Art Cashin FTW: "QE2 Is Beginning To Look Like An Open-Air Multi-Month Version Of The PPT"

Tyler Durden's picture

Art Cashin is being extra nimble today. Nimbler than ever, in fact.

The Fed And The Election – Various pundits have cited various “messages” sent by the voters on election day. For Ben Bernanke there was only one message – “It’s up to you, Ben”.

Given the evident gridlock the election produced and the “stop spending” theme, there is almost no likelihood of any new fiscal stimulus package. Therefore, any attempt to keep the economy from stalling will have to come from the Fed and monetary policy.
The Fed is frustrated. They have kept interest rates at zero for many, many months but borrowing has not been increased. People continue to pay down debt rather than take on more.

It is becoming far more evident that the true purpose of QE2 is not to hold down interest rates. It is, instead, to raise asset prices, especially stock prices.

Since 1987, conspiracy theorists have maintained that the government operates a secret “plunge protection team” (PPT). Like most conspiracy theories, the PPT is hogwash and not much different from the guy who screams “the race was fixed” when his horse lost. I have listed the many reasons why the PPT is all smoke and mirrors over the years. So to save space, I won’t repeat.

That having been said, QE2 is beginning to look like an open-air multi-month version of the PPT. It looks like one of the primary assets the Fed wants to inflate is the stock market. That might produce a wealth effect as 401Ks heal and higher highs make the economy appear to be moving even as it plods along.

We’ll try to explore this further in coming days.

Meanwhile doubts about the efficacy of QE2 and the risks inherent in it continue to mount. Here’s a bit from Phil Izzo at the

QE2 Criticism: Martin Feldstein is worried about the effects of more Fed asset purchases. “The Federal Reserve’s proposed policy of quantitative easing is a dangerous gamble with only a small potential upside benefit and substantial risks of creating asset bubbles that could destabilise the global economy. Although the US economy is weak and the outlook uncertain, QE is not the right remedy… Like all bubbles, these exaggerated increases can rapidly reverse when interest rates return to normal levels. The greatest danger will then be to leveraged investors, including individuals who bought these assets with borrowed money and banks that hold long-term securities. These risks should be clear after the recent crisis driven by the bursting of asset price bubbles. Although the specific asset prices that are now rising are different from last time, the possibility of damaging declines when bubbles burst is worryingly similar.”

Lots to stay nimble and wary about.

And the history lesson, is so very appropriately, about a circus:


On this day in 1902, a company that would become an American institution began producing a product that became an American institution by copying part of an American institution. (What did he say??)

The company is one we now call Nabisco. The product we now call Animal Crackers. And of course, they were patterned and packaged to evoke the adventure and mystery of Barnum and Bailey's Travelling Circus.

Barnum of course was dead, dead as a doornail. (Whoops sorry...wrong story!) Anyway, although Mr. Barnum had passed on several years before, the circus that he had merged with James Bailey's Big Top was one of the biggest things in America in 1902. So the National Biscuit Company decided to combine the old European custom of cookies in animal shapes with the popularity of Barnum's circus. The plan was to make it a seasonal product - a Christmas treat.

So they packaged the little animal shapes in a box painted to look like a cage at the circus. Each box was labeled..."Barnum's Animals." And to allow parents to hang the box on the Christmas tree, they added that little white string. It was a pretty good plan for a seasonal product. so often happens in American business and politics...the public turned the plan on its head.

As soon as they got their boxes kids began sorting the animals to see what types there were. Since the boxes were filled at random, often you found several buffalo, or tiger, or zebra, etc. in your box of 22 crackers. But, by comparing with kids next door and kids at school, moppets soon discovered there were 18 different crackers and 17 different animals. By accident the random filling meant that you rarely got a complete set in one box. So you either trade at school (nah! you'll probably eat 'em on the way home) or ask Mom or Dad to "pulleeze" buy one more box.

