Home » Posts tagged 'central banks'

Tag Archives: central banks

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Cataclysm
Click on image to purchase

The Bubble’s Losing Air. Get Ready for a Crisis

The Bubble’s Losing Air. Get Ready for a Crisis

Investors need to focus on their response to financial stresses in an era in which policymakers will be constrained.

Not much to do once it pops.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The “everything bubble” is deflating. The fact that it’s happening relatively slowly shouldn’t blind us to the real threat: The world is dangerously underestimating how hard it’ll be to deal with the fallout once it pops.

Frothy markets can’t disguise the warning signs. The shift to tighter monetary policies in the West is putting pressure on global equity and real-estate values. Even more critically, it’s weakening credit markets. Over-indebted emerging markets face headwinds from rising borrowing costs and dollar shortages.

At the same time, investors are underestimating how disruptive trade conflicts and sanctions could turn out to be. That’s not to mention rising non-financial risks — from the legal difficulties of the U.S. administration, to the U.K.’s Brexit debacle, to political instability in France, Germany, Italy and even Saudi Arabia. Uncertainty will impact the real economy, primarily through the wealth effect of declining asset values and a reduced supply of credit.

Investors need to start focusing on how best to respond to a new crisis. The choices are more limited than many realize. Historically, central banks have needed to slash official rates as much as 4-5 percent in order to offset the effects of a financial crisis or an economic slowdown. That’s why former U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen talked about the need to raise rates in good times — to provide room to cut when necessary.

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

Weekly Commentary: The Perils of Inflationism

Weekly Commentary: The Perils of Inflationism

December 13 – Financial Times (Chris Giles and Claire Jones): “When the European Central Bank switches off its money-printing press at the turn of this year and stops buying fresh assets, it will mark the end of a decade-long global experiment in how to stave off economic meltdowns. Quantitative easing, the policy that aims to boost spending and inflation by creating electronic money and pumping it into the economy by buying assets such as government bonds, is on the verge of becoming quantitative tightening. With the Federal Reserve slowly reducing its stocks of Treasuries, central banks are no longer in the buying business. Globally, only the Bank of Japan is left as a leading central bank that has not formally called time on expanding its stock of asset purchases. Arguments over how, or even if, the trillions spent by policymakers helped the global economy recover will rage for years to come. But as central banks step back, the initial view is that the purchases worked — whether through encouraging investors to hold more risky assets, easing constraints on borrowing, providing finance so governments could run larger budget deficits or just showing that central banks still had an answer to weak demand and low inflation.”
At this point, the prevailing view holds that QE “worked.” Moreover, central banks are seen ready and willing to call upon “money printing” operations as need. The great virtue of this policy course, many believe, is that there is essentially no limit to the scope and duration of “QE infinity.” The FT quoted Mario Draghi: “[QE] is permanent and may be usable in contingencies that the governing council will assess in its independence.” Melvyn Krauss, from the Hoover Institution, captured conventional thinking: “No one willingly walks into a room from which there is no exit. Because QE proved temporary, because it worked and because it has ended, it is likely to be used again.”…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Gold – A Perfect Storm For 2019

Gold – A Perfect Storm For 2019

This article is an overview of the principal factors likely to drive the gold price in 2019. It looks at the global factors that have developed in 2018 for both gold and the dollar, how geopolitics are likely to evolve, the economic outlook and how it is worsened for the dollar by President Trump’s tariff war against China, the availability and likely demand for bullion, and the technical position in paper markets. Taken together, the outlook is bullish for gold.

2018 reprise

For gold bulls, 2018 was disappointing. From 11 December 2017, when gold made a significant bottom against the dollar at $1243, it has ended virtually unchanged today, after being 4.2% up. Gold had to struggle against a rising dollar, whose trade-weighted index rose a net 3.7% over the same period, and as much as 9.4% from its mid-February low.

Dollar strength has been driven less by trade imbalances and more by interest rate differentials. A speculating bank for its own book or for a hedge fund client can borrow 3-month Euro Libor at minus0.354% and invest it in 3-month US Treasury bills at 2.36%, for a round trip of over 2.7%. Gear this up ten times or more, either on a bank’s capital, or through reverse repos for annualised returns of over 27%. To this can be added the currency gain, which at times has added enough to overall returns for an unhedged geared position to double the investment.

Not that these forex returns have been guaranteed, but you get the picture. The ECB and the Bank of Japan have been frozen into inactivity, reluctant to raise rates to correct this imbalance, and the punters have known it.

