And don't think that the slight increase in housing starts is a good signal. The positive reading occurred because of an increase in the start of apartment construction. Why is this bad news? Because the biggest demographic trend in housing right now is a big shift from home ownership to apartment renting. That just means that more homes are likely coming on the market from homeowners who want to bail and rent.
In terms of what could be a big QE3 (of some sort) signal, I started thinking about systemic liquidity after observing the most recent developments in Europe. We know that the Fed has been liquifying the European banking system with $100's of billions in currency swaps, largely with French banks. Based on various metrics which you can access from posts yesterday at http://www.zerohedge.com/, it would appear that there's a massive liquidity crisis that's developed in Europe. Please note, that this is not primarily because of Greece. Greece may be that proverbial "straw/camel's back" event, but it's small compared to the big picture there and here.
Anyway, I started thinking about short term rates in the U.S. and recalled that back in the late spring/early summer of 2008, the rate on 1 month Treasuries in the U.S. went negative. What this means is that big money would rather pay to park cash in very short term Treasuries rather than get paid to leave big chunks of cash in the banking system. The idea here is that because the U.S. can just print money at will, there's less risk of losing large sums of money in short-term Treasuries than there is in funds left at banks in excess of the $250k FDIC/Taxpayer guarantee (of course, money would have to be printed to honor that as well but the amount is capped). So big money would rather be guaranteed of getting back slightly less than invested over a 30-day period (negative interest rate) than risk 30 days in the banking system. That is one of the purest signals of a massive banking system liquidity crisis.
To cut to the chase, take a look at this 1-month Treasury interest rate chart, which I put together today - it goes back June 2008:
You see where the interest rate is at the upper range is when the liquidity crisis developed and the rates trended toward zero (the flight to safety). Then QE was rolled out and the rate snapped back to the .2% area. Right now we are in the flight to safety/liquidity fear range. Is QE of some sort next?
It is even more interesting to me, based on everything I read and observe/trade in the markets, specifically the big drain of physical metal from the Comex and recently, of silver from SLV, that it would appear that very smart money is starting to rush into physical gold and silver. I have always thought that the next systemic puke would entail a big rush into the physical gold/silver. We may just be seeing the beginnings of that.
And let me end with this quote from the First Deputy of the Russian Central Bank:
When it comes to hedging against risks, however, gold is one of the safest bets, Ulukayev said, reflecting a view increasingly shared by other central banks seeking an alternative to currencies and protection from the debt crisis in Europe. "Increasing monetary gold in our reserves is an important element," Ulyukayev said.Here's the LINK