St. Louis Fed President Jim Bullard was guest host on CNBC's Squawk Box this morning. Soon after sitting down, the indomitable Steve Liesman stunned everyone in the room when he dared to ask the all-knowing Bullard a simple question:
"How would a quarter-point rate-cut 'cure the flu'?"
Bullard's reaction was priceless...
...and in his fumbling and mumbling and lack of answer, he gave away everything...
"...well, you know, you get a cold and you maybe drink more orange juice than you would otherwise... does that cure the cold? Probably not...but it treats some of the symptoms... so I think it might help a little bit."
Fwd to around 6:00 for the fun and games...
In other words - The Fed's actions do absolutely nothing (even at the margin) to improve global supply chains, to increase consumption, or 'juice' the economy... they are merely a placebo - a promise to keep the ponzi alive for one more quarter at any and all costs because - as is now clearly obvious - nothing else matters but keeping asset prices high (or higher), most especially the US stock market.
Being the expert virlogist that he is, Bullard also offered the usual contrite forecast for what happens next in the economy:
"There's a high probability that the coronavirus will blow over, as other viruses have, be a temporary shock and everything will come back," he said, offering absolutely no evidence.
But, he then admitted that "there's a low probability that this could get much worse. Markets have to price that in and that drags the center of gravity down a little bit,” clearly having not noticed that equity markets have accelerated far and away above pre-virus levels, adding that "I think the base case is that, as other viruses have dissipated, this one will also dissipate."
And repeating himself one more time...
“If you think the virus is going to dissipate and we’re going to have a temporary shock and everything is going to go back to normal, yeah, I think the Fed is in great shape and we don’t have to lower rates in that scenario.”
As if he was playing a character from a Naked Gun movie - nothing to see here, move along! @ag_trader summed up many people's responses to Bullard's brainfart:
"If this hits NY or Chicago... schools close overnight and everything shuts down. Fed will be powerless... just like 08... didn't matter if they were cutting rates... nobody was going to buy an overpriced house."
Bullard was vocal on a number of additional topics too...
On Soft Landing:
I've been arguing that we're in good shape for a soft landing in the U.S. economy. Tracking estimates of GDP in the first quarter are hanging right around 2%, 2.25%, something like that. So, that sounds to me like, at least as far as the assessment that we can make as of today, we're not going to see a major impact on the U.S.
On Taxing Top Earners:
JAMES BRIAN BULLARD: Here's what worries me as an economist. You're going to take that -- that piece of capital that would otherwise be allocated to some company or something like that –
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Well that’s the question --
JAMES BRIAN BULLARD: -- And then you’re going to take it, and what are you going to do with it? What are you going to do with it? If you're going to take it and do something really smart and really great public capital, that might be good. But if you say, ‘I'm going to take that and I'm going to have a party, because I'm going to hand it out to my friends and we're going to have a party,’ that's going to hurt growth.
On Debt Message:
The idea that 60% of GDP is the limit, and that seems to be out the window. Doomsday scenarios about, you know, carrying too much debt don't seem to be working. So, I think as macro-economists, it's incumbent upon us to get more granular and serious about what we're going to say about government debt. Because I think to say the sky is falling all the time hasn't been working.
On Market Valuations:
We always watch this, and we watch financial stability issues and bubble type issues very carefully.
I think the conventional wisdom is that valuations look high, but not at this level of interest rates. And so, to the extent you think this level of interest rates is probably the future, which I've been arguing, I think we're okay for now.
On China Disruptions:
You could make an argument if you had further amplification of the virus in China that it would have major disruption, both on prices and output globally and maybe some of that would feedback to the U.S. But I don't have a real sharp prediction on that.
On U.S. Economy/World Leader:
This is a powerful economy with lots of great market outcomes. There is a role for government. And it is important. But you really want all that innovation that we got over the last 25 years, new products. You don't see that elsewhere in the world. and that's why the U.S. is the world leader.
On Should/Could Big Banks Get Bigger?:
I've not wanted that. I want plenty of competition in the space. So, I like them where they are. Or even smaller.