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Markets are being Lulled into a False Sense of Accommodation

Markets are being Lulled into a False Sense of Accommodation

Those who take an interest in the actions of central banks will know that the advent of Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidency has seen the direction of monetary policy gradually change in both the UK and the U.S.

Since the EU referendum, the Bank of England have raised interest rates twice, after initially cutting them and implementing a new round of quantitative easing in the aftermath of the vote. The first rate hike in November 2017 came over a decade since the bank last increased rates in July 2007.

A month after Donald Trump was confirmed as the 45th American president, the Federal Reserve raised rates for only the second time in nine and a half years. Since Trump’s inauguration, they have gone on to hike a further seven times, and over the course of eighteen months (starting late 2017) the Fed have rolled off over $600 billion in assets from its balance sheet.

As the Fed continue to roll off assets until their balance sheet ‘normalisation‘ programme ends in September, the sentiment amongst traders is that the central bank will soon begin a course of rate cuts in order to stave off the threat of a recession as the prospect of a full blown trade conflict with China and other nation states gathers momentum.

A similar sentiment can be found in the UK over Brexit. With the British economy stagnant and manufacturing and construction sectors in decline, there exists an expectation that the Bank of England will ultimately reverse course if an economic downturn takes hold.

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

Should the Fed Tamper With the Quantity of Money?

SHOULD THE FED TAMPER WITH THE QUANTITY OF MONEY?

Most economists are of the view that a growing economy requires a growing money stock, because economic growth gives rise to a greater demand for money, which must be accommodated.

Failing to do so, it is maintained, will lead to a decline in the prices of goods and services, which in turn will destabilize the economy and lead to an economic recession or, even worse, depression.

For most economists and commentators the main role of the Fed is to keep the supply and the demand for money in equilibrium. Whenever an increase in the demand for money occurs, to maintain the state of equilibrium the accommodation of the demand for money by the Fed is considered a necessary action to keep the economy on a path of economic and price stability.

As long as the growth rate of money supply does not exceed the growth rate of the demand for money, then the accommodation of the increase in the demand for money is not considered as money printing and therefore harmful to the economy.

Note that on this way of thinking the growth rate in the demand for money absorbs the growth rate of the supply of money hence no effective increase in the supply of money occurs. So from this perspective, no harm is inflicted on the economy.

Historically, many different goods have been used as money. On this, Mises observed that, over time,

. . . there would be an inevitable tendency for the less marketable of the series of goods used as media of exchange to be one by one rejected until at last only a single commodity remained, which was universally employed as a medium of exchange; in a word, money[1].

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

Weekly Commentary: The Ignore Them, Then Panic Dynamic

Weekly Commentary: The Ignore Them, Then Panic Dynamic

After years of increasingly close cooperation and collaboration, the relationship has turned strained. Both sides are digging in their heels. Credibility is on the line. If one side doesn’t back down, things could really turn problematic. The Fed is asserting that it’s not about to lower the targeted Fed funds rate. Markets are strident: You will cut, and you will cut soon. Bonds are instructing the world to prepare for the Long March.  

Market probability for a rate cut by the December 11th FOMC meeting jumped to 80% this week, up from last week’s 75% and the previous week’s 59%.  

May 22 – Reuters (Howard Schneider and Jason Lange): “U.S. Federal Reserve officials at their last meeting agreed that their current patient approach to setting monetary policy could remain in place ‘for some time,’ a further sign policymakers see little need to change rates in either direction. ‘Members observed that a patient approach…would likely remain appropriate for some time,’ with no need to raise or lower the target interest rate from its current level of between 2.25 and 2.5%, the Fed… reported in the minutes of the central bank’s April 30-May 1 meeting. Recent weak inflation was viewed by ‘many participants…as likely to be transitory,’ while risks to financial markets and the global economy had appeared to ease – a judgment rendered before the Trump administration imposed higher tariffs on Chinese goods and took other steps that intensified trade tensions.”

Analysts have been quick to point out that additional tariffs along with the breakdown in trade negotiations unfolded post the latest FOMC meeting. True, yet several Fed officials have recently reiterated the message of no urgency to lower rates. This week Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic said he doesn’t see the Fed reducing rates.

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

Liquidity Stress Fractures Begin to Show in the Federal Reserve System

Liquidity Stress Fractures Begin to Show in the Federal Reserve System 

The Fed's great recovery rewind is rapidly depleting the very bank reserves the were built up to protect from bank runs like those in the Great Depression.

In my January Premium Post, “An Interesting Interest Conundrum,” I laid out how the Federal Reserve was losing control over the Fed funds rate — a loss of control over its bedrock interest rate that indicates financial stresses are building in the banking system that increase the risks from runs on the banks:

After the financial crisis, when there was a risk of runs on banks, the Fed … require[d] the banks to hold more money in reserves … as a regulation safeguard when the Fed was trying to avoid total economic collapse. Deposits, after all, are liabilities because depositors are guaranteed they can demand instant cash at will. Depositors get extremely unhappy if this guarantee is not fulfilled. That looks something like this:

Federal Reserve's Great Recovery Rewind is reducing reserves banks hold as protection against runs.

And you don’t want that.

The Fed funds rate is the Fed’s target rate for the amount of interest banks charge each other to make overnight loans to each other from their reserves. In a crisis, when banks need their reserves, the interest they charge each other will naturally skyrocket. To keep the monetary system from freezing up because banks won’t loan to each other, the Fed tries to push that rate down.

During the Fed’s Great-Recovery bond-buying program (quantitative easing), aimed at pushing that rate down, the Fed deposited huge amounts of money created out of thin air into bank reserve accounts to make sure they remained flush so there would be no panic runs on banks, but banks don’t like just sitting on huge piles of money, instead of making even more loans with those piles, especially after the crisis abates. The Fed, however, wanted them to continue to maintain those reserves in case crisis returned.

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

In The Fed We Trust – Part 1

In The Fed We Trust – Part 1

This article is the first part of a two-part article. Due to its length and importance, we split it to help readers’ better digest the information. The purpose of the article is to define money and currency and discuss their differences and risks. It is with this knowledge that we can better appreciate the path that massive deficits and monetary tomfoolery are putting us on and what we can do to protect ourselves.   

How often do you think about what the dollar bills in your wallet or the pixel dollar signs in your bank account are? The correct definitions of currency and money are crucial to our understanding of an economy, investing and just as importantly, the social fabric of a nation. It’s time we tackle the differences between currency and money and within that conversation break the news to you that deficits do matter, TRUST me. 

At a basic level, currency can be anything that is broadly accepted as a medium of exchange that comes in standardized units. In current times, fiat currency is the currency of choice worldwide. Fiat currency is paper notes, coins, and digital 0s and 1s that are governed and regulated by central banks and/or governments. Note, we did not use the word guaranteed to describe the role of the central bank or government. The value and worth of a fiat currency rest solely on the TRUST of the receiver of the currency that it will retain its value and the TRUST that others will accept it in the future in exchange for goods and services. 

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

Peter Schiff: The Uber IPO Fiasco and the Writing On the Wall

Peter Schiff: The Uber IPO Fiasco and the Writing On the Wall

Uber launched its IPO on Friday. It was less than ideal.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is talking about how it wants to tweak its quantitative easing program when the next recession rolls around.

Peter Schiff talked about how these things relate — and the “writing on the wall” for the economy in his latest podcast. 

Instead of buying some fixed amount of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities, the central bankers have floated the idea of pegging a yield during the next economic downturn. For example, it would try to hold the interest rate on a one-year bond at, say, 1%.  As Peter pointed out, this is essentially price-fixing.

They’re saying, ‘We don’t want the interest rate that is being determined in the market. We want to interfere in the market so that the interest rate is lower than the market would set.’”

The central bankers are basically admitting that this is not capitalism. They don’t want the free market discovering a rate because they don’t like the rate the market would choose. When you interfere with the market-clearing price – and an interest rate is simply the price of money – then you create surpluses or shortages. This is a basic supply and demand function.

As Peter said, this constant Federal Reserve suppression of rates is the source of our problems.

The reason the Fed constantly feels that it has to artificially suppress interest rates is because we have so much debt as a result of the artificial suppression of interest rates in the past.”

That’s the irony of the Fed suddenly running around warning about high levels of corporate debt. It’s a problem it created!

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

Why Fed Chair Powell is a Laughingstock

Why Fed Chair Powell is a Laughingstock

Fake Work

Clarity.  Simplicity.  Elegance.  These fundamentals are all in short supply.  But are they in high demand? As far as we can tell, hardly a soul among us gives much of a rip about any of them.  Instead, nearly everyone wants things to be more muddled, more complicated, and more crude with each passing day.  That’s where the high demand is.

One can always meet the perils of overweening bureaucracy with pretend happiness… [PT]

For example, executing and delivering work in accordance with the terms and conditions of a professional services contract these days is utterly dreadful.  The real work is secondary to fake work, trivialities, and minutia.  Superfluous paperwork and an encumbrance of mandatory web-based tools are immense time and capital sucks.

While each T & C may have been developed for one good reason or another, over time, they’ve piled up into something that’s an unworkable mess.  But like tax law, or local zoning codes, they must be followed with arduous rigor.

Crushing futility… [PT]

What’s more, many livelihoods depend on all the fake work that’s now built into what should be a simple contract.  Auditors, contract administrators, accountants, MBAs, spreadsheet jockeys, risk managers, and many other fake professionals, run about with rank importance.  What would happen to these plate spinners if the fake work disappeared?

Without all the unnecessary rigmarole, the unemployment rate would quadruple overnight.  Hence, like fake money, fake work is piled on by the boatload to stimulate the need for more fake work.  And like a handshake agreement – or sound money – the return to an era of greater clarity, simplicity, and elegance is mere wishful thinking.

Plotted Dots

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

Central Banks Don’t Matter

Central Banks Don’t Matter

Central Banks Don’t Matter

“There is no money in monetary policy.”

Could it be true? Is there no money in monetary policy?

Yesterday we argued the Federal Reserve cannot even define money… much less measure it to any reasonable satisfaction.

Today we venture upon a heresy deeper still — that central bank “monetary” policy has no actual existence.

No money stands beneath it, behind it, beside it.

The emperor is well and truly nude.

Who then actually controls monetary policy today?

The answer may very well lie hidden in the “shadows.”

The details — the shocking details — to follow.

Monetary Policy Is Actually About Credit and Debt

First moneyman par excellence Jeff Snider — author of today’s opening quotation — rams a sharp stake through the heart of the monetary myth:

Monetary policy has been quite intentionally stripped of money. Banks evolved and there was really no easy way to define money beyond a certain point (in the ’60s), so economists just gave up trying… 

Money as it relates to “monetary” policy is not really money at all. What monetary policy refers to in contemporary terms is something wholly different… When the Federal Reserve… act[s] on monetary measures, they seek not to increase the supply of money to the economy but rather the supply of credit… Monetary policy in the modern sense of the word actually has little to do with money. Instead, it is always and everywhere about credit and debt…

All money is debt-based money in today’s lunatic and preposterous world.

The dollar in your wallet you consider an asset. But only someone else’s previous debt fanned it into existence.

Technically it is a Federal Reserve note. A note is a debt instrument.

None of the foregoing will stagger or flabbergast Daily Reckoning readers.

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

Weekly Commentary: Transitory Histrionics

Weekly Commentary: Transitory Histrionics

May 3 – Financial Times (Sam Fleming): “Having lamented low inflation as one of the great challenges facing central bankers today in March, Jay Powell on Wednesday wrongfooted many investors with comments that seemed to play down the gravity of the problem. The new message from the Federal Reserve chairman — that ‘transitory’ drags may be slowing price growth, rather than more persistent problems — marked a rude awakening for investors who had been hoping that he would signal an ‘insurance’ interest rate cut this summer because of low inflation. To critics, Mr Powell’s sharp change in tone extends a pattern of unpredictable communications that have made Fed policy more difficult to read. While many accept that investors got ahead of themselves in treating a 2019 rate cut as a fait accompli, the risk is that in his effort to dial back expectations of easier policy Mr Powell undercut the central bank’s broader message: that it will do whatever is necessary to get stubbornly low inflation back on target.”

To many, Chairman Powell’s Wednesday news conference was one more bungled performance. It may not have been at the same level as December’s “tone deaf” “incompetence.” But his message on inflation was muddled and clumsily inconsistent. How on earth can Powell refer to below-target inflation as “Transitory”?

Chairman Powell should be applauded. Sure, he “caved” in January. And while he can be faulted (along with about everyone) for not appreciating the degree of market fragility back in December, markets had over years grown way too comfortable with the Fed “put”/backstop.  

I don’t fault the Powell Fed for having attempted in December to let the markets begin standing on their own. It was about time – actually, way overdue. Fault instead unsound markets and decades of “activist” Fed policymaking.

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

Globally Synchronized…

Globally Synchronized…

The economic sickness is predictably spreading. While unexpected in most of the world which still, somehow, depends on central banking forecasts, it really has been almost inevitable. From the very start, just the utterance of the word “decoupling” was the kiss of death. What that meant in the context of globally synchronized growth, 2017’s repeatedly dominant narrative, wasn’t the end of synchronized as many tried to say but the end of growth.

This was more than an economic factor. A fixed system leading into full, meaningful recovery was supposed to heal more than economy. Those political extremists who had multiplied and spread while waiting for it would be revealed as illegitimate, their complaints nothing more than some form of evil “ism.” The New York Times in January 2018 succinctly described its wider significance:

A decade after the world descended into a devastating economic crisis, a key marker of revival has finally been achieved. Every major economy on earth is expanding at once, a synchronous wave of growth that is creating jobs, lifting fortunes and tempering fears of popular discontent.

Well, purported significance anyway. If globally synchronized growth was “tempering fears of popular discontent”, the risks are pretty clear should there not be any. I wrote last September what wasn’t any sort of special insight:

From 2003 to 2009, it went: globally synchronized growth, decoupling, globally synchronized downturn. From 2010 to 2012, it went: globally synchronized growth, decoupling, globally synchronized downturn. From 2013 to 2016, it went: strong global growth (not synchronized), decoupling, synchronized downturn.

Last year [2017] to this year [2018], it has gone: globally synchronized growth, decoupling. What comes next?

The answer is here before us. Yesterday, the Bank of Canada throws in the towel on its end of the global economy. Last October, the Canadians were thinking how they had to get serious with their rate hikes. Now, officials admit in all likelihood there won’t be any more.

Something sure changed.

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

Nomura: The Fed Will Go Large; Expect A 50bp Cut Out Of The Gate… And Soon

Nomura: The Fed Will Go Large; Expect A 50bp Cut Out Of The Gate… And Soon

it may seem morbid, if not grotesque, to discuss the Fed cutting rates on the day when the S&P just hit a new all time high, but as a result of the previously discussed US bank liquidity and dollar shortage thesis, now also espoused by JPMorgan,  and the coincident “funding-squeeze” dynamic, which as we have shown over the past week has expressed itself via the much-discussed “Fed Funds (Effective) trading through IOER” phenomenon…

… this is precisely the topic of the latest note from Nomura’s Charlie McElligott who writes this morning that with the Fed increasingly concerned about what even the big banks admit is a funding shortage in the US banking system (ironically enough, with over $1.4 trillion in excess reserves still sloshing in the system), Powell may have no choice but to cut rates aggressively, slash the IOER rate – perhaps as soon as this week – and eventually resume QE.

As if to validate McElligott’s point, amid increasing buzz of an imminent rate cut, the dollar keeps rising, and instead of tracking rate cut odds, which are now back to cycle highs, is instead tracking the excess EFF over IOER tick for tick as the clearest indicator of what is now perceived as a widespread liquidity shortage, and in doing so is escalating the recent turmoil across EMFX, as the US Dollar breaks out to fresh highs despite Friday’s worse than expected (below the surface) GDP print.

As discussed over the weekend, McElligott reminds readers that there is now “again a mounting belief in the market for a Fed “technical” IOER cut at some point into the Summer” –

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

Weekly Commentary: Officially on “Periphery” Contagion Watch

Weekly Commentary: Officially on “Periphery” Contagion Watch

This week saw all-time highs in the S&P500, the Nasdaq Composite, the Nasdaq100, and the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index. Microsoft’s market capitalization reached $1 TN for the first time. First quarter GDP was reported at a stronger-than-expected 3.2% pace.  

So why would the market this week increase the probability of a rate cut by the December 11th FOMC meeting to 66.6% from last week’s 44.6%? What’s behind the 10 bps drop in two-year yields to 2.28%? And the eight bps decline in five-year Treasury yields to a one-month low 2.29% (10-yr yields down 6bps to 2.50%)? In Europe, German bund yields declined five bps back into negative territory (-0.02%). Spain’s 10-year yields declined five bps to 1.02% (low since 2016), and Portugal’s yields fell four bps to an all-time low 1.13%. French yields were down to 0.35%. Why would markets be pricing in another round of ECB QE?

In the currencies, king dollar gained 0.6%, trading above 98 for the first time in almost two-years. The Japanese yen outperformed even the dollar, adding 0.3%.  

April 22 – Financial Times (Hudson Lockett and Yizhen Jia): “Chinese stocks fell on Monday amid concerns that Beijing may renew a campaign against shadow banking that contributed to a heavy sell-off across the market last year. Analysts pinned much of the blame… on a statement issued late on Friday following a politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping in Beijing. They were particularly alarmed by a term that surfaced in state media reports of the meeting of top Communist party leaders: ‘deleveraging’. That word set off alarm bells among investors still hurting from Beijing’s campaign against leverage in the country’s financial system last year. Those reforms focused largely on so-called shadow banking, which before the clampdown saw lenders channel huge sums of money to fund managers who then invested it in stocks.”

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

Central Banking Is Central Planning

Central Banking Is Central Planning

At a time when the appeal of and demands for a new “democratic” socialism seem to have caught the imagination of many among the young and are reflected in the promises of a good number of political candidates running for high office, there is one already-existing socialist institution in America with few opponents: the Federal Reserve System.

The fact is, central banking is a form of central planning. The Federal Reserve has a legal monopoly over the monetary system of the United States. It plans the quantity of money in circulation and its availability for lending purposes; and it sets a target for the annual rate of price inflation (currently around 2 percent), while also intentionally influencing interest rates, affecting investment spending, and supporting full employment. Almost all discussions and debates concerning the Federal Reserve revolve around how it should undertake its monetary central planning: which policy tools should be used, what target goals should be aimed for, and who should be in charge of directing America’s central bank.

Federal Reserve Independence in the Trump Era

A complementary issue that has received renewed attention concerns the question of how much “independence” the Federal Reserve and other central banks should have to determine and implement monetary and interest rate policy. This has recently come to the fore due to comments made by President Donald Trump concerning Federal Reserve interest rate policy and the individuals he has recently proposed for positions on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Several times over the last year, President Trump has expressed irritation and frustration with increases in market rates of interest under the Federal Reserve Board leadership of Jerome Powell, who Trump nominated for Fed chairman and who has held that position since February 2018. 

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

The Fed is Going to Cut Rates to Negative 3% If Not 5%

The Fed is Going to Cut Rates to Negative 3% If Not 5%

As I warned last week, while most of the investment world has been glued to their trading screens watching the stock market rally.. something nefarious has  been unfolding behind the scenes.

That “something” is the Fed and other regulators implementing plans that will begin allow for large-scale cash grabs when the next downturn hits.

While stocks roared higher, Fed officials began openly calling for more extreme monetary policies including NEGATIVE Interest Rate Policy or NIRP.

NIRP is when a bank charges YOU for the right to keep your money there.

If you think this is conspiracy theory, consider that on February 5th 2019, the IMF published a report outlining how Central Banks could cut rates into DEEPLY negative territory.

We’re not talking negative 0.5%… we’re talking negative 3% or even 5%.

Many central banks reduced policy interest rates to zero during the global financial crisis to boost growth. Ten years later, interest rates remain low in most countries. While the global economy has been recovering, future downturns are inevitable. Severe recessions have historically required 3–6 percentage points cut in policy rates. If another crisis happens, few countries would have that kind of room for monetary policy to respond.

To get around this problem, a recent IMF staff study shows how central banks can set up a system that would make deeply negative interest rates a feasible option.

Source: IMF

Any time the elites want to implement a new policy, the IMF is the “go-to” organization to introduce the idea.

It was the IMF that signed off on the disastrous Greek bail-out deals in 2010-2012.

It was also the IMF that “signed off” on the “bail-ins” in Cyprus, in which savings deposits lost as much as 50% in 2013.

Now the IMF is promoting the idea that Central Banks should cut rates into “deeply” negative territory during the next downturn.

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

Slowing Growth the Problem, Asset Appreciation the Solution?

Slowing Growth the Problem, Asset Appreciation the Solution?

The Problem:
The Fed and major central banks believe they are fighting a deflationary spiral battling ongoing misses to their inflation targets.  But in truth their misguided policies are contributing to a depopulation spiral.  They are forcing low interest rates that only exacerbate overcapacity for a consumer base among whom growth is fast decelerating.  The cheap money is causing rapid asset appreciation absent like wage growth.  Asset holders (primarily older and wealthy) are reaping the rewards while those with little or no assets (young, poor, those of childbearing ages) are paying higher rents, insurance, medical care, schooling, etc. etc.  This inequitable inflationary pressure is pushing birth rates to all time lows and cutting off present and future demand…and this is met with even more of the medicine that made the patient sick in the first place.

From a US perspective, there has essentially been no bottom up US population growth since 1950.  Chart below shows average annual US births per decade (including births from all sources, legal and illegal).  Lower boxes show current age of the population borne during each decade.  Births have essentially been flat for seven decades.

Average annual births per each generation and current age of each group, below.  Again, births by generation have been flat since the completion of WWII.

Below, annual births highlighting each generation.  From the early ’50’s to present, births have been remarkably flat, given the tripling of the total population.

15 to 64 year old population (red line) and year over year change (blue columns).  Average annual growth, per period below, has decelerated 50% but will decelerate nearly 80% over the next decade.  Average growth, per period:

  • 1970 – 2009, +1.93 million
  • 2010 – 2018, +0.98 million
  • 2019 – 2030, +0.36 million

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

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