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ECB Minutes Reveal Fears About Currency Wars, Euro Slides

There were two distinct reactions in the Euro to today’s ECB Minutes, released this morning.

At first, the EUR jumped following initial headlines that the ECB acknowledged that revisiting the guidance would be “part of a the regular reassessment” going forward, but noting that any changes are premature at this stage.

 In this context, it was remarked that communication on monetary policy would continue to develop according to the evolving state of the economy in line with the ECB’s forward guidance, with a view to avoiding abrupt or disorderly adjustments at a later stage. However, changes in communication were generally seen to be premature at this juncture, as inflation developments remained subdued despite the robust pace of economic expansion.

* * *

The language pertaining to the monetary policy stance could be revisited early this year as part of the regular reassessment at the forthcoming monetary policy meetings. In this context, some members expressed a preference for dropping the easing bias regarding the APP from the Governing Council’s communication as a tangible reflection of reinforced confidence in a sustained adjustment of the path of inflation. However, it was concluded that such an adjustment was premature and not yet justified by the stronger confidence.

Predictably, this hawkish take prompted a kneejerk move higher in the EUR as algos bought the EUR.

However, what traders focused on next was a rather explicit ECB concern over the weakness of the dollar, as the statement once again highlighted fears that the US administration was deliberately trying to engage in currency wars, something which Mario Draghi famously remarked on during the Q&A in the last ECB press conference, when asked for his response to Mnuchin’s statement.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The End of (Artificial) Stability

The End of (Artificial) Stability

The central banks’/states’ power to maintain a permanent bull market in stocks and bonds is eroding.
There is nothing natural about the stability of the past 9 years. The bullish trends in risk assets are artificial constructs of central bank/state policies. As these policies are reduced or lose their effectiveness, the era of artificial stability is coming to a close.
The 9-year run of Bull-trend stability is ending as a result of a confluence of macro dynamics:
1. Central banks are under pressure to reduce, end or reverse their unprecedented monetary stimulus, and the consequences are unpredictable, given the market’s reliance on the certainty that “central banks have our back” is ending.
2. Interest rates / bond yields may well plummet in a global recession, but if we look at a 50-year chart of interest rates, we see a saucer-shaped bottoming in play. Technician Louise Yamada has been discussing the tendency of interest rates/bond yields to trace out a multi-year saucer bottom for over a decade, and we can now discern this.
Even if yields plummet in a recession, as many analysts predict, this doesn’t necessarily negate the longer term trend of higher yields and rates.
3. The global economy is overdue for a business-cycle recession, which is characterized by a retrenchment of credit and the default of marginal debt. The “recovery” is the weakest recovery in the past 60 years, and now it’s the longest expansion.
4. The mainstream financial media is telling us that everything is going great in the global economy, but this sort of complacent (or even euphoric) “it’s all good news” typically marks the top of stocks, just as universal negativity marks secular lows.
5. What happens to markets characterized by uncertainty? Once certainty is replaced by uncertainty, markets become fragile and thus exposed to sudden shifts of sentiment. This destabilization is expressed as volatility, but it’s far deeper than volatility as measured by VIX or sentiment indicators.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Money Manager: ‘The Chaos Coming To The Markets Is Here’

Money Manager: ‘The Chaos Coming To The Markets Is Here’

Money manager Michael Pento says that profound chaos surrounding the economy is coming. The insolvency is becoming clear, and soon, we will no longer be able to sweep the problem under the rug.

Sitting down with USA Watchdog’s Greg Hunter, Pento discussed the chaos people predicting in the markets and says that it’s already here. Pento is the author of the book titled The Coming Bond Market Collapse, as well as a financial expert and he says the media is lying when they say the economy is doing well.

“There are so many things that can go wrong with rising interest rates.  First of all, you have to understand that the permabulls that you hear on CNBC will tell you there is nothing wrong with rising interest rates.  It is a symbol of growth.  If you look at industrial production and retail sales for January, they were negative.  So, rising rates are occurring, not because of growth, they are caused by insolvency concerns.  That is the key metric here, and they are credit risks and insolvency concerns.”

“For the first time in 40 years, you are going to have bond prices and equity prices in free-fall. That happened in the 1970’s, but it’s going to be worse because in the 1970’s, you didn’t have an insolvency concern. . . The chaos coming to markets is here. It’s not going away, and it’s not going to be brushed under the rug. It’s not going to stay on the sidelines for another few years. The years from 2007 to 2017 were the years central banks were buying everything. There was no volatility, and stocks just went up. Those days have ended, and the volatility is only going to become much more profound.”

