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Central Banks Trapped by Their Theories

Central Banks Trapped by Their Theories 

QUESTION: Hi Martin,

I can understand how JP and EU backed themselves into a corner with negative rates. Happy to give them the benefit of the doubt when this all started 3-4 years ago even though it was obvious this was not going to end well.
However, what I don’t understand is the thought process that reserve banks today need to perpetuate eternal growth when I would think their role should be to smooth out extremes (debatable this is even possible).

RBA is a case in point as while the Australian economy is slowing, it is nowhere near terrible. There is talk that they will now also look to lower rates to near zero and start QE. I get that all reserve banks are looking to maintain lower exchange rates and so they need to keep pace with the rest of the world but one would think they would learn better from mistakes of EU and JP.

My question is, is this a global conspiracy or just plain stupidity?

Thanks for all ….

David

ANSWER: The original theory was to smooth out the business cycle. The political governments turned to the central banks and argued that they were responsible for the money supply. Therefore, it was allegedly their duty to control inflation irrespective of the spending of politicians. This was an inconvenient economic truth.

The problem is that the ONLY theory they have is the Keynesian Model. They really have no other theory to rely on. So they keep lowering rates, hoping to stimulate demand and are oblivious to the economic reality that the political side is hunting taxes and becoming more aggressive in tax enforcement. The two sides are clashing and the central banks are now TRAPPED with no alternative.

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

“Money’s Not Worth Anything Anymore” – Ex-Credit Suisse CEO Blasts “Crazy” Negative Rates

“Money’s Not Worth Anything Anymore” – Ex-Credit Suisse CEO Blasts “Crazy” Negative Rates

Oswald Gruebel, who served as Credit Suisse CEO from 2004 to 2007 and as UBS Group AG’s top executive from 2009 to 2011, has slammed ECB policy in an interview with Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag.

“Negative interest rates are crazy. That means money is not worth anything anymore,” Gruebel exclaimed.

“As long as we have negative interest rates, the financial industry will continue to shrink.”

Who can blame him – judging by the all-time low in European inflation expectations, ECB policy has been an utter failure…

Source: Bloomberg

Gruebel is not alone. As European bank bosses cast their eyes at their share prices, they are fighting back, some have said – biting the hand that feeds, in their attack on ECB policies, warning of severe consequences to asset prices and the broader economy.

Source: Bloomberg

As Bloomberg reports, The ECB’s imposition of negative interest rates have created an “absurd situation” in which banks don’t want to hold deposits, rages UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti, arguing that this policy is hurting social systems and savings rates.

Additionally, Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing warned that more monetary easing by the ECB, as widely expected next week, will have “grave side effects” for a region that has already lived with negative interest rates for half a decade.

“In the long run, negative rates ruin the financial system,” Sewing said at the event, organized by the Handelsblatt newspaper.

Another cut “may make refinancing cheaper for states, but has grave side effects.”

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

Negative Interest Rates are the Price We Pay for De-Civilization

Negative Interest Rates are the Price We Pay for De-Civilization

Do central bankers really think negative interest rates are rational? 

“Calculation Error,” which Bloomberg terminals sometimes display1, is an apt metaphor for the current state of central bank policy. Both Europe and Asia are now awash in $13 trillion worth of negative-yielding sovereign and corporate bonds, and Alan Greenspan suggests negative interest rates soon will arrive in the US. Despite claims by both Mr. Trump and Fed Chair Jerome Powell concerning the health of the American economy, the Fed’s Open Market Committee moved closer to negative territory today — with another quarter-point cut in the Fed Funds rate, below even a measly 2%. 

Negative interest rates are just the latest front in the post-2008 era of “extraordinary” monetary policy. They represent a Hail Mary pass from central bankers to stimulate more borrowing and more debt, though there is far more global debt today than in 2007. Stimulus is the assumed goal of all economic policy, both fiscal and monetary. Demand-side stimulus is the mania bequeathed to us by Keynes, or more accurately by his followers. It is the absurd idea, that an economy prospers by consuming and borrowing instead of producing and saving. Negative interest rates turn everything we know about economics upside down.