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

Tomgram: Nomi Prins, A World That Is the Property of the 1%

Tomgram: Nomi Prins, A World That Is the Property of the 1%

This year, I simply couldn’t get one fact out of my head: according to a 2017 report from the Institute for Policy Studies, three billionaires — Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates — have amassed as much wealth as the bottom half of American society. That’s 160 million people! (And unlike our president, I don’t use exclamation points lightly or often.) Or as Oxfam reported in January of this year, the wealth of eight men — and yes, they were men (including the three mentioned above) — was equal to that of half the people on this planet in 2017. Yikes! And just to give you a sense of where we’ve been heading at supersonic speed, an Oxfam report a year earlier had 62 billionaires owning half the planet’s wealth. Imagine that: 62 to eight in a single year.

Then consider what we know about the rise of the billionaire class. Again, according to Oxfam, a new billionaire appeared every two days in 2017, while 82% of the wealth being created on this planet already went to the top 1% and the bottom half of the global population saw no wealth gains at all. In 2017 (the last year for which we have such figures), the total wealth of the globe’s billionaire class ballooned by almost 20%. (And I want you to know that, unlike our president, I’m fighting hard to restrain the urge to put one or more exclamation points after every one of those sentences.)

Oxfam released its figures this January to coincide with the annual meeting of the world’s top dogs at Davos in Switzerland. Assumedly, it will do so again in January 2019 and I shudder to think what the next set of stats are likely to be. In the meantime, consider what TomDispatch regular Nomi Prins, author most recently of Collusion:

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

The Neutral Interest Rate Myth

In his speech to the Economic Club of New York on November 28 2018, the Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell said that the US central bank’s policy interest rate is just below the neutral rate. This prompted many commentators to suggest that a tighter interest rate stance of the Fed is likely coming to an end.  At the end of October the fed funds rate target stood at 2.25%.

It is widely held that by means of suitable monetary policies the US central bank can navigate the economy towards a growth path of economic stability and prosperity. The key ingredient in achieving this is price stability. Most experts are of the view that what prevents the attainment of price stability are the fluctuations of the federal funds rate around the neutral rate of interest.

The neutral rate, it is held, is one that is consistent with stable prices and a balanced economy. What is required is Fed policy makers successfully targeting the federal funds rate towards the neutral interest rate.

The Swedish economist Knut Wicksell articulated this framework of thinking in late 19th century, which has its origins in the 18th century writings of British economist Henry Thornton.

The Neutral Interest Rate Framework

According to Wicksell, there is a certain rate of interest on loans, which is neutral in respect to commodity prices, and tend neither to raise nor to lower them.

According to this view, the main source of economic instability is the variance between the money market interest rate and the neutral rate.

If the money market rate falls below the neutral rate, investment will exceed saving implying that aggregate demand will be greater than aggregate supply.

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

The Big Picture: Paper Money vs. Gold

The Big Picture: Paper Money vs. Gold

Numbers from Bizarro-World

The past few months have been really challenging for anyone invested in gold or silver; for me personally as well. Despite serious warning signs in the economy, staggering debt levels and a multitude of significant geopolitical threats at play, the rally in risk assets seemed to continue unabated.

Bizarro-World intrudes into our reality, courtesy of central banks. [PT]

In fact, I was struggling with this seeming paradox myself. As I kept looking at the state of the markets, I couldn’t help but wonder “what if they just keep kicking the can down the road for the next 20 years, or even longer?”

Since the peak in 2011, gold and silver have been in a strong correction period and overall, prices haven’t benefited from all the trillions that have been injected into the markets since 2008. Total credit growth was approximately $80 trillion, climbing from $160 trillion to around $240 trillion in a mere 10 years.

The major central banks combined increased their balance sheet by buying government and institutional debt from $6 trillion to $21 trillion (FED, ECB, BOJ, PBoC), but none of it went into gold. However, even though these days we read and hear these numbers so often, it is still almost impossible for the true meaning of these sums to really sink in.

A trillion is hard to truly take in and understand; $80 trillion in debt is something already so far beyond our grasp that it might as well be $100, $200, or $300 trillion and it would almost make no conceptual difference. A good way to correct this dissonance is just think about the fact that 1 million seconds are 8 days, 1 billion seconds are 35 years and 1 trillion seconds translate into 32,000 years – bringing us back to the Stone Age.

Assets held by major central banks.

