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Is Inflation Really Under Control

Is Inflation Really Under Control

Recently, analysts have been discussing the pros and cons of using negative interest rates to keep the U.S. economy growing.  Despite this, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has said that he does not anticipate the Federal Reserve will implement a policy of negative interest rates as it may be detrimental to the economy.  One argument against negative interest rates is that they would squeeze bank margins and create more financial uncertainty. However, upon examining the actual rate of inflation we are likely already in a ‘de facto’ negative ­­interest rate environment. Multiple inflation data sources show that actual inflation maybe 5%. With the ten year Treasury bond at 1.75%, there is an interest rate gap of – 3.25%. Let’s look at multiple inflation data points to understand why there is such a divergence between the Fed assumptions that inflation is under control versus the much higher rate of price hikes consumers experience.

In October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the core consumer price index (CPI) grew by 2.2% year over year.  The core CPI rate is the change in the price of goods and services minus energy and food.  Energy and food are not included because they are commodities and trade with a high level of volatility.  However, the Median CPI shows a ten year high at 2.96% and upward trend as we would expect, though it starts at a lower level than other inflation indicators. The Median CPI excludes items with small and large price changes. 

Source: Gavekal Data/Macrobond, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Shot – 11-29-19

Excluding key items that have small and large price changes is not what a consumer buying experience is like. Consumers buy based on immediate needs. When a consumer drives up to a gas pump, they buy at the price listed on the pump that day. 

Federal Reserve Proposes New Rule To Let Inflation Run “Hot” Ahead Of Next Recession

Federal Reserve Proposes New Rule To Let Inflation Run “Hot” Ahead Of Next Recession  

As the Federal Reserve remains unable to stoke inflation (because it refuses to measure it correctly) and refuses to factor in asset price inflation…

… it has now considered launching a new rule that would let inflation run above its 2% target to make up for lost inflation, reported the Financial Times.

Though the Fed’s policies are to protect big Wall Street banks and keep liquidity ample in the financial system, its policies have overwhelmingly created deflation through supporting zombie companies and blowing financial bubbles.

So to “make up” for lost inflation, the Fed will temporarily increase the target range above 2%, also known as “symmetric” overinflation. The policy would “make it clear that it’s acceptable that to average 2 percent, you can’t have only observations that are below 2 percent,” according to Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, who recently spoke with FT.

Fed members have expressed concerns that reverting the federal funds rate to the zero lower bound will drive inflation expectations lower, a real risk of Japanification, something Albert Edwards is especially concerned about.

Officials have also lamented that the since the fed funds rate is so low compared to history, any recession could make monetary policy ineffective, though there is always the reality that the Fed will merely unleash negative interest rates during the next recession.

Meanwhile, Fed members have been experimenting with new monetary tools ahead of the next downturn. Janet Yellen said the new rule could be like “forward guidance,” which enabled the Fed to pressure short-term interest rates lower. This eventually allowed longer-term rates to fall as well.

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

Dalio & Tudor Jones Warn: “We Will Kill Each Other” If Our Broken Economic System Isn’t Fixed

Dalio & Tudor Jones Warn: “We Will Kill Each Other” If Our Broken Economic System Isn’t Fixed

Two hedge fund icons – Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio and Paul Tudor Jones – joined Yahoo Finance for the 2nd annual Greenwich Investment Forum earlier this month. Speaking directly after Connecticut Gov. New Lamont, with whom Dalio is working to bolster Connecticut’s schools via a $100 million gift  – the largest charitable gift the state has ever received, PTJ and Dalio focused their “Fireside Chat” on the flaws of Fed policy, the dangers of America’s ballooning budget deficit, and the steps that must be take to “stop us from killing each other” in a violent revolution, as Dalio warned. 

PTJ spoke first, starting with a few words about President Trump, praising him as “the greatest salesman” to ever enter the American political arena. After all, didn’t Trump convince the Republican Party – once the party of fiscal piety – that 5% budget deficits 10 years into an economic rebound are necessary to protect the economy. Similarly, didn’t he also convince the Fed – “through great moral suasion” – that returning to real negative rates with unemployment at 50-year lows was a necessity?

