Category Archives: Banking

Glitch Drains Wells Fargo Checking Accounts

CBS Local — Many Wells Fargo customers got a terrifying shock after finding their checking accounts drained due to a series of errors by the embattled bank. The Jan. 17 glitch reportedly emptied several customers’ accounts after processing their online bill payments twice and doubling transaction fees.

According to CBS News, the banking error also triggered overdraft fees on many checking accounts as customers around the country were mistakenly informed they had a zero balance. The bank’s phone lines were reportedly jammed through the night as angry customers demanded answers for the embarrassing mistake. Wells Fargo later put out a brief statement on Twitter explaining the situation.

The social media outrage was immediate as customers replied to the statement, many who were left without a way to pay for any goods.

Wells Fargo gave an update on the situation on Jan. 18 as the issue is apparently still unresolved.

“We are aware of the online Bill Pay situation which was caused by an internal processing error. We are currently working to correct it, and there is no action required for impacted customers at this time. Any fees or charges that may have been incurred as a result of this error will be taken care of. We apologize for any inconvenience,” Wells Fargo’s Steve Carlson said, via KCCI.

The glitch is the latest black eye for the company, which was involved in a massive scandal in 2016 after it was discovered Wells Fargo employees opened millions of fake accounts to meet sales goals. Several high-level executives at the banking giant have lost their jobs since the scandal broke.

By Chris Melore | CBS Philli

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The Fed’s “Magic Trick” Exposed

In 1791, the first Secretary of the Treasury of the US, Alexander Hamilton, convinced then-new president George Washington to create a central bank for the country.

Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson opposed the idea, as he felt that it would lead to speculation, financial manipulation, and corruption. He was correct, and in 1811, its charter was not renewed by Congress.

Then, the US got itself into economic trouble over the War of 1812 and needed money. In 1816, a Second Bank of the United States was created. Andrew Jackson took the same view as Mister Jefferson before him and, in 1836, succeeded in getting the bank dissolved.

Then, in 1913, the leading bankers of the US succeeded in pushing through a third central bank, the Federal Reserve. At that time, critics echoed the sentiments of Messrs. Jefferson and Jackson, but their warnings were not heeded. For over 100 years, the US has been saddled by a central bank, which has been manifestly guilty of speculation, financial manipulation, and corruption, just as predicted by Mister Jefferson.

From its inception, one of the goals of the bank was to create inflation. And, here, it’s important to emphasize the term “goals.” Inflation was not an accidental by-product of the Fed – it was a goal.

Over the last century, the Fed has often stated that inflation is both normal and necessary. And yet, historically, it has often been the case that an individual could go through his entire lifetime without inflation, without detriment to his economic life.

Yet, whenever the American people suffer as a result of inflation, the Fed is quick to advise them that, without it, the country could not function correctly.

In order to illustrate this, the Fed has even come up with its own illustration “explaining” inflation. Here it is, for your edification:

https://d24g2nq85gnwal.cloudfront.net/images/domestic-external-drivers-of-inflation.png

If the reader is of an age that he can remember the inventions of Rube Goldberg, who designed absurdly complicated machinery that accomplished little or nothing, he might see the resemblance of a Rube Goldberg design in the above illustration.

And yet, the Fed’s illustration can be regarded as effective. After spending several minutes taking in the above complex relationships, an individual would be unlikely to ask, “What did they leave out of the illustration?”

Well, what’s missing is the Fed itself.

As stated above, back in 1913, one of the goals in the creation of the Fed was to have an entity that had the power to create currency, which would mean the power to create inflation.

It’s a given that all governments tax their people. Governments are, by their very nature, parasitical entities that produce nothing but live off the production of others. And, so, it can be expected that any government will increase taxes as much and as often as it can get away with it. The problem is that, at some point, those being taxed rebel, and the government is either overthrown or the tax must be diminished. This dynamic has existed for thousands of years.

However, inflation is a bit of a magic trick. Now, remember, a magician does no magic. What he does is create an illusion, often through the employment of a distraction, which fools the audience into failing to understand what he’s really doing.

And, for a central bank, inflation is the ideal magic trick. The public do not see inflation as a tax; the magician has presented it as a normal and even necessary condition of a healthy economy.

