Bernanke's legacy: a deceptive case for a failed policy.
Sophistry: the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving. The Federal Reserve's core policy of quantitative easing (QE) is based on a deceptive but appealing argument voiced by former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke.
The still-dominant consensus view that America’s economy is poised to single-handedly yank the world out of its lethargy is likely to be disappointed once again with the odds high that our economy will remain burdened by growth-inhibiting monetary policies. In addition, it will continue to be negatively impacted by various other impediments, including a populace that is increasingly under-employed, an unwieldy and inscrutable tax code, a Rube Goldberg-like healthcare system, an increasingly ossified infrastructure, and a regulatory apparatus that congests the lungs of our economy, small businesses... weaning the stock market off of casino capitalism promises to be anything but pain-free. But did any responsible adult really believe there would be no pay-back for all these years of the Fed’s force-fed gains? If you do, you probably also believe foie gras grows on trees.
This doesn't happen very often. Marketwatch reports that Jim Bianco points out in a recent market comment that the 67 economists taking part in a regular Bloomberg survey have a unanimous forecast regarding treasury bond yields: they will be higher 6 months from now... and a separate poll of economists recently showed that exactly zero expect the economy to contract. This is an astonishing degree of consensus thinking, but it perfectly mirrors the complacency we see in stock market sentiment and positioning data. The probability that such a unanimous view will turn out to be correct is traditionally extremely low. The economy is likely resting on a much weaker foundation than is generally believed. This is not least the result of massive monetary pumping and deficit spending, both of which tend to severely weaken the economy on a structural level, even though they can create a temporary illusion of 'growth'.
Military Keynesians Are Full of Sh ... (Cough) ... Shallow Myths
The reasons to hold gold (and silver), and we mean physical bullion, are pretty straightforward. So let’s begin with the primary ones:
- To protect against monetary recklessness
- As insulation against fiscal foolishness
- As insurance against the possibility of a major calamity in the banking/financial system
- For the embedded 'option value' that will pay out handsomely if gold is re-monetized
The punch line is this: Gold (and silver) is not in bubble territory, and its largest gains remain yet to be realized; especially if current monetary, fiscal, and fundamental supply-and-demand trends remain in play.
For five long years, we have pursued the fantasy that we could return to "growth" without having to fix or change anything. The core policy of the fantasy is the consensus of "serious economists," i.e. those accepted into the priesthood of PhD economists protected by academic tenure or state positions: what we suffered in 2009 was not the collapse of leveraged crony-state financialization but a temporary decline of "aggregate demand" and productive capacity. The five-year fantasy that free money would fix all the distortions and systemic problems is drawing to a close. Why can't the fantasy run forever? The two-word answer: diminishing returns. Handing out subprime auto loans works at first because it pulls demand forward: anyone who wants or needs a new car buys one now, rather than put the purchase off a year or two. Eventually the marginal buyers default and demand falls off, and the distortions cause an even greater collapse in demand and auto loan quality.
From a strictly empirical perspective, the Keynesian theory is a disaster. Positivism wise, it’s a smoldering train wreck. You would be hard-pressed to comb through historical data and find great instances where government intervention succeeded in lowering employment without creating the conditions for another downturn further down the line. No matter how you spin it, Keynesianism is nothing but snake oil sold to susceptible political figures. Its practitioners feign using the scientific method. But they are driven just as much by logical theory as those haughty Austrian school economists who deduce truth from self-evident axioms. The only difference is that one theory is correct. And if the Keynesians want to keep pulling up data to make their case, they are standing on awfully flimsy ground.
The following remarks by John Kerry, borne out of his humiliation over the complete fiasco that was the US intervention in Syria last year and the even greater fiasco that was this year's attempt to get all feuding parties on the table in Geneva, only to see that outcome obliterated as well, appear to be borne out of his disgust at the defunding of the US defense budget, which for Kerry, more than his gross incompetence, is the reason why the US now finds itself in a "new isolationism" leading him to conclude that the US is "beginning to act like a poor nation." One wonders what tipped him off: the fact that the US debt just hit a record high $17,419,220,117,766.69 or that the biggest monetizers of US deficit spending are the Fed, China and just as insolvent Japan?
