Said Janet, do not be misled
Strong growth is no sub for widespread
Support from the bill
In Congress which will
Insure budget’s stay in the red
Insure higher yields lay ahead
Insure every table has bread

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who polished her dovish bona fides as Fed Chair from 2013 to 2017, has taken her act to the executive branch and is vociferously trying to make the case that recent positive data is of no concern at this time and that the $1.9 trillion package that is slowly wending its way through Congress remains critical for the economy.  “It’s very important to have a big package that addresses the pain this has caused.  The price of doing too little is much larger than the price of doing something big,” was her exact quote in an interview yesterday.  I wonder, is ‘going big’ the new zeitgeist, replacing YOLO?  After all, not only has Ms Yellen been harping on this theme, which has been taken up by others in government, but there is even a weekly TV Show with that name that opens the door to some of the more remarkable, if ridiculous, things people are willing to do to get on TV.

But go big it is, with no indication that the current administration is concerned about potential longer term negative fiscal outcomes.  The pendulum has swung from the Supply Side rationale for fiscal stimulus (cutting taxes to drive incentives) to the MMT rationale for fiscal stimulus (as long as we borrow in our native currency, we can always repay any amount).  History will almost certainly show that this side of the pendulum is no less damaging than the other side, but given that politics is a short-term phenomenon, only concerned with the time until the next election, we are virtually guaranteed to continue down this road to perdition.

Thus far, the results have been relatively benign, first off because the bill has not yet been made into law, although markets clearly assume it will be, and secondly because the depths of the government induced recession from which we are emerging were truly historic, so it takes some time to go from collapse to explosive growth.  The gravest concern for some (this author included) is that we are going to see significant price inflation in the real economy, not just in asset prices, and in the end, the economy will simply suffer from different problems.  But then, isn’t that what elections are really about?  When administrations change it is a cry to address different issues, not improve the overall situation.

So, with that in mind on this Friday, let’s take a tour of the markets.  Today is one of the few sessions so far this year where the major themes entering 2021 are actually playing out according to plan.  As such, we are seeing continued support in the equity space, with yesterday’s modest sell-off being reversed in most markets.  We are seeing bond markets continue to come under pressure with yields rising on the reflation narrative, and we are watching the dollar decline, albeit still firmly in the middle of the trading range it has traced out this year.

In the equity space, while the Nikkei (-0.7%) was under modest pressure, we saw small gains in the Hang Seng (+0.2%) and Shanghai (+0.5%).  Also noteworthy was the Sydney /ASX 200 (-1.3%) which fell after a widely followed analyst Down Under increased his forecast for interest rates by nearly 50 basis points by year end.  Not surprisingly, this helped AUD (+1.0%) which is the best performing currency today.  As to Europe, the gains are more broad-based with both the CAC and DAX rising by 0.5% although the FTSE 100 is basically flat on the day.  Here, too, there was data that helped drive the market narrative with UK Retail Sales disastrous in January (-8.2%, -8.8% ex fuel) weighing on the FTSE despite stronger than expected preliminary PMI data from the UK (Composite PMI rising to 49.8, up more than 8 points from last month).  Meanwhile, German PPI data jumped sharply (+1.4% in Jan), its largest rise since 2008.  I find it quite interesting that we saw a similarly large rise in the US earlier this week.  It appears that inflationary pressures are starting to bubble up, at least in some economies.  French and Italian CPI data remain mired well below 1.0%, a sign that neither economy is poised to rebound sharply quite yet.  As to US futures, they are all green, but with gains on the order of 0.2%-0.3%, so hardly earth-shattering.

Bond markets, however, continue to sell off around most of the world which is feeding a key conundrum.  One of the rationales for the never-ending stock market rally is the low yield environment, but if bond yields keep rising, that pillar may well be pulled out with serious consequences to the bull case.  But in true reflationary style, Treasury yields have backed up 1 basis point and we are seeing larger yield gains in Europe (Bunds +1.7bps, OATs +1.2bps, Gilts +2.1bps).  In fact, the only bonds in Europe rallying today are Super Mario bonds Italian BTPs (-1.5bps) as the market continues to give Draghi the benefit of the doubt with respect to his ability to save Italy’s economy.

In the commodity space, oil has ceded some of its recent gains with WTI (-2.25%) back below $60/bbl, although still higher by 22% this year.  Precious metals are slightly softer and base metals are mixed with Copper (+1.9%) the true outperformer.

