Weekly Update – September 4, 2012
Markets stayed fairly flat last week ahead of Friday’s highly anticipated speech by Ben Bernanke but stumbled on news that the Fed wasn’t going to immediately roll out another round of quantitative easing. The S&P fell 0.32%, the Dow lost 0.51% and the Nasdaq lost 0.09% for the week.[i]
Bernanke spoke during the Jackson Hole Economic Symposium, an annual meeting of elite economists and central bankers. His speech highlighted that the stagnant job market was of “grave concern” to central bankers and emphasized that the Fed remains ready to take action should economic conditions worsen. Although his language reiterated the Fed’s commitment to further quantitative easing, he stopped short of announcing the timing or structure of any further action. Many analysts don’t believe the Fed will make any major moves before November, preferring to remain apolitical during the hotly contested election. However, if next week’s jobs report disappoints, there is a chance that the FOMC could vote at its mid-September meeting to buy more Treasury bonds or government mortgage-backed securities to lower long-term interest rates and ignite economic activity.[ii]
Many analysts suspect the next round of quantitative easing (QE3) will arrive as a coordinated blitz between the Fed, European Central Bank, and other central banks around the world who hope to sort out the economic doldrums in one fell swoop. There’s been a lot of talk by central bankers at the Fed, ECB, People’s Bank of China, and the Bank of England about the need for further easing, and it makes sense for bankers to coordinate their actions to get the biggest bang for their buck. This wouldn’t be the first time central banks have worked together; the PCOB, ECB, and BOE lowered rates in tandem as recently as July 2012.[iii]
With a crucial ECB meeting this week and a ruling on the legality of Europe’s permanent rescue fund later this month, September is crunch time for the Eurozone. In order to satisfy markets, the ECB will have to announce very detailed and very aggressive plans to buy up Spanish debt. At this point, anything less would be a tacit affirmation that the Eurozone crisis is beyond central banker control.
Though September is notoriously the worst month of the year for stocks, a combination of important economic meetings and the remaining bullish exuberance of investors could mean this month won’t fit the mold. [iv] Despite the mild retreat last week, markets are still hovering close to highs not seen since 2007/2008, when markets reached their peak. Only time will tell what is ahead as traders assimilate additional economic reports and the Fed finally shows its hand.
Monday: Markets closed for Labor Day holiday
Tuesday: Motor Vehicle Sales, ISM Mfg. Index, Construction Spending
Wednesday: Productivity and Costs
Thursday: ADP Employment Report, Jobless Claims, ISM Non-Mfg. Index, EIA Petroleum Status Report
Friday: Employment Situation