In his parting act, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has decided to continue printing some $85 billion per month (6% of GDP per year) and spend those dollars on government bonds and, in the process, keep interest rates low, stimulate investment, and reduce unemployment. Trouble is, interest rates have generally been rising, investment remains very low, and unemployment remains very high. As Lawrence Kotlikoff points out, echoing our perhaps more vociferous discussions, Bernanke’s dangerous policy hasn’t worked and should be ended. Since 2007 the Fed has increased the economy's basic supply of money (the monetary base) by a factor of four! That's enough to sustain, over a relatively short period of time, a four-fold increase in prices. Having prices rise that much over even three years would spell hyperinflation.
The Fed will have to increase QE (not taper it) because systemic debt is compounding faster than production and interest rates are already zero-bound. Lee Quaintance noted many years ago that the Fed was holding a burning match. This remains true today (only it is a bomb with a short fuse). Thirteen years after the over-levered US equity market collapsed, eleven years following Bernanke’s speech, five years after the over-levered housing bubble burst, and four years into the necessary onset of global Zero Interest Rate Policies and Long-Term Refinancing Operations, global monetary authorities seem to have run out of new outlets for credit. In real economic terms, central bank policies have become ineffective. In other words, the US is now producing as much new debt as goods and services.
As frequent readers will recall, one of our favorite series of posts describing the "Walking Dead" monetary zombie-infested continent that is Europe is the one showing the abysmal state Europe's credit creation machinery, operated by none other than the Bank of Italy's, Goldman's ECB's Mario Draghi, finds itself in. As a reminder, it was as recently as September when we found that "Mario Draghi's Nightmare Gets Worse" because "European Loans Declined At Record Rate." To our complete lack of surprise, when a few hours ago the ECB released the latest monetary and credit creation update for the month of September, it showed... no change. Or rather, while loans to the private sector are at all time record lows, that other metric which Draghi at least has some direct control over (since he obviously can't control the amount of confidence in the system aside from threats of brute force), M3, just had its lowest pace of increase since January 2012.
The rise of Tomahawk force began in 1983 during the Reagan buildup, but the demise of the Evil Empire did not slow down its development one bit. By the end of the century the United States had about 150 surface ships and attack submarines that could launch these deadly cruise missiles and an inventory of nearly 5,000 missiles. Tomahawks have a range of seven hundred miles. This means that from their offshore platforms they can reach three-fourths of the world’s population. And during the last two decades they have been used in just this “stand-off” manner against targets in Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya, and others—teaching presidents that they could meddle freely without getting bloodied.
$51, 323, 233, 866, 518. That’s the current global public debt that exists all countries together. Next year it will rise to$54, 020, 847, 580, 179.
The all important ECB press conference is set to begin momentarily. Will Draghi answer questions regarding the readiness of the OMT's use in Portugal whose short end has exploded this morning, or will he be forced to wait for the German court's decision first? Or maybe Draghi will finally have some comments on either the ongoing Monte Paschi scandal or the recently revealed Italian derivative debacle which took place under Draghi's watch. We somehow doubt it...
*DRAGHI SAYS ECB RATES TO STAY LOW FOR EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME
*DRAGHI: IMPROVEMENT IN FINANCIAL MARKETS SHOULD REACH ECONOMY
*DRAGHI SAYS INFLATION RATES MAY BE VOLATILE THROUGHOUT YEAR
*DRAGHI: RECENT TIGHTENING OF MARKET RATES MAY WEIGH ON GROWTH
At the end of the day, Friedman jettisoned the gold standard for a remarkable statist reason. Just as Keynes had been, he was afflicted with the economist’s ambition to prescribe the route to higher national income and prosperity and the intervention tools and recipes that would deliver it. The only difference was that Keynes was originally and primarily a fiscalist, whereas Friedman had seized upon open market operations by the central bank as the route to optimum aggregate demand and national income. The greatest untoward consequence of the closet statism implicit in Friedman’s monetary theories, however, is that it put him squarely in opposition to the vision of the Fed’s founders. As has been seen, Carter Glass and Professor Willis assigned to the Federal Reserve System the humble mission of passively liquefying the good collateral of commercial banks when they presented it. Consequently, the difference between a “banker’s bank” running a discount window service and a central bank engaged in continuous open market operations was fundamental and monumental. In short, the committee of twelve wise men and women unshackled by Friedman’s plan for floating paper dollars would always find reasons to buy government debt, thereby laying the foundation for fiscal deficits without tears.
