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Weekly Commentary: Contemporary Finance’s Defect

Weekly Commentary: Contemporary Finance’s Defect

October 3 – CNBC (Jeff Cox): “Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank has a ways to go yet before it gets interest rates to where they are neither restrictive nor accommodative. In a question and answer session Wednesday with Judy Woodruff of PBS, Powell said the Fed no longer needs the policies that were in place that pulled the economy out of the financial crisis malaise. ‘The really extremely accommodative low interest rates that we needed when the economy was quite weak, we don’t need those anymore. They’re not appropriate anymore… Interest rates are still accommodative, but we’re gradually moving to a place where they will be neutral… ‘We may go past neutral, but we’re a long way from neutral at this point, probably.'”
Market bulls grimaced. Powell: “We may go past neutral, but we’re a long way from neutral at this point…” CNBC’s Jim Cramer called it “amateurish.” Chairman Powell was certainly candid, something shockingly unusual for a Fed chair. So atypical was his candor, the Chairman was misconstrued as a novice unschooled in the art of modern central banking.

The bottom line is the Fed waited much too long to begin normalizing monetary policy. Moreover, they pre-committed to an extremely gradual path of rates increases. This policy approach essentially ensured that so-called “tightening” measures would fail to tighten financial conditions. Over-liquefied and speculative markets were content to look right through them, confident that cheap liquidity and easy Credit conditions would run unabated. And, clearly, stock gains in the multiple thousands of basis points easily counteracted a couple hundred basis point increase in short-term borrowing costs.
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