Bernanke's legacy: a deceptive case for a failed policy.
Sophistry: the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving. The Federal Reserve's core policy of quantitative easing (QE) is based on a deceptive but appealing argument voiced by former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke.
On Monday we posted "Goldman Says European QE Will Come In 2015 At The Earliest, If At All" in which we showed for the latest time that Europe's grand delusion that 'QE is coming" (a rumor originated late last year by none other than a French bank) and all of which has already been fully priced into peripheral bonds and local stocks by now, is nothing but yet another massive bluff by the former Goldmanite and current ECB head who has taken lying about the future to a whole new level. Today Reuters confirms as much when it reports that while the ECB may ease modestly (a step which will achieve nothing to unclog the loan creation pathway to private companies), it will not undertake QE at this point.
Overnight Europe got two mini lessons: i) that rumors spread by conflicted French banks about "imminent" ECB QE don't always, if ever, come true, after the ECB spent a decent portion of the overnight session explaining, via Reuters, that while the central bank would engage in "some stimulus for the euro zone economy but falls short of the large-scale effect the ECB could unleash with a major program of quantitative easing (QE) - money printing to buy assets. Such a QE plan is still some way off." Precisely as we warned. The other lesson is that when QE or even hopes of QE fade, bonds get bid due to rotation out of equities into "safe haven" assets. As a result, German Bund yields tumbled with stops taken out (and Goldman stopped out on their Bund short) through the 12 month lows of 1.4% with 10 Year yields following lower and dropping to 2.565% hours ago, or a level not seen since November 1.
Headlines were made earlier today as Ireland’s ten year borrowing costs dropped below the UK’s for the first time in six years. Given that it only recently exited a bailout programme and not long ago was mired in the worst crisis in a generation, this is a pretty astonishing turnaround. Nor is Ireland alone. Spain and Italy can now borrow at similar rates to the USA on ten year debt. More broadly, in the past year peripheral countries borrowing costs have plummeted to levels seen before the crisis, or below, as countries begin exiting bailouts and returning to the markets. There are three key factors driving this 'bubble" and five major problems stemming from this seeming nirvana.
More Reasons QE Is a Dud
“I am often asked why I do not support a more rapid deceleration of our purchases, given my agnosticism about their effectiveness and my concern that they might well be leading to froth in certain segments of the financial markets. The answer is an admission of reality: We juiced the trading and risk markets so extensively that they became somewhat addicted to our accommodation of their needs… you can’t go from Wild Turkey to cold turkey overnight."
The US economy is a house of cards. Every aspect of it is fraudulent, and the illusion of recovery is created with fraudulent statistics. American capitalism itself is an illusion. However, Washington has unique subjects. Americans will take endless abuse and blame some outside government for their predicament – Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, China, Russia. Such an insouciant and passive people are ideal targets for looting, and their economy, hollowed-out by looting, is a house of cards.
Dispassionate discussion of the near-term forces at work in the foreign exchange market.
Despite popular belief, very few things in our world are exactly what they seem. That which is painted as righteous is often evil. That which is painted as kind is often malicious. That which is painted as simple is often complex. That which is painted as complex often ends up being disturbingly two dimensional. Regardless, if a person is willing to look only at the immediate surface of a thing, he will never understand the content of the thing. This fact is nowhere more evident than in the growing “tensions” between the elites of the West and the elites of the East over the crisis in Ukraine. The centralization of power is best achieved during moments of bewildering calamity. The conjuring of crises is one of the oldest methods of elitist dominance. Not only can they confuse and frighten the masses into malleability, but they can also ride to the public’s rescue as heroes and saviors later on. The Hegelian dialectic is the mainstay of tyrants.
"I got to ask [Bernanke] all these questions that had been on my mind for a very long period of time, right? And then on the other side, it was like sort of frightening because the answers weren’t any better than I thought that they might be." - David Einhorn
"as a businessman, I’m thrilled... never dreamed we'd [borrow so cheaply] at artificial rates... it's Nirvana... unless you look at the truth of the matter and the impact it has on your customers and your employees... that’s a much darker story... for every businessman in America and any economist that has their heads screwed on right, it’s an ominous situation... But look at it from a consumers’ point of view or a working person’s point of view, who’s paying for all this cheap money? Well, right now, the Fed is. I thought Bernie Madoff went to jail for that."
Robot is a Czech word, meaning ‘forced labor’. It’s a bit like slavery, but when it’s a machine nobody gives a damn.
I do have a heightened sense of alertness to what may be in store should the hubris of the current market run fail to permeate into forecasts and expectation announcements over the coming months.
This time is different - check; Moral Hazard - check; Easy Money - check; Overblown growth stories - check; No valuation anchor - check; Conspicuous consumption - check; Ponzi finance - check... and, of course, Irrational exuberance: check!
The risky borrowing indicators are troubling. They show that we’ve reverted to old habits of borrowing far more than we can fund with non-money savings. At almost 10% of GDP in 2013, risky borrowing is higher than in all but the early 1970s and middle part of the last decade. This tells us that we’re accumulating risk at a rapid clip, although not for as long as in those earlier episodes. (Yet.) Worse still, policymakers and mainstream economists are unperturbed, failing to acknowledge that some types of financing are riskier than others. It’s as if we’re stuck at a 1970s Pepsi Challenge booth, watching people debate cola tastes with no mention of health risks. With ample evidence of these risks, how can this be? One theory is that the current generation of mainstream economists staked their careers on the soda business, filling resumes with research on topics such as sweetness and carbonation, but nothing on health. It’s just too big a step for them to acknowledge that the old research is unhelpful and the resumes hollow. We can only hope that the unpopular, long-term thinkers who are willing to take that step become more influential over time. In the meantime, keep an eye on the sources of financing and, in particular, the three indicators of risky borrowing discussed below.