GE’s announcement that its getting out of the finance business should be a reminder of how crony capitalism is corrupting and debilitating the American economy. The ostensible reason the company is unceremoniously dumping its 25-year long build-up of the GE Capital mega-bank is that it doesn’t want to be regulated by Washington as a systematically important financial institution under Dodd-Frank. Oh, and that its core industrial businesses have better prospects. We will see soon enough about its oilfield equipment and wind turbine business, or indeed all of its capital goods oriented businesses in a radically deflationary world drowning in excess capacity. But at least you can say good riddance to GE Capital because it was based on a phony business model that was actually a menace to free market capitalism. Its deplorable raid on the public purse during the Lehman crisis had already demonstrated that in spades.
Current policy coming from the Fed seems to be geared to create a never-ending series of booms and busts, with the hope that the busts can be shortened with more debt and easy money. Yet one major driver behind the financial crisis in 2008 was too much debt - much of which led to taxpayer-funded bailouts. In spite of this, the best the Fed can come up with now is to lower interest rates to boost demand to induce households and governments to borrow even more. Interfering with interest rates, however, is by far the most damaging policy. The economy is not a car, and interest rates are not the gas pedal. Interest rates play a critical role in aligning output with society’s demand across time. Fiddling with them only creates an ever-growing misalignment between demand and supply across time requiring an ever larger and more painful adjustment.
Blogger Ben’s work is already done. In his very first substantive post as a civilian he gave away all the secrets of the monetary temple. The Bernank actually refuted the case for modern central banking in one blog. The truth is the real world of capitalism is far, far too complex and dynamic to be measured and assessed with the exactitude implied by Bernanke’s gobbledygook. In fact, what his purported necessity for choosing a rate “somewhere” actually involves is the age old problem of socialist calculation.
"Leverage is risky. Purchasing assets with borrowed money can amplify small movements in prices into extraordinary gains or crippling losses, even default."
- San Fran Fed
Under normal circumstances, after 2008's conflagration of the calamitous collateralizations, we shouldn’t have seen such irrational, reckless, greedy behavior from Wall Street for another generation. But, Wall Street didn’t have to accept the consequences of their actions. They were bailed out and further enriched by their puppets at the Federal Reserve, the lackey politicians they installed in Washington D.C., and on the backs of honest, hard-working, tax paying Americans. The lesson they learned was they could continue to take excessive, reckless, unregulated risks without concern for losses, downside, or consequences.
As we noted last week, the Swiss National Bank's decision to un-peg from the Euro (thus strengthening the CHF dramatically) will have very significant repercussions - not the least of which is for Hungarian and Polish Swiss-Franc-denominated mortgage-holders. The 20% surge in Swiss Franc translates directly into a comparable jump in the zloty value of loan principles and and monthly payments for about 575,000 Polish families owing a total $35 billion in mortgages denominated in the Swiss currency which has prompted calls for Poland's government to bail them out. Never mind the FX risk, the low-rates were all anyone cared about and now yet another 'risk-free' trade has exploded, Deputy PM Piechocinski says, if the franc "remains above the 4 zloty level, the government may provide support" to debtors but Poland's Central Bank is not supportive of the bailout.
Spoiler alert: nothing good, because what until yesterday was, indicatively, a 1 million mortgage (in HUF or PLN terms) is suddenly a 1.2 million mortgage. But what about the details? Here they are, courtesy of Goldman Sachs.
- U.S. Index Futures Decline on Commodities Slump, Growth Concerns (BBG)
- Al Qaeda claims French attack, derides Paris rally (Reuters)
- Charlie Hebdo With Muhammad Cover on Sale With Heavy Security Precautions (BBG)
- How an Obscure Tax Loophole Brought Down Obama's Treasury Nominee (BBG)
- ECB’s bond plan is legal ‘in principle’ (FT)
- Charlie Hebdo fallout: Specter of fascist past haunts European nationalism (Reuters)
- DRW to acquire smaller rival Chopper Trading (FT)
- Oil fall could lead to capex collapse: DoubleLine's Gundlach (Reuters)
You almost have to step outside of economics, even out of the financial world as a whole, to pose what is the most elementary question about our economy today. That can’t be right. The most elementary question is not how we can achieve growth, it’s whether we need growth, and what we would need it for that is important enough to destroy our entire societies and economies for.... We’re in dire need of fresh blood and smart new ideas to clean up the mess the present ideologies and their puppets and puppetmasters have created.