However, what inflation (which has traditionally been defined as the increase in the amount of currency in circulation) really accomplishes is to devalue the currency through oversupply. And, of course, anyone who keeps his wealth (however large or small) in currency units loses a portion of their wealth with each devaluation.

In the 100-plus years since the creation of the Federal Reserve, the Fed has steadily inflated the US dollar. Over time, this has resulted in the dollar being devalued by over 97%.

The dollar is now virtually played out in value and is due for disposal. In order to continue to “tax” the American people through inflation, a reset is needed, with a new currency, which can then also be steadily devalued through inflation.

Once the above process is understood, it’s understandable if the individual feels that his government, along with the Fed, has been robbing him all his life. He’s right—it has.

And it’s done so without ever needing to point a gun to his head.

The magic trick has been an eminently successful one, and there’s no reason to assume that the average person will ever unmask and denounce the magician. However, the individual who understands the trick can choose to mitigate his losses. He or she can take measures to remove their wealth from any state that steadily imposes inflation upon their subjects and store it in physically possessed gold, silver and private cryptocurrency keys.

Source: ZeroHedge

 

Russia, China, India Unveil New Gold Trading Network

One of the most notable events in Russia’s precious metals market calendar is the annual “Russian Bullion Market” conference. Formerly known as the Russian Bullion Awards, this conference, now in its 10th year, took place this year on Friday 24 November in Moscow. Among the speakers lined up, the most notable inclusion was probably Sergey Shvetsov, First Deputy Chairman of Russia’s central bank, the Bank of Russia.

In his speech, Shvetsov provided an update on an important development involving the Russian central bank in the worldwide gold market, and gave further insight into the continued importance of physical gold to the long term economic and strategic interests of the Russian Federation.

Firstly, in his speech Shvetsov confirmed that the BRICS group of countries are now in discussions to establish their own gold trading system. As a reminder, the 5 BRICS countries comprise the Russian Federation, China, India, South Africa and Brazil.

Four of these nations are among the world’s major gold producers, namely, China, Russia, South Africa and Brazil. Furthermore, two of these nations are the world’s two largest importers and consumers of physical gold, namely, China and Russia. So what these economies have in common is that they all major players in the global physical gold market.

Shvetsov envisages the new gold trading system evolving via bilateral connections between the BRICS member countries, and as a first step Shvetsov reaffirmed that the Bank of Russia has now signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China (see below) on developing a joint trading system for gold, and that the first implementation steps in this project will begin in 2018.

Interestingly, the Bank of Russia first deputy chairman also discounted the traditional dominance of London and Switzerland in the gold market, saying that London and the Swiss trading operations are becoming less relevant in today’s world. He also alluded to new gold pricing benchmarks arising out of this BRICS gold trading cooperation.

BRICS cooperation in the gold market, especially between Russia and China, is not exactly a surprise, because it was first announced in April 2016 by Shvetsov himself when he was on a visit to China.

At the time Shvetsov, as reported by TASS in Russian, and translated here, said:

“We (the Central Bank of the Russian Federation and the People’s Bank of China) discussed gold trading. The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are major economies with large reserves of gold and an impressive volume of production and consumption of the precious metal. In China, gold is traded in Shanghai, and in Russia in Moscow. Our idea is to create a link between these cities so as to intensify gold trading between our markets.”

Also as a reminder, earlier this year in March, the Bank of Russia opened its first foreign representative office, choosing the location as Beijing in China. At the time, the Bank of Russia portrayed the move as a step towards greater cooperation between Russia and China on all manner of financial issues, as well as being a strategic partnership between the Bank of Russia and the People’s bank of China.

The Memorandum of Understanding on gold trading between the Bank of Russia and the People’s Bank of China that Shvetsov referred to was actually signed in September of this year when deputy governors of the two central banks jointly chaired an inter-country meeting on financial cooperation in the Russian city of Sochi, location of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

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Deputy Governors of the People’s Bank of China and Bank of Russia sign Memorandum on Gold Trading, Sochi, September 2017. Photo: Bank of Russia

National Security and Financial Terrorism

At the Moscow bullion market conference last week, Shvetsov also explained that the Russian State’s continued accumulation of official gold reserves fulfills the goal of boosting the Russian Federation’s national security. Given this statement, there should really be no doubt that the Russian State views gold as both as an important monetary asset and as a strategic geopolitical asset which provides a source of wealth and monetary power to the Russian Federation independent of external financial markets and systems.

