A Very Critical Bank Of America On The Fed's Third Mandate, And Why BofA Is Not Bullish But "Bubblish"
Ever since the advent of QE2, few if any, sellside analysts employed by Too Big To Fail banks have dared to voice a negative opinion of the Chairman's third mandate, that of raising stock prices (for obvious reasons: nobody will bite the hand that feeds them trillion in taxpayer bailout money). Which is why we continue to believe the BofA credit strategist Jeffrey Rosenberg is one of the few men standing who dares to call it how it is. In his latest piece, Rosenberg lays out what is the most harshly (yet diplomatically) worded criticism of QE we have read to date. "In our view, the longer term problem with such a strategy is that in delaying the adjustment to the root causes of the credit crisis, namely excessive leverage in the economy and financial markets, the essential vulnerabilities from that excessive leverage remain. What triggers their realization again is the inflationary shock leading to an interest rate shock that undermines the cheap cost of that debt that currently enables its maintenance." As for the implicit assumption that savings and wealth are inversely correlated, Rosenberg points out the glaringly obvious: "Inflation erodes the value of those savings and decreases their standard of living." The only option left: "Lowering the value of savings creates a powerful incentive to take on investment risk to maintain the real purchasing power of those savings." And while everyone getting aboard the investment ship at the same time is a horrible idea when it happens in one country, it is a guaranteed disaster waiting to happen when it occurs at the global level. Which is precisely what has happened: "Today, we see that same pattern again at play. But this time, it’s not limited to just the US Fed policy. Globally, central banks are pursuing coincident easy money policies. And even in Emerging Markets where the inflation fears stand most acute, the policy rate increases are just keeping up with inflation increases. The result: global negative or zero real policy rates." The entire global "economy", which really means stock market, is now one timebomb, just waiting for the first central banker error-induced 'crack' to appear in the windshield, following which the destruction will be unprecedented.
From Jeffrey Rosenberg:
Monetary policy goal: raise stock prices?
The Fed pursues a dual mandate: maintain stable inflation consistent with maximum employment. The Fed’s justification for QE2 in this context, to help raise stock prices, would seem at the least surprising. Yet, the Fed now understands the critical role asset prices play in the functioning of the real economy. Figure 5 below highlights the strong and persistent inverse relationship between savings and wealth.
The destruction of wealth during the financial crisis fed a collapse in spending that led to a real economy recession. So the quickest way back to recovery? Reflate the assets to bring back the confidence. And so far that strategy has worked. In our view, the longer term problem with such a strategy is that in delaying the adjustment to the root causes of the credit crisis, namely excessive leverage in the economy and financial markets, the essential vulnerabilities from that excessive leverage remain. What triggers their realization again is the inflationary shock leading to an interest rate shock that undermines the cheap cost of that debt that currently enables its maintenance. If that happens before debt levels can be brought down then the future adjustment in debt will extract even a greater burden. Those remain our longer term concerns, as we recently summarized (see nearby links). For now however, don’t call us bullish, call us “bubblish”.
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