About a year ago at this time, we were all waiting for what would turn out to be the first interest rate increase by the FOMC in nearly 9 years.
Once that increase finally arrived at the end of 2015, we were all preparing for what we were led to believe would be a series of small such increases throughout the course of 2016.
The problem, however, that stood in the way of those increases becoming reality was the FOMC’s insistence that their decisions would be data dependent. As we all know, the data to justify an increase in interest rates just hasn’t been there ever since that first increase.
The cynics, with the advantage of hindsight, might suggest that the data wasn’t even there a year ago, but that didn’t stop the FOMC from their action, which in short order took the market to its 2016 lows.
Back when those lows were hit in February, many credit Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase (JPM) for abruptly ending the correction by making a $26 million purchase of his own company’s shares. That wasn’t a terribly large amount of money, but it probably wasn’t a coincidence that the market turned on a dime.
Jim Carrey made, what was by most accounts, a truly putrid move entitled “The Number 23.”
At its heart was the “23 enigma,” which is the belief that most of life’s events and incidents are somehow related to the number 23.
For example, you liked how that new sweater fit on you? The number 23.
Need more proof? The burning of Joan of Arc? The number 23.
While those may be disputable to non-believers, this was certainly the week validating the 17 enigma.
Interestingly, the great director Alfred Hitchcock made a movie entitled “The Number 17,” which is regarded among his worst and is rarely ever screened.
This past week, however, the number 17 may have been the key to five days of indecisive trading that saw triple digit moves each day, only to see the S&P 500 end the week with a 0.2% movement.
What the past week gave us were 17 separate occasions during the week when members of the Federal Reserve gave scheduled presentations.
17 is a prime number.
The prime rate is based on the federal funds rate, which is set by the FOMC and their actions or inactions have been ruling markets for months.
Do you really need any more proof than that?
If you do not, that turns out to be very fortunate, but there’s not too much doubt that it has become a free for all in terms of getting one’s interest rate opinion out in front of as many people as possible.
The Talking Heads were really something.
I saw them and The Ramones in Cambridge.
Not at a concert, but at an album signing.
I picked up an album just to be able to get a close look at the members of both bands, mostly because one of the Ramones had a safety pin through his cheek and I thought that was pretty weirdly cool.
Then I promptly put the signed albums back into the rack.
Maybe it’s strange that so many years later one of the Ramones, maybe the one with the safety pin, would sing an homage to American capitalism and maybe a bit of an homage to one of its media symbols, “The Money Honey.”
But that was all almost 40 years ago and I never dreamed that those two groups would have been so influential. I never would have returned the signed albums back to the rack had I any clue that they would have been worth something some day.
In time, I came to especially like the Talking Heads, but never got as close as I did that one afternoon, instead having to settle on repeatedly melting the cassette tapes holding their songs.
“Burning Down the House,” “Once in a Lifetime” and so many more.
This coming week, right on the heels of the FOMC’s most recent statement release that kept investors in a celebratory mood, is going to be something of a Talking Feds festival.
Everyone has been there at one time or another in their lives.
Maybe several times a day.
There is rarely a shortage of things and events that don’t serve or conspire to make us crazy.
Recurring threats of a government shutdown; the 2016 Presidential campaign; the incompetence in the executive suites of Twitter (TWTR) and pumpkin flavored everything, for example.
I add the FOMC to that list.
Although his annual Twitter campaign against pumpkin flavored everything has yet to start this year, there is scant evidence that Marek Fuchs, a wonderful MarketWatch columnist, has actually gone crazy.
The alternating messages that have come from those members, who at one time, not too long ago, were barely seen, much less heard, have unsettled traders as the clock is ticking away toward this coming week’s FOMC Statement release.
Couple their deeply seated. but questionably held opinions regarding the timing of an interest rate increase, with the continuing assertion that the FOMC will be “data dependent,” and a stream of conflicting data and if you are prone to be driven crazy, you will be driven crazy.
Or, at the very least, prone to run on sentences.