Hoisington Investment Management - Quarterly Review and Outlook, Second Quarter 2013

John Mauldin

Jul 23, 2013



Lacy Hunt and Van Hoisington kick off their second-quarter Review and Outlook with a contrarian view: "The secular low in bond yields has yet to be recorded." And as usual, they have their reasons; but unlike most of the blabbermouth economic talking heads out there, they aren't interested in endlessly parsing the fitful utterances of Ben Bernanke and friends. Rather, they zero in on the fundamental reasons why long-term Treasury yields have probably not hit their low. Those reasons fall, they say, into four categories: (a) diminished inflation pressures, (b) slowing GDP growth, (c) weakening consumer fundamentals, and (d) anti-growth monetary and fiscal policies.

Then Lacy and Van take us deep into the whys and wherefores of their thesis. Their reasoning and the evidence behind it make for compelling reading – but you may want to read twice.

Hoisington Investment Management Company (www.Hoisingtonmgt.com) is a registered investment advisor specializing in fixed-income portfolios for large institutional clients. Located in Austin, Texas, the firm has over $5 billion under management and is the sub-adviser of the Wasatch-Hoisington US Treasury Fund (WHOSX).

I write this note from Newport, Rhode Island. There is a reason that the rich and powerful built their summer mansions here a century ago. It is disarmingly beautiful. The weather gods have arranged a perfect day and evening, the waters are calm, and the sailboats are out in force.

All is right with the world. The Defense Department Office of Net Assessment futures planning group I am with uses the facilities of the Naval War College here. We enjoy a charming hotel on Goat Island, surrounded by boats and tourists, in the evenings and experience the rather drastic contrast of a military facility beset by the rigors of sequestration during the day. Air conditioning is one of the casualties of Congressional inaction, it seems.

I am enjoyably assaulted by new ideas and issues each day, and often find myself very far afield from my usual intellectual haunts. We are tasked with developing outside the box future scenarios. Economics is just a small part. It is good to stretch the mind.

Have a great week, and read what Lacy writes carefully. Everybody is rushing to the other side of the bond boat, trying to catch a stiff breeze that could just turn on the sailors. Be careful out there.

Your feeling woefully but happily inadequate analyst,

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box



Hoisington Investment Management – Quarterly Review and Outlook, Second Quarter 2013

By Lacy Hunt, PhD, and Van Hoisington


Lower Long Term Rates


The secular low in bond yields has yet to be recorded. This assessment for a continuing pattern of lower yields in the quarters ahead is clearly a minority view, as the recent selling of all types of bond products attest. The rise in long term yields over the last several months was accelerated by the recent Federal Reserve announcement that it would betapering” its purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities. This has convinced many bond market participants that the low in long rates is in the past. The Treasury bond market’s short term fluctuations are a function of many factors, but its primary and most fundamental determinate is attitudes toward current and future inflation. From that perspective, the outlook for long term Treasury yields to fall is most favorable in light of: a) diminished inflation pressures; b) slowing GDP growth; c) weakening consumer fundamentals; and d) anti-growth monetary and fiscal policies.


Inflation


Sustained higher inflation is, and has always been, a prerequisite for sustained increases in long term interest rates. Inflation’s role in determining the level of long term rates was quantified by Irving Fisher 83 years ago (Theory of Interest, 1930) with the Fisher equation. It states that long term rates are the sum of inflation expectations and the real rate.

This proposition has been reconfirmed in numerous sophisticated statistical studies and can also be empirically observed by comparing the Treasury bond yield to the inflation rate (Chart 1). On an annual basis, the Treasury bond yield and the inflation rate have moved in the same direction in 80% of the years since 1954.
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Presently the inflation picture is most favorable to bond yields. The year-over-year change in the core personal consumption expenditures deflator, an indicator to which the Fed pays close attention, stands at a record low for the entire five plus decades of the series (Chart 2).
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Additional factors restraining inflation are the appreciation of the dollar and the decline in commodity prices. The dollar is currently up 14% from its 2011 lows. A rise in the value of the dollar causes a “collapsing umbrella effect on prices. A higher dollar leads to reduced prices of imports, which have been deflating at a 1% rate (ex-fuel) over the past year. When importers cut prices, domestic producers are forced to follow. Commodity prices have dropped more than 20% from their peak in 2011. This drop in commodity prices has also contributed to lower rates inflation.