Finally, in the FX market, the dollar is under pressure against the entire G10 space and much of the emerging market space.  In G10, we already discussed Aussie, which has helped drag NZD (+0.7%) higher in its wake.  But the rest of the bloc is seeing solid gains of the 0.3%-0.4% variety with the pound (+0.15%) the laggard after that Retail Sales data.  However, the pound did trade above 1.40 briefly this morning for the first time since April 2018, nearly three years ago.

In the Emerging markets, CNY (+0.5%) has been the biggest gainer with CLP (+0.4%) right behind on the strong copper showing.  However, the CE4 have all tracked the euro higher and are performing well today.  On the downside, BRL (-0.6%), ZAR (-0.5%) and MXN (-0.4%) are the laggards, with the real suffering after cryptic comments from President Bolsonaro regarding fuel price rises by Petrobras and potential government action there.  Meanwhile, the peso has been under pressure of late after Banxico’s 25bp rate cut last week, and growing talk that there could be others if inflation remains quiescent.  And lastly, South Africa suffered almost $1 billion of outflows from the local bond market there, with ensuing pressure on the rand.

On the data front this morning we get Existing Home Sales (exp 6.6M) and the preliminary US PMI data (58.8 Mfg, 58.0 Composite), although as we already learned, strong US data is irrelevant in the fiscal decision process right now.  Two more Fed speakers, Barkin and Rosengren, are on the docket for today, but again, until we hear of a change from Chairman Powell, it is unlikely that the other Fed speakers are going to have much impact.

Summing things up, right now, the reflation trade, as imagined on January 1st, is playing out.  Quite frankly, the dollar is simply trading in a new range (1.1950/1.2150) and until the euro can make new highs, above 1.2350, I would not get too excited.  The one thing that is very true is that market liquidity is shallower than it has been in the past which explains the choppiness of trading, but also should inform hedging expectations.

Good luck, good weekend and stay safe

Fears to Assuage

When calendars all turned the page
To ‘Twenty-One, clearly the rage
Was bets on reflation
And more legislation
For stimulus, fears to assuage

The dollar was slated to fall
The yield curve, to grow much more tall
While stocks were to rally
And Covid’s finale
Was forecast, a popular call

But so far, while stocks have edged higher
And bond yields are truly on fire
The dollar remains
Ensconced in its gains
Its meltdown has yet to transpire

One cannot be but impressed with the dollar’s resilience so far this year amid such surety by so many that it was destined to fall sharply.  Consensus views at the beginning of January were that the vaccines would lead to significant reflation in the global economy, equity markets would benefit greatly, bond yields would rise amid trillions of dollars of new issuance, and the dollar would fall.  As I said from the start, higher bond yields and a steeper yield curve did not typically lead to dollar weakness.  And that is what we have begun to see in the past several sessions.

Global bond markets have really started to reprice the current situation.  While the US story is easy to understand; huge new stimulus bill with no tax increases means huge new Treasury issuance to pay for things and supply overwhelms demand, one needs to ask what is driving the price declines throughout Europe and Asia as well. Stimulus efforts elsewhere have been less substantial despite more severe lockdowns by most of Europe and many Asian nations.  So, perhaps it was not merely the supply-demand imbalance that had bond investors concerned, perhaps it was also inflation expectations.

Certainly, these have been rising sharply with US 5yr-5yr breakevens now at 2.40% this morning, the highest level since March 2013, and not merely trending higher, but exploding higher.  (Germany, too, has seen a sharp rise in breakeven inflation, albeit to much lower levels, rising from 0.2% at the lows last March to 1.06% today.)  While last week’s CPI readings were a touch softer than expected on a headline basis, the reality is that higher inflation remains almost assured going forward.  This is partly because of the way the data is calculated, where last year’s pandemic induced lows will fall out of the calculation to be replaced by this year’s much higher readings.  It is also evident in the rising price of commodities, specifically oil (+1.0% this morning) which is higher by 25% this year.  In fact, the entire energy sector has seen prices rise by roughly that amount, and we have seen gains across the board in both base metals and all agricultural products.  In other words, stuff costs more.

Perhaps, of more concern is the insouciance toward inflation shown by the Fed.  For example, just yesterday, SF Fed President Mary Daly, when asked about inflation getting out of hand replied, “I don’t think that’s a risk we should think about right now.  We should be less fearful about inflation around the corner and recognize that fear costs millions of jobs.”  If you think the Fed is going to respond to any inflation data, anytime soon, you are mistaken.  They have made it very clear that the only part of their mandate that currently matters is employment.

