October 4, 2017, 4:00 pm EST
The media is giving more attention today to the potential change in power at the Fed. We talked about this on Monday. Remember, the President said last week that he expected an announcement to be made in the next two or three weeks on the future Fed Chair.
Along with any advancement on the fiscal stimulus front, the appointment of the next Fed Chair will be the most important news for markets and economy this year (though Yellen isn’t officially done until January of 2018).
Back in March I made the case for Trump ousting Yellen and hiring the Fed newbie, Neel Kashkari. Admittedly, I didn’t think Yellen would last this long. While Bernanke (the former Fed Chair) can be credited for averting a global apocalypse and keeping the patient alive, for as long as it took to bridge the gap to a real recovery. Under Yellen’s leadership, the Fed has been doing it’s best to kill the patient, at precisely the time the real recovery could be taking shape, with the assistance of fiscal stimulus finally in the works.
If the Fed continues on its path, borrowing costs (or, as importantly, the perception of where they may go) may strangle the economy before fiscal stimulus gets out of the gate. This is why I’ve said Kashkari should be the President’s best friend at the Fed. He’s the lone dissenter on the rate hiking path, and he’s been vocal about leaving monetary policy alone until the inflation data warrants a move.
Kashkari released an essay on Monday where he blames the Fed for creating its own low inflation surprise by tightening money and forecasting a tighter path for monetary policy, therefore creating a contractionary effect on the economy as consumers/businesses anticipated the negative effects of higher rates on the economy.
Guess who made this same case? Bernanke. He did so in a blog post last year, around this time. It was just as the world was spiraling into negative rates. He said the Fed shot itself in the foot by publishing an overly optimistic trajectory and timeline for normalizing rates. And that the communication alone resulted in an effective tightening.
This is why the ten year yield (still at just 2.34% after four rate hikes) is pricing in something that looks a lot more like recession than a hot economy.
With the above in mind, there has been a roster of candidates for Fed Chair floated today, which did not include Neel Kashkari. That was until word began to circulate that Jeff Gundlach, manager of the world’s biggest bond fund, said yesterday that he thinks Kashkari will get the nod, because he’s the most easy money guy. Still, it was refuted in the media that he was even a candidate.