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Fed 50, BOE 25, and the BOJ to Stand Pat: Week Ahead

Three G7 central banks meet in the coming days, and they dominate the macro stage. The Federal Reserve’s meeting concludes on Wednesday, the Bank of England…

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Three G7 central banks meet in the coming days, and they dominate the macro stage. The Federal Reserve's meeting concludes on Wednesday, the Bank of England on Thursday, and the Bank of Japan on Friday.

The market recognizes a strong consensus has emerged at the FOMC for 50 bp hikes in June, but the unexpectedly strong CPI report before the weekend saw the market price in about a 50% chance of a 75 bp hike in July. Some Fed officials have been understandably reluctant to venture much of an opinion about the September meeting. After the CPI print, the market expects 50 bp move in September and November.

The Fed governor and regional president that are seen as the most hawkish are Governor Waller and St. Louis Fed President Bullard. Their hawkishness needs to be understood within the context of the market. Their "beef", as it were, is not with the market, who they say their views are aligned with, but with their colleagues. In March, the median dot was for the Fed funds range to be 1.75%-2.0% at the end of the year.  The Fed funds futures market is closer to 3.15%. In March, there was only one forecast around the current market expectation. The median dot for the end of 2023 was 2.75%. The market is now at 3.50%.

We suspect the two new governors' dots will be consistent with the Fed's leadership. The median forecast for this year's GDP may be reduced from 2.8% to closer to 2.5%. If the median forecast for the PCE deflator (4.3% 2022 and 2.7% 2023) is raised, it would add to a hawkish message. The median forecast was for the unemployment rate to remain at 3.5%, in the face of the tightening and be at 3.6% at the end of 2024. Some of the Fed's critics poked at this and it will be interesting to see if it changes. The University of Michigan's consumer index has tanked to levels not seen during past recessions, the tech bubble, the Great Financial Crisis, or the start of the pandemic. Some economists are claiming that the US is already in a recession. The Fed cannot be happy with the new increase in consumer inflation expectations the survey picked up.

In May, the FOMC statement acknowledged the contraction in Q1 GDP but noted that household spending and business investment (final sales to domestic purchasers) remained strong. This still seems to be a fair characterization of the economy. It said jobs gains were robust. Nonfarm payrolls rose by an average of 539k in Q1 22 and have averaged 413k in the first two months of Q2. Will the Fed recognize the moderation, or is it too early considering that in April and May 2021, the job growth averaged 355k a month?  Besides technical adjustments, most of the rest of the statement is likely to be little changed.  This includes the likelihood that despite variance of views, there is an agreement about the 50 bp rate hike and no dissents are likely.

When the Fed's rhetoric began changing last September, the December 22 Fed funds futures were implying a 0.35% 2022 year-end rate. It finished last year slightly above 0.80%. On the eve of the Fed's hike on March 16, the Dec contract implied about a 1.95% year-end rate. By the eve of the May 4 hike, the implied yield was closer to 2.75%. It finished last week a little above 3%. The swaps market has a terminal rate of about 3.75%.

The Bank of England is expected to hike its base rate by 25 bp on June 16 to 1.25%. It would be the fifth hike in the cycle that began last December with a 15 bp move. The swaps market is pricing in about a one in three chance of a 50 bp increase. There are five meetings left this year and the market has 180 bp of tightening discounted. This seems particularly aggressive given that it is consistent with two 50 bp hikes and three quarter-point moves.

The tightening of US monetary policy beginning in the late 1970s when Paul Volcker become the Federal Reserve Chair is the stuff legends are made off. Using the cover of money supply growth, Volcker led the Fed into hiking rates even as unemployment was climbing. Volcker, appointed by Carter, a Democrat, helped facilitate the Reagan-era capital offensive that liberated capital mobility, spurred financial innovation, but also generated a dramatic divergence of wealth and income that some argue is a bigger threat to the US economy (and political life) than inflation. Although, there was a hope in some quarters that Powell would take up the mantle, it seems BOE governor is channeling Volcker.

The Fed has begun an aggressive tightening course, but it sees the economy as strong and plays down recession worries. US unemployment is around half the pace it was when the Fed under Volcker began hiking. As we noted, it claims that it can raise interest rates sharply and shrink the balance sheet twice as fast as it did previously with no meaningful deterioration of the labor market. The Bank of England is a different kettle of fish. In May it warned that the economy is likely to contract next year and expand by a miniscule 0.3% in 2024. It envisions unemployment rising from 3.5% this year to 4.3% next and 5.0% in 2024. The three-month year-over-year rate calculated by the ILO stood at 3.7% in March. The April estimate is due June 14.