So, let’s recap; the price of stuff is going higher while the Fed is adamant that tighter policy is inappropriate at this time.  Bonds are doing their job, or perhaps that is; the bond vigilantes are doing their job.  They are forcing yields higher, and left unabated, probably have much further to go.  But will they be left unabated?  I think the definitive answer is, no, the Fed will not allow Treasury yields to rise very much further.  And this, of course, drives my view that the dollar, while strong now, will eventually reverse course, as the Fed halts the rise in Treasury yields.

But for now, those higher yields are attracting investors into dollar products, and by extension, into dollars.  And this story can play out for a while yet.  It is a mug’s game to try to guess at what point the Fed will become uncomfortable with Treasury yields, with current guesses ranging from 1.50% to 3.0% in the 10-year.  My sense is it will be toward the lower end of that range that will encourage the extension and expansion of QE, perhaps 1.75%-2.0%.  But I remain confident that at some point, they will respond.  And with inflation showing no signs of abating, it will happen sooner than you think.

What about the rest of the world?  Well, the one thing we know is that neither the ECB nor the BOJ can afford for their currencies to strengthen too much.  While Japan has shown more stoicism lately, I can easily envision Madame Lagarde, in the context of alleged lack of inflationary pressures, pushing the ECB to expand their largesse as well, at least enough to try to offset the Fed.  Will it work?  That, of course, is the $64 trillion question.

On to today’s activity.  Risk is under a bit of pressure this morning after what were truly impressive bond market declines yesterday.  but those declines were not so much risk on, as fear starting to spread.  So, a quick tour of equity markets shows that after a mixed US session, the Nikkei shed 0.6% overnight, although the Hang Seng managed a 1.1% gain.  Shanghai reopens tonight.  In Europe, screens are red wit the DAX (-0.55%) leading the way lower, although the CAC (flat) and the FTSE 100 (-0.1%) are not suffering that greatly.  Meanwhile, at this hour, US futures are essentially unchanged.

Bond yields, which rose sharply around the world yesterday (11bps in the US, 5-8bps throughout Europe) are consolidating a bit.  Treasuries are lower by 1.9 basis points, but they have already backed up from earlier levels.  In Europe, we see the same thing, where early yield declines have been virtually erased.  Bunds are flat, OATs are higher by 0.6bps and Gilts, one of the worst performers yesterday, have seen yields fall 1.0bp, but that is well off the levels earlier this morning. The point is, even if equities are under pressure, funds don’t appear to be flowing into bonds.

Rather, commodities are the market of choice, with oil now above $60/bbl (+1.0%) and base metals higher along with almost all agricultural products.  In fact, the only real laggards here are gold (-0.3%) and silver (-0.5%), which are arguably suffering from higher yields as a competitor.

Finally, the dollar is definitely feeling its oats this morning, rising against all its G10 brethren, with the weakest link SEK (-0.45%), although other than CAD (-0.1%) and JPY (-0.05%), the rest of the bloc is lower by at least 0.3%.  This is a broad dollar strength story, with virtually no idiosyncratic national issues to drive things.  In fact, the only data of note was UK inflation, which printed a tick higher than expected.

Emerging market currencies are similarly under pressure across the board, led lower by ZAR (-0.8%) and MXN (-0.8%), although there is broad weakness in APAC and CE4 currencies as well.  Again, one needn’t look too far afield to determine why these currencies are weak, it is simply a dollar strength day.

On the data front, we start the morning with Retail Sales (exp 1.1%, 1.0% ex autos), move on to IP (0.4%) and Capacity Utilization (74.8%) and finish the afternoon with the FOMC Minutes from the January meeting.  It seems hard to believe that the Minutes will have much impact as there were neither policy shifts nor even dissension in the ranks. Perhaps we will learn if YCC or QE extension has been a discussion topic, which would be hugely bond bullish and dollar bearish.  But I doubt it.

Rather, this dollar rebound, much to my surprise, seems to have a little more behind it and could well extend a bit further.  Looking at the euro, the technicians will focus on 1.2000, the 100-day moving average and 1.1950, the low touched in last week’s sell-off.  But if the Treasury curve continues to steepen, the euro could well move back to the 1.1750 level last seen prior to the US election in November.  That is not my base case, but the probability has certainly grown lately.

