Fed down,. BOJ to go

Macro Man saw the Fed statement as generally quite neutral.  To be sure, the elimination of "global risks" language and the emphasis on labor market improvement in the context of a slowing economy were both illustrative of a more upbeat Fed.   On the other hand, the statement still appeared to be relatively downbeat on inflation and highlighted ongoing weakness in breakevens despite the recent recovery.  In fairness, 5y5y breakevens remain lower on the year, though it seems evident that the FOMC isn't a big believer in technical analysis:


As Macro Man suspected, they once again left the balance of risks language on the shelf.  This would appear to be a wise choice, as it grants the committee maximum flexibility to interpret future events without the shackles of prior guidance to shade their viewpoint.  To use a musical analogy, the Fed thought that they were playing "I Walk the Line" between hawk and dove; the bond market, on the other hand, only heard "Pour Some Sugar on Me".  

Why is that?  Well, in refusing to provide more explicit guidance, the Fed has essentially delegated the policy decision to the market.  After all, as Macro Man discussed last month, the Fed has never, in the last two decades-plus, hiked rates with the market pricing less than a 50% chance of a tightening.  Asking bond market investors to unilaterally vote for tightening is akin to asking turkeys to vote for Christmas: it just ain't happening.    And so we're left with candlestick formations on a range of US fixed income charts that look suspiciously like interim bottoms.


The Fed, of course, was just the hors d'ouevres to tonight's BOJ announcement.   Although market commentators are generally supposed to have forthright views (preferably expressed with 100% confidence intervals), Macro Man cannot shake the notion that it is very difficult to have an edge in gaming this announcement.   Not only is it ostensibly uncertain whether the BOJ will actually do anything (though after recent rhetoric, it strikes Macro Man as very likely that they do), but the nature of any policy shift (more negative rates? negative loan rates for banks?   more QE via ETF buying?) and the market reaction are also dubious.

The degree of uncertainty is clearly reflected in option market pricing; the current overnight vol level prices the straddle at roughly 1.5%, implying hold to maturity breakevens of 110 and 113 by 10 am NY time on Thursday.  For part of Wednesday, that overnight vol price captured the Fed meeting as well, but as you can see the price barely budged after the FOMC statement was released.


That Macro Man kind of thinks that that vol might be a small sale despite the uncertainty over the BOJ outcome and reaction says quite a bit about how tangled the set up is.  A couple of things do seem reasonably clear, though.  The market is pricing at least some chance of a rate move; yen LIBOR, which usually moves with a degree of alacrity that makes a sloth look like Usain Bolt, has fallen nearly 4 bps over the last few weeks as the BOJ has ramped up the rhetoric.


Meanwhile, after previous BOJ policy moves (April 2013, October 2014, and this January), the Nikkei and USD/JPY have always been higher at least two days following the announcement than  they were the day before the announcement.  This would suggest buying USD/JPY and/or Nikkei near current levels (111.50) as a very short term punt.


Whether the BOJ can engineer a more permanent shift in market trends is up for debate.   Macro Man is somewhat skeptical- they are running out of securities to buy and NIRP has yet to demonstrate that it is much beyond a headwind for banks.  Obviously, helicopter money could be a game-changer, but Kuroda pooh-poohed the idea recently.   Then again, he derided the prospect of negative rates a week or so before cutting in January, so anything is possible.   Hmmm.....
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April 28, 2016 at 4:17 AM ×

Boom.... right back to where USDJPY was a week ago. 2.5¥ moves used to be pretty rough for global equities, let's see how this one plays out in commodities as well. We tend to think of commodities as a dollar funded trade, but obviously it can be yen funded as well.

LB wonders whether we will see both USD and JPY stronger now in global FX markets. Short AUDUSD against either one? How do emerging markets react to this somewhat disorderly move?

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johno
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April 28, 2016 at 5:15 AM ×

MM -- You make a good case for why "balanced risks" has to feature in a Fed decision before they can hike, but I wonder whether they could jawbone the market implied odds up to 50% between now and the June meeting with speeches. I guess the only member with the credibility to move implied odds there from 21% currently is Yellen. Sure wouldn't be anything Fischer says!

Japanese stocks rallying off lows keeping me from chasing USDJPY lower as I write ...

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Celeriac1972
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April 28, 2016 at 6:35 AM ×

Boom indeed. Or maybe the opposite - is that mooB...?

Spikey price action for all.

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Polemic
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April 28, 2016 at 8:59 AM ×

Well so much for my BoJ 'they'll nuke it' type action. Wrong hymn sheet.

When usdjpy was down at these levels a couple of weeks ago it was all verbal intervention. That's been undermined re credence having been seen to be so 'steady as shd goes' in rates.

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CV
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April 28, 2016 at 9:17 AM ×

Boom indeed ... not exactly feeling smart having bought some IJPH yesterday in anticipation of confetti from Kuroda. All I got was a summoning to the proctologist. ... plus ca change I guess.

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Anonymous
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April 28, 2016 at 9:35 AM ×

If property is location, location, location then Equity is earnings, earnings, earnings. If you let yourself get distracted from that to Central bank tealeaf reading then frankly you probably deserve what you are going to get.

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Anonymous
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April 28, 2016 at 10:15 AM ×

There is the remote possibility that BOJ have figured out that -ve rates are deflationary, and QE doesn't inflate.
Not the crashing sound of thunder, but the blinding flash of light of a Damascene conversion?

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CV
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April 28, 2016 at 10:34 AM ×

"There is the remote possibility that BOJ have figured out that -ve rates are deflationary, and QE doesn't inflate.
Not the crashing sound of thunder, but the blinding flash of light of a Damascene conversion?"

Yes, that is certainly possible. But I doubt it to be honest. I think BOJ = Draghi (t+2) ... and that the BOJ will be back soon. I do concede, though, that signs of a "failing" BOJ is critical. Japan is the oldest economy in the world, facing the most severe drag from structurally weak aggregate demand and deflation. If they kick back, the belief in monetary policy will be shattered, and well, we all know what happens next then. Abe won't be amused by this, though, ... Kuroda is a puppet for the government in the end. Fiscal dominance is entrenched in Japan I think; I really don't see how they can turn back from that.

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Anonymous
admin
April 28, 2016 at 11:45 AM ×

Anon 9:35 AM - What nonsense. It's ONLY about central bank policy - which is why the Nikkei fell 1000 points. Earnings are all manipulated anyway via share buybacks, accounting changes, cost cutting, off-balance sheet nonsense and a thousand other stupid things.

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checkmate
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April 28, 2016 at 3:11 PM ×

Anon 9.35,
Sorry son that just isn't the case. It's about central banks ONBLY for short term punters and as the saying goes ...you cvan't stand the bank heat try another line another of work.

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Polemic
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April 29, 2016 at 8:23 AM ×

Well so much for my BoJ 'they'll nuke it' type action. Wrong hymn sheet.

When usdjpy was down at these levels a couple of weeks ago it was all verbal intervention. That's been undermined re credence having been seen to be so 'steady as shd goes' in rates.

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