“There can be no doubt that besides the regular types of the circulating medium, such as coin, notes and bank deposits, which are generally recognised to be money or currency, and the quantity of which is regulated by some central authority or can at least be imagined to be so regulated, there exist still other forms of media of exchange which occasionally or permanently do the service of money. Now while for certain practical purposes we are accustomed to distinguish these forms of media of exchange from money proper as being mere substitutes for money, it is clear that, other things equal, any increase or decrease of these money substitutes will have exactly the same effects as an increase or decrease of the quantity of money proper, and should therefore, for the purposes of theoretical analysis, be counted as money.”
How does it really work under irredeemable paper? It's more complicated than under gold.
Curious how Abenomics is progressing six months after its announcement? These charts courtesy of Diapason should provide a convenient status update.
After leaving rates unchanged and following Kuroda's efforts overnight, it appears Draghi had to do something in his press conference. Despite Barroso's assurances that the worst of the crisis is over, ECB's Draghi admits:
*DRAGHI SAYS ECONOMIC WEAKNESS EXTENDED INTO BEGINNING OF YEAR
*DRAGHI SAYS RISKS TO ECONOMIC OUTLOOK ARE ON DOWNSIDE
*DRAGHI SAYS RECOVERY IN 2H IS SUBJECT TO 'DOWNSIDE RISKS'
*DRAGHI: WEAKNESS IS EXTENDING TO COUNTRIES W/OUT FRAGMENTATION
*DRAGHI SAYS ECB WILL ASSESS DATA AND STANDS READY TO ACT
This 'negativity' jawboning, which is really nothing new to anyone who looks at real data, has battered EURUSD 80 pips lower and implicitly smacked S&P 500 futures down 5-6 points as the verbal currency wars continue.
Those who were transfixed by whether Cypriots would rumble and unleash their anger at the €300/day dispensing ATMs formerly known as bank branches this morning, may have missed what probably was the most important monthly chart coming out of Europe - that showing aggregate money (M3) growth and, far more importantly, loan creation. Those who did pay attention will know that in February M3 grew quite obediently in a Eurozone flush with cash, this time by a respectable €15 billion, or 3.1% y/y, after €37 billion in January (of which, however a whopping €47 billion was M1 so the balance actually declined). Of course, this was the easy part: creating money via various central bank conduits has never been the issue: the concern has always been getting that money into private consumer hands through loan creation. And it is here that things just keep on getting worse by the day. Because in a continent in which there is no confidence whatsoever: no confidence in the banks, no confidence in the financial system, no confidence in end demand, no confidence in any reported data, no confidence that one's deposits won't be confiscated tomorrow, and last but not least no confidence that a sovereign nation won't just hand over its sovereignty to the Troika tomorrow, nobody is willing to take on additional loans and obligations. This can be seen in the dramatic divergence between European money creation (blue line), and the bank lending to the private sector (brown), which is at or near an all time record year over year low. So much for restoring confidence in Europe.
Last November, in an act of sheer monetary desperation, the ECB issued an exhaustive, and quite ridiculous, pamphlet titled "Virtual Currency Schemes" in which it mocked and warned about the "ponziness" of such electronic currencies as BitCoin. Why a central bank would stoop so "low" to even acknowledge what no "self-respecting" (sic) PhD-clad economist would even discuss, drunk and slurring, at cocktail parties, remains a mystery to this day. However, that it did so over fears the official artificial currency of the insolvent continent, the EUR, may be becoming even more "ponzi" than the BitCoins the ECB was warning about, was clear to everyone involved who saw right through the cheap propaganda attempt. Feel free to ask any Cypriot if they would now rather have their money in locked up Euros, or in "ponzi" yet freely transferable, unregulated BitCoins. And while precious metals have been subject to price manipulation by the legacy establishment, even if ultimately the actual physical currency equivalent asset, its "value" naively expressed in some paper currency, may be in the possession of the beholder, to date no price suppression or regulation schemes of virtual currencies existed. At least until now: it appears that the ever-benevolent, and always knowing what is "in your best interest" Big Brother has decided to finally take a long, hard look at what is going on in the world of BitCoin... and promptly crush it.
Army Chief of Staff: “The conundrum we have is that we don’t need the tanks”
There will be some talk, but there will be no action.