PBoC balance sheet

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

Every Bubble Is In Search Of A Pin

Every Bubble Is In Search Of A Pin

The ‘Everything Bubble’ has popped

Now that the world’s central banking cartel is taking a long-overdue pause from printing money and handing it to the wealthy elite, the collection of asset price bubbles nested within the Everything Bubble are starting to burst.

The cartel (especially the ECB and the Fed) is hoping it can gently deflate these bubbles it created, but that’s a fantasy. Bubbles always burst badly; it’s their nature to do so. Economic suffering and misery always accompany their termination.

It’s said that “every bubble is in search of a pin”. History certainly shows they always manage to find one.

History also shows that after the puncturing, pundits obsess over what precise pin triggered it, as if that matters.  It doesn’t, because ’cause’ of a bubble’s bursting can be anything.  It can be a wayward comment by a finance minister, otherwise innocuous at any other time, that spooks a critical European bond market at exactly the right (wrong?) moment, triggering a runaway cascade.

Or it might be the routine bankruptcy of a small company that unexpectedly exposes an under-hedged counterparty, thereby setting off a chain reaction across the corporate bond market before the contagion quickly spreads into other key elements of the financial system.

Or perhaps it will be the US Justice Department arresting a Chinese technology executive on murky, over-reaching charges to bully an ally into accepting that unilateral US sanctions are to be abided by everyone, regardless of sovereignty.

How was it that the famous Tulip Bulb bubble came to a crashing end back in the 1600’s?  No one knows the exact moment or trigger. But we can easily imagine that in some Dutch pub on the fateful night on the Feb 3rd1637, a bidder on the most-coveted of all bulbs, the Semper Augustus, had an upset stomach and briefly grimaced when hit by a ripping gas pain:

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

A Global Dearth of Liquidity

A Global Dearth of Liquidity

Worldwide Liquidity Drought – Money Supply Growth Slows Everywhere

This is a brief update on money supply growth trends in the most important currency areas outside the US (namely the euro area, Japan and China)  as announced in in our recent update on US money supply growth (see “Federal Punch Bowl Removal Agency” for the details).

Nobody likes a drought. This collage illustrates why.

The liquidity drought is not confined to the US – it is fair to say that it is a global phenomenon, even though money supply growth rates in the euro area and Japan superficially still look fairly brisk. However, they are in the process of slowing down quite rapidly from much higher levels – and this trend seems set to continue.

Euro Area – Money Supply Growth Still High, But Slowing Fast

The chart below shows the euro area’s narrow money supply aggregate M1 (stock) and its year-on-year growth rate. M1 in the euro area is almost equivalent to US TMS-2, which makes it a good enough stand-in (it includes savings deposits that are in practice payable on demand; however, it lacks euro deposits belonging to foreign residents and central government deposits).

It is worth noting that a slowdown to a 0% growth rate triggered crisis conditions in 2008. After a sharp, but short term spike in money supply growth after the ECB made emergency liquidity facilities available to European banks to mitigate the fallout from the US housing bubble implosion, crisis conditions promptly returned when these facilities expired and money supply growth fell to around 1% in 2011.

Euro area, M1 (~TMS-2): Total in millions of EUR (blue line) and y/y rate of change (orange line). We have highlighted the three most recent slowdowns in money supply growth associated with economic crises and declining asset prices.

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

Why buy gold now? Because I don’t know

Why buy gold now? Because I don’t know

From 2000 through 2012, the price of gold increased every year, rising from around $280 an ounce to nearly $1,700. It was an unprecedented run.

Then, in 2013, gold took a nose dive, losing over 27% of its value.

It was widely reported that the Swiss National Bank, the former bastion of monetary conservatism, lost $10 billion that year just on its gold holdings.

As you probably know, central banks hold a portion of their reserves in gold. The practice goes back to when central banks actually had to have gold on hand to trade in and out of paper money (or even trade for goods and services).

And central banks still hold reserves in gold today, even though they don’t need it to transact like they used to.

So that begs the question, did the Swiss National Bank actually lose $10 billion? It still had every ounce of gold in its vaults. And gold, after all, ismoney.

Plus, the SNB wasn’t holding gold to speculate…

Today, central banks hold gold as a hedge against fiat money. These are the guys with their fingers on the printing press… so they know exactly the effect they have on money.

And right now, banks are buying up gold hand over fist. Central banks currently hold 20% of all the gold ever mined—33,000 metric tons.

And JPMorgan Chase says they’ll buy another 650 tons this year and next.

Why?

Gold is for the I don’t knows.

And right now, there are a LOT of I don’t knows.

Markets have been going crazy over the past few months.

