Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke

Frontrunning: January 11

  • WSJ picks up on excess "deposits over loans" theme, reaches wrong conclusion: Wads of Cash Squeeze Bank Margins (WSJ)
  • SAC Is Bracing for Big Exodus of Funds (WSJ)
  • Japan unveils Y10.3tn stimulus package (FT)
  • China’s Inflation Accelerates as Chill Boosts Food Prices (BBG)
  • Berlusconi Denies Responsibility for Italy Crisis (BBG)
  • Fed hawks worry about threat of inflation (Reuters)
  • And then the lunatics: Fed easing may not be aggressive enough: Kocherlakota (Reuters)
  • BOJ Likely to Take Easing Steps (WSJ)
  • Draghi Shifts Crisis Gear as ECB Focuses on Economy Inbox (BBG)
  • Argentina Bondholders Lose Bid to Get State-Court Review (BBG)
  • Regulators Find Major Euribor Shortcomings (WSJ)
  • Basel III Punishes Dutch Over Risk That Isn’t (BBG)
  • Bondholders in Crosshairs as Merkel Travels to Cyprus (BBG)

Brodsky's Thompsonesque Trip Into The World Of Monetary Idiots Vs Krugman's Barbarians

In light of this evening's entertainment from Paul Krugman, we thought QBAMCO's Paul Brodsky's view of the present debt-ceiling policy-through-the-looking-glass extremely apropos. Speaking of monetary abstractionism, there has been recent talk of a fiscal gimmick called “The Trillion Dollar Coin,” in which a platinum coin valued at $1 trillion would be created by the U.S. Mint for the Treasury Department. Treasury would then rid itself of its pesky fiscal deficit in one fell swoop by simply keeping the coin on deposit at the Fed. The TDC idea is a marvel of political imagination and public ignorance. Obviously, the TDC idea is a political ploy with a targeted mission: to rid the US Treasury of its debt ceiling, which is an increasingly frequent and embarrassing public reminder of government ineptitude. Everyone knows government-led de-levering is not a serious threat. However, the irony of the scheme and its MMT (Modern Money Theory, is espoused by imaginative economists technically proficient in double-entry bookkeeping and deficient in confidence that free marketplaces can provide accurate valuations) / liberal Keynesian promoters could not be more delicious. The scheme exposes the forty year-old charade, otherwise known as the global monetary system, better than any mind-exercise we have been able to come up with.

In Case There Was Any Confusion Just Who The Fed Works For...

Today, to little fanfare, the Fed announced a major binding settlement with the banks over robosigning and fraudclosure, which benefited the large banks, impaired the small ones (which is great: room for even more consolidation, and even more TBest-erTF, which benefits America's handful of remaining megabanks), and was nothing but one minor slap on the banking sector's consolidated wrist involving a laughable $3 billion cash payment. As part of the settlement, the US public is expected to ignore how much money the banks actually made in the primary and secondary market over the years courtesy of countless Linda Greens and robosigning abuses. A guess: the "settlement" represents an IRR of some 10,000% to 100,000% for the settling banks. We are confident once the details are ironed out, this will be an accurate range.  Yet what is most disturbing, or not at all, depending on one's level of naivete, is the response of Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the house Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. As a reminder, Congress had demanded that the settlement not be announced before there was a hearing on it. This did not even dent the Fed's plans to proceed with today's 11 am public announcement which can now not be revoked. It is Cummings' response which shows, yet again, just who is the true master of the Federal Reserve.

88% Of Hedge Funds, 65% Of Mutual Funds Underperform Market In 2012

2012 is a year most asset managers would like to forget. With the S&P returning 16% and Russell 2000 up 16.3%, on nothing but multiple expansion in a world where risk has been eliminated despite persistently declining revenues and cash flows, a whopping 88% of hedge funds, as well as some 65% of large-cap core, 80% of large cap value, and 67% of small-cap mutual funds underperformed the market, according to Goldman's David Kostin. The ongoing absolute outperformance of mutual funds over their 2 and 20 fee sucking hedge fund peers is notable, as this is the second or perhaps even third year in a row it has happened. And while the usual excuse that hedge funds are not supposed to beat the market but a benchmark, and generally protect capital from downside risk is valid, it is irrelevant if any downside risk (see ongoing rout in VIX and net position in the VIX futures COT update) is now actively managed by central banks both directly and indirectly, their HF LPs no longer see the world in that way. In fact as Bloomberg Market's February issue summarizes, some 635 hedge funds closed in 2012, 8.5% than a year earlier, despite a far stronger year for the general indices. The reason: LPs and MPs have simply had enough of holding on to underperformers and get swept up in the momentum of performance chasing, and the result is redemption requests into funds who may have had a positive benchmark year, but underperform relative to the S&P for two or more years, which nowadays is the vast majority of funds.

