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The Birth of a Monster

The Birth of a Monster

The Federal Reserve’s doors have been open for “business” for one hundred years. In explaining the creation of this money-making machine (pun intended — the Fed remits nearly $100 bn. in profits each year to Congress) most people fall into one of two camps.

Those inclined to view the Fed as a helpful institution, fostering financial stability in a world of error-prone capitalists, explain the creation of the Fed as a natural and healthy outgrowth of the troubled National Banking System. How helpful the Fed has been is questionable at best, and in a recent book edited by Joe Salerno and me — The Fed at One Hundred — various contributors outline many (though by no means all) of the Fed’s shortcomings over the past century.

Others, mostly those with a skeptical view of the Fed, treat its creation as an exercise in secretive government meddling (as in G. Edward Griffin’s The Creature from Jekyll Island) or crony capitalism run amok (as in Murray Rothbard’s The Case Against the Fed).

In my own chapter in The Fed at One Hundred I find sympathies with both groups (you can download the chapter pdf here). The actual creation of the Fed is a tragically beautiful case study in closed-door Congressional deals and big banking’s ultimate victory over the American public. Neither of these facts emerged from nowhere, however. The fateful events that transpired in 1910 on Jekyll Island were the evolutionary outcome of over fifty years of government meddling in money. As such, the Fed is a natural (though terribly unfortunate) outgrowth of an ever more flawed and repressive monetary system.

Before the Fed

Allow me to give a brief reverse biographical sketch of the events leading up to the creation of a monster in 1914.

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

Doug Noland: Central Banks Are “Hostages Of Market Bubbles”

Doug Noland: Central Banks Are “Hostages Of Market Bubbles”

Doug Noland’s weekly Credit Bubble Bulletin is always required reading. The latest – befitting the amazing things that have happened lately – is more necessary than usual. But at 10,000 words it’s also a lot longer than usual. So while everyone should definitely read the whole thing, here are some excerpts to get you started:

I wonder if the Fed is comfortable seeing the markets dash skyward – the small caps up 16.4% y-t-d, the Banks 15.9%, the Transports 15.2%, Biotechs 18.5% and Semiconductors 17.0%. Or, perhaps, they’re quickly coming to recognize that they are now fully held hostage by market Bubbles.

Similarly, I ponder how Beijing feels about January’s booming Credit data – Aggregate Financing up $685 billion in the month of January. Do officials appreciate that they are completely held captive by history’s greatest Credit Bubble? 

Bubbles have become a fundamental geopolitical device – a stratagem. Things have regressed to a veritable global Financial Arms Race. As China/U.S. trade negotiations seemingly head down the homestretch, each side must believe that rallying domestic markets beget negotiating power. Meanwhile, emboldened global markets behave as if they have attained power surpassing mighty militaries and even nuclear arsenals.

China’s banks made the most new loans on record in January – totaling 3.23 trillion yuan ($477bn) – as policymakers try to jumpstart sluggish investment and prevent a sharper slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy.

January’s record China new bank loans were 11.4% higher than the previous record from January 2018 – and 15% above estimates. Total Bank Loans expanded 13.4% over the past year; 28% in two years; 45% in three years; 91% in five years; and an incredible 323% over the past decade.

“The San Francisco Fed put out a white paper about the benefits of negative interest rates. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but we can only cut rates about 225/250 bps to be at zero” — Kyle Bass, Hayman Capital Management.

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

Peter Schiff: ‘This Is The Beginning Of The End’ For The Economy

Peter Schiff: ‘This Is The Beginning Of The End’ For The Economy

Peter Schiff, the President and CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, and one of the few who predicted the 2008 Great Recession before it happened has said that what we are experiencing now is “the beginning of the end.” Schiff made his comments during his keynote speech at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference.

