Right Said Fed

“I’m a model. You know what I mean. I do my little turn on the catwalk.”

                -Right Said Fred, “I’m Too Sexy”

Conclusion: The Fed today provided further support to our Indefinitely Dovish thesis, which postulates that interest rate policy will stay at, or below, current levels well into 2012.  In addition, the door for QE3 was opened ever so slightly based on our read.

The FOMC statement today continued to verify our thesis of Indefinitely Dovish.   The interesting change in this statement versus the last statement is an acknowledgement of slower than expected economic growth and a jobs recovery that is more muted than versus the last FOMC statement in late April.  The outcome of these two changes is that the Fed has, tacitly, taken down its expectations for inflation based on this statement in the release today:

“Inflation has moved up recently, but the Committee anticipates that inflation will subside to levels at or below those consistent with the Committee’s dual mandate as the effects of past energy other commodity price increases dissipate.”

He reiterated this in his press conference in which he said, “inflation remains well anchored.”

Our read through on this is that these statements are a shift and in contrast to Chairman Bernanke’s statement at the International Monetary Conference in early June when he said:

“That said, the stability of inflation expectations is ensured only as long as the commitment of the central bank to low and stable inflation remains credible. Thus, the Federal Reserve will continue to closely monitor the evolution of inflation and inflation expectations and will take whatever actions are necessary to keep inflation well controlled.”

Reading too much into snippets of Fed Speak is dangerous at best, but it does provide some insight into what could happen next.  The Bernank is now admitting both that the economy is getting worse and that he believes that the outlook for inflation is now likely to be at lower than normal levels going forward.  So, the door has now been cracked open for Quantitative Easing 3.

We continue to believe to actually implement QE3, the Fed will need sustained negative monthly payrolls.  Prior to QE1, this was 9 negative months, while prior to QE2 this was 3 negative months.  In May, non-farm payrolls came in at +54K, which was an eight month low.  The June nonfarm payrolls will be released on July 8th and will be the key measure as to the direction of monetary easing from here.  If we get a negative print, QE3 will be solidly on the table.

That said, the Fed will likely not implement additional easing while inflation, as measured by CPI is accelerating. While we have been of the view that reported inflation will continue to accelerate or be heightened during the summer and into the early fall, by early Q1 2012 this should reverse. Thus, heading into 2012 tougher comps on commodity inflation will potentially lead to deflationary type concerns, or at least give the Fed complete cover for incremental easing, especially as the labor market is likely to remain challenged.

As part of today’s Federal Reserve events, the Fed released their update economic projections based on the “models” of the Board Members.  For 2012, they are taking down growth expectations, taking up unemployment expectations, and increasing inflation expectations.  At Hedgeye, we actually call slowing growth, increasing unemployment, and increases inflation, Jobless Stagflation.

In the press conference, Chairman Bernanke also indicated that keeping the federal funds rate at 0 to 0.25% for an extended period means for at least 2 – 3 FOMC meetings.  This of course continues to extend Bernanke’s tenure as the most accommodative Chairman in, well, the history of the Federal Reserve.  This is outlined in the table below.

Right Said Fed - DJ

If there is anything we can take away from the Fed’s projections, it is that they are based on lagging indicators and are seemingly inaccurate as it relates to actual economic outcomes.  Collectively, this is a little disconcerting since monetary policy is set and based on these “projections”.

You know what I mean?

Daryl G. Jones

Director of Research