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Fourth Turning Accelerating Towards Climax

FOURTH TURNING ACCELERATING TOWARDS CLIMAX

“At some point, America’s short-term Crisis psychology will catch up to the long-term post-Unraveling fundamentals. This might result in a Great Devaluation, a severe drop in the market price of most financial and real assets. This devaluation could be a short but horrific panic, a free-falling price in a market with no buyers. Or it could be a series of downward ratchets linked to political events that sequentially knock the supports out from under the residual popular trust in the system. As assets devalue, trust will further disintegrate, which will cause assets to devalue further, and so on. Every slide in asset prices, employment, and production will give every generation cause to grow more alarmed.” – Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

Economists Predict Great Depression II for US Economy: Fast or V ...

I’ve been writing articles about the Fourth Turning for over a decade and nothing has happened since its tumultuous onset in 2008, with the global financial collapse, created by the Federal Reserve and their Wall Street co-conspirator owners, that has not followed along the path described by Strauss and Howe in their 1997 book – The Fourth Turning.

Like molten lava bursting forth from a long dormant (80 years) volcano, the core elements of this Fourth Turning continue to flow along channels of distress, long ago built by bad decisions, corrupt politicians and the greed of bankers. The molten ingredients of this Crisis have been the central drivers since 2008 and this second major eruption is flowing along the same route. The core elements are debt, civic decay, and global disorder, just as Strauss & Howe anticipated over two decades ago.

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

Ben Bernanke: Contrary Indicator

Ben Bernanke: Contrary Indicator

On May 17, 2007 Ben Bernanke, then chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, spoke at a conference sponsored by the bank’s Chicago branch and told his audience the following:

[W]e believe the effect of the troubles in the subprime sector on the broader housing market will likely be limited, and we do not expect significant spillovers from the subprime market to the rest of the economy or to the financial system.

Just 18 months later the world economy was on its knees due to the implosion of the subprime housing market, an implosion that ended up spilling over into practically every other part of the world financial system.

Bernanke’s confident speech preceded the highs in the Dow Jones Industrial Average by only a few months and a few hundred points before the index plunged by more than 50 percent. Investment types would style Bernanke’s speech as a contrary indicator—an event, utterance or market statistic that suggests excessive optimism or pessimism in a manner that indicates an imminent and major reversal in the prevailing market trend.

After it was clear that the world financial system had avoided the abyss and the world economy had started to pick up again, Bernanke was hailed as “the man who saved the economy” by Newsweek and was chosen as Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” for 2009.

It was a little like applauding a pilot (read: central banker) who had recently crashed a plane (the economy by creating excessive credit), outfitting him with a new aircraft (costing trillions of dollars in central bank interventions and government bailouts of banks and major industries), and then congratulating him for getting the new plane (revived economy) off the ground.

Recently, Bernanke, whose hero-status seems not to have faded, appeared on CNBC to prognosticate again:

“[The current downturn is] really much closer to a major snowstorm or a natural disaster than it is to a classic 1930s-style depression.” Bernanke said he does expect a “very sharp” U.S. recession, but also a “fairly quick” recovery.

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

The House that Ben Built

The House that Ben Built

Yes, this collapse does portend to be far worse than the last and it’s a very different type of financial collapse too.

After credit markets froze in the subprime crash of 2008-2009 Ben Bernanke and the Fed conjured up a number of monetary tricks to keep the system afloat.  POMO, Twist, QE, TARP, repos, and currency swaps (and other monetary tricks) were used to provide liquidity to an essentially bankrupt system sporting a weaponized US dollar.[1] Even though the monetary tricks worked – or seemed to – they were based on a deeply flawed, immoral, and unlawful prospect: the privatization of profit enabled by the socialization of loss.

So the bubble that burst in 2008-2009 was simply reinflated by the Fed/Treasury with a good bit of collusion among global players… with differences to be addressed.  Trouble has been brewing among Central Banks and their dealers for years; notably HSBC, Deutsche Bank, and the Royal Bank of Scotland with many other structural defects apparent. As such monetary realists have warned for years that the coming economic collapse would be far worse than the last.

Since 2009 we’ve had trade wars, proxy wars, and punishing sanctions. Covert or overt interventionism and weaponization of the US dollar on behalf of war profiteers and economic hitmen — which Washington has blessed as being free market entrepreneurs — is not something that the rest of the world will forgive easily.

Yes, this collapse does portend to be far worse than the last and it’s a very different type of financial collapse too. The difference is remarkable in that global markets have become ever more co-dependent than they were ten years ago still largely relying on a weaponized US dollar as world reserve currency.

