Moral Hazard

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What Happens When The Giants Unwind?





The world has depended on Chinese and American stimulus for years, and, as Caixin's Andy Xie notes, one implication of their tightening is a slowing global economy in 2014.

 
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When Risk Is Separated From Gain, The System Is Doomed





Risk is an ever-present characteristic of life; it cannot be eliminated, it can only be masked or hedged. We know this intuitively, yet we blithely accept official assurances that risk can be eliminated by the monetary machinations of the Federal Reserve, the Central Bank of China, the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank. To confuse masking risk with the elimination of risk is the acme of hubris and the perfect setup for disaster.

 
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3 "Hangovers" From The FOMC's 'Taper'





Having had a few days to reflect on the all-knowing Bernanke's words (and deeds), here are a few thoughts on what was said (and not said)...

 
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"Pot Calling The Kettle Black" Classic: Fed Researchers Slam Dishonest Economists





The financial crisis is surely a touchy subject at the Fed, where the biggest PR challenge is “bubble blowing” criticism from those of us who aren’t on the payroll (directly or indirectly). But Foote, Gerardi and Willen are, of course, on the payroll. They tell us there’s little else that can be said about the origins of the crisis, because any “honest economist” will admit to not understanding bubbles... " Unfortunately, the study of bubbles is too young to provide much guidance on this point. For now, we have no choice but to plead ignorance, and we believe that all honest economists should do the same." This smells to us like a strategy of gently acknowledging criticism (of the Fed’s interest rate policies), while at the same time attempting to neutralize it.

 
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Guest Post: How the Paper Money Experiment Will End





A paper currency system contains the seeds of its own destruction. The temptation for the monopolist money producer to increase the money supply is almost irresistible. We are now in a situation that looks like a dead end for the paper money system. After the last cycle, governments have bailed out malinvestments in the private sector and boosted their public welfare spending. Deficits and debts skyrocketed. So will money printing be a constant with interest rates close to zero until people lose their confidence in the paper currencies? Can the paper money system be maintained or will we necessarily get a hyperinflation sooner or later? There are at least seven possibilities...

 
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Marc Faber: "Financial Crisis Don't Happen Accidentally, They Are Inevitable"





As a distant but interested observer of history and investment markets, Marc Faber is fascinated how major events that arose from longer-term trends are often explained by short-term causes.; and more often than not, bailouts (short-term fixes) create larger problems down the road, and that the authorities should use them only very rarely and with great caution. Faber sides with J.R. Hicks, who maintained that “really catastrophic depression” is likely to occur “when there is profound monetary instability — when the rot in the monetary system goes very deep”. Simply put, a financial crisis doesn’t happen accidentally, but follows after a prolonged period of excesses (expansionary monetary policies and/or fiscal policies leading to excessive credit growth and excessive speculation). The problem lies in timing the onset of the crisis.

 
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Three Post-Mortems On China's Third Plenum





China's Third Plenum has come and now truly gone, following the second, 20000 word "decision" which followed the spares initial communique, which contains much more promises and pledges about the future with a 2020 event horizon, so it is a fair bet that nothing of what was resolved will be implemented in a world that will be a vastly different from the one today, but one has to digest current news regardless. So for the sake of those who analyze such things as promises out of a centrally-planned communist nation, here are three takes on the third plenum, courtesy of SocGen, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.

 
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The Fed's 100-Year War Against Gold (And Economic Common Sense)





On December 23, 2013, the U.S. Federal Reserve (the Fed) will celebrate its 100th birthday, so we thought it was time to take a look at the Fed’s real accomplishment, and the practices and policies it has employed during this time to rob the public of its wealth. The criticism is directed not only at the world’s most powerful central bank - the Fed - but also at the concept of central banks in general, because they are the antithesis of fiscal responsibility and financial constraint as represented by gold and a gold standard. The Fed was sold to the public in much the same way as the Patriot Act was sold after 9/11 - as a sacrifice of personal freedom for the promise of greater government protection. Instead of providing protection, the Fed has robbed the public through the hidden tax of inflation brought about by currency devaluation.

 
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UBS Warns The Fed Is Trapped





The Fed seems to be facing two major risks: first, premature tapering disrupting markets and triggering global turmoil across asset classes, thereby threatening the fragile economy recovery; second, delayed tapering further fuelling asset price bubbles, which could burst eventually and do major damage. UBS' Beat Siegenthaler notes the September decision suggested a Fed more worried about the fragile recovery than about the potential for asset bubbles and other longer-term problems associated with extended liquidity injections. Whereas it had originally assumed that a gradual tapering would result in a gradual market reaction, Siegenthaler explains it is now clear that the situation is much more binary; and as such, the hurdles for tapering might be substantially higher than originally thought.

 
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Because Of The Fed "Mortgage Market Liquidity Is As Bad As When Bear Stearns Failed"





Remember the main reason why the Fed should have tapered, namely the illiquidity in the bond market it is creating with its feverish pace of collateral extraction, and conversion of quality collateral into 500x fwd P/E dot com dot two stocks? Here to put it all in context is Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann: "Through its QE policy, the Fed buys $3 of mortgages for every $1 of origination.  The consequence is that secondary mortgage market liquidity has been decimated: it is as bad as when Bear Stearns failed." That's just MBS for now. However, since the Fed has refused and refuses to taper, the same liquidity collapse is coming to Treasury's first, then corporates, then ETFs, then REITs and everything else that the Fed will eventually monetize. Just like the BOJ.

 
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Busy, Lackluster Overnight Session Means More Delayed Taper Talk, More "Getting To Work" For Mr Yellen





It has been a busy overnight session starting off with stronger than expected food and energy inflation in Japan even though the trend is now one of decline while non-food, non-energy and certainly wage inflation is nowhere to be found (leading to a nearly 3% drop in the Nikkei225), another SHIBOR spike in China (leading to a 1.5% drop in the SHCOMP) coupled with the announcement of a new prime lending rate (a form a Chinese LIBOR equivalent which one knows will have a happy ending), even more weaker than expected corporate earnings out of Europe (leading to red markets across Europe), together with a German IFO Business Confidence miss and drop for the first time in 6 months, as well as the latest M3 and loan creation data out of the ECB which showed that Europe remains stuck in a lending vacuum in which banks refuse to give out loans, a UK GDP print which came in line with expectations of 0.8%, where however news that Goldman tentacle Mark Carney is finally starting to flex and is preparing to unleash a loan roll out collateralized by "assets" worse than Gree Feta and oilve oil. Of course, none of the above matters: only thing that drives markets is if AMZN burned enough cash in the quarter to send its stock up by another 10%, and, naturally, if today's Durable Goods data will be horrible enough to guarantee not only a delay of the taper through mid-2014, but potentially lend credence to the SocGen idea that the Yellen-Fed may even announce an increase in QE as recently as next week.

 
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Things That Make You Go Hmmm... Like Moral Hazard





A mere 24 hours before the US was going to run out of money and default on its obligations (in what Jack Lew described as a "catastrophe"), Grant Williams notes the S&P 500 was trading exactly 2.30% from its all-time high. Does that sound like anybody was worried about financial Armageddon? Nope, but as Williams detail sin his latest letter, the danger was very real, as a default by the US on its debt obligations would have gone to the very heart of the "plumbing" that underlies financial markets and caused havoc in the repo market and all kinds of problems with collateral... The key clue passed most people by a week ago; but it came from, of all places, Hong Kong...

 
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