The groundhog didn't see his shadow, and Janet Yellen didn't see the recession just ahead, proving, within a shadow of doubt, that animals have better sense than most humans.
At least in the case of furry rodents versus doctors of economics, the rodentia class is in a class all its own. Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous of ground hog prognosticators, came outside this morning and reassured everybody in the Northeast that the most mild winter in decades would continue, and, to boot, be short-lived.
By not seeing his shadow, Phil assuaged the assembled crowd that what remains of winter would be over within two weeks, rather than the usual six week span that extends nearly to the first day of Spring, March 20.
Despite this being a leap year, which adds a full day to the cruel month of February, residents in the most densely-populated area of the country seem to be settled in for a short stay on the chilly side.
In upstate New York, there is little to no snow on the ground. What remains are a few remnants of shoveled piles that take a little longer to melt, though even that should be gone by tomorrow, as temperatures from Buffalo to Albany are expected to approach sixty degrees on Wednesday.
Similar circumstances prevail throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and into New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts. The milder-than-normal conditions have resulted in lower use of heating fuels such as oil and natural gas, both of which are hovering around decades-long lows.
As for the Federal Reserve and the captain of that sinking ship, Janet Yellen, she and her hench-fellows seem to be on the wrong side of economic history, considering that since their historic rate hike in mid-December, interest rates have gone in the opposite direction, the 10-year note today closing at 1.86%, as the winds of global deflation and tight labor conditions continue to push consumer demand and consumption lower and lower.
Compounding the complexity of the Fed's non-tenable situation are the twin engines of stocks and oil, both of which have hit stall speed in 2016. WTI crude close in New York within whispering distance of the $30 mark, while the major stock indices were battered into submission by a combination of reduced earnings capacity and a growing confidence gap from investors.
Even with last week's brave showing by the markets in the face of a 2015 fourth quarter that slipped to 0.7% growth, stocks were unable to regain the footing which took the Dow 400 points higher on Friday as the Bank of Japan endorsed negative interest rates on its treasury bonds extending though eight years.
Supposedly, cheap, easy money was good news for the stock market. However, with the BOJ cancelling a treasury auction today due to lack of interest (no pun intended) from selected participants, equity markets around the world backtracked towards the lows of January. Apparently, there aren't many out there who see it as a prudent idea to pay somebody to hold your money.
Negative interest rate policy, aka NIRP, is the death-knell of central bankers. Traditionally, banks paid OUT interest on savings, but, in this decade of upside-down economics, the glorious kings and queens of monetary policy are sticking to the belief that people are so afraid of losing what they've earned that they will pay to have the banks hold it for them.
Mattresses and shotguns are back in style, kids, but nobody seems to have told the central bankers. Everybody from simple savers to mega-millionaires are losing confidence in a clearly broken system, pulling their assets out and into cash, precious metals, gemstones, art, real estate, or other stores of value that have stood the test of time. The only buyers of government debt are governments, a condition which cannot be sustained long.
Truth be known, the Fed, the ECB, BOJ and PBOC are all aware of this condition and have yet to devise a strategy that will resolve the liquidity and solvency crunch with a minimum of pain. Pain will come to many, precisely those holding debt which cannot be repaid. Ideally, this epoch of economic history will see the end of central banking with fiat currencies and fractional reserves.
We may be within weeks or months of a global reset, a change in the nature of money which will tear at the fabric of society itself.
Stay tuned. This is only the middle of the show which started in 2008.
Today's crap shoot:
S&P 500: 1,903.03, -36.35 (1.87%)
Dow: 16,153.54, -295.64 (1.80%)
NASDAQ: 4,516.95, -103.42 (2.24%)
Crude Oil 30.02 -5.06% Gold 1,129.20 +0.11% EUR/USD 1.0920 +0.27% 10-Yr Bond 1.8640 -5.19% Corn 372.00 +0.20% Copper 2.05 -0.29% Silver 14.31 -0.26% Natural Gas 2.03 -5.81% Russell 2000 1,008.84 -2.28% VIX 21.98 +10.01% BATS 1000 20,356.76 -1.72% GBP/USD 1.4411 -0.10% USD/JPY 119.84