As we explained over two months ago, and as the Fed is no doubt contemplating currently, the primary topic on the agenda of central bankers everywhere and certainly in the Marriner Eccles building, is how to boost inflation expectations as much as possible, preferably without doing a thing and merely jawboning "forward expectations" (or more explicitly through the much discussed nominal GDP targeting) in order to slowly but surely or very rapidly and even more surely, get to the core problem facing the developed world: an untenable mountain of debt, and specifically, inflating it away. Of course, higher rates without a concurrent pick up in economic activity means a stock market tumble, both in developed and emerging countries, as the Taper experiment over the summer showed so vividly, which in turn would crush what many agree is the Fed's only achievement over the past 5 years - creating and nurturing the "wealth effect" resulting from record high asset prices, which provides lubrication for financial conditions and permits the proper functioning of capital markets. Perhaps this is the main concern voiced by JPM's chief US economist Michael Feroli who today has issued an interesting piece titled simply enough: "Raising inflation expectations: a bad idea." Is this the first shot across the bow of a Fed which may announce its first taper as soon as two weeks from today, in order to gradually start pushing inflation expectations higher?
With the "inmates in charge of the asylum" during this holiday shortened trading week it seemed to be an apropriate opportunity to share a virtual cornucopia of topics to consider while enjoying the delicious delicacies, and subsequent tryptophan induced comas, of a traditional Thanksgiving.
Putting today's 7.2% unemployment rate (which is actually over 11% if using an accurate labor participation rate), here is the chart that puts it into perspective courtesy of the an "analysis" by Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein titled "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" from January 10, 2009. Oh yes, the ARRA did pass...
It's been a long time since Hilsenrath actually reported news instead of serve as a leak dissemination service for the New York Fed. Today was one of those time with news from the WSJ that the Obama administration, and specifically Jack Lew, has begun assembling a short list of candidates for the Federal Reserve chairmanship, in the expectation that Ben Bernanke won't seek reappointment when his second term ends in January. According to Hilsenrath, since the decision on whether the Chairsatan stays or goes is all his, Bernanke may decide to stay for a few more years of QEasing, however he won't: "many of Mr. Bernanke's friends and associates believe he wants to step down when his term expires, after nearly eight years overseeing the central bank's response to the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression."
Bloomberg reported recently that Russia is now the world's biggest gold buyer, its central bank having added 570 tonnes (18.3 million troy ounces) over the past decade. At $1,650/ounce, that's $30.1 billion worth of gold. Russia isn't alone, of course. Central banks as a group have been net buyers for at least two years now. But the 2012 data trickling out shows that the amount of tonnage being added is breaking records. Based on current data, the net increase in central bank gold buying for 2012 was 14.8 million troy ounces – and that's before the final 2012 figures are in for all countries. This is a dramatic increase, one bigger than most investors probably realize. To put it in perspective, on a net basis, central banks added more to their reserves last year than since 1964. The net increase – so far – is 17% greater than what was added in 2011, which was itself a year of record buying. The message from central banks is clear: they expect the dollar to move inexorably lower. It doesn't matter that it's been holding up against other currencies or that the economy might be getting better. They're buying gold in record amounts because they see a significant shift coming with the status of the dollar, and they need to protect themselves against that risk. Embrace the messages central bankers are telling us – the ones they tell with their actions, not their words.
You've probably noticed the cookie-cutter format of most financial media "news": a few key "buzz words" (fiscal cliff, Bush tax cuts, etc.) are inserted into conventional contexts, and this is passed off as either "reporting" or "commentary" depending on the number of pundits sourced. Correspondent Frank M. kindly passed along a template that is "officially deny its existence" secret within the mainstream media. With this template, you could launch your own financial media channel, ready to compete with the big boys. Heck, you could hire some cheap overseas labor to make a few Skype calls to "the usual suspects," for-hire academics, hedge fund gurus, etc. and actually attribute the fluff to a real person.
The other day the Huffington Post ran an article by a Bonnie Kavoussi called “11 Lies About the Federal Reserve.” And you’ll never guess: these aren’t lies or myths spread in the financial press by Fed apologists. These are “lies” being told by you and me, opponents of the Fed. Bonnie Kavoussi calls us “Fed-haters.” So she, a Fed-lover, is at pains to correct these alleged misconceptions. She must stop us stupid ingrates from poisoning our countrymen’s minds against this benevolent array of experts innocently pursuing economic stability. Here are the 11 so-called lies (she calls them “myths” in the actual rendering), and Tom Woods and Bob Murphy's responses.
