Greenspan sbaglia anche questa volta - gzibordi
By: GZ on Mercoledì 16 Gennaio 2002 12:29
il commento di Caroline Baum sull'economia americana, credito, tassi di interesse e Greenspan, da sempre è il migliore nel suo genere (anche per lo spirito e lo stile)
i) Greenspan ha detto che taglierà i tassi e porterà il tasso sui fondi federali all'1.5%
Questo mentre i tassi a 10 anni sono sul 4.7%. La differenza tra tassi a lunga e breve è al momento la maggiore dal dopoguerra. E sta aumentando. Scommettere che questa forbice non può aumentare all'infinito sembra logico, è una delle grandi opportunità del 2002.
ii) Greenspan ignora nel far questo
i Leading indicators -- cioè la quantità di moneta M2, l'inclinazione della yield curve (quanto detto prima) e il boom degli ordini di beni durevoli che si vede ora.
Ha ragione ? Come nota la Baum nelle sue previsioni G. ha sempre sbagliato più della media però. Ha aumentato i tassi da giugno a dicembre 2000 e a gennaio 2001 ha dovuto mettersi a tagliarli come un matto perchè si è accorto di essersi sbagliato e stava aumentando i tassi un mese prima che iniziasse una recessione.
iii) anche se ha torto non puoi andargli contro nell'immediato, è come andare contro uno che ha un kalashnikv in mano. Se dice che non vede l'economia migliorare molto gli si da retta sul momento.
iv) da oggi al 30 gennaio arriva un altra montagna di dati economici che decidono se non si stia sbagliando.
Tutto il problema delle borse è vedere se si sbaglia anche questa volta. Al momento il mercato gli crede.
New York, Jan. 15
-- I got a note from one of my colleagues after Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan on Friday delivered his pessimistic economic outlook, which goosed the bond market and doused the stock market.
``Market reaction to Greenspan throwing cold water on your rebound theory,'' he wrote.
I tried to be gentle. ``Greenspan sets the short-term rate,'' I replied. ``There's a huge arbitrage opportunity in the front end if he puts that rate at 1.5 percent, which basically he said he was going to do. Who says it's the right thing to do?''
There's the rub. In the long run, Greenspan's assessment of the economy may not be correct. In the short run, you can't bet against it.
``Suppose you got on an elevator with a deranged guy toting a gun,'' says Paul Kasriel, director of economic research at the Northern Trust Corp. in Chicago. ``Would you try to point out the error of his ways, or would you humor him and give him what he wants?''
The fed funds futures market immediately reassessed the chances of a rate cut on Jan. 30, raising the odds from 24 percent prior to the Greenspan speech to 64 percent after it. Since fed funds futures contracts are settled for cash to the average overnight federal funds rate for the delivery month, there's no upside in challenging the guy toting the gun.
Let the Data Decide
Most economists who weren't already anticipating another reduction in the funds rate penciled one in following Friday's speech. Henry Willmore, senior U.S. economist at Barclays Capital Group, wasn't so sure.
``I'm going to give the upcoming data a chance to show that Greenspan's concerns are misplaced,'' Willmore wrote in an e-mail exchange.
A slew of economic indicators will be released between now and the Jan. 30 meeting, including today's retail sales, a trifecta of housing data (new and used home sales and starts), industrial production, business inventories, the CPI, consumer confidence, leading indicators, durable goods orders, jobless claims, and fourth-quarter gross domestic product (on Jan. 30).
It sure sounds as if Greenspan has made up his mind about another rate cut.
It is ``still premature to conclude that the forces restraining economic activity here and abroad have abated enough to allow a steady recovery to take hold,'' Greenspan said. The economy faces ``significant risks in the near term.''
Leading indicators -- the real M2 money supply, the slope of the yield curve and non-defense capital goods orders, all of which suggest a recovery is taking hold -- don't seem to carry much weight with the Chairman. At minimum it would be nice to think that the decision to reduce interest rates for the 12th time in 13 months will be based on incoming information on the economy, most of which is contemporaneous.
``Of course we can't conclude that the forces restraining economic activity have abated enough to allow a steady recovery to take hold,'' Kasriel says. ``That's why it's called forecasting.''
On that score, Mr. Greenspan's track record ain't the best. He was still worried about inflation risks in November 2000, even though one of his pet indicators, the purchasing managers index, had slipped into negative territory in August and the yield curve had been inverted for over six months, sending up red flares on the state of the economy.
If Greenspan were looking for reasons not to cut rates again, he'd be encouraged by today's report on retail sales for December, which were a good deal stronger than expected. Sales fell 0.1 percent, both with and without autos, compared with a forecast for a 1.3 percent decline overall and no change ex-autos. November sales were revised higher, as were forecasts for consumer spending. It now looks as if real consumer spending rose anywhere from 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter, according to economists.
While the 0.2 percent decline in motor vehicle sales doesn't jibe with the 8.3 percent decline in unit sales reported by auto manufacturers, the report contained plenty of signs that the consumer was willing to make discretionary purchases. Sales at electronic and appliance stores rose 2 percent in December, following solid increases in October and November. Furniture sales rose 1.4 percent last month, their third consecutive monthly increase as well.
More is More
Gasoline station sales, which tend to reflect changes in price, not volume, plummeted in the fourth quarter and were down 17 percent for the year. Excluding gasoline and auto sales, retail sales rose 3.5 percent from a year ago, says Steve Wieting, an economist at Salomon Smith Barney. ``This, in a year with over 1 million net job losses.''
If the rest of the economic numbers between now and month-end ``all break the same way, I think it will give the Fed pause about going again,'' Willmore says.
The bond market took the better-than-expected news in stride, still preferring to bet with the Chairman than against him. That makes sense for the fed funds and eurodollar futures, as well as other short-term instruments. But it makes no sense for the long end, Kasriel says.
``If traders and investors thought an economic recovery were at hand prior to Greenspan's speech, I would have thought they would be even more certain of it after the speech,'' he says. ``Didn't Greenspan hint that he would be creating more fiat currency?''
All else the same, more money means stronger aggregate demand, which means faster economic growth and higher inflation. That would help corporate profits going forward through increased volumes or higher prices, making the stock market sell-off following Greenspan's speech equally baffling, Kasriel says.
``I guess the majority of investors wasn't just humoring Mr. Greenspan,'' he says. ``It seems they actually believe him.''