock market

Janet Yellen says share valuations remain within “historical norms”.

Two words: “irrational exuberance”. Read more

Term premia, the Fed, and finstability, part 2

Should the Fed be unduly concerned by the decline in term premia this year?

Consider some the potential explanations given for the decline in yields: Read more

Term premia, the Fed, and finstability, part 1

Last November, with the end of his tenure nearing, Ben Bernanke discussed an idea that Gavyn Davies refers to as The Separation Principle.

It begins with the simple concept that movements in long-term rates are explained by changes in two components: the term premium and the expected path of short rates. And while the Fed’s asset purchases mainly influence rates through their effects on the former, its forward guidance language works by altering the latter. Read more

Finstability hawkishness and the burden of proof

Given the recent proliferation of debate about monetary policy and the fall in volatility — among central bank officials and the economics commentariat both — it might be worth revisiting first principles.

Start with the obvious point that the Fed’s monetary policy mandate says nothing about financial stability, which therefore must be a secondary variable. It matters only inasmuch as it affects the Fed’s ability to satisfy its mandates of price stability and full employment. This is mostly undisputed but not often stated plainly. Read more

The ‘other’ great bond mispricing theory

A lot of people are puzzled over why US yields are falling when nothing has changed on the Fed communication side, and QE is supposed to be slowing.

Frances Coppola notes an even stranger phenomenon. When you look at the very big picture you realise that if there is a correlation between QE and rates, it’s actually a very counterintuitive one:

Every time QE is announced, yields rise: when it ends, they fall. And no, this doesn’t just affect the 10-year yield. The same basic shape can be observed on just about any maturity over 1 year (short-term rates are propped up by the positive IOER policy).

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In which Mohamed El-Erian compares the Fed to a Disney villain

From Mohamed El-Erian’s latest offering to Project Syndicate:

Like Princess Anna in Frozen, it will take time for markets to recognize that their relationship with the Fed is changing (and should change); and, similar to the movie, some sort of shock may be involved in socializing the new understanding. Having said that, the outcome will certainly not be as dramatic as in the movie – if only because, unlike Hans, the Fed is not out to take over the markets. Read more

“That would basically be a repo agreement, I guess” – Bernanke

The Fed’s 2008 transcripts offer an impressive insight into the state of the repo markets in 2008, not least the shortage of safe US assets, which it turns out was a key area of concern in Fed gatherings.

We’ll have more on some of the other repo elements, but in the meantime — given that we’ve raised the idea that China might be inclined to repo its UST stock with the Fed if it needs short-term dollar liquidity (or is possibly doing so already) — it’s worth noting the following exchange from the October 2008 transcript in which the committee wondered about the nature of collateral they should accept for emergency dollar swap lines with foreign central banks.

Rather than collateralising with their own currency the idea was raised that they should pledge their UST stock instead. Voila, an open precedent for sovereign-level repo arrangements with the Fed so as to ease the shortage of safe asset problem in the West whilst at the same time flooding dollar liquidity to foreign markets. Read more

Yellen’s pre-testimony

New era, and all that. Click the image to read Janet Yellen’s full prepared testimony for her appearance on Tuesday before the Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives.

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Inflated worries, part 1 — an overview of US inflation pressures

Here’s a rough sketch of the variables influencing US inflation, which has been remarkably low for two years running:

1) The remaining labour market slack, including a staggering and resilient long-term unemployment problem. The amount of slack remains tough to know given the difficulty of measuring the cyclical vs secular components of the fall in the labour force participation rate. Much more on this later.

2) The output gap. This isn’t a well-defined idea, we know, but few people would argue that the US economy is producing at potential. The US economic recovery does appear to have accelerated in the final two quarters of last year (the December jobs report notwithstanding), and the conditions for growth look better than they have in years. If the nascent acceleration proves sustainable, then the labour market may well tighten up and push wages higher. Obviously this is related to the first point about labour market slack, and plenty of caveats are needed given the head-fakes of the last four winters. Read more

Rev-repo rising

Credit Suisse takes a look at the big December testing:

As expected, the end of the year brought the large-scale test of the Fed’s reverse repo facility, and the surrounding operations have dwarfed prior tests. In our view, the Fed needed to get some larger-scale tests under its belt to develop full confidence in the program’s capacity for both policy makers and the market. The year-end results seem to have delivered such a result. Read more

Greenspan, the Keynesian

Justin Fox at the Harvard Business Review has collated some interesting extracts from a conversation he had with Alan Greenspan late last year.

What’s striking, as Fox himself notes, is that Greenspan (generally pigeon-holed as a free-market loving Ayn Randian type) is getting pretty Keynesian nowadays. Indeed, having understood that the 2008 crisis revealed a “flaw” in his world view, rather than getting bitter about it, Greenspan appears to have spent the last few years trying to understand where he went wrong.

A period of honest self-reflection has led to some major reversals in his thinking. Read more

The Fed’s options

At last December’s FOMC meeting, Ben Bernanke announced the new Evans Rule (forward guidance thresholds) framework at least one meeting before most observers had expected it.

This year, market participants and Fed reporters have differing predictions for what the same meeting will bring, but they aren’t ruling much out. Even if markets are probabilistically favouring certain policy moves over others, it’s unlikely that any announcement in particular will qualify as a surprise.

Here’s a summary of potential changes, each of which could be announced in isolation or in combination with others (and do note that “none of the below” is also very possible): Read more

How and why the Fed props up rates

The market vogue is to obsess about how the Fed is suppressing long-term rates.

But for years now, FT Alphaville has been trying to explain why, in reality, Fed intervention is as much focused on propping up short-term rates (preventing them from falling through zero) as it is about keeping longer-term rate expectations anchored. Read more

The Fed and Treasury default: a coda

At some point in the great collective peyote dream that was last month’s debt ceiling crisis, we asked you to imagine the Fed buying defaulted US Treasuries.

Fortunately, the US central bank was thinking about it too. Read more

Just a clubby dinner, with one B Bernanke speaking…

Click to read. No taper any time soon?

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Fed wonk special, now with Q&A

Some prominent Fed Reserve Board staffers recently put out two weighty papers in advance of the 4th Jacques Polak Annual Research Conference which is hosted by the IMF starting on Thursday (today).

Paul flicked one paper up yesterdayThe Federal Reserve’s Framework for Monetary Policy –Recent Changes and New Questions — and the second — Aggregate Supply in the United States: Recent Developments and Implications for the Conduct of Monetary Policy — is hereRead more