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.
"A broad-based tax cut, for example, accommodated by a program of open-market purchases to alleviate any tendency for interest rates to increase, would almost certainly be an effective stimulant to consumption and hence to prices. Even if households decided not to increase consumption but instead re-balanced their portfolios by using their extra cash to acquire real and financial assets, the resulting increase in asset values would lower the cost of capital and improve the balance sheet positions of potential borrowers. A money-financed tax cut is essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman's famous "helicopter drop" of money ."
- Ben Bernanke, Deflation: Making Sure "It" Doesn't Happen Here, November 21, 2002
The conventional wisdom of the moment is that a weakening global economy will push the cost of commodities such as oil down as demand stagnates. This makes perfect sense in terms of physical supply and demand, but this ignores the consequences of financial demand and capital flows. The total financial wealth sloshing around the world is approximately $160 trillion. If some relatively modest percentage of this money enters the commodity sector (and more specifically, oil) as a low-risk opportunity, this flow would drive the price of oil higher on its own, regardless of end-user demand and deflationary forces. If we grasp that financial demand is equivalent to end-user demand, we understand why oil could climb to $125/barrel or even higher despite a physical surplus.
Emerging markets have tanked but some of the reasons for their underperformance will prove overblown, providing opportunities for long-term investors.
There are signs that China's economy may have a short-term uptick but that shouldn't detract from what remains a poor long-term outlook.
There's never been coordinated global money printing of the scale of today and it's likely to end badly. Here's how you can protect your investment portoflios from what's to come.
There's never been coordinated global money printing of the scale of today. It will end badly and investors need to prepare accordingly.
If we shed our fixation with the Fed and look at global supply and demand, we get a clearer understanding of the tailwinds driving the U.S. dollar higher. I know this is as welcome in many circles as a flashbang tossed on the table in a swank dinner party, but the U.S. dollar is going a lot higher over the next few years. In a very real sense, every currency is a claim not on the issuing central bank's balance sheet but on the entire economy of the issuing nation. All this leads to two powerful tailwinds to the value of the dollar. One is simply supply and demand: as the global economy slides into recession, trade volumes decline, and the U.S. deficit shrinks. (It's already $250 billion less than was "exported" in 2006.) That will leave fewer dollars available on the global market. The second tailwind is the demand for dollars from those exiting the euro and yen. The abandonment of the euro is already visible in these charts.
The Fed Doves are not thinking of that outcome. If they did, they would be not so confident on their ability to control the outcome. That, or they're bluffing.
Inequality has many sources, but political and technological dynamics are key factors. Few commentators dare wonder if the entire model of distributing output via wages is broken. Those few who do dare wonder if there simply won't be enough paid work to go around have a conventional solution: the Central State should tax the remaining wage earners (and everyone's unearned income) and pay everyone without a job a guaranteed annual income. In the State-dominated consumerist economy, this is the only possible conceptual solution, because it gives the State more power and distributes enough income to keep the consumer-based economy well-greased. Is there no other model?
That the policies of central states and banks have led to one disastrous asset bubble after another over the past 15 years is undeniable. This poses the question: is this serial bubble-blowing intentional, or are the bubbles merely unintended consequences of the neoliberal, neofeudal model of financialization that dominates global finance? The answer boils down to this: inflate assets or die. Inflating phantom assets to collateralize expanding debt is failing due to diminishing returns on stimulus, zero-interest rates, money-printing and monetization of Federal debt.
Central banks are the devil. Hinde Capital explains that they are like drug dealers except they administer regular doses of supposedly legally prescribed barbiturates to their addicts. The 'easy money' or 'credit' they create is an opiate and like all addictions there is a payback for the addicts, one exacted only in loss of health, misery and death. The economic system is an addict, but that system is comprised of banks, corporations, non-profit organisations, small businesses all of which are communities. And what comprises communities, us, human beings - individuals. We are the addicts. It is Hinde's contention that central banks feel they need to maintain the balance of credit in the system as it currently stands by adjusting the money supply and monetary velocity (MV) but by doing so they merely circumvent the necessary adjustment in the economic system that comes about by market failure. If they don't allow this failure then any attempt to influence MV will only lead to higher prices (P) at the expense of output (T) in the famous monetary equation MV=PT. Sadly the desire of the State to control money and administer it like a drug has left our economies unproductive and incapable of standing on their own two feet. Full must read Hinde Insight below...
An over-indebted, overcapacity economy cannot generate real expansion. It can only generate speculative asset bubbles that will implode, destroying the latest round of phantom collateral. For those seeking a summary, here is the global endgame in fourteen points.
The Federal Reserve's policy of targeting unemployment is based on a curious faith that low interest rates and lots of liquidity sloshing around the bank system with magically lead employers to hire more workers. I say this is a curious faith because it makes no sense. In effect, the Fed policy is based on the implicit assumption that the only thing holding entrepreneurs and employers back from hiring is the cost and availability of credit. But as anyone in the actual position of hiring more staff knows, it is not a lack of cheap credit that makes adding workers unattractive, it is the lack of opportunities to increase profit margins by adding more workers. If the economic boom of the mid-1980s proves anything, it is that the cost of credit can be very high but that in itself does not restrain real growth. What restrains growth is not interest rates, it is opportunities to profitably expand operations.
The Keynesian belief that the government can print/ borrow and spend enough money to trigger self-sustaining prosperity is a nonsensical, magical-thinking Cargo Cult. The following charts show why it will continue to fail, with eventually catastrophic results: the returns on this unprecedented borrow-spend policy are diminishing to near-zero or negative. As long as the interest rate on debt is low, the path of least resistance is to keep borrowing to support politically untouchable fiefdoms, cartels and constituencies. Eventually, the cost of servicing the debt overwhelms the diminishing returns on the debt-based spending.