And in what could either be a complete coincidence, or a coordinated update from another branch of the Russian monetary authorities, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov also appeared in public last weekend, this time on Sunday night on a discussion program on Russian TV channel “Russia 1”.

Siluanov’s discussion covered the Russian government budget and sanctions against the Russian Federation, but he also pronounced on what would happen in a situation where a foreign power attempted to seize Russian gold and foreign exchange reserves. According to Interfax, and translated here into English, Siluanov said that:

“If our gold and foreign currency reserves were ever seized, even if it was just an intention to do so, that would amount to financial terrorism. It would amount to a declaration of financial war between Russia and the party attempting to seize the assets.”

As to whether the Bank of Russia holds any of its gold abroad is debatable, because officially two-thirds of Russia’s gold is stored in a vault in Moscow, with the remaining one third stored in St Petersburg. But Silanov’s comment underlines the importance of the official gold reserves to the Russian State, and underscores why the Russian central bank is in the midst of one of the world’s largest gold accumulation exercises.

1800 Tonnes and Counting

From 2000 until the middle of 2007, the Bank of Russia held around 400 tonnes of gold in its official reserves and these holdings were relatively constant. But beginning in the third quarter 2007, the bank’s gold policy shifted to one of aggressive accumulation. By early 2011, Russian gold reserves had reached over 800 tonnes, by the end of 2014 the central bank held over 1200 tonnes, and by the end of 2016 the Russians claimed to have more than 1600 tonnes of gold.

Although the Russian Federation’s gold reserves are managed by the Bank of Russia, the central bank is under federal ownership, so the gold reserves can be viewed as belonging to the Russian Federation. It can therefore be viewed as strategic policy of the Russian Federation to have  embarked on this gold accumulation strategy from late 2007, a period that coincides with the advent of the global financial market crisis.

According to latest figures, during October 2017 the Bank of Russia added 21.8 tonnes to its official gold reserves, bringing its current total gold holdings to 1801 tonnes. For the year to date, the Russian Federation, through the Bank of Russia, has now announced additions of 186 tonnes of gold to its official reserves, which is close to its target of adding 200 tonnes of gold to the reserves this year.

With the Chinese central bank still officially claiming to hold 1842 tonnes of gold in its national gold reserves, its looks like the Bank of Russia, as soon as the first quarter 2018, will have the distinction of holdings more gold than the Chinese. That is of course if the Chinese sit back and don’t announce any additions to their gold reserves themselves.

https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user227218/imageroot/2017/11/29/RussiaReservesTst.pngThe Bank of Russia now has 1801 tonnes of gold in its official reserves

A threat to the London Gold Market

The new gold pricing benchmarks that the Bank of Russia’s Shvetsov signalled may evolve as part of a BRICS gold trading system are particularly interesting. Given that the BRICS members are all either large producers or consumers of gold, or both, it would seem likely that the gold trading system itself will be one of trading physical gold. Therefore the gold pricing benchmarks from such a system would be based on physical gold transactions, which is a departure from how the international gold price is currently discovered.

Currently the international gold price is established (discovered) by a combination of the London Over-the-Counter (OTC) gold market trading and US-centric COMEX gold futures exchange.

However, ‘gold’ trading in London and on COMEX is really trading of  very large quantities of synthetic derivatives on gold, which are completely detached from the physical gold market. In London, the derivative is fractionally-backed unallocated gold positions which are predominantly cash-settled, in New York the derivative is exchange-traded gold future contracts which are predominantly cash-settles and again are backed by very little real gold.

While the London and New York gold markets together trade virtually 24 hours, they interplay with the current status quo gold reference rate in the form of the LBMA Gold Price benchmark. This benchmark is derived twice daily during auctions held in London at 10:30 am and 3:00 pm between a handful of London-based bullion banks. These auctions are also for unallocated gold positions which are only fractionally-backed by real physical gold. Therefore, the de facto world-wide gold price benchmark generated by the LBMA Gold Price auctions has very little to do with physical gold trading.

Conclusion

It seems that slowly and surely, the major gold producing nations of Russia, China and other BRICS nations are becoming tired of the dominance of an international gold price which is determined in a synthetic trading environment which has very little to do with the physical gold market.