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

“Last Hurrah” for Central Bankers

“Last Hurrah” for Central Bankers

“Last Hurrah” for Central Bankers

We’ve all seen zombie movies where the good guys shoot the zombies but the zombies just keep coming because… they’re zombies!

Market observers can’t be blamed for feeling the same way about former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke.

Bernanke was Fed chair from 2006–2014 before handing over the gavel to Janet Yellen. After his term, Bernanke did not return to academia (he had been a professor at Princeton) but became affiliated with the center-left Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

Bernanke is proof that Washington has a strange pull on people. They come from all over, but most of them never leave. It gets more like Imperial Rome every day.

But just when we thought that Bernanke might be buried in the D.C. swamp, never to be heard from again… like a zombie, he’s baaack!

Bernanke gave a high-profile address to the American Economic Association at a meeting in San Diego on Jan. 4. In his address, Bernanke said the Fed has plenty of tools to fight a new recession.

He included quantitative easing (QE), negative interest rates and forward guidance among the tools in the toolkit. He estimates that combined, they’re equal to three percentage points of additional rate cuts. But that’s nonsense.

Here’s the actual record…

That QE2 and QE3 did not stimulate the economy at all; this has been the weakest economic expansion in U.S. history. All QE did was create asset bubbles in stocks, bonds and real estate that have yet to deflate (if we’re lucky) or crash (if we’re not).

Meanwhile, negative interest rates do not encourage people to spend as Bernanke expects. Instead, people save more to make up for what the bank is confiscating as “negative” interest. That hurts growth and pushes the Fed even further away from its inflation target.

What about “forward guidance?”

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

Fed Has Shovel, Digs Bigger Hole

Fed Has Shovel, Digs Bigger Hole

Let’s get to the bottom line on all this “rate cut” nonsense.

The Fed made a fatal mistake in first promoting “fiscal” actions (during the 08 crash) and then continuing to support them well after the bottom in 2009.  This allowed Barack Obama to run trillion dollar deficits for years and, once he did so to push policies that were economically bankrupt (e.g. the ACA) and got them embedded it was faced with the reality of the creature of its own design.

It appears that Yellen thought she could leave her office with a belated “goodbye” of “normalization”, after having been complict herself, and evade the impending blow up — at least until after her chair had cooled off from her ugly ass sitting on same.

She was wrong.

Powell not only ratified Bernanke’s policy he doubled down on his and Yellen’s insanity instead of putting up the middle finger when Donald Trump was elected.  By supporting Trump’s crazy deficit spending ramp he managed to stick ~30% on the stock market at the cost of trapping The Fed, permanently, in financing deficits.

If there was no cost to the real economy or real people in doing this it would defensible.  But there is such a cost, and it falls on 90% of the population — which owns only a tiny percentage of equities.  Worse, that cost falls not only on savers but those who have a fiduciary responsibility toward safety and return, which also typically have as their beneficiaries that same 90% of the population!

Then there’s the impact on state and local governments who can’t earn that return either and thus this ramps property taxes in response.  And while ultra-low rates seem to be good in some other places (e.g. home values) that’s a chimera.

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

Weekly Commentary: Whatever It Takes to Never Give Up

Weekly Commentary: Whatever It Takes to Never Give Up

Any central bank head that passes through an eight-year term without once raising rates has some explaining to do. To leave monetary policy extremely loose for such an extended period comes with major consequences (can we at least agree on that?). So, what went wrong? How did policy measures not operate as expected? With the benefit of hindsight, what could have been done differently?

What will be Draghi’s legacy? How will history view his stewardship over eurozone monetary policy? The years sure pass by. I still ponder how history will judge Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke. At this point, with securities prices (equities and bonds) basically at all-time highs, contemporary monetary policy – and its major architects – are held in high regard. I don’t expect this to remain the case following the next crisis.

A reporter question from Draghi’s Thursday press conference: “A recent survey by the Bank of America reveals that impotence and ineffectiveness of central banks, including the ECB, are the second risk perceived by investors. My question is: do you think that these investor concerns are justified? In other words, is there a risk of financial bubbles?”

Mario Draghi: “…You asked whether the expansionary monetary policies of central banks is the second-largest risk. I can answer for the eurozone; in the eurozone, and it’s a question we ask ourselves every day, many times a day, and I’m saying this because we monitor market developments very closely. We see some segments of financial markets where valuations are overstretched. One case is real estate, for example, and especially prime commercial real estate. Now, the causes of these overstretched valuations often don’t lead directly to our monetary policies. For prime commercial real estate, it’s the action of international investors…

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

Fourth Turning Economics

Fourth Turning Economics

“In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action.” – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe 

Image result for total global debt 2019

The quote above captures the current Fourth Turning perfectly, even though it was written more than a decade before the 2008 financial tsunami struck. With global debt now exceeding $250 trillion, up 60% since the Crisis began, and $13 trillion of sovereign debt with negative yields, it is clear to all rational thinking individuals the next financial crisis will make 2008 look like a walk in the park. We are approaching the eleventh anniversary of this crisis period, with possibly a decade to go before a resolution.

