Buy With More Zeal

The stimulus story is clear
Expect more throughout the whole year
C bankers are scared
And war they’ve declared
On bears, who now all live in fear

Thus, Wednesday the Fed will reveal
They’ll not stop til they hear the squeal
Of covering shorts
While Powell exhorts
Investors to buy with more zeal!

The market is biding its time as traders and investors await Wednesday’s FOMC statement and the press conference from Chairman Powell that follows. Patterns that we have seen over the past week are continuing, albeit on a more modest path. This means that the dollar is softer, but certainly not collapsing; treasury yields are higher, and those bonds almost seem like they are collapsing; commodity prices continue to mostly move higher; and equity markets are mixed, with pockets of strength and weakness. This is all part and parcel of the V-shaped recovery story which has completely dominated the narrative, at least in financial markets.

Friday’s payroll report was truly surprising as the NFP number was more than 10 million jobs higher than estimated. This led to a surprisingly better than expected, although still awful, Unemployment Rate of 13.3%. However, this report sowed its own controversy when the Labor Department happened to mention, at the bottom of the release, that there was a little problem with the count whereby 4.9 million respondents were misclassified as still working and temporarily absent rather than unemployed. Had these people been accounted for properly, the results would have been an NFP outcome of -2.4 million while the Unemployment rate would have been about 3% higher. Of course, this immediately raised questions about the propriety of all government statistics and whether the administration is trying to cook the books. However, Occam’s Razor would point you in another direction, that it is simply really difficult to collect accurate data during the current pan(dem)ic.

What is, perhaps, more interesting is that the financial press has largely ignored the story. It seems the press is far more interested in fostering the bullish case and this number was a perfect rebuttal to all the bears who continue to highlight things like the coming wave of bankruptcies that are almost certain to crest as soon as the Fed (and other central banks) stop adding money to the pot every day. Of course, perhaps the central banking community will never stop adding money to the pot thus permanently supporting higher equity valuations. Alas, that is the precise recipe for fiat currency devaluation, perhaps not against every other fiat currency, but against real stuff, like gold, real estate, and even food. So, while FX rates may all stay bounded, inflation would become a much greater problem for us all.

At this point, the universal central bank view is that deflation remains the primary concern, and inflation is easily tamed if it should appear. But ask yourself this, if central banks have spent trillions of dollars to drive rates lower to support the economy, how much appetite will they have to raise rates to fight inflation at the risk of slowing the economy? Exactly.

So, let’s take a look at today’s markets. After Friday’s blowout performance by US equities, which helped drive the dollar lower and Treasury yields higher, Asia was actually very quiet with only the Nikkei (+1.4%) showing any life at all. And that came after a surprisingly good Q1 GDP report showing Japan shrank only 2.2% in Q1, not the -3.4% originally reported. This also represents a data controversy as Capex data appeared far more robust than originally estimated. However, this too, seems to be a case of the government having a difficult time getting accurate data with most economists expecting the GDP result to be revised lower. But the rest of Asia was basically flat in equity space.

Meanwhile, European bourses are mixed with the DAX (-0.4%) and CAC (-0.5%) leading the way lower although we continue to see strength in Spain (+0.7%) and Italy (+0.2%). The ongoing belief that the largest portion of ECB stimulus will be used to support the latter two nations remains a powerful incentive for investors to keep buying into their markets.

On the bond front, Treasury yields, after having risen 25bps last week, in the 10-year, are higher by a further 2bps this morning. 30-year yields are rising even faster, up 3.5bps so far today. This, too, is all part of the same narrative; the V-shaped recovery means that lower rates will no longer be the norm going forward. This is setting up quite the confrontation with the Fed and is seen as a key reason that yield-curve control (YCC) is on the horizon. The last thing the Fed wants is for the market to undermine all their efforts at economic recovery by anticipating their success and driving yields higher. Thus, YCC could be the perfect means for the Fed to stop that price action in its tracks.

As to the dollar, it is having a more mixed performance today as opposed to the broad-based weakness we saw last week. In the G10, SEK and NOK (+0.4% each) are the best performers although we are seeing modest 0.15%-0.2% gains across the Commonwealth currencies as well as the yen. NOK is clearly following oil prices higher, while SEK continues to benefit from the fact that its rising yields are attracting more investment after reporting positive Q1 growth last week. On the downside, the pound is the leading decliner, -0.25%, although the euro is weakening by 0.15% as well. While the pound started the session firmer on the back of easing lockdown restrictions, it has since turned tail amid concerns that this dollar decline is reaching its limits.

In the EMG bloc, RUB (+0.65%) is the clear leader today, also on oil’s ongoing rally, although there are a number of currencies that have seen very modest gains as well. On the downside, TRY and PHP (-0.25% each) are the leading decliners, but here, too, there is a list of currencies that have small losses. As I said, overall, there is no real trend here.

While this week brings us the FOMC meeting, there is actually very little other data to note:

Tuesday NFIB Small Biz Sentiment 92.2
  JPLT’s Job Openings 5.75M
Wednesday CPI 0.0% (0.3% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.0% (1.3% Y/Y)
  FOMC Rate Decision  0.25%
Thursday Initial Claims 1.55M
  Continuing Claims 20.6M
  PPI 0.1% (-1.3% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy -0.1% (0.5% Y/Y)
Friday Michigan Sentiment 75.0

Source: Bloomberg

While we can be pretty sure the Fed will not feel compelled to change policy at this meeting, you can expect that there will be many questions in the press conference regarding the future, whether about forward guidance or YCC. As they continue to reduce their daily QE injections, down to just $4 billion/day, I fear the equity market may start to feel a bit overdone up here, and a short-term reversal seems quite realistic. For now, risk is still on, but don’t be surprised if it stumbles for a while going forward. And that means the dollar is likely to show some strength.

Good luck and stay safe
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