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Jim Grant: The Fed Can’t Control Inflation

Jim Grant: The Fed Can’t Control Inflation

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell insists inflation is “transitory.” As prices have spiked throughout the economy, Powell’s messaging has essentially been, “Move along. Nothing to see here.”

Peter Schiff has been saying the central bankers at the Fed can’t actually tell the truth about inflation because even if they acknowledge it’s a problem (and it is) they can’t do anything about it.

In a recent talk, Jim Grant, investment guru and founder of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, echoed Peter, saying the Fed can’t control inflation.

During a webcast sponsored by State Street SPDR ETFs, Grant said he thinks “there’s a gale of inflation of all kinds in progress,” adding that he believes it will take the Fed by surprise and “overwhelm our monetary masters.” Grant said, inflation is “clear and present and will manifest itself in our everyday lives.”

That sounds like the exact opposite of Powell’s “transitory” mantra.

Peter has said that once the Fed is forced to admit that inflation isn’t transitory, it will be too late to take action. Grant made a similar prediction, saying inflation will “catch the Fed flatfooted. In response it will “prevaricate” – meaning speak or act in an evasive way. In fact, that already seems to be the central bank’s strategy.

The question is can the Fed actually control inflation. Grant doesn’t think so.

I think the Fed is under the misconception that it controls events. Sometimes, events control the Fed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was one of those times. The Fed thinks that not only can it control events, but it can measure them. It believes it can pinpoint the rate of inflation.”

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

Weekly Commentary: Generational Turning Point

Weekly Commentary: Generational Turning Point

There is an overarching issue I haven’t been able to get off my mind: Are we at the beginning of something new or in the waning days of the previous multi-decade cycle?

May 5 – Wall Street Journal (James Mackintosh): “We could be at a generational turning point for finance. Politics, economics, international relations, demography and labor are all shifting to supporting inflation. After more than 40 years of policies that gave priority to the fight against rising prices, investor- and consumer-friendly solutions are becoming less fashionable, not only in the U.S. but in much of the world. Investors are woefully unprepared for such a shift, perhaps because such historic turning points have proven remarkably hard to spot. This may be another false alarm, and it will take many years to play out, but the evidence for a general shift is strong across five fronts.”

The “five fronts” underscored in Mr. Mackintosh’s insightful piece are as follows: 1) “Central banks, led by the Federal Reserve, are now less concerned about inflation.” 2) “Politics has shifted to spend even more now, pay even less later.” 3) “Globalization is out of fashion.” 4) “Demographics worsen the situation.” 5) “Empowered labor puts upward pressure on wages and prices.”

The analysis is well-founded, as is the article’s headline: “Everything Screams Inflation.” After surging another 3.7% this week (lumber up 12%, copper 6%, corn 9%), the Bloomberg Commodities Index has already gained 20% this year. Lumber enjoys a y-t-d gain of 93% – WTI Crude 34%, Gasoline 51%, Copper 35%, Aluminum 26%, Steel Rebar 32%, Corn 51%, Soybeans 22%, Wheat 19%, Coffee 18%, Sugar 13%, Cotton 15%, Lean Hogs 59%… The focus on inflation is clearly justified. Yet Mackintosh began his article suggesting a “Generational Turning Point for finance” – rather than inflation. Let’s explore…

I mark the mid-eighties as the beginning of the current super-cycle. A major collapse in market yields (following the reversal of Paul Volcker’s tightening cycle) promoted financial innovation and the expansion of non-bank Credit expansion.

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

Investors Do Not See “Transitory” Inflation

Investors Do Not See “Transitory” Inflation

The Federal Reserve and European Central Bank repeat that the recent inflationary spike is “transitory”. The problem is that investors do not buy it.

Inflation is always a monetary phenomenon, and this time is not different. What central banks call transitory effects, and the impact of supply chains are not the real drivers of inflationary pressures. No one can deny certain supply shock impacts, but the correlation and extent of the increase in prices of agricultural and industrial commodities to five-year highs as well as the abrupt rise of non-replicable goods and services to decade-highs have monetary policy to blame.  Injecting trillions of liquidity makes more funds chase fewer goods and the rise in the real inflation perceived by citizens is much larger than the official CPI.

