Open Market Operations
Looking through the Federal Reserve’s newly released Discount Window data fills in some missing pieces surrounding the credit crunch in 2008. We now know why Senator Chuck Schumer was so concerned about IndyMac. In the three business days after June 19, 2008, IndyMac had to double its discount window borrowings from $200 million to $400 million. Four short days later, Schumer’s leaked letter forced IndyMac to ask the Fed for $1 billion. Beyond some of these little details that end up providing granularity to the whole picture, there is still one piece of data that stands out as a singularity. Although it had become public knowledge over a year ago, the Lehman Brothers activity on September 15, 2008, still flashes a deepening warning as our economy and markets depend more and more on central banks. On the surface, Lehman’s use of the Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF, the investment banker’s discount window) seems to be insignificant. It was a momentous day, after all, with turmoil in every corner of the global marketplace. Why shouldn’t Lehman borrow $28 billion from the Fed on that Monday? It had filed for bankruptcy at about 1:30am that morning, so clearly it was in need of financing. A lot has been published already about that volatile week. However, I still believe there is a hole in the “official” story as it relates to overall monetary policy. What is truly striking is not that Lehman used the Fed that Monday; rather the significance was that it was Lehman’s first use of the PDCF since April 16, 2008. Lehman Brothers did not use the Fed’s liquidity until after it had declared bankruptcy.
- GDP revised modestly lower from January meeting on surging commodity prices
- FOMC sees stronger recovery, higher inflation
- Fed officials divided over tighter policy
- Almost all Fed officials saw no need to taper QE2 buying
This morning GDP was released and it came in slightly, but statistically insignificant, better than the previously released 2nd revision of the 4th quarter 2010 GDP Estimate. The main issues that popped out of the release was the downturn in imports which, given the rise in oil prices in the first quarter of 2011, is very unlikely to be a beneficiary to GDP in the coming months. More importantly, the acceleration in the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) reflects a continued drag on the consumer base (70% of the recent release) and their ability to continue at their recent pace of consumption as the acceleration was largely in food and energy. This has been quickly reflected in the large drop in the recent Durable Goods report earlier this week. None of this is very surprising or enlightening. In the coming releases of GDP we will see the import component jump, exports lag, and consumption fall. Analysts are already scrambling to bring down their overzealous estimates from the end of last year and this will all eventually show up in corporate profits.
The US is now being run by an oligarchy, with lip service being paid to the electorate in allowing the people to vote for the candidates that the parties and the powers will put forward. There will be no recovery for the middle class until they assert themselves. I know I have stated this often in my tag phrase, “The banks must be restrained…”
So, let's see which of the things we've been ignoring suddenly matter today...
If after years of explanations, and cartoons with bears, readers still have not quite gotten the grasp of how QE should work in theory (in practice the only thing about QE is how dramatically its intended and realized goals have diverged) perhaps this animation from the AP will finally put all doubts to rest. So for those still confused by terms such as "money printing", "open market operations", "outright monetization", and "Weimar hyperinflation", this brief and concise clip is for you. And once you see it, forget everything, because what QE2 has done has been precisely the opposite: rates have gone up, but the Fed does not care - as everyone now knows, the Fed's only true goal was to provide Primary Dealers with the capital to bid up stocks. End of story. Lastly, keep in mind, that the Fed is now implicitly funding the US deficit: as it purchases more and more bonds, the interest that is owed to the Fed is subsequently remitted to the Treasury as an actual revenue item, completing the world's most unprecedented Ponzi scheme constructed since the days of Rudolf von Havenstein.
As part of GATA's ongoing crusade against the Fed's gold price manipulation efforts, the organization recently succeeded in extracting some novel clues on how and why the Fed views its sworn duty as keeping the price of gold low. While much of the requested documents demanded by GATA in a lawsuit with the Fed have been exempt from disclosure under the law, one that was made public consists of the minutes of a private meeting of the G-10 Gold and Foreign Exchange Committee in April 1997. And while we will leave it up to our readers to parse through the bulk of the comments (attached below), we would like to draw attention to one, attributed to Peter R. Fisher, head of open market operations and foreign exchange trading for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, or in other words the equivalent of our very own Brian Sack. Fisher's comment relates to what would happen to the Fed's securities portfolio should there be a sudden or gradual revaluation in the price of gold. His conclusion is that in order to keep the Fed's balance sheet stable, an (acknowledged) surge in the price of gold would lead to a forced selling in Treasurys. Of course, that would mean that the Fed would have to actually value gold at its actual market price, instead of that relic price of $42.22 per ounce. Which means that valuing gold at fair market value would result in dumping over $300 billion in Treasurys, something the Fed can not afford to do at a time when it is engaged in purchasing $100+ billion each month.
Newest Stock World Weekly: "The Fed has no means to fix the problem of joblessness, besides trying to stimulate the economy by flooding it with liquidity, or “printing money,” thereby devaluing the Dollar. Devaluing the Dollar is contrary to the Fed’s mandate for price stability."
A topic which we anticipated last summer, and which has come to shocking and rapid fruition ever since the beginning of the year with the self-immolation of a Tunisian protester, resulting in a tsunami of violent revolutionary uprisings across the developing world, has been the question of whether and to what degree Bernanke's monetary policies are responsible for what is becoming an indirect wave of suppressionary genocide (today alone, between Libya, Yemen and Bahrain over 500 people have been killed). And while Zero Hedge is far less ambivalent about the underlying cause of the surge in anger (in most of the affected countries, the bulk of their population has to spend well over half of its income on food and energy), and when people who already have nothing, see whatever little they have left taken away as well, they see no downside in violent revolution, there are some more moderate views. Below we present one, courtesy of reader Chindit13.
As Fed Creates Russell 2000-Based "Wealth Effect", It Tells Banks To Prepare For 11% Unemployment Stress TestSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/17/2011 13:21 -0500
One would think that the S&P doubling from the March 2009 lows would be indicative of a mission accomplished for the Fed's market manipulation, aka Open Market Operations, team. No such luck. In fact, while the abominable Dr Chairsatan and Messrs Frost Sack are spouting garbage about economic recovery to anyone retarded enough to listen (oddly they have found a great audience in Congress) behind the scenes they are telling banks to prepare for a stress test recession scenario in which unemployment is 11%. And since current unemployment is about 23%, and we continue to be in a Depression, we assume this means that the Fed is actively preparing to make sure banks will be able to handle the explosion in economic growth and, oh yeah, hyperinflation, when the $1.7 trillion in excess reserves as of June 2011, finally flood the market. Although since this statement may be sufficient to get Zero Hedge to issue "unsolicited" opinions on the state of the Great Ponzi, we will go with the party line here... Which we find confusing: why would the Fed force US banks to undergo another stress test: aren't they all massively overcapitalized? Wasn't that the whole point of the first fraud of a stress test back in 2009 which had he same credibility as the upcoming European one? And why not cut to the chase and conduct a Ponzi unwind stress test? So many questions...So many more lies.
A well-trodden meme of TV and cinema has been the plot in which someone or something uses tantalizing illusions to sap humans of their will to resist while simultaneously pursuing hostile ends. In The Martian Chronicles, the subtle race of Martians distracted the invading Americans with irresistible life-like illusions that spoke to their most intimate yearnings. In one episode of the X-Files, a fungus slowly digested an unlucky couple who lay in a field and were rendered completely passive by the fungus’ hallucinogenic properties. And then, most famously, the machines of the movie The Matrix ruled over a ruined wasteland and seduced people with a beguiling virtual reality in order to maintain their passivity while they tapped humanity’s body heat as an energy source. Now, a lot of investors believe that life is imitating art in an alliance of the Federal Reserve and the big banks to create the illusion of healthy equity markets despite massive retail equity withdrawals in the years following the financial crisis.
Tom DeMark, whose Sequential and Combo indicators are among the most used indicators by professional technicians and chartists on Wall Street, is out with some chilling words overnight. The Market Studies LLC president told Bloomberg that U.S. stocks are within a week of “a
significant market top” that is likely to precede a drop of at
least 11 percent in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. “I’m pretty confident that in one to two weeks, the market
will be in a descent,” said DeMark, founder and chief executive
officer of Market Studies LLC. “It could be pretty sharp.” And since the Hindenburg Omen in mid-August was prevented from taking its share of scalps only by dint of the Chairman's Woods Hole speech a week later which set off the market on the biggest melt up since... well August of 2009, we wonder if the Fed's Open Market Operations desk will take this warning as a leading indicator to start spreading rumors of another QE expansion. Keep a close eye on those Jon Hilsenrath "leaks."
About two weeks ago we brought attention to the curious case of surging Chinese SHIBOR. Today we update on the short and longof it (literally). Indeed since the first post, the short end has dramatically tightened. However, just as importantly, the long-end continues to drift wider. As the chart below demonstrates the 1 Week SHIBOR has plunges from north of 6% to the mid 2% range in about ten days. However, both the 1 and 3-Month rates continue to be sticky and are well above recent averages. This will certainly portend continued liquidity scarcity in the months ahead. And speaking of, interest rates, we would like to bring attention to the seemingly paradoxical and contradictory action being taken by the PBoC, which on one hand has been hiking the Reserve Ratio Requirement (liquidity withdrawing) while concurrently adding liquidity via net liquidity injections through Open Market Operations. As Morgan Stanley's Steven Zhang suggests: "The PBOC’s purpose appears to be to substitute RRR hikes for PBoC bill issuance and repos with a view to enhancing the effectiveness while keeping the cost of liquidity management low." Yet even so, Zhang confirms that the end result will be one of incremental tightening, no matter how much the PBoC wants to moderate liquidity extraction. "Even if the spreads between reference and interbank spot yields were to narrow to acceptable levels, we don’t believe that the scale of open market operations would be restored to normal levels. In this tightening cycle, liquidity management will largely become a one-way operation - withdrawal." In other words, look for more pain in the Shanghai Composite over the coming weeks as mainland investors realize that the inflation party is, indeed, coming to an end (and that to Bernanke's chagrin, all attempts at exporting inflation to China will henceforth rebound with a magnified impact).
Over one year after Zero Hedge made POMO, and the Fed's open market operations group a household name, and Brian Sack a household curse, the NYT has finally decided to write an expose on the people who are charged with enforcing America's transition to central planning. And they just happen to be the grizzled 40 year old Mr. Sack, a 34 year old supervisor, two 29-year olds and a 26 year old ... who goes to NYU. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, these are the people who are gifting billions in commissions to the Primary Dealers on a daily basis. You see, the FRBNY whiz-kids have a "computer algorithm that works out which [offers] to [lift]. The computer compares the offers from Wall Street against market prices and the Fed’s own calculation of what constitutes a “fair value” price." In other words, taxpayers are getting raped during each and every single POMO but that's ok - the Fed's algorithm, probably created by yet another ex-Goldmanite, determines that said raping is "fair" and with absolutely no transparency anywhere in the process, except of course the Fed telegraphing in advance what bonds will be monetized, there is no way to ever check... Because that kind of mutually assured destructive disclosure would mean the financial world would promptly implode in a case study of total protonic reversal. After all, only smart people (and we are talking Wall Street smart) can handle the responsible truth... of daily Primary Dealer Subsidies.
After the Fed bought over $1 trillion of US Treasury bonds in the past 2 years, it is now reverse payback time, in which the Fed gives the Treasury just a little more cash. The FRB announced that per "unaudited" 2010 results (obviously), the Fed is provisioning to pay the Treasury $78.4 billion, a 50%+ increase from the $47 billion paid to the Treasury in 2009. What is the basis of this payment? Why the Fed's charter of course: "Under the Board's policy, the residual earnings of each Federal Reserve Bank, after providing for the costs of operations, payment of dividends, and the amount necessary to equate surplus with capital paid-in, are distributed to the U.S. Treasury." Which means that as the Fed buys up ever more Treasurys, and as rates continue their inexorable rise higher, the Fed will continue to receive interest payments from the US Treasury, which, at the end of every year, it will promptly remit back to whoever the current incarnation of Tim Geithner is, in essence nullifying the "checks and balances" impact of cash out interest expense on Treasury, and thus government, deficit decisions. In fact, the greater the amount of debt issued, and therefore monetized, the less the Treasury actually has to pay in interest. And in the meantime, the higher interest rates go, the greater the duration-adjusted loss on Fed holdings. But who cares about those: after all, results are all "unaudited" and the Fed will hold all securities to the earlier of "maturity" or default - as if anyone doubts which will happen first.