The Shanghai Gold Exchange’s Shanghai Gold Price Benchmark which was launched in April 2016 is already a move towards physical gold price discovery, and while it does not yet influence prices in the international market, it has the infrastructure in place to do so.

When the First Deputy Chairman of the Bank of Russia points to London and Switzerland as having less relevance, while spearheading a new BRICS cross-border gold trading system involving China and Russia and other “major economies with large reserves of gold and an impressive volume of production and consumption of the precious metal”, it becomes clear that moves are afoot by Russia, China and others to bring gold price discovery back to the realm of the physical gold markets. The icing on the cake in all this may be gold price benchmarks based on international physical gold trading.

Source: ZeroHedge

The ‘Dilemma From Hell’ Facing Central Banks

We present some somber reading on this holiday season from Macquarie Capital’s Viktor Shvets, who in this exclusive to ZH readers excerpt from his year-ahead preview, explains why central banks can no longer exit the “doomsday highway” as a result of a “dilemma from hell” which no longer has a practical, real-world resolution, entirely as a result of previous actions by the same central bankers who are now left with no way out from a trap they themselves have created.

* * *

It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world” – Chaos Theory.

There is a good chance that 2018 might fully deserve shrill voices and predictions of dislocations that have filled almost every annual preview since the Great Financial Crisis.

Whether it was fears of a deflationary bust, expectation of an inflationary break-outs, disinflationary waves, central bank policy errors, US$ surges or liquidity crunches, we pretty much had it all. However, for most investors, the last decade actually turned out to be one of the most profitable and the most placid on record. Why then have most investors underperformed and why are passive investment styles now at least one-third (or more likely closer to two-third) of the market and why have value investors been consistently crushed while traditional sector and style rotations failed to work? Our answer remains unchanged. There was nothing conventional or normal over the last decade, and we believe that neither would there be anything conventional over the next decade. We do not view current synchronized global recovery as indicative of a return to traditional business and capital market cycles that investors can ‘read’ and hence make rational judgements on asset allocations and sector rotations, based on conventional mean reversion strategies. It remains an article of faith for us that neither reintroduction of price discovery nor asset price volatility is any longer possible or even desirable.

However, would 2018, provide a break with the last decade? The answer to this question depends on one key variable. Are we witnessing a broad-based private sector recovery, with productivity and animal spirits coming back after a decade of hibernation, or is the latest reflationary wave due to similar reasons as in other recent episodes, namely (a) excess liquidity pumped by central banks (CBs); (b) improved co-ordination of global monetary policies, aimed at containing exchange rate volatility; and (c) China’s stimulus that reflated commodity complex and trade?

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The answer to this question would determine how 2018 and 2019 are likely to play out. If the current reflation has strong private sector underpinnings, then not only would it be appropriate for CBs to withdraw liquidity and raise cost of capital, but indeed these would bolster confidence, and erode pricing anomalies without jeopardizing growth or causing excessive asset price displacements. Essentially, the strength of private sector would determine the extent to which incremental financialization and public sector supports would be required. If on the other hand, one were to conclude that most of the improvement has thus far been driven by CBs nailing cost of capital at zero (or below), liquidity injections and China’s debt-fuelled growth, then any meaningful withdrawal of liquidity and attempts to raise cost of capital would be met by potentially violent dislocations of asset prices and rising volatility, in turn, causing contraction of aggregate demand and resurfacing of disinflationary pressures. We remain very much in the latter camp. As the discussion below illustrates, we do not see evidence to support private sector-led recovery concept. Rather, we see support for excess liquidity, distorted rates and China spending driving most of the improvement.

We have in the past extensively written on the core drivers of current anomalies. In a ‘nutshell’, we maintain that over the last three decades, investors have gradually moved from a world of scarcity and scale limitations, to a world of relative abundance and an almost unlimited scalability. The revolution started in early 1970s, but accelerated since mid-1990s. If history is any guide, the crescendo would occur over the next decade. In the meantime, returns on conventional human inputs and conventional capital will continue eroding while return on social and digital capital will continue rising. This promises to further increase disinflationary pressures (as marginal cost of almost everything declines to zero), while keeping productivity rates constrained, and further raising inequalities.

