Quantitative Easing

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PIMCO On Gold - The Simple Facts





When it comes to investing in gold, investors often see the world in black and white. Some people have a deep, almost religious conviction that gold is a useless, barbarous relic with no yield; it’s an asset no rational investor would ever want. Others love it, seeing it as the only asset that can offer protection from the coming financial catastrophe, which is always just around the corner. PIMCO's views are more nuanced and, we believe, provide a balanced framework for assessing value. Their bottom line: given current valuations and central bank policies, we see gold as a compelling inflation hedge and store of value that is potentially superior to fiat currencies.

 
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The Law Of Diminishing Returns





In the discipline of rational economics - and even in the “economics” which has sadly taken its place - the law of diminishing returns applies to productive processes. It states that with all other factors remaining the same, the addition of more units of one factor of production will at some  point result in a lower yield per unit. There is always an optimum combination of factors of production which yields the highest return per unit of production. Increase one of these units beyond that optimum and the yield provided starts to drop. This does not necessarily mean that the amount of output drops. It means that the output is now not being produced in the most efficient manner. Factors of production are being wasted.

 
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The Pauperization Of Japan





The plight of the salaryman

 
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Guest Post: Why QE Won't Create Inflation Quite As Expected





The Fed can create money but if it doesn't end up as household income it is "dead money." In the consensus view, the Federal Reserve's unlimited quantitative easing (QE3) programs will do two things: 1) boost stocks and other "risk on" assets and 2) generate inflation. The two follow-on effects are related, of course; gold and other hard assets are rising in anticipation of higher inflation. But all is not quite as it seems when it comes to the inflationary effect of creating money. Add all this up and here's what we get: money is not just being created by the Fed, it's being destroyed by declines in asset valuations and writedowns of impaired debt. Money velocity is plummeting and banks are hoarding Treasuries as much-needed collateral. As for the "wealth effect," it only affects the 5% who own enough equities to make a difference. That narrows the whole "wealth effect" to 7 million people out of 142 million workers.

 
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Guest Post: Why QE May Not Boost Stocks After All





If there is one dominant consensus in the financial sphere, it is that the Federal Reserve's $85 billion/month bond-and-mortgage-buying "quantitative easing" will inevitably send stocks higher. The general idea is that the Fed buys the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and Treasury bonds from the banks, which turn around and dump the cash into "risk on" assets like equities (stocks). This consensus can be summarized in the time-worn phrase, "Don't fight the Fed." This near-universal confidence in a QE-goosed stock market is reflected in the low level of volatility (the VIX) and other signs of complacency such as relatively few buyers of put options, which are viewed as "insurance" against a decline in stocks. The usual sentiment readings are bullish as well.

But what if QE fails to send stocks higher? Is such a thing even possible? Yes, it does seem "impossible" in a market as rigged and centrally managed as this one, but there are a handful of reasons why QE might not unleash a flood of cash into "risk on" assets every month from now until Doomsday

 
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China Buys North Korea's Gold Reserves As South Korea Increased Gold Reserves By 30%





Desperate North Korea has exported more than 2 tons to gold hungry China over the past year to earn US $100 million. Even in tough times during the Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il regimes, North Korea refused to let go of its precious gold reserves. Chosun media reports that “a mysterious agency known as Room 39, which manages Kim Jong-un's money, and the People's Armed Forces are spearheading exports of gold, said an informed source in China. "They are selling not only gold that was produced since December last year, when Kim Jong-un came to power, but also gold from the country's reserves and bought from its people." This is a sign of the desperation of the North Korean regime and also signals China’s intent to vastly increase the People’s Bank of China’s gold reserves.

 
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David Rosenberg On The 'One-Trick Pony Market'





Global economic fundamentals are awful, bearish divergences are occurring everywhere, investor sentiment is nearing bullish extremes, political risks remain high and last week's market performance can be summed up in four words - 'lack of follow through'. As Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg explains, more than two-thirds of the rally points the stock market has enjoyed since the summer-time lows occurred around central bank policy announcements. So the market is really a one-trick pony here, breathing in the fumes of central bank liquidity. What was supposed to happen, as the elites told us, was that the lagging hedge funds were going to throw in the towel and chase this market. Everyone expects this to be a major source of buying power. At the same time, what if the bulls who lucked out this year because they hung onto Ben Bernanke's arm decide to take profits or at the least lock in their gains? CRitically, as Rosie details, QE3 is occurring at a different point in the cycle this time and insomuch as it helps invogorate already rising 'animal spirits' we suspect it has missed the baot.

 
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Guest Post: QE For the People - What Else Could We Buy With $29 Trillion?





In a system that depends on lies and the credulity of the citizenry, the greatest lie is that the Federal Reserve's "quantitative easing" bailouts of the banks somehow help our citizens and communities. To clarify this, ask yourself this question: what else could we have bought with the $29 trillion the Fed loaned or backstopped to the banks?  If you enjoy quibbling about the total sum of Fed support, be my guest; the Levy Institute came up with $29 trillion after poring over all the data, while the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) tally topped $16 trillion. That's 100% of the nation's GDP and roughly 100% of the $16 trillion national debt. While we're asking about opportunity costs, let's ask what else we could have bought with the $10 trillion that the Federal government has borrowed and blown in the past 11.7 years. The national debt was $5.727 trillion when G.W. Bush was sworn into office on January 20, 2001. It had risen to $10.626 trillion when President Obama was sworn into office in January, 2009. It is now $16.016 trillion, an increase of $5 trillion in less than four years in "debt held by the public" (i.e. the Chinese central bank, the Japanese central bank, the Federal Reserve, etc.)

 
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The Fed Has Another $3.9 Trillion In QE To Go (At Least)





Some wonder why we have been so convinced that no matter what happens, that the Fed will have no choice but to continue pushing the monetary easing pedal to the metal. It is actually no secret: we explained the logic for the first time back in March of this year with "Here Is Why The Fed Will Have To Do At Least Another $3.6 Trillion In Quantitative Easing." The logic, in a nutshell, is simple: everyone who looks at modern monetary practice (as opposed to theory) through the prism of a 1980s textbook is woefully unprepared for the modern capital markets reality for one simple reason: shadow banking; and when accounting for the ongoing melt of shadow banking credit intermediates, which continues to accelerate, the Fed has a Herculean task ahead of it in restoring consolidated credit growth. Shadow banking, as we have explained many times most recently here, is merely an unregulated, inflationary-buffer (as it has no matched deposits) which provides the conventional banking credit transformations such as maturity, credit and liquidity, in the process generating term liabilities. In yet other words, shadow banking creates credit money which can then flow into monetary conduits such as economic "growth" or capital markets, however without creating the threat of inflation - if anything shadow banks are the biggest systemic deflationary threat, as due to the relatively short-term nature of their duration exposure, they tend to lock up at the first sing of trouble (see Money Markets breaking the buck within hours of the Lehman failure) and lead to utter economic mayhem unless preempted. Well, preempting the collapse in the shadow banking system is precisely what the Fed's primary role has so far been, even more so than pushing the S&P to new all time highs. The problem, however, as we will show today, is that even with the Fed's balance sheet at $2.8 trillion and set to rise to $5 trillion in 2 years, it will not be enough.

 
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From Complacency To Crisis Around The World





We have discussed the CRIC cycle a number of times - especially with regards Europe - but it seems the never-ending story of Crisis-Response-Improvement-Complacency has struck once again as Morgan Stanley notes when complacency becomes pervasive, it usually gives way to a renewed crisis. Complacent financial markets appear to be looking through the fact that the global economy remains stuck in a 'twilight zone' between expansion and recession. Dismissing weak PMIs in China and EU, markets have feasted in QEternity and OMT and this has, as expected, affected European policy-makers (e.g. ongoing disagreements over the details of the much-anticipated negative-feedback-loop-breaking banking union; and Spain/Italy's 'belief' they can avoid an ESM 'austerity' program). This feels eerily like the March/April period when post-LTRO improvements induced euphoria in traders and governments/ECB to relax prematurely and as Brevan Howard explains below - every major developed economy is facing significant downside risks - no matter how enthusiastic markets appear to be.

 
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