Surprising New Fed Study – Is it Preparing Americans for a Market Crash?

This study by the Federal Reserve of San Francisco will have you scratching your head. The claims made defy common logic and are in direct conflict with a study published by the Federal Reserve of New York. Nevertheless, it might just be a brilliant setup for bearish future ‘events.’

The latest study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (FRBSF) draws unexpected conclusions that almost make you believe a disgruntled Fed employee did it. But be assured, it’s an official study published on the FRBSF website.

The Federal Reserve study analyzes and quantifies the effect of large-scale asset purchases (LSAPs), also known as quantitative easing (QE) and lower interest rates, on the economy and inflation.

The results are uncharacteristically frank and seemingly self-defeating, but the intent of this study may just be brilliant (more below).

The study is about 5 pages long and can be summarized roughly by a few paragraphs.

The final conclusion is that: “Asset purchase programs like QE2 appear to have, at best, moderate effects on economic growth and inflation.”

How moderate? “A program like QE2 stimulates GDP growth only about half as much as a 0.25 percentage point interest rate cut.”

How much does a 0.25% rate cut boost the economy? “GDP growth increases about 0.26 percentage point and inflation rises about 0.04 percentage point.”

In other words: “QE2 added about 0.13 percentage point to real GDP growth in late 2010 and 0.03 percentage point to inflation.” (see chart)

Furthermore, the study states that: “Forward guidance (referring to the low interest rate policy) is essential for quantitative easing to be effective.”

In other words, QE only works in conjunction with a low interest rate policy. The federal funds rate, the rate banks charge each other to borrow money deposited at the Fed, is already near zero. The 10-year Treasury yield (Chicago Options: ^TNX) is just coming off an all-time low.

It is no longer possible to ‘supercharge’ QE with ZIRP.

A Brilliant Move?

A few days ago, the Federal Reserve came out with a report stating that leveraged ETFs may sink the market. View related article about leveraged ETFs at fault for market crash here.

Now the Fed is basically saying that QE didn’t do squat. The converse logic of the Fed’s report is that QE is not to blame should stocks tank (after all, if QE didn’t drive up stocks, tapering can’t sink stocks). The Fed is basically saying ‘if stocks tank it’s not because we spiked stocks and are now taking the punchbowl away.’

This is ironic, because even the Geico caveman knows that various QEs buoyed the S&P 500 (SNP: ^GSPC) and Dow Jones (DJI: ^DJI) to new all-time highs. Even economically sensitive sectors like consumer discretionary (NYSEArca: XLY) trade in never before seen spheres.

Did the Federal Reserve ever admit to manipulating the stock market higher?

Sometimes in cryptic terms without any direct admission of guilt, but there is one exception.

An official report by the Federal Reserve of New York actually puts a shocking number on how much above fair value the Fed’s QE drove the S&P 500.

A detailed analysis of the report can be found here: New York Fed Research Reveals That FOMC Drove S&P 55% Above Fair Value

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF

 

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What’s Next? Bull or Bear Market? Try Gorilla Market

Right or wrong? The QE bull market will last as long as the Federal Reserve keeps QE going. A majority of investors say ‘Yes,’ but a curiously sophisticated experiment and powerful data suggest a surprise outcome.

In 2004 Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois and Christopher Chabris of Harvard University conducted a fascinating experiment.

If you want to be part of the experience take a minute (it literally only takes a minute) and watch this video before you continue reading.

To get the full effect, watch the video first and don’t read ahead.

If you don’t want to watch the video, here’s a quick summary:

Truth in Simplicity

The experiment is quite simple. There are two groups of three people each. One group is wearing black shirts, the other group white shirts.

The three people wearing black shirts are passing one ball to fellow black shirts; the ones wearing white shirts are doing the same. So there are six people, passing two balls.

The assignment is to watch how many times the players wearing white, pass the basketball.

It’s a simple assignment that requires some concentration and a clear mind.

