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US Money Supply – The Pandemic Moonshot

US Money Supply – The Pandemic Moonshot

Printing Until the Cows Come Home…

It started out with Jay Powell planting a happy little money tree in 2019 to keep the repo market from suffering a terminal seizure. This essentially led to a restoration of the status quo ante “QT” (the mythical beast known as “quantitative tightening” that was briefly glimpsed in 2018/19). Thus the roach motel theory of QE was confirmed: once a central bank resorts to QE, a return to “standard monetary policy” becomes impossible. You can check in, but you can never leave.

Phase 1: Jay Powell plants a happy little money tree to rescue the repo market from itself (from: “The Joy of Printing”).

It is easy to see why. Any attempt to seriously reduce outstanding central bank credit will bring about the very situation QE was intended to prevent, i.e., falling asset prices and an economic bust. Seemingly no-one in officialdom ever stops to ask why that should be so. What happened to “self-sustaining recoveries” and “achieving escape velocity”? Could it be the economy is neither a perpetuum mobile nor a space ship?

Before we consider this question, here is what has happened since then: shortly after the double-plus-uncool novel SARS-2 corona-virus traversed several ponds and made landfall in the US, Mr. Powell and his fellow merry pranksters decided to water the money tree with super-gro. Or maybe it was hyper-gro:

The “QE” roach motel, illustrated by the history of the Fed’s balance sheet.

That is a rather noteworthy bout of inflation. Readers may have noticed that in the realms of finance and economics there has also been an inflation of verbiage describing never before seen extremes.  By its very nature, one would normally not expect to hear the term “unprecedented” very often, but it has become disconcertingly commonplace in connection with monetary pumping, deficit spending and debt growth.

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

These Are The Banks Where The Fed’s $1.4 Trillion In Reserves Are Parked

These Are The Banks Where The Fed’s $1.4 Trillion In Reserves Are Parked

Over the past few days there has been much confusion over the repocalpyse that shook the overnight funding market, and just as much confusion over the definition of reserves which some banks were unwilling to part with, other banks were desperate for, and in the end both Powell and the former head of the NY Fed’s markets desk admitted that Quantitative Tightening had been taken too far, and the total amount of reserves in the system was too low and will be increased (welcome back QE).

Yet while the book has yet to be written on the causes for last week’s shocking move higher in repo rates, which sent general collateral as high as 10%, a record print in a time of $1.4 trillion in excess reserves, we can shed some clarity on the definition of “reserves.” While there is a universe of semantic gymnastics when it comes to explaining what reserves are, the  most basic definition is quite simply “cash”, however not cash in circulation but rather cash (and deposits) held in the bank’s account with the Federal Reserve (which the US central bank’s name comes from).

This means that there should be a de facto identity between the total amount of cash in the US banking system and the amount of total (minimum required plus excess) reserves. Sure enough, if only looks at the Fed’s weekly H.8 statement, which lists the “Assets and Liabilities of Commercial Banks in the United States“, and adds across the various banking cash aggregates in the US, what one gets is precisely the total amount of reserves.

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

For The First Time In 6 Years, No Central Bank Is Hiking

For The First Time In 6 Years, No Central Bank Is Hiking

The global central bank experiment with renormalization is officially over.

After roughly half the world’s central banks hiked rates at least once in 2018, the major central banks have returned to easing mode, and as the chart below shows, for the first time since 2013, not a single central bank is hiking rates.

Commenting on the violent reversal away from tightening financial conditions which emerged following the Q4 2018 selloff, Goldman’s Jan Hatzius writes that “The FOMC looks set to cut the funds rate next week, the ECB today sent a strong signal that action in September is likely, and China has resumed easing policy after a spring pause. With global growth running at a below-trend rate of 2¾%—down from about 4% a year ago—a synchronized tilt towards easing looks like a natural response to a weaker outlook.”

Yet even Goldman can’t help but ask just why the Fed is rushing to commence the first easing cycle in years, pointing out that “the US economy is in decent shape, with a tight labor market, inflation close to target and— in our forecast— growth running a little above 2% both this year and next. We are modestly above consensus because we expect the negative inventory cycle to end and final demand to continue growing robustly on the back of easier financial conditions.”

This, according to the Goldman economist, should limit Fed easing to two 25bp insurance cuts, one next week and another in September, although the bank, which until very recently did not expect any rate cuts at all, fails to justify just why the Fed is doing what it is about to do, unless of course Powell is merely folding to Trump pressure.

