Category Archives: Banking

The Federal Reserve Is A Barbarous Relic

The Sky is Falling

“We believe monetary policy is in a good place.”

– Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, October 30, 2019.

The man from good place. “As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today, Oh how I wish he’d go away!” [PT]

Ptolemy I Soter, in his history of the wars of Alexander the Great, related an episode from Alexander’s 334 BC compact with the Celts ‘who dwelt by the Ionian Gulf.’  According to Ptolemy’s account, which survives via quote by Arrian of Nicomedia some 450 years later, when Alexander asked the Celtic envoys what they feared most, they answered:

“We fear no man: there is but one thing that we fear, namely, that the sky should fall on us.”

 Today, at the risk of being called Chicken Little, we tug on a thread that weaves back to the ancient Celts.  Our message is grave: The sky is falling.  Though the implications are still unclear.

Various Celts – left: fearsome warriors; middle: fearsome warriors afraid of the sky falling on their heads; right: Cernunnos, fearsome Celtic horned god amid his collection of skulls. [PT]

The sky, for our purposes, is the debt based dollar reserve standard that has been in place for the past 48 years. If you recall, on August 15, 1971, President Nixon “temporarily” suspended convertibility of the dollar into gold.  The dollar  became wholly the fiat money of the Treasury.

At the G-10 Rome meeting held in late-1971, Treasury Secretary John Connally reduced the new dollar reserve standard to a bite-sized nugget for his European finance minister counterparts, stating:

“The dollar is our currency, but it’s your problem.”

The Nixon-Connally tag team in the White House. [PT]

Predictably, without the restraint of gold, the quantity of debt based money has increased seemingly without limits – and it is everyone’s massive problem.  What’s more, over the past 30 years the Federal Reserve has obliged Washington with cheaper and cheaper credit.

Hence, public, private, and corporate debt levels in the U.S. have multiplied beyond comprehension.  Total US debt is now on the order of $74 trillion.  \The consequences, no doubt, are an economy that is equally distorted and disfigured beyond comprehension.

Behold the debt-berg in all its terrible glory. [PT]

Selective Blind Spots

America is no longer a dynamic, free-market economy.  Rather, the economy is stagnant and operates under the central planning authority of Washington and the Fed. The illusion of prosperity is simulated by spending trillions of dollars funded by history’s greatest debt bubble.

Simple arithmetic shows the country is headed for economic catastrophe. Clearly, Social Security and Medicare face long-term financial challenges. Current workers must shoulder a greater and greater burden to pay for the benefits of retired workers.

At the same time, the world that brought the debt based dollar reserve standard into being no longer exists. Yet the dollar reserve standard and the Federal Reserve still remain as legacy institutions.

The divergence between the world as it exists – with its massive trade imbalances, massive debt loads, wealth inequality, and inflated asset prices – and the legacy dollar reserve standard is irreversible. Unless the unstable condition that has developed is allowed to transform naturally, there will be outright collapse.

Rather than adopting policies that allow for economic transformation and minimizing the ultimate disruption of a collapse, today’s planners and policy makers are doing everything they can to hold the failing financial order together.  They are deeply invested academically and professionally; their livelihoods depend on it.

You see, selective blind spots of the best and brightest are normal when the sky is falling.  For example, in 1989, just two years before the Soviet Union collapsed, Paul Samuelson – the “Father of Modern Day Economics” –  and co-author William Nordhaus, wrote:

“The Soviet economy is proof that, contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function and even thrive.” – Paul Samuelson and William Nordhaus, Economics, 13th ed. [New York: McGraw Hill, 1989], p. 837.

Could Samuelson and Nordhaus possibly have been more clueless?

The bizarre chart illustrating the alleged “growth miracle” of the “superior” Soviet command economy, as seen by Samuelson – published about one and a half years before the Soviet Bloc imploded in what was undoubtedly the biggest bankruptcy in history. [PT]

The Federal Reserve is a Barbarous Relic

On Wednesday, following the October federal open market committee (FOMC) meeting, the Federal Reserve stated that it will cut the federal funds rate 25 basis points to a range of 1.5 to 1.75. No surprise there.

But the real insights were garnered several days earlier.  Leading up to the FOMC meeting Fed Chair Jerome Powell received some public encouragement from one of his former cohorts –  former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Bill Dudley.  What follows is an excerpt of Dudley’s mental diarrhea, which he released in a Bloomberg Opinion article on Monday:

“People shouldn’t be as worried as they are about the risk of a U.S. recession. That said, it wouldn’t take much to trigger one, which is why the Federal Reserve should take out some insurance by providing added stimulus this week.