The answer: The white shirts pass the ball 15 times.

But wait, there’s more. Many viewers get the number of passes right, but completely overlook a woman dressed in a gorilla suit. The gorilla walks slowly across the scene, stops to face the camera, and thumps her chest.

Half of the people watching the video did not see the gorilla. After watching the video for a second time, some of them refused to accept that they were looking at the same tape and thought it was a different version of the video.

“That’s nice, but what’s your point Simon?” Good question.

The Invisible 800-Pound Gorilla

The experiment was supposed to illustrate the phenomenon of unintentional blindness, also known as perceptual blindness. This condition prevents people from perceiving things that are in plain sight (such as the bear markets of 2000 and 2008).

Much of the media has zeroed in on one singular cause for higher or lower prices. Sample headlines below:

Reuters: Wall Street climbs as GDP data eases fear of Fed pullback
Reuters: Brightening jobs picture may draw Fed closer to tapering
Reuters: Wall Street slips amid Fed caution

The media is busy ‘counting passes,’ or watching Bernanke’s every word and interpret even the slightest variation of terminology.

The Fed’s action is the only thing that matters, but amidst ‘counting passes,’ many overlook the gorilla.

Gorilla Sightings

It’s believed that a rising QE liquidity tide lifts all boats. This was impressively demonstrated in 2010 and 2011 when various asset classes and commodities reached all-time highs. It only conditionally applies to 2012 and 2013 though.

In 2011 gold and silver rallied to nominal all-time highs. Why?

  1. The Fed pumped money into the system (aka banks) and all that excess liquidity had to be invested somewhere, anywhere, including precious metals.
  2. Fear of inflation. Gold is known is the only real currency and inflation hedge. Silver rode gold’s coattail and became known as the poor-man’s gold. From 2008 – 2011 gold prices nearly tripled and silver went from $8.50 to $50/ounce.

Since its 2011 high, the SPDR Gold Shares ETF (NYSEArca: GLD) has fallen as much as 38.29% and the iShares Silver Trust (NYSEArca: SLV) was down as much as 63.41%.

This doesn’t make (conventional) sense or does it. QE or the fear of inflation didn’t stop in 2011. In fact, QE (and the associated risk of inflation) is stronger than ever. Based on the above rationale, the gold and silvers meltdown is inconceivable and unexplainable.

The QE ‘Crown Jewel’

Initially QE was limited to government bonds or Treasury bonds. In other words, the Federal Reserve would buy Treasuries of various durations from banks and primary dealers with freshly printed money.

The effect was intentionally twofold:

  1. The Fed would pay top dollars to keep Treasury prices artificially inflated and interest rates low.
  2. The banks would have extra money to ‘play’ with and drive up asset prices, a process Mr. Bernanke dubbed the ‘wealth effect.’

With that thought in mind, take a look at the iShares 20+ year Treasury ETF (NYSEArca: TLT) chart above.

From the May peak to June trough TLT tumbled 14.56%, more than twice as much as the S&P 500 (7.52%).

Lessons

The lessons are simple:

  1. QE doesn’t always work and can misfire badly.
  2. We don’t see every gorilla (or looming bear).

All this doesn’t mean that the market will crash tomorrow. In fact, the stock market doesn’t exhibit the tell tale signs of a major top right now and higher highs seem likely.

Unintentional blindness is real and often magnified by the herding effect. The investing crowd (or herd) is convinced that stocks will go up as long as the Fed feeds Wall Street.

The above charts suggests that we shouldn’t follow this assumption blindly.

How Much is the Dow Worth in Real Currency

The Federal Reserve is devaluing the U.S. dollar. Contrary to popular belief that hasn’t resulted in outright or obvious inflation, but as the Gold Dow shows, it is eating away at the Dow’s value.

How do you define value and is value important today or is value just relative?

After all, as long as you buy low and sell high, the value of the underlying stock, index or ETF doesn’t matter, or does it?

