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What Happens After The Economic Momentum Ends?

What Happens After The Economic Momentum Ends?

At Some Point We Have Simply Overbuilt!

The economic landscape before us continues to look like something out of  “Alice And The Looking Glass”. A bizarre  and unrecognizable land, a land that is distorted and papered over by ream after ream of paper. For over a decade this paper has been rolling off the printing presses of central banks all across the world in an attempt to mask reality. Peter Schiff says, printing money is to the economy what taking drugs is to a drug addict. In the short term, it makes the economy feel good, but in the long run, it is much worse off. Unfortunately, what was once the “long-run” or “distant future” is now getting much closer.

Many people are now set to blame any slowdown in global growth on what has been declared avery dangerous and protracted trade war. Going into it many economists warned it could be truly disastrous for the entire global economy. In my opinion, the fear of slowing trade and how it will affect America is being overplayed and is not the chief catalyst for a slowdown here in America. While it is easy to target trade as the culprit and Trump as the instigator this conclusion is not supported by facts. We should remember the economy moves in cycles and this one is long in the tooth by historical standards.

Since the Bernanke experiment began, time and time again, the green shoots of economic growth have withered and required more stimulus in order to move to the next level. Each prediction of achieving escape velocity has proven to be short-lived or overly optimistic. These bursts of good news have continually been followed by disappointing economic data forcing some kind of stimulus to get the economy over the next hurdle. 

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

The Phantom Mania

The Phantom Mania

There’s nothing of substance underlying the current market melt-up

Well, stocks are back at all-time highs. Ignited by the Fed’s “Not-QE” program and endless Trump administration teases of an “imminent” China deal, the S&P 500 has been propelled above its upward Bollinger band — a hyperextension only seen one other time since 2007:

Every week since Not-QE was announced has seen the S&P close green (this week finally ending the streak, barely). We’re officially in a melt-up, where both good news and bad news are accepted as valid reasons to push stocks even higher.

But what’s notable about this melt-up is that it’s missing a compelling narrative. Every past asset price mania required a feel-good mantra that convinced the masses “This time is different!”.

The South Sea bubble promised access to the untapped riches of the vast Asian sub-continent. Dotcom companies were going to unlock tremendous value previously trapped by the inefficiency of the old analog way of doing business. In 2017, Bitcoin looked like it just might replace fiat currencies overnight.

During the price melt-ups accompanying each of these manias, the public fell for the siren song of a radically better future, available RIGHT NOW if you just jump on the party train before it’s too late.

But today? What’s the radically better future being promised? Where’s the party train headed to?

A Parade Of Horribles

As best I can tell, it seems the rationale (I’m using that term very generously) for the current market melt-up is that:

  1. The Fed is backstopping the market again
  2. A trade deal with China is going to happen, likely soon

Let’s dig into each of these. But before we do, let’s be clear that neither of these promises a “radically better” future.

The Fed, and its central bank brethren around the globe, have been backstopping the market for the past decade. There’s really nothing new in that.

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

The Free Money Bubble Is About To Burst

The Free Money Bubble Is About To Burst

Free Money Bubble

Recently, there has been a parade of central bankers along with their lackeys on Wall Street coming on the financial news networks and desperately trying to convince investors that there are no bubbles extant in the world today. Indeed, the Fed sees no economic or market imbalances anywhere that should give perma-bulls cause for concern. You can listen to Jerome Powell’s upbeat assessment of the situation in his own words during the latest FOMC press conference here. The Fed Chair did, however, manage to acknowledge that corporate debt levels are in fact a bit on the high side. But he added that “we have been monitoring it carefully and taken appropriate steps.” By taking appropriate steps to reduce debt levels Powell must mean slashing interest rates and going back into QE. The problem with that strategy being that is exactly what caused the debt binge and overleveraged condition of corporations in the first place.

