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“The Fed Hasn’t Expanded Its Balance Sheet At This Speed Since The Financial Crisis”

“The Fed Hasn’t Expanded Its Balance Sheet At This Speed Since The Financial Crisis”


The Fed’s balance sheet is expanding at a faster rate than during QE1, QE2 or QE3.


* * *

Submitted by Howard Wang of Convoy Investments

Has QE4 begun? The $1.2 trillion per month hole in the repo market.

In the two months since the repo market blow up, the Fed has been making repo open market operation purchases at a rate of $1.2 trillion per month.

Below is the monthly rate of Fed open market purchases since 2000. In the era of QE and ample reserves, the Fed has not touched open market operations for more than 10 years before 2019. Prior to that, the highest rate of open market operations we saw in history was roughly $300 billion/month briefly after the September 11 attacks, with long‐term averages of around $50 billion/month. To say the current rate of $1.2 trillion/month is unprecedented would be an understatement

The planned QE unwinding has hit a brick wall and the Fed balance sheet is now expanding at a rate matched only briefly by QE1, and faster than QE2 or QE3.

Is this a temporary rescue of the repo market or the start of a sustained QE4? To answer that question, we must look at how monetary policy has evolved since the Financial Crisis.

1. Pre‐2008, scarce reserves regime:

  • Total reserves: small (<$50 billion)
  • Excess reserves: none
  • Interest on excess reserves: 0%
  • Managing interest rates: to increase rates, Fed sells securities on the open market and reduces supply of reserves, vice versa to decrease rates.
  • Banks: regulations are lax and risk tolerance is high
  • Treasury department: carefully manages its cash flows to not impact the total reserve levels.

2. 2008‐2019, ample reserves regime:

  • Total reserves: large ($trillions)
  • Excess reserves: large ($trillions)
  • Interest on excess reserves: positive at around Fed funds rate

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

Federal Reserve Proposes New Rule To Let Inflation Run “Hot” Ahead Of Next Recession

Federal Reserve Proposes New Rule To Let Inflation Run “Hot” Ahead Of Next Recession  

As the Federal Reserve remains unable to stoke inflation (because it refuses to measure it correctly) and refuses to factor in asset price inflation…

… it has now considered launching a new rule that would let inflation run above its 2% target to make up for lost inflation, reported the Financial Times.

Though the Fed’s policies are to protect big Wall Street banks and keep liquidity ample in the financial system, its policies have overwhelmingly created deflation through supporting zombie companies and blowing financial bubbles.

So to “make up” for lost inflation, the Fed will temporarily increase the target range above 2%, also known as “symmetric” overinflation. The policy would “make it clear that it’s acceptable that to average 2 percent, you can’t have only observations that are below 2 percent,” according to Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, who recently spoke with FT.

Fed members have expressed concerns that reverting the federal funds rate to the zero lower bound will drive inflation expectations lower, a real risk of Japanification, something Albert Edwards is especially concerned about.

Officials have also lamented that the since the fed funds rate is so low compared to history, any recession could make monetary policy ineffective, though there is always the reality that the Fed will merely unleash negative interest rates during the next recession.

Meanwhile, Fed members have been experimenting with new monetary tools ahead of the next downturn. Janet Yellen said the new rule could be like “forward guidance,” which enabled the Fed to pressure short-term interest rates lower. This eventually allowed longer-term rates to fall as well.

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

Fed Out of Bailout Bullets – Rick Ackerman

Fed Out of Bailout Bullets – Rick Ackerman

Financial writer and professional trader Rick Ackerman says don’t expect a replay of the 2008-2009 financial crisis where the Federal Reserve bailed out almost everything in sight. Ackerman explains, “It ended up Lehman Brothers went under, and they needed a couple of sacrificial lambs, along with Bear Stearns. It could have just as easily been, and it might be the next time, Goldman Sachs. So, in that way, the Fed is kind of out of bailout bullets. We’ve already been through a bailout where it took a big hunk of the financial system. Each one takes more bailing out to get to that critical threshold of credibility where the bailout itself works.”

Ackerman sees bailout needs everywhere and gives the example of underwater state pensions across the country. Ackerman points out, “If you take just one piece of what they are going to have to bail out, which is going to start with the State of Illinois, which is probably going to be the first state that is going to collapse. It will renege on its pension obligations. So, if you picture the federal government riding to the rescue, the minute they bail out the Illinois pension system, California is there, along with New Jersey, Kentucky and a lot of other states, maybe 19 or 20 of them that have pension systems almost as insolvent as Illinois. . . . This means they are going to have to mail out checks to Illinois and then expand it to California, and all the other states that go under is to court hyperinflation. Of course, hyperinflation, in that sense, you can see where it has to collapse into deflation because . . .