Good luck and stay safe

Tempt the Fates

For everyone, here’s a hot flash
The Treasury’s bagful of cash
May soon start to shrink
And analysts think
That could lead to quite the backlash

The Fed might be forced to raise rates
A prospect that could tempt the fates
How might stocks respond
If the 10-year bond
Sees yields rise as growth now reflates?

You cannot scan the financial headlines these days without seeing a story about either, the extraordinarily low interest rates that non-investment grade credits are paying for money (the average junk bond yield is now below 4.0%, a record low) or about the remarkable bullishness exhibited by investors regarding the future of the stock market given the ongoing reflation story and expected future growth once the pandemic subsides.  In other words, risk is on baby!

But is it really that simple?  There are those, present company included, who believe that the current situation is untenable, and that the future (for markets anyway) may not be as rosy as currently believed.

Consider the following: last summer, as Treasury bond yields were making new all-time lows, we saw a spectacular amount of investment in the stock market, with a particular concentration in companies that were deemed to be beneficiaries of the lockdowns and evolution toward working from home.  These (mostly) tech names have carried the broad indices to record after record and, quite frankly, don’t seem to be slowing down.  Essentially, it could be argued that the tech mega-cap stocks were acting as a substitute for Treasuries, and that the relationship between the stock and bond markets had evolved.  After all, if interest rates were going to remain permanently low, courtesy of the central banks, then it was far better to seek yield in the stock market.  and the situation was that the yield from the S&P 500, at 1.57%, was substantially higher than the yield on 10-year Treasuries, which traded between 0.6%-0.85% for months.  One could define this ‘equity risk premium’ as ~0.80%, give or take, and when combined with the growth prospects it was deemed more than sufficient.

But that was then.  Lately, as the reflation story has really started to pick up, we have seen the Treasury steepener trade come to the fore.  The spread between 2y and 10y Treasuries has risen to 1.13%, its highest level since early 2017 and up from the ~0.50% level seen last summer.  Not only that, but the strong consensus view is that there is further room for 10-yr and longer yields to rise.  After all, expectations are that the Treasury will be issuing another $1.9 trillion of bonds to pay for the mooted stimulus package, and all that supply will simply add pressure to the bond market, driving yields higher.

However, if the bond market story is correct, what does that say about the future of the equity market?  From a positioning perspective, it can be argued that being long the stock market, especially the NASDAQ, is akin to being short a put on the Treasury market (h/t Julian Brigden for the analogy).  In other words, if the premium required to own stocks over bonds is 0.8% of yield, and if the 10-year yield continues to rise to 1.50% (it is higher by 4 more basis points this morning), that means the dividend yield on stocks needs to rise to 2.3% to restore the relationship.  Doing the math shows that stock prices would need to decline by…33% to drive yields that much higher!  I’m pretty sure, that is not in the reflation story playbook, but then I’m just an FX salesman.

Which brings us back to the Treasury and the Fed.  The Treasury, during the pandemic, has maintained an extraordinarily high level of cash balances at the Fed, roughly $1.6 trillion, far above its more normal $500-$600 billion.  It seems that Secretary Yellen is looking to draw down those balances (arguably to spend money), which means that the likely market response will be much lower front-end yields, with the possibility of negative rates in the T-bill market quite realistic.  This outcome is something which the Fed would deeply like to avoid, and so they may find themselves in a situation where they need to raise IOER and the reverse repo rates in order to encourage banks to maintain the cash as reserves, like they currently are, instead of having them flow to the T-Bill market driving rates lower.  But how will the markets respond if the Fed raises rates, even if it is IOER and even though it will surely be described as a technical adjustment?  It could be completely benign.  But given that this is truly ‘inside baseball’ with respect to the markets functioning, it could also easily be misinterpreted as the Fed starting to remove liquidity from the markets.  And that, my friends, would not be taken lightly.

Summing all this up leaves us with the following: Treasury yields continue to rise on the reflation trade and pressure is coming to the front end of the curve which could result in the Fed acting to make technical adjustments to raise rates there.  The combination of these two events could easily result in a repricing of equity markets of some substance.  It would also result in a tightening of financial conditions, something the Fed is very keen to prevent, which means the story would not end here.

And how would this impact the dollar?  Well, the combination of higher rates and risk reduction would likely see a strong, initial bid in the buck.  But this is where the idea of the Fed capping yields comes into play.  A reflating (inflating) economy with rising yields will be quite problematic for the US government and with the justification of tighter financial conditions, the Fed will smoothly pivot to extending QE tenors if not outright YCC.  And that will halt the dollar’s rise, although not inflation’s, and the much-vaunted dollar weakness is likely to be a result.  But as I have said consistently, that is a H2 event for this year.

