Fed Balance Sheet RISES By $13 Billion (Needs To Come A Little Bit Closer To Their Target)

So much for The Fed balance sheet unwind.

The SOMA report as of yesterday showed the balance had RISEN by $13 BILLION.

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This happens every quarter.

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The reason why? Agency MBS purchases rose faster than Treasury Note and Bond sales (which were small).

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But the balance sheet will likely get a little bit closer to shrinking by next week.

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Ben & Janet’s Famous Chili Recipe: Excess Reserves Still Around After 2008 And The Fed Is Paying MORE For Banks Not To Lend

In late 2008, The Federal Reserve did something that was not so widely noticed: It started to pay interest on excess reserves, effectively paying banks not to lend.

Excess reserves are cash funds held by banks over and above the Federal Reserve’s requirements. They have grown dramatically since the financial crisis. Holding excess reserves is now much more attractive to banks because the cost of doing so is lower now that the Federal Reserve pays interest on those reserves. The fact that banks are holding excess reserves in response to the risks and interest rates that they face suggests that the reserves are not likely to cause large, unexpected increases in bank loan portfolios. However, it is not clear what banks are likely to do in the future when the perceived conditions change.

In other words, The Fed is trying to control the price and quantity of risk.

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Excess reserves have actually declined slightly since 2015 when the article was written. But the question remains as to why financial institutions are continuing to park money at The Fed. And why The Fed is encouraging it.

Loan and lease growth YoY is slower following The Great Recession than at any time since 1975.

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Part of the reason of the desire of commercial banks to park money at The Fed rather than lend it out is 1) risk (and the price of risk) and 2) compliance costs. The Dodd-Frank legislation and Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have greatly increased compliance costs leading some financial institutions to avoid said costs and collect interest from The Fed instead.

What happens if the economy booms? A simple answer would be for The Fed to take away the excess reserve punch bowl. But bank lending has become so regulated (CFPB, OCC, Fed, FDIC, SEC, etc) that financial instutions may decide to continue the escape valve from actual lending.

I call excess reserves and the interest paid by The Fed to FI’s that DON’T lend … Ben and Janet’s Famous Chili recipe. If the economy does boom, I am afraid of what will happen.

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Witchy Woman: Yellen’s Last FOMC Meeting (Fed Funds Rate Rises To 1.5% As Balance Sheet Begins Slow Unwind)

Yes, this was Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s last Open Market Committee (FOMC)  meeting. And the FOMC raised,  as widely expected, the Target rate (upper bound) to 1.50%.

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Over the past year, The Fed has raised their target rate from 0.50% on 12/13/16 to 1.50% on 12/13/17, a 100 basis point increase over 1 year. Meanwhile, the Fed’s holdings of Treasury notes and bonds has declined (unwind).

Even since Bernanke and Yellen (Beryellen?) launched us on the QE train, core inflation has rarely exceeded 2% YoY and wage growth has been terrible.

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Alas, Yellen and NY Fed’s Dudley, two ardent doves, will be gone.

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Yes, Janet Yellen is a witchy woman.

Raven Gray hair and ruby lips
Sparks Bubbles fly from her finger tips

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Courtesy of Jesse from Jesse’s Cafe Americain. 

Bad Case of Unaffordable Housing: Shelter CPI Rises >2x Core Inflation (“Inflation” Cools Ahead of FOMC Meeting)

The Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting is today.  And according to the SF Fed’s calibration of the Taylor Rule, the Fed Funds Target rate should be 6.13% (it is only 1.25%, a spread of 488 basis points TOO LOW).

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There was nothing in this morning’s inflation report that is likely to cause the FOMC not to increase the upper bound of The Fed Fund’s Target rate to 1.5%. Why? Core inflation (less food and energy YoY) declined to 1.71%.  Core PCE Prices YoY is at 1.45% YoY (well below The Fed’s Target Rate of 2%.

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Owner’s equivalent rent of residences YoY fell to 3.12%, still over twice that of core inflation. And FHFA’s house price index YoY is 2.78x hourly earnings YoY for most of the population.

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Doctor, doctor (Yellen), stop driving up house prices for average Americans.

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The Heat Is On! PPI Final Demand Hits 3.1% YoY, Highest Since Jan ’12 (But Only 2.4% YoY If You Take Out Energy)

Just when I though Producer Price Inflation (Final Demand) finally hit 3% … they pulled it back in (to 2.4% YoY).

Yes, PPI Final Demand YoY is the highest since January 2012 at 3.1% YoY.

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But if we take out energy, it is 2.4% YoY.

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Yes, PPI Final Demand less Energy is  only 2.4% YoY, but the heat is on.

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The Great Fed Unwind: It’s All About Treasury Note/Bond Sales, Not Agency MBS

The Federal Reserve was supposed to start shrinking their $4.4 TRILLION balance sheet back in October, but have only recently begun actually selling the assets on their balance sheet.

As you can see, the US Treasury 10-year Note yield was just above 4% when The Fed’s asset-buying began and after now resides at around 2.4%. And you can barely see the unwinding of the balance sheet since The Fed is moving at glacial speeds to unwind.

But we have only seen a slight uptick in the 10-year Treasury Note yield with the recent unwinding of the balance sheet (pink box).

Since The Fed’s asset purchases are primarily Treasury Notes/Bonds and agency Mortgage-backed Securities (Agency MBS), we can see that it is the T-Notes/Bonds that are being sold-off, not the Agency MBS. The Fed’s strategy is to let the Agency MBS run-off (gradually mature as mortgages prepay).

But as The Fed’s Balance unwinds and Treasury/Mortgage rates rise, mortgage prepayments are likely to slow, making The Fed’s plans less effective. This is called “extension risk.”

Let’s see what The Fed of New York does tomorrow!

Is A Recession Looming? Low Unemployment And Declining Treasury Curve Occur Just Before Recessions (And Lousy Wage Growth)

US Real GDP is growing at 2.3% YoY.  What’s not to like?

How about the lowest unemployment rate since 2000 and the worst wage “recovery” in modern times? AND a flattening Treasury yield curve?

Yes, we are once more staring into the abyss of a recession where unemployment rates are low (as they seemingly always are just prior to the end of a business cycle). Throw in a skidding Treasury curve and … this is it?

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As we are painfully aware,  wage growth is the worst it has been in modern times after The Great Recession. Despite the staggering printing of money by The Fed (and ultra-low interest rates).

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Of course, The Fed is raising rates cautiously and unwinding their balance sheet very slowly in order not to disrupt markets (and pop the numerous asset bubbles).