Comptroller of the Currency
It has been commonplace to speak of central bank independence - as if it were both a reality and a necessity. Discussions of the Fed invariably refer to legislated independence and often to the famous 1951 Accord that apparently settled the matter.  While everyone recognizes the Congressionally-imposed dual mandate, the Fed has substantial discretion in its interpretation of the vague call for high employment and low inflation. It is, then, perhaps a good time to reexamine the thinking behind central bank independence. There are several related issues.
- First, can a central bank really be independent? In what sense? Political? Operational? Policy formation?
- Second, should a central bank be independent? In a democracy should monetary policy—purportedly as important as or even more important than fiscal policy—be unaccountable? Why?
- Finally, what are the potential problems faced if a central bank is not independent? Inflation? Insolvency?
HSBC is back in the news. This time it relates to their transferring funds on the behalf of financiers for the militant group Hezbollah. If transactions such as these had even the slightest link to Bitcoin, there would be endless uproar, calls for countless Congressional hearings and demands to stop the currency at all costs. But when HSBC is caught doing it, what happens? A $32,400 settlement.
The grind higher in equities, and tighter in credit, continues as markets brush aside concerns about a December taper for the time being. Overnight futures levitation has pushed the Fed balance sheet driven record high S&P even higher, despite as Deutsche Bank points out, the fact that we had three Fed speakers advocate or talk up the possibility of a December taper, including the St Louis Fed’s James Bullard who is viewed as a bit of a bellwether for the FOMC. Bullard said the probability of a taper had risen in light of the strengthening of job growth in recent months. Indeed, he noted that the best move for the Fed could be a small December taper given the improving jobs data but below-target inflation readings. The Fed could then pause further tapering should inflation not return toward target during the first half of 2014. Looking at today’s calendar, the focus will be on US JOLTs job openings - a report which Yellen has previously highlighted as an important supplement to more traditional labour market indicators. US small business optimism and wholesale inventories are the other major data releases today. As mentioned above, US financial regulators are due to announce Volcker rules at some point today although as we just reported, the CFTC's meeting on Volcker was just cancelled due to inclement weather.
- With website improved, Obama to pitch health plan (Reuters)
- Joe Biden condemns China over air defence zone (FT)
- Tally of U.S. Banks Sinks to Record Low (WSJ)
- Black Friday Weekend Spending Drop Pressures U.S. Stores (BBG)
- Cyber Monday Sales Hit Record as Amazon to EBay Win Shoppers (BBG)
- Ukraine's Pivot to Moscow Leaves West Out in the Cold (WSJ)
- Investment banks set to cut pay again despite rise in profits (FT)
- Worst Raw-Material Slump Since ’08 Seen Deepening (BBG)
- Democrats Face Battles in South to Hold the Senate (WSJ)
- Hong Kong reports 1st case of H7N9 bird flu (AP)
- In Fracking, Sand Is the New Gold (WSJ)
- Washington turns bond market upside (FT)
- China Air-Zone Move Expands Field of Islands Spat With Japan (BBG); Japan rejects China claim on airspace over disputed islands (FT)
- 'Great Satan' meets 'Axis of Evil' and strikes a deal (Reuters)
- Iran Pact Faces Stiff Opposition (WSJ)
- Allies Fear a US Pullback in Mideast (WSJ)
- India to resume paying Iran in Euros (Economic Times)
- At 'Business Insider,' it's time to sell (USA Today)
- More ECB currency war jawboning: ECB’s Hansson Says Rate Cut Options Not Fully Exhausted (BBG)
- Spy World Links Plus Obama Ties Stoke Concern About NSA Review (BBG)
- A disunited Europe will struggle even to disintegrate (FT)
Of all the screwed up, misallocated parts of the U.S. economy, the housing market continues to be one of the biggest potential train wrecks. While the extent of the insanity in residential real estate should be clear following the peak insanity yesterday, there are other potential problems just on the horizon. One of these was written about over the weekend in the LA Times. In a nutshell, the next several years will start to see principal payments added to interest only payments on a large amount of second mortgages taken out during the boom years. The estimate is that $30 billion in home equity lines will reset next year, $53 billion in 2015, and then ultimately soaring to $111 billion in 2018 - a looming “wave of disaster” because large numbers of borrowers will be unable to handle the higher payments. This will force banks to either foreclose, refinance the borrower or modify their loans.
