Criticism Of The Fed Goes Mainstream

SL Advisors Talks Markets
SL Advisors Talks Markets
Criticism Of The Fed Goes Mainstream


Earlier this month there was a fascinating exchange on Bloomberg TV between former NY Fed president Bill Dudley and journalist Jonathan Ferro. Dudley has been vocal in criticizing the slow rate at which his former FOMC colleagues have been normalizing monetary policy. He’s pointed to the robust stock market and warned that the Fed’s going to tighten financial conditions enough to push up the unemployment rate. Ferro, refreshed by the frank analysis and used to more guarded responses from Fed officials, asked Dudley “why Fed officials don’t talk like you?”

Dudley responded that it’s unpleasant to talk about how you have to push up the unemployment rate and put people out of work, even though that is the Fed’s goal.

The Fed wants tighter financial conditions. This needs to manifest itself via higher long term yields, since sectors like housing and capital spending are more sensitive to the ten year yield than the Fed Funds rate. And the Fed needs a weaker stock market, because households that feel poorer will spend less, cooling things down. It is truly an unpleasant prospect. Covid has receded other than a few remaining constraints – Broadway shows still require masks and travel outside the country may still leave you stranded if the required Covid test before re-entry is positive.

But with 3.6% unemployment the vast majority must be better off, and happier, than they will be once the Fed engineers tighter financial conditions and the consequent economic slowdown. On Thursday, Fed chair Jay Powell said, “It’s absolutely essential to restore price stability. Economies don’t work without price stability.”

Ten year yields are approaching 3%. Compared with 8.5% annual inflation Bill Dudley notes that policy remains very loose. But yields are edging up, helped by Fed officials warning of successive 0.50% rate hikes, as Powell did last week.

The stock market isn’t helping much, even after last week’s sell-off. For the first time in a decade, the Equity Risk Premium (ERP) doesn’t make stocks look cheap. The 5.4% earnings yield, based on Factset bottom-up figures, versus a 2.9% ten year yield puts the ERP at 2.5, right on the average since 2000 when the bubble burst.

Earnings forecasts are being revised higher, reflecting little evidence of any influence from the Fed. Analysts still expect growth next year of 10%. But a 3.4% ten year yield in 2023 would be enough to keep the ERP at 2.5. By this measure, stocks are as expensive as they’ve been in the past decade. Tighter financial conditions include a weaker stock market according to Bill Dudley. If the stock market repriced to its average ERP of 3.3 over the past ten years, that would imply the S&P500 around 15%, lower.

When a liberal-leaning magazine such as The Economist blames today’s inflation on the Democrats pushing through last year’s $1.9TN stimulus, you know it’s conventional wisdom. Larry Summers must be a thorn in the side of the White House, since he warned of such as the package was being debated and hasn’t let up since. This week’s Economist analyzes the Fed’s “historic mistake on inflation” and includes a special report on central banks. They blame the Fed’s modified interpretation of its mandate to allow higher inflation, along with institutional groupthink that assumed stable prices were hard-wired into the economy.

The Economist also notes that central banks have taken on a broader remit in recent years. In the US progressive Democrats wanted that to include policies to counter climate change. Fed candidate Sarah Bloom Raskin withdrew her nomination when Senate Republicans objected to her past comments pushing the Fed to withhold pandemic support from fossil fuel firms.

However, the Fed does now seek maximum employment that is “broad-based and inclusive”. Powell explained the shift thus: “This change reflects our appreciation for the benefits of a strong labor market, particularly for many low- and moderate-income communities,”

There is evidence that minority unemployment, which is always higher than for the general population, rises faster during a slowdown. This will be a consideration in the background when the FOMC is facing rising joblessness but has not yet conquered inflation. Debt:GDP is the most important reason America will learn to live with higher inflation, since it allows lower or negative real rates which makes it cheaper to finance. But the mix of unemployment will also play a role in FOMC thinking.

On Saturday I had the good fortune to play golf with Bill Dudley. He denied that he was captain of the Federal Reserve golf team, in spite of what I saw as evidence in support. We spent much time exchanging views on Fed policy and the outlook for rates. Dudley thinks the happy combination of declining inflation and a rate cycle peak of around 3%, as laid out in the most recent FOMC projection materials, will be hard to achieve. I think if Dudley was on the FOMC today they would have acted against inflation in a more timely fashion.