The new world is one of disintegrating pricing signals and where economists would struggle even more than usual, in defining economic rules. As Paul Romer argued in his recent shot at his own profession, a significant chunk of macro-economic theories that were developed since 1930s need to be discarded. Included are concepts such as ‘macro economy as a system in equilibrium’, ‘efficient market hypothesis’, ‘great moderation’ ‘irrelevance of monetary policies’, ‘there are no secular or structural factors, it is all about aggregate demand’, ‘home ownership is good for the economy’, ‘individuals are profit-maximizing rational economic agents’, ‘compensation determines how hard people work’, ‘there are stable preferences for consumption vs saving’ etc. Indeed, the list of challenges is growing ever longer, as technology and Information Age alters importance of relative inputs, and includes questions how to measure ‘commons’ and proliferating non-monetary and non-pricing spheres, such as ‘gig or sharing’ economies and whether the Philips curve has not just flattened by disappeared completely. The same implies to several exogenous concepts beloved by economists (such as demographics).

The above deep secular drivers that were developing for more than three decades, but which have become pronounced in the last 10-15 years, are made worse by the activism of the public sector. It is ironic that CBs are working hard to erode the real value of global and national debt mountains by encouraging higher inflation, when it was the public sector and CBs themselves which since 1980s encouraged accelerated financialization. As we asked in our recent review, how can CBs exit this ‘doomsday highway’?

Investors and CBs are facing a convergence of two hurricane systems (technology and over-financialization), that are largely unstoppable. Unless there is a miracle of robust private sector productivity recovery or unless public sector policies were to undergo a drastic change (such as merger and fiscal and monetary arms, introduction of minimum income guarantees, massive Marshall Plan-style investments in the least developed regions etc), we can’t see how liquidity can be withdrawn; nor can we see how cost of capital can ever increase. This means that CBs remain slaves of the system that they have built (though it must be emphasized on our behalf and for our benefit).

If the above is the right answer, then investors and CBs have to be incredibly careful as we enter 2018. There is no doubt that having rescued the world from a potentially devastating deflationary bust, CBs would love to return to some form of normality, build up ammunition for next dislocations and play a far less visible role in the local and global economies. Although there are now a number of dissenting voices (such as Larry Summers or Adair Turner) who are questioning the need for CB independence, it remains an article of faith for an overwhelming majority of economists. However, the longer CBs stay in the game, the less likely it is that the independence would survive. Indeed, it would become far more likely that the world gravitates towards China and Japan, where CB independence is largely notional.

Hence, the dilemma from hell facing CBs: If they pull away and remove liquidity and try to raise cost of capital, neither demand for nor supply of capital would be able to endure lower liquidity and flattening yield curves. On the other hand, the longer CBs persist with current policies, the more disinflationary pressures are likely to strengthen and the less likely is private sector to regain its primacy.

We maintain that there are only two ‘tickets’ out of this jail. First (and the best) is a sudden and sustainable surge in private sector productivity and second, a significant shift in public sector policies. Given that neither answer is likely (at least not for a while), a coordinated, more hawkish CB stance is akin to mixing highly volatile and combustible chemicals, with unpredictable outcomes.

Most economists do not pay much attention to liquidity or cost of capital, focusing almost entirely on aggregate demand and inflation. Hence, the conventional arguments that the overall stock of accommodation is more important than the flow, and thus so long as CBs are very careful in managing liquidity withdrawals and cost of capital raised very slowly, then CBs could achieve the desired objective of reducing more extreme asset anomalies, while buying insurance against future dislocation and getting ahead of the curve. In our view, this is where chaos theory comes in. Given that the global economy is leveraged at least three times GDP and value of financial instruments equals 4x-5x GDP (and potentially as much as ten times), even the smallest withdrawal of liquidity or misalignment of monetary policies could become an equivalent of flapping butterfly wings. Indeed, in our view, this is what flattening of the yield curves tells us; investors correctly interpret any contraction of liquidity or rise in rates, as raising a possibility of more disinflationary outcomes further down the road.

