Since last November 8th the Russell 2000 has risen by 30% and the net Federal debt has expanded by an astounding $1.0 trillion dollars. In a rational world operating with honest financial markets those two results would not be found in even remotely the same zip code; and especially not in month #102 of a tired economic expansion and at the inception of an epochal pivot by the Fed to QT (quantitative tightening) on a scale never before imagined. And we do mean exactly those words. By next April the Fed will be shrinking its balance sheet at $360 billion annual rate and by $600 billion per year as of next October. Altogether, the Fed’s balance is scheduled to contract by upwards $2 trillion by the end of 2020. And it’s apparently on a path that is so locked-in—-barring a recession—that Janet Yellen affirmed in her swan song that the Fed’s giant bond dumping program (euphemistically called “portfolio runoff”) would no longer even be mentioned in its post-meeting statements.
CNBC’s Fed fanboy, Steve Liesman, accidentally knocked one out of the park yeserday when he lured Janet Yellen into a quip that will surely go down as the signature insanity of her baleful tenure. Liesman thus queried: “Every day it seems the stock market goes up triple digits… is it now, or will it soon become a worry for the central bank that valuations are this high?” After a bit of double talk interspersed with gobbledygook, Yellen uttered the money quote: ”There is nothing flashing red there or possibly even orange,” on asset valuations… Holy cow! Surely our soon to be pensioned-off Keynesian School Marm was not thinking about the fact that the S&P 500 stood at 2662 as she spoke, which amounts to 24.9X the $107 per share of earnings posted by America’s leading companies for the LTM period ending in September 2017.
Last week, Pres. Donald Trump nominated Marvin Goodfriend to fill a vacancy on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. When we reported the news, we called him ‘another swamp creature’ – a member of the Washington D. C./Wall Street clan Trump promised to drain away. We’re not alone in our thinking. In an article on the Mises Wire, Tho Bishop called Goodfriend’s nomination ‘a dangerous act of outright betrayal to Trump’s core constituency of working-class voters.’ It’s true Goodfriend’s views on monetary policy don’t fit in with the current Fed status quo. But that’s not a good thing. Goodfriend isn’t a fan of the conventional radical policy of quantitative easing. He’s actually a proponent of an even more radical policy. Following is Bishop’s analysis in its entirety. Donald Trump nominated Marvin Goodfriend to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, one of the numerous vacancies that have emerged over the course of the past year. While his prior nominations of Jay Powell as Chairman and Randal Quarles as Vice Chair represented a disappointing commitment to the status quo, his selection of Goodfriend is a dangerous act of outright betrayal to Trump’s core constituency of working class voters. The timing of the decision is ironic. After all, while Trump is busy lobbying Senate Republicans to support his desired tax cuts, he has decided to nominate a would-be central banker who wants to effectively tax the bank accounts of American citizens.
This post was published at Schiffgold on DECEMBER 5, 2017.
Insanity, like criminality, usually starts small and expands with time. In the Fed’s case, the process began in the 1990s with a series of (in retrospect) relatively minor problems running from Mexico’s currency crisis thorough Russia’s bond default, the Asian Contagion financial crisis, the Long Term Capital Management collapse and finally the Y2K computer bug. With the exception of Y2K – which turned out to be a total non-event – these mini-crises were threats primarily to the big banks that had unwisely lent money to entities that then flushed it away. But instead of recognizing that this kind of non-fatal failure is crucial to the proper functioning of a market economy, providing as it does a set of object lessons for everyone else on what not to do, the Fed chose to protect the big banks from the consequences of their mistakes. It cut interest rates dramatically and/or acquiesced in federal bailouts that converted well-deserved big-bank losses into major profits. The banks concluded from this that any level of risk is okay because they’ll keep the proceeds without having to worry about the associated risks. At this point – let’s say late 1999 – the Fed is corrupt rather than crazy. But the world created by its corruption was about to push it into full-on delusion. The amount of credit flowing into the system in the late 1990s converted the tech stock bull market of 1996 into the dot-com bubble of 1999, which burst spectacularly in 2000, causing a deep, chaotic recession.
As we keep insisting, monetary central planning systematically falsifies asset prices and corrupts the flow of financial information. That’s why bubbles seemingly inflate endlessly and egregiously, and also why financial crashes and economic corrections appear to come out of the blue without warning. Back in the winter of 1999-2000, for example, we were allegedly in the midst of a “new age economy”. The revolution in technology then underway, it was claimed, meant all historic valuation benchmarks–like PE multiples, cash flow and book values—– were irrelevant to stock prices. Likewise, in the fall of 2007 there was nary a cloud in the economic skies. That’s because the Great Moderation superintended by the geniuses at the Fed had purportedly engendered a “goldilocks” economy destined to expand indefinitely. Within months of the dotcom epiphanies, however, the highflying NASDAQ 100 crashed—eventually hitting bottom 83% below its new age apogee; and 15 months after the S&P 500 reached its goldilocks peak of 1570 in October 2007 it staggered around in smoldering ruins at 670—down 57% from its housing bubble high.