Take food prices. The United Nations Food Price Index is up 30% in the past five years and up 10% year-to-date (April 2021). The rise in food prices already caused protests all over the world in 2018 and it continues to reach new highs. The correlation in the price increase of most agricultural goods also shows that it is a monetary effect.

The same can be said about the Bloomberg Commodity Index which is also at five-year highs and up 15% year-to-date.

Yes, there have been some supply disruptions in a few commodities, but it is not widespread let alone the norm. If anything can be said is that the rise in agricultural and industrial commodities is happening despite the persistent overcapacity that many of these had already before the pandemic. We should also remember that one of the unintended consequences of massive monetary expansion is perpetuation of overcapacity. Excess capacity is refinanced and maintained even in crisis times…

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

Inflation, real interest rates revisited

Fed and Treasury Steer Their Unsinkable Ship toward Iceberg

Fed and Treasury Steer Their Unsinkable Ship toward Iceberg

Illustration of the Titanic sinking with iceberg in backgroundThis past week we got to observe Fed Chair Jerome Powell and the US stock market andthe US bond market do everything I said they would do in their complicated shuffle of ships-and-icebergs:

“I’m sure many helium-headed stock investors believe the lilly-livered Fed will turn tail and run from its goal of letting inflation rise as soon as bonds begin to clobber stocks more seriously…. I believe the Fed is more committed than ever to raising inflation as it has been saying it wanted to do for years.”

Stocks in Bondage but Fed Not Fazed

While bond yields had already begun to rise and compete against stocks, the Fed stayed the course, iceberg dead ahead. As a result, longterm bond interest rose even more because the Fed did nothing to jawbone the idea of increasing its bond-buying QE to take interest rates back down (which it accomplishes by purchasing US government bonds from banks to take them off the market, putting them on its own balance sheet).

You see, the Fed is — I believe — caught in its own catch-22. Usually, to lower interest (in order to stimulate the economy and hit the higher inflation number the Fed says it is targeting), the Fed would buy more bonds; however, buying bonds and adding them to its balance sheet tends to create more money in the system, and the bond market is already afraid of rising inflation because much of the new money is now going into the hands of average people. (This game only worked when all new money was going into the stock market.)

As a result, aiming for higher inflation by purchasing more bonds will cause the reinvigorated bond vigilantes to up their demand on bond yields to cover inflation, making it impossible to lower longterm yields by purchasing bonds.

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

 

Monetary Policy at a Crossroad: Policymakers Need to Break Promise of Easy Money to Avoid Boom-Bust

The Federal Reserve’s new policy approach is that policymakers want to see “actual progress, not forecast progress” before deciding to change its policy stance. Substantial actual progress is occurring in the economy, some faster than others. How much monetary accommodation is needed to meet the ultimate employment and inflation objectives is debatable. But it is less than when the pandemic started and less after the passage of $1.9 trillion in federal stimulus.

Determining when a policy stance has become too accommodative is not an easy matter—but enabling excessive risk-taking to become well-entrenched is comparable to past policy mistakes by allowing a build-up of inflation and inflation expectations. Both are difficult to unwind, and past episodes have shown it is impossible without triggering significant adverse effects in the economy.

Evidence of Actual Economic Progress & Excessive Risk-Taking

Employment and Jobless Rate: In March, payroll employment increased 916,000, far above market expectations, bringing the three-month job gains of Q1 to 1.6 million. The strong string of monthly job gains helped lower the jobless rate by 0.7 percentage points, from 6.7% to 6.0%.

Job gains in Q2 could easily double Q1 numbers. The rapid increase in vaccinations, enabling the many parts of the economy to re-open, especially travel and schools, will trigger outsized solid job gains. By mid-year, the jobless rate could drop a whole percentage point to 5%, getting very close to the Fed’s year-end target of 4.5%.

Does it make sense to maintain the same monetary accommodation scale with the jobless rate at 5% as when it was 10% one year earlier.

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

joe carson, the carson report, fed, us federal reserve, monetary policy,

Crazy days for money

Crazy days for money

This article anticipates the end of the fiat currency regime and argues why its replacement can only be gold and silver, most likely in the form of fiat money turned into gold substitutes.

It explains why the current fashion for cryptocurrencies, led by bitcoin, are unsuited as future mediums of exchange, and why unsuppressed bitcoin has responded more immediately to the current situation than gold. Furthermore, the US authorities are likely to suppress the bitcoin movement because it is a threat to the dollar and monetary policy.