The economic guru says that the Federal Reserve has made the decision to halt interest rate hikes in order to attempt to save the flailing stock market – the key indicator for far too many of how “healthy” the economy is at current. According to Seeking Alpha, the markets responded to the Fed’s decision in a positive manner, leading many to think we are “out of the woods” and no longer in danger of a recession.

However, Peter traces the moves of the Federal Reserve all the way back to the first rate hike of December 2015 and shows how the central bank has put the United States on a path toward a financial crisis that will be bigger than 2008. Peter insists he’s been right about what would happen all along, it’s just taken us a little longer to get to the actual financial disaster than he expected.

“The reason that I originally said that I did not expect the Fed to raise rates again was because I knew that raising rates was the first step in a journey that they could not finish, that in their attempt to normalize rates, the stock market bubble would burst and the economy would reenter recession.

Normalizing interest rates when you’ve created an abnormal amount of debt is impossible.

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

Rant Alert

Rant Alert

Warning. Rant Alert: The global central bank easy money experiment has failed and it is past time that central bankers stopped bullshitting us and just admitted it. Europe is about to enter a recession and rates are still negative, the US Fed just tried to reduce its balance sheet with the greatest economic backwind in years (tax cuts, record buybacks, 3% GDP growth) and still they failed miserably, forced once again to halt all rate hike efforts. After 10 years of being non stop “accommodative” the Fed tried for 3 months to not be accommodative and it blew up in their face as the bottom dropped out of markets.

Only emergency liquidity calls from Cabo by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and a complete 180 degree reversal by the Fed stopped the bleeding. Again.

And so once again the Fed is asking us to play chase the dot plot. Always dangling higher rate forecast targets that never come to fruition:

Not playing anymore. For 10 years we’ve watched the dot plot being moved further and further into the future only to see it all flat line again now with a renewed halt in rate hikes and an end to reducing the balance sheet. The conclusion is pretty clear:

The Fed is trapped, the ECB is trapped, the BOJ is trapped all doomed to intervene forever and ever amen always afraid to see markets go through a process of repricing and squeezing out the artificial asset inflation that 10 years of permanent intervention have wrought.

All are too afraid of the next recession and aim to avoid it at all costs. And who can blame them? The prospect of entering a global recession without enough ammunition to deal with it is a frightening prospect.

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

The next recession could force the Fed to cut interest rates into negative territory. Here’s what that means, and how it could affect you.

The next recession could force the Fed to cut interest rates into negative territory. Here’s what that means, and how it could affect you.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell takes the oath of office administered by Federal Reserve Board member Randal Quarles at the Federal Reserve in Washington, U.S., February 5, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell taking the oath of office.
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  • The San Francisco Federal Reserve recently published a paper indicating that an unprecedented policy step, if adopted, would have helped the economy recover more quickly from the most recent financial crisis. 
  • With the next recession looming, a prominent Wall Street strategist thinks the unpopular tool will be needed to combat it. 

The Federal Reserve’s extraordinary efforts to combat the Great Recession more than a decade ago raised many concerns about what tools it would have left to fight the next crisis. 

One measure that was floated, but largely passed off as improbable, was the use of negative interest rates. The Fed already did the unusual and held its Fed funds rate — the benchmark for all other borrowing costs — near zero from 2009 through 2015. This made it sufficiently cheaper for companies and consumers to access credit and rebuild the battered economy. 

Anything below zero, however, was once considered unthinkable. After all, a negative interest rate means that, for example, savers actually pay banks to hold their money instead of earning interest. 

The mainstream discussion on negative rates has quieted down for a while since Sweden became the first country to cut rates below zero in 2015. But a recent paper from the San Francisco Fed, coupled with widespread concerns about an economic slowdown, are returning the concept to the forefront. 

Vasco Cúrdia, the research adviser who wrote the paper, examined what would have happened had the Fed adopted a negative-interest-rate policy during the most recent recession. 

“Allowing the federal funds rate to drop below zero may have reduced the depth of the recession and enabled the economy to return more quickly to its full potential,” he said.