After a record bull run for stocks, we are now seeing massive volatility with the Dow regularly jumping 500+ points in a single day. Just yesterday, the Dow fell a whopping 800 points.

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

Charles Hugh Smith: Preventing The Final Fall Of Our Democratic Republic

Charles Hugh Smith: Preventing The Final Fall Of Our Democratic Republic

Fighting against the obscene concentration of wealth & power

There’s mounting evidence that the Age of American Exceptionalism is grinding to an end.

Demographically, in the U.S. (as well as many other developed nations), the prospects of the younger generations are substantially less than those of the Baby Boomers. The same is true socioeconomically as well; the wealth gap between the 1% and everyone else continues to accelerate.

What’s been the root cause of this slide towards greater and greater inequity? And can anything be done to reverse it?

Economist analyst and author Charles Hugh Smith addresses these core questions in his new book Pathfinding Our Destiny: Preventing The Final Fall Of Our Democratic Republic. Charles concludes that we are the terminal end of a multi-century process of centralization that is no longer working for society’s benefit:

We have a political system which is becoming increasingly tied into money. Now, people have always said, like from 100 years ago, “money is the mother’s milk of politics”. Money and power have always coalesced around political power. But in the last, say, 70 years, post-World War II, the central governments and central banks of the world have grown immensely in their centralized power.

And one of the theses I’m proposing in my book is that centralization itself in now the problem. We’ve been told for 400 years that it’s been the solution. Just centralize power and wealth into tighter and tighter control and then that will somehow solve whatever problems we have.

The intense concentration of power is becoming blatantly visible these days. Six media companies control most of the media in the U.S. It used to be six banks, but now I think it’s down to only three or four, who control most of the financial system.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Don’t Get Distracted By The Trump/Fed Soap Opera – The Crash Will Continue

Don’t Get Distracted By The Trump/Fed Soap Opera – The Crash Will Continue

At the beginning of 2018 I wrote extensively on what was likely to happen under the administration of Jerome Powell, the new Federal Reserve Chairman. In my article ‘New Fed Chairman Will Trigger A Historic Stock Market Crash In 2018‘, published in February, I predicted that the Fed would continue interest rate increases and balance sheet cuts throughout the year and they would knowingly initiate a crash in equities.

To be clear, this was not a very popular sentiment at the time, just as it wasn’t popular when I predicted in 2015 that the Fed would launch interest rate hikes instead of going to negative rates in order to start a catalyst for economic crisis. The problem some people have with this concept is that they just can’t fathom that the central bank would deliberately crash the system. They desperately cling to the notion that the Fed and other central banks want to keep the machine rolling forward at any cost. This is simply not true.

The claim is that the banking elites are “required” to keep the system propped up in a state of reanimation because they are reliant on the system to provide capital and thus “influence.” The people that assert this argument don’t seem to understand how central banks operate.

As most liberty activists should know by now, central banks are essentially a legally protected counterfeiting scheme. Using fractional reserve banking at a ratio that is secret, central banks create their own capital from thin air, and they can infuse capital into international banks at will when it suits their purposes. There is no “profit motive” for the banking syndicate.

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

Central Banks Looking at Creating Their Own Cryptocurrencies

The IMF has recommended that all Central banks should issue their own cryptocurrencies. Indeed, they are looking at using Block Chain to keep track of taxes and to enforce negative interest rates with
cryptocurrencies which would allow them to impose negative interest rates whenever necessary. With adopting cryptocurrencies that governments would control, we will come one step closer to losing all our freedom. Central banks could enforce negative interest rates with cryptocurrencies and thus people would find their accounts just garnished. This technology is also causing those in hunt of tax revenues to lick their lips.

The issuance of digital currencies would allow central banks to remain in control of the money supply far more so than they are today. Sweden is moving forward and there we see that the use of cash is rapidly disappearing.
Cryptocurrency technology would allow also the taxman to just cometh and take whatever he desires in the midst of the economic crisis we face. The Central Banks would be able to maintain greater control over the creation of money through the process of leverage (bank lending).

While policymakers in Canada have already researched the idea. The IMF head Christine Lagarde called on central banks to focus on issuing digital currencies. All of this attention is being applied as the fear of rising interest rates in the marketplace is really beyond the control of central banks. It is true that central banks can control the short-term rates, but long-term rates are established by the free market. This is why the Federal Reserves was buying in 30-years bonds hopefully to impact the long-term rates which the Fed cannot directly control.

