Tale of the Taper: Bernanke's Official Line Key to Market

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke
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Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke

The market chatter over the weekend was all about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. More specifically, sentiment centers around one question: will Bernanke try to calm the markets by pushing a more dovish position on bond-buying?

Why? Most feel that Bernanke is likely pleased with the 60 basis point or so rise in 10-year interest rates in the last six weeks: just enough to take some air out of Treasury price deflation, not enough to have everyone scream that the economy is slowing, or that 4 percent mortgage rates will crush the housing recovery.

However, this is a delicate moment: Bernanke may be pleased that certain bubbles have deflated and rates have risen modestly, but this could easily get away from him. The Fed is even more allergic to volatility and anxiety: most traders think Bernanke will reiterate any tapering of bond purchases will be data dependent, but in a way that is a bit more forceful.

As for the effect on trading, remember that there is good evidence that hedge funds are again underperforming. If Bernanke handles his Q and A adroitly...with only 7 trading days left in the quarter, watch out.


1) Global markets up right from the outset: Japan opened at its lows and rallied immediately (there was talk the Bank of Japan may increase its purchase of REITs), ending at the highs for the day; Germany opened up and immediately rallied. S&P futures traded up overnight and rallied more as Europe opened. Global debt is rallying.

2) Another 4 percent correction...is that it? The S&P is off only 2.5 percent from its May 21 peak. At its worst, it was about 4 percent off.

Some are already saying this is it. It's a bold call ahead of the Fed meeting, but S&P Capital IQ, in a note to clients this morning said "this decline may already have run its course and will therefore end up as noise (a decline of up to 5 percent) or possibly conclude as a pullback (decline between 5 – 9.9 percent), but probably not anything deeper."

The good news is that the weakest hands have certainly been shaken out. The bear trend in bonds is likely to continue, but the pace may slow down, depending on what Bernanke says.

Tapering, in theory, should mean higher yields, a steeper yield curve — all of which would be good news for banks in particular, but any move out of bonds should also help stocks in general.

One thing's for sure: the rest of the world has had a much tougher, time, with Japan down about 20 percent from its highs, the UK down about 10 percent, and emerging markets (EEM) down 11 percent. Individual emerging markets have had an even tougher time, with the Philippines down about 16 percent.

3) Reuters, citing sources, says EU to approve ICE's $8.2 billion buy of the New York Stock Exchange without conditions. EU is scheduled to make a ruling on June 24. This would remove the last piece of "suspense" over the merger, since for the most part U.S. regulators have already given their approval.

By CNBC's Bob Pisani

  • Bob Pisani

    A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.