So, has that impacted markets negatively today?  Not even close.  Risk remains in favor as we saw the Nikkei (+1.3%) and Hang Seng (+1.9%) both rise sharply.  Shanghai remains closed until Thursday.  Europe, however, has been a bit more circumspect with very modest equity gains there (CAC +0.1%, DAX 0.0%, FTSE 100 +0.15%) although US futures are higher by roughly 0.5% across the board.

Bond markets are continuing to sell off, even after yesterday’s sharp declines.  Treasuries, this morning, are higher by 5bps now, while bunds (+2.1bps), OATs (+2.5bps) and Gilts (+3.7bps) are following yesterday’s moves further.  In fact, bund yields are now pushing toward their post-pandemic highs.

On the commodity front, oil continues to perform well, although WTI is benefitting from the ongoing problems in the Midwest where production is being shut in because of the bitter cold and ice thus reducing supply further.  Meanwhile, base metals are modestly higher, but precious metals are unchanged.

Finally, the dollar remains under pressure and for those who thought that the correction had further to run, it is becoming clear that this gradual depreciation is back.  Of course, with risk in demand, the dollar typically suffers.  In the G10, NZD (+0.5%) is the leading gainer although the entire bloc of European currencies is higher by about 0.3%.  The kiwi story seems to be expectations for eased pandemic restrictions to enable further growth, and hence reflation.  But given the dollar’s broad-based weakness, I don’t ascribe too much to any particular story here.

In the EMG bloc, there are more winners than losers, but the gains are not that substantial.  TRY (+0.6%) continues to benefit from the tighter monetary stance of the new central bank governor, while CLP (+0.6%) seems to be the beneficiary of higher copper prices.  On the downside, PHP (-0.6%) is the laggard, falling after both a sharp rise yesterday and news that foreign remittances and foreign reserves both declined in January.  But the rest of the movement here is much smaller in either direction and the main story remains broad dollar weakness

On the data front, this morning we saw that the German ZEW Expectations Survey was much better than expected despite the ongoing lockdowns across the continent.  Here, at home, we get Empire Manufacturing (exp 6.0), which seems unlikely to move things, but then we hear from three Fed speakers, ranging from the erstwhile hawkish Esther George to the unrequited dove Mary Daly.  But any change of message would be shocking.

And that’s it for the day.  With risk continuing to be embraced, the dollar is likely to remain under pressure.

Good luck and stay safe

Chaos Prevailed

In Washington, chaos prevailed
As Congress’s job was derailed
Investors, though, thought
‘Twas nothing, and bought
More stocks with the 10-year was assailed

One of the more remarkable aspects of the chaotic events in Washington, DC yesterday was the fact that the market reaction was completely benign.  On the one hand, given the working assumption that the theatrics would not affect the ultimate outcome, it is understandable.  On the other hand, the fact that there continues to be this amount of discord in the nation in the wake of a highly contentious election bodes ill for the ability of things to quickly return to normal.  In the end, though, market activity indicates the investment community firmly believes there will be lots more fiscal stimulus as the new Biden administration tries to address the ongoing pandemic driven economic issues.  Hence, the idea behind the reflation trade remains the current narrative, with more stimulus leading to faster economic growth, while increased Treasury supply to fund that stimulus leads to higher long end yields and a steeper yield curve.

However, now that the formalities of the electoral vote counting have concluded, focus has turned back to the narrative on a full-time basis, with the ongoing argument over whether inflation or deflation is in our future, as well as the question of whether assets, generally, are fairly valued or bubblicious.  The thing is, away from the politics, nothing has really changed very much lately.

Covid-19 continues to spread and the resultant lockdowns around the world continue to be expanded and extended.  Just last night, for instance, Japan declared a limited state of emergency in Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures in an effort to stem the spread of Covid.  That nation has been dealing with its highest caseload since April, and the Suga government was responding to requests for help from the local governments.  Meanwhile, in Germany, on Tuesday lockdowns were extended through the end of January and restrictions tightened to prevent travel of more than 15km from one’s home.  And yet, this type of news clearly does not dissuade investors as last night saw the Nikkei rally 1.6% while the DAX, this morning, is higher by 0.4% after a 1.75% rally yesterday.  In the end, the narrative continues to highlight the idea that the worse the Covid situation, the greater the probability of further fiscal and monetary stimulus, and therefore the bigger the boost to growth.