Under what scenario would anyone lend $1,000 to receive $900 in return at some point in the future? Only when the alternative is to receive $800 back instead, due to the predicted interventions of central banks and governments. Only then would locking in a set rate of capital loss make sense. By “capital loss” I mean just that; when there is no positive interest paid, the principal itself must be consumed. There is no “market” for negative rates.

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

More Money Pumping Won’t Make Us Richer

More Money Pumping Won’t Make Us Richer

Whenever a central bank introduces easy monetary policy, as a rule this leads to an economic boom — or economic prosperity. At least this is what most commentators hold. If this is however the case then it means that an easy monetary policy can grow an economy.

But loose monetary policies do not generate economic growth. These policies set in motion the diversion of real savings from wealth generators to the holders of the newly pumped money. Real savings, rather than supporting individuals that specialize in the enhancement and expansion of the infrastructure are consumed by various individuals that are employed in non-wealth generating activities.

Moreover, not all consumption is a good thing. The consumption of real savings by individuals engaged in the enhancements and the expansion of the infrastructure is productive consumption. Conversely, the consumption of real savings by individuals that are employed in non-wealth generating activities is non-productive consumption.

It is non-productive consumption that sets the foundation for the weakening of the existing infrastructure thereby weakening future economic growth. In contrast, productive consumption sets the foundation for a better infrastructure, which permits stronger future economic growth. Needless to say, productive consumption leads to the increase in individuals living standards while non-productive consumption results in the lowering of living standards.

Why then is loose monetary policy seen as a major contributor towards economic growth?

Given that economic growth is assessed by means of the gross domestic product (GDP) framework — which is nothing more than a monetary turnover — obviously then when the central bank embarks on monetary pumping (i.e., loose monetary policy) it strengthens the monetary turnover in the economy and thus GDP.

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

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…

Draghi Goes All Out: ECB Cuts Rates, Restarts Open-Ended QE, Changes Forward Guidance, Eases TLTRO, Introduces Tiering

Draghi Goes All Out: ECB Cuts Rates, Restarts Open-Ended QE, Changes Forward Guidance, Eases TLTRO, Introduces Tiering

With the market worried that Mario Draghi could surprise hawkishly in his parting announcement…

… that is how the market initially interpreted today’s ECB press release, which cut already negative deposit rates for the first time since 2016 to stimulate the sagging European economy, but by a smaller than expected 10bps to -0.50% while restarting QE but by “only” €20 billion, less than the €30 billion baseline.

However, there was more than enough offsetting dovish bells and whistles, because while the restarted QE (or the Asset Purchase Program) was smaller than expected, it will be open-ended, and the ECB will run it “for as long as necessary to reinforce the accommodative impact of its policy rates, and to end shortly before it starts raising the key ECB interest rates.” Of course, the question here is how long can a safe-asset constrained Europe run an “open-ended” QE, and the answer is it depends on what the issuer limit by nation is, with Frederik Ducrozet observing that “at €20bn/month, assuming up to €5bn in corporate bonds, QE can run for ~9 months under current limits… and for more than 7 years if limits are raised to 50%!” So look for more information on that angle.


 · 43m

OPEN-ENDED QE. Let that sink in. Much more important than the monthly pace of asset purchases, i.e. even better than we hoped.

At €20bn/month, assuming up to €5bn in corporate bonds, QE can run for ~9 months under current limits… and for more than 7 years if limits are raised to 50%!
We might get details about issuer limits in the separate press releases and/or the press conference.

View image on Twitter

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

More on the puzzle of negative interest rates

More on the puzzle of negative interest rates

Interest rates on many bonds have plunged into negative territory. But why on earth would anyone be willing to save $1000 only to get $999 in the future? Saving up for a rainy day has always gone hand in hand with a positive interest rate, not a negative one.

In my last post I showed how negative real return on saving could emerge. I invoked a certain type of a economy – a dystopic island where castaways like Robinson Crusoe live. The island’s few meagre opportunities to invest have dried up. Technological advancement has halted. To prepare for his retirement Robinson Crusoe stores coconuts, but the constant assault from rodents and insects meant that he’d end up with less resources than he started with.

Crusoe and other castaways his age can also prepare for old age by lending resources to the island’s younger generation. But if the young are dying out, then the much larger cohort of older islanders will have to offer the few remaining young a lower – even negative – interest rate to coax them to borrow.

