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Takeover

Takeover

We can’t print ourselves out of this crisis again, but that isn’t stopping the Federal Reserve from trying. Thursday’s intervention program, the latest in a string of panic moves to keep the financial system afloat, constitutes a complete takeover attempt of the market ecosphere, only the buying of stocks directly is last missing piece of eventual complete central bank control of equity markets. But seizing control of the bond market is the nearest equivalent step.

Not only that, the Fed is buying junk corporate debt propping up companies that should be let to fail as Chamath Palihapitiya pointed out poignantly this week. But not this Fed, no, with its actions it is again setting up the economy for yet another slower growth recovery, financed by even more debt.

QE doesn’t produce growth, that is the established track record:

Nobody wants to talk about the consequences to come following this crisis, but that doesn’t mean the consequences won’t be a real and present reality.

No, the Fed, while trying to save the world, is once again engaged in vastly distorting asset prices from the fundamental reality of the economy. It is in essence again laying the foundation for the next bubble, while the bursting of this bubble has yet to be fully priced in.

Even the Wall Street Editorial Board has made it perfectly clear what this is all about:


The @WSJ Editorial Board tells you what the new price distortion is all about: Save Wall Street and the top 1% and hope for trickle down economics later:https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-feds-main-street-mistake-11586474912 …

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Asset price inflation to save markets in the hopes of trickle down growth to come.

Absurd.

The message the Fed is again is sending is to invite reckless behavior on the side of investors, the same reckless, TINA, fueled behavior that got us the bubble blow-off top in February.

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

“Not QE”, Monetization, & “Definitely Asset Inflation”

“Not QE”, Monetization, & “Definitely Asset Inflation”

Chart below shows the Federal Reserve holdings of Treasuries, a weekly change (black columns) and total holdings (red line) during QE1, QE2, Operation Twist, QE3, QT, and “Not QE”.  Got it?!?  This current “Not QE” explosion in QE is like some kind of old time vaudeville act (like the old Abbott and Costello bit, “who’s on first, what’s on second, I don’t know’s on third”).

But looking more widely, the chart below shows the total Federal Reserve balance sheet (blue shaded area), bank excess reserves (red line), and the delta between the Fed’s balance sheet and excess reserves…also known as direct monetization.  As the Fed restarted “not QE” but did not go through the façade of attempting to stock the new money away as “excess reserves”, this new money is flowing straight into assets, like monetary heroine.

Below, a close up of the components above solely in 2019 (through November 6th).  Balance sheet soaring once again since the Fed’s sudden pivot, excess reserves continue falling…and the difference in freshly digitized cash in the hands of banks and the like…ready to be levered up.

So, monetization (yellow line) versus the Wilshire 5000 (green line) from 2014 through last week.  For those not familiar, the Wilshire 5000 total market index, is a market-capitalization weighted index of the market value of all US stocks actively traded in the US.

And fascinatingly, since the beginning of 2018, the Wilshire 5000 and direct monetization are becoming more attuned to one another.  And in mock shock, the new record close in the Wilshire just happens to be accompanied by a new record in direct monetization!?!  Almost as if the addition of $320 billion in fresh digital cash since mid August Fed U-turn had something to do with the $2.2 trillion rise in US equities over the same period (a leverage ratio of about 7x).  Hmmm.

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

How Asset Inflation Will End–This Time

HOW ASSET INFLATION WILL END — THIS TIME

Life after death for asset inflation: this is what happens when “speculative fever” remains high even after monetary inflation has paused. This may well have been the situation in global markets during 2019 so far. But history and principle suggest that life after death in this monetary sense is short.

Readers may find it odd to be talking about a pause in monetary inflation at a time when the Fed has cancelled programmed rate rises and the ECB has embarked (March 7) on yet further “radical” policy moves. Moreover, the “core” US inflation rate (as measured by PCE) is still at virtually 2 per cent year-on-year.

Yet we know from past cycles that in the early stages of recession many market participants — and, crucially, central banks — mistakenly view a stall in rate rises or actual rate cuts as stimulatory. Later with the benefit of hindsight these policy moves turn out to be insufficient to prevent a tightening of monetary conditions already in process but unrecognized.