UK CPI was 9% above year ago levels in April. Last month, the BOE estimated that 80% of the overshoot in inflation is a function of the surge in energy prices and tradeable goods. Gas and electricity regulated prices jumped by nearly 55% in April and are expected to rise a little more than 40% in October. Consider that gasoline costs about GBP2 per liter, which converts to more than $11 a gallon. Between higher energy and food prices, and tax increases, the UK is experiencing a once-in-a-generation cost-of-living squeeze.

Just like Volcker-led hikes helped shape the American political discourse, BOE Governor Bailey's hikes could also impact the UK's politics. Prime Minister Johnson survived a vote of confidence over the objection of 41% of the Tory members of Parliament. Ultimately, Johnson's value to the party is that he led them into victory and regained the Conservative majority. However, this claim to fame has weakened. The Tories look set to lose two special elections on June 23 that were forced as the Tory MPs were forced to resign in separate sex scandals. Although, they do not reflect on Johnson, his government has been lambasted for the "sleaze factor."  

The latest YouGov poll gives Labour an eight-percentage point advantage (39%-31%). A full third of those survey said that Labour leader Starmer, who also, incidentally, faces his own possible "partygate" would be a better prime minister than Johnson. A quarter favored Johnson. After the special elections, the next big hurdle for Johnson will be the Conservative Party Conference in October.

The Federal Reserve has all but committed to a 50 bp rate hike next week. The Bank of England will likely move by 25 bp. The Bank of Japan, the third G5 central bank that meets in the week ahead, will stand pat. BOJ Governor Kuroda has been explicit. The rise in the CPI, with the core (excluding fresh food) poking above the 2% target, is being driven by factors that are not sustainable, like the base effect from last year's cut in the cell phone charges, and higher energy prices. Excluding fresh food and energy, prices rose 0.8% from a year ago in April. It has not been above 1% for six years. The market appears to agree with Kuroda as the 10-year breakeven (the difference between the conventional 10-year yield and the inflation-linked security) is below 90 bp.

Kuroda, whose term expires in April 2023, has renewed the BOJ's commitment to the capping the 10-year yield at 0.25%. This comes, of course, not just in the face of the rising inflation, but also while major bond yields in the US and Europe have risen sharply. As a result of the divergence of monetary policy the yen has weakened sharply.

The correlation of the change in dollar-yen exchange rate and the US 10-year yield is a little above 0.5 over the last 60 sessions and a little below in the past 30. The euro is trading at eight-year highs against the Japanese yen. The change in the cross rate and the 10-year German Bund yield is stable around 0.60 for the past 30 and 60 days.

Even if the divergence of interest rates is the key driver pushing the yen lower, there are also other considerations. For example, Japan is also experiencing a negative terms of trade shock. Consider that Japan had a current account surplus of JPY3.5 trillion in the first four months of this year, slightly more than half the surplus in the same period last year. Lenin once quipped that in battle, feel mush push; feel steel retreat, which also seems to apply to foreign exchange. That the yen's decline in being driven by economic fundamentals, and that Kuroda has no intention to alter the monetary course, and, if anything, still sees net advantages of a weak currency, the risk of intervention (steel) is low.

Although some observers have talked about the risk of intervention, it mostly seen at higher dollar levels. Some reports cite interest one-year JPY150 calls. Japanese officials' verbal intervention stepped up at the end of last week, but the concern is still over the pace of the move and not levels. Moreover, the impact of the verbal intervention was quickly blunted by the stronger than expected rise in the US CPI.

It seems that trades fall into three categories. The first is momentum or trend following. The second is mean reversion or going against the trend. The third is carry trade, which is a version of interest rate arbitrage. Sell a low yielding currency and buy a higher yielding currency. The profit or loss is derived from the different yields rather than spot movement. The short yen position now is a momentum or trend following trade and it can also be part of a carry trade.

The challenge with carry trades is that a volatility of the currencies can overwhelm the interest rate differential. For example, imagine you can borrow yen for around six basis points annualized convert into dollars for a three-month time deposit and earn around 170 bp (annualized). With the three-month volatility of the dollar-yen exchange rate implied in the options market of over 11%, one can appreciate how movement in the spot market easily negate the yield pick-up. It is why some have characterized the carry trading in the foreign exchange market as picking up pennies in front of steam roller.