Putting Things In Context ...
If yesterday's Citi debacle was a buying opportunity (which it is according to the pre-market), then news that Ally Financial (formerly GMAC) is under regulatory and DoJ investigation must be great news:
*ALLY CITES REQUEST FROM SEC ON SUBPRIME AUTO FINANCE PROBE & MORTGAGE-BACKED SECURITIES; REQUESTS INCLUDE SUBPOENAS FROM DOJ
Of course, do not forget that GM itself recently admitted to the DoJ probing its subprime auto loan underwriting practices. But, but, but - isn't this exactly what FHFA's Mel Watt wants?
- U.S., backed by Arabs, launches first strikes on fighters in Syria (Reuters, BBG)
- But not all all back: Turkey Bars Kurds From Entering Syria to Fight Islamic State (BBG)
- Dollar Weakens on Airstrikes; Europe Stocks Drop (BBG)
- Ready for Rate Riot? Emerging Markets Set to Follow Fed (BBG)
- White House fence jumper had ammunition, machete in car, prosecutors say (WaPo)
- El-Erian "would have done things differently" (Reuters)
- Eurozone business growth slows in September, PMI survey finds (BBC)
- Shrinking Bond Desks Taken by Journeymen as Masters Fade (BBG)
- Manufacturing Rebound Relieves Growth Concerns in China (BBG)
- Former Trader Quits Playboy Club to Open Own Restaurant (BBG)
When one thinks "recovery", some of the images envisioned include a healthy labor market (not one saturated by part-time, low wage jobs), rising earnings (not wages that have stagnated for years and in real terms are at Lehman levels) and a vibrant housing market in which new home buyers enter with confidence, and where mortgage loans are abundant and available to qualified creditors. One certainly does not imagine a housing "market" dominated by Chinese, Russian and Arab monely-laundering oligarchs, where half of all transactions are "all cash", and where, as Fannie Mae just reported, the number of Americans who said "now is a good time to buy a home" plunging to 64% - the lowest print in survey history!
There’s not a single day that we’re not treated to more smart treats about stimulus measures. Are they necessary, are they good, are they bad, who profits from them. It gets really long in the tooth. Today, former ECB head Trichet says unlimited stimulus ‘risks’ blowing bubbles. “Supplying unlimited amounts of liquidity at interest rates close to zero has “unintended counterproductive consequences.” No shit, assclown. Does Jean-Claude really mean to claim he just figured that one out now? Why else did he never say it before? There are 1001 other wise guys like Trichet who’ve only recently seen a sliver of light, and see fit to make the great unwashed party to their new found wisdom.
- That will teach the UAE who's boss: U.S. Won’t Consult Syria on Militant Strikes: White House (BBG)
- Putin Set to Meet Poroshenko as Ukraine Tensions Escalate (BBG)... but the de-escalation algo?
- Tim Hortons’ Canadian Fans Squeamish of American Hookup (BBG)
- Israeli air strikes target more Gaza high-rises (Reuters)
- How Steve Ballmer Became a Rookie Basketball Mogul (WSJ)
- Buffett to Help Finance Burger King Tax-Saving Deal (BBG)
- U.S. Factories Keep Losing Ground to Global Rivals (WSJ)
- Boehner, Camp Profit From Corporate Bid to Avoid U.S. Tax (BBG)
- Experimental U.S. hypersonic weapon destroyed seconds after launch (Reuters)
- The Neo-Neocons (WSJ)