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

Trump’s Fight With The Fed Over Interest Rates Is A Scripted Farce

Trump’s Fight With The Fed Over Interest Rates Is A Scripted Farce

There is a very bizarre narrative being circulated in the mainstream economic media and it goes a little something like this:

The Federal Reserve has capitulated on liquidity tightening yet the US economy is “stronger than ever”, isn’t that weird?”

There are a couple things wrong with this statement. First, the Fed has not yet capitulated on its tightening policy. In fact, we have been hearing since last November from the mainstream media and some alternative media that the Fed was going to lower its Fed Funds Rate and end monthly balance sheet cuts at “any moment”, yet several months later it still has not happened. Just last month the Fed cut another $38 billion in assets from its balance sheet; a move that was barely discussed in the mainstream because it does not fit with the prevailing delusion that the Fed has “already capitulated”. When the Fed cuts rates back significantly and the asset dumps stop, then and only then can anyone say with any authority that the Fed has ended its tightening cycle.

Secondly, the US economy is not “stronger than ever”, it is at its weakest since just before the credit crash of 2008.

And here is where the disconnect begins in Fed policy versus public expectations and the behavior of the Trump Administration. Almost EVERYONE, including the Federal Reserve, Donald Trump and the media are talking about how the US economy is “booming”. So why all the fuss over the Fed’s interest rates? The truth is it’s just more theater for the masses.

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

The Federal Reserve’s Controlled Demolition Of The Economy Is Almost Complete

The Federal Reserve is an often misunderstood entity, not only in the mainstream, but also in alternative economic circles. There is this ever pervasive fantasy on both sides of the divide that the central bank actually “cares” about forever protecting the US economy, or at least propping up the US economy in an endless game of “kick the can”. While this might be true at times, it is not true ALL the time. Things change, agendas change, and sometimes the Fed’s goal is not to maintain the economy, but to destroy it.

The delusion that the Fed is seeking to kick the can is highly present today after the latest Fed meeting in which the central bank indicated there would be a pause in interest rate hikes in 2019. As I have noted in numerous articles over the past year, the mainstream media and the Fed have made interest rates the focus of every economic discussion, and I believe this was quite deliberate. In the meantime, the Fed balance sheet and its strange relationship to the stock market bubble is mostly ignored.

The word “capitulation” is getting thrown around quite haphazardly in reference to the Fed’s tightening policy. And yet, even now after all the pundits have declared the Fed “in retreat” or “trapped in a Catch-22”, the Fed continues to tighten, and is set to cut balance sheet assets straight through until the end of September. Perhaps my definition of capitulation is different from some people’s.

One would think that if the Fed was in retreat in terms of tightening, that they would actually STOP tightening. This has not happened. Also, one might also expect that if the Fed is going full “dovish” that they would have cut interest rates in March instead of holding them steady at their neutral rate of inflation.

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

Why The Fed Should Not Stop Raising Rates


Why The Fed Should Not Stop Raising Rates

A very smart and wealthy friend always reminds me that you have to invest in the market landscape that exists today—not the one you wish for. That said, I like to think of myself as a pragmatist who views the capital markets through the lens of financial history. That history would imply that the Fed should keep hiking rates and ignore the yield curve. In fact, if I were the chair of the Fed, I’d have an emergency 50bps hike today; just to show that I’m serious about putting the economy back on a sound footing for future growth.

To start with, capital markets exist to finance businesses—they should not exist to drive economic growth through a distributed wealth effect that narrowly benefits the wealthy who have capital market assets. The state of affairs that exists today, is an anomaly historically—it isn’t sustainable and shouldn’t be supported by the Fed at the expense of the rest of the economy. Capital market bubbles are disruptive and destructive of long-term GDP growth. Today’s bubble is unparalleled by almost any historical standard—only made possible by abnormally cheap credit along with an implicit Federal Reserve put.

Since the Fed sets the cost of capital, they need to change priorities from supporting financial bubbles to supporting the actual economy. The cost of capital should be at a level that allows businesses to profitably re-invest in growth endeavors. If capital is so cheap that returns on capital investment are minimal, businesses instead focus on driving returns through financial engineering. This isn’t only because they’re obsessed with their stock options—it is because they now have no viable investment opportunities in a world where there is endless competition funded with almost free and limitless capital.