- Desperate Philippine typhoon survivors loot, dig up water pipes (Reuters)
- Fading Japanese market momentum frustrates investors (FT)
- China's meager aid to the Philippines could dent its image (Reuters)
- Headline du jour: Granted 'decisive' role, Chinese markets decide to slide (Reuters)
- Central Banks Risk Asset Bubbles in Battle With Deflation Danger (BBG)
- Navy Ship Plan Faces Pentagon Budget Cutters (WSJ)
- Investors pitch to take over much of Fannie and Freddie (FT)
- To expand Khamenei’s grip on the economy, Iran stretched its laws (Reuters)
- Short sellers bet that gunmaker shares are no long shot (FT)
- Deflation threat in Europe may prompt investment rethink (Reuters)
"We see upside surprise risks on gold and silver in the years ahead," is how UBS commodity strategy team begins a deep dive into a multi-factor valuation perspective of the precious metals. The key to their expectation, intriguingly, that new regulation will put substantial pressure on banks to deleverage – raising the onus on the Fed to reflate much harder in 2014 than markets are pricing in. In this view UBS commodity team is also more cautious on US macro...
- Congress Vote Ends Impasse to Be Revisited in January (BBG); Congress Passes Debt, Budget Deal (WSJ)
- House GOP extracts no concessions (Politico)
- Washington becomes the biggest risk to the U.S. economy (Reuters)
- Debt Deal Seen Boosting U.S. Consumers as Holidays Approach (BBG) - only thing missing: disposable income
- Federal Employees Head Back to Work (WSJ)
- Regulator Suggested Shift for Dimon at J.P. Morgan Unit (WSJ)
- Twitter hires Google ad exec ahead of IPO (CNET)
- Teens can now post publicly, but posts are friends-only by default (WaPo)
- Germany Moves to Finalize Coalition Deal (WSJ)
- Draghi Turns Judge on EU Banks as ECB Studies Accounts (BBG)
- UK nuclear deal with China a ‘new dawn’ (FT)
How Many Constitutional Freedoms Have We Lost?
Still Laundering Terrorism and Drug Money ...
"By late April 2012, JPMorgan senior management knew that the firm's Investment Banking unit used far more conservative prices when valuing the same kind of derivatives held in the CIO portfolio, and that applying the Investment Bank valuations would have led to approximately $750 million in additional losses for the CIO in the first quarter of 2012." Translated: Jamie Dimon lied to Congress.
Almost three years ago we warned of the consequence of the disincentives for the working man in the US at the lower-income level. Then, last November we noted the dismal fact that 'work is punished' in America for a large majority of the non-elites. And now, as the part-time new normal becomes more and more understood in the mainstream, we ask once again... If you could stay home and relax all day and actually make more money than you do at your current job, would you do it?
Liquidated ETF gold holdings are being shipped from the U.K to Switzerland for refining into smaller one kilogramme gold bars, Australian bank Macquarie wrote in a note yesterday. These were then sent to Asia and bought by Asian investors. The note confirmed, what has been known anecdotally for some weeks.
CBS' White House correspondent Mark Knoller noted earlier:
Meeting with POTUS tomorrow are heads of the CFPB, FHFA, the Fed, CFTC, FDIC, NCUA, the SEC & Comptroller of the Currency.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) August 19, 2013
And while correlation is not causation (but suggests you are on the right path), remember what happened the last time the President, somewhat unexpectedly, met with the CEOs of all the big banks.