A generation of market participants has grown up knowing only the era of central bankers and the 'Great Moderation' of (most of) the last two decades elevated their status significantly. While central bankers are generally very well aware of the limits of their own power, financial markets seem inclined to overstress the direct scope of monetary policy in the real world.
If markets fall, investors need only to run to central bankers, and Ben Bernanke and his ilk will put on a sticking plaster and offer a liquidity lollipop to the investment community for being such brave little soldiers in the face of adversity
Monetary policy impacts the real economy because it is transmitted to the real economy through the money transmission mechanism. This has become particularly important in the current environment, where, as UBS' Paul Donovan notes, some aspects of that transmission mechanism have become damaged in some economies. Simplifying the monetary transmission mechanism into four very broad categories: the cost of capital; the willingness to lend; the willingness to save; and the foreign exchange rate; UBS finds strains in each that negate some or all of a central bank's stimulus efforts. In the current climate, it may well be that the state of the monetary transmission mechanism is even more important than monetary policy decisions themselves. Some monetary policy makers may be at the limits of their influence.
Steve Forbes has a message for a nation dominated by increasingly short-term decisions made on Wall Street and in Washington D.C., and by ever greater economic, financial and currency instability. As long as America continues moving away from sound money; away from sound financial and economic policies; and, ultimately, away from freedom, its future grows more dim. The dot-com and housing bubbles followed by the 2008 financial crisis and the most severe economic decline since the Great Depression serve as powerful lessons. A future of bigger government, higher taxes, more burdensome regulations, less consumer choice and more unrealistic government promises requires more and more Federal Reserve play money. Steve Forbes has a quintessentially American policy prescription rooted in American history. The answer to America’s economic problems is—and has always been—new wealth creation. New wealth creation doesn’t come from the government or from the Federal Reserve’s printing press. New wealth creation is what happens naturally with stable money based on the gold standard, lower taxes on individuals, a simplified tax code, reduced bureaucracy and free markets.
With global PMI rolling over again, dimming unemployment growth, and slowing EM Asia impacting global production, it is no wonder than BofAML's economics team sees a dearth of 'feelgood' factors in the market. In fact, as they note, further rate cuts in the euro area and China along with around $500bn of NEW QE in this quarter are priced into the market with any hope for risk assets to rally more consistently, investors will need to see not just willing-and-able central bankers but an abatement of the sovereign crisis in Europe and improvement in global data - neither of which they expect anytime soon. Easier monetary policy can only cushion the blow from higher uncertainty in the US and Europe. Effective policy breakthroughs would thus have to come from compromises in the European Council or in US cross-party politics. Investors have yet to zero in on the real impacts of rising economic uncertainty in the US. As Ethan Harris and Michael Hanson have argued, it is unlikely that the cliff is fully priced into the markets and US political dysfunction will share the spotlight with the European crisis over the next few months. And as last time, the joint act will likely undercut investor confidence.
In a market which was left for dead with virtually no hope of a CTRL-Peus Ex Machina, and which otherwise would have tumbled to close at the lows, we realized that something was missing. In fact we noted it less than an hour ago:
Need a Hilsenrath rooomer
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) July 6, 2012
Sure enough, moments ago, with minutes left in the trading day and week, here comes the Fed's favorite leaking scribe, advising the market that not all is lost, and that Pavlovian dogs can, and in fact should continue to salivate at ever poster of a half naked toner cartrdige.
For a while now we have suggested that, based on the relationship between the Federal Reserve balance sheet and the ECB's, a 'fair' value for EURUSD is around 1.20. The difference, we felt, was inspired by hope for a sizable (~$700bn 'pure' NEW QE). The last month or so has seen that hope fade (as well as European stress rising as ECB rates align with the Fed's ZIRP) as EURUSD now implies the probability of NEW QE now at only 25% (and falling).
Every government entity that reckoned it was moated from the market economy will be snapped back to "discover" risk and consequence. Let's lay out the dynamic:
1. Every government can only spend what its economy generates in surplus.
2. Every government transfers risk and consequence from itself, its employees and its favored vested interests to the citizenry and taxpayers.
3. Every government collects and distributes the surplus of its private sector to its employees, favored constituencies and vested interests.
4. Since the government (State) promises guaranteed salaries, benefits and entitlements to its employees and favored constituencies, these individuals believe they are living in a risk-free Wonderland that is completely protected from the market economy.
5. Risk cannot be repealed or eliminated, it can only be masked or transferred to others.
For better or mostly worse, the Federal Reserve has been governing the monetary system of the United States since 1914. The visual history below maps the rise of the Fed from its origins as a relatively minor institution, often controlled by Presidents and The Treasury to its supposedly independent and self-aware current position as, arguably, the most powerful entity in the world. And because we always like to be 'fair-and-balanced' we juxtapose this clarifying truth of the maniacal growth of the Fed's balance sheet and shift from passive to hyperactive - highlighting every major macro-economic and political event on the way - with G. Edward Griffin's 1994 speech on 'The Creature From Jekyll Island'.