“Sometimes, an adverse event and human psychology can reinforce each other in such a way that they bring about a recession. Given how slowly the economy is growing, even a modest shock could do the trick.

“This danger bolsters the argument for the Fed to ease monetary policy at this week’s meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee. Such a preemptive move will reduce the chances that the economy will slow sufficiently to hit stall speed. Even if the insurance turns out to be unnecessary, the potential consequences aren’t bad. It just means that the economy will be stronger and the inflation rate will likely move more quickly back toward the Fed’s 2 percent target.”

Retired former central planner Bill Dudley. These days an armchair planner, and as deluded as ever. [PT]

Dudley, like Samuelson, believes he can aggregate economic data and plot it on a graph; and, then, by fixing the price of credit, he can make the graphs appear more to his liking. He also believes he can preempt a recession by making ‘insurance’ rate cuts to stimulate the economy.

Like Samuelson, Dudley doesn’t have a clue. The Fed cannot preemptively stop a recession.  And after the dot com bubble and bust, the housing bubble and bust, the great financial crisis, zero interest rate policy, negative interest rate policy, quantitative easing, operation twist, quantitative tightening, reserve management, and many other failures, the Fed’s standing is clear to everyone but Dudley…

The Federal Reserve is a barbarous relic. The next downturn will be its death knell.  Alas, what comes after the Fed will probably be even worse. Populism demands it.

Source: by NM Gordon | ZeroHedge

 

How QE Has Radically Changed The Nature Of The West’s Financial System

 

‘Because they are so ensconsed in their little bubble and because they profit so much from maintaining the status quo, Western mainstream media pundits don’t – or perhaps can’t – admit how Quantitative Easing policies have so quickly and so radically changed the financial system of the West and their satellites’

(Authored by Ramin Mazaheri via The Saker blog,) I imagine that most everyone reading this is already aware of what has transpired economically across the West over the last decade:

  • Elite-class asset (stuff rich people own – stocks, real estate, financial derivatives, luxury goods, etc.) prices have ballooned to pre-2008 levels.
  • Debt (which is, of course, another elite-owned asset), mainly to pay for banker bailouts and their usurious interest levels, has ballooned national accounts to incredible levels.
  • The “real” economy has only weakened, as proven by endemic low economic growth across the West and Japan.

Similarly, I imagine that everyone reading this is generally aware of what will happen should the West stop easy money: obviously, once artificial demand is no longer being fabricated then these assets will plummet in value, with huge ripple effects in the “real” economy. The West will be right back to dealing with most of the same toxic assets they had back in 2007, but now compounded by a decade of more debt, more interest payments, and a “real” economy which was made weaker via austerity.

None of that is really “news” to a smart reader… but it is “news” to many dumb journalists.

Continue reading

Global Debt & Liquidity Crisis Update: Fed Injects $134BN In Liquidity, Term Repo Oversubscribed Amid Month-End Liquidity Panic

‘The volume of billions being lent into existence from nothing by the Fed to bail banks out will go parabolic. It must, otherwise credit will freeze, asset prices will fall, forced bank depositor bail-ins will ensue’

With stocks threatening to close in the red, late on Wednesday the Fed sparked a furious last hour rally…

… when in a statement published at 1515ET, precisely when the S&P ramp started, the New York Fed confirmed it would dramatically increase both its overnight and term liquidity provisions beginning tomorrow through November 14th.

The Desk has released an update to the schedule of repurchase agreement (repo) operations for the current monthly period.  Consistent with the most recent FOMC directive, to ensure that the supply of reserves remains ample even during periods of sharp increases in non-reserve liabilities, and to mitigate the risk of money market pressures that could adversely affect policy implementation…

As we noted yesterday, that was a massive 60% increase in the overnight repo liquidity availability (from $75 billion to $120 billion) and a 28% jump in the term repo provision (from $35 billion to $45 billion).

“It’s just more evidence the Fed will not back off as year-end gets closer,” said Wells Fargo’s rates strategist, Mike Schumacher. “The Fed wants to take out more insurance. You had repo pick up last week. That might not have gone over too well.”

And now we know that there was good reason for that, because according to the latest, just concluded Term Repo operation, a whopping $62.15BN in securities were submitted to the Fed’s 14-day operation, ($47.55BN in TSYs, $14.6BN in MBS), resulting in a 1.38x oversubscribed term operation, the second consecutive oversubscription following Tuesday’s Term Repo, when $52.2BN in securities were submitted into the Fed’s then-$35BN operation.

