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Stock Investors Should Brace for the Fedís October Tightening Gambit


 -- Published: Friday, 29 September 2017 | Print  | Disqus 

By Stefan Gleason

Septemberís Federal Reserve meeting left interest rates unchanged but sounded a hawkish tone. The Fed seems intent on hiking interest rates again come December.

Following Fed chair Janet Yellenís remarks this Tuesday, interest rate futures markets bumped up the odds of a year-end rate hike to 81%.

The more immediate Ė and perhaps more important Ė policy move pending from the central bank is its plan to gradually reverse its Quantitative Easing bond buying program starting in October.

Yellen calls it ďbalance sheet normalization.Ē She is right in acknowledging that thereís nothing normal about the $4.5 trillion balance sheet the nationís currency custodian has built up following the financial crisis of 2008.

Whether the Fedís bond portfolio ever will get ďnormalizedĒ to pre-crisis levels will depend on how markets react to the Fedís attempt at Quantitative Tightening beginning next month.

The Fed technically wonít sell bond holdings into the market. Instead it will let bonds mature without rolling them over. The effect on the market will be as if a regular, reliable, very big customer stopped buying.

Initially, the Fed will allow $10 billion in Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities to mature off its balance sheet per month. Over the next year, the pace of ďnormalizationĒ will accelerate. It is slated to eventually reach $50 billion per month.

Quantitative Tightening, if it goes through as planned, will withdraw hundreds of billions of dollarsí worth of liquidity from the financial system. Fed chair Yellen thinks the impact on long-term interest rates will be minor.

She has to know that the risks to the equity markets are huge. After all, her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, touted the bond buying program as an effective way to boost the stock market. Since 2009, the stock market has followed in roughly the same direction as the Fedís balance sheet.

The latest run-up in stocks since the 2016 election has been different in character. The Fedís balance sheet hasnít expanded during this period. Instead, optimism toward the prospects of stimulus in the form of tax cuts has helped lift equity valuations.

Monetary Tightening and Another Failure on Capitol Hill Could CRUSH the Stock Market

This fall, investors could get hit with political disappointment on the tax front (if recent legislative let downs are any indication) coupled with monetary tightening. We may soon find out how much the stock market can take... until it finally breaks.

Stock Market

As for precious metals markets, they are less sensitive to changes in interest rates than bonds or equities. Conventional wisdom is that quantitative tightening and higher rates will be bad for gold and silver. That conventional wisdom seems to be confirmed by the pullback in metals since the Fedís September meeting.

A pullback, however, does not make for a trend!

Gold and silver prices are still up since Janet Yellen first raised rates back in December 2015. In fact, that rate hike coincided with a major cyclical bottom in the precious metals.

Itís worth recalling what happened back when the third round of Quantitative Easing (ďQE3Ē) was announced in September 2012. At the time, many analysts assumed that QE3 would provide an immediate boost to gold and silver prices. Instead, the metals markets responded counterintuitively. They declined for several months following the Fedís announcement.

The lesson is that precious metals markets donít move in direct sympathy with Fed easing or tightening. Nor are they necessarily hurt by rising long-term interest rates, as is the conventional wisdom (at least among precious metals naysayers and ignoramuses).

Gold and Silver Have Almost No Correlation to Nominal Interest Rates

Metals show virtually no correlation to nominal interest rates. What matters is real interest rates Ė which is to say, interest rates relative to the inflation rate.

Interest Rates

There is also the safe-haven factor. Demand for physical precious metals has been soft since the ďTrump rallyĒ began. As the stock market hits record after record and the bond market chugs along, conventional investors see no need to seek the safety of sound money.

Of course, itís inevitably the case that the masses will be extremely bullish at market highs (and extremely gun shy at market lows).

Itís been a long time since any real fear has entered the conventional markets.

Nobody on Wall Street seems terribly concerned about the Fedís plans to tighten in the fourth quarter. But the bond market is starting to reflect some preemptive selling.

October and November are known for their potential to get volatile. A jump in volatility would mean downside for stocks. Precious metals markets could go either way. Given the risks to conventional financial assets posed by the Fed, owning gold and silver is a smart way for investors to hedge themselves.

Stefan Gleason is President of Money Metals Exchange, the national precious metals company named 2015 "Dealer of the Year" in the United States by an independent global ratings group. A graduate of the University of Florida, Gleason is a seasoned business leader, investor, political strategist, and grassroots activist. Gleason has frequently appeared on national television networks such as CNN, FoxNews, and CNBC, and his writings have appeared in hundreds of publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Detroit News, Washington Times, and National Review.

 


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 -- Published: Friday, 29 September 2017 | E-Mail  | Print  | Source: GoldSeek.com

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