The crappiest of ideas

That´s the ‘dot plot’, conceived by the “Transparency Committee” headed by Janet Yellen while a Governor at the Board.

Interestingly it came ‘on line’ for the first time in January 2012 at the same time inflation hit the target. Since then inflation has mostly trended down. It has done so even while oil prices remained high. Naturally, when oil prices tumbled in mid-2014, headline inflation followed suit.

Dot Plot_1

However, by the time the first dot plot was released in January 2012, the Fed was no longer expecting to chart an exit from stimulus soon. The economy had taken a turn for the worse; in fact, additional bond-buying was on the horizon.

Then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke consequently downplayed the dots, a tradition that Janet Yellen continued when she assumed leadership of the Fed at the beginning of last year. At times, the chart—with its 17 disparate projections of the future path of policy—can conflict with the unified message the committee is trying to send.

In her first press conference as Fed chair in March 2014, Yellen told reporters “one should not look to the dot plot, so to speak, as the primary way in which the committee wants to or is speaking about policies to the public at large.”

Over the last several quarters, however, the dots have come back down, suiting Yellen’s message that the pace of tightening to follow what would be the Fed’s first rate increase in nearly a decade will be gradual.

So Yellen has turned back to the dots as “Exhibit A” for investors. During her press conference in June of this year, she pointed to it repeatedly when asked about the central bank’s likely course.

Other signs of utter confusion

Dudley in August:

“From my perspective, at this moment, the decision to begin the normalization process at the September FOMC meeting seems less compelling to me than it was a few weeks ago,” Dudley told a news conference Wednesday at the New York Fed.

I really do hope that we can raise interest rates this year, because that would be a sign that the U.S. economic outlook is good and that we’re actually on track to achieve our dual mandate objective,” Dudley said.

Dudley today:

Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William C. Dudley said the central bank will “probably” raise interest rates later this year despite uncertainties over global growth.

Unemployment in the U.S. has fallen to its lowest level in more than seven years, making it harder for the Fed to justify interest rates near zero. Inflation, however, has remained well below the Fed’s target. It was 0.3 percent in the 12 months through August, as measured by the Fed’s preferred gauge of price movements.

Dudley said inflation probably would move back toward the target over time, and that 2 percent was “the right target.”

With the biggest confusion being the view that monetary policy has been accommodative:

“We’ve had so many years of accommodative policy, I think the market is losing faith in the Fed,” said Priya Misra, the head of global interest-rate strategy in New York at TD Securities, one of the 22 primary dealers that trade with the central bank. “You’re not really seeing the impact of policy end up in inflation.”

Which completely misses the logic that “you’re not really seeing the impact of policy end up in inflation” exactly because monetary policy has been anything BUT accommodative!

Looking back, during the Greenspan years monetary policy worked fine. Greenspan was the “anti-transparency”:

 “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”.

Nowadays we feel like it´s more like a take on George Santayana´s:

Having lost sight of our objectives, we redoubled our efforts.”

Forget interest rates as providing the stance of monetary policy, and look instead at NGDP growth and inflation (remembering that the rising dollar and falling commodity and oil prices are consequences or symptoms of monetary tightening).

New “con game” in town: Naming dots!

Here’s How Quickly Yellen Wants to Raise Interest Rates, According to a Former Fed Policy Maker:

In what’s become known as the “dot plot,” Fed officials earlier this month showed the public their best estimates for where the central bank’s policy rate will be over the next few years. It’s valuable information for investors who are desperate to know how quickly borrowing costs will rise in the U.S. What makes things tricky is that these dots are anonymous, and no one’s views matter more than the chair’s.

Enter Meyer, who was a Fed governor from  1996 to 2002 and is now senior managing director at Macroeconomic Advisers. He’s taken a stab at guessing which dots belong to whom (scroll down for the chart). He estimates that Yellen in June foresaw a single rate hike this year. That would make her dot one of five at 0.375 percent, which is below the median of her fellow Federal Open Market Committee participants.

Meyer also expects her to change her view by September, by which point he expects to see an economy on stabler footing.

Con Game

In Does the Fed finally realize forward guidance is folly? Caroline Baum thinks this is a waste of time:

In the last two weeks, three Federal Reserve officials have said or implied that the first rate increase could take place in September. The reaction? The September federal funds futures FFU5, +0.01%   set a new contract high of 99.83, an implied yield of 0.17%.

Just imagine what Fed officials must be thinking…

Fed Chairman Janet Yellen: “What part of September don’t they understand? In the old days, the Fed said almost nothing, or leaked it to The Wall Street Journal. Fed watchers had to deduce our stance from open-market operations. Yet traders were quick to tell their underlings: Don’t fight the Fed. Now we basically tell everyone what we are going to do and when, and the response is: So what?”

Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer: “Perhaps it’s because we keep moving the goal posts. Sometimes we use a date for guidance. Other times it’s a threshold. Once our thresholds are breached, we have to hide behind a mish-mash of indefinite words, such as “considerable time” or “patient.” What exactly does that mean?”

Yellen: I think it’s very clear what we mean.

Fischer: Yes, it’s clear that we don’t know when we are going to raise rates, by how much and at what intervals. That’s what is clear. How could we be expected to know that given the nature of a rapidly changing global economy? As I said before I joined the Fed, and refrained from public comments to that effect since: ‘You can’t expect the Fed to spell out what it’s going to do. Why? Because it doesn’t know.’”

And concludes:

If policy makers want to understand why markets are ignoring the likelihood of an imminent increase in interest rates, look to the ever-changing nature of the guidance. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and realize that some things are best left unsaid.