Global central banks have abrogated the free market and are in the practice of repealing the business cycle and ensuring stocks are in a permanent bull market. Massive and unrelenting money printing is the “tool” that they use. The good old USA had its central bank cut rates to 0 percent by the end of 2008 to combat the Great Recession; and that paved the way for the EU to join the free-money parade by 2016. In fact, the Band of Japan had already been at the zero-bound range years before. This means much of the developed world has been giving money away gratis for the better part of a decade.

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

The Federal Reserve Is Directly Monetizing US Debt

The Federal Reserve Is Directly Monetizing US Debt

In a very real way, MMT is already here

Sure, it’s not admitting to this. And it’s using several technical jinks and jives to offer a pretense that things are otherwise.

But it’s not terribly difficult to predict what’s going to happen next: the Federal Reserve will drop the secrecy and start buying US debt openly.

At a time, mind you, when US fiscal deficits are exploding and foreign buyers are heading for the exits.

How It’s Supposed to Work

Here’s how it’s supposed to work when the US government issues new debt:

  1. If the US Treasury needs to raise new funds, it announces an upcoming auction of US Treasury bills/notes/bonds.
  2. A date for the auction is set.
  3. Various participants bid for those bills/notes/bonds (including ‘regular folks’ like you and me if we’re using the government’s Treasury Direct program).
  4. At a later date, the Fed can buy those US Treasury bills/notes/bonds. The various holders of that debt submit offers to sell, and the Fed (presumably) selects the best offers on the best terms.

The Federal Reserve, under no conditions, buys Treasury paper directly.  The Federal Reserve’s own website still maintains that this is the case:

(Source)

There are two important claims plus one assertion I’ve highlighted in there, each in a different color:

  1. Yellow: Treasury securities may “only be bought and sold in the open market.”
  2. Blue: doing otherwise might compromise the independence of the Fed.
  3. Purple: the Fed mostly buys “old” securities.

So according to the Fed: it’s independent, it follows the rules set forth in the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, and it mostly buys “old” Treasury paper that the market has already properly priced in a free and fair system.

But that’s not really what’s going on…

 …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…

Blain’s Morning Porridge – Nov 15th 2019

Blain’s Morning Porridge – Nov 15th 2019

“Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!”

As it’s a Friday I am contractually entitled to have a rant and whine about whatever I want to write about. Which, today, isn’t really the cut and thrust of markets. 

To be brutally frank – we all know what the problems are: Too much money in the markets pushing up the prices of market assets. The fact is too much of that too much money is owned by too few people who use their too much money to buy all these financial assets. These too few people who own all the financial assets get richer everyday as their too much money makes their too many financial assets even more valuable. And these too few people get even richer by getting even more too much money to put into the already too expensive financial markets by “persuading” central banks to keep rates low, to buy financial assets through QE, and get their in-the-pocket politicians to enact tax cuts so their too much money is even more too much money… 

With me so far??

Meanwhile, politicians pay for the too much money they give to too rich people, by taking it away from the much more numerous too many too poor people through Austerity. The too many people who don’t have any assets and owe any money they have to the people who have too much money and too many assets – aren’t happy. They blame society, they blame governments and as they get even more unhappy they get angry. These too poor too angry people then get very angry and start blaming people. which is what is happening across the globe..

Still there?… 

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

“Not QE”, Monetization, & “Definitely Asset Inflation”

“Not QE”, Monetization, & “Definitely Asset Inflation”

Chart below shows the Federal Reserve holdings of Treasuries, a weekly change (black columns) and total holdings (red line) during QE1, QE2, Operation Twist, QE3, QT, and “Not QE”.  Got it?!?  This current “Not QE” explosion in QE is like some kind of old time vaudeville act (like the old Abbott and Costello bit, “who’s on first, what’s on second, I don’t know’s on third”).

But looking more widely, the chart below shows the total Federal Reserve balance sheet (blue shaded area), bank excess reserves (red line), and the delta between the Fed’s balance sheet and excess reserves…also known as direct monetization.  As the Fed restarted “not QE” but did not go through the façade of attempting to stock the new money away as “excess reserves”, this new money is flowing straight into assets, like monetary heroine.