At the same time, the reflation piece of the narrative continues apace with Treasury yields continuing to climb, edging higher by one more basis point so far this morning after an eight basis point rise yesterday.  Something that has received remarkably little attention overall is the fact that oil prices have been rallying so steadily of late, having climbed more than 40% since the day before the Presidential election, and given the pending supply reductions, showing no signs of backing off.  This, along with the ongoing rallies in most commodities, is part and parcel of the reflation trade, as well as deemed a key piece of the ultimate dollar weakness story.

Regarding this last observation, there is, indeed, a pretty strong negative correlation between the dollar’s value and the price of oil.  Of course, the question to be answered is the direction of causality.  Do rising oil prices lead to a weaker dollar?  Or is it the other way round?  If it is the former, then the dollar’s future is likely to be one of weakness as the supply reductions in US shale production alongside the Saudi cuts can easily lead to further gains of $10-$15/bbl.  However, the dollar is impacted by many things, notably Fed policy, and if the dollar is the driver of oil movement, the future of the black, sticky stuff is going to be far less certain.  If, for example, inflation rises more rapidly than currently anticipated, and forces the market to consider that the Fed may react by reducing policy ease, the dollar could easily find support, especially given the massive short positions currently outstanding.  Would oil continue to rise into that circumstance?  The point is, correlations are fine to recognize, but as a planning tool, they leave something to be desired.  Understanding the fundamentals underlying price action remains critical to plan effectively.

As to today’s session, the risk picture has turned somewhat mixed.  As mentioned above, Asian equity prices had a pretty good day, with Shanghai (+0.7%) rising alongside the Nikkei, although the Hang Seng (-0.5%) struggled.  European bourses are mixed, with the DAX (0.4%) leading and the CAC (+0.1%) slightly higher although the FTSE 100 (-0.5%) is under pressure.  There is one outlier here, Sweden, where the OMX has rallied 2.1% this morning, although there is no general news driving the movement.  In fact, PMI Services data was released at its weakest level since the summer, which hardly heralds future strength.

We’ve already discussed Treasury weakness but the picture in Europe is more mixed, with bunds (-1bps) and OATs (-0.5bps) rallying slightly while Gilts (+1.7bps) are under pressure alongside Treasuries.

And finally, the dollar is showing some solid gains this morning, higher against all its G10 counterparts and most of the EMG bloc.  Despite ongoing strength in the commodity space, AUD (-0.75%) leads the way lower with NZD (-0.6%) next in line.  Clearly, the market did not embrace the Japanese news on the lockdown, as the yen has declined 0.6% as well.  As to the single currency, it has fallen 0.5%, with a very strong resistance level building at 1.2350.  It will take quite an effort to get through that level in the short run.

Emerging markets declines are led by CLP (-1.85%) and ZAR (-1.0%), although the weakness is nearly universal.  Interestingly, the Chile story is not about copper, which continues to perform well, but rather seems to be a situation where the currency is being used as a funding currency for carry trades in the EMG bloc.  ZAR, on the other hand, is suffering alongside gold, which got hammered yesterday and is continuing to soften.

On the data front, today brings Initial Claims (exp 800K), Continuing Claims (5.2M), the Trade Balance (-$67.3B) and ISM Services (54.5).  Remember, tomorrow is payrolls day, so there may be less attention paid to these numbers this morning.  One cautionary tale comes from the Challenger Job Cuts number, which is released monthly but given limited press.  Today, it jumped 134.5% from one year ago, a significant jump on the month, and a bad omen for the employment picture going forward.  With this in mind, it seems highly unlikely the Fed will do anything but ease policy further in the near term.  One other thing, yesterday the December FOMC Minutes were released but had no market impact.  Recall, the December meeting occurred prior to the stimulus bill or the Georgia run-off election, so was missing much new information.  But in them, the FOMC made clear that the bias was for a dovish stance for a long time to come.  Based on what we heard from Chicago’s Evans on Tuesday, it doesn’t seem that anything has changed since then.

Given the significant short dollar positions that are outstanding in the investment and speculative communities, the idea that the dollar could rally in the near term is quite valid.  While nothing has changed my longer-term view of rising inflation and deeper negative real yields undermining the dollar, that doesn’t mean we can’t jump in the near term.

Good luck and stay safe