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Wednesday February 8, 2006 - 18:40:30 GMT
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Greenspan Has Not Left The Building

It is no mystery by now that Fed Chairman, oh I mean ex-Chairman, is out making a buck (hearing $150,000 an appearance) speaking to Wall Street's
finest. He has had more than one discussion - three that I am aware of - just days after leaving the Fed Board.

Is this unseemly? Not on premia fascia alone. He has every right to charge for his advice and recall that he has spent most of the last 20 years underemployed, in terms of compensation, working as a public servant.

What makes some red in the face is that he can speak about Fed policy and the economy just days after leaving the Fed when his insights are most relevant and freshest and impact markets. Look at eurodollar futures today if you have any doubt. His message appears to have been there is more work to be done with Fed funds (to check inflation). Its great if you were among the lucky few to attend as the rest of the b-list money managers are only now just hearing about the meeting.

So a few morsels tossed to the great whites of the financial market deep blue have impacted the rate structure. Gee that sounds an awful lot like the same old risk management approach the Maestro is known for. Tweak expectations to move asset prices in line with Fed (Greenspan) thinking...open mouth policy. Only problem here is he is not speaking to one or two journalists tight with the Fed Board to disseminate his views. He is talking to the heaviest hitters around and ones that can move markets. Greenspan knows the game. To charge top premium for his appearances he needs to disseminate actionable insights. And less than a week after leaving the Fed I would say insights resemble more objective truths than subjective opinions. The views of the Chairman are most actionable right now and will become less actionable as time progresses. He knows this, the Street knows this, and so do the rest of the investment community unlucky enough to hear about it hours after the fact yet know this.

The Fed Board has already issued a statement clearing Greenspan or any Fed Board resignee to speak freely to whomever and wherever he or she likes. The only caveat is that he must not divulge sensitive information. I am not sure this is very well defined. I believe it only means not speaking about details of actual FOMC votes, or disclosing exclusive forecasting models the Fed uses. By the looks of short end of the curve today it would appear that the Chairman is free to say where he "thinks" Fed funds are going.

Ironically, the NY Fed has disclosure rules for former employees. They are not allowed to speak to anyone about anything at the Fed for a month...and that covers every level of professional employment.

What I find unseemly is that Greenspan can't give up open mouth policy and a very direct control over the US interest rate structure. And he must be aware that he undermines his successor rather directly. Bernanke will inherit a yield curve that Greenspan helped shape through Jan31's FOMC meeting, and after the Jan31 FOMC meeting. Who is kidding whom? Bernanke does not need Greenspan cluing in the largest hedge fund managers to where he (Greenspan) thinks he (Bernanke) will take the funds rate. And to charge for it as well.

The only issue of unseemliness for Greenspan is how much to charge. Too much would be unseemly. But take it from me Al, $150,000 is far from unseemly on pricing of former Fed info (pretty exclusive info)...try adding another two zeros for starters.

Greenspan will surely have all the face time he asks for with Fed Board members. But I am going to bet that Ben Bernanke will not be among the sycophants eager to see a rather pathetic Maestro who won't leave the stage. Bernanke does not need Greenspan impacting asset prices and market rates with insightful, paid in full, views. Greenspan has not left the building.

David Gilmore
FXA
www.fxa.com

 

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