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The Fed Detests Free Markets

The Fed Detests Free Markets

Paul Gauguin Tahitians at rest (unfinished) 1891

To be completely honest, I wrote -most of- the second part of this a while ago, and then I was thinking this first part should be part of the second, if you can still follow me. But it doesn’t really, it’s fine. I wanted to write something to address how little people know and acknowledge about how disastrous central bank policies have been for our societies and economies.

Because they don’t, and they have no clue, largely and simply because of the way central banks are presented both by themselves and by the financial press that covers them. Make that “covers”. Still, going forward, we will have no way to ignore the damage done. All the QE and ZIRP and NIRP will turn out to be so destructive for us all they will rival climate change or actual warfare. That’s what I wanted to talk about.

You see, free markets are a great idea in theory. Or you can call it “capitalism”, or combine the two and say “free market capitalism”. There’s very little wrong with it in theory. You have an enormous multitude of participants in an utterly complex web of transitions, too complex for the human mind to comprehend, and in the end that web figures out what values all sorts of things, and actions etc., have.

I don’t think capitalism in itself is a bad thing; what people don’t like is when it veers into neo-liberalism, when everything is for sale, when communities or their governments no longer own anything, when roads and hospitals and public services and everything that holds people together in a given setting is being sold off to the highest bidder. There are many things that have values other than monetary ones, and neo-liberalism denies that. Capitalism in itself, not so much.

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

Analysts Stunned After Lagarde Demands “Key Role” For The ECB In Climate Change

Analysts Stunned After Lagarde Demands “Key Role” For The ECB In Climate Change

Having failed miserably to “trickle down” stock market wealth for a decade as was their intention, something Ben Bernanke made clear in his Nov 4, 2010 WaPo op-ed, central banks have moved on to more noble causes.

Over the weekend Minneapolis Fed chair Neil Kashkari suggested it was time to allow central banks to directly decide how to redistribute wealth, stating unironically that “monetary policy can play the kind of redistributing role once thought to be the preserve of elected officials”, apparently failing to realize that the Fed is not made up of elected officials but unelected technocrats who serve the bidding of the Fed’s commercial bank owners.

Failing to decide how is poor and who is rich, central bankers are happy to settle with merely fixing the climate.

Overnight, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda joined his European central banking peers by endorsing government plans to compile a fiscal spending package for disaster relief and measures to help the economy stave off heightening global risks. Kuroda said that natural disasters, such as the strong typhoon that struck Japan in October, may erode asset and collateral value, and the associated risk may pose a significant challenge for financial institutions, Kuroda said.

In short, it’s time for central banks to target global warming climate change:

“Climate-related risk differs from other risks in that its relatively long-term impact means that the effects will last longer than other financial risks, and the impact is far less predictable,” he said. “It is therefore necessary to thoroughly investigate and analyse the impact of climate-related risk.”

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

The Austrian School Warned, the ECB Didn’t Listen

The Austrian School Warned, the ECB Didn’t Listen

Looking at the current situation, one can easily perceive that our economic environment is not in the best condition. The whole of Europe is suffering from an economic stagnation, if not in some countries even a slowdown, that could very well turn into an economic recession sooner than later if appropriate measures are not taken to restructure many parts of our monetary system. The US could start experiencing the same effects soon, as we can observe from current trends on employment and productivity. Short-sighted economic policy, as that of President Trump asking the Fed for lower interest rates, or the ECB’s loose monetary policy (necessary in great part due to the lack of structural reforms by European governments), has severe effects -mostly that it only works in the short term, and leaves a tremendous economic hangover, composed of huge debt burdens and skyrocketing deficit levels.

The Austrian Business Cycle Theory (ABCT) can also shed some light on the situation in Europe by looking at how the European Central Bank has acted over the last decade, and how its actions, even if they had mild positive economic effects in the short term, are now slowing down productivity growth, impeding economic reforms, and sending countries into debt oceans – and, thus, finally, potentially accelerating the economic slowdown.

The ABCT is an economic theory primarily developed by the Austrian School of Economics from the 19th century onwards, mainly by Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. Briefly explained, this theory is based on the idea that a tinkering with the interest rates, leading to excessive increases in the money supply of a country, by a central bank or through fractional reserve banking, inevitably creates a cycle of economic booms and busts.