Jon Hilsenrath's 589 Word Instanalysis Of The Fed Minutes

It took the WSJ's Jon Hilsenrath, who one more time is modestly relevant in a world in which QE is implied until infinity or until the Fed loses all control of the money creation process, 12 whopping minutes to release a 589-word article analyzing the FOMC minutes. At least we know one of the people who had the embargoed version hours ago. We are confident he did not leak their content to anyone. Hilsenrath's prepared take: "A new fault line has opened up at the often-divided Federal Reserve: When to halt the bond-buying programs that are adding $85 billion a month of Treasury and mortgage securities to the central bank's assets. Minutes of the Fed's Dec. 11-12 policy meeting showed that officials were divided about when to halt the programs, with a few wanting to continue them until year-end, several others wanting to end the programs well before then and some wanting to halt them right away. While exposing the rift, the minutes left little clear indication which course the central bank would choose. In its official policy statement, it has been saying since September that it would continue the bond-buying programs until the job market substantially improves...  It is a hugely consequential decision for the Fed and likely the next big challenge for Ben Bernanke in what could be his final year at the helm of the central bank, where he has been chairman since 2006."

Bill Gross On Bernanke's Latest Helicopter Flyover, "Money For Nothing, Debt For Free" And The End Of Ponzi Schemes

Back in April 2012, in "How The Fed's Visible Hand Is Forcing Corporate Cash Mismanagement" we first explained how despite its best intentions (to boost the Russell 2000 to new all time highs, a goal it achieved), the Fed's now constant intervention in capital markets has achieved one thing when it comes to the real economy: an unprecedented capital mismanagemenet, where as a result of ZIRP, corporate executives will always opt for short-term, low IRR, myopic cash allocation decisions such as dividend, buyback and, sometimes, M&A, seeking to satisfy shareholders and ignoring real long-term growth opportunities such as R&D spending, efficiency improvements, capital reinvestment, retention and hiring of employees, and generally all those things that determine success for anyone whose investment horizon is longer than the nearest lockup gate. Today, one calendar year later, none other than Bill Gross, in his first investment letter of 2013, admits we were correct: "Zero-bound interest rates, QE maneuvering, and “essentially costless” check writing destroy financial business models and stunt investment decisions which offer increasingly lower ROIs and ROEs. Purchases of “paper” shares as opposed to investments in tangible productive investment assets become the likely preferred corporate choice." It is this that should be the focus of economists, and not what the level of the S&P is, as it is no longer indicative of any underlying market fundamentals, but merely how large, in nominal terms, the global balance sheet is. And as long as the impact of peak central-planning on "business models" is ignored, there can be no hope of economic stabilization, let alone improvement. All this and much more, especially his admissions that yes, it is flow, and not stock, that dominates the Fed market impact (think great white shark - must always be moving), if not calculus, in Bill Gross' latest letter.

US To Officially Go Over The Fiscal Cliff

As we forecast back in November, it is now official that the House will not vote on any deal out of the Senate, assuming there is one, later today, which means America will officially slide off the Fiscal Cliff. And now cue everyone being very hopeful and optimistic a deal will get done momentarily, if not sooner, in 2013. Of course, we all know just how far optimism takes America's dysfunctional Congress. The biggest irony in all of this is that the only winners today were the much hated "1%"-ers, whose taxes may or may not go up, who just got to book major year end profits on this last minute ramp. The remainder of America's population can quietly look forward to 2013 with "hope" and "optimism" that in 2013 Congress will finally stop being dysfunctional. Good luck. Oh, and before we forget, America just breached its debt ceiling: now the pillaging of various government retirement funds begins.

Behold The Brains Behind Ben Bernanke's Binary Black Box

When it comes to the decisions made by a group of academics behind closed doors to keep the stock market in nominal terms up at all costs (nevermind such trivial matters as the jobless rate, inflation, i.e., those things they are tasked with), one would think they are based on the bubblicious ramblings of one Ben Bernanke, or Charles Evans, or even one Janet Yellen. One would be very wrong. As it turns out the real decisions that determine the value of paper money (laughable as it is), and thus billions of people in the world, are all in the virtual hands of the following three entities: Ferbus, Edo and Sigma. These are "computer-modeling programs the central bank uses to make predictions about how various policies and events will play out across the economy....The Fed's main economic model, launched in 1995, is called FRB/US, pronounced "Ferbus." It uses hundreds of different mathematical equations to describe how the economy works. " Brilliant. And as Hilsenrath himself adds further on, "The models are deeply flawed. They failed to foresee the financial crisis in 2008 and have tended to overestimate the strength of the economy for several years." Hilsenrath then goes on to pose a very rhetorical question: "Could they fail the Fed again?" The answer is painfully obvious to anyone who has been on the receiving end of the Fed's endless attempts to blow a credit bubble always and forever. And just in case it is not obvious, let's just remind everyone that "subprime is contained."