Hence, we maintain that the key risks that investors are currently running are ones to do with policy errors. Given that we believe that recent reflation was mostly caused by central bank liquidity, compressed interest rates and China stimulus, clearly any policy errors by central banks and China could easily cause a similar dislocation to what occurred in 2013 or late 2015/early 2016. When investors argue that both CBs and public authorities have become far more experienced in managing liquidity and markets, and hence, chances of policy errors have declined, we believe that it is the most dangerous form of hubris. One could ask, what prompted China to attempt a proper de-leveraging from late 2014 to early 2016, which was the key contributor to both collapse of commodity prices and global volatility? Similarly, one could ask what prompted the Fed to tighten into China’s deleveraging drive in Dec ’15. There is a serious question over China’s priorities, following completion of the 19th Congress, and whether China fully understands how much of the global reflation was due to its policy reversal to end deleveraging.

What does it mean for investors? We believe that it implies a higher than average risk, as some of the key underpinnings of the investment landscape could shift significantly, and even if macroeconomic outcomes were to be less stressful than feared, it could cause significant relative and absolute price re-adjustments. As highlighted in discussion below, financial markets are completely unprepared for higher volatility. For example, value has for a number of years systematically under performed both quality and growth. If indeed, CBs managed to withdraw liquidity without dislocating economies and potentially strengthening perception of growth momentum, investors might witness a very strong rotation into value. Although we do not believe that it would be sustainable, expectations could run ahead of themselves. Similarly, any spike in inflation gauges could lift the entire curve up, with massive losses for bondholders, and flowing into some of the more expensive and marginal growth stories.

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While it is hard to predict some of these shorter-term moves, if volatilities jump, CBs would need to reset the ‘background picture’. The challenge is that even with the best of intentions, the process is far from automatic, and hence there could be months of extended volatility (a la Dec’15-Feb’16). If one ignores shorter-term aberrations, we maintain that there is no alternative to policies that have been pursued since 1980s of deliberately suppressing and managing business and capital market cycles. As discussed in our recent note, this implies that a relatively pleasant ‘Kondratieff autumn’ (characterized by inability to raise cost of capital against a background of constrained but positive growth and inflation rates) is likely to endure. Indeed, two generations of investors grew up knowing nothing else. They have never experienced either scorching summers or freezing winters, as public sector refused to allow debt repudiation, deleveraging or clearance of excesses. Although this cannot last forever, there is no reason to believe that the end of the road would necessarily occur in 2018 or 2019. It is true that policy risks are more heightened but so is policy recognition of dangers.

We therefore remain constructive on financial assets (as we have been for quite some time), not because we believe in a sustainable and private sector-led recovery but rather because we do not believe in one, and thus we do not see any viable alternatives to an ongoing financialization, which needs to be facilitated through excess liquidity, and avoiding proper price and risk discovery, and thus avoiding asset price volatility.

Source: ZeroHedge

Fed Hints During Next Recession It Will Release Targeted ‘Universal Income’ and NIRP

In a moment of rare insight, two weeks ago in response to a question “Why is establishment media romanticizing communism? Authoritarianism, poverty, starvation, secret police, murder, mass incarceration? WTF?”, we said that this was simply a “prelude to central bank funded universal income”, or in other words, Fed-funded and guaranteed cash for everyone.

On Thursday afternoon, in a stark warning of what’s to come, San Francisco Fed President John Williams confirmed our suspicions when he said that to fight the next recession, global central bankers will be forced to come up with a whole new toolkit of “solutions”, as simply cutting interest rates won’t well, cut it anymore, and in addition to more QE and forward guidance – both of which were used widely in the last recession – the Fed may have to use negative interest rates, as well as untried tools including so-called price-level targeting or nominal-income targeting.

This is a bold, tactical admission that as a result of the aging workforce and the dramatic slack which still remains in the labor force that the US central bank will have to take drastic steps to preserve social order and cohesion.

According to Williams’, Reuters reports, central bankers should take this moment of “relative economic calm” to rethink their approach to monetary policy. Others have echoed Williams’ implicit admission that as a result of 9 years of Fed attempts to stimulate the economy – yet merely ending up with the biggest asset bubble in history – the US finds itself in a dead economic end, such as Chicago Fed Bank President Charles Evans, who recently urged a strategy review at the Fed, but Williams’ call for a worldwide review is considerably more ambitious.

Among Williams’ other suggestions include not only negative interest rates but also raising the inflation target – to 3%, 4% or more, in an attempt to crush debt by making life unbearable for the majority of the population – as it considers new monetary policy frameworks. Still, even the most dovish Fed lunatic has to admit that such strategies would have costs, including those that diverge greatly from the Fed’s current approach. Or maybe not: “price-level targeting, he said, is advantageous because it fits “relatively easily” into the current framework.”

