Federal Reserve

A Market Worthy Of The Line: "Do You Feel Lucky?"

The now immortal line spoken by Clint Eastwood as "Dirty Harry" (1971 Warner Bros.) has never fit as a descriptor these financial markets more so than it does today. For if you believe you’re investing as opposed to gambling? These markets are now poised to show everyone the difference.

Fed Admits "Something's Going On Here That We Maybe Don't Understand"

In a somewhat shocking admission of its own un-omnipotence, or perhaps more of a C.Y.A. moment for the inevitable mean-reversion to reality, Reuters reports that San Francisco Fed President John Williams said Friday that low neutral interest rates are a warning sign of possible changes in the U.S. economy that the central bank does not fully understand. With Japan having been there for decades, and the rest of the developed world there for 6 years, suddenly, just weeks away from what The Fed would like the market to believe is the first rate hike in almost a decade, Williams decides now it is the time to admit the central planners might be missing a factor (and carefully demands better fiscal policy).

The Power Of Fear & The Gullibility Of The Masses

It was 77 years ago this week that Orson Welles struck terror into the hearts of Americans with his live radio broadcast of the HG Wells classic War of the Worlds. What struck me while watching the PBS retrospective were the similarities between then and now. The gullibility of the masses, the power of fear, the overreaction by the media, busy bodies calling for the government to do something, and the effectiveness of propaganda are all commonalities between that Fourth Turning and today’s Fourth Turning.

Did The PBOC Just Exacerbate China's Credit & Currency Peg Time Bomb?

China as the global Bubble’s focal point – the weak link yet, at the same time, the key marginal source of Bubble finance. China’s policy course appears to focus on two facets: to stabilize the yuan versus the dollar and to resuscitate Credit expansion. For better than two decades, similar policy courses were followed by myriad EM policymakers in hopes of sustaining financial and economic booms. Many cases ended in abject failure – often spectacularly. Why? Because when officials resort to such measures to sustain faltering Bubbles it generally works to only exacerbate systemic fragilities. For one, late-stage reflationary measures compound Credit system vulnerability while compounding structural impairment to the real economy. Secondly, central bank and banking system Credit-bolstering measures create liquidity that invariably feeds destabilizing “capital” and “hot money” outflows.

Withdrawals Of Gold From NY Fed Jump To 20 Tons In September, Total 276 Tons Since 2014

In September, the total physical gold held in custody at the NY Fed dropped another 19.9 tons in September, down to 5,919.5 tons. This was a doubling in gold withdrawals from 10 tons in August, and is the highest withdrawal since January. At just under 5,920 total tons in NY Fed inventory, this is the lowest amount of gold held in NY Fed custody in decades.

The Dire Societal Consequences Of Stability-Obsessed Keynesians

We will be the first to admit that yield curve inversion is not the only factor causing recessions, but through the credit channel it can be an important contributor. Depending on the importance of the credit channel, the Federal Reserve, by pegging the short term rate at zero, have essentially removed one recessionary market mechanism that used to efficiently clear excesses within the financial system. While stability obsessed Keynesians on a quest to the permanent boom regard this as a positive development, the rest of us obviously understand that false stability breeds instability.

 

Dear Janet, Seriously!!

The Fed's confidence trick this week was, once again, the Keyser Soze gambit (via Beaudelaire)-  "convincing the world of Yellen's hawkishness, when no such character trait exists." However, unlike the movies, stocks and FX markets have already seen through the con, leaving Fed Funds futures alone to believe the hype. As we noted previously, "The Fed Can't Raise Rates, But Must Pretend It Will," repeating its pre-meeting hawkishness to dovishness swing time and again in a "Groundhog Day" meets "Waiting For Godot"-like manner. Time is running out Janet, tick tock...

Offshoring The Economy: Why The US Is On The Road To The Third World

On January 6, 2004, Senator Charles Schumer and I challenged the erroneous idea that jobs offshoring was free trade in a New York Times op-ed. Our article so astounded economists that within a few days Schumer and I were summoned to a Brookings Institution conference in Washington, DC, to explain our heresy. In the nationally televised conference, I declared that the consequence of jobs offshoring would be that the US would be a Third World country in 20 years. That was 11 years ago, and the US is on course to descend to Third World status before the remaining 9 years of my prediction have expired. The evidence is everywhere.

How We Got Here: The Fed Warned Itself In 1979, Then Spent Four Decades Intentionally Avoiding The Topic

At least parts of the Fed all the way back in 1979 appreciated how Greenspan and Bernanke’s “global savings glut” was a joke. Rather than follow that inquiry to a useful line of policy, monetary officials instead just let it all go into the ether of, from their view, trivial history. But the true disaster lies not just in that intentional ignorance but rather how orthodox economists and policymakers were acutely aware there was “something” amiss about money especially by the 1990’s. Because these dots to connect were so close together the only reasonable conclusion for this discrepancy is ideology alone. Economists were so bent upon creating monetary “rules” by which to control the economy that they refused recognition of something so immense because it would disqualify their very effort.

IIF Warns Household Wealth Gains Will Disappear Unless Fed Normalizes Rates Soon

"Easy policy has passed the point of diminishing return and keeping it longer would only increase moral hazard and distort financial markets," exclaims the Institute of International Finance, warning that the gap between the value of Americans' holdings of stocks, bonds and other financial assets and the trend growth rate of the economy is still large and not far off the level that prevailed in 2007 before the financial crisis. "The Fed should start to normalize policy as soon as possible," removing the excess as the 'gap' "typically ends up being narrowed by a correction in the stock market."

Mother Yellen's Little Helper - The Rate-Hike Placebo Effect

Americans are increasingly likely to respond positively to a placebo in a drug trial – more so than other nationalities. That’s the upshot of a recently published academic paper that looked at 84 clinical trials for pain medication done between 1990 and 2013. These findings, while bad for drug researchers, does shed some light on our favorite topic: behavioral finance. Trust and confidence makes placebos work, and those attributes also play a role in the societal effectiveness of central banks. That’s what makes the Fed’s eventual move to higher rates so difficult; even if zero interest rates are more placebo than actual medicine, markets believe they work to support asset prices.