A tale of two interest rates

Our world is certainly experiencing many problems. But it doesn’t seem to correspond to the grim reality of a decaying Robinson Crusoe world. Sure, we are getting older and having fewer kids. But it’s hard to argue that technological advancement has ground to a halt or that projects are so non-productive that we are content to earn 0%.

For evidence, take a look at a chart of the rate of return on U.S. business capital:

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

Powell Doesn’t Change His Tune… And Rabobank Sees Fed Cutting To Zero

Powell Doesn’t Change His Tune… And Rabobank Sees Fed Cutting To Zero

  • The tone of Fed Chairman Powell’s remarks in Zurich was similar to that of his speech in Jackson Hole. Powell repeated the statement that the Fed will ‘act as appropriate to sustain the expansion,’ which indicates that he is leaning toward a September rate cut.
  • Earlier today, the Employment Report for August showed that the weakness in the manufacturing sector and business investment has spread to employment growth. This strengthens the case for an insurance cut in September, although Powell said that the labor market remained in quite a strong position.
  • In our view the feedback loop between trade policy and monetary policy is likely to lead to another insurance cut, probably in OctoberMeanwhile, the inverted yield curve points to a recession in 2020 that will force the Fed to cut rates all the way to zero before the end of 2020. 

Powell doesn’t change his tune 

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell did not bring a prepared speech to the SNB event at the University of Zurich today, instead he took part in a moderated Q&A with SNB President Thomas Jordan on the economic outlook and monetary policy. Powell said that the US economy is still in a good place and the most likely outlook remains favorable. However, there are the significant risks to the outlook: global economic growth, uncertainty about trade policy and persistently low inflation. He said that ‘As we move forward, we’re going to continue to watch all of these factors, and all the geopolitical things that are happening, and we’re going to continue to act as appropriate to sustain this expansion.’

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

Blackrock CIO: The Endgame Is Coming And Central Banks Will Debase Everything To Spark Inflation

Blackrock CIO: The Endgame Is Coming And Central Banks Will Debase Everything To Spark Inflation

Blackrock’s Chief Investment Officer, Rick Rieder, best known perhaps for recently suggesting that the ECB should monetize stocks, writes in the Blackrock blog today and highlights the economic policy state-of-play today, and where it may lead to should economic growth falter, productivity not materialize, and populism continue to thrive.

* * *

The major global central banks continue to draw bigger guns in their battle against deflation, yet in some places, it appears to be of no avail. The fact is that the share of sovereign yields that are in negative territory keeps increasing and the average level of these interest rates becomes ever more negative. Further, quantitative easing (QE) purchases of sovereign debt have transitioned to purchases of corporate debt, and in some places equities; with inflation still elusive and improved growth prospects in question. That all leads one to wonder where (and how) these policies end? What is today’s monetary policy endgame?

Turn to economic history for perspective

In order to envision the monetary policy endgame several years (or a decade) from now, let’s start by stepping back and examining two of the foundational tenets that have driven the global economy and financial markets since the 1970s. The first principle is that the major central banks embraced a roughly 2% inflation target (implicit for the Federal Reserve since, at least, 1995 and explicitly stated since 2012), and the second factor is the end of the Bretton Woods monetary system; marking the shift away from the gold standard and into a world of fiat currency fluctuation.

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

The Ugly Truth About The Trade War

The Ugly Truth About The Trade War

This past week was an interesting exercise in false expectations and assumptions. Once again, trade war theatrics were used to stall a stock market plunge as insinuations of a possible “deal” were made by Donald Trump, followed by China’s claim that maybe, just maybe, they would not immediately issue a new round of tariffs right now, but possibly tomorrow, or in a month…

Then, all hell broke loose again when only a few days later both sides jumped into a new round of tariffs leaving markets confused and algo trading computers bewildered, so much so that sometimes they even buy on bad news thinking it’s good news. This is the problem with the Pavlovian response mechanism – You train a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell because he thinks he’s going to get a treat, but then what if you change the bell, or the treat, or the entire dynamic of the process? The dog’s whole world is turned upside down and he curls up in a ball in the corner of the room to make the mental anguish stop.