This week saw the continuation of the "bad news is good news" theme as one economic report after another came in far below expectations. The question remains whether it is actually all just a function of the weather? Of course, there is something inherently wrong with driving asset prices higher based on hopes that a weaker economy will keep the Fed's "liquidity fix" flowing to drug addicted Wall Street traders. Under that theory, we should be rooting for an outright "depression" to double our portfolio values. But, when put into that context, it suddenly doesn't make much sense. Yet that is the world in which we live in...for now. Therefore, as we wind down the week on this "options expiry" Friday, here is a list of things to think about over the weekend.
Now that we have the full history of foreign Treasury purchases in 2013, we know the following: in December 2012 total US paper held by foreigners was $5,573.8 billion; one year later it rose to $5.794.9 billion or a $221 billion increase. So how does this look in the context of QE? In the past year, courtesy of the Fed's $1 trillion in TSY and MBS purchases, Ben Bernanke purchases some $552 billion in Treasurys, or about 150% more than all foreigners combined! Suddenly the need for MyRA is becoming all too clear...
The following chart shows that we’ve turned the economic development process inside out. Ideally, advanced economies would stick to the disciplined financial practices that helped make them strong between the early-19th and mid-20th centuries, while emerging economies would “catch up” by building similar track records. Instead, advanced economies are catching down and threatening to throw the entire world into the kind of recurring crisis mode to which you’re accustomed if you live in, say, Buenos Aires. Here are eight reasons why things got so bad!
The concept of continuously doubling down in order to achieve financial and economic goals is now a respectable and established norm. Takahashi’s Wager of 1930s Japan shows that such a policy, while initially successful, can remove all sensible restraints. On the surface ‘Gamblernomics’, like the ‘Takahashi Wager’, appears successful - the equity market has risen substantially, the currency has fallen, and government bond yields remain low. So far, so good. How is the government gauging the success of this dice roll? They are looking for two percent inflation, a positive growth number, and have committed to two years of massive QE to achieve these goals. As time passes and these targets are not met, the policy makers will double down again, by which point interest payments and welfare spending are likely to comprise most of the budget.... Today’s adherents of ‘Gamblernomics’ are not only found in Tokyo, but also reign in all major financial capitals, each playing their own version of a similar wager. All believe that doubling down is a sober strategy given the sunk costs of lost growth. As a new generation of gamblers sit at the table, ghosts of gamblers past whisper - “Place your bets.”
An "Austrian" Bill Gross Warns: "The Days Of Getting Rich Quickly Are Over... Getting Rich Slowly May Be As Well"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/05/2014 14:03 -0400
If readers ignore the rest from the latest monthly insight from Bill Gross of PIMCO, they should at least read the following insight which we agree with wholeheartedly: "our PIMCO word of the month is to be “careful.” Bull markets are either caused by or accompanied by credit expansion. With credit growth slowing due in part to lower government deficits, and QE now tapering which will slow velocity, the U.S. and other similarly credit-based economies may find that future growth is not as robust as the IMF and other model-driven forecasters might assume. Perhaps the whisper word of “deflation” at Davos these past few weeks was a reflection of that.... don’t be a pig in today’s or any day’s future asset markets. The days of getting rich quickly are over, and the days of getting rich slowly may be as well. Most medieval, perhaps." Where have we read this recently? Why in An “Austrian View” Approach To Equity Prices in particular and the bulk of Austrian economics in general. Which means that following the TBAC, i.e. the committee that really runs the US, none other than the manager of the world's largest bond fund has now moved over to the Austrian side. Welcome.
Many fear that a decline of between 1,500 to 2,000 points in the Nikkei to raise doubts about 'Abenomics' (i.e., hoary inflationism combined with deficit spending). We are still wondering what Abenomics is supposed to achieve. With a graying population and consequently a shrinking work force, inflationary policies seem especially ill-conceived in Japan. Maintaining the market's calm is predicated on the belief that the inflationary policy pursued by Abe/Kuroda will actually fail. Moreover, Japan's government can simply not afford higher borrowing costs, as 25% of its tax revenue is already going toward merely servicing interest costs on its current outstanding debt. In other words, Japan's government bond market is a glaring example of a Ponzi scheme and only a rising stock market maintains the media's complicitness in this mirage.
Selling hope, after all, is the stock and trade of the Sell Side. But we all need to take a step back and ask ourselves just where we stand on the proverbial economic timeline...