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

Peter Schiff: This Is the Beginning of the End (Video)

Peter Schiff: This Is the Beginning of the End (Video)

During his keynote speech at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference, Peter Schiff said we are at the beginning of the end.

The Fed appears to have paused interest rate hikes in order to save the stock market. The markets have reacted positively and a lot of analysts seem to think we’re out of the wood. But Peter traces the moves of the Federal Reserve all the way back to the first rate hike of December 2015 and shows how the central bank has put us on a path toward a financial crisis that will be bigger than 2008. Peter insists he’s been right about what would happen all along, it’s just taken us a little longer to get here than he expected. 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE SPEECH

“I have been forecasting that the Federal Reserve would not be able to complete its rate normalization process since before they raised rates for the first time.”

“I still believe if Hillary Clinton won that election, which was widely expected, I think it would have been one-and-done. I don’t think the second rate hike would have taken place had Hillary Clinton won.”

“I think that had Hillary Clinton won, the stock market would have tanked. The conventional wisdom before the election was that if Trump won it was going to be a disaster for the stock market, but if Hillary Clinton won, the market was going to like it. Well, Trump won and the market went way up, the opposite of what was expected. I believe that had Hillary Clinton won, the market would have gone down. Also the opposite of what had been expected. And I believe the US would have entered recession much sooner.”

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

Weekly Commentary: No Mystery

Weekly Commentary: No Mystery

January 30 – Financial Times (Sam Fleming): “After putting traders on notice six weeks ago to expect further increases in US interest rates in 2019, the Federal Reserve… executed one of its sharpest U-turns in recent memory. Leaving rates unchanged at 2.25-2.5%, Jay Powell, Fed chairman, unveiled new language that opened up the possibility that the next move could equally be down, instead of up. Forecasts from the Fed’s December meeting that another two rate rises are likely this year now appear to be history. Changes to its guidance were needed, Mr Powell argued, because of ‘cross-currents’ that had recently emerged. Among them were slower growth in China and Europe, trade tensions, the risk of a hard Brexit and the federal government shutdown. Financial conditions had also tightened, he added. Yet the about-face left some Fed-watchers wrongfooted and bemused. Many of those hazards were already perfectly apparent in the central bank’s December meeting, when it lifted rates by a quarter point and kept in place language pointing to further ‘gradual’ increases.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Greg Ip pursued a similar path with his article, “The Fed’s Mysterious Pause.” “Last December, Mr. Powell noted his colleagues thought they’d raise rates two more times this year, from between 2.25% and 2.5%, which was at the lower end of estimates of ‘neutral’—a level that neither stimulates nor holds back growth. On Wednesday, he suggested the Fed could already be at neutral: ‘Our policy stance is appropriate right now. We also know that our policy rate is in the range of the… committee’s estimates of neutral.’ If indeed the Fed is done, that would be a breathtaking pivot. Yet the motivation remains somewhat mystifying: What changed in the past six weeks to justify it?”

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

An Obituary: Fred Credibility

An Obituary: Fred Credibility

As with many terminal patients the initial hope is that aggressive treatment would work and cure the patient. But when the one time emergency round of drugs didn’t cure the patient additional drugs were needed and turned the patient into a hopeless junkie. After multiple injections a sense of dread was making the rounds. QE1 did not cure the patient, QE 2 and 3 were required with a little twist here and there thrown in. But the Fed doctors kept promising all would be well and the addiction could be stopped and the patient returned to normal.

And so it looks promising for a while. There was that scary flare up in 2016 when the patient regressed and the normalization had to be put on hold, but then a miracle drug came along called Tax Cut and suddenly it seemed as if the removal of drugs from the system could be accelerated.

So jubilant and optimistic were the Fed doctors that they promised further rounds of withdrawal and kept pointing to their dot plot of normalization.

