The Fed is now pre-occupied with an unanswerable and fanciful question, according to Jon Hilsenrath’s pre-meeting missive on the Fed’s current monetary policy “debate”. Figuratively estimating the number of angels which can dance on the head of a pin, Fed officials and economists suppose they can specify the the appropriate money market rate down to the decimal place for virtually all time to come... Of course, every one of these three magic numbers are perfectly arbitrary, academic and silly. Due to the structural failures of the US economy owing to decades of destructive Washington policies, the “unemployment rate” today is not remotely comparable to what was being measured in the 1950s and 1960s when today’s Keynesian theology with respect to the Phillips Curve, Okun’s Law and full-employment policy was being formulated.
Today's financial markets make a mockery out of sanity and logic. The difference between what SHOULD happen and what IS happening is perhaps the greatest it has been in our investing lifetimes. If you're perplexed, flummoxed, frustrated, stymied, enraged, bored, irritated, insulted, discouraged -- any or all of these -- by the ever-higher blind grinding of asset prices over the past several years, despite so many structural reasons for concern, you have good reason to be.
“Excessively low interest rates are inflationary because they mean that bonds, stocks, real estate and unincorporated businesses are capitalized at excessively high rates, and will fall in value even though the annual income they pay remains the same, if interest rates rise.” If interest rates were artificially low, it would follow that prevailing investment values are artificially high. I contend that they are, and you may or may not agree. Natural interest rates — free-range, organic, sustainable — are what we need. Hot-house interest rates — the government’s puny, genetically modified kind — are the ones we have.
As we pondered the new normal and the disappointed anchors on CNBC this evening noting that we did not hit S&P 2,000 or Dow 17,000 (but there's always tomorrow); two headlines crept across the Bloomberg feed that could not have been more perfectly timed representatives of the new normal record highs in stocks:
- *COVANTA CUTTING JOBS
- *COVANTA TO BOOST CASH DIV TO 25C-SHR FROM 18C, EST. 18C
Here's a tip for management: as a cost-cutting initiative, maybe don't spend 'cash' on buybacks at record highs and invest in productive assets, instead. Of course, that's silly-talk in the world where work is punished; as CVA's stock is jumping after-hours.
What if all the low-hanging fruit of outsourcing jobs and financialization have already been plucked by Corporate America?
Consumer Credit Has Fifth Biggest Monthly Jump In History; Revolving Credit Soars By Most Since November 2007Submitted by Tyler Durden on 06/06/2014 15:23 -0400
A month ago we pointed out that with April US consumer savings plunging to levels not seen since Lehman, the only place where the tapped out consumer could find some purchasing power is by maxing out their credit cards. This is precisely what happened: moments ago the Fed released its April consumer credit report and it was a doozy: expected to print at $15.00 billion, down from a pre-revision $17.5 billion, the April total instead exploded to a whopping $26.85 billion. This was the fifth biggest surge in history, and was only surpassed by the 2010 "cash for clunkers" record, as well as previous one time outliers in 1998, 2001, and 2006.
The problem in representative democracy is that every instance of waste, graft, fraud and monopolistic racket is somebody's fat paycheck or government contract. Promising good governance guarantees a losing campaign for public office. To avoid the political pain that would result from trimming waste/fraud/ rackets, the state prints money to keep the swag flowing. Since the state can't create real wealth, it prints claims on wealth and passes off the paper as "money." The only thing that is infinite about the state is the hubris of those at the controls and the narrow self-interest of those at its capacious feeding trough.
Ahead of this Thursday's ECB meeting, speculation is rife about what Mario Draghi will announce, and as the following Nomura chart highlights most pundits are convinced that the most likely announcement is a cut in the refi and deposit rate with a probability of around 90%, an LTRO in distant third at 34%, and a full blown QE dead last with 10%. However, as SocGen predicts, which is rather aggressive in its assumptions expecting a negative deposit rate of -0.1%, a targeted LTRO to "boost lending to the private sector", and a "signal" of €300 billion in asset purchases, the bulk of this new-found liquidity will almost exclusively go to boost capital markets, and the wealth effect. As for the broader economy? "We do not expect the 5 June measures to deliver a significant impulse to the real economy."
The Keynesians have failed. Japan has proved it. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world… and the markets catch on.
Anyone who buys their own groceries (as opposed to having a full-time cook handle such mundane chores) knows that the cost of basic foods keeps rising, despite the official claims that inflation is essentially near-zero. Common-sense causes include severe weather and droughts than reduce crop yields, rising demand from the increasingly wealthy global middle class and money printing, which devalues the purchasing power of income. While these factors undoubtedly influence the cost of food, it turns out that food moves in virtual lockstep with the one master commodity in an industrialized global economy: oil.
Here is a verbal account of precisely what happens when domestic car-makers overestimate the purchasing power of the US, and clog channels to an epic extent. In this case, we refer to the recently launched GM Cadillac ELR, launched to much aplomb just five months ago as a competitor to the Tesla Model S for a $76,000 price point (above Tesla's $70,000), has been a complete disaster. And how is GM dealing with this latest sales disappointment (which struck even before all the recent recall scandals had hit)? Why by jamming dealers with an unprecedented 725-day supply, or exactly two years worth of cars!
Central banks see their main role now in supporting asset markets, the economy, the banks, and the government. They are positively petrified of potentially derailing anything through tighter policy. They will structurally “under-tighten”. Higher inflation will be the endgame but when that will come is anyone’s guess. Growth will, by itself, not lead to a meaningful response from central bankers. No country has ever become more prosperous by debasing its currency and ripping off its savers. This will end badly...
These two charts depict the same index over the same time frame, but they reflect two stories and two economies.
On the surface, the economic atmosphere of the U.S. has appeared rather calm and uneventful. Stocks are up, employment isn’t great but jobs aren’t collapsing into the void (at least not openly), and the U.S. dollar seems to be going strong. Peel away the thin veneer, however, and a different financial horror show is revealed. With the Ukraine crisis now escalating to fever pitch, BRIC nations are openly discussing the probability of “de-dollarization” in international summits, and the ultimate dumping of the dollar as the world reserve currency. The U.S. is in desperate need of a benefactor to purchase its ever rising debt and keep the system running. Strangely, a buyer with apparently bottomless pockets has arrived to pick up the slack that the Fed and the BRICS are leaving behind. But, who is this buyer? At first glance, it appears to be the tiny nation of Belgium. Clearly, this is impossible, and someone, somewhere, is using Belgium as a proxy in order to prop up the U.S. But who?