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

The Fed’s Answer to the Ghastly Monster of its Creation

The Fed’s Answer to the Ghastly Monster of its Creation

The launch angle of the U.S. stock market over the past decade has been steep and relentless.  The S&P 500, after bottoming out at 666 on March 6, 2009, has rocketed up over 370 percent.  New highs continue to be reached practically every day.

Over this stretch, many investors have been conditioned to believe the stock market only goes up.  That blindly pumping money into an S&P 500 ETF is the key to investment riches.  In good time, this conditioning will be recalibrated with a rude awakening.  You can count on it.

In the interim, the bull market may continue a bit longer…or it may not.  But, to be clear, after a 370 percent run-up, buying the S&P 500 represents a speculation on price.  A gamble that the launch angle furthers its steep trajectory.  Here’s why…

Over the past decade, the U.S. economy, as measured by nominal gross domestic product (GDP), has increased about 50 percent.  This plots a GDP launch angle that is underwhelming when compared to the S&P 500.  Corporate earnings have fallen far short of share prices.

Hence, the bull market in stocks is not a function of a booming economy.  Rather, it’s a function of Fed madness.  And its existence becomes ever more perilous with each passing day.

Central planners at the Fed – like other major central banks – have taken monetary policy to a state of madness.  Zero interest rate policy, negative interest rate policy, quantitative easing, operation twist, quantitative tightening, reserve management, repo market intervention, not-QE, mass-asset purchases, and more.

These schemes have fostered massive growth in public and private debt with nothing but lackluster economic growth to show.  What’s more, these schemes have produced massive asset bubbles that have skyrocketed wealth inequality and inflamed countless variants of new populism.

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

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…

Central Bankers Panic Over Exuberant Financial Market “Fragility”, Warn Risks Are “Underestimated”

Central Bankers Panic Over Exuberant Financial Market “Fragility”, Warn Risks Are “Underestimated”

You know it’s bad when… even the central bankers are warning that the monster they’ve created is out of control.

As stocks have exploded higher in the face of declining earnings…

Source: Bloomberg

And collapsing macro-economic data…

Source: Bloomberg

Policy makers from the world’s central banks are suddenly raising cautionary flags at the potentially unsafe investing environment stoked by their efforts to flood economies with ultra-cheap money.

  • “While vulnerabilities related to low interest rates have the potential to grow, thus calling for caution and continued monitoring, so far, the financial system appears resilient” — Federal Reserve, Nov. 15.
  • “Very low interest rates, coupled with the large number of investors which have gradually increased the duration of their fixed income portfolios, could exacerbate potential losses if an abrupt repricing were to materialize” — ECB, Nov. 20.
  • “This type of environment can lead to an increase in risk‐taking, to assets being overvalued and to indebtedness increasing in an unsustainable manner” — Riksbank, Nov. 20.
  • “Many investors are focused on the search for yield and could be tempted to take on greater risk” — Bundesbank, Nov. 21.

Most notably, Bloomberg reports that the spate of recent financial stability assessments began Nov. 15 with the Fed, which warned that low rates could encourage riskier behavior such as eroding lending standards.

A prolonged period of low rates could also “spur reach-for-yield behavior, thereby increasing the vulnerability of the financial sector to subsequent shocks,” it said.

However, as Bloomberg notes, despite central banks’ qualms about side effects, there’s little sign that they’ll do any more than issue warnings. 

“The Fed since September, the ECB as well, the BOJ, even the central bank of China is starting to provide some more easing,” Kevin Thozet, an investment strategist at Carmignac Gestion, told Bloomberg TV on Wednesday.

That’s contributed to “a bull market of everything in 2019.”

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

Peak Irony: Fed Paper Admits Fed Policy Can Lead to Economic Ruin

Peak Irony: Fed Paper Admits Fed Policy Can Lead to Economic Ruin

A paper  by Scott A. Wolla and Kaitlyn Frerking for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis warns that the Fed’s own policy could lead to “economic ruin.”

The paper titled “Making Sense of National Debt” explains the pros and cons of national borrowing in typical Keynesian fashion. In a nutshell, a little debt is a good thing, but too much debt can become a problem.