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

ECB Official: Can Use Portfolio To Combat Climate Change

ECB Official: Can Use Portfolio To Combat Climate Change  

Central banks have been making all kinds of ridiculous climate change statements in the last several quarters. Some monetary authorities have even said, they could also expand balance sheets to purchase climate-related financial investments. 

Sabine Lautenschläger, Member of the Executive Board and Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB), was quoted by Bloomberg on Wednesday in Düsseldorf, Germany, as saying the ECB is prepared to use its balance sheet to support the fight against climate change. 

Bloomberg quoted Lautenschläge as saying: 

• Sustainability criteria are already taken into account in our portfolios that are not held for monetary policy purposes: Lautenschlaeger

• The ECB needs to address all citizens, not just an expert audience – without ever becoming political

We’ve suggested in the past, that this is just a giant ruse to sneak through MMT and helicopter money under the virtue-signaling guise of fighting climate change. 

Central banks, who’ve spent a decade expanding balance sheets, have plowed trillions of dollars into financial assets across the world.

The flawed policy lifted financial asset prices but only benefited a few who held stock, bonds, real estate, etc… Everyone else, which is a majority of the global population are considered non-asset holders, didn’t participate in the decades-long orgy of cheap money, thus created a massive wealth gap that can no longer be ignored. 

As a result of the wealth gap, protectionism and nationalism are sweeping across the world. 

Political uncertainty across the world is at the highest levels ever. 

Millions of people are currently protesting from Asia, the Middle East, and South America, calling for change after a decade of flawed monetary policy by global central banks. 

 …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…

Central Banks Begin to Panic

Central Banks Begin to Panic

Central Banks Begin to Panic - Craig Hemke (22/10/2019)

After rapidly reversing policy in 2019, does it seem to you that the global central banks have moved into full panic mode over the past several weeks? To that point, consider some of the headlines that have appeared over just the past few days.

Let’s start with Count Draghi and his insistence that the ECB restart their QE programs as soon as possible. Beginning next month, the ECB will begin regular purchases of up to €20B in bonds each month.

•  https://www.ft.com/content/de4a958a-eab3-11e9-a240…

Not to be outdone, the U.S. Fed went from “neutral” to “Large Scale Asset Purchase Program” in less than four weeks with the announcement on October 11 of a new $60B/month debt monetization program. The Fed also announced that their liquidity-providing repo facilities will remain open through January of 2020, at a minimum.

•  https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/11/investing/fed-qe-po…

So what is prompting this quick reversal in monetary policy? Is it simply the worsening global economy, or is something darker lurking in the shadows? As I type, it’s Tuesday morning, October 22, and here is a collection of headlines from just the past week.

First, here’s the Secretary General of the UN—a largely symbolic, international diplomatic post—urging global central bankers, the IMF, and World Bank to “do everything possible” in order to stave off a potential crisis: https://www.zerohedge.com/economics/central-banks-…

Next, the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. is out with a new report that concludes that more than half of the world’s banks may not be strong enough to maintain economic viability in the next crisis(a crisis which is inevitable, I might add ). Remember, the central banks are owned by and serve their own member banks. If the majority of the world’s banks are in financial trouble, then it’s understandable that the majority of the world’s central banks would be quite nervous:https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-21…

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

The Fed is Lying to Us

The Fed is Lying to Us

“When it becomes serious, you have to lie”

The recent statements from the Federal Reserve and the other major world central banks (the ECB, BoJ, BoE and PBoC) are alarming because their actions are completely out of alignment with what they’re telling us.

Their words seek to soothe us that “everything’s fine” and the global economy is doing quite well. But their behavior reflects a desperate anxiety.

Put more frankly; we’re being lied to.

Case in point: On October 4, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell publicly claimed the US economy is “in a good place”. Yet somehow, despite the US banking system already having approximately $1.5 trillion in reserves, the Fed is suddenly pumping in an additional $60 billion per month to keep things propped up.

Do drastic, urgent measures like this reflect an economy that’s “in a good place”?

The Fed’s Rescue Was Never Real

Remember, after a full decade of providing “emergency stimulus measures” the US Federal Reserve stopped its quantitative easing program (aka, printing money) a few years back.

Mission Accomplished, it declared. We’ve saved the system.