Even had monetary conditions been easing rather than tightening, it is highly dubious whether this difference would have meant the powerful momentum behind the business cycle moving into its recession phase would have lessened substantially.

(As a footnote here: under a gold standard regime there is no claim that monetary conditions will evolve perfectly in line with contracyclical fine-tuning. Both in principle and fact monetary conditions could tighten there at first as recessionary forces gathered. Under sound money, however, contracyclical forces would emerge strongly into the recession as directed by the invisible hand.)

Under a fiat money regime, monetary tightening can occur in the transition of a business cycle into recession, despite the opposite intention of the central bank policy-makers, due to endogenous factors such as an undetected increase in demand for money or a fall in the underlying “money multipliers.”

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

How Asset Inflation Will End — This Time

How Asset Inflation Will End — This Time

Life after death for asset inflation: this is what happens when “speculative fever” remains high even after monetary inflation has paused. This may well have been the situation in global markets during 2019 so far. But history and principle suggest that life after death in this monetary sense is short.

Readers may find it odd to be talking about a pause in monetary inflation at a time when the Fed has cancelled programmed rate rises and the ECB has embarked (March 7) on yet further “radical” policy moves. Moreover, the “core” US inflation rate (as measured by PCE) is still at virtually 2 per cent year-on-year.

Yet we know from past cycles that in the early stages of recession many market participants — and, crucially, central banks — mistakenly view a stall in rate rises or actual rate cuts as stimulatory. Later with the benefit of hindsight these policy moves turn out to be insufficient to prevent a tightening of monetary conditions already in process but unrecognized.

Even had monetary conditions been easing rather than tightening, it is highly dubious whether this difference would have meant the powerful momentum behind the business cycle moving into its recession phase would have lessened substantially.

(As a footnote here: under a gold standard regime there is no claim that monetary conditions will evolve perfectly in line with contracyclical fine-tuning. Both in principle and fact monetary conditions could tighten there at first as recessionary forces gathered. Under sound money, however, contracyclical forces would emerge strongly into the recession as directed by the invisible hand.)

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

The Coming Inflation Threat: The Worst Of Both Worlds

Sandusky Register

The Coming Inflation Threat: The Worst Of Both Worlds

Expect falling asset inflation, but rising cost inflation
Inflation is a funny thing: we feel it virtually every day, but we’re told it doesn’t exist—the official inflation rate is around 2.5% over the past few years, a little higher when energy prices are going up and a little lower when energy prices are going down.

Historically, 2.5% is about as low as inflation gets in a mass-consumption economy like the U.S. that depends on the constant expansion of credit.

But even 2.5% annually can add up if wages are stagnant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), what cost $1 in January 2009 now costs $1.19. https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

That 19% decline in the purchasing power of dollars is tolerable as long as wages go up by 20% over the same period, but for many American households, wages haven’t kept pace with official inflation.

While the nominal hourly wages keep rising, adjusted for inflation, wages have stagnated for decades.  Here’s a chart based on BLS data that shows median weekly earnings adjusted for official inflation rose $6 a week after five years of decline:

But stagnant wages are only part of the inflation picture: official inflation under-represents real-world inflation on several counts.

First, the weightings of the components in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) are suspect.  Many commentators have explored this issue, but the main point is the severe underweighting of expenses such as healthcare, which is only 8.67% of the CPI but over 18% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Second, the “big ticket” components—rent/housing, healthcare and higher education—are under-reported for those who have to pay the unsubsidized cost.  The CPI reflects minor cost decreases in tradable commodity goods such as TVs and clothing that are small parts of the family budget, while minimizing enormous expenses such as college tuition and healthcare that can cost $20,000 annually or more.

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

Weekly Commentary: End of an Era

Weekly Commentary: End of an Era

Of the diverse strains of inflation, asset inflation is by far the most dangerous. A bout of consumer price inflation would be generally recognized as problematic and rectified through a tightening of monetary conditions. On the other hand, asset price inflation is both celebrated and venerated. There is simply no constituency calling for a tightening of conditions to ward off the deleterious effects of rising asset prices, Bubbles and attendant economic maladjustment. And as we’ve witnessed, the bigger the Bubble the more powerful the constituencies that rationalize, justify and promote Bubble excess.

