Fractional reserve banking is unlike most other businesses. It's not just because its product is money. It's because banks can manufacture their product out of thin air. Under the bygone rules of free market capitalism, only one thing kept banks from creating an infinite amount of money, and that was fear of failure. Periodic bank failures remind depositors of the connection between risk and reward. What is not widely appreciated is that the ensuing government bailouts allowed an underlying shadow banking system to not only survive but grow even larger. To the frustration of Keynesians, and despite an unprecedented Quantitative Easing (QE) by the Federal Reserve, conventional commercial banks have broken with custom and have amassed almost $2 trillion in excess reserves they are reluctant to lend as they scramble to digest all the bad loans still on their books. So most of the money manufactured today is actually being created by the shadow banks. But shadow banks do not generally make commercial loans. Rather, they use the money they manufacture to fund proprietary trading operations in repos and derivatives. No one knows when the bubble will pop, but when it does a donnybrook is going to break out over that thin wedge of collateral whose ownership is spread across counterparties around the world, each looking for relief from their own judges, politicians, bureaucrats, and taxpayers.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on asset valuation these days, even commentators who are normally quiet about such matters. Some are seeing asset price bubbles, others are just on the lookout for bubbles, and still others wonder what all the fuss is about. Simply put, our financial markets weren’t (and still aren’t) structured to be efficient, and consistently rational behavior is a pipe dream, history shows over and over that the idea of a stable equilibrium is deeply flawed. Policies focused on the short-term tend to exacerbate that cycle, as we saw when decades of stabilization policies and moral hazard exploded in the Global Financial Crisis. Maybe if macroeconomics were rooted in the reality of a perpetual cycle - where expansions eventually lead to recessions (stability breeds instability) and then back to expansions - we would see more economists and policymakers balancing near-term benefits against long-term costs. Or, another way of saying the same thing is that mainstream economists should pay more attention to Austrians and others who’ve long rejected core assumptions that are consistently proven wrong.
It looks like the International Monetary Fund has been jinxed. It’s fated. It’s doomed! The next managing director should start wearing garlic around their neck already or at least burn sage in their office to ward off evil spirits.
Yesterday, the rumor turned out to be a joke. Today, there was no rumor, but as we warned four hours ago, it was only a matter of time. Less than four hours later, the time has come, and Jon Hilsenrath's "Fed Maps Exit from Stimulus", conveniently appearing after the close, has just been released.
The reason for yesterday's late day swoon was a humorous tweet, which subsequently became a full-blown serious rumor, that the WSJ's Hilsenrath would leak the first hint that the Fed is contemplating preannouncing the "tapering" of its $85 billion in monthly purchases. Naturally, this did not happen as we explained. And yet, judging by the market's response there is substantial concern that the Fed may do just that. To be sure, it is quite likely that in addition to just rumblings out of economists, which are always wrong and thus ignored, that one of the Fed's unofficial channels may hint at some tightening in the monthly flow (if certainly not halt, and absolutely not unwind). Which makes sense: all previous instances of non-open ended QE took place for up to 6-9 months before the Fed briefly let off the accelerator to see just how big the downward response is. The problem now, however, is that even the tiniest hint that the grossly overvalued "market", which has risen only thanks to multiple expansion for the past year, would lead to a massive overshoot not only to whatever an ex-Fed "fair value" may be, but overshoot wildly as the liquidation programs kick in across a Wall Street that is more liquidity starved today than it has been in a decade. This is precisely what Scotiabank's Guy Hasselman thinks: "Few care about “right-tail” events, but should investors decide to pare risk in reaction to a hint of ‘tapering’, the overshoot to the downside may surprise many. The combination of too many sellers, too few buyers, and dreadful (and declining) liquidity means a down-side overshoot is highly likely."
The debate rages... Soros: "The euro crisis has already transformed the European Union from a voluntary association of equal states into a creditor-debtor relationship from which there is no easy escape. The creditors stand to lose large sums should a member state exit the monetary union, yet debtors are subjected to policies that deepen their depression, aggravate their debt burden, and perpetuate their subordinate position. As a result, the crisis is now threatening to destroy the EU itself. That would be a tragedy of historic proportions, which only German leadership can prevent." Sinn: "Soros is playing with fire... Many investors echo Soros. They want to cut and run – to unload their toxic paper onto intergovernmental rescuers, who should pay for it with the proceeds of Eurobond sales, and put their money in safer havens... Soros does not recognize the real nature of the eurozone’s problems. The ongoing financial crisis is merely a symptom of the monetary union’s underlying malady: its southern members’ loss of competitiveness... His accusation that Germany is imposing austerity is unfair. Austerity is imposed by the markets, not by those countries providing the funds to mitigate the crisis."
Elliott's Singer On Bernanke Destroying "The Value Of Money" And "Uprooting The Basic Stability Of Society"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/03/2013 19:26 -0400
"We believe that the global central bankers, led by the Fed as “thought leader,” have no idea how much pain the world’s economy may endure when they begin the still-undetermined and never-before attempted process of ending this gigantic experimental policy. If they follow the paths of the worst central banks in history, they will adopt the “tiger by the tail” approach (keep printing even as inflation accelerates) and ultimately destroy the value of money and savings while uprooting the basic stability of their societies.... At some stage, central banks inevitably realize, regardless of whether they admit the catastrophic nature of their own failings, that the cessation of money-printing will cause an instant depression. Even though at that point the cessation of money-printing may be the only action capable of saving society, that becomes a secondary consideration compared to the desire to avoid immediate pain and blame."