As I was thinking about what confluence of economic factors might ignite the next bloody phase of this Fourth Turning, I realized economic factors have been the underlying cause of all four Crisis periods in American history.

Debt levels in eurozone, G7, US and Germany

The specific details of each crisis change, but economic catalysts have initiated all previous Fourth Turnings and led ultimately to bloody conflict. There is nothing in the current dynamic of this Fourth Turning which argues against a similar outcome. The immense debt, stock and real estate bubbles, created by feckless central bankers, corrupt politicians, and spineless government apparatchiks, have set the stage for the greatest financial calamity in world history.

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

Fed Can’t Get Out – Buy Gold Now – Jim Rickards

Fed Can’t Get Out – Buy Gold Now – Jim Rickards

Four time best-selling author Jim Rickards says the Fed “throwing in the towel” on rate hikes is signaling a big problem for the economy. Rickards says, “The Fed was tightening to get ready for the next recession. . . . You need to cut interest rates somewhere between 4% and 5% to get out of a recession. How do you cut interest rates 4% if you are only at 2.25%? The answer is you can’t. You have to get to 4% before you can cut 4%, and that’s what the Fed was trying to do. . . . How do you raise rates in weakness to get ready for the next recession without causing the next recession that you are preparing to cure? That was the conundrum. I never thought they would get it right . . . and, as of now, it looks like they didn’t get it right. Meaning, they tightened so much to get ready for the next recession they slowed the economy.”

Rickards says, “Bernanke painted them into a corner, and they can’t get out. There is no escape from the room. By the way, one of the reasons gold is preforming so well, the Fed has proved that they can’t get out of this. They got into it, but they can’t get out of it because every time they try, they sink the stock market. They sink the housing market. They raise the specter of recession. They slow economic growth. They don’t want that. So, they sort of pause and maybe tiptoe back into it, but they really can’t get out of it.”

On gold, Rickards says, “People always say there is not enough gold to support commerce and trade and the money supply. I always remind them that is nonsense.

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

Federal Reserve Confesses Sole Responsibility for All Recessions

Federal Reserve balance sheet reduction not happening yet even as the Fed applauds its own success

In a surprisingly candid admission, two former Federal Reserve chairs have stated that the Federal Reserve alone is responsible for creating all recessions in the United States.

Former Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke Federal Reserve creates all recessions
First, former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said that
Expansions don’t die of old age. They get murdered.

To clarify this statement, former Chair Janet Yellen placed the murder weapon in the Fed’s hands:

Two things usually end them…. One is financial imbalances, and the other is the Fed.

Think that through, and you quickly realize that both of those things are the Fed. Is there anyone left standing who would not say the Fed’s quantitative easing in the past decade was the biggest cause of financial imbalances all over the world in history? Moreover, whose profligate monetary policies led to the Great Financial Crisis that gave us the Great Recession?

So, the Fed loads the gun with financial causes and then pulls the trigger. In fact, I think it would be hard to find a major financial imbalance in the US that the Fed did not have a hand in creating or, at least, enabling. Therefore, if those are the only two causes, then it is always the Federal Reserve that causes recessions by its own admission.

And, yet, those Fed dons look so pleased with themselves.

Yellen went on to say that when the Fed is the culprit, it is generally because the central bank is forced to tighten policy to curtail inflation and ends up overplaying its hand. (She didn’t mention that the Fed’s monetary policy may have a hand in creating financial imbalances.)

Exactly, nor did she mention that the inflation they were “forced” to curtail always happens because of financial imbalances the Fed created or enabled. That is why I call our expansion-recession cycles, rinse-and-repeat cycles.

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

Volatility Holds the Key to Markets in 2019

Volatility Holds the Key to Markets in 2019

Over the last two weeks, after making good on the four-rate interest hike of 2018, Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, became more dovish to start 2019.

His change in tone is worth considering because of his historical stance on reducing the amount of artificial stimulus coming from the Fed. Last week, after the required five-year holding period for Fed transcripts were up, we got a glimpse into Powell’s thoughts from 2013, before he was Chairman.

