Noted For Wednesday Morning Procrastinations: February 11, 2015

Here is what is happening around the net that I stumbled across on Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

  1. It looks like OPEC is winning the oil price war – Demand for oil from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is set to rise this year, while growth in US oil production will slow as American energy firms cut back on drilling. That’s the conclusion of the latest monthly oil report from OPEC, the 12-member oil cartel that accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s oil production. If the forecasts prove true, it suggests that OPEC is winning an undeclared price war against a growing rival: namely, the US.
  2. DAN LOEB: We’re in a ‘haunted house market’ – Haunted house scares so far this year have included: 1) signs of lower growth across the globe despite falling oil prices; 2) the depegging of the Swiss Franc, which caused an overnight 15% move; 3) declining currencies from Japan to Europe putting pressure on US companies’ earnings and competitive position;
  3. Kyle Bass’ war against the US pharmaceutical industry has officially begun – In early January, Bass revealed at a conference that he has a “short activist strategy” against the US pharmaceutical industry and its “BS patents.”
  4. Eichengreen: Cassandras and currency wars – Because, in this deflationary environment, they failed to make open-ended commitments to raise prices, they failed to effectively transform expectations. Because they failed to supplement the new monetary regime with supportive fiscal action, they failed to convince investors that they were committed to a fundamentally new policy regime. Because they hesitated to expand domestic credit more aggressively, they ended up relying on net exports as a way of supporting domestic demand, as argued here. And because they failed to coordinate their monetary and exchange rate policies internationally, haphazard exchange rate changes only created volatility and uncertainty, as argued here.
  5. What’s Behind the Federal Reserve’s Credibility Gap on Interest Rates? – First, financial markets are not interested in the median Fed official; they’re interested in Chairwoman Janet Yellen, and they assume her dot is lower than the median. That is, they expect her to want to move much more cautiously to raise interest rates than the median Fed policymaker. After all, she has suggested that significant slack remains in the labor market even though the headline unemployment rate–at 5.7%–has fallen close to the Fed’s estimates of a level that would be long-term sustaintable. And Ms. Yellen has urged Fed watchers to pay more attention to the Federal Open Market Committee’s statements than to the accompanying interest rate projections.
  6. On The Fed Credibility Gap – Would it be outrageous to think that the Federal Reserve could find itself backtracking after just 200bp of rate hikes? Not if Sweden serves as any example. The Riksbank attempted to normalize policy when long-term rates were still low, and continued despite minimal gains in those rates. The result? The Riksbank managed to get to 200bp before being forced to reverse course:
  7. Fed Watch: Fedspeak Points To June – Bottom Line: The Fed wants to hike in June. They continue to dismiss the inflation data, but they still need wage growth to hike. They dismiss the secular stagnation hypothesis. I hope they are right on that, or this is going to get ugly. Quickly.
  8. Not So Fast! Why India’s Wonky Growth Stats Shouldn’t Sway the Central Bank – “We are unsure about how to reconcile this new data with indicators that show companies struggling with earnings and investment, banks seen rising bad loans, credit growth slowing, and exporters reporting negative growth,” Baig wrote in a Feb. 9 research report. “Taken at face value” the data “suggest no room for fiscal consolidation and a degree of circumspection in monetary policy,” they wrote.
  9. Nein! Germany quashes hope of quick Greek debt accord – The clock is ticking. Greece’s current bailout plan expires on Feb. 28 and some analysts fear the country could run out of money before then. But a deal doesn’t need to be struck on Wednesday. European Union leaders will hold a summit meeting on Thursday, offering an opportunity for more high-level negotiation. A regularly-scheduled Eurogroup meeting follows on Feb. 16.
  10. Opinion: Is an accidental currency war breaking out? – For starters, central banks cannot deliver the structural components — for example, infrastructure investments, better-functioning labor markets, and pro-growth budget reforms — needed to drive robust and sustained recovery. Nor can they resolve the aggregate-demand imbalance — that is, the disparity between the ability and the willingness of households, companies, and governments to spend. And they cannot eliminate pockets of excessive indebtedness that inhibit new investment and growth.
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