Even those at the top of the neofeudal debtocracy know our economy and political order need real reform. Behind closed doors, they will discuss this with others in the Power Elite and gloomily shake their heads. The usual reasons why real reform is impossible are duly trotted out: political stalemate/gridlock, the power of vested interests, etc. The real reasons are deeper than economics or politics.
The imperial tree falls not because the challenges are too great but because the core of the tree has been weakened by the gradual loss of surplus, purpose, institutional effectiveness, intellectual vigor and productive investment. Comparing the American Empire with the Roman Empire in its terminal decline is a popular intellectual parlor game. The comparison is inexact on a number of fronts but despite the apparent difference, the two empires share the key characteristic of all enduring empires: they extract the cost of maintaining the empire from client states and/or allies. The mechanisms differ, but the results are the same: the empire's cost is distributed to those who benefit from its secure trade routes.
The problem with cutting the links between risk and consequence and the real economy and the stock market is that a market deprived of feedback from reality is prone to disorderly disruption. Why is this so? Participants make decisions based on the information made available to them. If the information from the real world is suppressed or limited, then the decisions made by participants will necessarily be misinformed, i.e. wrong. If feedback from the real world is suppressed, then decisions will necessarily be bad. The only choice for participants who have lost faith in central planning's promise of permanently higher markets will be to abandon the manipulated markets entirely.
It's important to draw a line between two very different flavors of banker: "restrained" (Dr. Jekyll) and "unrestrained" (Mr. Hyde). The key feature of a sustainable, non-parasitic banking sector is that banks and bankers have "skin in the game," i.e. they personally suffer losses when their loans and bets go bad. This is the essence of moral hazard: the separation of risk from consequence. Put another way, those who are insulated from risk will have an insatiable appetite for risky bets because any gains will be theirs to keep but any losses will be covered by the central bank or government: this is known as "privatizing profits and socializing losses." The Federal Reserve, the Obama Administration, the housing agencies and the U.S. Treasury are all offering bankers and financiers high-payoff tables that require no skin in the game. No wonder our system is dominated by the unrestrained bankers, sociopathological Mr. Hydes who offer a few coins in compensation for running down the nation.
Big Banks and D.C. Politicians Doing the EXACT SAME THINGS Which Caused the Financial Crisis In the First PlaceSubmitted by George Washington on 04/05/2013 17:46 -0400
Instead of Changing their Behavior to Prevent Another Crisis, the Powers-That-Be Double Down On the Strategies that Caused the Financial Crisis In the First Place
In 1993, management guru Peter Drucker published a short book entitled Post-Capitalist Society. Drucker identified that developed-world economies were entering a new knowledge-based era – as opposed to the preceding industrial-based era - which represented just as big a leap from the agrarian-based one it had superseded. From this perspective, the nation-state is no longer indispensable to the knowledge economy, and as a result, Drucker foresaw the emergence of new social structures would arise and co-exist with the nation-state. Drucker summed up the difference between what many term a post-industrial economy and what he calls a knowledge economy this way: "That knowledge has become the resource rather than a resource is what makes our society 'post-capitalist.' This fact changes – fundamentally – the structure of society. The means of production is and will be knowledge." Though he doesn’t state it directly, this means that the highly centralized sectors of the economy, from finance to government, will be disrupted by a rapidly evolving, decentralized “society of organizations.”
There is "not a chance," that the Fed will be able to unwind its balance sheet in an orderly manner, "because everybody is front-running [them]," as the Fed is creating "serial bubbles," that are increasingly hard to manage since "we're getting in deeper and deeper every time." David Stockman has been vociferously honest in the last few days and his Bloomberg Radio interview with Tom Keene was extremely so. While Keene tries his best to remain upbeat and his permabullish self, Stockman just keeps coming with body blow after body blow to the thesis that this 'recovery' is sustainable. "They are using a rosy scenario forecast for the next ten years that would make the rosy scenario of the 1981 Reagan administration look like an ugly duckling," he exclaims, adding that the Keynesian Krugmanites' confidence is "disingenuous" - "the elephant in the room - the Fed," that are for now enabling rates to stay where they are. The full transcript below provides much food for thought but he warns, if the Fed ever pulled back, even modestly, "there would be a tremendous panic sell off in the bond market because it is entirely propped up... It's to late to go cold turkey."
Most publications talk about the 10B or 17B Cyprus bailout. Let’s take a pop quiz on the right answer:
(a) 17B Euros (89% of GDP)
(b) 10B Euros (52% of GDP)
(c) 2.5B Euros (13% of GDP)
(d) -3.0B Euros (-15% of GDP)
(e) -7.5B Euros (-39% of GDP)
Now let’s work through the answers... (hint: we don’t see any version of the numbers where Cyprus is not a net creditor to the EU bailout regime, as opposed to a net beneficiary.)