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

Fed Can’t Get Out – Buy Gold Now – Jim Rickards

Fed Can’t Get Out – Buy Gold Now – Jim Rickards

Four time best-selling author Jim Rickards says the Fed “throwing in the towel” on rate hikes is signaling a big problem for the economy. Rickards says, “The Fed was tightening to get ready for the next recession. . . . You need to cut interest rates somewhere between 4% and 5% to get out of a recession. How do you cut interest rates 4% if you are only at 2.25%? The answer is you can’t. You have to get to 4% before you can cut 4%, and that’s what the Fed was trying to do. . . . How do you raise rates in weakness to get ready for the next recession without causing the next recession that you are preparing to cure? That was the conundrum. I never thought they would get it right . . . and, as of now, it looks like they didn’t get it right. Meaning, they tightened so much to get ready for the next recession they slowed the economy.”

Rickards says, “Bernanke painted them into a corner, and they can’t get out. There is no escape from the room. By the way, one of the reasons gold is preforming so well, the Fed has proved that they can’t get out of this. They got into it, but they can’t get out of it because every time they try, they sink the stock market. They sink the housing market. They raise the specter of recession. They slow economic growth. They don’t want that. So, they sort of pause and maybe tiptoe back into it, but they really can’t get out of it.”

On gold, Rickards says, “People always say there is not enough gold to support commerce and trade and the money supply. I always remind them that is nonsense.

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

Changes in Government Deposits and Money Supply

CHANGES IN GOVERNMENT DEPOSITS AND MONEY SUPPLY

The US debt ceiling suspension, signed in February 2018, expires at the beginning of March this year. Some commentators are of the view that the US Treasury must carry out special measures if it expects a delay in raising the debt ceiling in March.

The Treasury would have to draw down its deposits at the Fed and deposit the cash in various government department accounts at commercial banks, for future use to pay government salaries and contractors’ fees.

These commentators are of the view that the Treasury deposit withdrawals act like QE (quantitative easing) and the Treasury deposit build-ups like QT (quantitative tightening). However, is it the case?

If in an economy people hold $10,000 in cash, we would say that the money supply in this economy is $10,000. If some individuals then decided to place $2,000 of their money in demand deposits, the total money supply will still remain $10,000, comprising of $8,000 cash and $2,000 in demand deposits.

Now, if government taxes people by $1,000, this amount of money is then transferred from individual’s demand deposits to the government’s deposits. Conventional thinking would view this as if the money supply fell by $1,000. In reality, however, the $1,000 is now available for government expenditure meaning that money supply is still $10,000, comprising of $8,000 in cash, $1000 in individuals demand deposits and $1,000 in government deposits.

If the government were to withdraw $1000 from its deposit with the Fed and buy goods from individuals then the amount of money will be still $10,000 comprising of $8,000 in cash and $2,000 in individuals demand deposits.

From this we can conclude that a large withdrawal of money from the government deposit account with the Fed is not going to strengthen the money supply as suggested by popular thinking. 

What are the sources for money expansion?

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

A Survival Guide For 2019

A Survival Guide For 2019

How to safely navigate the ‘Year Of Instability’ 

As the first month of the year concludes, it’s becoming clear that 2019 will be a very different kind of year.

The near-decade of ‘recovery’ following the Great Financial Crisis enjoyed a stability and tranquility that suddenly evaporated at the end of 2018.

Here in 2019, instability reigns.

The world’s central banks are absolutely panicking. After last year’s bursting of the Everything Bubble, their coordinated plans for Quantitative Tightening have been summarily thrown out the window. Suddenly, no chairman can prove himself too dovish.

Jerome Powell, the supposed hardliner among them, completely capitulated in the wake of the recent -15% tantrum in stocks, which, as Sven Henrich colorfully quipped, proved what we suspected all along:

The global tsunami of liquidity (i.e. thin-air money printing) released by the central banking cartel has been the defining trend of the past decade. It has driven, directly or indirectly, more world events than any other factor.

And one of its more notorious legacies is the massive disparity and wealth and income resulting from its favoring of the top 0.1% over everyone else. The mega-rich have seen their assets skyrocket in value, while the masses have been mercilessly squeezed between similarly rising costs of living and stagnant wages.

How have the tone-deaf politicians responded? With tax breaks for their Establishment masters and new taxes imposed on the public. As a result, populist ire is catching fire in an accelerating number of countries, which the authorities are anxious to suppress by all means to prevent it from conflagrating further — most visibly demonstrated right now by the French government’s increasingly jack-booted attempts to quash the Yellow Vest protests:

Meanwhile, two other principal drivers of the past decade’s ‘prosperity’ are also suddenly in jeopardy.