Oh yes! Lest I forget there was that white string for hanging on the tree. Well in a gender-neutral way that today's sex police say is impossible - neither boys nor girls felt it was exclusionary. The girls used the string to make the box like a purse. The boys used the string to make the box like a toolbox. (That was clearly before we learned the danger of letting children use their childlike imagination.) At any rate, the National Biscuit Company found the immediate demand was so strong that Animal Crackers instantly ceased to be a seasonal item and became one of the best selling products in U.S. history. They became the source of a hit song for Shirley Temple and the title of a Marx Brothers movie.

Markets went a bit crackers on the Fed announcement as the tape demonstrated its historic tendency to confuse traders and investors.

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Bill Lumbergh's picture

As much as I like Art, how can he say PPT does not exist when there was an order to create the team:

Former Federal Reserve Board member Robert Heller, in the Wall Street Journal, opined that "Instead of flooding the entire economy with liquidity, and thereby increasing the danger of inflation, the Fed could support the stock market directly by buying market averages in the futures market, thereby stabilizing the market as a whole."

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Art plays an interesting game. Rebel enough for people to take notice, but ultimately a loyal (shock) troop to the end.

We all find ways to love and profit from the inner slave. Some just embrace the indentured servant in all of us more than others. Capitalism as it's practiced today is all about exploitation. If the person I'm exploiting just happens to be my fellow slave, tough shit.

Take a look at street level crime now-a-days. It's all slave on slave crime. "The Street" is where this practice has been codified and institutionalized. Divide and conquer at it's best when it's been internalized as "normal and natural".

Suicide is painless. I promise.

RockyRacoon's picture

Well, hell, CD.  Art knows which side his toast is buttered on.  He's not going to ax his career for some stupid Fed/Gov't/Political/Conspiracy crap.  Nor would I.  He has a lot of fun with this stuff.  Just like it's hard to discern sarcasm at times on this very site, Art is a bit tough to figure.  One can safely say that Art has tongue firmly in cheek at all times.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

No argument here. If his game is to sucker in the ......well.....suckers by playing the good guy, that's his right. And I'm sure he's found dozens of ways to internally justify his dance with the devil, just as I have.

I live in a glass house. I still throw stones.

Careless Whisper's picture

Like most conspiracy theories, the PPT is hogwash and not much different from the guy who screams “the race was fixed” when his horse lost.

wake up art, it was fixed.


Bankster T Cubed's picture

Screw that noise.  Art is old now.  He is rich.   He is in a position where he CAN afford to stand up and say something, and make an important impact by doing so.   But he doesn't.   I suppose maybe the reason he has survived in this role all these years is because he really is actually a scumbag like all the rest of them.

One by one, the men I used to uphold as examples of respectable characters in this business have all shown themselves to be bankster-blowing scum.  So depressing.

FEDbuster's picture

Art reminds me of Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes, the whole I know nothing, I see nothing but all the time knowing (and not quite understanding) what's going on. 

He can't quite grasp the fact that the game he loves (the stock market) is rigged by crooks.  He won't admit that the game is fixed, and 99% of the players have no chance of winning at the casino where he works.


nevadan's picture

Not to mention this Sprott report previously posted here on ZH.

Pegasus Muse's picture

Art doesn't publicly acknowledge the PPT because he wants to keep his job at UBS.  He's no dumby.  There's things you can say and work a high-profile job on Wall Street; and things you can't.

Technichel's picture

Come on, really? What do you expect from a guy who shows his face on cnbc?

aint no fortunate son's picture

The best trick the Devil ever played was to convince everyone he didn't exist.

(Compliments of "The Usual Suspects").

Common_Cents22's picture

or admit he exists but tells you that you have your whole life in front of you to repent.  So live it up.   Extend and pretend, then scramble like hell at the last minute when TSHTF.

RichardP's picture

It was not the Devil that convinced Adam to eat the forbidden fruit; it was Eve.  Thereby proving the point that someone other than the Devil can convince us that there are benefits to be had through disobedience.  In that respect, it doesn't matter whether the Devil exists or not.

TradingJoe's picture

Very Entertaining!