This is exactly the kind of reaction the globalists are looking for, hence the stop/start insanity of trade discussions, not to mention the dove/hawk behavior of the Federal Reserve. Everything people once thought predictable is being deliberately discombobulated.

Ultimately the circus and the confusion are only products of peoples biases. They want to believe they will get a treat if they act a certain way when certain indicators signal. They want to believe the trade war can be won, or at least that Trump is trying to win. They want to believe that the Fed will save them with a surge of QE.

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

Blain’s Morning Porridge – Sept 5th 2019

Blain’s Morning Porridge – Sept 5th 2019 


“Slipping down Raki and reading Maynard Keynes…”

We really should focus on the signals emanating from bond markets.  Forget the current political madness – yesterday saw a number of key moments for bond markets:  UK Chancellor Sajid Javid hitting the spend button in the UK (whether it actually happens is a moot point), another $30 bln new issuance day in the US, BAWAG launching a 10-year negative yield Covered Bond, Spain about to launch a 50 year issue at a smidge over nothing, and Christine Lagarde lecturing the European Parliament about the need for Fiscal Policy initiatives. 

It really feels like we are at something of a nexus for bonds and fiscal spending.  Central Bankers and politicians are tinkering with new ideas (ie: old ones rehashed) about Monetary policy – because nothing they tried re QE and zero rates really worked the last 10-years.  I can’t help but feel it’s like something out of The Walking Dead – the Neo-Keynesians have suddenly risen and now stalk the Earth. (Queue Thriller on the turntable…)  

Politicians now see low interest rates as a phenomenal opportunity to sort out the bleak mess of the last 10-years of Austerity driven under-investment, and spend economies back into growth.  It looks attractive.  And, if they’d started 10-years ago.. then we’d probably not be where we are today…

Of course, corporates would be mad not to take advantage of current ultra-low rates to borrow.  But what are they going to spend the money on?  More distorting stock buy-backs and dividend recharges back to private equity owners?  Should investors be worried about the growing leverage?  If the crunch comes – well, 5% of issuers might default, but the rest will be fine… ish.  Meanwhile, ultra-low rates are great for stocks.  Not because companies are inherently more profitable, but largely because low rates make stocks relatively more attractive compared to low-yielding bonds, and encourage corporate buy-backs which further push up prices! 

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

EU Bank Bosses Warn Of “Grave Consequences” If ECB Keeps Cutting Rates

EU Bank Bosses Warn Of “Grave Consequences” If ECB Keeps Cutting Rates

The ECB’s imposition of negative interest rates have created an “absurd situation” in which banks don’t want to hold deposits, rages UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti, arguing that this policy is hurting social systems and savings rates.

Ermotti is not alone. As European bank bosses cast their eyes at their share prices, they are fighting back, some have said – biting the hand that feeds, in their attack on ECB policies, warning of severe consequences to asset prices and the broader economy.

Source: Bloomberg

As Bloomberg reports, Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing warned that more monetary easing by the ECB, as widely expected next week, will have “grave side effects” for a region that has already lived with negative interest rates for half a decade.

“In the long run, negative rates ruin the financial system,” Sewing said at the event, organized by the Handelsblatt newspaper.

Another cut “may make refinancing cheaper for states, but has grave side effects.”

While incoming ECB head Christine Lagarde has claimed that the benefits of deeply negative rates outweigh the costs (stating just this week that “a highly accommodative policy is warranted for a prolonged period of time;” few economists believe another cut at this level would actually help the economy. According to Sewing, all it would achieve is to further divide society by lifting asset prices while punishing Europe’s savers who are already paying 160 billion euros ($176 billion) a year because of negative interest rates.

“What’s really worrisome: central banks have hardly any tools left to effectively mitigate a real economic crisis,” Sewing said.

“They have already cranked open the money tap – most of all the European Central Bank.”

Who can blame Sewing, as the EU yield curve has collapsed, so has his share price…

Source: Bloomberg

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

Negative Interest Rates Threaten the Financial System

Negative Interest Rates Threaten the Financial System

Markets may need to be rebuilt on a new set of assumptions, but we don’t know what those should be or how they would work.

