We Now Await The Real Fed Test: Earnings Season

As we sit here today both the “markets” as well as the mainstream business/financial punditry have all but concluded: the Federal Reserve is aware of its mistakes, willing to pause, and more importantly, had these assumption verified in public by its current Chair.

I believe this is wishful thinking at best and intellectual malfeasance at worst.

When it comes to the latest “market” gyrations since the December meeting of the Fed’s FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) one thing is clear: the Fed is not in control – the slavish QE (quantitative easing) addicted HFT (high frequency trading) headline reading algorithmic parasitical creation of the Fed et al. collectively known as the “capital markets” are the ones in charge. For if one thinks the worst is over. I believe January may lead to reality check few are prepared for.

2018 was supposedly the year the Federal Reserve could earnestly begin the process of “balance sheet normalization” known as QT. Again, supposedly, this process was told/sold upon the lines of “running in the background.” i.e., if they didn’t tell you it was transpiring (and has said as much) the “markets” would barely notice, if at all.

This reasoning was trumpeted via the Fed consistently making the arguments that it was not the cause for asset inflation, but more along the lines of correlation.

In December Mr. Powell was abruptly notified that the Fed’s interpretation and assessment wasn’t just wrong – but dead wrong.

The proof was made manifest when Mr. Powell’s collectively interpreted monetary faux pas stating the QT process was on “autopilot” during the December presser.

In a pure instantaneous effect of causation, not correlation, the markets knee-jerked lower, never looking back selling everything that wasn’t nailed down. Until? Hint: “autopilot” suddenly was clarified to mean: auto-pause. So far the verbal jujitsu has worked.

Again, as I imply – so far.

To say that the Chair has back-peddled on his once hawkish tones would be an understatement. It may be that the entire committee itself is not only saying one thing and doing another, but more alarmingly, having what was supposedly recorded (i.e., printed release of meeting minutes) having the appearance of being altered, after the fact, to reflect an entirely opposite interpretation from what may have been discussed.

That’s a very, very, very (did I say very?) worrisome revelation, if true.

In a recent interview former Dallas Fed adviser Danielle DiMartino Booth appeared on FBN: AM™ and made the following observations, along with reiterating much the same via her own social feed. To wit:

In regards to the minutes release…

“It was fairly apparent given yesterday’s minutes release that they were definitely massaged, modified, call it what you will, after the fact.”

In regards to assessing the Chair…

“What’s hard for investors though is, ‘What is he going to say today?’” she said. “He was hawkish in October. He was dovish in November. He was hawkish in December. And he was dovish in January.”

“I am flummoxed by this man I once had faith in,”

@DiMartinoBooth 1/10/19

I understand her frustration, however, I feel the ones that will be far more “flummoxed” in the not-so-distant future will be both the Chair himself, along with the entire inhabitants of the Eccles Building.

Currently the “market” is not delivering any such vagueness for interpretation. It wants the entire QT process to not only pause, but pause now and never be restarted. And if not? Hint: Equity winter goes from spastic temperature reversals to glacial status with every passing meeting.

This latest observance of BTFD (buy the f’n dip) is another in the long line of the Fed, along with the majority of the mainstream financial/business media believing they’ve successfully navigated another “market” tantrum and that they now “Got this!” i.e., Mr. Powell’s “rookie mistakes” of using the wrong descriptors publicly. (wrong as in, dare say the truth and upset the “markets.”)

And yet, when it comes to saying what’s on his mind, there seems to be no concern for self-editing when it comes to the area of politics.

Actually, there is a bit of self-editing, but the manner and actual edit itself is far more instructive than the Chair himself may understand. For should the “markets” suddenly test Mr. Powell’s interpretation of exactly what they want and when? His political commentary is also going to find itself suddenly being tested. And I don’t think either he, nor the entirety of the Fed itself, truly understands just where it now sits. Let me explain…

Before I start let me be very clear: this is not about how I feel politically. What I’m addressing is the very nature, along with the possible interpretations and ramifications that need to be clearly understood by anyone at the upper levels of business or politics. Diplo-speak is a necessary discipline. i.e., you both do, or do not say anything without knowing full-well what you want inferred. Period, full stop.