About one year ago, I was expecting a securities markets sell-off in the event of an unexpected Donald Trump win. A Trump presidency would create disruption, upheaval and major uncertainties – political, geopolitical, economic and social. Instead of a fall, the markets experienced a short squeeze and unwind of hedges. Over-liquefied markets and a powerful inflationary bias throughout global securities markets won the day – and the winning runs unabated.

We’ve come a long way since 1992 and James Carville’s “I used to think that if there was reincarnation, I wanted to come back as the president or the pope or as a .400 baseball hitter. But now I would like to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody.” New age central banking has pacified bond markets and eradicated the vigilantes. These days it’s the great equities bull market as all-powerful intimidator.

The President admitted his surprise in winning the election. I suspect he and his team were astounded by the post-election market rally. I’ve always held the view that prolonged bull markets foster a portentous concentration of power – not only in the financial markets but within the financial system more generally.

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

I was asked: Whatever Happened to Inflation after all this Money-Printing?

I was asked: Whatever Happened to Inflation after all this Money-Printing?

I was asked once again why all this central-bank “money-printing” along with global zero-interest-rate or even negative-interest-rate policies haven’t caused a big bout of inflation, considering how currencies are getting watered down.

It’s a crucial question that baffled many minds for a while, but now, as this thing has been dragging out for seven years, bouncing from one major central bank to the next, without end in sight, the answer is becoming clearer.

This chart by NBF Economics and Strategy shows the growing pile of assets, expressed in dollars, that the “four big central banks” – Fed, ECB, Bank of Japan, and Bank of England – have heaped on their balance sheets: nearly $11 trillion. This does not include what China is doing. The forecasts for 2016 and 2017 assume that the Fed and the Bank of England will stay away from QE, that the BoJ will add annually ¥80 trillion (with a T) to its pile and the ECB €60 billion, with exchange rates unchanged:

Big-Four-Central-Bank-Balance-sheet-2007-2017

Consumer Price Inflation v. Asset Price Inflation

So this global binge of QE has caused inflation, a lot of it, but not consumerprice inflation. It has caused rampant asset price inflation, with stocks, bonds, real estate, classic cars, art… all skyrocketing over the years.

Just about the only major asset class that didn’t experience gains is the commodities sector. There, prices have collapsed. And we’ll get to that in a moment.

So why has QE caused rampant asset price inflation but little consumer price inflation? Because the money never went to consumers – in form of wages. They would have spent most of it, thus driving up demand that could have created some inflationary pressures in consumer prices. But they never got this money.

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

 

Are Negative Rates Fueling Deflation?

Are Negative Rates Fueling Deflation?

Those in power never understand markets. They are very myopic in their view of the world. The assumption that lowering interest rates will “stimulate” the economy has NEVER worked, not even once. Nevertheless, they assume they can manipulate society in the Marxist-Keynesian ideal world, but what if they are wrong?

By lowering interest rates, they ASSUME they will encourage people to borrow and thus expand the economy. They fail to comprehend that people will borrow only when they BELIEVE there is an opportunity to make money. Additionally, they told people to save for their retirement. Now they want to punish them for doing so by imposing negative interest rates (tax on money) to savings. They do not understand that lowering interest rates, when there is no confidence in the future anyhow, will not encourage people to start businesses and expand the economy. It wipes out the income of savers and then the only way to make and preserve money becomes ASSET investment, as in the stock market — not creating business startups.

So lowering interest rates is DEFLATIONARY, not inflationary, for it reduces disposable income. This is particularly true for the elderly who are forced back to work to compete for jobs, which increases youth unemployment.

Since the only way to make money has become ASSET INFLATION, they must withdraw money from banks and buy stocks. Now, they are in the hated class of the “rich” who are seen as the 1% because they are making money when the wage earner loses money as taxation rises and the economy declines. As taxes rise, machines are replacing workers and shrinking the job market, which only fuels more deflation. Then you have people like Hillary who say they will DOUBLE the minimum wage, which will cause companies to replace even more jobs with machines.