Sustained higher inflation is not currently evident, and the forces that create inflation are absent. Thus, a period of sustained higher long term rates is improbable.


GDP


GDP growth, whether if measured in nominal or real terms, is the slowest of any expansion since 1948. From the first quarter of 2012 through the first quarter of 2013, nominal GDP grew at 3.3%.

This is below the level of every entry point of economic contraction since 1948 (Chart 3). Real GDP shows a similar pattern. For the past four quarters real economic growth was just 1.6%, which was even less than the 1.8% growth rate in the 2000s and dramatically less than the 3.8% average growth rate in the past 223 years. These results demonstrate chronic long term economic underperformance.
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Over the past year, the Treasury bond yield rose as the nominal growth in GDP slowed. The difference between the Treasury bond yield and the nominal GDP growth rate (Chart 4) is important in two respects. First, when the bond yield rises more rapidly than the GDP growth rate, monetary conditions are a restraint on economic growth. This condition occurred prior to all the recessions since the 1950s, as indicated in the chart. This condition also signaled the growth recessions in 1962 and 1966-67.

Second, the nominal GDP growth rate represents the yield on the total economy, a return that embodies greater risk than a 30 year Treasury bond. Thus, the differential is a barometer of cyclical value for investors in Treasury bonds versus more risky assets.


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On two occasions in the 1990s the Treasury bond/GDP differential rose sharply. Neither a quasi- nor outright recession ensued, but in both cases bonds turned in a stellar performance over the next year or longer. This economic indicator simultaneously casts doubt on the prevailing pessimism on Treasury bonds and the optimism over U.S. economic growth.


Consumer


Consumers have not yet healed from the great recession. Their income and employment situations have languished. Based on the standard of living, as measured by the real median household income, this entire recovery has bypassed the consumer sector. The standard of living has contracted regularly in recessions, but this is the first time deep into an expansion that it has continued to erode. The current standard of living is unchanged from 1995 (Chart 5).



In spite of job gains in the first half of 2013, the downward pressure on the standard of living actually intensified. Approximately three quarters of the increases in jobs were in four of the lowest paying industriesretail trade; the temporary help services component of professional and business services; hospitality and leisure; and the nursing and residential care facilities component of the medical category.

These increases may reflect efforts of firms to minimize the increase in health care costs associated with full time employment under the Affordable Care Act. Part time jobs averaged increases of 93,000 per month in the first half of 2013, while full time jobs averaged increases of only 22,000 per month. Full time employment as a percentage of the adult population is currently 47%, which is near the lows of the last three decades.

Historically, when taxes are increased, the initial response of households results in a lower saving rate rather than an immediate reduction in spending. For some consumers, recognition of the tax changes in their income is a problem, particularly for those whose earnings are dependent on commissions, bonuses or seasonal work. This explains the sharp drop in the personal saving rate to 2.7% in the first five months of this year, a level at or below the entry points of all the economic contractions since 1929. The 2013 slump in the saving rate is a precursor of the painful adjustments that lie ahead, and an additional restraint on economic growth. (Note: In late July the Bureau of Economic Analysis is expected to release a benchmark revision to the National Income and Product Accounts. As a result of the revision the personal saving rate may be raised by up to 1.5%. This is due to the change in consumer ownership of defined benefit pension plans. This revision will not change the trend of the saving rate, nor will this higher figure indicate a source of funds for immediate spending since consumers will only receive such pension benefits when they retire.)

The drop in the saving rate in 2013 also serves to explain why the primary drain from higher taxes occurs with a lag after the taxes take effect. Based on various academic studies there is a two or three quarter lag in curtailed spending after the tax increase. Thus, the main drag on growth will fall in the third and fourth quarters of this year, with negative residual influences persisting through the end of 2015. Approximately $140 billion of the tax increase constitutes what might be termed a reduction in permanent income, or its equivalent life cycle income. In addition to working with a lag, over a three year period this portion will carry a negative multiplier of between two and three.



Monetary & Fiscal


Astronomical sums of money have been expended by both monetary and fiscal authorities since the crisis. With the benefit of hindsight it is clear their efforts have not aided economic growth, but rather the balance of their actions has been counter productive. The Fed has maintained the Fed Funds rate at near-zero levels, and it has tried to lower longer term rates through a series of quantitative easings.

