This week's Outside the Box is going to be a little different. I am going to write about the extraordinary action by the NY Fed to foster the Bear Stearns deal with JP Morgan, and give you three brief notes from Michael Lewitt of Harch Capital Management and Bob Eisenbeis (former executive vice-president of the Federal Reserve of Atlanta) of Cumberland Advisors.
The Fed is getting ready to auction of $40 billion in repos this week. The stock market acted is if this was a special gift stuffed into its Christmas stocking last week, rebounding after a serious drop in the market the day before. This week in Outside the Box, Dr. John Hussman tells us why the $40 billion is more smoke and mirrors than actual money. It seems they had $39 billion coming due this week anyway. And in a $12.7 trillion dollar banking system it may not make much difference.
This is not a long article, but it is important. You need to understand how the Fed works and when its actions make a difference. Hussman is very good at writing clear, easy-to-understand material on complex subjects.
Dr. Hussman is the president and principal shareholder of Hussman Econometrics Advisors, the investment advisory firm that manages the Hussman Funds. He is also the President of the Hussman Investment Trust. Prior to managing the Hussman Funds, Dr. Hussman was a professor of economics and international finance at the University of Michigan. He continues to write his "Weekly Market Comment" that provides both excellent insight and analysis into the current market climate. His web site is www.hussmanfunds.com.
I trust that you enjoy Hussman's research and find it to be valuable to thinking "outside the box."
This week in a Special Outside the Box good friend George Friedman of Stratfor, in an unconventional piece, addresses the conundrum that equates low interest rates with market illiquidity, postulating on what may be the underlying cause of such an event. George seems to specialize in Outside the Box thinking, and this piece is no exception.
Stratfor continues to provide insightful and pertinent research on economic and geopolitical events and their respective ramifications. Stratfor continues to generously provide significant savings to readers of Outside the Box, for further information please click here. For those like me who seek objective analysis of world affairs, Stratfor is a daily necessity.
My friends have at GaveKal have been whale watching for some time. But not for Blue whales or in an ocean. There theory is that Central banks keep throwing dynamite (in terms of liquidity) into the ocean during credit problems, watching little fish die and don't stop until a whale floats to the surface, thereby giving a signal that the credit crisis is close to being over. They think they have spotted that whale.
This week in a very interesting and decidedly different Outside the Box, Charles Gave writes about the current liquidity crisis and the problems surfacing in England. Remember, it was problems in Asia and then Russia that created the problems in 1998. We should all pay attention to what is going on. Are there more whales getting ready to float to the top?
This week in Outside the Box, good friend Paul McCulley of PIMCO fame addresses the important topic of fed fund easing. Paul addresses the predicament the current Fed finds itself in on account of not wanting to bail out those who took excessive risk in what he dubs the "shadow banking system," - comprising an alphabet soup of levered non-bank investment conduits, vehicles, and structures. The crux of the matter as Paul highlights is that the 50bp discount rate reduction still remains a penalty to the Fed Funds rate, hence simply not an attractive source of funding for real banks, who have access to the Fed funds rate. Bernanke and company are trying to kill the notion of a Fed Put, whereby the Fed "bails out" Wall Street whenever losses increase significantly which further worsens excessive risk taking, or moral hazard. The conclusion is while many would like to think this simply is a Wall Street quant fund predicament, the reality is that Main Street shares the pain in the form of tightening terms, conditions and rates for all but conforming mortgages. Thus, the Fed needs to reduce the Fed funds rate not to bail out Wall Street but rather to save Main Street from recession on account of weaker growth, which to boot would carry serious debt-deflation consequences. I have provided Chart I below in larger print for illustrative purposes.
This week's Outside the Box is from good friend and South African partner Dr. Prieur du Plessis of Plexus Asset Management. Prieur suggests that we should not be surprised at last week's rate cut, as it is consistent with past rate cut cycles when viewed from the fact that banks are tightening up on their lending standards to both consumer and commercial borrowers. There are a number of very original graphs here with some very interesting analysis that is truly Outside the Box.
This week in Outside the Box we take look at the how the Fed acted in the last debt crisis of 1998 and what they are likely to do this time. How will the Fed address the looming liquidity crisis stemming from the subprime debacle primarily, and from the abused Yen carry-trade, lax lending practices, and excess liquidity, generally? Asha Bangalore, Vice President and Economist at the Northern Trust Company, believes that given the actions taken by the European and Japanese banks in response to credit and liquidity concerns in the markets by an infusion of €200 Billion, and ¥600 Billion, respectively, the Fed will also take the customary action of cutting interest rates to assuage the market at the October 30-31 Fed meeting.
Your humble analyst believes that a rate cut will not likely occur on account of inflation concerns, and I thought you should read an opposing and well-reasoned view. As an aside this makes the CPI numbers which will be released this Wednesday very important and any difference from the expectations will have the tendency to move the markets significantly. If inflation comes in high as it did last month, the market will take that as a sign that the Fed will have less room to cut rates. Conversely, if inflation is lower than expected, you could see a real leap. As a reference, the previous CPI (MoM) was .2%, with economists estimating it coming in at .1%, CPI Ex. Food & Energy (MoM) was .2% with no estimated change forecasted.
This Week in Outside the Box we Join Bill Gross of Pimco in his July 2007 Investment Outlook as he strives to address the implications of the Bear Stearns hedge fund debacle, the toxic waste that is Wall Streets' innovative derivative products and their respective valuation, rather, lack thereof.
If Dear reader you have not been party to the excess of the Wall Street you may have not heard of the two Bear Stearns hedge Funds focusing on the subprime market that were subsequently liquidated on account of their inability to meet margin calls, thus wiping out investors. Mr. Gross believes that while significant, we ought not to look to Wall Street to see the repercussions of our excess but to the heart lands of America and the real estate there financed via subprime loans to witness the true folly of our capitalist ways.