If the rise in US 10-year yields is the key to understanding the depreciation of the yen against the dollar, to ask when the greenback peaks is to ask when US rates peak. That in turn depends to a great extent on the terminal rate for Fed funds. If the target rate peaks at 3.50%-3.75% as many think now and is priced into the swaps market, then arguably the 10-year yield has "value" as it approaches 3.20%. 

The momentum indicators for dollar-yen corrected lower last month but have risen sharply over the past couple of weeks. The MACD is still accelerating higher but the Slow Stochastic is over-extended and can turn lower with a setback in spot. The dollar closed above its upper Bollinger Band (two standard deviations above the 20-day moving average) every session last week. Speculators in the futures market already have a substantial short yen position (short about 94.5k contracts, JPY12.5 mln per contract, or roughly $93k per contract, or about $8.8 bln overall). They have not been net long since March 2021. Market sentiment, with the talk of JPY150 calls, seems extreme.

The surge in US and German rates warns that the BOJ efforts to cap the 10-year bond yield at 0.25% will be challenged again in the coming days. It has been successful so far and it has not cost it much money. Defending the cap is has been negative for the yen as it drives home the point that monetary policy has not changed and is the heart of divergence that is driving the exchange rate. 


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Yom Kippur is coming soon – what does Judaism actually say about forgiveness?

Many religions value forgiveness, but the details of their teachings differ. A psychologist of religion explains how Christian and Jewish attitudes co…

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Two women embrace before a Yom Kippur service held outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles. Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Jewish High Holidays are fast approaching: Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. While the first really commemorates the creation of the world, Jews view both holidays as a chance to reflect on our shortcomings, make amends and seek forgiveness, both from other people and from the Almighty.

Jews pray and fast on Yom Kippur to demonstrate their remorse and to focus on reconciliation. According to Jewish tradition, it is at the end of this solemn period that God seals his decision about each person’s fate for the coming year. Congregations recite a prayer called the “Unetanah Tokef,” which recalls God’s power to decide “who shall live and who shall die, who shall reach the ends of his days and who shall not” – an ancient text that Leonard Cohen popularized with his song “Who by Fire.”

Forgiveness and related concepts, such as compassion, are central virtues in many religions. What’s more, research has shown that it is psychologically beneficial.

But each religious tradition has its own particular views about forgiveness, as well, including Judaism. As a psychologist of religion, I have done research on these similarities and differences when it comes to forgiveness.

Person to person

Several specific attitudes about forgiveness are reflected in the liturgy of the Jewish High Holidays, so those who go to services are likely to be aware of them – even if they skip out for a snack.

In Jewish theology, only the victim has the right to forgive an offense against another person, and an offender should repent toward the victim before forgiveness can take place. Someone who has hurt another person must sincerely apologize three times. If the victim still withholds forgiveness, the offender is considered forgiven, and the victim now shares the blame.

The 10-day period known as the “Days of Awe” – Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and the days between – is a popular time for forgiveness. Observant Jews reach out to friends and family they have wronged over the past year so that they can enter Yom Kippur services with a clean conscience and hope they have done all they can to mitigate God’s judgment.

The teaching that only a victim can forgive someone implies that God cannot forgive offenses between people until the relevant people have forgiven each other. It also means that some offenses, such as the Holocaust, can never be forgiven, because those martyred are dead and unable to forgive.

Many people dressed in black and white stand in a courtyard between ancient walls.
Thousands of Jewish pilgrims attend penitential prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem ahead of the Jewish High Holiday of Rosh Hashana. Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

To forgive or not to forgive?

In psychological research, I have found that most Jewish and Christian participants endorse the views of forgiveness espoused by their religions.

As in Judaism, most Christian teachings encourage people to ask and give forgiveness for harms done to one another. But they tend to teach that more sins should be forgiven – and can be, by God, because Jesus’ death atoned vicariously for people’s sins.

Even in Christianity, not all offenses are forgivable. The New Testament describes blaspheming against the Holy Spirit as an unforgivable sin. And Catholicism teaches that there is a category called “mortal sins,” which cut off sinners from God’s grace unless they repent.

One of my research papers, consisting of three studies, shows that a majority of Jewish participants believe that some offenses are too severe to forgive; that it doesn’t make sense to ask someone other than the victim about forgiveness; and that forgiveness is not offered unconditionally, but after the offender has tried to make things right.