Both Dalio and PTJ agree that, while clearly stimulative in the short-term (obviously just take a look at the S&P 500), these decisions will set up the US economy for one of the most punishing downturns in history, which is why PTJ always laughs when Jerome Powell is quizzed about financial conditions and whether he sees bubbles anywhere. Because at this point, the whole market is a bubble.

“Clearly, the low interest rate policy we’re pursuing is creating an excess and that excess is in our public deficits. Which, at the current pace, in less than ten years we will have exceeded the threshold where Greece had its issues,” PTJ said.

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

Analysts Stunned After Lagarde Demands “Key Role” For The ECB In Climate Change

Analysts Stunned After Lagarde Demands “Key Role” For The ECB In Climate Change

Having failed miserably to “trickle down” stock market wealth for a decade as was their intention, something Ben Bernanke made clear in his Nov 4, 2010 WaPo op-ed, central banks have moved on to more noble causes.

Over the weekend Minneapolis Fed chair Neil Kashkari suggested it was time to allow central banks to directly decide how to redistribute wealth, stating unironically that “monetary policy can play the kind of redistributing role once thought to be the preserve of elected officials”, apparently failing to realize that the Fed is not made up of elected officials but unelected technocrats who serve the bidding of the Fed’s commercial bank owners.

Failing to decide how is poor and who is rich, central bankers are happy to settle with merely fixing the climate.

Overnight, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda joined his European central banking peers by endorsing government plans to compile a fiscal spending package for disaster relief and measures to help the economy stave off heightening global risks. Kuroda said that natural disasters, such as the strong typhoon that struck Japan in October, may erode asset and collateral value, and the associated risk may pose a significant challenge for financial institutions, Kuroda said.

In short, it’s time for central banks to target global warming climate change:

“Climate-related risk differs from other risks in that its relatively long-term impact means that the effects will last longer than other financial risks, and the impact is far less predictable,” he said. “It is therefore necessary to thoroughly investigate and analyse the impact of climate-related risk.”

…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…

Fear of “Reversal Rates” Sets in, Says the Fed

Fear of “Reversal Rates” Sets in, Says the Fed

The fear that today’s negative or low interest rates render central banks helpless in face of the next economic crisis.

There is now a new theory cropping up in Fed-speak and more generally in central-bank speak. It’s not actually a new theory. I have been saying the same thing for years. In fact, it’s not even a theory, but reality. But it’s newly cropping up in reports from the Fed and the ECB. It’s the concept of what is now called “reversal rates.”

It’s an official admission that “reversal rates” exist. The term crops up alongside the fear that countries with negative interest rates are at, or are already beyond, those “reversal rates.”

The idea of interest rate repression is to induce businesses to borrow and invest, and to induce consumers to borrow and spend, and the hope is that all this will crank up the overall economy as measured by GDP.

“Reversal rates” is the term for a situation where interest rates are so low that they’re doing more harm than good to the overall economy, and that lowering rates further will screw up the economy rather than boost it.

Central bank monetary policy, such as cutting interest rates and doing QE, takes wealth and income from one group of people and delivers it to another group of people. This is how monetary policy works. It’s not a secret. In central-bank speak, it’s called the “distributive effects of monetary policy.” The idea is that for the overall economy, this income and wealth transfer from these people over here to those people over there translates into more overall economic activity that adds to GDP.

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

GOLD & SILVER UPDATE: Setting Up For The Next Leg Higher In 2020

GOLD & SILVER UPDATE: Setting Up For The Next Leg Higher In 2020

The Day of Reckoning is coming, and it won’t be pretty for the overall markets.  While the Fed liquidity has pushed the major U.S. indexes to new highs, the underlying fundamentals in the economy continue to deteriorate.  Without the record amount of Fed QE and Repo Operations, the market and economy would have gone into a tailspin in 2019.

Now, to give credit where credit is due, the term, “The Day of Reckoning” was the title from the Northman Trader’s most recent public article.  What I like about Sven Heinrich’s work (the Northman Trader), is his ability to use technical and fundamental analysis to provide “PRICE DISCOVERY” in the markets.