Considering that for the better part of a decade the Fed prescribed lower rates and ZIRP as the cure to the moribund US economy, only to flip and then propose higher rates as the solution to all problems. It is not surprising that even the most insane proposals are currently being contemplated because they fit “relatively easily” into the current framework.

Additionally, confirming that the Fed has learned nothing at all, during a Q&A in San Francisco, Williams said that “negative interest rates need to be on the list” of potential tools the Fed could use in a severe recession. He also said that QE remains more effective in terms of cost-benefit, but “would not exclude that as an option if the circumstances warranted it.”

“If all of us get stuck at the lower bound” then “policy spillovers are far more negative,” Williams said of global economic interconnectedness. “I’m not pushing for” some “United Nations of policy.”

And, touching on our post from mid-September, in which we pointed out that the BOC was preparing to revising its mandate, Williams also said that “the Fed and all central banks should have Canada-like practice of revisiting inflation target every 5 years.”

Meanwhile, the idea of Fed targeting, or funding, “income” is hardly new: back in July, Deutsche Bank was the first institution to admit that the Fed has created “universal basic income for the rich”:

The accommodation and QE have acted as a free insurance policy for the owners of risk, which, given the demographics of stock market participation, in effect has functioned as universal basic income for the rich. It is not difficult to see how disruptive unwind of stimulus could become. Clearly, in this context risk has become a binding constraint.

It is only “symmetric” that everyone else should also benefit from the Fed’s monetary generosity during the next recession. 

* * *

Finally, for those curious what will really happen after the next “great liquidity crisis”, JPM’s Marko Kolanovic laid out a comprehensive checklist one month ago. It predicted not only price targeting (i.e., stocks), but also negative income taxes, progressive corporate taxes, new taxes on tech companies, and, of course, hyperinflation. Here is the excerpt.

What will governments and central banks do in the scenario of a great liquidity crisis? If the standard rate cutting and bond purchases don’t suffice, central banks may more explicitly target asset prices (e.g., equities). This may be controversial in light of the potential impact of central bank actions in driving inequality between asset owners and labor. Other ‘out of the box’ solutions could include a negative income tax (one can call this ‘QE for labor’), progressive corporate tax, universal income and others. To address growing pressure on labor from AI, new taxes or settlements may be levied on Technology companies (for instance, they may be required to pick up the social tab for labor destruction brought by artificial intelligence, in an analogy to industrial companies addressing environmental impacts). While we think unlikely, a tail risk could be a backlash against central banks that prompts significant changes in the monetary system. In many possible outcomes, inflation is likely to pick up.

The next crisis is also likely to result in social tensions similar to those witnessed 50 years ago in 1968. In 1968, TV and investigative journalism provided a generation of baby boomers access to unfiltered information on social developments such as Vietnam and other proxy wars, Civil rights movements, income inequality, etc. Similar to 1968, the internet today (social media, leaked documents, etc.) provides millennials with unrestricted access to information on a surprisingly similar range of issues. In addition to information, the internet provides a platform for various social groups to become more self-aware, united and organized. Groups span various social dimensions based on differences in income/wealth, race, generation, political party affiliations, and independent stripes ranging from alt-left to alt-right movements. In fact, many recent developments such as the US presidential election, Brexit, independence movements in Europe, etc., already illustrate social tensions that are likely to be amplified in the next financial crisis. How did markets evolve in the aftermath of 1968? Monetary systems were completely revamped (Bretton Woods), inflation rapidly increased, and equities produced zero returns for a decade. The decade ended with a famously wrong Businessweek article ‘the death of equities’ in 1979.

Kolanovic’s warning may have sounded whimsical one month ago. Now, in light of Williams’ words, it appears that it may serve as a blueprint for what comes next.

Source: ZeroHedge

Mid-November Chart Check

Still no sign of a rebound:

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Home prices rising about 6% annually and loans now growing at under 4% annually looks in line with at best flat housing sales:

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Looks like the blip up as hurricane destroyed vehicles were replaced has run its course:

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This had looked like it peaked a couple of years ago, but since went back up to new highs:

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By Warren Mosler | Investment Watch Blog

 

Rental Nation: Unique ‘Solution’ Emerges To Address Flood Of Off-Lease Vehicles … Lease Them Again

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ZeroHedge has written frequently of late about the coming wave of off-lease vehicles that threatens to flood the used car market with excess supply, crush used car prices and simultaneously wreak havoc on the new car market as well. 