Negative rates in the U.S. would have profound implications for markets.
Negative rates in the U.S. would have profound implications for markets. Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Jim Bianco is the President and founder of Bianco Research, a provider of data-driven insights into the global economy and financial markets. He may have a stake in the areas he writes about.


Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently said he wouldn’t be surprised if yields on U.S. bonds turned negative and if they do, it wouldn’t be “that big a of a deal.” That seems to be a sentiment widely held in central banking circles these days, but it’s wrong. Negative interest rates represent a threat to the financial system.

To understand why, let’s start with the existing fractional reserve banking system, which is more than a century old. For every dollar that goes into a bank, some set amount (usually about 10%) must go into a reserve account to be overseen by the central bank. The rest is either lent out or used to buy securities.

In other words, the fractional reserve banking system is leveraged to interest rates. This works when rates are positive. Loans are made and securities bought because they will generate income for the bank. In a negative rate environment, the bank must pay to hold loans and securities. In other words, banks would be punished for providing credit, which is the lifeblood of an economy. As German bankers recently explained to the European Central Bank:

We already have a devastating interest rate situation today, the end of which is unforeseeable,” Peter Schneider, who represents public-sector savings banks in the southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, said on Wednesday. “If the ECB aggravates this course, that would hit not only the entire financial sector hard, but especially savers.

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

Negative Interest Rates Are Extremely Toxic

Negative Interest Rates Are Extremely Toxic

Jim Bianco, President of Bianco Research, cautions against evermore unconventional monetary policy interventions. He fears that the global slowdown is going to get worse and he spots opportunities in long-term bonds and gold.

The global economy is on the brink: Europe is headed for recession, Japan as well and China’s growth rate is the slowest in almost thirty years. Only the economy in the United States seems to hold up. But for how long?

Mr. Bianco, the summer is basically over and we are heading into the final stretch of the year. What’s ahead for the financial markets in the coming months?
There are two issues at play: First, the trade and currency wars where the situation reminds me somewhat of «This Is Spinal Tap». It’s a cult satire movie from the eighties about a rock band and they coined the phrase «up to eleven» because that’s how high their amplifier went. So the expression «turning it up to eleven» refers to the act of taking something to an extreme. I’m saying this because I think Trump is “going to eleven” on trade: He’s going to turn it up so high that there is going to have to be a deal. That’s the way he wants to do this. He will just make it intolerable so everybody has to sit down and cut a deal.

What’s the other issue?
The inverted yield curve. The three-month/ten-year curve has been inverted since May and this is the market’s way of saying the Federal Funds Rate is too high and must come down. It is interesting how hard everyone is standing on their head to dismiss the yield curve and tell me why it’s different this time.

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

In Ominous Warning, Dalio Says The Current Period Is Just Like 1935-1945

In Ominous Warning, Dalio Says The Current Period Is Just Like 1935-1945

Something has dramatically changed in the establishment’s view of central banking… and of the future.

As we reported earlier this week, recently we have observed a surprising spike in criticism of central banks by establishment figures, in some cases central bankers themselves, most notably Mark Carney who last Friday remarkably admitted that very low interest rates tend “to coincide with high risk events such as wars, financial crises, and breaks in the monetary regime” when he also urged an end to the dollar’s status as world reserve currency. This continued when 7 months after it praised negative rates, the San Francisco Fed pulled a U-turn and warned that the “Japanese experience”, where negative rates dragged down inflation expectations even more, is ground for NIRP caution.


There has never been so much hostility against central banks – even among other central bankers – – in the past decade as over the past month. Something is about to snap


Meanwhile, as the FT concluded in its summary of last week’s Wyoming outing, “there was a sense that things will never be the same again” and quoted St Louis Fed President James Bullard, who wrote that “the developed world had experienced a “regime shift” in economic conditions: “Something is going on, and that’s causing I think a total rethink of central banking and all our cherished notions about what we think we’re doing,” Bullard admitted. “We just have to stop thinking that next year things are going to be normal.”

Tying it all together was Bank of America, which in anreport meant to recommend buying gold, lashed out at the Fed, warning that “ultra-easy monetary policies have led to distortions across various asset classes”; worse – and these are not our words, but of Bank of America…n:

 …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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