Below, a close up of the components above solely in 2019 (through November 6th).  Balance sheet soaring once again since the Fed’s sudden pivot, excess reserves continue falling…and the difference in freshly digitized cash in the hands of banks and the like…ready to be levered up.

So, monetization (yellow line) versus the Wilshire 5000 (green line) from 2014 through last week.  For those not familiar, the Wilshire 5000 total market index, is a market-capitalization weighted index of the market value of all US stocks actively traded in the US.

And fascinatingly, since the beginning of 2018, the Wilshire 5000 and direct monetization are becoming more attuned to one another.  And in mock shock, the new record close in the Wilshire just happens to be accompanied by a new record in direct monetization!?!  Almost as if the addition of $320 billion in fresh digital cash since mid August Fed U-turn had something to do with the $2.2 trillion rise in US equities over the same period (a leverage ratio of about 7x).  Hmmm.

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

Bankers Going for Broke Because They Know it’s Broke – G. Edward Griffin

Bankers Going for Broke Because They Know it’s Broke – G. Edward Griffin

Edward Griffin, author of the wildly popular book about the Federal Reserve “The Creature from Jekyll Island,” is holding a conference this weekend called “Red Pill Expo.” It is all about waking people up from the illusions they are being told. Griffin explains, “The illusions are in health, in politics and in education. The illusions are in the media, in money and in banking, which is my specialty. So, people are coming, some of whom are informed, but most respond to the slogan we are using for the “Red Pill Expo,” and the slogan is ‘Because you know something is wrong.’ That sort of spells it out for most people, not just in America, but for people all over the world. People everywhere are being fed propaganda, lies and false stimuli of all kinds, but deep in their hearts, deep in their instincts, they know something is wrong.”

What’s wrong in the financial world with the longest expansion in history and the Fed starting QE (money printing) again? Griffin says, “We are living in a system of the banks, by the banks and for the banks, and that is the reality. . . . They see that the wheels are coming off. . . . The system of inflation in which we live cannot go on forever. . . . All systems of exponential growth always collapse. They come to an end at some point, and it’s hard to tell exactly at what point, but you do know there is a breaking point where it just moves beyond reality. The banks know this better than anybody. So, I am assuming that they feel they are at the end. You can smell it. You can see it. You can touch it almost.

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

How QE has radically changed the nature of the West’s financial system.

How QE has radically changed the nature of the West’s financial system.

Because they are so ensconsed in their little bubble and because they profit so much from maintaining the status quo, Western mainstream media pundits don’t – or perhaps can’t – admit how Quantitative Easing policies have so quickly and so radically changed the financial system of the West and their satellites.

I imagine that most everyone reading this is already aware of what has transpired economically across the West over the last decade:

  • Elite-class asset (stuff rich people own – stocks, real estate, financial derivatives, luxury goods, etc.) prices have ballooned to pre-2008 levels.
  • Debt (which is, of course, another elite-owned asset), mainly to pay for banker bailouts and their usurious interest levels, has ballooned national accounts to incredible levels.
  • The “real” economy has only weakened, as proven by endemic low economic growth across the West and Japan.

As a pro-socialist who has no faith that capitalism seeks anything but inequality, I believe that creating and compounding these issues has been the unstated goal of Western policy over the last decade. But that’s not the main point: what cannot be denied is that those ARE the economic results of the West’s “easy money” policies – i.e., QE and ZIRP (Zero percent interest rate policy) for the 1%, and austerity for the 99% (all coins have two sides).

Similarly, I imagine that everyone reading this is generally aware of what will happen should the West stop easy money: obviously, once artificial demand is no longer being fabricated then these assets will plummet in value, with huge ripple effects in the “real” economy. The West will be right back to dealing with most of the same toxic assets they had back in 2007, but now compounded by a decade of more debt, more interest payments, and a “real” economy which was made weaker via austerity.