Hunter then asks Pento to explain who is insolvent.  The answer isn’t calming in the least.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Strong Dollar,” “Weak Dollar,” What About a Gold-Backed Dollar?

“Strong Dollar,” “Weak Dollar,” What About a Gold-Backed Dollar?

gold backed dollar

The recent hullabaloo among President Trump’s top monetary officials about the Administration’s “dollar policy” is just the start of what will likely be the first of many contradictory pronoucements and reversals which will take place in the coming months/years as the world’s reserve currency continues to be compromised.  So far, the Greenback has had its worst start since 1987, the year of a major stock market reset.

The brief firestorm was set off by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who said in response to the dollar’s recent slide, “Obviously, a weaker dollar is good for us, it’s good because it has to do with trade and opportunities.”*  Mnuchin backtracked a bit as international financial leaders criticized the apparent shift in policy while Administration officials sought to clarify the Secretary’s remarks.  President Trump weighted in on the matter saying, “Ultimately, I want to see a strong dollar” and added that Mnuchin’s comments were “taken out of context.”

While President Trump sought to allay jittery currency markets that monetary policy had not changed, candidate Trump supported the Federal Reserve’s suppression of interest rates and did not want to see a rising dollar:

I must be honest, I’m a low interest rate

person.  If we raise rates and if the

dollar starts getting too strong, we’re going

to have some very major problems.**

Of course, the entire uproar about a strong dollar versus weak dollar is a sham. When the dollar (and for that matter all other national currencies) cannot be redeemed for either gold or silver, it is inherently “weak” and ultimately worthless.  That this obvious fact is not recognized by the Trump Administration, international monetary authorities, and the financial press demonstrates just how unstable the dollar and world currencies actually are.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Calm Before The Inflationary Storm

Calm Before The Inflationary Storm

The economy has been showing great gains, and that positive trend is fueling fears of a surge in inflation. The Consumer Price Index, the key predictor of inflationary trends, rose .05 percent in January, which greatly exceeded the anticipated rise of 0.2 percent. The market reacted as expected as stocks fell, and government bond yield rose.

The Fed is keeping a close eye on these developments, and that could fuel the inflation fears. The fear of rising prices includes most economic sectors, from gasoline, housing, food, healthcare, to clothing.

Predictably, the market reacted immediately to the CPI rise with a 100-point loss after opening, even though the decline was quickly reversed. Investors are anticipating that the Federal Reserve could raise their interest rates three or more times by year-end.

As the economy continues to grow, unemployment has fallen to a record low and the sale of tangible goods is up. Economists are anticipating the economic upswing to continue as the GDP is expected to grow by 3 percent, faster than anticipated. Since 2009, the GDP has only risen by an annual average of 2.2 percent. As a result, prices for consumer goods have risen predictably and steadily. The Federal Reserve is setting policy with a 2 percent inflation in mind. A higher-than-anticipated inflation rate could raise interest rates, making it more difficult for companies to borrow needed funds. Following the passage of a $300 billion spending package, market-watchers are now convinced of a 62 percent chance that the Feds will raise interest rates three times by December. Rate hikes in March and June are almost a certainty, with the third hike a high possibility. A fourth hike is not out of the question and becoming more likely. This is seen by many as the real problem.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fed President Sounds Panic Over Level Of US Debt

Nearly a decade after the US unleashed its biggest debt-issuance binge in history, made possible only thanks to the Fed’s monetization of nearly $4 trillion in deficits (and debt issuance), the Fed is starting to get nervous about the (un)sustainability of the US debt.

The Federal Reserve should continue to raise U.S. interest rates this year in response to faster economic growth fueled by recent tax cuts as well as a stronger global economy, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Robert Kaplan said on Wednesday.

“I believe the Federal Reserve should be gradually and patiently raising the federal funds rate during 2018,” Kaplan said in an essay updating his views on the economic and policy outlook.

“History suggests that if the Fed waits too long to remove accommodation at this stage in the economic cycle, excesses and imbalances begin to build, and the Fed ultimately has to play catch-up.” The Fed is widely expected to raise rates three times this year, starting next month.

Kaplan, who does not vote on Fed policy this year but does participate in its regular rate-setting meetings, did not specify his preferred number of rate hikes for this year. But he warned Wednesday that falling behind the curve on rate hikes could make a recession more likely.

