Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bernanke Drops Unemployment Bomb; Markets Get Cranky

After John Boehner chastised President Obama again from the floor of the House of Representatives in the morning, the markets got what they were so eagerly anticipating and pricing in for the last two weeks: Ben Bernanke's unveiling of QE4, the promise by the Federal Reserve to purchase an additional $45 billion in long-dated treasuries each month, commencing with the wind-down of a similar program known as "Operation Twist."

This new monetizing of government debt is in addition to the fed's commitment to continued purchasing agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month for the foreseeable future, which translates roughly into "forever, or until the fiat monetary system collapses."

What the market didn't expect was the Fed's statement tying interest rates to the unemployment rate. In the FOMC statement issued shortly after noon and prior to Bernanke's 2:00 pm ET press conference, the Fed announced, "the Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that this exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored."

With inflation fairly tame and trending toward dis-inflation on the retail level, the Fed has finally embarked upon a robotic-like exit strategy, though with existential caveats and various loopholes and escape clauses.

After digesting the news, stocks were initially bought up, but, during the press conference, began to slip, finally ending the day with no gains.

While on the one hand the Fed is keeping the monetary floodgates wide open, they are anticipating economic recovery, though even the most ardent bulls don't see the official unemployment rate (U3) falling below 6.5% for at least another year. It currently stands at 7.7%, though that figure is largely due to the decline in the labor participation rate.

With baby boomers retiring at an estimated rate of 10,000 per day - many taking the offer of smaller benefits at age 62 - the labor market is in a state of generational flux unlike any seen in modern times, so there's literally no telling when unemployment might fall below the Fed's threshold level, if at all.

One thing's for certain: if the economy suddenly finds its legs and springs into a real recovery with job creation and rising GDP, Wall Street will be offended because the free money spigots will be turned off or borrowing costs will be significantly increased.

It's a double-edged sword of competitiveness vs. financial repression being played by Wall Street bankers against the population at large. Higher interest rates would tamp down rampant speculation and reverse the galloping higher market trends. In fact, the mere hint from the Fed that interest rates might rise already has seen some effect.

Withe the final Fed meeting of the year out of the way, all eyes will be on the Speaker and the President as they race against time to find a solution to their wide differences to solving the fiscal mess they've created (with ample assistance from Wall Street and the 2008 crash).

Time is running short on the politicians and Wall Street may not be so easily amused over the next few weeks.

Dow 13,245.45, -2.99 (0.02%)
NASDAQ 3,013.81, -8.49 (0.28%)
S&P 500 1,428.48, +0.64 (0.04%)
NYSE Composite 8,380.88, +14.40 (0.17%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,755,775,625
NYSE Volume 3,678,721,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2467-3083
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 204-45
WTI crude oil: 86.77, +0.98
Gold: 1,717.90, +8.30
Silver: 33.78, +0.765

No comments: