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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…

We Finally Understand How Destructive Negative Interest Rates Actually Are

We Finally Understand How Destructive Negative Interest Rates Actually Are

We are in the midst of a strange economic experiment. Vast quantities of negative-yielding debt are currently sloshing around the global economy. While the amount of negative-yielding bonds has dropped recently from a mind-boggling number in excess of $17 trillion, reinvigorated central bank easing across the globe ensures that this reduction is only temporary.

We are slowly starting to understand how destructive negative interest rates actually are. Central banks control short-term interest rates in an economy by setting the rate banks receive on their deposits, that is, on the reserves they hold at the central bank. A new development is the control central banks now exert over long-term rates through their asset purchase, or “QE” programs.

Banks profit from the interest rate differential between “lending long” but “borrowing short”. Essentially, the difference between lending and deposit rates determine a bank’s profitability. However, with today’s very low interest rates, this difference becomes almost non-existent, and with negative rates, inverts completely.

When a central bank pushes rates to negative, banks need to pay interest on the reserves they hold there. But they are not relieved of the obligation they have to pay interest on customer deposits, who are understandably reluctant to pay interest on money they place at a bank. Consequently, the whole earnings logic of banking goes haywire if banks are required to pay interest on loans and receive interest on deposits. As profit margins of banks are squeezed, profitability falls and lending activities suffer.

However, the problems created by negative interest rates do not stop there. In 2008, an influential article describing the economic malaise in Japan after the financial crash of the early 1990s found that instead of calling-in or refusing to refinance existing debts, large Japanese banks kept loans flowing to otherwise insolvent borrowers.

 …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”.

Peter Schiff: Negative Interest Rates Are Boneheaded

Peter Schiff: Negative Interest Rates Are Boneheaded

Donald Trump has been badgering Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for months, begging for lower interest rates. Yesterday, he took things to another level, saying that the “boneheads” at the Fed need to push rates into negative territory.

In his podcast, Peter Schiff said negative interest rates are boneheaded.

Trump used a pair of tweets to push for negative interest rates.

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. We have the great currency, power, and balance sheet………The USA should always be paying the the lowest rate. No Inflation! It is only the naïveté of Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve that doesn’t allow us to do what other countries are already doing. A once in a lifetime opportunity that we are missing because of ‘Boneheads.’

Peter said he can’t think a more boneheaded thing to do than to push interest rates negative.

Trump is basically saying negative rates would allow the federal government to refinance its debt. It could roll over short-term debt into longer termed bonds and lock up the low rates. But as Peter pointed out, interest rates are already near historic lows.

If President Trump actually cared about refinancing the national debt and lengthening the maturity of the debt – the duration – and locking in these low interest rates, lock them in! They’re already super low.”

Peter said if the Fed did cut rates to zero or lower, he thinks yields on long-term bonds would actually start to go up because the market would begin factoring in higher inflation.

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

How Is Negative Interest Possible?

HOW IS NEGATIVE INTEREST POSSIBLE?

Germany has recently joined Switzerland in the dubious All Negative Club. The interest rate on every government bond, from short to 30 years, is now negative. Many would say “congratulations”, in the belief that this proves their credit risk is … well … umm … negative(?) And anyways, it will let them borrow more to spend on consumption which will stimulate … umm… well… all of the wasteful consumption for which governments are rightly infamous.

While those who are about to borrow may find cause to cheer (as opposed to those who have already borrowed, at higher rates, who are now disadvantaged by this move), the savers are harmed. How can anyone save in an environment where savings has a cost?

John Maynard Keynes called for the “euthanasia of the rentier”. Congratulations, Germany, we say in all sarcastic seriousness. You have gone even beyond Keynes vicious idea. Your rate is now negative!

The Preference of the Savers

Instead of writing more on the destructiveness of this, we want to tackle a different question today. How is this possible? What are the mechanics? Why don’t savers rebel?

We wrote about the Crime of ’33 a few months ago, and it’s worth re-reading before going on. 1933 is when President Roosevelt made the dollar irredeemable. Prior to that, if you didn’t like the interest rate, you could sell the bond and hold gold coins instead. The gold coin has no default risk. And, back then—in the gold standard–it had no price risk.

Today one can own gold, to avoid default risk. This is a big part of why gold is now $1,500. But one takes price risk. And price volatility to be is considered a feature, not a bug, by the gold bugs!

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

Trump Says Fed Should Cut Rates “To ZERO Or Less”, So US Can Refinance Debt And Lenghten Maturities

Trump Says Fed Should Cut Rates “To ZERO Or Less”, So US Can Refinance Debt And Lenghten Maturities

Volfefe begins early today.

One day before the ECB is expected to cut rates further into negative territory and restart sovereign debt QE, moments ago president Trump resumed his feud with the Fed piling more pressure on Powell to cut rates “to ZERO or less” because the US apparently has “no inflation”, while also crashing the conversation over whether the US should issue ultra-long maturity debt (50, 100 years), saying the US “should then start to refinance our debt. INTEREST COST COULD BE BROUGHT WAY DOWN, while at the same time substantially lengthening the term.” 

At least we now know who is urging Mnuchin to launch 50 and 100 year Treasuries. What we don’t know is just what school of monetary thought Trump belongs to – aside from Erdoganism of course – because while on one hand Trump claims that “we have the great currency, power, and balance sheet” on the other the US president also claims that “the USA should always be paying the lowest rate.” In a normal world, the strongest economy tends to pay the highest interest rate, but in this upside down world, who knows anymore, so maybe the Fed has just itself to blame.

Trump’s conclusion: “It is only the naïveté of Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve that doesn’t allow us to do what other countries are already doing. A once in a lifetime opportunity that we are missing because of “Boneheads.”


 · 1h

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. We have the great currency, power, and balance sheet…..


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

Why the ECB should raise, not cut rates

Why the ECB should raise, not cut rates

Negative rates are likely one of the reasons behind the lacklustre European growth. Negative rates have worked as a tool to transfer wealth from savers to the indebted governments that have abandoned all structural reforms, while these extremely low rates have also perpetuated overcapacity, incentivised the refinancing of zombie companies and effectively worked as a disguised subsidy on low productivity. Not only those measures have damaged banks, but they have also created very dangerous collateral impacts (read “Negative Rates Have Damaged Banks But This Is Not The Worst Effect”).

In recent weeks we have heard of a likely new stimulus plan that would include a new repurchase program and further rate cuts. A new asset purchase program is completely unnecessary and unlikely to spur growth when all Eurozone countries already have sovereign debt with negative yields in 2-year maturities and the vast majority have negative real or nominal yields in the 10-year bonds.  Why would the ECB repurchase corporate and sovereign bonds when the issuers are already financing themselves at the lowest rates in history?  Furthermore, by reading some statements one would believe that the ECB has stopped supporting the economy. Far from it, when it repurchases all debt maturities in its balance sheet and has implemented another liquidity injection TLTRO in March 2019.

The main problem of those who defend further purchases and more negative rates is one of diagnosis. The central planners believe the Eurozone problems come from lack of demand, and that investment and credit growth are not what they would want them to be only because investors and corporates believe that rates will ultimately rise, leading to defensive positioning.

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

Is The Fed Trying To Sabotage Trump’s Re-Election?

Is The Fed Trying To Sabotage Trump’s Re-Election?


William Dudley is encouraging the Fed to prevent Trump’s re-election.

Imagine an organization that can grow an economy as fast it can destroy it. This institution can make presidents kings and then transform them into court jesters. The smartest men in a room situated on 2051 Constitution Ave can choose to increase the value of money in your wallet or make it worth less than single-ply generic brand toilet paper.

Well, this is not a fictitious body found in a dystopian novel. It is right here in the real world. It is the Federal Reserve System. Cue The Twilight Zonetheme song.

William Dudley

Burning Down Trump White House

Former New York Fed Bank President William Dudley recently penned a scathing op-ed on Bloomberg News titled “The Fed Shouldn’t Enable Donald Trump.” Dudley wrote that the central bank should refrain from bailing out Trump on the economy. He believes that the Eccles Building must cease enabling the administration by accommodating policy to Trump’s whims, otherwise, he warns, the country risks re-electing the president next year.

Dudley, who served as NYFRB head from 2009 to 2018, stated that his former employer needs to avoid coming to the president’s aid in his trade war with China. The tit-for-tat dispute has escalated over the last month, though both sides are ostensibly returning to the negotiating table. He explained that the Fed needs to send a clear message that it is Trump, not the Fed, bearing the risks and responsibility of the prolonged trade spat.

But the biggest revelation in Dudley’s piece is how far some people would go to stop Trump earning a second term.

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

The Mechanics of Absurdity

The Mechanics of Absurdity

Over the past few decades, the central banks, including the Federal Reserve (Fed), have relied increasingly on interest rates to help modify economic growth. Interest rate management is their tool of choice because it can be effective and because central banks regulate the supply of money, which directly effects the cost to borrow it. Lower interest rates incentivize borrowers to take on debt and consume while dis-incentivizing savings. 

Regrettably, a growing consequence of favoring lower than normal interest rates for prolonged periods is that consumers, companies, and nations grow increasingly indebted as a percentage of their respective income. In many cases, consumption is pulled from the future to the present day. Accordingly, less consumption is needed in the future and a larger portion of income and wealth must be devoted to servicing the accumulated debt as opposed to productive ventures which would otherwise generate income to help pay off the debt. 

Today, interest rates are at historically low levels around the globe. Interest rates are negative in Japan and throughout much of Europe. In this article, we expound on the themes laid out in Negative is the New Subprime, to discuss the mechanics of negative-yielding debt as well as the current mindset of investors that invest in negative-yielding debt. 

Is invest the right word in describing an asset that when held to maturity guarantees a loss of capital? 

Negative Yield Mechanics

Negative yields are not only bestowed upon sovereign debt, as investment grade and even some junk-rated debt in Europe now carry negative yields. Even stranger, Market Watch just wrote about a Danish bank offering consumers’ negative interest rate mortgages (LINK).

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

The Fantasy of Central Bank “Growth” Is Finally Imploding

The Fantasy of Central Bank “Growth” Is Finally Imploding

Having destroyed discipline, central banks have no way out of the corner they’ve painted us into.

It was such a wonderful fantasy: just give a handful of bankers, financiers and corporations trillions of dollars at near-zero rates of interest, and this flood of credit and cash into the apex of the wealth-power pyramid would magically generate a new round of investments in productivity-improving infrastructure and equipment, which would trickle down to the masses in the form of higher wages, enabling the masses to borrow and spend more on consumption, powering the Nirvana of modern economics: a self-sustaining, self-reinforcing expansion of growth.

But alas, there is no self-sustaining, self-reinforcing expansion of growth; there are only massive, increasingly fragile asset bubbles, stagnant wages and a New Gilded Age as the handful of bankers, financiers and corporations that were handed unlimited nearly free money enriched themselves at the expense of everyone else.

Central banks’ near-zero interest rates and trillions in new credit destroyed discipline and price discovery, the bedrock of any economy, capitalist or socialist.

When credit is nearly free to borrow in unlimited quantities, there’s no need for discipline, and so a year of university costs $50,000 instead of $10,000, houses that should cost $200,000 now cost $1 million and a bridge that should have cost $100 million costs $500 million. Nobody can afford anything any more because the answer in the era of central bank “growth” is: just borrow more, it won’t cost you much because interest rates are so low.

And with capital (i.e. saved earnings) getting essentially zero yield thanks to central bank ZIRP and NIRP (zero or negative interest rate policies), then all the credit has poured into speculative assets, inflating unprecedented asset bubbles that will destroy much of the financial system when they finally pop, as all asset bubbles eventually do.

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

THE WOLF STREET REPORT: How Even “Low” Interest Rates Screw Up the Economy

THE WOLF STREET REPORT: How Even “Low” Interest Rates Screw Up the Economy

Interest rates don’t have to be negative to make a mess in the era of “Secular Stagnation.” (11 minutes)

The Biggest Bubble in Modern Financial History

The Biggest Bubble in Modern Financial History 

QUESTION: You said before you were advising corporates to issue long-term bonds and lock in the low rates. Even the US Treasury seems to be following your advice and are looking at issuing 50 and 100-year bonds. Do you give governments the same advice?

DK

ANSWER: If asked, of course, I advise to issue long-term debt NOW at these absurd low rates. I also advise individuals to lock in fixed-rate mortgages.

Germany just tried to issue negative interest 30-year bonds with a total offering of 2bn€ of which they only sold 824million were purchased. This is showing that this whole theory of negative interest rates as seen its day. The US is now even considering issuing 50-year and 100-years bonds as interest rates plummet.

I have reviewed the buyers of these negative bonds which now amount to $15 trillion outstanding globally. What is actually taking place in the market is really dominated by punters rather than investors. In other words, the people have been buying them to flip assuming rates would just go lower.

The crisis on the horizon is MASSIVE!!!! These punters are going to get caught as they did with the Russian bonds when they collapsed in 1998 which led to the Long-Term Capital Market crisis. This is a game of musical chairs. Nobody thinks twice as long as rates decline. But the appetite for negative yields does NOT exist insofar as people actually investing in them.

Yields have dipped negative on short-term 30 days paper during panics. The 30-day TBills went negative several times from December 2008 onward. The reason was clear. Capital feared the banks so they were willing to park money at a slightly negative rate.

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

Why The Next ECB Stimulus Plan May Fail

Why The Next ECB Stimulus Plan May Fail

Why The Next ECB Stimulus Plan May Fail

In June 2014 I wrote an article called Draghi’s Plan does not fix Europe. In that article, I explained that the structural challenges of the eurozone -high government spending, excessive tax wedge, lack of technology leadership and demographics- were not going to be solved by a round of quantitative easing.

Now, the evidence of the European Union leads the ECB to hint at another stimulus plan. Gone is the triumphalism displayed by of the European Commission on August 2017 (read).  The “strong recovery” they credited to the “decisive action of the European Union” has all but disappeared. 

The slowdown in the eurozone is not similar to other economies. The ECB has slashed growth estimates consistently and currently expects a level of growth that is half of what they had projected eighteen months ago.

It is fascinating because many analysts tend to discuss the European slowdown as if the stimulus had been abandoned. Far from it. Let us remember that the European Central Bank repurchases all debt maturities in its balance sheet and that it has launched a  new liquidity injection (TLTRO) in March this year.

That is why it is appropriate to discuss the severity of the Eurozone slowdown in the context of the chain of fiscal and monetary stimuli that have been implemented. To understand the serious mistake of constantly stumbling on the same stone, we need to understand the size of the fiscal and monetary programs and their underwhelming results.

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

Aussie Reserve Bank, Considering “Extreme Measures”, Admits “We’re Almost Out Of Ammo”

Aussie Reserve Bank, Considering “Extreme Measures”, Admits “We’re Almost Out Of Ammo”

At least one reserve bank globally is starting to ponder the question that many central banks across the world will soon inevitably be asking: what happens if we cut to zero and the economy continues to falter?

This has led Australia to start considering QE, following in the footsteps of a world full of central bankers all offering each other as much confirmation bias necessary to continue to walk down the path of eventual economic destruction.

In Australia, the reserve bank has cut to 1% and “nobody expects them to stop cutting,” according to News.com.au. The bank released this chart days ago, showing that market is expecting further cuts. 

The average of all expectations is for the market to fall to 0.37% by September 2020. That exact outcome is described as “unlikely”, but the RBA could have rates at 0.25% or 0.5% by then. That would only leave room for one or two more cuts before rates are at zero.

Then what? Destroy your currency and print your way out of your problems. 

Apparently convinced that economies only exist as permanent booms now, the RBA said last week that it would begin a program similar to QE in the United States, wherein the central bank would buy financial assets in exchange for cash. The RBA is considering buying Australian government bonds.

“We could take action to lower the risk-free rates further out along the term spectrum,” said the RBA Governor.

Justifying this nonsense, the article then gives the quintessential example of how QE bond buying works in practice:

Bonds are how the government borrows. Here’s how it works in simplified terms:

The government offers to sell a piece of paper that says, “Australia will pay you back a million dollars in 10 years” (a 10-year bond).

Someone buys that for, let’s say, $900,000.

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

Silver prices with explosive upside

Silver prices with explosive upside 

Silver prices have lagged gold prices since 2017 which has pushed the gold-to-silver ratio close to the all-time high. Silver prices are also significantly below what is predicted by our pricing model. We think that the reasons for this subdued performance are transitory and that silver will outperform gold again as the next precious metals cycle continues to rapidly unfold. 

In spring 2017, we introduced a framework for understanding the formation of silver prices (Silver price framework: Both money and a commodity, March 9, 2017). In this report we are going to use this framework to analyze the recent performance of silver and give an outlook for where we think silver is heading over the coming months. In our framework piece, we concluded that silver is both money (store of value) and an input commodity and thus the impact of both industrial and monetary demand needs to be taken into consideration:

  • On the one hand, silver is a counterparty-risk-free form of money where replacement costs set the lower boundary for prices – the same energy proof of value that underlies gold prices. Thus, silver should be impacted by the same drivers as gold prices: Real-interest rate expectations, central bank policy, and longer-dated energy prices.
  • On the other hand, silver is a commodity with extensive industrial applications. Hence, changes in industrial activity should impact the price of silver as well.

In our framework note, we also discussed the two main reasons why we think that silver tends to outperform gold in bull markets and underperform in bear markets:

  • Because the value of global silver stocks is much smaller than that of global gold stocks – which is the result of silver being used in industrial applications – a rise in monetary demand for silver has a disproportionally large effect. In other words, when demand for metals increases as an alternative to fiat currency, there is simply less silver around to change hands.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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