This was the highest uptake of the Fed’s term repo operation since Sept 26.

But wait there’s more, because while the upsized term-repo saw the biggest (oversubscribed) uptake in one month, demand for the Fed’s overnight repo also soared, with dealers submitting 89.2BN in securities for the newly upsized, $120BN operation.

In total, between the $45BN term repo and the $89.2BN overnight repo, the Fed just injected a whopping $134.2BN in liquidity just to make sure the US banking system is stable. That, as the Fed’s balance sheet soared by $200BN in the past month rising to just shy of $4 trillion.

Meanwhile, funding tensions weren’t evident only in repo, but also in the Fed’s T-Bill POMO, where as we noted yesterday, demand for liquidity has also been increasing with every subsequent operation, peaking with yesterday’s operation.

Needless to say, if the funding shortage was getting better, none of this would be happening; instead it appears that with every passing day the liquidity shortage is getting worse, even as the Fed’s balance sheet is surging.

The only possible explanation, is someone really needed to lock in cash for month end (the maturity of the op is on Nov 7) which is when a “No Deal” Brexit may go live, and as a result one or more banks are bracing for the worst. The question, as before,  remains why: just what is the source of this unprecedented spike in liquidity needs in a system which already has $1.5 trillion in excess reserves? And while we await the answer, expect stocks to close pleasantly in the green as dealers transform their newly granted liquidity into bets on risk assets.

‘The powers that shouldn’t be would rather us experience a mad max world while they hide in luxury bunkers, than allow us a treasury issued gold backed currency, absent a central bank once again’

Source: ZeroHedge

“We’re Being Robbed” – Central Bank ‘Stimulus’ Is Really A Huge Redistribution Scheme

When an economy turns from expansion to contraction there is an order of events. The first signs are an unexpected increase in inventories of unsold goods, both accompanied with and followed by business surveys indicating a general softening in demand. For monetarists, this is often confirmed by an inverting yield curve, which tells them that at the margin the short-term rates set by the central bank are becoming too high for business conditions.

That was the position for the US 10-year bond less the 2-year bond very briefly at the end of August, since when this measure, which is often taken to predict recessions, has turned mildly positive again. A generally negative sentiment, fueled mainly by the escalating tariff war between America and China, had earlier alerted investors to an international trade slowdown, expected to undermine the American economy in due course along with all the others. It stands to reason that backward-looking statistics have yet to reflect the global slowdown on the US economy, which is still buoyed up by consumer credit. The German economy, which is driven by production rather than consumption is perhaps a better guide and is already in recession.

So reliant have markets become on monetary expansion that the default assumption is that an economy will always be rescued from recession by an easing of monetary policy, and furthermore that monetary inflation will prevent it from being any more than mild and short. We see this in the performance of stock market indices, which reflect perpetual optimism.

There is a further problem. Other than a rise in bankruptcies, unemployment and negative indications from business surveys, there may be no statistical evidence of a slump. The reason this is almost certainly the case is we are dealing with a combination of funny money and statistics which are simply not fit for measuring anything. The money and credit are backed by nothing, and when expanded by the banking system simply dilutes the quantity of existing money, which if continued is bound to end up impoverishing everyone with cash balances and whose wages and profits do not increase at least as fast as the surge in the quantity of money.

Indeed, the official purpose of the expansion of money and credit is to somehow persuade economic actors that things are better than they really are, and to stimulate those animal spirits. You’d think that with this policy now being continually in operation that people would have become aware of the dilution fraud. But as Keynes, the architect of it all said, not one man in a million understands money, and in this he has been proved right.

For five years, the ECB has applied negative interest rates on commercial bank reserves, and commercial banks have paid €21.4bn to it in deposit interest. Since it introduced negative interest rates, it has injected some €2.7 trillion of base money into the Eurozone economy, increasing M1, the narrower measure of the money quantity, by 61%. Almost all of it has supported the finances of Eurozone governments.

The effect on broader money, which includes bank credit, has been to increase M3 by 30%. Far from stimulation, this is daylight robbery perpetrated on everyone’s liquidity and cash deposits. It is a tax on the purchasing power of their wages.

The ECB is not alone. Since Lehman went under, the major central banks have collectively increased their balance sheets from $7 trillion to $19.4 trillion, an increase of 177%. Most of this monetary expansion has been to buy government bonds, providing a money-fountain for profligate governments. The purpose of money-printing is always to finance government spending, not to stimulate or ease conditions for the private sector: while some trusting souls in the system believe it is for the latter, that amounts to just a myth.

