Pulse: Monetary Policy
Mike’s commentary on the struggle, or lack thereof, for “partisan” control of the Fed.
Also this afternoon, the Minutes of the March FOMC meeting had few newsworthy disclosures that Powell had not already covered in his post-meeting news conference. We were pleasantly surprised, however, to see that “participants also mentioned a number of upside risks.” Powell had focused overwhelmingly on downside risks.
No Danger of a Trump ‘Takeover’ of the Fed
The latest quarterly report by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) underlines the change in the relationship between the major central banks and financial markets. Claude Borrio, the BIS’s Chief Economist, describes the “extraordinarily tight” relationship between central banks and financial markets in the aftermath of the financial crisis and recession of 2008. Thus, the financial markets scrutinize the central banks for cues, while at the same time relying on central bank “puts” for comfort.
The US government shutdown is over, but the question of how a wall between the US and Mexico will be funded is unresolved. The threat, or lack of a threat posed by immigrants at the southern border, is a litmus test for US politicians. AMLO, Mexico’s new leader, could achieve what no one has before in terms of eliminating violence and corruption, or he could make things much, much worse and turn his country into the next Venezuela.
The biggest economic conference of the season, the World Economic Forum, has just wrapped up in Davos. Most of the sessions are now available as they happen, and with the snow piled high here in Chicago, watching them online almost seemed like being there. I’ve included links to some of the best discussions and interviews you might enjoy on this even colder weekend.
This morning, the Wall Street Journal issued a "bombshell" report about changes to the Fed's plans to "normalize" its balance sheet. The story, FMI contends, delivered far less than it promised.
The WSJ reported, in an overwrought and very run-on opening sentence, that “Federal Reserve officials are close to deciding they will maintain a larger portfolio of Treasury securities than they’d expected when they began shrinking those holdings two years ago, putting an end to the central bank’s portfolio wind-down closer into sight.”
Predicting the future is notoriously difficult, but that doesn’t stop the flurry of prognostications every January. We’ve gathered a selection of 2019 forecasts, including some predicting low probability events, because just imagining the unlikely can reveal horizons sometimes obstructed by conventional wisdom.
I normally feel after reading, reviewing, and discussing the events of the previous week that I’m able to discern a direction or constructive theme. Today however, every corner of the world seems mired in some degree of turmoil, and markets are reacting. There is so much noise that it is difficult to decide what is causing this new volatility. Is it China, the Fed, the Mueller investigation, Yellow Jackets, or technology run amuck?
As everyone knows, October has been a terrible month for equity markets. Some market participants feel that this did not just coincide with higher interest rates, but was caused by flawed Fed monetary policy and comments on overshooting. Like the humming chorus in Madama Butterfly, there has been a steady rise in the number of voices supporting a Fed pause in December. These include members of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee itself, such as Neel Kashkari, and leading economists such as Jason Furman.
Gradually, inch by painful inch, the central bankers are losing their clothes – the comforting ideology that has enveloped them like a warm garment for more than a generation. This is the ideology, or “regime”, of central bank independence and inflation targeting (CBI+IT). Oh, how shy they are! Look how they hold onto any scraps!