Powell tried to persuade then-Chairman, Ben Bernanke, to reduce the Fed’s stimulus, even though it would lead to greater near-term market volatility. That was when the third round of the Fed’s asset-buying program (QE3) was in full swing. The Fed was purchasing an estimated $85 billion per month mix of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities.

To indicate that the Fed wouldn’t buy bonds forever, Bernanke floated the idea of slowing down its program, or “tapering,” at some non-defined future date.

Powell, on the other hand, believed the market needed a specific “road map” of the Fed’s intentions. He said that he wasn’t “concerned about a little bit of volatility” though he was “concerned that there may be more than that here.”

Indeed, once Bernanke publicly announced the possibility of the Fed’s bond-buying program slowing down, the market tanked, in a response that became known as a “taper tantrum.” As a result, Bernanke backed off the tapering idea.

Fear of more taper tantrums kept the Fed in check after that. The Fed ultimately waited until it had raised rates sufficiently, before starting to cut the size of its balance sheet. But now Powell is the Chairman. And it seems that he is much less comfortable with volatility than he was under Bernanke, as his most recent remarks indicate.

But it certainly wouldn’t be the first time a Fed chairman has modified his views when he was in control. Alan Greenspan, for example, was a staunch advocate of the gold standard when he was younger (and as presented in Foreign Affairs). But once he was Fed head, suddenly he thought a gold standard wasn’t such a hot idea after all. Go figure.

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

Coffee Sellers Are Not Fundamentally Different From Banks

With the 2007-8 financial crisis came a splendid alphabetical soup of central bank interventions to stimulate financial markets, lower interest rates, provide astonishing amounts of liquidity to banks and, allegedly, prevent another Great Depression. Likening the failure of big banks to falling elephants crushing even the smallest grass, former Fed Chairman Bernanke argued that consequences from bank failures would have caused much more havoc to the economy than the liquidity provision and bailouts his Fed oversaw.

Now, do banks really deserve special consideration in this sense? Let me illustrate by comparing the fates of two imaginary entrepreneurs:

Our first entrepreneur — let’s call him John — sees an opportunity in the beverage business. Specifically, he’s convinced that he can source high-quality Brazilian coffee beans, roast and serve impeccably aromatic coffee in downtown Manhattan. He draws up the business plan, estimates what he believes coffee-craving New Yorkers would be willing to pay for his coffee and assesses how many customers he could reasonably serve per day.

Setting his plan in action, he borrows some money from friends and family, rents an appropriate space, hires a construction team and interior designers to create the coffee-scented heaven he imagines, finds some competent baristas to staff it and finally opens his doors to hesitantly curious customers. From here, as in all entrepreneurial ventures, there are two paths John’s business may take:

  1. If customers love his coffee and willingly part with their dollars , enough so that John can cover costs as well as offer some return to his shareholders/creditors, we consider John’s venture successful. The profits describe the added value for consumers, regardless of whether you see John as a Misesian uncertainty-carrying and future-appreciating speculator or a Kirznerian arbitrageur, alert to discrepancies between prices of higher and lower-order goods.

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

Volcker Rebukes Bernanke and Yellen

Volcker Rebukes Bernanke and Yellen

In his new book, “Keeping At It: The Quest for Sound Money and Good Government,” by Paul Volcker (1979-1987) with Christine Harper, the former Fed Chairman delivers a sound rebuke to Chairmen Ben Bernanke (2006-2014) and Janet Yellen (2014-2018), and other Fed governors and economists, for fretting overmuch about deflation.  He argues that the true danger is that loose monetary policy leads to inflation and market contagion caused by the manipulation of risk preferences.

Volcker specifically chides Bernanke and Yellen for their fixation on a two percent inflation target, one of the main ornaments on the data dependent Fed Christmas Tree.  “How did central bankers fall into the trap of assigning such weight to tiny changes in a single statistic, with all of its inherent weakness?” he asks.  Good question. Volcker writes in Bloomberg:

“Deflation is a threat posed by a critical breakdown of the financial system. Slow growth and recurrent recessions without systemic financial disturbances, even the big recessions of 1975 and 1982, have not posed such a risk.  The real danger comes from encouraging or inadvertently tolerating rising inflation and its close cousin of extreme speculation and risk taking, in effect standing by while bubbles and excesses threaten financial markets. Ironically, the ‘easy money,’ striving for a ‘little inflation’ as a means of forestalling deflation, could, in the end, be what brings it about.  That is the basic lesson for monetary policy. It demands emphasis on price stability and prudent oversight of the financial system. Both of those requirements inexorably lead to the responsibilities of a central bank.”