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

We Are Entering The “Quantitative Failure” Narrative

For a decade, the world brushed off any concerns about soaring global debt under the rug for a simple reason: between the Fed, the ECB and the BOJ, there was always a buyer of last resort, providing an implicit or, increasingly explicit backstop to bond prices, in the process creating the biggest asset bubble in history as investors seeking return were forced to buy first fixed income securities and then equities and other, even riskier securities.

However, as BofA’s Barnaby Martin is the latest to point out, “early 2019 will be uncharted territory for the market” because after years of central bank purchases crowding investors into risky assets, this dynamic will now reverse. As Zero Hedge readers have observed on countless occasions, the yearly growth of central bank balance sheets is now turning negative as shown in the following chart.

The upshot of this, in Martin’s view, is that markets will continue to experience more “corrections” than normal, leading to bigger and fatter trading ranges for credit spreads in Europe this year.

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

Monday Musings on Monetization and Markets (or Fundamentals Don’t Matter, Liquidity Does)

Monday Musings on Monetization and Markets (or Fundamentals Don’t Matter, Liquidity Does)

Being I’m not an economist nor associated with any financial or investment institutions nor do I have anything for you (dear reader) to buy or sell, I have total freedom to say what I please and freedom to share what I see.

In that spirit, I round back on the Federal Reserves balance sheet versus the curious case of excess reserves of the mega-banks.  Last week I detailed that every time the Fed has ceased adding to its balance sheet or outright reduced, the outcome has been decidedly negative for asset prices (HERE).  However, like everything, there is a little more to the story.

The chart below shows the rise in the Fed’s Treasury’s (blue line), Mortgage Backed Securities (red line), and rise plus fall of Bank Excess Reserves.  What is so interesting is that bank excess reserves didn’t begin declining when the Fed’s Quantitative Tightening began, but immediately upon the conclusion of QE in late 2014.  And excess reserves have already declined by $1.2 trillion while the Fed’s balance sheet has declined by “only” about $400 billion.

Now, if I were cynical, I’d say it’s almost like the Fed’s plan with the excess reserves was to use them like a sponge to soak up liquidity during QE and then continue releasing liquidity long after QE ended…and even well after QT was underway (actually, I’m quite cynical).  The term for this is “monetization”, something the Fed said it would “never do”.

The chart below shows the massive rise in the Fed’s balance sheet (white line), bank excess reserves (black line), and the quantity of monetization (yellow line) floating in the system just waiting to be leveraged into 5x’s or 10x’s or perhaps even 20x’s that amount.

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

Fed’s Balance Sheet Reduction Reaches $402 Billion

Fed’s Balance Sheet Reduction Reaches $402 Billion

The QE unwind has started to rattle some nerves.

For the past two months, the sound of wailing and gnashing of teeth about the Fed’s QE unwind has been deafening. The Fed started the QE unwind in October 2017. As I covered it on a monthly basis, my ruminations on how it would unwind part of the asset-price inflation and Bernanke’s “wealth effect” that had resulted from QE were frequently pooh-poohed. They said that the truly glacial pace of the QE unwind was too slow to make any difference; that QE had just been a “book-keeping entry,” and that therefore the QE unwind would also be just a book-keeping entry; that QE had never caused any kind of asset price inflation in the first place, and that therefore the QE unwind would not reverse that asset-price inflation, or whatever.

But in October last year, when all kinds of markets started reversing this asset price inflation, suddenly, the QE unwind got blamed, and the Fed – particularly Fed Chairman Jerome Powell – has been put under intense pressure to cut it out. Yet it continues:

The Fed shed $28 billion in assets over the four weekly balance-sheet periods of December. This reduced the assets on its balance sheet to $4,058 billion, the lowest since January 08, 2014, according to the Fed’s balance sheet for the week ended January 3. Since the beginning of this “balance sheet normalization,” the Fed has now shed $402 billion.

According to the Fed’s plan released when the QE unwind was introduced, the Fed is scheduled to shed “up to” $30 billion in Treasuries and “up to” $20 billion in MBS a month – now that the QE unwind has reached cruising speed – for a total of “up to” $50 billion a month. So how did it go in December?

Treasury Securities

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

Drain, drain, drain…

Drain, drain, drain…

Money from thin air going back whence it came from – circling the drain of a ‘no reinvestment’ black hole strategically placed in its way by the dollar-sucking vampire bat Ptenochirus Iagori Powelli.