Take this specific example: In one of my research studies I asked Jewish and Christian participants if they thought a Jew should forgive a dying Nazi soldier who requested forgiveness for killing Jews. This scenario is described in “The Sunflower” by Simon Wiesenthal, a writer and Holocaust survivor famous for his efforts to prosecute German war criminals.

A color photograph of an older, balding man in a blue shirt and striped tie.
Simon Wiesenthal at the White House during the Reagan administration. Diana Walker/The Chronicle Collection via Getty Images

Jewish participants often didn’t think the question made sense: How could someone else – someone living – forgive the murder of another person? The Christian participants, on the other hand, who were all Protestants, usually said to forgive. They agreed more often with statements like “Mr. Wiesenthal should have forgiven the SS soldier” and “Mr. Wiesenthal would have done the virtuous thing if he forgave the soldier.”

It’s not just about the Holocaust. We also asked about a more everyday scenario – imagining that a student plagiarized a paper that participants’ friends had written, and then asked the participants for forgiveness – and saw similar results.

Jewish people have a wide variety of opinions on these topics, though, as they do in all things. “Two Jews, three opinions!” as the old saying goes. In other studies with my co-researchers, we showed that Holocaust survivors, as well as Jewish American college students born well after the Holocaust, vary widely in how tolerant they are of German people and products. Some are perfectly fine with traveling to Germany and having German friends, and others are unwilling to even listen to Beethoven.

In these studies, the key variable that seems to distinguish Jewish people who are OK with Germans and Germany from those who are not is to what extent they associate all Germans with Nazism. Among the Holocaust survivors, for example, survivors who had been born in Germany – and would have known German people before the war – were more tolerant than those whose first, perhaps only, exposure to Germans had been in the camps.

Forgiveness is good for you – or is it?

American society – where about 7 in 10 people identify as Christian – generally views forgiveness as a positive virtue. What’s more, research has found there are emotional and physical benefits to letting go of grudges.

But does this mean forgiveness is always the answer? To me, it’s an open question.

For example, future research could explore whether forgiveness is always psychologically beneficial, or only when it aligns with the would-be forgiver’s religious views.

If you are observing Yom Kippur, remember that – as with every topic – Judaism has a wide and, well, forgiving view of what is acceptable when it comes to forgiveness.

Adam B. Cohen does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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EasyJet share price has collapsed by 53% in 2022. Is it a buy?

The EasyJet (LON: EZJ) share price has hit turbulence as concerns about demand and soaring costs remain. It dropped to a low of 293p, which was the lowest…

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The EasyJet (LON: EZJ) share price has hit turbulence as concerns about demand and soaring costs remain. It dropped to a low of 293p, which was the lowest level since November 2011. It has plummeted by more than 82% from its all-time high, giving it a market cap of more than 2.5 billion pounds.

Is EasyJet a good buy?

EasyJet is a leading regional airline that operates mostly in Europe. It has hundreds of aircraft and thousands of employees. In 2021, the firm’s revenue jumped to more than 1.49 billion pounds, which was a strong recovery from what it made in the previous year.

EasyJet’s business is doing well as demand for flights rises. In the most recent results, the firm said that forward bookings for Q3 were 76% sold and 36% sold for Q4. For some destinations, bookings have been much higher than before the pandemic.

EasyJet’s business made more than 1.75 billion in revenue in the first half of the year. This happened as passenger revenue rose to 1.15 billion while ancillary revenue jumped to 603 million pounds. The firm managed to make a loss before tax of more than 114 million pounds. It attributed that loss to higher costs and forex conversions.

As I wrote on this article on IAG, EasyJet share price has collapsed as investors worry about the soaring cost of doing business. Besides, jet fuel and wages have jumped sharply in the past few months. Also, analysts and investors are concerned about flight cancellations in its key markets.

Still, there is are two key catalysts for EasyJet. For one, as the stock collapses, it could become a viable acquisition target. In 2021, the management rejected a relatively attractive bid from Wizz Air. Another bid could happen if the stock continues tumbling.

Further, the company could do well as the aviation industry stabilizes in the coming months. A key challenge is that confidence in Europe and the UK.

EasyJet share price forecast

EasyJet share price

The daily chart shows that the EasyJet stock price has been in a strong bearish trend in the past few months. During this time, the stock has tumbled below all moving averages. It has also formed what looks like a falling wedge pattern, which is usually a bullish sign.

The Relative Strength Index (RSI) has dropped below the oversold level while the Awesome Oscillator has moved below the neutral point.