Most of human history conforms to established patterns, forming the basis of modern statistical analysis. Random walk extrapolation from any data series seems to hold up in the face of reality because the data series is extracted from the pattern itself, a sort of logical fallacy. Models constructed in this way “behave” rather well until the pattern and paradigm shifts. At that point, models should be recalibrated to the new pattern in order to maintain any kind of usefulness (or simply scrapped). This is especially true if the model failed to see the paradigm shift coming, a predictive capacity that is almost built-in since inflection points are not really points at all; they are an eventual slide into the new pattern. During the inflection “period”, models conditioned by the old pattern will increasingly look out of sync and render confusing results to their practitioners. But, due to human nature intruding into this “scientific” process, all too often these human practitioners look to rationalize and fit the wider world into their models, rather than see the paradigm shift for what it is. Combining this willful blindness with the simplifications that models have to incorporate just to function, the fact that they rarely see inflections is not at all surprising.
It is no secret that over the past two months, Goldman has commenced a full endorsement of Nominal GDP targetting as a method to stimulate the economy, not to mention Wall Street's bonus pool, after Ben Bernanke completely ignored Hatzius' advice to reduce the Interest on Overnight Excess Reserve rate as well as subsequent pleading for a start of MBS LSAP. Mathematics once again aside, and as we demonstrated, the math works out to an non-trivial incremental $10 trillion in debt through 2016 on top of what will be issued, to catch up with the GDP growth run rate and to eliminate the excess slack in the economy, the question is whether NGDP would achieve any tangible stimulus at all, or merely reduce the Fed's ever smaller arsenal of non-conventional means to boost the economy by one more approach. The attached rhetorical Q&A just released by Goldman seeks to answer that and any other left over questions one may have on NGDP as a policy measure, and further puts out the inverse strawman argument that it is not coming out any time soon. To wit: "We do not expect a move to an NGDP target anytime soon, although the probability would increase if growth and/or inflation slowed by more than we currently estimate." Then again, with the whole reverse psychology trademark inherent in every piece of Goldman public product, and considering the squid's previous advances to determine monetary policy have been snubbed, it may just mean that the next time the US economy implodes, this is precisely the method the Fed may use in early 2012 to guarantee another record year of Wall Street bonuses considering 2011 will be abysmal for so many Swiss and other offshore bank accounts.
Jobs? They don't need no stinkin' jobs ...
Excuse the rant. But Ms Romer is just misleading the country. We will pay a big price for her lies.
First of all, Money McBags has to apologize for this column’s lack of timeliness but ever since he has gone to....
It just never changes:
- OBAMA AIDES SAID TO DISCUSS EMPLOYER PAYROLL TAX BREAK
- PAYROLL TAX BREAK FOR EMPLOYERS AMONG IDEAS TO BOOST HIRING
- ADMINISTRATION CONSIDERING MEASURES AS RECOVERY SLOWS
Bolded bullets aside, good luck passing another fiscal stimulus Dear President when you can't even issue debt without stealing money from government retirees.
Two and a half years ago, Christina Romer, then still employed by the Obama administration in the position of Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers penned "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" - a report predicting the impact of a fiscal "stimulus" that took out $787 billion from the pocket of American Taxpayers (subsequently discovered to cost even more) and put that money...somewhere. We are not sure where, because according to a chart now made legendary for its complete failure to predict the future, it sure did not go into creating jobs. Below we present the original chart that made the January 10, 2009 presentation, and superimpose upon it the reality of the past two and a half years. It is simply stunning. And while we are here, and discussing the abysmal failure of QE2 (the impending arrival of QE3 notwithstanding), it is amusing to hear the whimpering of the likes of one Richard Koo, who is now claiming that all along the money from the Fed's monetary stimulus should have been invested in the form of a fiscal one. Well, Dick, below is the impact of your fiscal stimulus....AND it also includes the impact of $2 trillion in incremental monetary stimulus. Combined, both fiscal and monetary stimulus has now missed the worst case projection for US unemployment for 30 months running. Here is the simple truth: both monetary and fiscal stimuli are abysmal failures, when the economy is mean reverting to a state where it was hijacked from courtesy of 30 years of "great moderation" - and there is nothing that can be done to stop it. Correction: there is one thing - the Fed can destroy the dollar in its attempt to disprove simple physics. And, ultimately, it will.