Echoing the recent Goldman analysis, warning that the recently implemented budget could lead to an “unsustainable” debt load, Kaplan – who previously worked for Goldman – also had some cautionary words about the Trump administration’s recent tax overhaul, which he said would help lift U.S. economic growth to 2.5% to 2.75% this year, pushing the U.S. unemployment rate, now at 4.1% down to 3.6% by the end of 2018.

On the all important issue of inflation, he projected it would firm this year on route to the Fed’s 2-percent goal.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Raising Interest Rates Is Like Starting a Fission Chain Reaction

Raising Interest Rates Is Like Starting a Fission Chain Reaction

Central bankers seem to think that adjusting interest rates is a nice little tool that they can easily handle. The problem is that higher interest rates affect the economy in many ways simultaneously. The lessons that seem to have been learned from past rate hikes may not be applicable today.

Furthermore, there can be quite a long time lag involved. Thus, by the time a central banker starts seeing an effect, it may be clear that the amount of the interest rate change is far too large.

A recent Zerohedge article seems to suggest that problems can arise with 10-year Treasury interest rates of less of than 3%. We may be facing a period of declining acceptable interest rates.

Figure 1. Chart from The Scariest Chart in the Market.

Let’s look at a few of the issues involved:

[1] The standard reason for raising interest rates seems to be concern about inflationary impacts occurring as a result of rising food and energy prices. In practice, the impact of such an interest rate change can be quite severe and quite delayed. 

Figure 2 is an illustration from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website showing one of today’s concerns: rising energy costs. Food prices are not yet rising. Normally, however, if oil prices rise, the cost of producing food will also rise. This happens because modern agricultural methods and transportation to markets both require the use of petroleum products.

Figure 2. Figure created by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showing percentage change in the Consumer Price Index between January 2017 and January 2018, for selected categories.

In fact, raising short-term interest rates seems to have been associated with trying to bring down rising food and energy costs, as early as the 1970s and early 1980s.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What is Optimal Monetary Policy, Anyway?

Ever since the important contributions of new classical economists Finn E. Kydland and Edward C. Prescott during the 1970s and 80s, modern macroeconomics seeks optimal rules for monetary policy. Indeed, Milton Friedman had previously emphasized the importance of a binding rule for monetary policy. He recommended a constant but moderate expansion of the money stock over time as well as the abolition of fractional reserve banking in order to improve the central bank’s control over the money stock. Neither of these two measures has ever been implemented over an extended period of time.

Creating Rules for Monetary Policy

Many modern macroeconomists have come to reject the idea of a constant growth rule in favor of a more complex rule that incorporates feedback effects from other macroeconomic aggregates. According to their rationale, political discretion in the form of unexpected accelerations of the money growth rate may lead to short-term benefits. Yet, the latter would come at long-term costs of either permanently too high price inflation or a consecutive readjustment to lower money growth rates that goes hand in hand with real economic losses in output and employment. This is what economists would refer to as the sacrifice ratio. Optimal monetary policy thus requires abstention from reaping some of the potential short-term benefits for the sake of long-term financial and economic stability.

The most famous monetary policy rules that have been deemed optimal are named after John B. Taylor. According to such Taylor rules the central rate of interest should be set in response to changes of actual price inflation, the natural rate of interest, as well as the output gap. There is one obvious practical problem, namely, that the output gap and the natural rate of interest are non-observable theoretical concepts that have to be estimated or replaced by more or less arbitrary empirical proxies.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Irresponsible ECB

Daniel Roland/AFP/Getty Images

The Irresponsible ECB

Ultra-loose monetary policy stopped being appropriate long ago, and is especially inadvisable now, with the global economy – especially the developed world – experiencing an increasingly strong recovery. As recent stock-market turbulence shows, refusal to normalize policy faster is drastically increasing the risks to financial stability.

FRANKFURT – The Dow Jones Industrial Average’s recent “flash crash,” in which it plunged by nearly 1,600 points, revealed just how addicted to expansionary monetary policy financial markets and economic actors have become. Prolonged low interest rates and quantitative easing have created incentives for investors to take inadequately priced risks. The longer those policies are maintained, the bigger the threat to global financial stability.

The fact is that ultra-loose monetary policy stopped being appropriate long ago. The global economy – especially the developed world – has been experiencing an increasingly strong recovery. According to the International Monetary Fund’s latest update of its World Economic Outlook, economic growth will continue in the next few quarters, especially in the United States and the eurozone.