Therefore, in the near term, the stock will likely continue falling as sellers target the support at 270p. In the long-term, however, the shares will likely rebound as the falling wedge reaches its confluence level.

The post EasyJet share price has collapsed by 53% in 2022. Is it a buy? appeared first on Invezz.

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August data shows UK automotive sector heading for a “cliff-edge” in 2023

With an all-out macroeconomic storm brewing in the UK, the Bank of England (BoE) has been forced to intervene in the tumultuous gilt markets, particularly…

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With an all-out macroeconomic storm brewing in the UK, the Bank of England (BoE) has been forced to intervene in the tumultuous gilt markets, particularly towards the tail end of the yield curve (details of which were reported on Invezz here).

Car manufacturing is a key industry in the UK. Recently, it registered a turnover of roughly £67 billion, provided direct employment to 182,000 people, and a total of nearly 800,000 jobs across the entire automotive supply chain, while contributing to 10% of exports.

Just after midnight GMT, data on fresh car production for the month of August was released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited (SMMT).

Strong annual growth but monthly decline

Car production in the UK surged 34% year-over-year settling at just under 50,000 units. This marked the fourth consecutive month of positive growth on an annual basis.

However, twelve months ago, production was heavily dampened by a plethora of supply chain bottlenecks, work stoppages on account of the pandemic, and a worldwide shortage of microchips. The August 2021 output of 37,246 units was the lowest recorded August volume since way back in 1956.

Although the improvement in output is a good sign, equally it is on the back of a heavily depressed performance.

Source: SMMT

To place the latest data in its proper context, production is still 45.9% below August 2019 levels of 92,158 units, showing just how far adrift the industry is from the pre-pandemic period.

Since July, production in the sector fell 14%.

The fact that the UK is facing a deep economic malaise becomes even more evident when we look at full-year numbers for 2020 and 2021.

In 2020, total output came in at 920,928 units, while 2021 was even lower at 859,575. The last time that the UK automotive sector produced less than one million cars in a calendar year was 1986.  

Unfortunately, 2022 has seen only 511,106 units produced thus far, a 13.3% decline compared to January to August 2021.

In contrast, the 5-year pre-pandemic average for January to August output from 2014 – 2019 stands well above this mark at 1,030,527 units.

With car manufacturers tending to pass price rises on to consumers, demand was dampened by surging costs of semiconductors, logistics and raw materials.

The SMMT noted,

The sector is now on course to produce fewer than a million cars for the third consecutive year.

Ian Henry, managing director of AutoAnalysis concurred with the SMMT’s analysis,

It is expected that by the end of this year car production will reach 825,000, compared to 850,000 a year ago, but that’s 35% down on 2019 and a whopping 50% on the high figure of 2017.

Sector challenges

Other than the obvious fact that the UK’s economic atmosphere is in hot water, the automotive industry (including component manufacturers) has been struggling to stave off the high energy costs of doing business.

In a survey, 69% of respondents flagged energy costs as a key concern. Estimates suggest that the sector’s collective energy expenditure has gone up by 33% in the last 12 months reaching over £300 million, forcing several operations to become unviable.

Although the government enacted measures to cap the price of energy and ease obstacles to additional production, Mike Hawes, the CEO of SMMT, said,

This is a short-term fix, however, and to avoid a cliff-edge in six months’ time, it must be backed by a full package of measures that will sustain the sector.

Due to the meteoric rise in costs across the automotive supply chain, 13% of respondents were cutting shifts, 9% chose to downsize their workforce and 41% postponed further investments.

Bleak outlook

Uncertainties around Brexit and the EU trade deal are yet to be resolved.

Moreover, the energy crisis is poised to get even more acute unless Russia withdraws from the conflict, or international leaders ease restrictions on Moscow. Last week, I discussed the evolving energy crisis here

With global central banks expected to tighten till at least the end of the year, demand is likely to be squeezed further pressurizing British car manufacturers.

Electric vehicles made up 71% of car exports from the UK in August, but robust growth in the sector looks challenging in the near term, in the absence of widespread charging infrastructure, high electricity prices and globally low consumer confidence.

Although energy subsidies could provide some relief in the immediate future, the industry will remain in dire straits while investments stay low and the shortage in human capital persists, particularly amid the push for EVs.

Given the prevailing macroeconomic environment, and severe market backlash to Truss’s mini-budget (which I discussed in an earlier article), the sector is unlikely to turn the corner any time soon.

The post August data shows UK automotive sector heading for a “cliff-edge” in 2023 appeared first on Invezz.

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