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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…

The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessa

The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary

Photo Source Xavier | CC BY 2.0

This week marked 10 years since the harrowing descent into the financial crisis — when the huge investment bank Lehman Bros. went into bankruptcy, with the country’s largest insurer, AIG, about to follow. No one was sure which financial institution might be next to fall.

The banking system started to freeze up. Banks typically extend short-term credit to one another for a few hundredths of a percentage point more than the cost of borrowing from the federal government. This gap exploded to 4 or 5 percentage points after Lehman collapsed. Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke — along with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Bank of New York President Timothy Geithner — rushed to Congress to get $700 billion to bail out the banks. “If we don’t do this today we won’t have an economy on Monday,” is the line famously attributed to Bernanke.

The trio argued to lawmakers that without the bailout, the United States faced a catastrophic collapse of the financial system and a second Great Depression.

Neither part of that story was true.

Still, news reports on the crisis raised the prospect of empty ATMs and checks uncashed. There were stories in major media outlets about the bank runs of 1929.

No such scenario was in the cards in 2008. Unlike 1929, we have the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The FDIC was created precisely to prevent the sort of bank runs that were common during the Great Depression and earlier financial panics. The FDIC is very good at taking over a failed bank to ensure that checks are honored and ATMs keep working. In fact, the FDIC took over several major banks and many minor ones during the Great Recession. Business carried on as normal and most customers — unless they were following the news closely — remained unaware.

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

The Bailouts for the Rich Are Why America Is So Screwed Right Now

The Bailouts for the Rich Are Why America Is So Screwed Right Now

Did they prevent a full-scale collapse? Yes. Was it necessary to do it the way we did? Not at all.

These guys got off pretty easy. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

In 1948, the architect of the post-war American suburb, William Levitt, explained the point of the housing finance system. “No man who owns his own house and lot can be a Communist,” he said. “He has too much to do.”

It’s worth reflecting on this quote on the ten-year anniversary of the financial crisis, because it speaks to how the architects of the bailouts shaped our culture. Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, and Hank Paulson, the three key men in charge, basically argue that the bailouts they executed between 2007 and 2009 were unfair, but necessary to preserve stability. It’s time to ask, though: just what stability did they preserve?



These three men paint the financial crisis largely as a technical one. But let’s not get lost in the fancy terms they use, like “normalization of credit flows,” in discussing what happened and why. The excessively wonky tone is intentional—it’s intended to hide the politics of what happened. So let’s look at what the bailouts actually were, in normal human language.

The official response to the financial crisis ended a 75-year-old American policy of pursuing broad homeownership as a social goal. Since at least Franklin Delano Roosevelt, American leaders had deliberately organized the financial system to put more people in their own homes. In 2011, the Obama administration changed this policy, pushing renting over owning. The CEO of Bank of America, Brian Moynihan, echoed this view shortly thereafter. There are many reasons for the change, and not all of them were bad. But what’s important to understand is that the financial crisis was a full-scale assault on the longstanding social contract linking Americans with the financial system through their house.

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

Albert Edwards: Why We Are Destined To Repeat The Mistakes Of The Past

With everyone and their grandmother opining on the 10 year anniversary of the start of the global financial crisis, it was inevitable that the strategist who predicted the great crash (and according to some has been doing the same for the past decade) – SocGen’s Albert Edwards – would share his thoughts on what he has dubbed the “10th anniversary of chaos.”

In it, the SocGen skeptic slams the trio of Bernanke, Geithner and Paulson who have been not only penning op-eds in recent days, but making the media rounds in a valiant attempt to redirect the spotlight from the culprits behind the crisis, writing that “they just never recognized beforehand that the economy was a massive credit bubble, just like it is now” and points to central bank arrogance as the “main reason why we should still be scared.”

Of course, just like 10 years ago, as long as the market keeps going up, nobody is actually “scared” and instead everyone is enjoying the ride (just as the legion of crypto fans who are no longer HODLing). The “fear” only comes when the selling begins, and by then it’s always too late to do anything about the final outcome as yet another bubble bursts.

Below we excerpt some of the observations from Edwards’ “A thought on the 10th anniversary of chaos”

Central Bank arrogance is one of the main reasons why we should still be scared. As a former official at the NY Fed, Peter Fisher, recently noted, “The Fed has acknowledged no failures. All the experiments have been successful, every one: no failures, no negative side-effects, no perverse consequences, only diminishing returns.”

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

Bernanke, Geithner and Paulson Still Don’t Have a Clue About the Financial Crisis

Bernanke, Geithner and Paulson Still Don’t Have a Clue About the Financial Crisis

NYT readers were no doubt disturbed to see a column in  which former Fed Reserve Board chair Ben Bernanke, Obama Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson patted themselves on the back for their performance in the financial crisis. First, as they acknowledge in the piece, all three completely failed to see the crisis coming.

During the years when house prices were getting way out of line with both their long-term trend and rents, Bernanke was a Fed governor, then head of the Council of Economic Advisers, and then Fed chair. He openly dismissed the idea that the run-up in house prices could pose any threat to the economy. Henry Paulson was at Goldman Sachs until he became Treasury Secretary in the middle of 2006. As the bank’s CEO he was personally profiting from the bubble as the bank played a central role in securitizing mortgage backed securities. Timothy Geithner was president of the New York Fed, where he was paid over $400,000 a year to make sure that the Wall Street banks were not taking on excessive risk.

It is bad enough that these three didn’t see the crisis coming, but they still seem utterly clueless. They tell readers:

“Productivity growth was slowing, wages were stagnating, and the share of Americans who were working was shrinking. That put pressure on family incomes even as inequality rose and upward social mobility declined. The desire to maintain relative living standards no doubt contributed to a surge in household borrowing before the crisis.”

Actually productivty growth didn’t begin to slow until 2006, as the bubble was hitting its peak. Growth was quite strong from 2000 to 2005, which means the cause of wage stagnation in those years must lie elsewhere.

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

 

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