Yet international institutions, including the IMF, fear the sudden market corrections that naturally arise from changes in inflation or interest-rate expectations, and continue to argue that monetary policy must be tightened very slowly. So central banks continue to postpone monetary-policy normalization, with the result that asset prices rise, producing dramatic market distortions that make those very corrections inevitable.

To be sure, the US Federal Reserve has moved away from monetary expansion since late 2013, when it began progressively reducing and ultimately halting bond purchases and shrinking its balance sheet. Since the end of 2015, the benchmark federal funds rate has been raised to 1.5%.

But the Fed’s policy is still far from normal. Considering the advanced stage of the economic cycle, forecasts for nominal growth of more than 4%, and low unemployment – not to mention the risk of overheating – the Fed is behind the curve.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Rising Interest Rates: New Era with Tough Outcomes

Rising Interest Rates: New Era with Tough Outcomes

 

What will the bond market do? The conniptions in the Treasury market are causing pain in existing portfolios but offer opportunities down the road. What’s the impact of these rising interest rates on the housing bubbles in the US and Canada? Where is the pain threshold? How will it differ in the US and Canada? And what will higher interest rates do to new- and used-vehicle sales? We’re at the beginning of a new era with potentially tough outcomes.

The Fed’s monetary policy shift is finally taking hold. It just took a while. The Louis Fed Financial Stress index spiked beautifully and suddenly, from historic lows back in November. Read…  “Financial Stress” Spikes. Markets, Long in Denial, Suddenly Grapple with New Era

Central Banks Will Let The Next Crash Happen

Central Banks Will Let The Next Crash Happen

If you have been following the public commentary from central banks around the world the past few months, you know that there has been a considerable change in tone compared to the last several years.

For example, officials at the European Central Bank are hinting at a taper of stimulus measures by September of this year and some EU economists are expecting a rate hike by December. The Bank of England has already started its own rate hike program and has warned of more hikes to come in the near term. The Bank of Canada is continuing with interest rate hikes and signaled more to come over the course of this year. The Bank of Japan has been cutting bond purchases, launching rumors that governor Haruhiko Kuroda will oversee the long overdue taper of Japan’s seemingly endless stimulus measures, which have now amounted to an official balance sheet of around $5 trillion.

This global trend of “fiscal tightening” is yet another piece of evidence indicating that central banks are NOT governed independently from one another, but that they act in concert with each other based on the same marching orders. That said, none of the trend reversals in other central banks compares to the vast shift in policy direction shown by the Federal Reserve.

First came the taper of QE, which almost no one thought would happen. Then came the interest rate hikes, which most analysts both mainstream and alternative said were impossible, and now the Fed is also unwinding its balance sheet of around $4 trillion, and it is unwinding faster than anyone expected.

Now, mainstream economists will say a number of things on this issue — they will point out that many investors simply do not believe the Fed will follow through with this tightening program.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The U.S. Deficit Is Beyond Control: Markets Don’t Like Long-Term Government Insolvency

The U.S. Deficit Is Beyond Control: Markets Don’t Like Long-Term Government Insolvency

johnwilliams

Economist John Williams sat down with USA Watchdog‘s Greg Hunter to discuss the dire state of the dollar and United States economy.  The monetary path the US is on is out of control, and the unwillingness of government officials to reduce the deficit and stop spending money will cause major problems in the very near future.

Years of socialist policies and reckless spending will eventually end in a complete collapse. Williams is not the only economist to sound the alarm either. As the tax cuts are always positive (people keeping more of their money is always good for the economy) the unwillingness to decrease the size and scope of the government with an expanded deficit will be the downfall of a once great nation.

The interview with Williams begins with him declaring the drop in the stock market to be the fault of the federal reserve. “Did the Fed trigger this most recent round of selling?” asks Hunter.

“It looks like it. If you recall, the story was, bond yields are rising. Rising bond yields means someone’s selling bonds. The Fed wasn’t actually selling bonds, they just were not rolling over the bonds that they normally would…I think you’re gonna see the dollar selling off very rapidly and gold rallying as a flight to safe haven.”

Then the discussion of the tax cuts comes up, as Hunter asks Williams to deliver his take on the lower taxes.