Yet here we are, a mere 3 months later and the Fed doctors are at a loss again. Unable and unwilling to admit to the patient the true nature of the disease the Fed doctors once again decided to stop all withdrawal of the drugs, worse, they indicated they may have to administer new drugs to come. The patient begged for more drugs and the Fed doctors absolved themselves of their hippocratic oath and capitulated once again to the patient’s scream for another high, a scream only drowned out by the dying sigh of the Fed’s credibility, the initial casualty in this war on monetary drug dependency.

For it is true, the Fed doctors failed to wean off the patient:

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

Global Collapse Accelerating Buy Gold Now – Chris Martenson

Global Collapse Accelerating Buy Gold Now – Chris Martenson

By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com

Futurist and economic researcher Chris Martenson says a collapse is “a process, not an event.” Martenson contends the long awaited global collapse, on many fronts, has not only started, but is picking up speed. Martenson says, “Our prediction at PeakProsperity.com is these collapse trends, we have been following for 10 years now, are accelerating and continuing. None of them are reversing at this point in time. These will impact people’s future in a huge way. Environmentally, we see these signs, but we also have $245 trillion of debt in the global economy. We have been accelerating that debt cycle as if we could just keep that trend going forever—we can’t. So, what we see are all these unsustainable trends converging. They are going to happen . . . and people need to be ready.”

Martenson lays out the case to blame central banks for much of the geopolitical and economic friction in the world today. Martenson says, “The economic pie is not expanding anymore. It’s kind of stagnant. So, if you have one tiny group taking their fair share and the pie isn’t growing, it means they are taking from somebody else. This is the essence of central banking. They don’t create wealth, they redistribute wealth. When the Federal Reserve crams rates to zero, the savers lose out, but lose to who? The winners and losers are being picked by the central banks, and they have decided that the .01% should be the winners in this story and everybody else should be the losers. . . . Central bank policies have really benefited the elites at the expense of everybody else. This brings up the most important point and that is central banks are not our friends. They are redistributive organizations.”

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

“Real” Inflation Expected to Rise – Hedge Your Bets With Gold

“Real” Inflation Expected to Rise – Hedge Your Bets With Gold

hedge against real inflation with gold

Some are under the impression that gold’s performance in the U.S. is not as good as it should be, considering we had a rather uncertain year last year.

In the U.S., even economists who favor the dollar gold price might be blind to an upcoming rise in the financial power of the precious metal.

That, and real inflation may become a better gauge to see just how well this measuring stick is doing. Though revealing it at the federal level may send the market into a panic.

The “Dollar as Yardstick” Problem

According to Ross Norman at Sharps Pixley, using the dollar’s strength to measure net worth in the U.S. could give you the impression that we have a “strong dollar.” But that yardstick shrinks as inflation eats into it. This means using the dollar as a “yardstick” for measurement isn’t consistent.

Using inflation as a gauge for shrinkage can give you a decent picture of how “strong” or “weak” the dollar’s measure is, assuming you’re using an accurate gauge.

As Norman explains (emphasis ours):

Measuring our net worth in local currencies, we might be rather pleased with ourselves – smug even. However we chose to ignore the fact that the yardstick is not a constant … it is shrinking and sometimes really quite fast. It’s the natural corrosive effect of inflation. Knowing this, governments give us a gauge for yardstick shrinkage to use such as RPI or CPI, to reassure you that the shrinkage is minimal… and then lie about it.

For those who don’t know some of the terms Norman uses, the CPI is the Consumer Price Index, which is compiled by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) and used by agencies like the Fed. The Retail Price Index (RPI) is essentially the same thing, but based in the UK.

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

Federal Reserve Confesses Sole Responsibility for All Recessions

Federal Reserve balance sheet reduction not happening yet even as the Fed applauds its own success

In a surprisingly candid admission, two former Federal Reserve chairs have stated that the Federal Reserve alone is responsible for creating all recessions in the United States.

Former Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke Federal Reserve creates all recessions
First, former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said that
Expansions don’t die of old age. They get murdered.