The Fed has committed the biggest inflation mistake in its history. The FOMC won’t concede such, but their hawkish shift shows it was obvious before The Economist made it official. They’re still a long way from creating tight financial conditions. Leave the bond market to those who tolerate returnless risk.

We have three funds that seek to profit from this environment:

Energy Mutual Fund

Energy ETF

Inflation Fund

Please see important Legal Disclosures.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
SL Advisors Talks Markets
SL Advisors Talks Markets
Criticism Of The Fed Goes Mainstream

Important Disclosures

The information provided is for informational purposes only and investors should determine for themselves whether a particular service, security or product is suitable for their investment needs. The information contained herein is not complete, may not be current, is subject to change, and is subject to, and qualified in its entirety by, the more complete disclosures, risk factors and other terms that are contained in the disclosure, prospectus, and offering. Certain information herein has been obtained from third party sources and, although believed to be reliable, has not been independently verified and its accuracy or completeness cannot be guaranteed. No representation is made with respect to the accuracy,  completeness or timeliness of this information. Nothing provided on this site constitutes tax advice. Individuals should seek the advice of their own tax advisor for specific information regarding tax consequences of investments.  Investments in securities entail risk and are not suitable for all investors. This site is not a recommendation nor an offer to sell (or solicitation of an offer to buy) securities in the United States or in any other jurisdiction.

References to indexes and benchmarks are hypothetical illustrations of aggregate returns and do not reflect the performance of any actual investment. Investors cannot invest in an index and do not reflect the deduction of the advisor’s fees or other trading expenses. There can be no assurance that current investments will be profitable. Actual realized returns will depend on, among other factors, the value of assets and market conditions at the time of disposition, any related transaction costs, and the timing of the purchase. Indexes and benchmarks may not directly correlate or only partially relate to portfolios managed by SL Advisors as they have different underlying investments and may use different strategies or have different objectives than portfolios managed by SL Advisors (e.g. The Alerian index is a group MLP securities in the oil and gas industries. Portfolios may not include the same investments that are included in the Alerian Index. The S & P Index does not directly relate to investment strategies managed by SL Advisers.)

This site may contain forward-looking statements relating to the objectives, opportunities, and the future performance of the U.S. market generally. Forward-looking statements may be identified by the use of such words as; “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “should,” “planned,” “estimated,” “potential” and other similar terms. Examples of forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, estimates with respect to financial condition, results of operations, and success or lack of success of any particular investment strategy. All are subject to various factors, including, but not limited to general and local economic conditions, changing levels of competition within certain industries and markets, changes in interest rates, changes in legislation or regulation, and other economic, competitive, governmental, regulatory and technological factors affecting a portfolio’s operations that could cause actual results to differ materially from projected results. Such statements are forward-looking in nature and involves a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, and accordingly, actual results may differ materially from those reflected or contemplated in such forward-looking statements. Prospective investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements or examples. None of SL Advisors LLC or any of its affiliates or principals nor any other individual or entity assumes any obligation to update any forward-looking statements as a result of new information, subsequent events or any other circumstances. All statements made herein speak only as of the date that they were made. r

Certain hyperlinks or referenced websites on the Site, if any, are for your convenience and forward you to third parties’ websites, which generally are recognized by their top level domain name. Any descriptions of, references to, or links to other products, publications or services does not constitute an endorsement, authorization, sponsorship by or affiliation with SL Advisors LLC with respect to any linked site or its sponsor, unless expressly stated by SL Advisors LLC. Any such information, products or sites have not necessarily been reviewed by SL Advisors LLC and are provided or maintained by third parties over whom SL Advisors LLC exercise no control. SL Advisors LLC expressly disclaim any responsibility for the content, the accuracy of the information, and/or quality of products or services provided by or advertised on these third-party sites.

All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment will be suitable or profitable for a client’s investment portfolio.

Past performance of the American Energy Independence Index is not indicative of future returns.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
1 reply
  1. Jack
    Jack says:

    We learn useful, sometimes actionable, information from Simon’s sardonic viewpoints. Appreciate them. Are the viewpoints confirmation bias? Fed bashing is an unproductive yet popular sport. This time ’round the Fed left themselves wide open for it. One can wonder if Fed tightening during 2018, during low inflation, culminating in a taper tantrum, was an attempt to punish that previous administration while this time maintaining lax conditions too long was done in support this current administration.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.