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

Warning! Interest Rates, Inflation, And Debt Do Matter

Warning! Interest Rates, Inflation, And Debt Do Matter 

With our national debt blowing past 23 trillion dollars nothing is as sobering as looking at future budgets. We should be worried. Central banks across the world claim the lack of inflation is the key force driving their QE policy and permitting it to continue, however, the moment inflation begins to take root much of their flexibility will be lost. This translates into governments being forced to pay higher interest rates on their debt. For years the argument that “This Time Is Different” has flourished but history shows that periods of rapid credit expansion always end the same way and that is in default. This also underlines the reality that any claims Washington makes about the budget deficit being under control is a total lie.

Click (Here) To View National Debt Clock

America is not alone in spending far more than it takes in and running a deficit. This does not make it right or mean that it is sustainable. Much of our so-called economic growth is the result of government spending feeding into the GDP. This has created a false economic script and like a Ponzi scheme, it has a deep relationship to fraud.

Global debt has surged since 2008, to levels that should frighten any sane investor because debt has always had consequences. Much of the massive debt load hanging above our heads in 2008 has not gone away it has merely been transferred to the public sector where those in charge of such things feel it is more benign. A series of off-book and backdoor transactions by those in charge has transferred the burden of loss from the banks onto the shoulders of the people, however, shifting the liability from one sector to another does not alleviate the problem.

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

Pondering the Collapse of the Entire Shadow Banking System

Pondering the Collapse of the Entire Shadow Banking System

Image courtesy of my friend Chris Temple.

What’s behind the ever-increasing need for emergency repos? A couple of correspondents have an eye on shadow banking.

Shadow Banking

  • The shadow banking system consists of lenders, brokers, and other credit intermediaries who fall outside the realm of traditional regulated banking.
  • It is generally unregulated and not subject to the same kinds of risk, liquidity, and capital restrictions as traditional banks are.
  • The shadow banking system played a major role in the expansion of housing credit in the run up to the 2008 financial crisis, but has grown in size and largely escaped government oversight since then.

The above from Investopedia.

Hey It’s Not QE, Not Even Monetary

Yesterday, I commented Fed to Increase Emergency Repos to $120 Billion, But Hey, It’s Not Monetary.

Let’s recap before reviewing excellent comments from a couple of valued sources.

The Fed keeps increasing the size and duration of “overnight” funding. It’s now up $120 billion a day, every day, extended for weeks. That is on top of new additions.

Three Fed Statements

  1. Emergency repos were needed for “end-of-quarter funding“.
  2. Balance sheet expansion is “not QE“. Rather, it’s “organic growth“.
  3. This is “not monetary policy“.

Three Mish Comments

  1. Hmm. A quick check of my calendar says the quarter ended on September 30 and today is October 23.
  2. Hmm. Historically “organic” growth was about $2 to $3 billion.
  3. Hmm. Somehow it takes an emergency (but let’s no longer call it that), $120 billion “at least” in repetitive “overnight” repos to control interest rates, but that does not constitute “monetary policy”

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

The Fed is Lying to Us

The Fed is Lying to Us

“When it becomes serious, you have to lie”

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

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

Put more frankly; we’re being lied to.

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

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

The Fed’s Rescue Was Never Real

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

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

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

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

And we can note other important insights in this chart.

