When it comes to diving trends in the Fed's take over of the Treasury market, there are those who haven't got the faintest clue about what is going on, such as Paul Krugman, who naively looks (as Bernanke expects all economists to) at the simple total notional of securities held by the Fed and concludes that the Fed is not doing anything to adjust fixed income risk-preference, and then there are those who grasp that when it comes to defining risk exposure in the bond market, and therefore in equities, all that matters is duration, expressed in terms of ten-year equivalents. Sadly, this is a data set that not every CTRL-V major or Nobel prize winner (in order of insight) can grab from the St. Louis Fed - it is however available to those who know where to look. And as the chart below shows, even as the Fed's balance sheet has remained flat in notional terms, its Ten Year equivalent exposure has soared, rising by 50% during Operation Twist alone, from $900 billion to $1.313 trillion. What this means in practical terms, as Stone McCarthy summarizes, is that the Fed now owns 27.05% of the entire inventory in outstanding ten-year equivalents. This leaves less than 75% of the market in private hands.
It appears it is after all not Scott Sumner who 'saved the US economy' by urging the helicopter pilot to create even more money ex nihilo than hitherto. What will save us instead is Apple, or rather, its latest product, the iPhone 5. Who needs Bernanke when this wondrous device stands ready to pull the economy up by its bootstraps? A story has made the rounds lately – propagated by 'economist' (we should use the term loosely…) Michael Feroli at JP Morgan, that sales of the iPhone "could potentially add from one-quarter to one-half of a percentage point to the growth rate of U.S. gross domestic product in the final quarter of the year”. If we were to assume that he is correct, then what this would mainly tell us is how useless a statistic GDP actually is. However, what really takes the cake is a small posting of Krugman's on the same topic entitled “Broken Windows and the iPhone 5”. This view is erroneous – economic laws are not dependent on economic conditions. This is akin to arguing that the laws of nature will cease to be operational on Wednesdays. In Krugman's capable hands, a fallacy becomes a 'theory'.
"A serious inflationary disaster will only be prevented if governments succeed in reducing their deficits and stop selling bonds" is how the infamous destroyer of Krugman, Pedro Schwartz, describes the dangerous 'tennis match' being played between The Fed and The ECB. In an excellent interview with GoldMoney's James Turk, the Spanish 'Austrian' economist talks about bank regulation, the creation of money out of thin air, and the beauty of a trult free market system. From fictional reserve lending to the fragility (and boom-bust cycles) of our financial system, the mild-mannered 'Keynesian-Krusher' concludes that "there has to be a change in social mentality - so that people realize that nothing is free, and the government has to shrink."
By now everyone has heard the infamous Mitt Romney speech discussing the "47%" if primarily in the context of how this impacts his political chances, and how it is possible that a president "of the people" can really be a president "of the 53%." Alas, there has been very little discussion of the actual underlying facts behind this statement, which ironically underestimates the sad reality of America's transition to a welfare state. Recall Art Cashin's math from a month ago that when one adds the 107 million Americans already receiving some form of means-tested government welfare, to the 46 million seniors collecting Medicare and 22 million government employees at the federal, state and local level, and "suddenly, over 165 million people, a clear majority of the 308 million Americans counted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010, are at least partially dependents of the state." Yes, Romney demonstrated potentially terminal lack of tact and contextual comprehension with his statement, and most certainly did alienate a substantial chunk of voters (most of whom would not have voted for him in the first place) but the math is there. The same math that inevitably fails when one attempts to reconcile how the $100+ trillion in underfunded US welfare liabilities will someday be funded. Yet the above is for political pundits to debate, if not resolve. Because there is no resolution. What we did want to bring attention to, is something else that Mitt Romney said, which has received no prominence in the mainstream media from either side. The import of the Romney statement is critical as it reveals just what the endgame may well looks like.
As the FT reports today “In early scenes from Goethe’s tragedy, Mephistopheles persuades the heavily indebted Holy Roman Emperor to print paper money – notionally backed by gold that had not yet been mined – to solve an economic crisis, with initially happy results until more and more money is printed and rampant inflation ensues.” The classic play highlighted, Weidmann argued, “the core problem of today’s paper money-based monetary policy” and the “potentially dangerous correlation of paper money creation, state financing and inflation”. In yesterday’s speech in Frankfurt, Goethe’s birthplace, he said: “The state in Faust Part Two is able at first to rid itself of its debts while consumer demand grows strongly and fuels a strong recovery. But this later develops into inflation and the monetary system is destroyed by rapid currency depreciation.” The name Mephistopheles as used by Goethe comes from the Hebrew word for destroyer or liar. Mephistopheles is a fallen archangel, one of the 7 great princes of Hell and in Goethe’s ‘Faust.’ Mephistopheles is acting for his overlord Satan and seals the pact with Faust. Weidmann is suggesting that the ECB’s current monetary policies are a Faustian pact or a pact with the Devil and that they secure short term gain but will end in the disaster of rampant inflation.