But that cessation was meaningless. Because the European Central Bank (ECB) stepped right in to take over the Fed’s stimulus baton and started aggressively growing its own balance sheet — keeping the global pool of new money growing.

Let’s look at the data. First, we see here how the Fed indeed stopped growing its balance sheet in 2014:

And we can note other important insights in this chart.

For starters, you can clearly see how in 2008, the Fed printed up more money in just a few weeks than it had in the nearly 100 years of operations prior.

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

For The First Time Ever, Greece Issues Negative Yielding Debt

For The First Time Ever, Greece Issues Negative Yielding Debt

As armies of fixed income strategists battle over whether US Treasuries are facing higher or lower yields, Greece has no such qualms and in a historic shift today, the former bond market pariah and Eurozone’s most indebted nation, joined the exclusive club of negative-yielding European nations when bond investors lined up to pay the nation that was at the heart of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.

A sale of €487.5 million of 13-week bills on Wednesday drew Greece’s first-ever negative yield of minus 0.02% as investors now pay Athens for the privilege of lending it cash, as Bloomberg first reported. Greece joins the likes of Ireland, Italy and Spain – not to mention virtually all core Eurozone nations – which benefit from the ECB’s insane monetary policy and deepening fears of a global recession.

It’s been an unprecedented turnaround for twice bankrupt Eurozone member, whose bondholders suffered massive losses back in March 2012 when the country was forced to accept the biggest bond restructuring in history, bringing the Eurozone to the verge of collapse.

Just a few years and several trillions in bond purchases by the ECB later, the region is grappling with an altogether different problem – the spread of negative yields, which reduces borrowing costs for governments in a form of soft default, one which is crushing savers, pension funds and insurers, and which has prompted some of the most respected names in finance to shriek in terror as the cost of money in even Europe’s most insolvent nations is now negative.

Jon Day, a fixed-income portfolio manager at Newton Investment Management, said the move was “another symptom” of the “global grab for yield, especially in euro-denominated bonds,” pointing out that short-dated Greek bonds were previously one of the few government markets where a positive return was on offer. 

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

ECB “Whistleblowers” Emerge: Former Central Bankers Cry Out Against Draghi’s Monetary Insanity

ECB “Whistleblowers” Emerge: Former Central Bankers Cry Out Against Draghi’s Monetary Insanity

It’s not just disgruntled CIA officials that have decided the best way to stage a coup is by way of “whistleblowing” – former central bankers are using a similar approach when it comes to the root cause of all of society’s ills: failed central bank policies, and nowhere more so than at the European Central Bank.

On Friday, a group of former senior European central bankers published a memo attacking the unhinged monetary policy of the European Central Bank, which they claim is “based on the wrong diagnosis” and risks ending its independence. Their criticism is in response to a package of massive easing measures announced by the ECB last month, including “open-ended QE” that triggered unprecedented opposition within the top echelons of the central bank, and set up a “resistance” faction within the ECB itself spearheaded by Germany, France and the Netherlands, as it has now emerged that all along Mario Draghi was the central banker of Europe’s insolvent periphery, even as his NIRP policies crushed Europe’s legacy banking system.

The rare public attack on the ECB – in the eyes of the FT – underlined how Christine Lagarde could have a fight on her hands after she takes over from Mario Draghi as president of the bank at the end of this month, when – not if – she decides to loosen monetary policy even more in the face of the eurozone’s mounting economic slowdown.

Commenting on the unprecedented mutiny against the former Goldmanite Mario Draghi, whom the extremely confused socialist elements – desperate for acceptance by some, any echo chamber – have called “legendary” even though it is his policies that have crushed Europe’s working classes, One River CIO Eric Peters said…

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

What the Hell is the ECB Doing?

What the Hell is the ECB Doing?

Danielle DiMartino poses an interesting question regarding the ECB. I have a set of answers.

What is the ECB Doing?

I started thinking about that question weeks ago.

I have a set of answers and even started writing this post before DiMartino brought it to the forefront.

There are only two answers. One of them is very unsettling.

  1. Ignorance
  2. On Purpose

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s razor is a principle from philosophy. Suppose there exists two explanations for an occurrence. In this case the one that requires the least amount of assumptions is usually correct. Another way of saying it is that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation.