But in the process of explaining national debt, Wolla and Frerking stumble into an ugly truth — Federal Reserve money printing can destroy a country’s economy.

So, when does the national debt become a problem?

According to Wolla and Frerking, debt only becomes an issue when it outpaces GDP, or national income, as they call it. If debt grows at a faster rate than income, eventually the debt might become unsustainable.

They note that according to the GAO, the US national debt is on an unsustainable path.

The federal debt is projected to grow at a faster rate than GDP for the foreseeable future. A significant portion of the growth in projected debt is to fund social programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Using debt held by the public (instead of total public debt), the debt-to-GDP ratio averaged 46 percent from 1946 to 2018 but reached 77 percent by the end of 2018. It is projected to exceed 100 percent within 20 years.”

Note that the total public debt is even higher. Most analysts put the total debt to GDP ratio at around 105%.

As Wolla and Frerking point out, rising levels of debt elevate the risk of default. Normally, investors holding government bonds bear this risk. While governments never have to entirely pay off debt, there are debt levels that investors might perceive as unsustainable.

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

The Lessons From Japan’s Monetary Experiment

The Lessons From Japan’s Monetary Experiment

A recent article in the Financial Times, “Abenomics provides a lesson for the rich world“, mentioned that the experiment started by prime minister Shinzo Abe in the early 2010s should serve as an important warning for rich countries. Unfortunately, the article’s “lessons” were rather disappointing. These were mainly that the central bank can do a lot more than the ECB and the Fed are doing, and that Japan is not doing so badly. I disagree.

The failure of Abenomics has been phenomenal. The balance sheet of the central bank of Japan has ballooned to more than 100% of the country’s GDP, the central bank owns almost 70% of the country’s ETFs and is one of the top 10 shareholders in the majority of the largest companies of the Nikkei index. Government debt to GDP has swelled to 236%, and despite the record-low cost of debt, the government spends almost 22% of the budget on interest expenses. All of this to achieve what?

None of the results that were expected from the massive monetary experiment, inventively called QQE (quantitative and qualitative easing) have been achieved, even remotely. Growth is expected to be one of the weakest in the world in 2020, according to the IMF, and the country has consistently missed both its inflation and economic growth targets, while the balance sheet of the central banks and the country’s debt soared.

Real wages have been stagnant for years, and economic activity continues to be as poor as it was in the previous two decades of constant stimulus.

The main lessons that global economies should learn from Japan are the following:

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

Peter Schiff: If They Were Smart, They Wouldn’t Be in the Stock Market

Peter Schiff: If They Were Smart, They Wouldn’t Be in the Stock Market

Peter Schiff hit a number of subjects in his most recent podcast, including bitcoin, the stock market, wealth inequality, the Fed and the voting age. He also said we should be thankful for capitalism.

Stock markets hit record highs again this week. Some of it was due to more optimism about a trade deal. Peter said he underestimated the impact of QE4on the markets.

I mean, I knew QE4 was coming. I was 100% sure of that. I knew the Fed was going to cut rates, and they’ve been doing that. I just kind of underestimated how much upward pressure it was going to put on the US stock market. I actually thought that the dollar would be falling as a result of the Fed surprising everybody by doing exactly what I expected, which was cutting rates and going back to QE. Well, they did exactly what I expected, except the dollar hasn’t gone down. But I just think I want to add ‘yet.’ The dollar hasn’t gone down  – yet. Because it is going to go down and when it falls, it’s going to drop like a stone. And I don’t think that’s going to be a positive for the US stock market or the US bond market, and we’re going to see a much bigger move up in the price of gold.

Peter said a lot of people who are making money in the US stock market think they’re smart, but they’re not.

If they were smart, they wouldn’t be in the stock market. Or if they’re in it, they’re simply in it as a momentum trader that say, look, I know this is BS, but hey, they’re a bunch of idiots buying stocks, so I’m going to buy stocks now so I can sell to these idiots, and I’m going to get out the door before they realize the market has turned.”

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

Fear of “Reversal Rates” Sets in, Says the Fed

Fear of “Reversal Rates” Sets in, Says the Fed

The fear that today’s negative or low interest rates render central banks helpless in face of the next economic crisis.

There is now a new theory cropping up in Fed-speak and more generally in central-bank speak. It’s not actually a new theory. I have been saying the same thing for years. In fact, it’s not even a theory, but reality. But it’s newly cropping up in reports from the Fed and the ECB. It’s the concept of what is now called “reversal rates.”

It’s an official admission that “reversal rates” exist. The term crops up alongside the fear that countries with negative interest rates are at, or are already beyond, those “reversal rates.”

The idea of interest rate repression is to induce businesses to borrow and invest, and to induce consumers to borrow and spend, and the hope is that all this will crank up the overall economy as measured by GDP.

“Reversal rates” is the term for a situation where interest rates are so low that they’re doing more harm than good to the overall economy, and that lowering rates further will screw up the economy rather than boost it.

Central bank monetary policy, such as cutting interest rates and doing QE, takes wealth and income from one group of people and delivers it to another group of people. This is how monetary policy works. It’s not a secret. In central-bank speak, it’s called the “distributive effects of monetary policy.” The idea is that for the overall economy, this income and wealth transfer from these people over here to those people over there translates into more overall economic activity that adds to GDP.

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

GOLD & SILVER UPDATE: Setting Up For The Next Leg Higher In 2020

GOLD & SILVER UPDATE: Setting Up For The Next Leg Higher In 2020

The Day of Reckoning is coming, and it won’t be pretty for the overall markets.  While the Fed liquidity has pushed the major U.S. indexes to new highs, the underlying fundamentals in the economy continue to deteriorate.  Without the record amount of Fed QE and Repo Operations, the market and economy would have gone into a tailspin in 2019.

Now, to give credit where credit is due, the term, “The Day of Reckoning” was the title from the Northman Trader’s most recent public article.  What I like about Sven Heinrich’s work (the Northman Trader), is his ability to use technical and fundamental analysis to provide “PRICE DISCOVERY” in the markets.

Unfortunately, we don’t have price discovery anymore due to the Fed and Central bank decade-long propping up of the markets.  This chart from the Northman Trader shows how the Fed’s interventions have come in to support the markets at key technical levels:

What is quite interesting more recently (2019) is the substantial Fed’s rate cuts, QE, and Repo Operations at a time when there isn’t a downturn in the U.S. economy.  When the Fed started QE1 in 2009, the stock market had crashed to a low, and the economy was in a severe recession.  The Fed continued to support the economy and markets with QE2, TWIST, and QE3 into 2013.  Again, these Fed interventions took place during a struggling economy.

Today, the Fed is pulling out all the FIREPOWER when the markets are at new highs, and the economy is still rolling along nicely.  This is a recipe for DISASTER at some point.  Furthermore, the energy market that is one of the driving forces of the U.S. economy is in serious trouble.

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

If Not-QE Is QE, then is Not-a-Blowoff-Top a Blowoff Top?

If Not-QE Is QE, then is Not-a-Blowoff-Top a Blowoff Top?

Can $300 billion, or $600 billion, or even $1 trillion continue to prop up an increasingly risk-riddled, fragile $330 trillion global bubble in overvalued assets?

When is “Not-QE” QE? When Federal Reserve Chairperson Jerome Powell declares QE is not QE. We can constructively recall the story that Abraham Lincoln famously recounted in 1862

:‘If I should call a sheep’s tail a leg, how many legs would it have?

”Five.

”No, only four; for my calling the tail a leg would not make it so.’

Calling QE not-QE doesn’t make it different than QE, but it does communicate the Fed’s panicky desire to mask its stupendous injection of financial cocaine into the financial system. The Fed’s level of panic is noteworthy, as is the absurd transparency of its laughable attempt to conceal its panic.

In the same fashion, the financial media is loudly declaring the current blowoff top in stocks is not a blowoff top. The delicious irony here is these denials are reliable markers of blowoff tops: the louder the denials, the greater the odds that this is in fact the blowoff top that many pundits have been expecting for some time, but always in the future.

Garsh darn it, maybe the future has arrived. The financial media denied the Q4 1999 – Q1 2000 blowoff top was a blowoff top, and it repeated its denial of a blowoff top in housing in 2006-2007. The pundits of 1929 also denied the Q3 blowoff top in stocks was a blowoff top.

If you want a reliable signal that the blowoff top has peaked, listen to the screechy adamance of the deniers. The list of reasons why blowoff tops can’t be blowoff tops is practically endless: sentiment isn’t bullish enough, there’s a Wall of Worry for stocks to climb (overlooking the inconvenient reality that there is always a Wall of Worry)…

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

Fed Fears Next Crash Fatal – John Rubino

Fed Fears Next Crash Fatal – John Rubino

Financial writer and book author John Rubino says he can see the end of the economic expansion fueled by massive debt creation. Rubino explains, “Every sector of the U.S. economy is so over indebted I don’t see how we go on much longer. The Fed is desperately trying to prolong this thing. We are running trillion dollar deficits now, and what that is for is to keep the system from falling apart. We are 11 years into an expansion, a record. This is the longest bull market in history, and this is the longest economic expansion in history. . . . These guys don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the next recession, but they are afraid that the system is so highly leveraged that even a garden variety three quarters of a percent of negative growth and a garden variety of 20 % drop in stock prices might be fatal. The system might not be able to handle that because it would cause so much damage and there are so many different places that can blow up that the system would spin out of control. We would get 2008-2009 again but on steroids because the numbers are so much bigger this time around. So, they want to avoid that at all costs.”

Rubino points out, “Fear is the enemy in a fiat currency system. Everything is based on our assumption that the guys in charge know what they are doing and that the confidence in them is good. You take that away, and they let us see them sweat, and it’s over. There is no real bottom for the dollar, euro or the yen. Their intrinsic value is zero.

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

Is the Fed Secretly Bailing Out a Major Bank?

Is the Fed Secretly Bailing Out a Major Bank?

Prettifying Toxic Waste

The promise of something for nothing is always an enticing proposition. Who doesn’t want roses without thorns, rainbows without rain, and salvation without repentance?  So, too, who doesn’t want a few extra basis points of yield above the 10-year Treasury note at no added risk?

The yield-chasing hamster wheel… [PT]

Thus, smart fellows go after it; pursuing financial innovation with unyielding devotion.  The underlying philosophy, as we understand it, is that if risk is spread thin enough it magically disappears. In other words, the solution to pollution is dilution.

With this objective, new financial products are fabricated into existence. The risk free rewards of several extra basis points are then packaged up into debt instruments and sold off to pension funds and institutional investors. The search for yield demands it.

Yet as an economic expansion progresses, especially one that has been extended and distorted with the Fed’s cheap credit, these derived financial securities are polluted with more and more toxic waste. Spreading the risk ultimately pollutes the entire pool of liquidity.

At this moment in the business cycle, after a lengthy bull market in stocks and bonds, countless manifestations of the greater fool theory have bubbled up to the surface. Bonds with negative yields epitomize this. Buyers accept a guaranteed coupon loss with the hopes of scoring capital appreciation as yields fall. But when yields rise, it is game over.

German Bund futures contract, weekly. The recent blow-off and subsequent reversal illustrates the convexity effect on bond prices… [PT]

Of course, the greater fool theory extends much deeper and wider than negative yielding debt. It also extends to the polluted world of corporate debt…

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

One Bank Finally Admits The Fed’s “NOT QE” Is Indeed QE… And Could Lead To Financial Collapse

One Bank Finally Admits The Fed’s “NOT QE” Is Indeed QE… And Could Lead To Financial Collapse

After a month of constant verbal gymnastics (and diarrhea from financial pundit sycophants who can’t think creatively or originally and merely parrot their echo chamber in hopes of likes/retweets) by the Fed that the recent launch of $60 billion in T-Bill purchases is anything but QE (whatever you do, don’t call it “QE 4”, just call it “NOT QE” please), one bank finally had the guts to say what was so obvious to anyone who isn’t challenged by simple logic: the Fed’s “NOT QE” is really “QE.”

In a note warning that the Fed’s latest purchase program – whether one calls it QE or NOT QE – will have big, potentially catastrophic costs, Bank of America’s Ralph Axel writes that in the aftermath of the Fed’s new program of T-bill purchases to increase the amount of reserves in the banking system, the Fed made an effort to repeatedly inform markets that this is not a new round of quantitative easing, and yet as the BofA strategist notes, “in important ways it is similar.”

But is it QE? Well, in his October FOMC press conference, Fed Chair Powell said “our T-bill purchases should not be confused with the large-scale asset purchase program that we deployed after the financial crisis. In contrast, purchasing Tbills should not materially affect demand and supply for longer-term securities or financial conditions more broadly.” Chair Powell gives a succinct definition of QE as having two basic elements: (1) supporting longer-term security prices, and (2) easing financial conditions.

Here’s the problem: as we have said since the beginning, and as Bank of America now writes, “the Fed’s T-bill purchase program delivers on both fronts and is therefore similar to QE,” with one exception – the element of forward guidance.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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