This article explains why growth in GDP represents growth in the quantity of money and is not representative of activity in the underlying economy. The authorities’ monetary response to the current economic situation is ill-informed, based on a misunderstanding of what GDP represents.

The common belief in the fund management community that rising interest rates are bad for gold exposes a lack of understanding about the consequences of monetary inflation on relative time preferences. Rising interest rates will be with us shortly, and they will burst the bond bubble with negative consequences for all financial assets and the currencies that have inflated them.

In short, we are sitting on a monetary powder-keg, the danger of which is barely understood by policy makers and which could explode at any time.

Introduction

We have entered a period the likes of which we have never seen before. The collapse of the dollar and dollar assets is growing increasingly certain by the day. The money-printing of the dollar designed to inflate assets will end up destroying the dollar. We know this thanks to the John Law precedent three hundred years ago. I last wrote about this two weeks ago, here. In 1720, it was just France and Law’s livre…

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

BoE Keeps Policy Unchanged, Tells Banks To Start Preparing For Negative Rates “If Necessary” But Sees Spike In Inflation

BoE Keeps Policy Unchanged, Tells Banks To Start Preparing For Negative Rates “If Necessary” But Sees Spike In Inflation

The Bank of England kept its stimulus program unchanged on Thursday. The BoE maintained its Bank Rate at 0.1% and left the size of its total asset purchase programme at 895 billion pounds in a unanimous decision, as expected.

Growth and Inflation

On QE, the BOE said that “if needed, there was scope for the Bank of England to re-evaluate the existing technical parameters of the gilt purchase programme” but that is unlikely since the BOE’s growth forecast was far stronger than previously:

  • UK GDP is expected to have risen a little in 2020 Q4 to a level around 8% lower than in 2019 Q4.
  • This is materially stronger than expected in the November Report.
  • While the scale and breadth of the Covid restrictions in place at present mean that they are expected to affect activity more than those in 2020 Q4, their impact is not expected to be as severe as in 2020 Q2, during the United Kingdom’s first lockdown.
  • GDP is expected to fall by around 4% in 2021 Q1, in contrast to expectations of a rise in the November Report.
  • Global GDP growth slowed in 2020 Q4, as a rise in Covid cases and consequent restrictions to contain the spread of the virus weighed on economic activity. Since the MPC’s previous meeting, financial markets have remained resilient.

The BOE also said that CPI inflation was expected to rise quite sharply towards the 2% target in the spring, as the reduction in VAT for certain services comes to an end and given developments in energy prices. In the MPC’s central projection, conditioned on the market path for interest rates, CPI inflation is projected to be close to 2% over the second and third years of the forecast period.

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

Gold & The Great Reset

The composition of the US dollar, including what it is backed by, has been replaced many times throughout America’s history. And another replacement is currently underway, warns monetary expert Mike Maloney.

After President Nixon fully severed its ties to gold, our government leaders have increasingly relied on expanding the currency supply to paper over (quite literally) today’s problems at the expense of the dollar’s purchasing power tomorrow.

As Mike explains in his excellent video series Hidden Secrets Of Money, such willful debasement of the currency by furtive and shortsighted politicians is nothing new. Over thousands of years, since the Romans intentionally progressively shrank the silver content of their coins, history is replete with such examples.

And now 2020 has arrived. The Federal Reserve’s response to the pandemic-induced economic slowdown has unleashed more ‘thin air’ creation of new dollars than ever seen at any prior moment in history:

21% of all US Dollars have been printed in 2020

And the leading developed countries of the world are now discussing the need for a Great Reset, in which it’s being proposed that new national cryptocurrencies (perhaps laying the groundwork towards a ‘one world currency’) replace the current existing fiat versions.

Using the lens of monetary history, Mike sees all this as simply a modern spin on the same cycles the world has seen before. Politicians will deform and abuse the currency for their own immediate needs until the system collapses, and a new, more sound alternative emerges from the ashes.

Which is why he remains so confident that gold will strengthen dramatically in the coming macro environment, despite being in a short-lived corrective phase at the moment. In fact, he sees today’s weakness as an excellent accumulation opportunity for both current holders as well as those new to owning precious metals.