To clarify this statement, former Chair Janet Yellen placed the murder weapon in the Fed’s hands:

Two things usually end them…. One is financial imbalances, and the other is the Fed.

Think that through, and you quickly realize that both of those things are the Fed. Is there anyone left standing who would not say the Fed’s quantitative easing in the past decade was the biggest cause of financial imbalances all over the world in history? Moreover, whose profligate monetary policies led to the Great Financial Crisis that gave us the Great Recession?

So, the Fed loads the gun with financial causes and then pulls the trigger. In fact, I think it would be hard to find a major financial imbalance in the US that the Fed did not have a hand in creating or, at least, enabling. Therefore, if those are the only two causes, then it is always the Federal Reserve that causes recessions by its own admission.

And, yet, those Fed dons look so pleased with themselves.

Yellen went on to say that when the Fed is the culprit, it is generally because the central bank is forced to tighten policy to curtail inflation and ends up overplaying its hand. (She didn’t mention that the Fed’s monetary policy may have a hand in creating financial imbalances.)

Exactly, nor did she mention that the inflation they were “forced” to curtail always happens because of financial imbalances the Fed created or enabled. That is why I call our expansion-recession cycles, rinse-and-repeat cycles.

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

Party On: Fed Chairman Powell Capitulates to the Market

Party On: Fed Chairman Powell Capitulates to the Market

FED Chairman Powell, who for a time was appearing to go rogue and stray off the beaten path of loose monetary policy paved by so many of his predecessors, has collapsed his resistance and utterly given in to the demands of the market.

At a forum hosted by the American Economic Association in Atlanta last Friday, FED Chairman Powell was a “good boy” and did exactly what Wall Street demanded.

He stuck to a well-written script of carefully selected words, focusing time and again on a few in particular, but most notably the word “patient”.

The context in which this word was used was in reference to raising interest rates.

As we have noted in previous articles, the hawkish approach adopted by FED Chairman Powell was ill received by both the markets and President Trump, who has been in an open feud with the FED.

This insistence on raising interest rates has caused the markets to gyrate wildly, causing sporadic, sharp dips lower in the broad stock market. This struck deep fear into investors, as they began to worry that the end of the “easy money” era was over.

Like his predecessor Janet Yellen, who also carefully chose the word “patient”, Powell intentionally selected this word to signal to the markets that (also like Yellen) he was willing to put on the velvet gloves when it came to handling the markets.

FED Chairman Powell stated the following:

“We’re listening carefully with … sensitivity to the message that the markets are sending and we’ll be taking those downside risks into account as we make policy going forward.”

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

Volatility Holds the Key to Markets in 2019

Volatility Holds the Key to Markets in 2019

Over the last two weeks, after making good on the four-rate interest hike of 2018, Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, became more dovish to start 2019.

His change in tone is worth considering because of his historical stance on reducing the amount of artificial stimulus coming from the Fed. Last week, after the required five-year holding period for Fed transcripts were up, we got a glimpse into Powell’s thoughts from 2013, before he was Chairman.

Powell tried to persuade then-Chairman, Ben Bernanke, to reduce the Fed’s stimulus, even though it would lead to greater near-term market volatility. That was when the third round of the Fed’s asset-buying program (QE3) was in full swing. The Fed was purchasing an estimated $85 billion per month mix of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities.

To indicate that the Fed wouldn’t buy bonds forever, Bernanke floated the idea of slowing down its program, or “tapering,” at some non-defined future date.

Powell, on the other hand, believed the market needed a specific “road map” of the Fed’s intentions. He said that he wasn’t “concerned about a little bit of volatility” though he was “concerned that there may be more than that here.”

Indeed, once Bernanke publicly announced the possibility of the Fed’s bond-buying program slowing down, the market tanked, in a response that became known as a “taper tantrum.” As a result, Bernanke backed off the tapering idea.