Our friend Michael Pollaro recently provided us with an update of outstanding Fed credit as of 26 December 2018. Overall, the numbers appear not yet all that dramatic, but the devil is in the details, or rather in the time frames one considers.

The pace of the year-on-year decrease in net Fed credit has eased a bit from the previous month, as the December 2017 figures made for an easier comparison – but that is bound to change again with the January data. If one looks at the q/q rate of change, it has accelerated rather significantly since turning negative for good in April of last year.

Below are the most recent money supply and bank lending data as a reminder that   “QT” indeed weighs on money supply growth rates. It was unavoidable that the slowdown in money supply growth would have an impact on asset prices and eventually on economic activity.

Note that in the short to medium term, the effects exerted by money supply growth rates are far more important than any of the president’s policy initiatives, whether they are positive (lower taxes, fewer regulations) or negative (erection of protectionist trade barriers). The effects of changes in money supply growth are also subject to a lag, but in this case the lag appears to be over.

Any effects seemingly triggered by “news flow” are usually only of the very short term knee-jerk variety, and they are often anyway the opposite of what one would normally expect – particularly in phases when news flow actually lags market action (see the recent case of disappointingly weak PMI and ISM data). The primary trend cannot be altered by these short term gyrations.

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

 

Druckenmiller: “The Best Economist I Know Is Saying Something Is Not Right”

Stanley Druckenmiller established himself as one of the most successful hedge fund managers of his generation thanks to an uncanny ability for recognizing signals in asset prices that portended an coming recession. So when he warns about rough times ahead, it’s probably worth listening.

Though he’s kept a relatively low profile since closing Duquesne Capital in 2010 and opening a family office based in midtown, Druckenmiller’s name has been popping up in the headlines of the financial press more frequently lately where his criticisms of the Fed were ridiculed (back in September he warned that we we are at the point in the tightening cycle where “bombs are going off”)  before they were echoed by no less a figure than the president himself. Over the weekend, Druckenmiller offered his latest contrarian screed against Wall Street pearl clutchers by arguing in an op-ed published with former Fed Gov. Kevin Warsh that Trump has a point, and that the Fed already missed its opportunity to safely tighten monetary policy. Now, the Fed has two choices: either reconsider its plans to raise rates to 3% and beyond over the next year, or risk destabilizing asset markets and the broader economy.

Druck

And in an interview that bears similarities to Jeff Gundlachs’ “truth bomb”-strewn chat with CNBC, Druckenmiller sat down with Bloomberg for an hour-long interview where he warned that market conditions are about to get a lot worse.

The only question, in Druckenmiller’s mind, is not whether the selloff will worsen, but by how much? Because the indicators that Druckenmiller used to anticipate the last four downturns are once again turning red, suggesting the “highest probability is that we struggle going forward.”

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

 

Weekly Commentary: The Perils of Inflationism

Weekly Commentary: The Perils of Inflationism

December 13 – Financial Times (Chris Giles and Claire Jones): “When the European Central Bank switches off its money-printing press at the turn of this year and stops buying fresh assets, it will mark the end of a decade-long global experiment in how to stave off economic meltdowns. Quantitative easing, the policy that aims to boost spending and inflation by creating electronic money and pumping it into the economy by buying assets such as government bonds, is on the verge of becoming quantitative tightening. With the Federal Reserve slowly reducing its stocks of Treasuries, central banks are no longer in the buying business. Globally, only the Bank of Japan is left as a leading central bank that has not formally called time on expanding its stock of asset purchases. Arguments over how, or even if, the trillions spent by policymakers helped the global economy recover will rage for years to come. But as central banks step back, the initial view is that the purchases worked — whether through encouraging investors to hold more risky assets, easing constraints on borrowing, providing finance so governments could run larger budget deficits or just showing that central banks still had an answer to weak demand and low inflation.”
At this point, the prevailing view holds that QE “worked.” Moreover, central banks are seen ready and willing to call upon “money printing” operations as need. The great virtue of this policy course, many believe, is that there is essentially no limit to the scope and duration of “QE infinity.” The FT quoted Mario Draghi: “[QE] is permanent and may be usable in contingencies that the governing council will assess in its independence.” Melvyn Krauss, from the Hoover Institution, captured conventional thinking: “No one willingly walks into a room from which there is no exit. Because QE proved temporary, because it worked and because it has ended, it is likely to be used again.”…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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