The effect of each of the quantitative easings was the opposite of the Fed’s intentions. During every period of balance sheet expansion long rates rose, yet when securities purchases were discontinued yields fell (Chart 6). The Fed cannot control long rates because long rates are affected by inflation expectations, not by supply and demand in the market place. This is extremely counter intuitive.

With more buying, one would assume that prices would rise and thus yields would fall, but the opposite occurred. Why? When the Fed buys, it appears that the existing owners of Treasuries (now amounting to $9.5 trillion) decide that the Fed’s actions are inflationary and sell their holdings, raising interest rates.

When the Fed stops this program, inflation expectations fall creating a demand for Treasuries, bringing rates back down. The Fed’s quantitative policies have been counter productive to growth as interest rates have risen during each period of quantitative easing. During QE1 and QE2, commodity prices rose, the dollar fell and inflation rose temporarily. Wages, however, did not respond. Thus, the higher interest rates during all QEs and the fall in the real wage income during QE 1 & 2 served to worsen the income and wealth divide. This means many more households were hurt, rather than helped, by the Fed’s efforts.


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In terms of government spending, fiscal policy has not, and will not, have a major affect on economic growth. The increased spending immediately following the financial crisis did little to encourage the economy to grow faster. Likewise, the decrease in spending associated with the “sequester” will unlikely be a drag on growth after the initial and lagged effects are fully exhausted. The research on government spending multipliers suggests that the multiplier on spending is very close to zero.

The impact of tax changes is not nearly as harmless. It has been argued that an expiredtemporary payroll tax cut” would not effect spending as the initial increase in income was not seen as permanent. The facts seem to counter this opinion. The average monthly year-over-year growth rate of real personal income less transfer payments for 2011 was 3.4%, and in 2012 it was 2.2%.

This year, with the payroll tax change in effect, the average is 1.8% through May. The slower income has resulted in a slowdown in spending. Like income, real personal consumption expenditures has trended lower, with average monthly year-over-year growth rates of 2.5% for 2011, 1.9% for 2012 and 1.8% through May of this year. This trend is expected to continue for some time.



A Final Consideration Favoring Bonds



In the aftermath of the debt induced panic years of 1873 and 1929 in the U.S. and 1989 in Japan, the long term government bond yield dropped to 2% between 13 and 14 years after the panic. The U.S. Treasury bond yield is tracking those previous experiences (Chart 7). Thus, the historical record also suggests that the secular low in long term rates is in the future.




Markets Insight

July 23, 2013 3:18 pm
 
Lessons for Europe in Detroit bankruptcy
 
Fresh start for US city could put debt restructuring on menu for others
 

Detroit’s bankruptcy is an economic tragedy, a warning about the perils of urban degeneration. But the city’s financial collapse also has lessons for bond investors far beyond Motown. It could lead to a reappraisal of credit risks, possibly escalating funding costs for other troubled cities and regions. Depending on how Detroit emerges, it could help reshape the debate on fiscal austerity and the case for debt restructurings to jump-start local economies, including in Europe.

None of these effects will be visible anytime soon. Detroit’s bankruptcy filing late last week created few ripples in global markets. What matters most to investors right now are macro factors such as the intentions of the Federal Reserve or the Chinese economic outlook.
 
By comparison, Detroit is just a blip. Even though it is the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history – it has $18bn in debt – the sums involved are small compared with global bond market volumes. Nor was its bankruptcy much of a surprise; its finances were a decades-old accident waiting to happen. Moreover, the process is already subject to legal challenges and may last years.
 
But Detroit has nevertheless revealed a lack of understanding of the complex and diverse US municipal bond market, especially beyond North America, which raises worries about whether investors are correctly pricing credit risks in an era of ultra-low interest rates.
 
With $3.7tn in securities, the US municipal debt market is more than half the size of the – globally scrutinisedeurozone sovereign equivalent. The presumption was that these were low risk products acquired for tax benefits and protected by insurance – and that struggling cities could be helped by higher levels of government.

General obligationmunicipal bonds, moreover, are backed by pledges to raise taxes to cover interest and repayments. But such promises look less watertight given Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency financial repair manager, proposes to pay GO bondholders less than 20 cents on the dollar.
 