Fear of more taper tantrums kept the Fed in check after that. The Fed ultimately waited until it had raised rates sufficiently, before starting to cut the size of its balance sheet. But now Powell is the Chairman. And it seems that he is much less comfortable with volatility than he was under Bernanke, as his most recent remarks indicate.

But it certainly wouldn’t be the first time a Fed chairman has modified his views when he was in control. Alan Greenspan, for example, was a staunch advocate of the gold standard when he was younger (and as presented in Foreign Affairs). But once he was Fed head, suddenly he thought a gold standard wasn’t such a hot idea after all. Go figure.

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

Collapse In Global M1 Signals A Worldwide Recession Has Arrived

By now everyone has seen some iteration of this chart showing that the annual change in central bank liquidity is now negative.

Another way to visualize just the Fed’s balance sheet contraction is courtesy of this chart from Morgan Stanley which shows specifically which assets – Treasurys and MBS – are declining on a monthly basis.

When it comes to markets – where the events of December were a vivid reminder that just as QE blew the world’s biggest asset bubble, so QT will deflate it  – there is a simple explanation of this negative effect of QT on Markets – in terms of both flow and stock – and it is laid out as follows from Morgan Stanley:

  • THE STOCK EFFECT (SE) – GROUP 1
    • The SE relates to the long-term impact on Group 1 asset prices from the overall change to the central bank’s balance sheet and its impact on the stock of available Group 1 assets.
  • THE FLOW EFFECT (FE) – GROUP 1
    • The FE relates to the short-term impact on Group 1 asset prices from each flow that changes the size of the central bank’s balance sheet.
  • THE PORTFOLIO BALANCE CHANNEL EFFECT (PBCE) – GROUP 1 AND 2
    • The PBCE impacts both Group 1 and Group 2 assets and incorporates the pricing elements of both the stock effect and the flow effect.

But while the immediate effect of the expansion and shrinkage of the Fed’s balance sheet on various asset classes is rather intuitive – if not to Fed presidents of, course – a more pressing question is how will the upcoming liquidity shrinkage affect the global economy.

Unfortunately, the answer appears to be ominous.

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

Market Commentary: Issues 2019

Market Commentary: Issues 2019

When I began posting the CBB some twenty years ago, I made a commitment to readers: “I’ll call it as I see it – and let the chips fall where they will.” Over the years, I made a further commitment to myself: Don’t be concerned with reputation – stay diligently focused on analytical integrity.

I attach this odd intro to “Issues 2019” recognizing this is a year where I could look quite foolish. I believe Global Financial Crisis is the Paramount Issue 2019. Last year saw the bursting of a historic global Bubble, Crisis Dynamics commencing with the blow-up of “short vol” strategies and attendant market instabilities. Crisis Dynamics proceeded to engulf the global “Periphery” (Argentina, Turkey, EM, more generally, and China). Receiving a transitory liquidity boost courtesy of the faltering “Periphery,” speculative Bubbles at “Core” U.S. securities markets succumbed to blow-off excess. Crisis Dynamics finally engulfed a vulnerable “Core” during 2018’s tumultuous fourth quarter.

As we begin a new year, rallying risk markets engender optimism. The storm has passed, it is believed. Especially with the Fed’s early winding down of rate “normalization”, there’s no reason why the great bull market can’t be resuscitated and extended. The U.S. economy remains reasonably strong, while Beijing has China’s slowdown well under control. A trade deal would reduce uncertainty, creating a positive boost for markets and economies. With markets stabilized, the EM boom can get back on track. As always, upside volatility reenergizes market bullishness.

I titled Issues 2018, “Market Structure.” I fully anticipate Market Structure to remain a key Issue 2019. Trend-following strategies will continue to foment volatility and instability. U.S. securities markets rallied throughout the summer of 2018 in the face of a deteriorating fundamental backdrop. That rally, surely fueled by ETF flows and derivatives strategies, exacerbated fragilities.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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