The oil driller Daniel Plainview declares in the 2007 movie, “There Will Be Blood” (Paul Thomas Anderson, director): “Ladies and gentlemen…Now, you have a great chance here, but bear in mind, you can lose it all if you’re not careful.” Perhaps Biblical passages inspired this film’s title. For example, see the Old Testament’s Book of Joel (2:30) and the New Testament’s Book of The Acts of the Apostles (2:19); note also the Book of Exodus (7:17-21).
The sustained rise in US Treasury yields and the ongoing fall in the broad real trade-weighted US dollar (including the UST and dollar’s intertwined breakthroughs of key points in January 2018) helped to lead (propel) the recent bloody slide in the S+P 500 and other stock marketplaces, including emerging ones. The S+P 500’s recent high, 1/26/18’s 2873, probably was a major top. For commodities “in general” (broad S&P GSCI), their January 2018 high is a very important top.
Memories of the 2007-09 global economic disaster surely influence many observers. Yet the 2018 economic (financial; debt) and political environments differ in key respects from those of 2007-09. Although fearful “flights to quality” may cause declines in UST yields from recent highs, the overall trend for the UST 10 year note yield probably remains upward. Amidst the carnage of the dreadful 2007-09 crisis, the broad real trade-weighted US dollar (“TWD”) rallied (from April 2008 to March 2009). The TWD may rally somewhat from January 2018’s 94.3 level. However, the TWD’s bear trend probably will resume, and the TWD likely will fall beneath 94.3.
The Federal Reserve and other central banks might offer soothing rhetoric if wounds to financial (interest rate and stock) players were widespread and substantial. Yet as the Federal Reserve is normalizing its balance sheet, that potential rescuer currently is much less likely than it was during the QE money printing era (including the taper tantrum events) to charge into battle and start purchasing UST. The current bloated Fed balance sheet argues that the Fed “has fired off a great many of its bullets already”. The US monetary policy scene is different from the 2007-09 disaster and its aftermath. And most economic growth forecasts remain fairly optimistic. Why would the Fed scramble to renew a highly accommodative monetary stance when inflation apparently is moving toward its beloved two percent goal? In addition, the Fed probably believes that the current and prospective US federal fiscal stance is very stimulative.
Therefore a ten percent fall in the S+P 500 probably does not trouble the Fed and its central banking comrades much nowadays. However, the Fed probably would rapidly roll out propaganda to support (“talk up”) stocks and generally boost consumer and business confidence if the S+P 500 nosedive looked likely to approach twenty percent (many experts define a bear marketplace in stocks as one of twenty percent or more).
Yet apart from rhetoric, would the Federal Reserve revisit its arsenal of weapons and resume quantitative easing (buy and hold UST), or at least slow down or stop the current program of reducing the size of its huge balance sheet, because of a brutal and shocking stock decline? A modest bloodbath (roughly ten percent drop from the top) in equities alone would not ignite Fed action (and related policy responses by its comrades) on the money printing front (or inspire the Fed to slow or halt its balance sheet reduction scheme). Arguably it will take a fall of about twenty percent (and perhaps more) in the S+P 500 (alongside similar equity declines around the globe) in conjunction with growing and substantial fears of a sharp reduction in US and international economic growth (GDP) rates. Nevertheless, despite the widespread faith of many marketplace generals and their troops in the wisdom and power of central banks (especially the Fed) as well as the evidence of much of the past several years, dramatic Fed rescue action does not inevitably guarantee sustained significant US stock marketplace rallies.
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There Will Be Blood- Financial Battlefields (2-9-18)