Occam’s Razor typically eliminates most conspiracy theories. It’s not that conspiracies don’t happen, but that simpler solutions are far more likely.

My corollary to the theory is very easy to understand: If stupidity is one of the possible answers, it is the most likely answer.

I am a normally a big fan of Occam’s Razor.

But this is so bizarre that I have my doubts.

Importantly, this may not be a conspiracy at all. Mario Draghi can easily be acting alone.

My Lead Question

How stupid can things get before one starts believing something else is in play?

I had already been thinking about that question when not only did ECB president Mario Draghi further push interest rates into negative territory but he also said it was a good idea for the ECB to think about MMT.

Shocking ECB Dissent

Dissent at the Fed happens all the time. It is rare at the ECB. The ECB builds a consensus and it is typically unanimous.

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

The Disaster of Negative Interest Rates

The Disaster of Negative Interest Rates

The dollar strengthened against the euro in August, merely in anticipation of the European Central Bank slashing its key interest rate further into negative territory. Investors were fleeing into the dollar, prompting President Trump to tweet on Aug. 30:

The Euro is dropping against the Dollar “like crazy,” giving them a big export and manufacturing advantage… And the Fed does NOTHING!

When the ECB cut its key rate as anticipated, from a negative 0.4% to a negative 0.5%, the president tweeted on Sept. 11:

The Federal Reserve should get our interest rates down to ZERO, or less, and we should then start to refinance our debt. INTEREST COST COULD BE BROUGHT WAY DOWN, while at the same time substantially lengthening the term.

And on Sept. 12 he tweeted:

European Central Bank, acting quickly, Cuts Rates 10 Basis Points. They are trying, and succeeding, in depreciating the Euro against the VERY strong Dollar, hurting U.S. exports…. And the Fed sits, and sits, and sits. They get paid to borrow money, while we are paying interest!

However, negative interest rates have not been shown to stimulate the economies that have tried them, and they would wreak havoc on the U.S. economy, for reasons unique to the U.S. dollar. The ECB has not gone to negative interest rates to gain an export advantage. It is to keep the European Union from falling apart, something that could happen if the United Kingdom does indeed pull out and Italy follows suit, as it has threatened to do. If what Trump wants is cheap borrowing rates for the U.S. federal government, there is a safer and easier way to get them.

The Real Reason the ECB Has Gone to Negative Interest Rates

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

‘Vaguely Troubling’: BIS Warns Of Financial Disaster Amid $17 Trillion In Negative-Yield Debt

‘Vaguely Troubling’: BIS Warns Of Financial Disaster Amid $17 Trillion In Negative-Yield Debt 

When the central bank for central banks publishes its quarterly review, the world should take note.

Claudio Borio, Head of the Monetary and Economic Department at the BIS, published the BIS Quarterly Review, September 2019on Sunday, revealing how the increasing acceptance of negative interest rates has reached “vaguely troubling” levels. 

The statement comes after the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank (ECB) cut interest rates to flight a global manufacturing slowdown — Borio said that the effectiveness of monetary policy is severely waning and might not be able to counter the global downturn, in other words, JPMorgan Global Composite PMI might print sub 50 for a considerable period of time. 

“The room for monetary policy maneuver has narrowed further. Should a downturn materialize, monetary policy will need a helping hand, not least from a wise use of fiscal policy in those countries where there is still room for maneuver.”

The BIS, known as the ‘central bankers’ bank,’ said the recent easing by the Fed, ECB, and PBOC, has pushed yields lower across the world, contributing to the more than $17 trillion in negative-yielding tradeable bonds. 

From Germany to Japan, 10-year government debt rates have plunged into negative territory, in recent times. 

“Against this backdrop, sovereign bond yields naturally declined further, at times driven by the prospect of slower economic activity and heightened risks, at others by central banks’ reassuring easing measures. At one point, before the recent uptick in yields, the amount of sovereign and even corporate bonds trading at negative rates hit a new record, over USD 17 trillion according to certain estimates, equivalent to roughly 20% of world GDP. Indeed, some households, too, could borrow at negative rates. A growing number of investors are paying for the privilege of parting with their money. 