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

The ‘new normal’ has been postponed (and probably canceled)

The ‘new normal’ has been postponed (and probably canceled)

There remains a hope that once we get past the economic and social effects of the pandemic, all of us will be able to return to something resembling normal life before the pandemic—even if it is a “new normal” marked by heightened vigilance and protection against infectious disease and more work at home for office workers as companies realize they don’t need to maintain as much expensive office space.

But the date for this recovery to a new normal seems to keep getting postponed. The International Air Transport Association now projects a full recovery in international passenger traffic will take until 2024, a year later than the association projected back in April. The hotel industry will get a bit of a jump on the airline industry with a projected recovery by 2023The situation is so bad for restaurants that no one seems to be willing to project a date for anything that might be called a recovery.

Office building owners—who are suffering lower rent collections and lease cancellations—seem lucky in comparison with a recovery expected by the end of 2022.

Retailers of all kinds continue to suffer as closures abound throughout the United States. And, anyone who relies on commuter foot traffic for sales is hurting.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank just signaled that in the wake of such a sluggish economy it will keep short-term interest rates near zero until 2023. One commentator provided a list of hobbies that Fed board members could take up to fill their time between now and then.

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

Fed’s GDP and Unemployment Projections: Who Believes Them?

In addition to its blather about interest rates, the Fed also made numerous economic projections.
Economic Projections

Please consider the Economic Projections of FOMC Participants under their individual assumptions of appropriate monetary policy, September 2020.

Fed’s GDP, Unemployment, PCE Inflation Projections

Fed's GDP, Unemployment, PCE Inflation Projections 2020-09

GDP Projection

The Fed believes GDP will only contract 3.7% in 2020 then rebound 4% in 2021, and 3% in 2022.

Do you believe this?

Unemployment Projection

The Fed believes the Unemployment Rate will be 7.6% in 2020, 5.5% in 2021, and 4.6% in 2022.

Do you believe this?

PCE Inflation Projection

The Fed believes Core Personal Consumption Expenditure inflation (excluding food and energy) will be 1.5% in 2020, 1.7% in 2021, and 1.8% in 2022.

Do you believe this?

GDP Poll

Unemployment Poll

PCE Poll

My Take

  • GDP: I will take the under. Way under. Much of the rebound was due to $600 pandemic stimulus checks that expired on July 25. This will be a huge headwind going forward.
  • Unemployment: I am leery of games with the participation rate and labor force but I will go with higher.
  • PCE : This one is humorous. For months, the Fed has committed not only to 2% but letting inflation run hotter than expected for some time to make up for needed lost inflation. Yet the Fed admits it will not hit its targets until 2023. PCE inflation, as measured, is a joke. So perhaps the Fed is on target.

Unspoken Truth

Unspoken Truth

We all know it yet the unspoken truth deserves to be said out aloud.

You all heard the phrases ‘Don’t fight the Fed’, and ‘ there is no alternative’. Can we be clear what these phrases really mean? They mean people are buying assets at prices they otherwise wouldn’t because a central planning committee is putting in market conditions that changes their market behavior.

People are paying forward multiples that are higher than they would if they earned higher interest income. The ‘desperate search for yield’ they call it. Think of it as a forced auction. You must pay, and you must pay more because you can’t bid on anything else and neither can anyone else hence there are now bidders for ever less available product (i.e. think shrinking share floats) driving prices wildly higher. And as central banks have become permanently dovish over the past decade Fed meetings are the principal impetus for rallies. Indeed most gains in markets come around days that have Fed Day written on them, a well established history going back decades now.

A fact the Fed itself is very well aware of:

“In a 2011 paper, New York Fed economists showed that from 1994 to 2011 almost all the S&P 500’s returns came in the 3 days around an FOMC decision. Over this period the index rose by 270%, and most of those gains happened the before, the day of, and the day after a Fed meeting.”

So Pavlovian has the response become that shorts automatically cover ahead of Fed meetings and investors buy ahead of Fed meetings expecting a positive response. The Fed is the market as it’s driving its entire behavior. The “Fed put” they call it. Another phrase that explicitly acknowledges that investors are orienting their risk profile behavior on what this unelected committee does.

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

Negative Interest Rates Have Arrived

We are often warned that negative interest rates are an approaching menace — not an immediate menace.

Yet are negative rates already reality in the United States? Has the unholy day already arrived?

Today we don the sleuth’s cap, step into our gumshoes… and unearth evidence that negative interest rates are not the future menace… but the present menace.