Keynes-5

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ECB & The Failed QE Stimulus

ECB & The Failed QE Stimulus

Stimulate

The central banks are simply trapped. They have bought in bonds under the theory that this will stimulate the economy by injecting cash. But there are several problems with this entire concept. This is an elitist view to say the least for the money injected does not stimulate the economy for it never reaches the consumer. This attempt to stimulate by increasing the money supply assumes that it does not matter who has the money. If we are looking only at the institutional level, then this will not contribute to DEMAND inflation only ASSET inflation by causing share markets to rise in proportion to the decline in currency value.

Negative-Rates

The European Central Bank (ECB) then pushes interest rates negative to punish savers and consumers for not spending money that never reaches their pocket. Negative rates promotes hoarding cash outside of banks which in turn then inspires the brilliant idea of eliminating cash to force the objective and end hoarding. But negative rates have been simply a tax on money. The attempt to “manage” the economy from a macro level without considering the capital flow within the system is leading to disaster.

ElasticThen we have the problem that the central banks in attempting QE operations, cannot figure out how to reverse the process. They cannot sell the debt back to the market thereby defeating the original concept of creating elastic money supply. You increase the money supply during a recession to prevent banks being forced to sell assets to meet a panic demand for cash. Transactional banking has altered the classic borrow short lend long operations of banks cancelling out the idea of requiring and elastic money supply. All central banks can do now is allow the bonds they bought to mature and expire. If they attempt to sell the bonds they bought back into the marketplace, they will drive rates higher in a panic.

Draghi-Lagarde

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The Fed Can’t Raise Rates, But Must Pretend It Will

The Fed Can’t Raise Rates, But Must Pretend It Will

Waiting for Godot is a play written by the Irish novelist Samuel B. Beckett in the late 1940s in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, keep waiting endlessly and in vain for the coming of someone named Godot. The storyline bears some resemblance to the Federal Reserve’s talk about raising interest rates.

Since spring 2013, the Fed has been playing with the idea of raising rates, which it had suppressed to basically zero percent in December 2008. So far, however, it has not taken any action. Upon closer inspection, the reason is obvious. With its policy of extremely low interest rates, the Fed is fueling an artificial economic expansion and inflating asset prices.

Selected US Interest Rates in Percent

Selected US Interest Rates in Percent
Source: Thomson Financial

Raising short-term rates would be like taking away the punch bowl just as the party gets going. As rates rise, the economy’s production and employment structure couldn’t be upheld. Neither could inflated bond, equity, and housing prices. If the economy slows down, let alone falls back into recession, the Fed’s fiat money pipe dream would run into serious trouble.

This is the reason why the Fed would like to keep rates at the current suppressed levels. A delicate obstacle to such a policy remains, though: If savers and investors expect that interest rates will remain at rock bottom forever, they would presumably turn their backs on the credit market. The ensuing decline in the supply of credit would spell trouble for the fiat money system.

To prevent this from happening, the Fed must achieve two things. First, it needs to uphold the expectation in financial markets that current low interest rates will be increased again at some point in the future. If savers and investors buy this story, they will hold onto their bank deposits, money market funds, bonds, and other fixed income products despite minuscule yields.

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

 

Within Or Without The Stock Bubble Matters A Great Deal

Within Or Without The Stock Bubble Matters A Great Deal

As doubts surrounding QE have grown, there has been a somewhat detectable if still small trend in central banker repentance. Alan Greenspan to an extent has embraced a more decentralized and market framework in his public comments even though he has yet, to my knowledge, actually repudiate his own work more directly. As noted a few days ago, former BoE governor Mervyn King has been far more open and alarming. While that may seem to indicate that monetarists only find free market “religion” once out of the drudgery of their professional office, I think Zhou Xiaochuan, head of the PBOC, performs the exception.