Due to the flood of new money the yields on government debt have been depressed, giving holders of this debt, principally the banks, a nice fat capital profit. But that is not the purpose of all this monetary largess: it is to make it ultra-cheap for governments to borrow yet more and to encourage banks to expand credit in their governments’ favor. Just listen to the central bankers now encouraging governments to take the opportunity to ease fiscal policy, extend their debts and borrow even more.

Central banks pretend all these benefits come at no cost to anyone. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a perpetual motion of money creation, and someone ultimately pays the price. But who pays for it all? Why, it is the wage-earner and saver and anyone else with deposits at the bank. They are also robbed of the compounding interest their pension funds would otherwise receive. These are the very people who, in a bizarre twist of macroeconomic logic, we are told benefit from having the prices of their everyday purchases continually increased.

Attempts to measure the supposed benefits of inflation on the general public are in turn dishonest, with the true rise in prices concealed in official calculations of price inflation. Suppressed evidence of rising prices is then applied to estimates of GDP to make them “real”. For the purpose of measuring the true condition of an economy these official statistics are taken as gospel by both the commentariat and investors.

We cannot know the accumulating economic cost of cycles of progressively greater monetary inflation, because all government statistics are based on the lie that money is a constant, when in fact it has become the greatest variable in everyone’s life. The transfer of wealth from all consumers through monetary debasement is an act of impoverishment, and to the extent it is not offset in other ways the economy as a whole suffers.

Source: Authored by Alasdair Macleod via The Mises Institute, | ZeroHedge

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Are The Rating Agencies Complicit In Another Massive Scandal: A WSJ Investigation Leads To Shocking Questions

“It’s pretty eye-popping if you’ve been doing this for 20-plus years, to see how much more leverage a number of these companies can incur with the same credit rating.”

Did Something Just Snap? US Policy Uncertainty Unexpectedly Soars Above Lehman, Sept 11 Levels

With US equity markets within one percent of all-time record highs, and US equity risk back near cycle lows, one could be forgiven for ‘believing’ that all is well in the world.

A China trade deal is imminent, right? A Brexit deal is imminent, right? Turkey ceasefire, right?

Well, according to The Baker, Bloom and Davis daily news-based Economic Policy Uncertainty Index (based on newspaper archives from Access World New’s NewsBank service), US economic policy uncertainty has never, ever been higher than it is currently…

All hands are on deck, like never before, to prevent a credit freeze…

Global Debt & Liquidity Crisis Update: Repo Locking Up Again As Overnight Fed Operation Oversubscribed, Repo Rate Jumps

‘The Fed is an outpost of a foreign power that controls our economy, most of our politics and our financial future. It’s an instrument of the Rothschild global cabal. It always has been since 1913’

First it was supposed to be just a mid-month tax payment issue coupled with an accelerated cash rebuild by the US Treasury. Then, it was supposed to be just quarter-end pressure. Then, once the Fed rolled out QE4 while keeping both its overnight and term repo operations, the mid-September repo rate fireworks which sent the overnight G/C repo rate as high as 10% was supposed to go away for good as Powell admitted the level of reserves was too low and the Fed launched a $60BN/month Bill POMO to boost the Fed’s balance sheet.

Bottom line: the ongoing repo market pressure – which indicated that one or more banks were severely liquidity constrained – was supposed to be a non-event.

Alas, as of this morning when the Fed’s latest repo operation was once again oversubscribed, it appears that the repo turmoil is not only not going away, but is in fact (to paraphrase Joe Biden) getting worse, because even with both term and overnight repos in play and with the market now expecting the Fed to start injecting copious liquidity tomorrow with the first Bill POMO, banks are still cash starved.

To wit: in its latest overnight operation, the Fed indicated that $80.35BN in collateral ($74.7BN in TSYs, $5.65BN in MBS) had been submitted into an operation that maxed out at $75BN, with a weighted average rate on both TSY and MBS rising to 1.823% and 1.828% respectively.

While it was clear that the repo market was tightening in the past week, with each incremental overnight repo operation rising, today was the first oversubscribed repo operation since September 25, and follows yesterday’s $67.6BN repo and $20.1BN term repo.

