If anyone needed any further proof that we more than likely have the worst central bank in the world, look no further than just what happened in the first hour of trading Friday.
First, we started off with pretty bearish comments from Federal Reserve Governor Rosengren, who basically said that he felt that conditions were good enough without labor market and GDP growth and inflation to warrant a go at the FOMC meeting next week. He said we are at full employment, inflation is near 2% and GDP growth is trending towards 2% and that, according to him, we will see 2% growth in the current quarter and the next.
Less than half an hour later, Federal Governor Tarullo comes on the boob tube and says he would prefer to wait and see if inflation can be maintained at 2% and that recent ISM data were not reassuring or, as he put it, suggests grounds for "questioning" a go on rate hikes.
Two Fed heads with two differing comments with vastly different messages for the markets, all within an hour of each other. As a result, markets were even more confused and took a dive to the lows of the mornings. As we all know, the one thing the market certainly hates is uncertainty and that is exactly what these guys are doing with their quest to boost their post-Fed paychecks with totally disparate comments on interest rate outlook, which has not just our markets held hostage but all global markets for the last month and half. That's ever since these guys started hitting the circuit hard with their asinine and totally confusing comments.
An hour and 20 minutes after the opening bell, Fed Governor Kaplan comes on and says that the Fed can afford to be patient and deliberate on raising rates. He added that the U.S. rate-hike path will be very shallow and very flat indicating minimal increases as we move forward and in very slow increments. He declined to comment on what his reference on the timing of raising rates should be. He also said that there were no signs of the economy overheating, allowing the Fed the luxury of being patient.
Look, it's simple, maybe our economy could handle a rate hike. Heck, maybe it could handle two even. But one thing is certain: the rest of the world's biggest economies are nowhere close to ready to see rates begin to rise anywhere. In a survey carried out by the Bank of England and released just yesterday, a mere 21% of respondents expect a rate hike by the B of E in the next year vs. over 41% just prior to Brexit. Japan is still stuck in a world of pain. And China? Well, China seems to be getting better, but at a slower pace of recovery than ever when compared to periods of slow (relatively speaking, of course) growth. Although, it makes me giggle when I see people wring their hands pitifully and say "slowdown in China" when growth rates are still around 6.5% to 7% in that country.
For our Fed to think or fantasize that rising rates here Stateside will not have a negative effect on global growth just shows how narrow their focus really is. Or maybe their focus is not wrong and they have backed themselves into a corner yet again like they did last December. How did that rate hike work out for your court jesters, Janet Yellen?
Next week we have two more of the Fed bozos out and about on Monday beginning with Fed Gov. Lockhart at 8:00 a.m. ET Monday followed by Fed Gov. Kashkari at 1:00 p.m. After that the jokers go into their quiet period ahead of the FOMC meeting the following week.
Next week, on the domestic economic data front we have important data points on retail sales, Philly Fed Business outlook, Industrial Production and PPI on Thursday and CPI data on Friday.
On the international data front, nothing is more important than Chinese industrial production and China retail sales on Monday, with the usual gobs of data from all over the globe on the other days as well.
On the earnings front we have one big tech company reporting, which is Oracle (ORCL) on Thursday after the closing bell.
As of this writing, our markets look like they will suffer through their worst single--day loss since the Brexit debacle. Just think about it. Just three Fed heads mouthing off in about an hour took back weeks' worth of gains, maybe even a couple of months' worth and no one knows that better than the Fed themselves. Maybe that's exactly why their target has always been the equity markets and nothing else. The results are immediate and nowhere else are the results this plain to see (foreign exchange and fed funds futures being all too obvious). Call me a conspiracy theorist if it pleases you, but that's my theory developed over two decades of watching these guys and I am sticking with it.
So, since this week's column has mostly been about our vaunted economists at the Federal Reserve, let's end it on a lighter note about who else? Economists, of course!
Three leading economists took a small plane to the wilderness in northern Canada to hunt moose over the weekend. The last thing the pilot said was, "Remember, this is a very small plane and you will only be able to bring one moose back." But, of course, they killed one each and come Sunday, they talked the pilot into letting them bring all three dead moose onboard. So, just after takeoff, the plane stalled and crashed. In the wreckage, one of the economists woke up, looked around and said, "Where the hell are we?" The other economist replied, "Oh, just about a hundred yards east of the place there we crashed last year."
December rate hike come to mind, anyone?
With that, I wish each and every one of you a safe and joyful weekend with your loved ones.