This past week Mr. Powell was the featured speaker for a sit-down styled interview at the Economic Club™ in Washington, D.C. This event has been reported on by various media outlets, and from what I’ve discerned, that reporting has been misleading at best and void of any true journalistic integrity at worst. i.e., it’s a love fest, as long as the Chair says what they want to hear.

When it came to the current gyrations within the “markets” a few questions were put forth, then the moderator steered it into the political inserting the President’s recent calling out of the Fed. and if the Chair would ever meet with him. Mr. Powell’s response was something I would call “too cute by half.” i.e., he wouldn’t state yes or no. He kept intentionally avoiding it only to finally answer with a non-answer under the guise of (paraphrasing) “No Fed Chair has ever refused.”

The disdain for the man that appointed him to his current position was made abundantly clear. And it’s not the first time he’s done it. There is no other way to interpret this, for the entirety of the crowd and moderator allowed the inference to stand via the laughter in response. i.e., If these current gyrations are making it uncomfortable for the President? Even better.

My conjecture of course, but don’t take my words for it. Watch it for yourself. There is no ambiguity.

When it comes to meeting Congress? All praise, couldn’t overstate how much he enjoyed meeting and discussing monetary policy with them. So, Congress? OK. President? – who f’n cares. Well for the time being we have to assume, right?

The issue now is that if the Fed has concluded that the recent BTFD moment is something easily sustainable, rather than the equivalent of an “Indian summer” that fooled many a novice thinking winter had negated its usual process. Both the Fed and its Chair may find its the political side of the equation that will also be tested in just as much, if not more, harshness than what the “market” has in store.

Hint: Remember congress: “Get to work?” I think it will be Mr. Powell that will be reminded not all too subtlety what congress thinks about Chair’s should the “markets” begin to falter, again.

The recent bounce via almost any technical analysis in regards to charts, momentum indicators, volumes and more shows this may not have been anything more than a front-running earnings positioning move. i.e., it’s all ephemeral positioning for earnings exposure. And will disapear just as fast, if not faster than it appeared should earnings reports begin confirming what everyone is now under the assumption will be: mediocre to abysmal.

The Fed is set to meet at the end of the month. Mr. Powell has changed his conference schedule so that there will now be one after every meeting instead of last year’s one one – one off.

That means every meeting has to be considered “live” regardless, along with Mr. Powell now has twice the opportunities to say the wrong thing (or not say the only thing that matters) at the wrong time.

Should the initial earnings season start on a bad footing these “markets” are going to react first, and find out what Mr. Powell and Co. have voted for and think going forward – last. Remember, the balance sheet is still currently on “auto-pilot” meaning (theoretically) there’s less money available for Wall Street to BTFD every day that goes by.

A pause in interest rates and no pause in balance sheet scheduling is going to be received about as gladly as the mysterious brown paper bag found on ones stoop. The “markets” have made it clear what it is demanding and it is assuming Mr. Powell knows this explicitly.

Just like Mr. Powell has made it clear on his current feelings when it comes to the political – the “markets” have made it clear what they want -and expect- via the monetary policy settings going forward.

It will now be the Fed that is tested for whether or not it has interpreted correctly. For test these markets shall. One should consider December as the “market” issuing a “pop quiz” for understanding and comprehension.

Consider January when “finals” take place. Where only yes and no answers are allowed. No space will be left for “explain your reasoning here” pontifications, along with only two grades possible.

Pass or Fail.

© 2019 Mark St.Cyr

For Those Wondering…

As always for those wondering what I’m currently watching, looking for clues, below are a few charts which currently have my attention. To wit:

(Source)

The above represents the S&P 500™ Futures via hourly candles/bars. The reason the above has my attention is, via my technical eye, the last few days of rally are beginning to show themselves as what I’ve believed it was. e.g., a relief rally from oversold conditions. Not the start of another BTFD (buy the f’n dip) bonanza that has been shouted across every business/financial media outlet via one next-in-rotation fund-manager after the other.

