August 25, 2016, 4:00pm EST
Tomorrow is the big annual Fed conference in Wyoming. It typically draws the world’s most powerful central bankers. This is where, in 2012, Bernanke telegraphed a round three of its quantitative easing program.
The economy was still shaky following the escalating sovereign debt crisis in Europe, which had taken Spain and Italy to the brink of default. Draghi and the ECB stepped in first, in late July and made the big “whatever it takes” promise. This is where he threatened to crush the bond market speculators that had run yields up in the government bond markets of Spain and Italy to economic failure levels. He threatened to take the other side of that trade, to whatever extent necessary, in effort to save the future of the euro. It worked. He didn’t have to buy a single bond. The bond vigilantes fled. Yields ultimately fell sharply.
But just a month after Draghi’s threat, it was uncertain at best, that it would work. With that, and given the economies globally were still flailing, Bernanke hinted that more QE was coming at the August Jackson Hole conference.
The combination of those to intervention events ignited global stocks, led by U.S. stocks. The S&P 500 is up 55% from the date of Bernanke’s speech and the climb has been a 45 degree angle.
This time, this Jackson Hole, things are a bit more confusing, if that’s possible. The BOJ, ECB and BOE are QE’ing. The Fed has been going the other way. But in the past six months, they’ve backstepped big time.
The hawk talk went quite for a while earlier this year. Even Bernanke has written that the Fed has shot itself in the foot by publishing an optimistic trajectory and timeline for normalizing rate. It has resulted in an effect that has felt like a rate tightening, without them having to act. That’s the exact opposite of they want. They want to hike to restore some more traditional functioning of the financial system, but they don’t want to slow down economic activity. It doesn’t normally work that way, and it hasn’t worked that way.
So now we have Yellen speaking tomorrow, and people are looking for answers. We have some Fed members now wanting to dial back on public projections, as to not continue to negatively influence economic activity (Bernanke’s advice) and others getting in front of camera’s and telling us that a September hike might be in the cards.
But while everyone is looking to Yellen for clarity (don’t expect it), the show might be stolen by another central banker. Haruhiko Kuroda, head of the Bank of Japan, will be in Jackson Hole too. The agenda is not yet out so we don’t know if he’s speaking. But he could conjure up some Bernanke style QE3. Not a bad bet to be long USD/JPY and dollar-denominated Nikkei through the weekend (ETFs, DBJP or DXJ). Full disclosure: We’re long DBJP in our Billionaire’s Portfolio.
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