But the clearest sign that the repo market is freezing up again came from the overnight general collateral rate itself, which after posting in the 1.80%-1.90% range for much of the past two weeks, spiked as high as 2.275% overnight and was last seen at 2.15%, well above the fed funds upper range…

‘The powers that be would rather us experience a mad max world while they hide in luxury bunkers, than allow a treasury issued gold backed currency, absent a central bank once again’

Source: ZeroHedge

Fed Announces QE4 One Day After BIS Warns QE Has Broken The Market

Following Fed Chair Powell’s surprising announcement today that the Fed was resuming Permanent Open Market Operations after a 5 year hiatus, just as we said last month that it would (see “The Fed Will Restart QE In November: This Is How It Will Do It“)…

… there was a brief debate whether the Fed’s soon to be permanent expansion in its balance sheet is QE or not QE. The answer to this semantic debate simple: Powell defined Quantitative Tightening as removing reserves from the system. Thus, by that simple definition, adding reserves to the system on a permanent basis via permanent open market operations, i.e., bond purchases, is Quantitative Easing. Incidentally, the repo market fireworks were just a smokescreen: the real reason why the Fed is resuming QE is far simpler: the US has facing an avalanche of debt issuance and with China and Japan barely able to keep up, someone has to buy this debt. That someone: the Fed.

And just to shut up anyone who still wants to call the upcoming $400BN expansion in the Fed’s balance sheet, as represented in the following chart by Goldman…

… QE-Lite, here is JPMorgan comparing what is coming with what has been: at a $21BN in monthly 10Yr equivalent TSY purchases, the “upcoming” operation is the same size as QE1.

Yet semantic bullshit aside, what is most infuriating about Powell’s “shocking” announcement (which we previewed a few weeks ago) is that it took place just one day after the central banks’ central bank, the Bank of International Settlements, finally caught up with what we first said in 2009 – for economists being only 10 years behind the curve is actually not terrible – and wrote that “the unprecedented growth in central banks’ balance sheets since the financial crisis has had a negative impact on the way in which financial markets function.”

Ignoring the fact that central bank policies are responsible for such phenomena as Brexit and Trump, as it is the flawed monetary policy of the past decade that made the rich richer beyond their wildest dreams by expanding the biggest asset bubble in history, while destroying the middle class…

… it is disgusting that even as the Fed’s own supervisor admits that its balance sheet expanding policies have broken the market – something this “tinfoil” conspiracy blog has been saying since 2008 – the Fed is doing even more of the same, ensuring that the market will be more broken than ever!

So what was this startling epiphany? According to the BIS, while the immediate impact of this massive balance sheet expansion had eased the severe market strains created by the 2008 financial crisis, there had been several negative side-effects. These included a scarcity of bonds available for investors to purchase, squeezed liquidity in some markets, higher levels of bank reserves and fewer market operators actively trading in some areas.

In short: last month’s repo crisis is a direct consequence of central banks’ own actions. as Scott Skyrm explained earlier.

“Lower trading volumes and price volatility, compressed credit spreads and flatter term structures may reduce the attractiveness of investing and dealing in bond markets,” the BIS said in the Monday report. “Some players may leave the market altogether, resulting in a more concentrated and homogenous set of investors and fewer dealers.”

This “could result in market malfunctioning when large central bank balance sheets are eventually unwound”, the BIS warned, adding that “it could make it more difficult for reserves to be redistributed effectively between market participants.” Of course, the BIS was clearly joking because even five-year olds know balance sheets will never be unwound.

Additionally, the BIS went on to point out that negative impacts have been more prevalent when central banks hold a larger share of outstanding assets, as the FT reportedmajor central banks’ holdings of domestic sovereign bonds range from 20% of outstanding paper at the US Fed to over 40% in Japan.

But the BIS said these side-effects had so far only rarely affected financial conditions in such a way as to impede central banks’ monetary policymaking, though it added that the full consequences were unlikely to become clear until major central banks started to shrink their balance sheets.

Worse, the BIS noted that regulations demanding liquidity at large banks might discourage the banks from offering to lend out their reserves — a source of same-day liquidity — into overnight markets. This is similar to what the large banks themselves have said in the last month. But the BIS also noted that since the financial crisis, risk management practices might have changed within the banks themselves.

Sadly, the Fed – which is fully aware of all of this – decided to ignore everything the BIS warned about, and by launching more POMO/QE/”don’t call it QE”, just ensured that the next financial crisis will be the last one.

“So looks like the banks are being re-capitalized, (bailed out) and lower rates are coming, zero or negative.. well.. now the banks can borrow cash for zero, or less directly from the Fed., then shell out loans and credit cards at exorbitant rates to We The People… oh… you are not supposed to know this… (don’t share)…”

Source: ZeroHedge