Unfortunately, we don’t have price discovery anymore due to the Fed and Central bank decade-long propping up of the markets.  This chart from the Northman Trader shows how the Fed’s interventions have come in to support the markets at key technical levels:

What is quite interesting more recently (2019) is the substantial Fed’s rate cuts, QE, and Repo Operations at a time when there isn’t a downturn in the U.S. economy.  When the Fed started QE1 in 2009, the stock market had crashed to a low, and the economy was in a severe recession.  The Fed continued to support the economy and markets with QE2, TWIST, and QE3 into 2013.  Again, these Fed interventions took place during a struggling economy.

Today, the Fed is pulling out all the FIREPOWER when the markets are at new highs, and the economy is still rolling along nicely.  This is a recipe for DISASTER at some point.  Furthermore, the energy market that is one of the driving forces of the U.S. economy is in serious trouble.

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

Central Bankers Are Starting To Lose Control

Central Bankers Are Starting To Lose Control

All is good. The trade war between China and the United States comes to an end, the global economy has weathered the worst, and central banks are making sure that markets continue to go up. This is the scenario currently shaping the consensus.

Kevin Duffy is a battle-proven veteran in the risky business of short selling. He co-founded Bearing Asset Management in 2002. He and his partner were vocal critics of the 2007 credit bubble, successfully shorting many of its most aggressive players including Countrywide Financial and Bear Stearns. Prior to Bearing, Kevin co-founded Lighthouse Capital Management and served as Director of Research from 1988 to 1999. He chronicled the excesses of the Japan and technology bubbles of the late 1980s and the late 1990s. Kevin Duffy bought his first stock at the age of 13. He has a passion for Austrian economics and is the author of the popular Notable and Quotable blog.

Kevin Duffy remains skeptical. The experienced short seller warns that the super easy monetary policy is getting less and less effective. «This year, we’ve had this big sea change in terms of the central banks going back to easing and being more accommodative. Yet, the bond market is basically saying: no more! Easy monetary policy is not having the same stimulative effect as it had in the past», says Duffy.

Although it’s been a brutal year for short sellers, Duffy is convinced his time will come soon. In this in-depth conversation with The Market, he explains why he’s betting against stocks like BlackRock and MSCI – and which names are on his buy list.

Mr. Duffy, investors are in «risk on» mood again: concerns about a global recession are waning, the S&P 500 is at record levels. What’s your take on financial markets?

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

Brace For Impact! The U.S. Economy Is Going Down, And It Is Going Down Hard…

Brace For Impact! The U.S. Economy Is Going Down, And It Is Going Down Hard…

I have so many bad economic numbers to share with you that I don’t even know where to start. I had anticipated that the U.S. economic slowdown would accelerate during the fourth quarter of 2019, and that is precisely what has happened. The Federal Reserve is trying to do all that it can to keep us from officially slipping into a recession, and the federal government is literally spending money as if tomorrow will never come, but all of that intervention has not been enough to reverse our economic momentum. We are really starting to see conditions begin to deteriorate very rapidly now, and 2020 is already shaping up to be the most pivotal year for the U.S. economy since 2008.

Let me start my analysis by discussing how U.S. consumers are doing right now. According to CBS News, a major new study that was just released found that 70 percent of all Americans are struggling financially…

Many Americans remain in precarious financial shape even as the economy continues to grow, with 7 of 10 saying they struggling with at least one aspect of financial stability, such as paying bills or saving money.

The findings come from a survey of more than 5,400 Americans from the Financial Health Network, a nonprofit financial services consultancy. The project, which started a year ago, is aimed at assessing people’s financial health by asking about debt, savings, bills and wages, among other issues.

That sure doesn’t sound like a “booming economy”, does it?

And even though things are already really tough for millions upon millions of American families, it appears that things are rapidly getting worse. In fact, we just witnessed the largest decline for the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index since 2008

 …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…

THE WOLF STREET REPORT: How the Fed Boosts the 1%, as Told by the Fed

THE WOLF STREET REPORT: How the Fed Boosts the 1%, as Told by the Fed

Even the upper middle class loses share of household wealth to the 1%. The bottom half gets screwed.

Is The ‘Mother of all Bubbles’ About to Pop?

Is The ‘Mother of all Bubbles’ About to Pop?

When the New York Federal Reserve began pumping billions of dollars a day into the repurchasing (repo) markets (the market banks use to make short-term loans to each other) in September, they said this would only be necessary for a few weeks. Yet, last Wednesday, almost two months after the Fed’s initial intervention, the New York Federal Reserve pumped 62.5 billion dollars into the repo market.

The New York Fed continues these emergency interventions to ensure “cash shortages” among banks don’t ever again cause interest rates for overnight loans to rise to over 10 percent, well above the Fed’s target rate.

The Federal Reserve’s bailout operations have increased its balance sheet by over 200 billion dollars since September. Investment advisor Michael Pento describes the Fed’s recent actions as Quantitative Easing (QE) “on steroids.”

One cause of the repo market’s sudden cash shortage was the large amount of debt instruments issued by the Treasury Department in late summer and early fall. Banks used resources they would normally devote to private sector lending and overnight loans to purchase these Treasury securities. This scenario will likely keep recurring as the Treasury Department will have to continue issuing new debt instruments to finance continuing increases in in government spending.

Even though the federal deficit is already over one trillion dollars (and growing), President Trump and Congress have no interest in cutting spending, especially in an election year. Should he win reelection, President Trump is unlikely to reverse course and champion fiscal restraint. Instead, he will likely take his victory as a sign that the people support big federal budgets and huge deficits. None of the leading Democratic candidates are even pretending to care about the deficit. Instead they are proposing increasing spending by trillions on new government programs.

 …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…

Fed Goes Nuts with Repos & T-Bills but Sheds Mortgage Backed Securities

Fed Goes Nuts with Repos & T-Bills but Sheds Mortgage Backed Securities

The fastest increase in assets for any two-month period since the post-Lehman freak show in late 2008 and early 2009.

Total assets on the Fed’s balance sheet, released today, jumped by $94 billion over the past month through November 6, to $4.04 trillion, after having jumped $184 billion in September. Over those two months combined, as the Fed got suckered by the repo market, it piled $278 billion onto it balance sheet, the fastest increase since the post-Lehman month in late 2008 and early 2009, when all heck had broken loose – this is how crazy the Fed has gotten trying to bail out the crybabies on Wall Street:

Repos

In response to the repo market blowout that recommenced in mid-September, the New York Fed jumped back into the repo market with both feet. Back in the day, it used to conduct repo operations routinely as its standard way of controlling short-term interest rates. But during the Financial Crisis, the Fed switched from repo operations to emergency bailout loans, zero-interest-rate policy, QE, and paying interest on excess reserves. Repos were no longer needed to control short-term rates and were abandoned.

Then in September, as repo rates spiked, the New York Fed dragged its big gun back out of the shed. With the repurchase agreements, the Fed buys Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae, and hands out cash. When the securities mature, the counter parties are required to take back the securities and return the cash plus interest to the Fed.

Since then, the New York Fed has engaged in two types of repo operations: Overnight repurchase agreements that unwind the next business day; and multi-day repo operations, such as 14-day repos, that unwind at maturity, such as after 14 days.

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

Is the Global Dollar in Jeopardy?

Is the Global Dollar in Jeopardy?

The US Federal Reserve is right to be concerned, if not worried, about the greenback’s dominance of international trade and finance. Fortunately for consumers, growing potential competitive pressure – call it the Libra effect – creates an incentive to make the existing system work better.

WASHINGTON, DC – Since the end of World War II, the United States dollar has been at the heart of international finance and trade. Over the decades, and despite the many ups and downs of the global economy, the dollar retained its role as the world’s favorite reserve asset. When times are tough or uncertainty reigns, investors flock to dollar-denominated assets, particularly US Treasury debt – ironically, even when there is a financial crisis in the US. As a result, the Federal Reserve – which sets US dollar interest rates – has enormous sway over economic conditions around the world.

For all the associated innovation evident since the launch of the decentralized blockchain-based currency Bitcoin in 2009, the arrival of modern cryptocurrencies has had essentially zero impact on the global taste for dollars. Promoters of these new forms of money still have their hopes, of course, that they can challenge the existing financial system, but the impact on global portfolios has proved minimal. The most powerful central banks (the Fed, the European Central Bank, and a few others) are still running the global money show.

Suddenly, however, there is a new, potentially serious player in town: Facebook’s Libra initiative. Facebook and a currently shifting coalition of firms are planning to launch their own private form of money that would, in some sense, be secured by holdings of major currencies.

 …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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