If you buy the Dow (or Dow Diamonds – DIA) at 13,000 and sell at 14,000 you pocket a nice profit, but was it a good value buy?

Obviously profits are always right, but value often determines profits. At least that used to be the case before the Fed’s flooded the market with liquidity.

Old souls that remember the name Charles Dow and his saying “to know values is to know the market” may find the chart below of interest.

It measures the Dow in the only real currency – gold – that’s why I call it the Gold Dow.

The Dow in U.S. dollars is shown in black, the Gold Dow is shown in gold. At the 1999 Gold Dow peak, the Dow Jones was worth 42 ounces of gold. Today it’s barely worth 8 ounces.

The 81% drop in the Gold Dow is largely due to gold prices, which soared from 260 in 1999 to 1,600 and above.

Thus far the Dollar Dow has been able to resist the path of the Gold Dow. In fact, there’s been a divergence for most of the past decade, so this is not a short-term timing tool. Nevertheless, other valuation indicators suggest that the Dollar Dow will eventually follow the footsteps of its golden cousin.

Gold and Silver Plummet – Why and How Much Lower?

Gold and silver are the de facto “flight to safety” trade. Concerns about inflation (QE4) or the fiscal cliff were supposed to drive precious metal prices higher. This didn’t happen, here’s why:

It’s been a terrible week for gold and silver. Fundamentally precious metals should have rallied following the Fed’s announcement of QE4 (What is QE4?). Here’s the fundamental rationale.

The Fed’s plan to spend an additional $45 billion of freshly printed money (QE Tally – How Much Money is the Fed REALLY Spending?) is supposed to create inflation. In theory, gold and silver are “default inflation hedges”.

Investors trust this theory and put their money where their mouth is. How do we know this? Assets in the most popular gold ETFsSPDR Gold Shares (GLD) and iShares Gold Trust (IAU) – soared to an all-time high.

However, a theory (in this case the theory that QE will lead to higher gold and silver prices) remains only a theory until proven correct.

What Caused the Gold/Silver Mini Meltdown?

Contrary to this theory, the December 16, Profit Radar Report noted that:

“Holdings in gold-backed exchange-traded products reached a record 2,629.3 metric tons. However, all this gold buying hasn’t done much for gold prices. In fact, with so many buyers already committed, there are now fewer buyers out there. Despite seasonal tailwinds, the sentiment picture suggests at least a shakeout sell off.”

For those interested in trading gold, here’s the trade recommendation provided by the same update: “Unfortunately our UltraShort Gold ProShares (GLL) order wasn’t triggered last week. Now aggressive traders may go short gold with a move below 1,690 (around 163.80 for GLD). An approximate buy trigger for GLL (a 2x inverse gold ETF) would be 61.50.”

The corresponding trade setup for silver was as follows (updated chart shown below): “The dashed gray trend lines illustrate past instances where break downs and break outs resulted in low risk entry points. The green support line just below current prices (@32.30 – around 31.20 for SLV) may provide a low-risk entry to go short for aggressive traders. The only available short silver ETF is the 2x inverse UltraShort Silver ProShares (ZSL).” ZSL jumped from 45 to 52.

How Low Will Gold/Silver Fall

I honestly don’t know how much farther gold and silver will fall. However, the two charts below show that both metals reached respective support levels.

No one has ever gone broke taking profits and more often than not, it pays not to get too greedy.

Gold provided a nice 50-point drop and silver declined more than 10% in less than 3 days (nearly 20% for ZSL). We locked in all of our silver profits and half of our gold profits. The remaining half of short gold positions is equipped with a stop-loss that guarantees profits.

Semi-weekly updates and trade setups for gold, silver, the S&P 500, and other asset classes are provided via the Profit Radar Report.

Simon Maierhofer shares his market analysis and points out high probability, low risk buy/sell recommendations via the Profit Radar Report. Click here for a free trial to Simon’s Profit Radar Report.