European banks have almost certainly acquired significant volumes of US municipal bonds in the search for a few extra points of yield, probably on the basis of scant research – although so far we have few details of who owns what. Bond strategists in London report urgent inquiries this week from investors worrying this is the nextsubprimecrisisremember German banks took much of the initial hit from dodgy US mortgages in 2007. Another worry was that “monolineinsurers protecting US municipal debt might buckle under the strain.

Such fears seem far fetched. But Detroit’s example will inevitably lead to a hunt for the next US city to face financial troubles. If investors demand higher risk premiums as a result, there could be contagion to other markets. Meanwhile, Detroit’s example will keep the pressure on local politicians to maintain fiscal discipline, which will continue to hamper economic growth – even in regions desperate for new economic growth models.

Detroit’s idiosyncrasies mean a wave of US municipal debt restructurings is unlikely. Historically they are rare, and last week’s sell-off was seen by some investors as an opportunity to buy. Default rates are even lower in other parts of the world.

Standard & Poor’s has chronicled just 19 instances of defaults at the rated sub-sovereign government level since 1975. None was in western Europe, where there is often explicit sovereign level support for struggling regions.
Europe’s local government bond market is also smaller – at less than €1tn and dominated by German states’ debt.

However, the strains created by three years of eurozone crisis have raised questions about what happens to local regions and governments when sovereign debt reaches the limits of sustainability – as in much of southern Europe – and the central bank is reluctant to “print money”.

Conceivably, Detroit’s bankruptcy could prove cathartic and provide a fresh start for the US city. As such it might become an example for stressed European regions; German politicians are keen on the principle of “burden sharing” with Europe’s monetary union.

Mr Orr wants a speedy end to the city’s crisis. But history is not on his side; Jefferson County’s bankruptcy in Alabama is approaching three years without resolution. European local government restructurings would be even messier: there is no equivalent to US Chapter 9 bankruptcy proceedings.

Still, the debt restructuring debate in Europe has changed since Greece’sprivate sector involvementlast year, which imposed losses on sovereign bond holders. Further sovereign debt restructurings are a step that eurozone policy makers are reluctant to take, yet options for tackling the continent’s debt mountains are limited. Greece was meant to be an exception. Detroit might not be.

 
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013



07/23/2013 12:30 PM

Fisher of Men

The New World of Pope Francis

By Fiona Ehlers

Photo Gallery: Pope Francis in Brazil


Openness, modesty, change: Pope Francis has launched a revolution in the Vatican as he seeks to clean up the Catholic Church and improve its image. In the process, the pontiff is making friends as well as enemies.



The great awakening begins at 7 a.m. every morning in the Vatican, when Pope Francis stands before 80 or 90 employees in the austere, modern chapel of the Santa Maria guesthouse and reads the first mass of the day. He speaks Italian with a soft Spanish intonation, reading the mass without a manuscript and without using Latin -- and looking directly into the faces of the congregation. He then vanishes through the vestry to join the worshippers, folding his hands, bowing his head and praying.

The Vatican's garbage collectors were the first employees the new pope invited to these morning masses, followed by the security personnel, gardeners, nuns and even Vatican Bank advisors. Many of the Vatican's roughly 4,000 employees come to the mass -- not because they are required to, but because they adore Francis.

"He has no trepidations," says a fellow resident of the guesthouse on the southern edge of Vatican City, where Francis lives. He gives "simple sermons (with) warm words. He has overcome the separation between the laity and the clergy."

At lunch, Jorge Mario Bergoglio stands in the cafeteria and waits for his coffee to drip out of the machine. "He sat alone at first, and we would stare over at him," says the fellow resident. But now they sit with him. Recently, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, one of the youngest members of the conclave, went over to the pope and asked: "Holy Father, may I?" "Of course, holy son," the pope replied.

Francis is a fisher of men, much like former Pope John Paul II. Almost four months after his election on March 13, after his first, almost shy "buona sera" from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, he has taken his office to heavenly heights. He makes it easy for people to love him. They like his incongruous approach and his plain words. "Pray for me," he tells them, or "bon appetit." They like the fact that he ignores protocol, that he washed the feet of a Muslim woman at Easter, drives a Ford Focus or takes the bus and chose to live in the guesthouse instead of the Apostolic Palace.


