Up until just a few years ago, I got all the “news” I needed from David Letterman.  Dave of course had a background as a serious news journalist, and brought enough current affairs into his opening monologue that I felt able to stay in touch with what was happening in the world without needing the likes of Dan Rather in my living room.  Nothing against Dan Rather of course, but the delivery method is just a little too dry for my taste.  Plus it was on the late show that I heard about Simon and Garfunkel getting back together for a reunion tour.  Their performance that night in 2003 was one of the most euphoric moments I have experienced being glued to a television.  Perhaps that says too much about where I lie on the “this is important/this is not important” spectrum.  But for me, that moment was as eventful as the biblical presage of the lamb and lion lying down together and enjoying a charger brimmed with alfalfa.  It could be that Art Garfunkel’s hairdo has always appeared sheep-like.  Yet again, I digress.

Things have changed, and today I watch the news to see what is going to happen to the financial markets as a result of votes cast at a session of Congress.  On the docket today is the possibility of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  There are 535 different agendas at play of course, but the major squabble here is some members want the federal government quit funding the ACA so that the savings allow for a tax cut.  This bold move is being acclaimed as neutral for the government’s checkbook, which is a step in the right direction with regards to the state of our current deficit.  Albeit neutral for the government, the effect that interests me for the purpose of this publication is what happens to interest rates.  Businesses paying less in payroll/benefit expenses and taxed profits would have a marked impact on corporate America’s bottom line.  As a result of higher retained earnings, stocks would soar even higher, most likely at the expense of bonds.  What that means for you and me is higher interest rates, coming slowly and surely.  “Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest, ooh la la la la la la la” –Simon and Garfunkel “The Boxer”.    

Janet the Hawk

Looking more like an inflation hawk than her usually dove-ish self, Fed Chair Janet Yellen testified on Capitol Hill this morning.  Here are three main points out to that speech:

1. Gradual interest rate increases will be contingent on how soon interest rate increases begin. The longer the wait to raise, the less gradual subsequent increases may be.

2.  In regards to the current ability to originate new mortgage loans: “Dodd Frank standards have kept us from slack lending standards, but have had some unintended consequences” .

3. With regards to Puerto Rico, it is appropriate for Congress, but not the Fed, to step in as a creditor.

After a drop at the outset on the heels of a hot PPI (up 0.4%), pricing on mortgages is up 32bps from the opening bell.  This seems to be coming not from Ms. Yellen’s comments, but from outspoken economists rebuttals