Dick Durbin "Hard To Get To An Agreement Tonight"

It's not even 6 pm yet (futures open time) and all that early optimistic momentum hard procured by splinter GOP Senators, is slowly but surely, being extinguished. Enter Dick Durbin, the second ranking Senate democrat: 

  • Even if budget agreement to avoid fiscal cliff is reached today, it would be tough to “put it together this evening,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., tells CNN.
  • If deal reached, more likely to be made final tomorrow, he says
  • Original terms of budget deal present “problem”
  • Hopeful “common ground” can be reached

So let's set the ground rules for tonight's drinking game...

2012 Greatest Hits: Presenting The Most Popular Posts Of The Past Year

For the fourth year in a row we continue our tradition of summarizing what you, our readers, found to be the most relevant, exciting, and actionable news of the year, determined simply by the number of page views. Those first eager for a brief stroll down memory lane of prior years can do so at their leisure, by going back in time to where the top articles of 2009, 2010 and 2011 are recapped. With that out of the way, here is what readers found to be the most popular posts of the past 365 days..

2012 - 'Year Of Living Dangerously' In Review

Despite the fact that myself and everyone else acting like they know what lays ahead are proven wrong time and time again, we continue to make predictions about the future. It makes us feel like we have some control, when we don’t. The world is too complex, too big, too corrupt, too lost in theories and delusions, and too dependent upon too many leaders with too few brains to be able to predict what will happen next. This is the time of year when all the “experts” will be making their 2013 predictions - but few will address where they were wrong in previous predictions. I’m more interested in why I was wrong. It seems I always underestimate the ability of sociopathic central bankers and their willingness to destroy the lives of hundreds of millions to benefit their oligarch masters. I always underestimate the rampant corruption that permeates Washington DC and the executive suites in mega-corporations across the land. And I always overestimate the intelligence, civic mindedness, and ability to understand math of the ignorant masses that pass for citizens in this country. It seems that issuing trillions of new debt to pay off trillions of bad debt, government sanctioned accounting fraud, mainstream media propaganda, government data manipulation and a populace blinded by mass delusion can stave off the inevitable consequences of an unsustainable economic system. Will 2013 be the year it all collapses in a flaming heap of rubble? I don’t know. Maybe you should ask an “expert”.

A Record $2 Trillion In Deposits Over Loans - The Fed's Indirect Market Propping Pathway Exposed

Perhaps one of the most startling and telling charts of the New Normal, one which few talk about, is the soaring difference between bank loans - traditionally the source of growth for banks, at least in their Old Normal business model which did not envision all of them becoming glorified, Too Big To Fail hedge funds, ala the Goldman Sachs "Bank Holding Company" model; and deposits - traditionally the source of capital banks use to fund said loans. Historically, and logically, the relationship between the two time series has been virtually one to one. However, ever since the advent of actively managed Central Planning by the Fed, as a result of which Ben Bernanke dumped nearly $2 trillion in excess deposits on banks to facilitate their risk taking even more, the traditional correlation between loans and deposits has broken down. It is time to once again start talking about this chart as for the first time ever the difference between deposits and loans has hit a record $2 trillion! But that's just the beginning - the rabbit hole goes so much deeper...

Monetary Malpratice: Deceptions, Distortions & Delusions

By the Deceptive means of Misinformation and Manipulation of economic data the Federal Reserve has set the stage for broad based moral hazard. Through Distortions caused by Malpractice and Malfeasance, a raft of Unintended Consequences have now changed the economic and financial fabric of America likely forever. The Federal Reserve policies of Quantitative Easing and Negative real interest rates, across the entire yield curve, have been allowed to go on so long that Mispricing and Malinvestment has reached the level that markets are effectively Delusional. Markets have become Dysfunctional concerning the pricing of risk and risk adjusted valuations. Fund Managers can no longer use even the Fed's own Valuation Model which is openly acknowledged to be broken.

2012 Year In Review - Free Markets, Rule of Law, And Other Urban Legends

Presenting Dave Collum's now ubiquitous and all-encompassing annual review of markets and much, much more. From Baptists, Bankers, and Bootleggers to Capitalism, Corporate Debt, Government Corruption, and the Constitution, Dave provides a one-stop-shop summary of everything relevant this year (and how it will affect next year and beyond).