As they’ve recently noted (see: “Flood Of Off-Lease Vehicles” Set To Wreak Havoc On New Car Sales), the percentage of new car ‘sales’ moving off dealer lots via leases has nearly tripled since late 2009 when they hit a low of just over 10%.  Over the past 6 years, new leases, as a percent of overall car sales, has soared courtesy of, among other things, low interest rates, stable/rising used car prices and a nation of rental-crazed citizens for whom monthly payment is the only metric used to evaluate a “good deal”…even though leasing a new vehicle is pretty much the worst ‘deal’ you can possibly find for a rapidly depreciating brand new asset like a car…but we digress.

Of course, what goes up must eventually come down.  And all those leases signed on millions of brand new cars over the past several years are about to come off lease and flood the market with cheap, low-mileage used inventory.  By the end of 2019, an estimated 12 million low-mileage vehicles are coming off leases inked during a 2014-2016 spurt in new auto sales, according to estimates by Atlanta-based auto auction firm Manheim and Reuters.

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So, what do you do when you’re industry is being threatened with a massive oversupply situation that could wipe out all pricing power for years to come?  Well, since reducing production is simply not tenable, one group of used car dealers in Wisconsin has an alternative solution…delay the problem for as long as possible by starting up a new used car leasing program. Per Ward’s Auto:

In a pioneering move, the 10-store Van Horn Group now leases used cars.

The 10-store dealership group in Plymouth, WI, began doing it to serve more customers and expand its pre-owned vehicle inventory, says Mark Watson, vice president-variable operations.

Used-car leasing is something of a rarity. But more and more dealers – such as George Glassman of the Southfield, MI-based Glassman Automotive Group – say it’s a good idea whose time has come and manufacturers should get behind it to help remarket waves of vehicles coming off-lease. That number is approaching 4 million a year.

“We are trying to create with used vehicles a unique position, one that allows us to put the client into more vehicle at a lower payment through a lease,” he says.

“Used car leases are an additional revenue opportunity and keep relationships strong with the bank,” says Tonya Stahl, Wisconsin Consumer Credit’s vice president-operations. “It helps us exceed customer expectations by providing flexible finance options for a successful and continual business relationship.”

Of course, while Van Horn’s used car leases provide a great opportunity for him to “double-dip” by effectively selling his used car inventory twice, it does very little to address the underlying problem of oversupply aside from marginally expanding the pool of potential buyers by lowering monthly payments.

Moreover, as Wards notes, used car leasing is not necessarily a new phenomenon as it has historically popped up during previous economic cycles when the auto industry faced similar problems.  That said, in past cycles at least, the concept was quickly scrapped after banks realized it’s nearly impossible to accurately underwrite the risk on a used vehicle when you have absolutely no idea how badly the car may or may not have been abused by it’s first owner.

Used-car leasing is not a new idea, although in the past it has been promoted sporadically, at best.  Could used-car leasing now become more mainstream, with a combination of the right new technology and, to put it bluntly, the renewed motivation to forestall a residual-value crisis?

Back when I was in auto retail, some banks did used-car leasing, as some captives do now, and some retailers did well with it, but it was not sustained by financial institutions.

Used-car lease retailers were hard to find, and not that well promoted. Worse, if trying to calculate a new-car lease back then was difficult (we are talking 1980s and 1990s), cyphering a used-car lease was pretty much impossible.

Unlike a new car, every used vehicle is unique, with a unique payment and residual (and forecasting wasn’t as sophisticated back then). Of course, we didn’t have automated vehicle-history reports (so some finance institutions were the victims of fraud on occasion, which no doubt led to the demise of used-vehicle leasing programs.

In the end, of course, this just moves most Americans one step closer to eternal financial hardship as profits are increasingly consolidated into the hands of monopolistic financial institutions who are all too happy to make you think that lower monthly payments are a “great deal” for you when in fact they only serve to insure that you never build any wealth and you never actually own any assets.

Source: ZeroHedge