Without justice for investors, pension funds and banks defrauded to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, there can be no investor confidence to support private finance.
We will explore how QE and the new Fed plan might work- might work...So far what the Fed is putting in front of us and what Paul Krugman has written about are two wholly differnt things. It makes me wonder if there is any stucture behind QE besdies prayer...
On Friday, the San Francisco Fed, best known for such cutting edge research as "Why Is Unemployment Duration So Long?" (turns out it was Bernanke's fault), "US Household Deleveraging" which concluded incorrectly that "Going forward, it seems probable that many U.S. households will reduce their debt" (turns out completely wrong as consumer debt is now at a new all time record), and "This Time It Really Is Different" (turns out it wasn't), asked a simple question on its FacePlant page: "What effect do you think QE3 will have on the U.S. economy?" The people have now responded in a fashion that leaves little to the imagination. Actually, one thing is left to the imagination, namely whether the name of the one person responding that the $85 billion in monthly flow in perpetuity associated with QE3 is "not big enough" begins with Paul and ends with Krugman. Aside from that, in typical SF Fed fashion, no surprises at all.
The new policy of unlimited quantitative easing is an experiment. If those theorists of insufficient aggregate demand are right, then the problem will soon be solved, and we will return to strong long-term organic growth, low unemployment and prosperity. I would be overjoyed at such a prospect, and would gladly admit that I was wrong in my claim that depressed aggregate demand has merely been a symptom and not a cause. On the other hand, if economies remain depressed, or quickly return to elevated unemployment and weak growth, or if the new policy has severe adverse side effects, it is a signal that those who proposed this experiment were wrong.
Today's Zero Hedge articles in audio summary! "They're obviously destroying the U.S. Embassies in order to rebuild them and boost GDP. They actually love America and our Keynesian economics." Everyday @ 8pm New York Time!
A $4 trillion Fed balance sheet in 15 months (40% increase) and guess who is not happy. Yup, you got it.
It’s easy to be pessimistic over the future prospects of liberty when major industrialized nations around the world are becoming increasingly rife with market intervention, police aggression, and fallacious economic reasoning. The laissez faire ideal of a society where people should be allowed to flourish without the coercive impositions of the state is all but missing from mainstream debate. In editorial pages and televised roundtable discussions, a government policy of “hands off” is now an unspeakable option. It is presumed that lawmakers must step up to “do something” for the good of the people. Thankfully, this deliberate false choice will slowly but surely bring the death of itself. Illogical theories can only go on for so long before the push-back becomes too much to handle. For those who desire liberty, it’s a joy that the statist economic policies of the Keynesians become even more irrational as the Great Recession drags on. The two following examples will illustrate this point.
Some scary Ponzinomics...
With a price hovering around $1,600 an ounce and the prospect of "additional monetary accommodation" hinted to in the latest meeting of the FOMC, gold is once again becoming a hot topic of discussion. Krugman, praising 'The Atlantic's recent blustering anti-Gold-standard riff, points to gold's volatility, its relationship with interest rates (and general levels of asset prices - which we discussed here), and the number of 'financial panics' that occurred during gold-standards. These criticisms, while containing empirical data, are grossly deceptive. The information provided doesn’t support Krugman’s assertions whatsoever. Instead of utilizing sound economic theory as an interpreter of the data, Krugman and his Keynesian colleagues use it to prove their claims. Their methodological positivism has lead them to fallacious conclusions which just so happen to support their favored policies of state domination over money. The reality is that not only has gold held its value over time, those panics which Krugman refers to occurred because of government intervention; not the gold standard. Keynes himself was contemptuous of the middle class throughout his professional career. This is perhaps why he held such disdain for gold.
The bow-tied-and-bespectacled bringer-of-truth was on Bloomberg TV this morning providing his own clarifying perspective on what we should hope for (and what we should not) from J-Hole this weekend. Jim Grant's acerbic comments on Krugman's view of the world, on the gold standard as a "force for growth and stability", and the "unproven and truly radical methods" of the SNB and Fed, pale in significance when he is asked about the stock market distortions: "I think we live in a hall of mirrors in finance thanks to the zero interest rate regime and the chronic nonstop interventions," and when asked when Bernanke should start raising rates, the simple (yet complex) response is "Last Year! And Eric Rosengren would be in a different line of work." Must watch to understand the central-banker-meme-du-decade.