There are three dimensions to the broader investment climate: the trajectory of Fed tapering, the ECB's response to the draining of excess liquidity and threat of deflation, and Chinese reforms to be unveiled at the Third Plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
As we enter into the two final months of the year, it is also the beginning of the seasonally strong period for the stock market. It has already been a phenomenal year for asset prices as the Federal Reserve's ongoing liquidity programs have seemingly trumped every potential headwind imaginable from Washington scandals, potential invasions, government shutdowns and threats of default. This leaves us with four things to ponder this weekend revolving around a central question: "Does the Fed's Q.E. programs actually work as intended and what are the potential consequences?"
"A liquidity trap is a situation described in Keynesian economics in which injections of cash into the private banking system by a central bank fail to lower interest rates and hence fail to stimulate economic growth. A liquidity trap is caused when people hoard cash because they expect an adverse event such as deflation, insufficient aggregate demand, or war. Signature characteristics of a liquidity trap are short-term interest rates that are near zero and fluctuations in the monetary base that fail to translate into fluctuations in the general price levels." Importantly, this evidence is mounting that the Federal Reserve has now become trapped within this dynamic. The important point is that, for the first time that we are aware of, someone (of apparent note to the status quo) has verbally stated that we are indeed caught within a liquidity trap. This has been a point that has been vigorously opposed by supporters of the Federal Reserve actions.
Many have asked us to expand on how the rapid expansion of money supply leads to an effect the opposite of that intended: a fall in economic activity. This effect starts early in the recovery phase of the credit cycle, and is particularly marked today because of the aggressive rate of monetary inflation. The following are the events that lead to this inevitable outcome. And while many central bankers could profit by reading and understanding this article, the truth is they are not appointed to face up to the reality that monetary inflation is economically destructive, and that escalating currency expansion taken to its logical conclusion means the currency itself will eventually become worthless.
"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...
The Fed's capabilities to engineer changes in economic growth and inflation are asymmetric. It has been historically documented that central bank tools are well suited to fight excess demand and rampant inflation; the Fed showed great resolve in containing the fast price increases in the aftermath of World Wars I and II and the Korean War. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, rampant inflation was again brought under control by a determined and persistent Federal Reserve. However, when an economy is excessively over-indebted and disinflationary factors force central banks to cut overnight interest rates to as close to zero as possible, central bank policy is powerless to further move inflation or growth metrics. The periods between 1927 and 1939 in the U.S. (and elsewhere), and from 1989 to the present in Japan, are clear examples of the impotence of central bank policy actions during periods of over-indebtedness. Four considerations suggest the Fed will continue to be unsuccessful in engineering increasing growth and higher inflation with their continuation of the current program of Large Scale Asset Purchases (LSAP)...
Stunning Facts that Your History, Economics and Business Teachers Never Learned ...
If you listen to TV commentators, you’ve been told the worst is behind us. Growth is picking up, and Europe is coming out of its slumber. No one seems to be concerned that this tepid below-2-percent growth is being entirely fed by the central bank’s massive money printing. It’s a “growth at any price” policy. How quickly we forget. We currently fear Fed tapering, as we should. Yet, we should be even more fearful that it doesn’t taper. Today, we really have a dreaded choice of losing an arm now or two arms and a leg tomorrow. Because the price distortions have been massive, the adjustment will be horrendous. Government policy makers and government economists simply do not understand the critical role of prices in helping discovery and coordination.
Almost 3 years ago we noted the oddly hubris-full confidence of Ben Bernanke of his ability to "exit" from the experimental extreme monetary policies:
"You have what degree of confidence in your ability to control this?" Bernanke: One hundred percent.
But last night we got the truth from Fed's Dudley, who more realistically stated:
Dudley: "Exit from these unconventional set of policies is certainly feasible... But we do have to be a bit humble about what we don’t know."
So which is it? Who do you believe?
Much attention has fallen on the Fed's recent announcement that a new fixed-rate, full-allotment overnight reverse repo facility is in the works (so much so that both shadow banking experts Singh and Stella have opined on the issue). It appears that despite the Fed's "best efforts" at communication, not enough clarity has been shed on the topic. So here is Bill Dudley's explanation.
As it turns out, a lot... and also very little.
Even as JPMorgan seems set to put its London Whale troubles behind it with a nearly $1 billion imminent settlement, while at the same time throwing two mid-level traders at NY prosecutors and washing its hands of the whole tempest in a teapot affair, a curious snag has appeared. The CFTC, which in the past has never had a problem with promptly settling any market manipulation abuse with any bank in exchange for a small cash-greased slap on the hand, is suddenly a sticking point in JPM's ability to just walk away from the biggest prop trading Snafu in history. As WSJ reports, "the CFTC is focusing on the bank's increasingly aggressive trades made over several months early last year, when it added tens of billions of dollars to its derivatives positions—contracts tied to investment-grade corporate bonds, these people say. The CFTC is likely to use new powers granted by the Dodd-Frank law that allow it to charge firms for recklessly manipulating markets, say people familiar with the agency's thinking."
Amid the 100 year anniversary of the creation of the Federal Reserve, it is absolutely imperative that the American people understand that the Fed is at the very heart of our economic problems. It is a system of money that was created by the bankers and that operates for the benefit of the bankers. The American people like to think that we have a "democratic system", but there is nothing "democratic" about the Federal Reserve. Unelected, unaccountable central planners from a private central bank run our financial system and manage our economy. There is a reason why financial markets respond with a yawn when Barack Obama says something about the economy, but they swing wildly whenever Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke opens his mouth. The Federal Reserve has far more power over the U.S. economy than anyone else does by a huge margin. The Fed is the biggest Ponzi scheme in the history of the world, and if the American people truly understood how it really works, they would be screaming for it to be abolished immediately. The following are 25 fast facts about the Federal Reserve that everyone should know...
"A broad-based tax cut, for example, accommodated by a program of open-market purchases to alleviate any tendency for interest rates to increase, would almost certainly be an effective stimulant to consumption and hence to prices. Even if households decided not to increase consumption but instead re-balanced their portfolios by using their extra cash to acquire real and financial assets, the resulting increase in asset values would lower the cost of capital and improve the balance sheet positions of potential borrowers. A money-financed tax cut is essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman's famous "helicopter drop" of money ."
- Ben Bernanke, Deflation: Making Sure "It" Doesn't Happen Here, November 21, 2002
When it comes to the very simplest axiom on modern Keynesian economics, it seems one can't repeat it enough times: have leverage, have growth... don't have leverage, don't have growth. That is the reason why in early summer, China tried to conduct a mini-taper of its own to streamling its monetary pipeline which had been so filled with bad and non-performing credit, that the PBOC effectively pulled the switch on new liquidity for over a month. What happened almost immediately after, when rates on ultra short term funding soared to 20%+, nearly destroyed the domestic banking system and resulted in a major slowdown in the Chinese economy. "Luckily" for China, its close encounter with the taper was brief, if quite painful, and following a period of shock, the Chinese central bank had no choice but to resume injecting banks with their daily dose of monetary morphine all over again. This in turn, has brought us to square one: nothing in the local banking system has been fixed, and what's worse, while China has bought itself a few months respite, the dominant old problem of a collapsing credit impulse, as decribed before, in the country with the largest corporate credit bubble in the world, is about to come back with a bang in a few short months. In short: China just did what the US has boldly done so many times before - kicked the can.