What is the evidence? Answer anon.

Under negative interest rates…

Your bank does not compensate you for stabling your money with it. You instead compensate the bank for stabling your money.

A man sinks a dollar into his bank. Under standard rules he hauls out a dollar and change on some distant date — perhaps $1.05.

These days he is of course fortunate to bring out $1.01.

Yet under negative interest rates he endures a rooking of sorts. He pulls out not a dollar and change — but change alone. The bill itself has vanished.

His dollar may be worth 97 cents for example. Thus his dollar — rotting down in his bank — is a sawdust asset, a wasting asset, a minus asset.

Would you willingly hand a bank a dollar today to take back 97 cents next year? You are a strange specimen if you would.

Yet that is precisely as the Federal Reserve would have it…

The Federal Reserve wants your money eternally up and doing, searching, hunting, grasping… adventuring…

It must be forever acquiring, forever chasing rainbows, forever upon the jump.

That is, the Federal Reserve would not allow your money one contemplative moment to sit idle upon its hands… and doze.

For a dollar in motion is a dollar in service — in service to the economy.

The dollar in motion runs down goods and services. It invests in worthwhile and productive enterprises.

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

$65 Oil And $5000 Gold: Traders Expect Volatility In Key Commodities

$65 Oil And $5000 Gold: Traders Expect Volatility In Key Commodities

The year of the pandemic put two commodities under the spotlight, but for different reasons. Gold prices hit an all-time high in August, while crude oil slipped into negative for a day in April, when demand crashed and inventories soared.

Both oil and gold have seen much volatility this year. Oil prices started 2020 at over $60 a barrel, dipped to the low teens in April – with front-month WTI Crude futures settling one day at a negative price – and rose to $40 in the summer, staying rangebound since then. The crash in demand pushed oil lower, while increased uncertainty over the economic and oil demand recovery, as well as the fears of a second COVID-19 wave, pushed investors to seek safe havens such as gold, driving the precious metal’s price to an all-time high of $2,075 an ounce last month.

The wild rides in the two commodities could represent buying opportunities, analysts argue, expecting oil and gold to rise in the medium term.

For oil, the uptrend may not come as soon as it could in gold, because of the heightened concern about the stalled demand recovery. Still, investment banks and analysts expect prices to increase from current levels over the next one to two years, especially if an effective vaccine hits the markets in 2021.

For gold, low or negative interest rates, continued economic stimulus, and the perception that gold is a hedge against uncertainty about the economy and the upcoming U.S. presidential election are expected to drive prices higher.

Alissa Corcoran, Director of Research at Kopernik Global Investors, told MarketWatch’s Myra P. Saefong that the short-term volatility in commodities could be an opportunity instead of risk.

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

An Unlikely Sector Leads the Way in Surge of Corporate Leveraged Loan Defaults

oil gas companies

From Birch Gold Group

The economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent Fed monetary policy continue to reveal themselves.

The latest “reveal” that’s taking center stage is risky corporate leveraged loans, with defaults soaring to their highest levels since 2010 by issuer count, and since 2015 by rate.

report by S&P Global Intelligence breaks everything down, starting with a summary:

U.S. loan defaults continued to rise in July, surpassing 4% by issuer count for the first time since 2010, after five constituents of the S&P/LSTA Leveraged Loan Index tripped defaults on $7.7 billion of term loans.

You can see the billions in defaults by year in the chart below, and how the U.S. hasn’t seen an amount even close since 2009 (with four months still remaining in 2020):

us leveraged loan defaulted amount

“With economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic playing an increasing role, default volume over the last 12 months, at $46.35 billion, outpaces the same period of 2019 by 233%,” according to the same report.

Even more sobering than this astonishing surge, it looks like a critical sector of the economy that shouldn’t be defaulting on leveraged loans is the sector that’s contributing the most defaults…

Oil and Gas Companies Reveal How Fragile the Situation Is

It appears things wouldn’t be “so” bad if oil and gas companies weren’t defaulting by more than 30% of their total loan amount. You can see their “contribution” to this dire situation reflected in the chart below:

us leveraged loan default rate by amount

You can also see how oil and gas leveraged loan defaults could also have played a role in the dramatic Dow crash at the end of 2018 in the same chart above.

The S&P Global report notes that some examples of the energy sector carnage include (but are by no means limited to):

…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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