Moral Hazard

El-Erian Breaches The Final Frontier: What Happens If Central Banks Fail?

"In the last three plus years, central banks have had little choice but to do the unsustainable in order to sustain the unsustainable until others do the sustainable to restore sustainability!" is how PIMCO's El-Erian introduces the game-theoretic catastrophe that is potentially occurring around us. In a lecture to the St.Louis Fed, the moustachioed maestro of monetary munificence states "let me say right here that the analysis will suggest that central banks can no longer – indeed, should no longer – carry the bulk of the policy burden" and "it is a recognition of the declining effectiveness of central banks’ tools in countering deleveraging forces amid impediments to growth that dominate the outlook. It is also about the growing risk of collateral damage and unintended circumstances." It appears that we have reached the legitimate point of – and the need for – much greater debate on whether the benefits of such unusual central bank activism sufficiently justify the costs and risks. This is not an issue of central banks’ desire to do good in a world facing an “unusually uncertain” outlook. Rather, it relates to questions about diminishing returns and the eroding potency of the current policy stances. The question is will investors remain "numb and sedated…. by the money sloshing around the system?" or will "the welfare of millions in the United States, if not billions of people around the world, will have suffered greatly if central banks end up in the unpleasant position of having to clean up after a parade of advanced nations that headed straight into a global recession and a disorderly debt deflation." Of course, it is a rhetorical question.

The Anatomy Of A USD-Funding Crisis And The Fed's Global Swap-Line Bailout

The Fed's currency swap with the ECB is nothing more than a covert bailout for European banks. Philipp Bagus of Mises.com explains how the USD-funding crisis occurred among European banks inevitably leading to the Fed assuming the role of international lender of last resort - for which US taxpayers are told to be lucky happy since this free-lunch from printing USD and sending them overseas provides an almost risk-free benefit in the form of interest on the swap. Furthermore, the M.A.D. defense was also initiated that if this was not done, it would be far worse for US markets (and we assume implicitly the economy). The Fed's assurances on ending the bailout policy should it become imprudent or cost-benefits get misaligned seems like wishful thinking and as the EUR-USD basis swap starts to deteriorate once again, we wonder just how long before the Fed's assumed role of bailing out the financial industry and governments of the world by debasing the dollar will come home to roost. As Bagus concludes: "Fed officials claim to know that the bailout-swaps are basically a free lunch for US taxpayers and a prudent thing to do. Thank God the world is in such good hands." and perhaps more worryingly "The highest cost of the Fed policy, therefore, may be liberty in Europe" as the Euro project is enabled to play out to its increasingly centralized full fiscal union endgame.

FHFA To Treasury: Forget Principal Forgiveness

FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco offered some prepared remarks today making it abundantly clear that his preference is for forbearance over forgiveness in the great mortgage hole in the US balance sheet's dam. As Bank of America's Chris Flanagan noted this evening "[DeMarco] effectively nixed the idea of broad-based principal forgiveness by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac" in his comments on the Treasury's incentives to forgive principal on underwater borrowers. Citing three factors - NPV Impact to taxpayer, moral hazard, and operational costs - the FHFA Director indicated that forbearance (simply put - delaying foreclosure) is effectively a shared appreciation mortgage (SAM) without the operational complexities of a more formal SAM. BofA concludes: "his preliminary remarks on the incentive approach to principal forgiveness of GSE loans [mean] that there will be zero to minimal scale of such an approach." Back to the drawing board for the Treasury (or more forced-through unintended consequences?).

Bernanke Speech Released, Prepared Remarks Uneventful, Looking Forward To Q&A

Many are eagerly awaiting Bernanke's opening speech at the 2012 Financial Markets Conference "The Devil’s in the Details" which just like last year had nothing in the prepared remarks about the market, or about current labor or inflation conditions. Instead, Bernanke speaks about (what we deem far more important) Shadow Banking, repos, money markets, and other things which the market does not care about at all. And since he will not address monetary policy at all in the prepared remarks, the only hope is if a random question at the Q&A will provoke him to tell the world if the NEW QE is coming. We are not holding our breath.