I understand the dream of the common socialist. I was, after all, once a Democrat. I understand the disparity created in our society by corporatism (not capitalism, though some foolish socialists see them as exactly the same). I understand the drive and the desire to help other human beings, especially those in dire need, and the tendency to see government as the ultimate solution to all our problems. That said, let’s be honest; government is in the end just a tool used by one group or another to implement a particular methodology or set of principles. Unfortunately, what most socialists today don’t seem to understand is that no matter what strategies they devise, they will NEVER have control. And, those they wish to help will be led to suffer, because the establishment does not care about them, or you. The establishment does not think of what it can give, it thinks about what it can take. Socialism, in the minds of the elites, is a con-game which allows them to quarry the favor of the serfs, and nothing more. There are other powers at work in this world; powers that have the ability to play both sides of the political spectrum. The money elite have been wielding the false left/right paradigm for centuries, and to great effect. Whether socialism or corporatism prevails, they are the final victors, and the game continues onward… Knowing this fact, I find that my reactions to the entire Obamacare debate rather muddled. Really, I see the whole event as a kind of circus, a mirage, a distraction. Perhaps it is because I am first and foremost an economic analyst, and when looking at Obamacare and socialization in general, I see no tangibility. I see no threat beyond what we as Americans already face. Let me explain…
Libor Manipulation Is Only One of MANY Types of Fraud Committed by the Big Banks
In honor of the FDIC releasing the living wills for banks, we thought we’d offer up a shorter version that the banks could use. You're welcome.
As was first reported two days ago, and confirmed today, Barclays' natural response to allegations it single-handedly manipulated the interest rate complex for up to $500 trillion notional in IR-sensitive swaps and other products (it didn't - everyone else did it too), was to drag everyone into the scandal, starting off with the Bank of England (and about to drag Whitehall into it too), and specifically the man who was next in line for governorship of the English Central Bank: Paul Tucker. What does this mean? Well, as we suggested also two days ago, now that the natural succession path at the BOE has been terminally derailed, it brings up those two other gentlemen already brought up previously as potential future heads of the BOE, both of whom just happened to work, or still do, at... Goldman Sachs: Canada's Mark Carney or Goldman's Jim O'Neil. Granted both have denied press speculation they will replace Mervyn King, but it's not like it would be the first time a banker lied to anyone now, would it (and makes one wonder if this whole affair was not merely orchestrated by the Squid from the get go... but no, that would be a 'conspiracy theory'.) Yet the fact that Goldman is hell bent on global domination by stretching its tentacles into every monetary policy administration is no secret: it is only a matter of time before GS also runs the English CTRL-P macros. More interesting is that in addition to the BOE, Barclays today also dragged America's very own Federal Reserve into the fray.
Local Governments Which Entered Into Interest Rate Swaps Got Scalped
There is a saying that it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. Today, the San Fran Fed's John Williams, and by proxy the Federal Reserve in general, spoke out, and once again removed all doubt that they have no idea how modern money and inflation interact. In a speech titled, appropriately enough, "Monetary Policy, Money, and Inflation", essentially made the case that this time is different and that no matter how much printing the Fed engages in, there will be no inflation. To wit: "In a world where the Fed pays interest on bank reserves, traditional theories that tell of a mechanical link between reserves, money supply, and, ultimately, inflation are no longer valid. Over the past four years, the Federal Reserve has more than tripled the monetary base, a key determinant of money supply. Some commentators have sounded an alarm that this massive expansion of the monetary base will inexorably lead to high inflation, à la Friedman.Despite these dire predictions, inflation in the United States has been the dog that didn’t bark." He then proceeds to add some pretty (if completely irrelevant) charts of the money multipliers which as we all know have plummeted and concludes by saying "Recent developments make a compelling case that traditional textbook views of the connections between monetary policy, money, and inflation are outdated and need to be revised." And actually, he is correct: the way most people approach monetary policy is 100% wrong. The problem is that the Fed is the biggest culprit, and while others merely conceive of gibberish in the form of three letter economic theories, which usually has the words Modern, or Revised (and why note Super or Turbo), to make them sound more credible, they ultimately harm nobody. The Fed's power to impair, however, is endless, and as such it bears analyzing just how and why the Fed is absolutely wrong.
Three weeks ago we mocked, rightfully so, the utter joke that is Liebor, which had been unchanged for just over 3 months. Nobody cared, certainly not the British Banker Association. This was not the first time: our first allegations of Liebor fraud and manipulation started over three years ago. There were others too. Nobody certainly cared back then. Now, in the aftermath of the Barclays lawsuit, and "those" e-mails, everyone suddenly cares. And a few days after the first public exposure of Lie-borgate, the first victim has been claimed: as numerous sources report, Barclays' Chairman Marcus Agius wil step down immediately. From the WSJ: "Political and investor pressure has mounted on the management of U.K.-based Barclays since the settlement was announced Wednesday. The announcement of Mr. Agius's departure could come as soon as Monday, said one of the people. Mr. Agius, 65 years old, a British-Maltese banker who formerly worked at Lazard Ltd., has led the bank since 2007, steering Barclays through the 2008 financial crisis and avoiding the direct state bailouts that were needed by many of its global peers." While the sacrifice of a scapegoat is expected, what we don't get is why the Chairman: after all by the time Agius became Chair of the British bank, the bulk of the Libor fixing alleged in the FSA lawsuit had already happened. And of course, with Bob Diamond having succeeded John Varley as CEO in 2010, one can easily claim that in this first (of many) confirmed Liebor transgression there really is nobody at fault who can be held accountable. Of course, Barclays is merely the first of many. We fully expect Lieborgate to spread not only to other British BBA member banks, but soon to jump across the Atlantic, where CEOs who have been with their banks for the duration of the entire Libor-fixing term will soon find themselves under the same microscope.