Bankster T Cubed's picture

ART, I have long valued your presence as a wise, sober, decent sage.  However, your failure to condemn the fed for its actions here ends forever your stature as a decent man.   The nation is finished.  Over.  With your help pulling the wool over people's eyes.

My God, this sucks. 

assumptionblindness's picture

This does father has $100k sitting in a savings account (he got out of the market a few months ago) and he has NO intention of investing in this "broken" stock market.  He is trying to live on Social Security without using his savings but it has been tough to do.  Thanks to COLA staying flat next year my old man isn't going to be able to afford food without dipping into his nest egg. 

My father is aware of what the Fed is doing.  He is aware that inflation is running wild in the commodities markets and he doesn't "give a shit."  He knows about Tepper's proclamation that the market is destined to rise no matter that he says "who cares?!"  He is NOT going to send any of his $$$ to Wall Street, period! 

My father's sense of Loss Aversion is too powerful for Ben to overcome.  I suspect that a lot of other baby boomers and retail investors who have burned over the last couple of years feel the same way.  If that's the case, Ben's money printing is destined to fail to produce "animal spirits."  Instead, the printing will wipe out what is left of the middle class and a large chunk of the savings of the baby boomers.  Art fails to defend his generation, that's all....    

the grateful unemployed's picture

you didn't mention if your father owns his home, because 100k is not much at all. if your father needs to go into a home that won't last long. your father could do a reverse mortgage, although valuations are low right now, and the lender insists that the property be maintained, if the house needs any repairs. that might be worth considering. also make sure you are getting all the benefits available, SNAP, utility subsidies, etc. I help out my 90 yr old mom, i put her in TIPs a few years ago, while the fixed rate was still good. too bad i only bought her 5yr, i should have bought 10yr, Bernanke is young, and will sit on the Fed for a long time. 

one spec investment Mom has is UNG, if the economy does begin to recover, (and inflation) NatGas prices will rise, and this etf is badly beaten because of contango? but that will change. There are some TIP funds which don't track CPI. good luck, assisted living runs about 2k a month.

Flakmeister's picture

UNG is a trading tool, not an investment. Have her look at HGT, SBR and PBT. You want to own the cashflows, not the futures....I loaded my clients up with PBT and HGT when they were $9 and $10 respectively. They are spinning off approx $1.20 each per year in dividends. Compute the yield....


BigJim's picture

I can understand his loss aversion, but not his response. He understands that his $100k is losing value, right?

RockyRacoon's picture

He's the floor director for UBS -- you expected more?  If you expect him to be objective that is a fault on your part, not his.  I believe the pertinent phrase is:  "Consider the source."

Cognitive Dissonance's picture


You and I have much in common. And I understand your point, of essentially "Buyer beware".

But your line of reasoning is a rationlization for slave on slave abuse promoted by the powers that be, who also happen to benefit from it in so many different ways.

There comes a point where one must make a choice. Art has done so. I'll continue to read him, but I no longer repsect him. He doesn't need to deep throat. He could be much more subtle.

SteveNYC's picture

The slaves will police themselves. More than any other country on earth, it is applicable here in the USA.

cougar_w's picture

He could be much more subtle.

That's really the point. We can't expect much from the old except unvarnished wisdom and precious subtlety. Not much use in being ancient if one cannot at least excel at these games of the mind.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Thank you for expanding on my point.

I seen a crowding into corners and taking of sides on the street. I suspect Art is being pressured to bless the Ponzi or get off the floor.

Johnny Yuma's picture

And once again, the Fed is creating a massive bubble. When will they ever learn? Most likely never...

Chris Jusset's picture

But the Fed MUST KNOW that its policies will create bubbles.  Unfortunately, the US economy has degraded to the point that the Fed's only hope of continuing to kick-the-can down the road is to create more asset bubbles.  As the Fed becomes more desperate, it will be more aggressive in creating more bubbles.