The direction the Chinese central bank has taken since late 2013 seems to confirm that idea more and more. Viewed as a repudiation of textbook monetary tactics and even basic justifications, the PBOC has become if not more “market” oriented at least drastically shifting priorities from the conventional, QE definitions of “growth at all costs” to something like managing that past mistake (as the PBOC took orthodox monetarism to new levels of insanity from 2009 through 2012). Last April, really at the outset of what China was about to do, Zhou issued a warning that looks to have been quite appropriate:

“If the central bank is not a part of the government, it is not efficient in coordinating policies to push forward reforms,” [Zhou] said.

“Our choice has its own rational reasons behind it. But this choice also has its costs. For example, whether we can efficiently cope with asset bubbles and inflation is questionable.”

That certainly seems to be a damning repudiation of the monetary illusion. Faith in the QE world is waning everywhere and with very good reason; it just doesn’t work in anything outside of dangerous financial imbalance and asset price inflation. Even Krugman appears to have wavered:

 

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

ECB, Monetarism and a Greek Half-Decade

ECB, Monetarism and a Greek Half-Decade

Greece really should not matter, at all, outside of the tragic plight of the Greeks themselves. You’ll see that message echoed particularly inside the US where the status quo takes a contradictory turn toward reasonableness in order to justify further what isn’t. This is all about asset prices and how they have been so skewed almost everywhere that when one part of that systemic imbibing threatens to pull back the curtain the rest works overdrive to convince that it doesn’t matter.

Just fourteen months ago, then-Prime Minister of Greece, Antonis Samaras, went on Greek television and confidently proclaimed, “Today, Greece took one more decisive step to exit the crisis. Confidence in our country was confirmed by the most objective judge – the markets.” Going further, then-Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos objected to any other interpretation, “The bond issue proves the debt is sustainable, otherwise the markets wouldn’t have bought it.”

Obviously, those were political statements intended to send a political message in that the “objective” market was on the side of that current Greek political makeup and the “austerity” track into which they proclaimed to be amalgamated, inextricably within the euro currency. Under rational expectations theory, of course, the price with which the Greeks floated that bond was believed to be “correct” and thus efficient. The 4.95% yield at the auction, 20 times oversubscribed, certainly seemed to suggest that it was “market clearing” in at least that respect.

ABOOK June 2015 Greece GRE 5s

The problem with all of that view is apparent right now. The 5-year bond, after having a pretty good week last week with all the false deal rumors, is yielding this morning almost 23%. The losses embedded in that yield and its price were uniquely predictable, which is what is so damning about Greece as it relates to everything outside of the “small country on the Aegean.”

 

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B-Dud Explains The Fed’s Economic Coup—-Or Why Every Asset Price Is Manipulated | David Stockman’s Contra Corner

B-Dud Explains The Fed’s Economic Coup—-Or Why Every Asset Price Is Manipulated | David Stockman’s Contra Corner.

Keynesian economists are annoying enough when they are pitching inflated financial assets on Wall Street or the supposed curative powers of fiscal deficits on Capitol Hill. But they become positively dangerous when they populate the Eccles Building and usurp control of the nation’s capital and money markets lock, stock and barrel in the name of “monetary accommodation”.

Needless to say, the Fed is presently over-run with Keynesian money printers led by Janet Yellen and Stanley Fischer. Both of these famous PhDs are actually proponents of a primitive macroeconomic doctrine that should be called “bathtub economics”.  In their wisdom, these doctors of economics have simply postulated that the nation’s economic output “should” be at aggregate levels which far exceed current production, and that the resulting shortfall from “potential” output, incomes and jobs is due to insufficient “aggregate demand”.

This purported “output gap” is conveniently self-serving. It has been interpreted to mean that the Fed has a plenary mission to fill-up the nation’s economic bathtub by generating sufficient incremental aggregate demand to off-set the shortfall. This demand plugging function, in turn, is to be accomplished by the constant intervention of the Fed’s open market desk into money and capital markets. So doing, it is empowered to manipulate, massage, twist, bend and pump any financial variable that in its wisdom is deemed to influence the transmission of its monetary policy (i.e.”aggregate demand” stimulus) into the real economy.

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

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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