Of course, Volcker is cut from different cloth than his successors.  Janet Yellen was only chairman of the Federal Reserve Board for four years and with good reason.

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

The Everything Bubble: When Will It Finally Crash?

The Everything Bubble: When Will It Finally Crash?

Much like the laws of physics, there are certain laws of economics that remain constant no matter how much manipulation exists in the markets. Expansion inevitably leads to contraction, and that which goes up must eventually come down. Central banks understand this reality very well; they have spent over a century trying to exploit those laws to their own advantage.

A common misconception among people new to alternative economics is the idea that central banks only seek to keep the economy afloat, or keep it expanding forever. In reality, these institutions and the money elites behind them artificially inflate financial bubbles only to deliberately implode them at opportunistic moments.

As I have outlined in numerous articles, every economic bubble and subsequent crash since 1914 can be linked to the policy actions of central bankers. Sometimes they even admit to culpability (to a point), as Ben Bernanke did on the Great Depression and as Alan Greenspan did on the 2008 credit crisis. You can read more about this in my article ‘The Federal Reserve Is A Saboteur – And The “Experts” Are Oblivious.’

Generally, central bankers and international bankers mislead the public into believing that the crashes they are responsible for were caused “by mistake.” They rarely if ever mention the fact that they often use these crises as a means to consolidate control over assets, resources and governments while the masses are distracted by their own financial survival. Centralization is the name of the game. It is certainly no mistake that after every economic implosion the wealth gapbetween the top 0.01% and the rest of humanity widens exponentially.

Yet another crash is being weaponized by the banks, and this time I believe the motivations behind it are rather different. Or at least the goals are supercharged.

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

The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble

The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble

Ben Bernanke responded to Paul Krugman’s post last week, which agreed with my argument that the main cause of the Great Recession was the collapse of the housing bubble rather than the financial crisis. Essentially, Bernanke repeats his argument in the earlier paper that the collapse of Lehman and the resulting financial crisis led to a sharp downturn in non-residential investment, residential investment, and consumption. I’ll let Krugman speak for himself, but I see this as not really answering the key questions.

I certainly would not dispute that the financial crisis hastened the decline in house prices, which was already well underway by September of 2008. It also hastened the end of the housing bubble led consumption boom, which again was in the process of ending already as the housing wealth that drove it was disappearing.

I’ll come back to these points in a moment, but I want to focus on an issue that Bernanke highlights, the drop in non-residential investment following the collapse of Lehman. What Bernanke seemed to have both missed at the time, and continues to miss now, is that there was a bubble in non-residential construction. This bubble essentially grew in the wake of the collapsing housing bubble.

Prices of non-residential structures increased by roughly 50 percent between 2004 and 2008 (see Figure 5 here). This run-up in prices was associated with an increase in investment in non-residential structures from 2.5 percent of GDP in 2004 to 4.0 percent of GDP in 2008 (see Figure 4).

This bubble burst following the collapse of Lehman, with prices falling back to their pre-bubble level. Investment in non-residential structures fell back to 2.5 percent in GDP. This drop explains the overwhelming majority of the fall in non-residential investment in 2009. There was only a modest decline in the other categories of non-residential investment.

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

Heroes & Whores

HEROES & WHORES

“Certainly one of the most important things I learned is that numbers can be deceiving. There is a logic to mathematics, but there is also the underlying human element that must be considered. Numbers can’t lie, but the people who create those numbers can and do. As so many people have learned, forgetting to include human nature in an equation can be devastating.”Harry Markopolos, No One Would Listen

Image result for harry markopolos

The quote I used from Harry Markopolos’ No One Would Listen book about the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme in my last article triggered a bittersweet recollection. For me, the experience captured the true nature of our warped financial markets, a culture  glorifying wealthy arrogant criminal assholes, while ignoring or ridiculing honest, hard working, highly intelligent truth tellers.

The picture of Markopolos above shows an average looking middle aged guy, with a five o’clock shadow, bad haircut, and wearing a modestly priced suit and tie. Since reading about his fruitless effort to expose Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme and his fifteen minutes of fame in 2009, I have felt an affinity towards him. We both have a brother and sister. We were both brought up in Catholic households and went to Catholic schools. We both have degrees in finance. We have both had financial careers. We are both married with three sons. And we both believe facts and an accurate assessment of the numbers always reveals the truth.

Through his job as a portfolio manager with a small investment firm Bernie Madoff’s investing record was brought to his attention. As a numbers guy, he immediately began assessing the returns.  Markopolos said he knew within five minutes Madoff’s numbers didn’t add up. It took him another four hours to mathematically prove that they could have only been obtained by fraud.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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