The tax cuts are generally positive. Anytime you cut taxes that is generally a plus for the economy. The problem is the average guy is still not making ends meet. Anything that increases the disposable income is a plus.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Conflict between Fiscal & Monetary Policy

We are moving into a crisis of monumental proportions. There has been a serious fundamental problem infecting economic policy on a global scale. This conflict has been between monetary and fiscal policy. While central banks engaged in Quantitative Easing, governments have done nothing but reap the benefits of low-interest rates. This is the problem we have with career politicians who people vote for because they are a woman, black, or smile nicely. There is never any emphasis upon qualification. Every other job in life you must be qualified to get it. Would you put someone in charge of a hospital with life and death decisions because they smile nicely?

Economic growth has been declining year-over-year and we are in the middle of a situation involving low-productivity expansion with high and rapidly rising budget deficits that benefit nobody but government employees.  Once upon a time, 8% growth was average, then 6%, and 4% before 2015.75. Now 3% is considered to be fantastic. Private debt at least must be backed by something whereas escalating public debt is completely unsecured. The ECB wanted to increase the criteria for bad loans, yet if those same criteria were applied to government, nobody would lend them a dime.

Monetary policy, after too long a phase of low-interest rates and quantitative easing, has created governments addicted to low-interest rates. They have expanded their spending and deficits for the central banks were simply keeping the government on life-support – not actually stimulating the private sector. Governments have pursued higher taxes and more efficient tax collection. They have attacked the global economy assuming anyone doing business offshore was just an excuse to hide taxes.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Four Rate Hikes in 2018 as US National Debt Will Spike

Four Rate Hikes in 2018 as US National Debt Will Spike

Chorus gets louder. But no one will be ready for those mortgage rates.

It didn’t take long for rate-hike expectations to be jostled further by last week’s “monster” two-year budget bill that Congress passed with its usual gyrations, including a government mini-shutdown, and that Trump signed into law on Friday. The bill increases spending caps by $300 billion over the next two years. It includes an additional $165 billion for the Pentagon and $131 billion for non-defense programs.

The bill comes after the tax cuts slashed expected revenues by $1.5 trillion of the next ten years. So pretty soon this is starting to add up.

Going forward, the US gross national debt will likely balloon at a rate of over $1 trillion a year, every year, even during the best of times. It’s $20.5 trillion currently [update 3 hours later, after debt ceiling suspended: $20.7 trillion]. It will likely be over $21.5 trillion a year from now – and this when the US economy is expected to boom. Any downturn will cause the debt to spike.

And what will the Fed do?

Four rate hikes this year – that’s what Credit Suisse’s US economists said in a research note on Monday. Previously, they’d expected three rate hikes for 2018.

“The FOMC has already boosted their growth outlook for 2018 in light of the tax bill passed in December and we anticipate another upward revision to their growth forecast at the March meeting,” the economists wrote in the research note, according to Reuters.

“With the economy near (or above) full employment, prudent risk management suggests the Fed ought to accelerate their tightening in response to a large positive demand shock,” they said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Rising Debt + Rising Rates

Rising Debt + Rising Rates

Have they all lost their collective minds? Look I get that some people are leaning Democrat versus Republican and vice versa and that’s fine, but what exactly are voters getting? If, on the one hand, you think Democrats tax and spend too much you get Republicans on the other hand who cut taxes with disproportional benefit to the top 1% and then spend even more. Fiscal conservatives? Please.

In early February the US government was already scheduled to borrow nearly $1 trillion this year. 

A week later and that figure is already out the door as this week both parties agreed to expand spending caps seemingly preparing for World War III. An incremental hundreds of billions of dollars to the military budget alone in just 2 years. What for? To what end? It’s a bonanza for defense contractors surely and the president apparently wants a parade, but have we entered the math no longer applies zone?

The numbers are staggering:

Ok, if nobody will say it I will: This is insane.
Just the increase alone is larger than Russia’s entire annual military budget.
“The budget deal would raise military spending by $80B through the rest of fiscal year and by $85B in fiscal year 2019”https://www.marketwatch.com/story/congressional-leaders-say-theyve-struck-two-year-budget-deal-2018-02-07?link=sfmw_tw 


The end result? Much, much more borrowing and deficits into the trillion+ range forever and ever amen:

2019? Looks lot be $1.4 Trillion.

I didn’t see these figures mentioned in any campaign brochures have you? And this is all pre-recession folks. We get a recession and you are looking at 2-3 trillion dollar deficits.

Think I’m going hyperbole on you?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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