Pope of Gestures


Bergoglio is the first Jesuit and, since the Middle Ages, the first non-European in the papacy. He was born in Argentina, at the "end of the world," as he says, to Italian immigrant parents. It is this perspective from which he still looks at the Old World. It allows him to demonize the financial crisis, poverty and instability that are now plaguing Southern Europe. This pope lives in the present and is more political than his predecessor. But it is also clear that he will remain silent on certain issues and stick to his German predecessor's approach: the ordination of women, celibacy, abortion and gay marriage.

Benedict XVI was the pope of words, a professorial pope whose masses resembled lectures. Francis is the opposite. Instead of arguing, he appeals to people; he is best understood through his gestures and appearances. His visit to the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa was a gesture of compassion, and it offered a taste of his approach: going to the people, mingling with them and asking uncomfortable questions.

In his sermons, Francis often criticizes the "sophisticated church," which he accuses of revolving around itself and striving for power and wealth. By contrast, Francis wants "a poor church and a church for the poor."

He wants it to venture out to the periphery, to the margins of society. This is the concept of the "theology of the people," which influenced Francis. In the 1970s, its adherents left their rectories and moved to the slums.

There is hardly any spot in Europe that is more peripheral than Lampedusa, where Africa begins and where Europe is defending its fortress of prosperity. During his visit, the pope stood on an altar made from the wood of stranded ships on which refugees had died, and raged against the "globalization of indifference."

He asked who was to blame for the suffering of refugees, and why so many people have forgotten empathy and lost the ability to weep. It was a promising start to his papacy.

But despite that appearance, Francis still isn't the "pop star pope" many believed he was at the beginning. He is a man of action, and he operates at an astonishing pace. "He acts like someone who knows that he doesn't have forever. After all, he only has half a lung, and he sways like a ship when he walks. He'll be 77 in December," says an employee of the curia who prefers to remain unnamed.



'Still Getting Warmed Up'


Francis will have a hardworking first summer as pope, with no plans to take a break at the papal summer resistance in Castel Gandolfo. The papal secretary of state could be appointed soon and will become a key figure in bringing about the reform of the curia so often called for, someone to finally put a stop to the old-boy networks, nepotism and waste of money. The curia is currently divided into those who are concerned that the pope is overexerting himself, and those who are afraid of the new order.

"The pope is still getting warmed up," says the source from the curia. "We are crouching in the trenches, and quite a few are trembling."

One of the new pope's biggest reform projects is the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), more commonly known as the Vatican Bank. On a recent July morning, a few nuns were standing in the domed bank lobby, where there was little activity. Nevertheless, something akin to perestroika seemed to be in the works, because we were suddenly granted entry to this massive, otherwise off-limits fortress next to the Secretariat of State. We were allowed to shake hands with the head of the bank, while advisors in pinstriped suits guided us through the hallways. Is this the "Francis effect" everyone is talking about, or just a rushed session of crisis PR?

At the end of the corridor is the secret nerve center, which we were also allowed to visit briefly. It contains a table, cables and many monitors, where a Harvard professor and a dozen external management consultants were sitting with their sleeves rolled up. Their job is that of auditing the accounts, reviewing every transaction for more than €10,000, and screening every customer. One was already caught in late June trying to bring €20 million from Switzerland to Rome in a private jet: Monsignore Nunzio Scarano, the chief accountant for the Vatican's property portfolio, who had intended to launder money through the IOR. It is clear that others will follow, now that the Vatican aims to wipe the slate clean in God's bank.

Francis is paying special attention to the IOR. Benedict did so, as well, when he appointed Ernst von Freyberg as the bank's director in February. But it was already too late, and Freyberg showed little interest in the details.


First Mistake?


Francis, on the other hand, issued a hand-written decree in late June to form an investigative committee. Two days later, the chief accountant was arrested and on July 2, the two general directors abruptly resigned. Last Friday, Francis appointed a special commission to advise him directly on economic issues and create more transparency. The pope also appointed a prelate who has access to all bank meetings and reports directly to Francis.