QE Created Dangerous Financial Dependence, Italy Hooked, Withdrawal Next, ECB Warns

QE Created Dangerous Financial Dependence, Italy Hooked, Withdrawal Next, ECB Warns

“Who will purchase the €275 billion of government debt Italy is to issue in 2019?”

The ECB, through its army of official mouthpieces, has begun warning of the potentially calamitous consequences for Italian bonds when its QE program comes to an end, which is scheduled to happen at the end of this year.

During a speech in Vienna on Tuesday, Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny pointed out that Italy’s central bank, under the ECB’s guidance, is the biggest buyer of Italian government debt. The Bank of Italy, on behalf of the ECB, has bought up more than €360 billion of multiyear treasury bonds (BTPs) since the QE program was first launched in March 2015.

In fact, the ECB is now virtually the only significant net buyer of Italian bonds left standing. This raises a key question, Nowotny said: With the ECB scheduled to exit the bond market in roughly six weeks time, “who will purchase the roughly €275 billion of government securities Italy is forecast to issue in 2019?”

With foreigners shedding a net €69 billion of Italian government bonds since May, when the right-wing League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement took the reins of government, and Italian banks in no financial position to expand their already bloated holdings, it is indeed an important question (and one we’ve been asking for well over a year).

According to former Irish central bank governor and ex-member of the ECB’s Governing Council Patrick Honohan, speaking at an event in London, when the ECB’s support is removed, “the yield on Italian government bonds will be much more vulnerable.”

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

The Broken Clocks’ Minute

The Broken Clocks’ Minute

Sometimes the reasons you’re wrong turn out to be the reasons you’re right.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Old Wall Street adage

Anyone who has consistently sounded cautionary or outright bearish notes during the last nine years of relentlessly rising equity markets has been cast aside. Wall Street is bipolar. You’re either right or wrong, and wrong doesn’t buy mansions and Maseratis. Like that broken clock, the so-called permabears have had a couple of minutes when they were right, far outweighed by those 1438 minutes when they were wrong.

Or maybe it’s all a matter of perspective, and it’s the last nine years that amounts to two minutes. In geologic time nine years isn’t even a nanosecond. Perhaps even on time periods scaled to human lifetimes and history, the last nine years will come to be seen as an evanescent flash that came and ignominiously went.

Markets don’t listen to reasons. They’re exercises in crowd psychology and crowds are emotional and capricious. That doesn’t mean that reason is a useless virtue in market analysis, quite the opposite. It’s reason that allows the few who are consistently successful to separate themselves from the crowd and capitalize on its emotion and caprice.

Reason identifies rising stock markets as one symptom of a sugar high global economy. Since 2009, staring into the abyss of debt implosion, central banks acting in concert have promoted furious debt expansion as the finger-in-the-dike remedy. Governments expanded their fiat (aka out of thin air) debt, and central banks monetized that debt with their own fiat debt. Not only did that create loanable reserves within the banking system—private debt fodder—it drove interest rates so low that yield-deprived investors were herded into the stock market. Borrowers won, savers lost.

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

The Primacy Of Income

The Primacy Of Income

The Era Of Gains is over

Ever since the central banks became serial bubble blowers twenty years ago, household wealth has mostly been driven by asset price inflation:

But this has been a quixotic pursuit. Created by pulling tomorrow’s prosperity into today, these asset price bubbles are unsustainable, and invariably suffer violent corrections at their end.

So far, the central banks have responded to these corrections by simply doing more of the same, just at greater and greater intensity. To keep the current Everything Bubble going, the world’s central banks have not only had to more than quintuple their collective balance sheets, but have recently had to resort to the extreme (desperate?) measure of injecting the greatest amount of liquidity ever in 2016 and 2017.

History has shown us that the height an asset bubble reaches is proportional to the damage it wreaks when it bursts. Applying this logic, the coming pop of the Everything Bubble will be devastating.

So devastating that analysts like John Hussman forecast a 0% (or worse) total market return over the next twelve years:

Moreover, the primary driver and supporter of asset price appreciation over the past seven years, central bank easing, is now gone. For the first time since the GFC, the collective central bank liquidity injection rate (the solid black line in the below chart) is now net zero.

And plans to tighten much further from here have been clearly committed and communicated to the world:

As a consequence, we fully expect yesterday’s capital gains to become tomorrow’s capital losses.  What goes up on thin-air money comes down with its removal.

And while this is going on, interest rates are suddenly exploding higher around the world after spending a decade at all-time historic lows:

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Cataclysm
Click on image to purchase