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

Stunning Consensus Emerges: Fed May Announce Launch Of QE In Just A Few Hours

Stunning Consensus Emerges: Fed May Announce Launch Of QE In Just A Few Hours

It was back on August 6, in an article titled “Forget China, The Fed Has A Much Bigger Problem On Its Hands“, where we explained why in response to the coming dollar funding shortage and liquidity crunch (we warned about this month’s repo crash over a month ago), we first said that Fed will likely resume QE as soon as the fourth quarter. Needless to say, with the Fed having only just cut rates for the first time in over a decade just a week earlier, others looked at us funny, even though just two days later we got the clearest sign yet that the Fed was indeed contemplating QE when we described a very odd email we received from a Fed researcher in “When You Get An Email Like This From The Fed, It May Be Time To Panic.”

In any event, virtually no ‘serious’ Wall Street analyst predicted that QE would be on traders lips in the immediate future, and certainly nobody predicted the coming “dollar funding storm”, which we warned readers about just last Friday.

Fast forward to today when one analyst after another is scrambling to “predict” that today, with its repo operations woefully inadequate to calm the storm that has gripped the funding markets and the dollar shortage, the Fed may go so far as to expend its balance sheet by announcing the launch of permanent open market operations, i.e., the monetization of bonds.

Just please don’t call it QE.

ECB Restarts QE, Lowers Deposit Facility Rate to -0.5%

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

Will the Bank of England join the loose money bandwagon?

Will the Bank of England join the loose money bandwagon?

As the year of the 325th anniversary of the Bank of England’s foundation, and as the month of one of the Bank’s more important rate-setting decisions since 2008, September provides a congruous occasion on which to reflect on the history of the BoE and consider what the future holds for it. Founded in 1694 as a private bank to the government, it was in 1998 that the BoE was granted independence from the government in setting monetary policy. Now the UK faces perhaps its greatest political uncertainty in a generation, it is worth asking the question: to what extent will this independence continue? 

We have already seen the effect of populist leaders on central banks that are ostensibly independent. The obvious case is that of the US, but there are other examples to be found of central banks facing political pressure to keep monetary policy easy, from Turkish President Erdogan’s sacking of the then central bank governor, to the ECB’s reaction to persistently low growth in Europe. Even if Trump doesn’t control the Fed directly, he certainly controls the market, which in turn has forced the hand of the central bank and led to the Fed cutting rates with the economy in expansion. And with ever more monetary sweets to choose from in the jar, which politician could resist raiding the cupboard and giving their economy a sugar high of rate cuts, QE and lending? 

Pressure on the Fed is likely only to increase as the 2020 elections approach: if President Trump is able to engineer further cuts, and then get the markets soaring with a trade deal and promises of tax cuts just in time for elections, we might begin to agree he is – in his words – “a very stable genius”.

Turkey Exposes Central Bank Incompetence

Turkey Exposes Central Bank Incompetence

Last year I asked whether Turkey would be “City Zero in Global Contagion.” That question was based on the crisis unfolding in the Turkish lira which materially threatened a number of major European banks, especially those in Italy.

This week highlighted something really interesting for me that, I think, sets in motion a similar thesis about Turkey but for much different reasons. The sovereign debt crisis will come about purely because of a failure of confidence in institutions.

Competence is the key to staying at the top of human dominance hierarchies, not force. Those built on competence tend to last and those built on force are, at best, meta-stable for a specific period of time.

The difference between what’s happening in Turkey with President Erdogan taking control of the Turkish central bank and the end of Mario Draghi’s term heading the ECB cuts to the heart of this issue of competence versus force.

The Draghi Put-on

Draghi has projected this aura of the ever-in-control competent manager of Europe’s finances while steadfastly holding to policy ideas which have done nothing but destroy capital formation within the Eurozone. 

His last statement and policy decision this week are emblematic of his inflexibility both intellectually and politically.  And it’s clear that he’s trapped at whatever negative-bound he’s got in his head, handing off a Europe on the verge of collapse to his sister-in-tyranny, Christine Lagarde.

Draghi just fired his “Cheap Money Bazooka” on his way out the door to kick the can down the road another few months.

He’s setting the stage for the full-blown monetization and collapse of the European banking system under his successor, former IMF chief Christine Lagarde. What hasn’t worked for Europe for the past 11 years was just introduced again as the only way to save the situation.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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