The Second Foreclosure Tsunami Is Coming, And Is About To Kill Any Hopes Of A "Housing Bottom"

In what appears to be surprising news for some, Reuters has an article titled "Americans brace for next foreclosure wave" whose key premise is that "a painful part two of the [housing] slump looks set to unfold: Many more U.S. homeowners face the prospect of losing their homes this year as banks pick up the pace of foreclosures." Thank the robosettlement, where in exchange for a few wrist slaps, contract law was thoroughly trampled by America's attorneys general, but far more importantly to the country's crony capitalist system, the foreclosure pipeline was once again unclogged, and whether one does or does not have a legal title on a given house, the banks are now fully in their right to foreclose on it. What this means also is that America's record shadow housing inventory, which is far greater than any fabricated number the NAR reports on a monthly basis, is about to get unleashed on buyers, shifting the supply curve much further to the right, as up to 9 million new properties slowly but surely appear on the market. And while many will no longer be able to live mortgage free, forcing them to go out and rent (and no longer be able to afford incremental iGizmos), it also means that the prevalent price of homes is about to take another major tumble, making buffoons out of all those who, once again, called for a housing bottom in early 2012. Here's the simply math: there will be no housing bottom until the 9 million excess homes clear. Period. Until then it is a buyer's market, even if said buyer is unable to obtain bank financing, as ultimately it will be the seller who is forced to monetize (or vacate if underwater) their home in a world of ever diminishing cashflows. The fear of the supply onslaught will only make the dumpage that much faster.

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The Fed is not a “dealer” giving “hits” of monetary morphine to an “addict”… the Fed has permitted cancerous beliefs to spread throughout the financial system. And the end result is going to be the same as that of a patient who ignores cancer and simply acts as though everything is fine. That patient is now past the point of no return. There can be no return to health. Instead the system will eventually collapse and then be replaced by a new one.

Jens Weidmann Defends Bundesbank Against Allegations Of TARGET2-Induced Instability

We have previously discussed the substantial, and growing, threat to the German economy that is the Bundesbank's negative TARGET2 balance, which we have formerly dubbed Europe's €2.5 trillion closed liquidity loop, which just rose to a new record over €550 billion (in "Has The Imploding European Shadow Banking System Forced The Bundesbank To Prepare For Plan B?", "Goldman's Take On TARGET2 And How The Bundesbank Will Suffer Massive Losses If The Eurozone Fails", and most recently  in "Dear Germans: Bring Out Ze Checkbooks") which in turn merely represents the taxpayer funded capital flow to insure that the Eurozone remains solvent for one more day as Germany's peripheral trading partners receive rescue capital every day in the form of recycled German current account surplus. It now appears that the Bundesbank president has taken to these allegations of monetary instability strongly enough to where he has just released the following response on Target2 in "What is the origin and meaning of the Target2 balances?" Full letter below.

Guest Post: Money from Nothing - A Primer on Fake Wealth Creation and its Implications (Part 2)

Only in a debt-based money system could debt be curiously cast as an asset. We’ve made “extend and pretend” a quaint phrase for a burgeoning market for financial lying and profiteering aimed toward preventing the collapse of a debt- (or lack-) based system that was already doomed by its initial design to collapse. This primer will detail the major components and basic evolution of fake wealth creation, accelerating debt expansion, hollowing out of the economy, and inevitable financial implosion.

John Taylor Warns Of A "Highly Disastrous, Totally Uncontrollable Inflationary Conflagration"

All this money sloshing around is nothing but kindling. This is enough to start one hell of a large inflationary fire, but probably not until we have a deflationary panic first – which will add even more kindling to the pile. The progression from the $1.5 billion Chrysler rescue to the current multi-trillion dollar worldwide financial support operations seems to parallel the march from the first US forestry service attempts to limit forest fires about a century ago to the far more sophisticated efforts possible today... Studies have shown that the onset of that catastrophe is almost totally unpredictable. By suppressing small fires, the forests approach an unstable state where the dead wood, resulting from the natural cycle of birth and death in the wild, is piled high, ready to explode into flames if the conditions are right. The central banks and other governmental authorities have piled the money so high that bubbles are popping up everywhere. With so many bubbles and so much kindling, volatility in price is a sure thing. As research has shown that the timing of these dramatic breakdowns, whether a forest fire, an earthquake, or a market crash cannot predicted, or mitigated as it runs its course, the time to control these crises is way before they start. The US Forestry Service knows that, please tell Bernanke!