That appointment, though, could prove to be Pope Francis' first mistake. He chose Monsignore Battista Ricca, the former administrator of the Vatican guesthouse, for the job. But the magazine L'Espresso revealed last week that Ricca was transferred to the guesthouse in 2001 for disciplinary reasons, because he was allegedly living with and maintaining a homosexual relationship with a man in the nunciature of Montevideo and was beaten up in a gay bar. So does it exist after all, the "gay lobby" at the Vatican, whose members secure positions for each other?

Did the curia deliberately conceal Ricca's past from the pope? These questions will have to remain unanswered for now, but the Ricca appointment could come back to haunt the pope.

Meanwhile, Alessia Giuliani, 42, a chain-smoking resident of Rome, is waiting on St. Peter's Square. She is standing at the obelisk, holding her paparazzi camera with its telephoto lens. It is Wednesday morning, and the weekly general audience is about to begin. Hundreds of thousands of people are flooding into the square -- a sea of smartphones and sunshades.

Giuliani began taking pictures of groups of pilgrims 15 years ago until she eventually became the first woman to join the illustrious circle of papal photographers. Now that Francis has come into office, she needs to use stronger flashes and a larger aperture, because he is darker-skinned than his predecessor. Although she sells more photos now, she hardly has a private life anymore, because Francis often makes spontaneous appearances, so that she has to chase after him.

She looks through her lens and sees Francis on the pope mobile, giving the thumbs up sign. His chief of security lifts children into the vehicle, and Francis distributes kisses, accepts the gift of a jersey from his beloved football club, Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro, and hugs a girl with Down syndrome. He continues in this vein, often for as long as an hour, until the mass begins. "Che spettacolo" -- what a spectacle -- says a Roman woman, as she shakes her head and turns away.

The photographer lowers her camera and says that the scenery is too indistinct. She complains that she hasn't yet been able to capture an image that truly describes the new pope. The longer she watches him, says Giuliani, the more she fears that there could soon be too many images of him -- that his gestures could lose their meaning and his messages become trivial.


How They Preach in Latin America


Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, 65, can hear the cheers from the weekly public mass in his apartment at Santa Anna Gate. He prefers to call it counseling rather than a spectacle, noting that this is how they preach in Latin America.

The archbishop has taken over the former apartment of Joseph Ratzinger, who lived there for 23 years, as well as his former job as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which makes him the church's supreme protector of the faith. The son of a foreman at an Opel plant in Mainz, he sometimes greets private visitors in a tracksuit. He is in good spirits, as he celebrates his first anniversary in office; it looks as though the new pope plans to keep him.

The unfortunate situation involving the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) also seems to have been put to rest. A member of the order, Richard Williamson, had denied the Holocaust, and yet Benedict rehabilitated the archconservative bishop nonetheless. Now the Vatican's dialogue with the SSPX seems to have been suspended until further notice.

Archbishop Müller is with Francis on his trip this week to World Youth Day in Brazil. He worked as a priest in Peru and is friends with liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez, who Rome punished in the 1980s because of his Marxist views. Another change under Francis is that the church will be less inclined to fight rebels within its ranks.

The fact that Francis chose Brazil as the destination for his first major trip was meant to show, says Müller, that the church consists of more than "that dissolute bunch from Rome, with their pomp and arrogance." He hopes that the sermons in Rio de Janeiro will provide a boost similar to that emanating from his visit to Lampedusa. Francis plans to speak clearly in Rio, directing his comments to the poor in the Varginha favela, young criminals and drug addicts.


Wildly Enthusiastic


Yet as approachable as Francis seems, it is difficult to meet him. In mid-May, with the German chancellor having just arrived for a private audience, a select group of Germans were allowed to greet the pope afterward. We spent several minutes walking through the corridors of the Apostolic Palace, past saluting Swiss Guards, before being asked to wait in antechambers with damask-covered walls. One could hear Chancellor Angela Merkel's girlish giggle from within. "The next time we'll have pizza on the piazza," she said in German as she left.

Francis, shorter than he seems in pictures and exhausted after a 47-minute conversation about the market economy and financial regulations, stayed behind. His handshake was firm and his eyes curious. There was nothing pompous about him; he wasn't wearing the golden Ring of the Fishermen, but rather a plastic watch.

What does one say to the pope? Perhaps that Rome seems like a new place since his election, like a city that has awakened from a long sleep? He has undoubtedly heard it before, but he still laughed heartily, and he seemed genuinely pleased and real, like a person who is wildly enthusiastic about his job.


Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan