Home » Posts tagged 'us treasury'

Tag Archives: us treasury

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Post Archives by Category

Inflation Is Winning, and Here’s Why the Fed Seems Content To Let It Happen

The U.S. Treasury publishes its balance sheet annually. The most recent, for fiscal year 2020, is so egregiously out of whack it might be hard to wrap your head around:

Total Assets: $5.95 trillion
Total Liabilities: $32.74 trillion
Net Position (total assets minus total liabilities): -$26.80 trillion

All figures above have been rounded to the nearest billions. The net position also factors in -$3.1 billion in “unmatched transactions and balances,” which is odd. (Looks like everybody has a little trouble balancing the checkbook…)

But the obvious focus? Liabilities outweigh assets more than five to one.

How will the U.S. government try to correct this imbalance? It’s almost certain they will use one of the only tools they have: inflation.

In fact, the latest official inflation numbers have come in, which continue the trend of rising price inflation (see chart):

Consumer prices up 4.7 percent since February 2020

Graph courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Unlike the Fed, which likes to focus your attention on what Wolf Richter calls its “lowest lowball inflation measure” that ignores important prices, the BLS chart includes food and energy.

That’s bad enough. If, however, we use the same measures the Federal Reserve employed in 1990 like John Williams of ShadowStats does, the picture gets a lot worse:

July PPI Surged to New, Historic Extremes
Tempered by Unusual Factors, July CPI-U Held at 13-Year High for a Second Month, Just Shy of a 41-Year High
ShadowStats Alternate CPI Held at Its 41-Year High

Don’t let the name “ShadowStats” fool you. These numbers are based on the Federal Reserve’s own historic metrics that were retired in favor of the current, less-alarming measures.

Inflation is bad, and it doesn’t seem likely to get better any time soon…

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

Yellen Urges Development Banks To Stop Fossil Fuel Funding

Yellen Urges Development Banks To Stop Fossil Fuel Funding

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is prepared to gather together the heads of development banks to persuade them to stop fossil fuel project funding, according to Bloomberg.

The Treasury Secretary intends to “articulate our expectations that the MDBs align their portfolios with the Paris Agreement and net-zero goals as urgently as possible,” according to a written speech she is set to deliver at a climate conference in Italy.

The speech, soon to be delivered, follows just days behind a similar message that the financial community received at the G20, where financial leaders for the first time every acknowledged that carbon pricing was at least a potential tool in addressing climate change.

While Bloomberg notes that while development banks have never been responsible for the big bucks behind most fossil fuel projects, those funds are largely seen as a stepping stone for the projects to secure hefty commercial funding.

Since the pandemic began, development banks have thrown just $3 billion into oil and nat gas, with $0 going towards coal projects for the first time ever.

Meanwhile, development banks have funded $12 billion in clean energy projects.

But it is precisely these natural gas projects that will allow many countries to quickly and efficiently transition away from coal.

Prior to her appointment as Treasury Secretary, Yellen was criticized for her fossil fuel stock holdings. The Secretary vowed to divest her holdings in all fossil fuel companies as well as any companies that support fossil fuels.

Nevertheless, even before her time as Treasury Secretary and the chairman of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), Yellen has been a staunch supporter of the environment and highly critical of the role fossil fuels have played in greenhouse gas emissions.

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

Translating Yellen-Speak into Golden-Speak

Translating Yellen-Speak into Golden-Speak

Given the increasingly politicized interplay (cancer) of central bank policy and so-called free market price discovery, it’s becoming increasingly more important to track the actions of central bankers rather than just traditional market signals alone.

Like it or not, the Fed is the market.

Toward this end, we’ve had some substantive fun deciphering the past, current and future implications of “forward guidance” from our openly mis-guided crop of central bankers, most notably Greenspan, Bernanke and Powell.

But let’s not forget Janet Yellen.

As we see below, translating Yellen-speak into blunt speak tells us a heck of a lot about the future.

The Open and Obvious Debt Crisis

Back in 2018, Janet Yellen (former Fed Chairwoman and current Treasury Secretary, eh hmmm) along with Jason Furman (current Biden economic advisor) observed in a Washington Post Op-Ed that, “a U.S. debt crisis is coming, but don’t blame entitlements.”

As I like to say, “that’s rich.”

As in all things economic, the motives and thinking coming out of DC are largely political, which means they are self-serving, partisan and predominantly disastrous.

As for translating Yellen’s political-speak into honest English, the motives for this 2018 warning were two-fold: 1) Yellen and Furman were making a partisan attack on Trump’s then $1T budget proposal, and 2) Yellen actually believed what she said and that the US was indeed careening toward “a debt crisis.”

In fact, we were already in a debt crisis in 2018, a crisis which has simply risen to much higher orders of magnitude in the three short years since Yellen’s “warning” was made.

Stated otherwise, Yellen will get her debt crisis. It’s ticking right in front of her.

Tracking the Debt Trail

Ironically, the most obvious metrics of the current and ever-expanding debt crisis began just months after Yellen’s infamous Op-Ed.

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

Yellen Challenges Powell’s Unlimited Control of the Markets

The Fed attempts to maintain control of various rates (including inflation, unemployment and long-term interest rates) through its monetary policy decisions. In the past, poor choices arguably led to both the dot-com bubble and the Great Recession. But that’s old news.

Today, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is trying to get the U.S. economy moving. A combination of near-zero interest rates and “quantitative easing,” which means buying bonds directly. Both these interventions increase the amount of money in circulation. Ultimately, this would lead to inflation, as you’d expect.

And of course, inflation is closely tied to market rates. In response to the pandemic, the Fed rate policy that Powell currently advocates is keeping money market rates close to zero for an extended period of time. The Fed also seem to intervene quite a bit, attempting to maintain tight control on those rates.

Powell has to balance economic recovery and employment against market bubbles and excessive inflation. That’s a lot of balls in the air… What if one drops?

Unleashing a “tsunami” of cash

Enter Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who just threw a big monkey wrench in Powell’s plans to maintain any semblance of tight control over rates. What did she say? As Newsmax reported:

Already low short-term interest rates are set to sink further, potentially below zero, after the Treasury announced plans earlier this month to reduce the stockpile of cash it amassed at the Fed over the last year to fight the pandemic and the deep recession it caused.

That sounds sensible, right? There’s just one problem: the Treasury is planning to “unleash what Credit Suisse Group AG analyst Zoltan Pozsar calls a ‘tsunami’ of reserves into the financial system and on to the Fed’s balance sheet.”

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

 

Who Bought the $4.5 Trillion Added in One Year to the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt, Now at $27.9 Trillion?

Who Bought the $4.5 Trillion Added in One Year to the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt, Now at $27.9 Trillion?

Someone had to buy every dollar of this monstrous debt. Here’s Who. The Fed isn’t the only one. But China continues to unwind its holdings.

Driven by stimulus and bailouts, and fired up by the tax cuts and by grease and pork, the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt has skyrocketed by $4.55 trillion in 12 months, to $27.86 trillion, after having already spiked by $1.4 trillion in the prior 12 months, which had been the Good Times. These trillions are all Treasury securities that form the US national debt, and someone had to buy every single one of these securities:

So we’ll piece together who bought those trillions of dollars in Treasury Securities that have whooshed by over the past 12 months.

Tuesday afternoon, the Treasury Department released the Treasury International Capital data through  December 31 which shows the foreign holders of the US debt. From the Fed’s balance sheet, we can see what the Fed bought. From the Federal Reserve Board of Governors bank balance-sheet data, we can see what the banks bought. And from the Treasury Department’s data on Treasury securities, we can see what US government entities bought.

Share of foreign holders falls to 25% for first time since 2007:

In the fourth quarter, foreign central banks, foreign government entities, and foreign private-sector entities such as companies, banks, bond funds, and individuals, reduced their holdings by $35 billion from the third quarter, to $7.04 trillion. This was still up from a year ago by $192 billion (blue line, right scale in the chart below). But their share of the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt fell to 25.4%, the lowest since 2007 (red line, right scale):

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

 

U.S. Treasury “Major Security Incident” (Whoops!) Reveals Near-Universal Risk

One thing is certain, 2020 isn’t over yet.

In what could be called one of the major gaffes of the year, The U.S. Department of the Treasury was hacked, and the hack could have been carried out by foreign entities.

One person even told the Washington Post, “This is looking very, very bad.”

Reuters shed light on what will likely be a developing situation, including the possible foreign involvement:

A sophisticated hacking group backed by a foreign government stole information from the U.S. Treasury Department and a U.S. agency responsible for deciding policy around the internet and telecommunications, according to people familiar with the matter.

That, unfortunately, is only the beginning of this story…

Reporting on the incident, Robert Wenzel described a scene of panic in the U.S. government: “Officials were scrambling over the weekend to assess the extent of the intrusions and implement effective countermeasures, but initial signs suggested the breach was long-running and significant, the Post adds.”

long-running and significant breach in the U.S. Treasury security infrastructure will likely generate ripple effects, especially if foreign actors were involved.

Well-known security expert Brian Krebs summarized the potential for both widespread and long-term impacts stemming from this single breach:

Communications at the U.S. Treasury and Commerce Departments were reportedly compromised by a supply chain attack on SolarWinds, a security vendor that helps the federal government and a range of Fortune 500 companies monitor the health of their IT networks. Given the breadth of the company’s customer base, experts say the incident may be just the first of many such disclosures.

Over 90% of the Fortune 500 Affected?

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

Weekly Commentary: Summer of 2020

Weekly Commentary: Summer of 2020

QE fundamentally changed finance. What commenced at the Federal Reserve with a post-mortgage finance Bubble, $1 TN Treasury buying operation morphed into open-ended purchases of Treasuries, MBS, corporate bonds and even corporate ETFs holding high-yield “junk” bonds. Markets assume it’s only a matter of time before the Federal Reserve adds equities to its buy list.

For years now, Treasury bonds (and agency securities) have traded at elevated prices – low yields – in anticipation of an inevitable resumption of QE operations/securities purchases. Conventional analysis has focused on persistent disinflationary pressures as the primary explanation for historically depressed bond yields. While not unreasonable, such analysis downplays the prevailing role played by exceptionally low Federal Reserve interest-rates coupled with latent (and escalating) financial fragility. Meanwhile, near zero short-term rates and historically low Treasury and agency securities yields have spurred a desperate search for yields, significantly inflating the demand and pricing for corporate Credit.

The Fed’s COVID crisis leap into corporate debt has wielded further profound impacts on corporate Credit – yields, prices and issuance.

September 2 – Financial Times (Joe Rennison): “Companies have raised more debt in the US bond market this year than ever before… A $2bn bond from Japanese bank Mizuho and a $2.5bn deal from junk-rated hospital operator Tenet Healthcare helped nudge overall US corporate bond issuance to $1.919tn so far this year, surpassing the previous annual record of $1.916tn set in 2017, according to… Refinitiv. The surge marks a dramatic revival for the market since the coronavirus-induced rout in March, when prices slumped and yields soared… ‘There has been a phenomenal amount of issuance,’ said Peter Tchir, chief macro strategist at Academy Securities… ‘It’s been the busiest summer I have ever seen. It’s felt like we have been setting issuance records month after month.’”
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Dollar Is Dying

The Dollar Is Dying

Insulting the Captive Audience

This week, while perusing the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet figures, we came across a rather curious note.  We don’t know how long the Fed’s had this note posted to its website.  But we can’t recall ever seeing it.  The note reads as follows:

“The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has expanded and contracted over time.  During the 2007-08 financial crisis and subsequent recession, total assets increased significantly from $870 billion in August 2007 to $4.5 trillion in early 2015.  Then, reflecting the FOMC’s balance sheet normalization program that took place between October 2017 and August 2019, total assets declined to under $3.8 trillion.  Beginning in September 2019, total assets started to increase.”

Directly below this note is the following chart:

Total assets of the Federal Reserve since 2008 – never-ending expansion (shaded areas indicate recessions) [PT]

Does this look like a balance sheet that expands and contracts over time?

Quite frankly, the Fed’s balance sheet chart, and the extreme dollar debasement that it illustrates, is a disgrace.  The fact that the Fed had to add this flagrantly false note as preface to its disgraceful chart is an insult.

This is a direct offense to anyone who has built a modest savings account by exchanging their time for dollars.  The time and effort put to obtaining these dollars is being stolen by the insidious process of central bank engineered money supply inflation.  Year in and year out, these earned dollars will be worth less and less.

Moreover, normalization is a Fed lie.  It never happened.  Yes, $700 billion was contracted from the Fed’s Balance sheet between October 2017 and August 2019.  But that was in the wake of a $3.5 trillion expansion.  And it was quickly followed by another $3 trillion balance sheet expansion this spring.

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

OPINION: Foxes in the henhouse – Who decides where bailout money goes?

OPINION: Foxes in the henhouse – Who decides where bailout money goes?

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, trillions of bailout dollars in the U.S. and Canada are about to be fire hosed into particular areas of the economy.  Given that this is public money held by governments, who decides where and to whom these funds should go?

It is logical that workers, professionals, small and medium businesses should have a central role in this, given their critical involvement in the creation of value in the economy and that they constitute almost the entire population of North America.  But they don’t.  Instead, key power and authority has been handed over to a small group of private mega-banks and financiers. 

For example, the U.S. Treasury, which will be providing the bailout funding in the U.S., is a public institution which is supposed to answer to Congress.  Yet, for much of the bailout, the Trump administration has taken the authority away from the U.S. Treasury and given it to the private banks of the Federal Reserve.  In turn, the Federal Reserve banks have appointed BlackRock, the largest private asset manager and “shadow bank” in the world, to oversee whole sections of the bailout and to decide which corporations and institutions are to live or die. 

However, neither the Federal Reserve nor BlackRock will be liable for any of the risk associated with the bailout loans no matter their quality.  All the risk and backstopping of corporate defaults will fall onto the U.S. Treasury and by extension the American people (1).  This is not a minor issue.  With BlackRock and other financial institutions at the helm, who is going to benefit from these bailouts to selected corporations which will amount to $4.5 trillion (or by some estimates even more)? 

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

The Federal Reserve Is Directly Monetizing US Debt

The Federal Reserve Is Directly Monetizing US Debt

In a very real way, MMT is already here

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

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

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

How It’s Supposed to Work

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

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

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

(Source)

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

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

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

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

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

Powell Rate Cut Unleashes Volatility Tsunami

Powell Rate Cut Unleashes Volatility Tsunami

It wasn’t supposed to work this way.

In the rate cut playbook envisioned by Trump, Powell’s July 31st rate cut was supposed to send stocks higher while crushing the dollar. However, when the FOMC announce a “mid-cycle”, 25bps cut, the outcome was not only a surge in the dollar but also a surge in volatility not seen so far this year.

The sequence of events is familiar to all by now: at first, Powell’s rate cut spooked the market which had been expected either a 50bps cut, or an explicit promise of an easing cycle. It got neither, and neither did Trump, who the very next day realized that with the Fed now explicitly focusing on global uncertainties, read trade war, as a catalyst for future rate cuts as demonstrated by the following infamous chart

…. decided to escalate the trade war with China by announcing 10% tariffs on the remaining $300BN in Chinese imports, sending stocks and bond yields plunging, and the market pricing in as much as 100bps of more rate cuts in 12 months, forcing Powell to cut far more than just another 25bps or so as the Fed Chair suggested in the July FOMC meeting.

China immediately retaliated by devaluing the Yuan below 7.00 for the first time since 2008 and halting US ag imports, which in turn prompted the US Treasury to declare China a currency manipulator. Meanwhile, China’s yuan devaluation means the White House is set to unveil even higher tariffs, resulting in an even weaker yuan, and so on, in a toxic feedback loop that may soon escalate the trade and currency war into an all-out shooting war.

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

The only gold the US shows – A working vault at West Point

The only gold the US shows – A working vault at West Point

Every so often, US media coverage provides glimpses into the US Treasury’s gold reserves stored with the US Mint. While this coverage never documents any of the claimed “deep storage” gold of the US Treasury, it contains just enough suggestion for the populace to connect the words ‘gold storage’ and ‘US Government’, and then return to their daily routines, assuming that the US has the largest strategic gold reserves in the world.

Notably, these media features, which span mainstream financial media and coin / numismatic news sites alike, are also only ever limited to one single location where the US Mint stores gold, a ‘working vault’ at the US Mint’s facility in West Point, New York. Images of this vault will be familiar to some readers, images which contain various pallets of 400 oz gold bars in front of a US flag and the walls of the storage room strewn with many years of scribbled visitor signatures .

Such a media feature recently appeared on the WNYW network (Fox 5 New York) in April, when the Fox5NY crew took the trip about 2 hours north of Manhattan to the US Mint’s bullion depository at West Point.

Along with its bullion depository in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and its minting facility in Denver, Colorado, the West Point Mint, located adjacent to West Point military Academy, is one of the three claimed Mint storage locations for the US Treasury’s “deep storage” gold reserves, and according to the US Treasury, there are 11 storage compartments at West Point storing 54 million troy ounces, or 1682 tonnes, of United States Government owned gold reserves. Which would be just over 20% of the 8133 tonnes of gold that the US Treasury claims to hold.

 …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…

Venezuela’s gold in limbo amid tug-of-war at the Bank of England

Venezuela’s gold in limbo amid tug-of-war at the Bank of England

In early November news was placed into the British media (Reuters and The Times) revealing that the Bank of England in London, one of the world’s largest custodians of gold bars on behalf of other central banks, was refusing to allow the withdrawal and repatriation of 14 tonnes of gold belonging to Venezuela’s central bank, the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV).

According to these media reports, the delays / refusals by the Bank of England to allow the Venezuelan gold repatriation ranged from excuses about the prohibitive cost of transport insurance to concerns about future money laundering. In all cases, these excuses were bogus, as I explained in the article “Bank of England refuses to return 14 tonnes of gold to Venezuela” on the BullionStar website, dated 15 November, and that the real reasons for the Bank of England’s refusal were political. As I stated at the time in my conclusion:

The reasons put forward by official sources in the Reuters and Times articles for why Venezuela can’t withdraw its gold from the Bank of England are clearly bogus. The more logical and likely explanation is that the US, through the White House, US Treasury and State Department have been liaising with the British Foreign office, HM Treasury to put pressure on the Bank of England to delay and push back on Venezuela’s gold withdrawal request.”

According to the Reuters report dated 5 November, the Venezuelan central bank gold withdrawal plan had “been held up for nearly two months”, which would put the original withdrawal request by the BCV to the Bank of England at a date in at least September and probably earlier. So the BCV had been looking for its gold back for sometime, and the Bank of England was stalling.

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

SWIFT Cuts Off Iran Central Bank As Tehran Sells 700,000 Barrels To Direct Buyers

As reported last week, shortly after SWIFT caved to US pressure and defied the EU announcing it would cut off a selection of Iranian banks, on Monday, the US Treasury said the Iranian Central Bank has been officially cut off the SWIFT financial messaging system. The disconnection, which comes at a time when Iran’s economy is reeling and its currency is tumbling as a result of restricted oil exports (albeit offset by numerous temporary waivers for top Iranian oil clients), will made it far more difficult for the Islamic Republic to settle import and export bills.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the move is “the right decision to protect the integrity of the international financial system”, and comes after several days planning by SWIFT.


I understand that SWIFT will be discontinuing service to the Central Bank of Iran and designated Iranian financial institutions. SWIFT is making the right decision to protect the integrity of the international financial system.


As previously discussed, SWIFT said it would begin cutting off access to several unspecified Iranian banks. More than 70 Iranian and Iranian-linked financial institutions were sanctioned, including a host of banks that allegedly provided services to Hamas and Hezbollah, and others that provided services to the Iranian armed forces.

While the US could not directly force SWIFT to cut off Iranian banks, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had warned that penalties would be applied to SWIFT and any other firms that refused to comply with the latest sanctions, effectively forcing SWIFT to pick between compliance with US demands or angering top EU officials. It picked the former.

An allegedly “neutral” entity, SWIFT had found itself torn between a US-EU diplomatic row as of late.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Click on image to purchase @ FriesenPress