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

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

Central Banks Are Just Getting Warmed Up

Central Banks Are Just Getting Warmed Up

According to all central banks, one of the main problems they are called to solve is that countries cannot reach their inflation target of (close to but below) 2 percent. Even their religious trust in the long-discredited Phillips curve cannot explain why price inflation is low in many countries despite historically low unemployment rates. Nonetheless, central banks still enjoy immense credibility. It’s common to hear such sentences as “never bet against the Fed,” the “ECB has big bazooka primed”… and all market participants monitor each public meeting to understand what the next policy could be and how they should be positioned when it arrives.1

To reach the inflation targets and “stimulate the economy,” central banks regularly meet to devise ever-new stimulus programs, and do not despair when, inevitably, the one-off unconventional interventions quickly become the new normal. For example, the world-famous Quantitative Easing (QE) was supposed to be a one-time emergency response to the 2008 crisis, except it has now become one of the many tools of regular monetary policy, and a key component in market demand for financial assets. An undesired but perfectly predictable side effect of QE is that it allows governments to increase their spending without care for the deficit, and still pay negative interest rates in real terms, so no discipline is imposed, except for some empty promise to reduce the deficit some time in the future, if the opportunity comes. Several Western countries have embarked in QE, some in many consecutive rounds, but there is no mention of a reverse-course, an eventual, opposite Quantitative Tightening (QT). Only the United States have tried QT, and the Fed has even announced that they were on a stable and data-driven process back to normalization, to try to maintain their reputation of scientific management of the monetary aggregates.

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

QE for the People

QE for the People

Myrmikan’s May letter discussed how the Fed had already begun to ease nancialconditions, though the method was so subtle that few understood what the central bank was doing.

Banks are required to keep required reserves at the Fed. Banks that nd themselves with a de cient reserve level have to borrow reserves from those with excess reserves,and the interest rate they pay is called the fed funds rate. The fed funds rate thereby sets the minimum level of funding for the banking system. The Federal Reserve used to set this rate through open market operations: buying Treasuries would add reserves to the banking system and lower the fed funds rate (and vice-versa).

Historically, reserves earned no interest, and so, before 2008, banks maintainedas few reserves as possible—they could always buy a Treasury bill with any excess cash. After the Fed ooded the banking system with reserves during the 2008 panic, banks found themselves with excess reserves, which peaked at $2.7 trillion. The Fedsets the general reserve requirement at 10%, which means the banking system couldhave added $27 trillion of credit to the economy. In fact, certain classes of assets (suchas Treasuries, mortgage-backed securities, etc.) have risk weightings that allow banks to hold as little as 2% reserves against them, which enables 50 times leverage on suchassets (which is how, for example, Citicorp was able to be levered up 48:1 in 2007).

In order to keep trillions of levered up credit from crashing into the economy, the Fed began paying interest on excess reserves (IOER). Given the level of excessreserves, the Fed could no longer use open market operations to manipulate the fedfunds rate.

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

“Not A QE” Begins: Fed Start Buying $60BN In Bills Per Month Starting Next Week

“Not A QE” Begins: Fed Start Buying $60BN In Bills Per Month Starting Next Week

Just one day after we laid out what Goldman’s revised forecast for the Fed’s “NOT A QE” will look like, which for those who missed it predicted that the Fed would announce “monthly purchases of about $60BN for four months, split across Treasury bills and short maturity coupon Treasuries, in order to replenish the roughly $200bn reserve shortfall and support the pace of growth in non-reserve liabilities”, the Fed has done just that and moments ago – well ahead of consensus expectations which saw the Fed making this announcement some time in November – the US central bank announced it would start purchasing $60BN in Bills per month starting October 15. This will be in addition to rolling over “all principal payments from the Federal Reserve’s holdings of Treasury securities and the continued reinvestment all principal payments from the Federal Reserve’s holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities received during each calendar month.”

In short, the proposed schedule is virtually identical to the one Goldman “proposed” yesterday, one which sees the Fed purchase a grand total of $100BN or so in TSYs the near term, and one which is meant to “engineer a one-off level shift of roughly $200bn over the course of four months.

But wait there’s more, because just as today’s surprising spike in repo use suggested, mere “NOT A QE” may not cut it, and just in case, in order to provide an “ample supply of reserves”, the Fed will continue with $75BN in overnight repos and $35 billion in term repos twice per week, “at least through January of next year.”

 …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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