The issue here is that if I’m correct (or even close) in what I’m inferring, then we may very well be on the cusp of another sudden violent move lower, out-of-the-blue.

In other words when it happens it may just happen for reasons one may not put an exact finger on. i.e., there are too many simultaneous happenings once again in the forms of headline and/or event risk that any one of them could set things off.

Will it happen? Who knows, however, what is of great importance is understanding that the conditions for such seem ripe. And not just “ripe,” but over-ripe meaning, the timing for such is at hand. i.e., not weeks or months, but more like any day. And yes, maybe even today.

So here’s my focal points:

Should the S&P 500 travel up and beyond the 2600 and remain there my outlook would warrant a reassessment. If it gets up there and is soundly rejected and begins to fall back lower, then a quick revisit to lows of December are on the table.

Should the lows of December (e.g., 2300 thereabout) not hold and the fall continue with any follow through (i.e., observable panic selling) then the chart below shows where I believe we may end up quickly. Again, to wit:

Does it mean it will happen? Again, no one knows. But then again, when I made the same arguments for December’s sell off that was dismissed as “Crazy talk!” And then it happened.

As always, we shall see.

© 2019 Mark St.Cyr

F.T.W.S.I.J.D.G.I.G.T.

(For those who say I just don’t get it…get this)

From my article to end the year “2018: The Year That Laid The Experts Bare”:

IPO’s such as those being discussed by the likes of Uber™, Airbnb™ and others will be lucky to survive in 2019 let alone ever get to IPO nirvana should this rout continue. (as I’ve said since they started)

The last of the IPO venture capital saviors (i.e., SoftBank™, Tencent™, Sovereign Wealth Funds et al.) themselves are watching their own share prices getting pummeled. It may not be long when they themselves will need to raise capital by selling any and all “future bets” just to survive.

And here is the latest via the Financial Times™. To wit:

SoftBank to slash planned WeWork investment

Japanese tech investor will inject $2bn into shared-office provider, down from planned $16bn

Also, this “deal” will now not include the participation of SoftBank’s Vision Fund which already invested over $8 Billion. So now that anticipated $16Billion has not just been cut in half, but that half has been halved, then, halved again. And the original fund is not the source.

Can you say “Uh – oh?”

And for those who think this was just a lucky one-off where the timing of my above article just happened to coincide, here’s something 2017. And it’s just one of many. From my article back in July of 2017 in regards to WeWork™. Again, to wit:

Remember: Only in “The Valley” is it reported on, and accepted as an article of faith, along with a straight face; that a VC can turn a few $Million into a $Billion all based upon a standard of accounting equivalent to: “Because that’s what they say it is.”

Try saying that at your local bank if you’re trying to re-fi or buy a house. See how far you get. Yet, in “the Valley?” You may get “that loan” based on that “$Billion” stated on your balance sheet. Which is precisely why I bring this up.

Again, it isn’t the “accepted” math that was/is in question, (e.g., The alchemic miracle of accounting allowing $millions to now be claimed as $Billions) but rather, it was the size of this jump (e.g., $4 Billion) that the math allowed for, leapfrogging this company into the #3 position of all unicorns with a valuation of now $21BILLION.

But what do I know.

© 2019 Mark St.Cyr

Footnote: These “FTWSIJDGIGT” articles came into being when many of the topics I had opined on over the years were being openly criticized for “having no clue”. Yet, over the years these insights came back around showing maybe I knew a little bit more than some were giving me credit for. It was my way of tongue-in-cheek as to not use the old “I told you so” analogy. I’m saying this purely for the benefit of those who may be new or reading here for the first time (and there are a great many of you and thank you too all). I never wanted or want to seem like I’m doing the “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah” type of response to my detractors. I’d rather let the chips fall – good or bad – and let readers decide the credibility of either side. Occasionally however, there are, and have been times they do need to be pointed out which is why these now have taken on a life of their own. (i.e., something of significance per se that may have a direct impact on one’s business etc., etc.) And readers, colleagues, and others have requested their continuance.