“The Federal Reserve’s proposed policy of quantitative easing is a dangerous gamble with only a small potential upside benefit and substantial risks of creating asset bubbles that could destabilise the global economy. Although the US economy is weak and the outlook uncertain, QE is not the right remedy… Like all bubbles, these exaggerated increases can rapidly reverse when interest rates return to normal levels."

cougar_w's picture

The wheels have already come off the economy. Now it's either bubbles or bullets.

Chris Jusset's picture

Yep, it's now either "Bubbles or Bullets" !!!

cougar_w's picture

Well ... it might come down to bubbles and bullets. They have to remain flexible, ya know.

RichardP's picture

Can bullets pop bubbles?

cougar_w's picture

Despite all speculation to the contrary, bullets resolve everything.

No Mas's picture

A I have said before:  DOW +170

Gentlemen, may I present the Chairman himself, Ben Bernanke!

I am actually starting to get into this.  It's like there is absolutely no risk anymore.  I hold no positions overnight but now, well I just don't know.  Hell why not?  How can anything happen with Ben and his trillion dollar bucket at the ready to put out any fire? 

I am starting to leave my machine during the day and not even monitor my positions anymore.  This is going to be one great fall and winter, with even better things promised by Ben for the spring (didn't GS say something about another $3T?) with no worries of a failure. 

Welfare for all!!!

SheHunter's picture

BS there's no PPT. Art works for the media. The media works for whichever admin is in power.

So far as staying in the market overnight versus the day trade?  well PPT sure as F is making sure day traders hang belly up.  Market is up over 100 at the open and then flat the remainder of the day.  No dip to buy opp so the only choice is to grit teeth and stay long at COB. Notice the volumn today?  Traders are either oversees and/or sidelined watching the barnum-bernie circus unfold.  joke joke joke.  Even Mark what's his name on CN(utter)BS is getting burned out with this game.

StychoKiller's picture

As someone recently pointed out, the PPT is not really earning their keep.  Without QE, the market would probably be sinking, as it should!

firstdivision's picture

R. Paul will make sure you will have to monitor your portfolio come Janurary.  It will be a circus show without a doubt, but will cause some instability in the markets.  Also the last trading day of the year could be interesting as people may take out a chunk of their investments to hedge from a possible change in the tax code.

sumo's picture

It's on the public record that PPT exists and Hank Paulson reactivated it:


wiskeyrunner's picture

I can hear it now.... WALL STREET RECORD BONUS......Jamie Diamon 70 million pay day. Lloyd Blankfein returns to his usual pay of 60 million. WallStreet celebrates another record pay year $$$$$$$$$$$$$ For the rest of the nation.....well lets not go there.

Chemba's picture

so go to Harvard Business School, get a job at GS or MS or JPM, earn some big money, and stop your whining.

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Ha! I always wondered why they put that little loop of string on the top of the animal crackers box. Another mystery solved.

Rogerwilco's picture

QE/POMO worked so well the first time, let's do it year round. Besides, the kids love 'em!

The next mass market treat will feature a creamy, sugar-laced filling made from hydrogenated ($150/bbl) oil. Two hard (times) cookies on the outside of the sandwich make it perfect for dipping in ($8/gal) milk, but what shall we call it?


StychoKiller's picture

Due to, among other things, a drought in Brazilian cane fields, sugar is setting record prices as well.

10044's picture

Has this guy heard of google and the fact that he can search for executive order 12631??

RichardP's picture

Searching Wikipedia on Plunge Protection Team works faster.  No one knows to google an Executive Order, much less the correct Order number.

TeresaE's picture

Delusion is by far the easiest path to take.

As so many "experts" continue to show us every single day.

This is America, after all, history cannot repeat here and as long as the executives at the banks (and politicians) still have money all is truly well.

Sean7k's picture

Art Cashin-how appropriate- selling out and cashing in.

moofph's picture

...may i remind mr. cashin that it is not is not 1987 either...wake up man and stop traveling through the happy-times-stargate...finish your coffee...then open your eyes, perhaps walk down main street and look for your animal crackers at the dollar store. they should be on the shelf next to those 1987 cartoon characters that lost the "ratings battle".