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.
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?"
This morning, as part of the US Treasury's report on global currencies, Secretary Lew made the following remark:
- *LEW SAYS JAPAN 'APPEARS TO BE TURNING AN ECONOMIC CORNER'
Which got us thinking... when have we heard the US Treasury say exactly the same thing... (for exactly the same "policy-based" reason)... The answer is 10 years ago!
If the "success" of Abenomics is measured by the soaring prices of food and energy, if little other inflation, by the exploding monetary base and by a wealth effect, pardon, stock market which has flatlined in the past 3 months, then it has so far done passable job of being considered good policy. If, however, one actually looks at the general improvement in living conditions measured most directly by that key metric -wages - then Abenomics has been the worst thing to hit Japan since the Fukushima tsunami, and an unmitigated disaster. As the Japan labor ministry reported overnight, the nation's salaries extended the longest slide since 2010, as regular wages excluding overtime and bonuses fell 0.3 percent in September from a year earlier, marking a 16th straight month of decline. That this is happening even as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe "urges companies to raise workers’ wages as part of his bid to reflate the world’s third-largest economy" is merely the latest slap in the face of central-planners everywhere who believe that flipping an economy and deeply engrained behaviors can happen on a dime.
In addition to the bevy of ugly European unemployment and inflation news just reported, the overnight session had a dollop of more ugly macro data for the algos to kneejerkingly react to and ramp stocks to fresh time highs on. First it was China, where the PBOC did another reverse repo, however this time at a fixed 4.3% rate, 0.2% higher than the Monday iteration and well above the 3%-handle from early October, indicating that China is truly intent on tightening its monetary conditions. Then Japan confirmed that despite the soaring imported food and energy inflation, wages just refuse to rise, and have declined now for nearly 1.5 years. Then, adding core insult to peripheral injury, Germany reported retail sales that missed expectations of a +0.4% print wildly, declining -0.4% from a prior downward revised 0.5% to -0.2%. And so on: more below. However, as usual what does matter is how the market digests the FOMC news, and for now the sense is that the risk of a December taper has risen based on the FOMC statement language, whether warranted or not, which as a result is pushing futures modestly lower following an epic move higher in the month of October on nothing but pure balance sheet and multiple expansion. The big data week in the US rolls on with the highlights being the Chicago PMI and initial jobless claims, which are expected to print their first accurate, non-impaired reading since August.
"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.
Having previously exposed the world to the "nominal stock market cheerleaders," it is clear that Kyle Bass sees things as only having got worse among developed nations. In fact, the following interview shows that he does not fear US losing its credibility since "developed western economies with the largest debt loads are all in the same boat." The discussion expands from the debt ceiling debacle to bonds and stocks, "given the lack of nominal yield in the bond market, all of the new money is going to continue into stocks. The interesting thing is it’s going to make the rich people richer and the middle and lower class won’t be any better off, which is the opposite of what the administration is trying to pull off," adding that being in stocks "is not your choice," thanks to Fed repression and that deficit contraction is all that can stop the Fed now.
Japan Drowns In Food, Energy Inflation; China's Liquidity Tinkering Continues As Does SHIBOR Blow OutSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/25/2013 06:03 -0400
Nearly one year into the Japan's grandest ever monetization experiment, the "wealth effect" engine is starting to sputter: after soaring into the triple digits due to the BOJ's massive monetary base expansion, the USDJPY has been flatlining at best, and in reality declining, which has also dragged the Nikkei lower dropping nearly 3% overnight and is well off its all time USDJPY defined highs. But aside for the wealth effect for the richest 1%, it is not exactly fair to say that the BOJ has done nothing for the vast majority of the population. Indeed, as the overnight CPI data confirmed, food and energy inflation continues to soar "thanks" to the far weaker yen, even if inflation for non-energy and food items rose by exactly 0.0% in September. Oh, it has done something else too: that most important "inflation", so critical to ultimately success for Abenomics - wages - is not only non-existant, in reality wages continue to decline: Japanese labor compensation has been sliding for nearly one and a half years!
The Bank of Japan will, for the first time in history, "own" all of Japan's GDP on its balance sheet some time in 2018 when its "assets" as a percentage of GDP surpass 100%, and then proceed in linear fashion to add about 10% of GDP to its balance sheet with every passing year until everything inevitably comes crashing down.
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)...
The standard wisdom on gold is that it does well in times of economic bad news such as in the 1970s, a period of stagflation and recessions, when the yellow metal rose from $35/oz to peak at $850/oz in 1980. But this time, Don Coxe, a portfolio adviser to BMO Asset Management, believes, things are different. In this interview with The Gold Report, Coxe explains why gold will rise when the economy improves.
Billionaires and political lackeys alike have been falling all over themselves in the rush to praise the Federal Reserve's unprecedented monetary intervention since 2008. That billionaires and political hacks, apparatchiks and toadies cannot laud the Fed's Cargo Cult enough is no surprise: the billionaires and the government that feeds them both gained handsomely from the Fed's policies. As the Fed-induced asset bubbles in stocks, bonds and real estate follow the inevitable Supernova track to implosion, that we've reached Peak Federal Reserve will be obvious - in hindsight.
With the government shutdown stretching into an improbable 4th day (and with every additional day added on, the likelihood that the impasse continues even longer and hit the debt ceiling X-Date of October 17 becomes greater), today's monthly Non-Farm Payroll data has quickly become No-Farm Payroll. However, just like on day when Europe is closed we still get a ramp into the European close, expect at least several vacuum tube algos to jump the gun at 8:29:59:999 and try to generate some upward momentum ignition in stocks and downward momentum in gold. In addition to no economic data released in the US, President Obama announced last night he has cancelled his trip to Bali, Indonesia, to attend the APEC conference and instead to focus on budget negotiations back at home - which is ironic because his latest story is that he will not negotiate, so why not just not negotiate from Asia? Ah, the optics of shutdown.
In the upcoming week markets will continue to focus on these fiscal issues in the US, now that a temporary Government shutdown past Tuesday is assured. Still on the fiscal side but outside the US, look forward to Prime Minister Abe announcing his final decision on the VAT hike as well as unveiling a widely anticipated economic stimulus package. Finally, fiscal policy also played a role in the Italian political instability with four ministers resigning from the coalition Government. The backdrop to these events is a rapid deterioration of the political climate after former PM Berlusconi was convicted of tax evasion by a High Court.
As it turns out, a lot... and also very little.