In a quiet corner of Davos this week, Davide Serra (hedge fund manager) and Nouriel Roubini (doom-monger) laid out to the great and good attending just exactly what their puppet central-banking transmission channels were doing to our world. As The Telegraph reports, "Money printing is theft from our children and may merely be storing up problems for an even bigger crisis." QE has led to gross mis-allocation of capital, the two gentlemen go on to note, adding that they comprehend the reasoning why Bernanke's Put has replaced Greenspan's but add that in doing this money-printing-by-another-name, they have "made it difficult for bond vigilantes to do their job - force fiscal reform." QE just buys time - but the time must be used wisely. Roubini warned that central bankers need to think about turning off the cheap money tap or risk creating another, possibly even worse, bubble.
Forget the Housing, Bond or Derivatives Bubbles ... Fraud Is the Biggest Bubble of All Time
Since Alan Greenspan became the Fed chairman in 1987, there has been a policy consensus on the primary role and effectiveness of monetary policy in cushioning an economic downturn and kicking it back to growth. Fiscal policy, due to the political difficulties in making meaningful changes, was relegated to a minor role in economic management. Staving off crisis and reviving growth still dominate today's conversation. The prima facie evidence is that the experiment has failed. The dominant voice in policy discussions is advocating more of the same. When a medicine isn't working, it could be the wrong one or the dosage isn't sufficient. The world is trying the latter. But, if the medicine is really wrong, more and more of the same will kill the patient one day. The global economy was a debt bubble, functioning on China over-borrowing and investing and the West over-borrowing and consuming. The dynamic came to an end when the debt crises exposed debt levels in the West as too high. The last source of debt growth, the U.S. government, is coming to an end, too, as politics forces it to reduce the deficit. Trying to bring back yesterday through monetary growth will eventually bring inflation, not growth.
The day Lehman failed saw the launch of the most epic central bank intervention in history with the Fed guaranteeing and funding trillions worth of suddenly underwater capital. However, what Bernanke realized quickly, is that the "emergency, temporary" loans and backstops that made up the alphabet soup universe of rescue operations had one major flaw: they were "temporary" and "emergency", and as long as they remained it would be impossible to even attempt pretending that the economy was normalizing, and thus selling the illusion of recovery so needed for a "virtuous cycle" to reappear. Which is why on November 25, 2008, Bernanke announced something that he had only hinted at three months prior at that year's Jackson Hole conference: a plan to monetize $100 billion in GSE obligations and some $500 billion in Agency MBS "over several quarters." This was the beginning of what is now known as quantitative easing: a program which as we have shown bypasses the traditional fractional reserve banking monetary mechanism, and instead provides commercial banks with risk-asset buying power in the form of infinitely fungible reserves... So how does all this look on paper? We have compiled the data: of the 1519 total days since that fateful Tuesday in November 2008, the Fed has intervened in the stock market for a grand total of 1230 days, or a whopping 81% of the time!
There are two main drivers in the foreign exchange market today: the much anticipated BOJ meeting and the much stronger than expected German ZEW survey. Anticipation of aggressive easing by the BOJ today has kept the yen on the defensive. However, the combination of "sell the rumor and buy the fact" activity and, arguably, some disappointment, saw dollar turned back from the JPY90 level, which it has test during the three prior sessions without a convincing break and fall to near JPY88.35 before finding a bid. Similarly the euro, which had been flirting with the JPY120 area, was sold down to almost JPY117.30 before finding a solid
If governments or central banks really can create wealth simply by creating money, why does poverty exist anywhere on earth? Why haven’t successive rounds of quantitative easing by the US Fed solved our economic recession? And if Fed money creation really works, and doesn’t create inflation, why haven’t Americans gotten richer as the money supply has grown? The truth is obvious to everyone. Fiat currency is not wealth, and the creation of more fiat dollars does not mean that more rice, steel, soybeans, Ipads, or Honda Accords suddenly come into existence. The creation of new fiat currency simply strengthens a fantasy balance sheet, either by adding to cash reserves or servicing debt. But this balance sheet wealth is an illusion, just as the notion we can continue to raise the debt limit and borrow money forever is an illusion.
According to “Economics 101”, quantitative easing, on the heroic scale we have witnessed thus far, should already have led to rampant if not hyper inflation. That it hasn’t is down to the continuing decline in the velocity of circulation of money. In simple terms the banks aren’t lending (compared with the amount of money available to them), but instead are punting on financial assets, which is where “inflation” is ending up and benefitting their balance sheets. Markets generally front run the economy, but if, as many folk believe, including our commentator above, that quantitative easing has been a failure from the start, then why are equity markets indicating an upturn in economic activity? At the end of the day, if the central banks continue to believe they have no other option than money printing and you can put up with the volatility, it’s all aboard the equity train. Bond yields won’t rise much either; if at all. The gold price should give some indication of whether this strategy is working or not, but that is a market that is far easier to rig than sovereign debt – the Germans seem to think so as they contemplate repatriating some of their bullion held by other central banks.
“Here we go again”
Demand for gold is likely to rise as the world heads towards a multi-currency reserve system under the impact of uncertainty about the stability of the dollar and the euro, the main official assets held by central banks and sovereign funds. This is the conclusion of a wide-ranging analysis of the world monetary system by Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, (OMFIF), the global monetary think-tank, in a report commissioned by the World Gold Council, the gold industry’s market development body. The report warns of “twin shocks” to the dollar and the euro and of a “coming dollar shock” and points out how gold would be a safe haven in a dollar crisis. “Gold has a lot going for it; it correlates negatively with the greenback, and no other reserve asset seems safe from the coming dollar shock.” “The world is preparing for possible twin shocks from the parlous. position of the two main reserve currencies, the dollar and the euro... The OMFIF offers a confidential, convenient and discreet forum to a unique membership of central banks, sovereign funds, financial policy-makers and market participants who interact with them. They note that “western economies have attempted to dismantle gold's monetary role. This has failed.”
The newly elected Japanese Prime Minister, Shinz? Abe, has caused quite a stir. The leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, which scored a landslide victory in 2012’s election, he’s promised to restart the Japanese economy, whatever it takes. How will he do this? By “bold monetary policy”, what he means—and what he has said—is to end the independence of the Bank of Japan, and have the government dictate monetary policy directly. The perception is, the Bank of Japan will not only print yens and buy government bonds à la Quantitative Easing of old - it is also generally thought that Mr. Abe and the incoming Japanese government fully intend to target the yen against foreign currencies, like Switzerland has been doing with the euro. This perception is what has been driving the Nikkei 225 index higher, and driven the yen lower. But why was this decision triggered?
In this piece, I re-examine what many economists call "financial repression" and I find it to be sorely lacking as a description of what is happening. I also look at a related concern about the loss of central bank independence. Color me skeptical.
Sometimes the writing on the wall seems painfully obvious. But occasionally it's a good idea to step back and look at the big picture:
In one sentence, during 2013, we expect imbalances to grow. These imbalances are the US fiscal and trade deficits, the fiscal deficits of the members of the European Monetary Union (EMU) and the unemployment rate of the EMU thanks to a stronger Euro. By now, it should be clear that the rally in equities is not the reflection of upcoming economic growth. Paraphrasing Shakespeare, economic growth "should be made of sterner stuff". Many analysts rightly focus on the political fragility of the framework. The uncertainty over the US debt ceiling negotiations and the fact that prices today do not reflect anything else but the probability of a bid or lack thereof by a central bank makes politics relevant. Should the European Central Bank finally engage in Open Monetary Transactions, the importance of politics would be fully visible. However, unemployment is 'the' fundamental underlying factor in this story and we do not think it will fall. In the long term, financial repression, including zero-interest rate policies, simply hurts investment demand and productivity.
The Real Interest Rate Risk: Annual US Debt Creation Now Amounts To 25% Of GDP Compared To 8.7% Pre-CrisisSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/13/2013 18:32 -0400
By now most are aware of the various metrics exposing the unsustainability of US debt (which at 103% of GDP, it is well above the Reinhart-Rogoff "viability" threshold of 80%; and where a return to just 5% in blended interest means total debt/GDP would double in under a decade all else equal simply thanks to the "magic" of compounding), although there is one that captures perhaps best of all the sad predicament the US self-funding state (where debt is used to fund nearly half of total US spending) finds itself in. It comes from Zhang Monan, researcher at the China Macroeconomic Research Platform: "The US government is now trying to repay old debt by borrowing more; in 2010, average annual debt creation (including debt refinance) moved above $4 trillion, or almost one-quarter of GDP, compared to the pre-crisis average of 8.7% of GDP."
PIMCO founder and co chief investment officer Bill Gross gives no credence to the trillion dollar platinum coin scheme. "We feel that such an action would not only jeopardise the U.S. Fed and Treasury standing with Congress but with creditor nations internationally - particularly the Russians and Chinese." It appears to be a bit of a stunt by and may be a convenient distraction away from the substantive issue of how the U.S. manages to address its massive budget deficits, national debt and unfunded liabilities of between $50 trillion and $100 trillion. It may also be designed to create the false impression that there are easy solutions to the intractable US debt crisis - thereby lulling investors and savers into a false sense of security ... again. Gross said that subject to the debt ceiling, the Fed is buying everything that Treasury can issue. He warns that we have this "conglomeration of monetary and fiscal policy" as not just the US is doing this but Japan and the Eurozone is doing this also. Gross has recently criticised the Fed's 'government financing scheme.' He has in recent months been warning of the medium term risk of inflation due to money creation and recently warned of 'inflationary dragons.'