Markets are blowing off this uncertainty for now. On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Randal Quarles, President Trump’s first Fed nominee, as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. During his confirmation hearing, Quarles said it was time to roll back some of the regulations that were imposed on banks after they’d imploded and threatened to take down the global financial system. He will become the chief bank regulator at the Fed, filling the slot that Daniel Tarullo left behind when he resigned unexpectedly in April. Quarles is founder of private investment firm, The Cynosure Group. Fed Governor Jerome Powell is also a Cynosure alumnus. Quarles had been a partner at private equity firm The Carlyle Group and served as undersecretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush. WHIRRRR makes the revolving door. One down, four more to go. The Fed’s Board of Governors has seven slots, currently chaired by Janet Yellen. After Quarles’ appointment, potentially four more will need to be filled over the next few months. The seven board members are part of the policy-setting 12-member Federal Open Markets Committee. The other five members of the FOMC are the president of the New York Fed and on a one-year rotating basis four presidents of the remaining 11 regional Federal Reserve Banks.
Barack Obama is funding the anti-Trump movement through a series of backdoor deals and policies. Wall Street may be surprised to learn that it is also helping bankroll the anti-Trump ‘resistance’ whether they wanted to or not. Wall Street is fighting policies which would heavily favor it, including corporate tax cuts and the repeal of Obama-era banking and health-care regulations. We have the Obama administration to thank for the harsh anti-Trump movement by far left groups, according to an article by the New York Post. The Obama administration’s massive shakedown of Big Banks over the mortgage crisis included unprecedented back-door funding for dozens of Democratic activist groups who were not even victims of the crisis. At least three liberal nonprofit organizations the Justice Department approved to receive funds from multibillion-dollar mortgage settlements were instrumental in killing the ObamaCare repeal bill and are now lobbying against GOP tax reform, as well as efforts to rein in illegal immigration. An estimated $640 million has been diverted into what critics say is an improper, if not unconstitutional, ‘slush fund’ fed from government settlements with JPMorgan Chase and Co., Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., according to congressional sources. The payola is potentially earmarked for third-party interest groups approved by the Justice Department and HUD without requiring any proof of how the funds will be spent. Many of the recipients so far are radical leftist organizations who solicited the settlement cash from the administration even though they were not parties to the lawsuits, records show. ‘During the Obama administration, groups committed to ‘revolutionary social change’ sent proposals and met with high-level HUD and Justice Department officials to try to get their pieces of the settlement pie,’ Cause of Action Institute vice president Julie Smith told The Post. -New York Post
This post was published at shtfplan on September 25th, 2017.
On Wednesday, Janet Yellen testified before the House Financial Services Committee. Though the hearings lost much of their appeal when Dr. Ron Paul retired from Congress, the House Republicans have maintained a reputation for being far more hostile to the Federal Reserve than their colleagues in the Senate – managing to generate some worthwhile moments. While little news was made, with Yellen maintaining her support for generally low interest rates, there were some points made today worth noting. 1) Republicans Continue to Push on the Fed’s Subsidy to Wall Street Starting in 2008, the Federal Reserve has paid interest on excess reserves parked at the Fed. While this had never been done prior to the financial crisis, this policy has now become a vital tool for the Fed in setting short-term interest rates. As the Fed has increased the Federal funds rate, so too has it increased its ‘Interest On Excess Reserves’ (IOER), now paying 1.25% on the over 2 trillion banks hold at the Fed. This policy has drawn increasing criticism from House Republicans, and Yellen faced criticism from both Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling and Rep. Andy Barr, who hold Dr. Paul’s old position as chairman of the monetary subcommittee. Accurately, both men highlight that this policy means the Federal Reserve – and by extension the US Treasury that would otherwise receive these interest payments – are directly subsidizing large Wall Street and foreign banks. Considering these IOER payments are projected to be $27 billion this year, it’s good to more attention be brought to this obvious example of Wall Street cronyism.
And this might become a problem for the Fed. ECB President Mario Draghi wields more power than just about any other public official in Europe, perhaps even including Angela Merkel. The organization he heads not only controls the monetary policy levers of the entire Eurozone, it also supervises the region’s 130 biggest banks. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, it even has the power to decide which of Europe’s struggling banks get to live and which don’t. Yet it is answerable to virtually no one. Until now. Emily O’Reilly, the EU Ombudsman, an arbiter for the public’s complaints about EU-institutions, has just sent Draghi a letter asking him to explain his role in the potentially compromising Group of Thirty (G30) and how he makes sure that he does not divulge insider information or runs into conflicts of interest. The tenor, tone and direction of O’Reilly’s inquiries make it clear that she means business. The Washington-based G30 was founded in the late seventies at the initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation, which also provided start-up funding for the organization. Its current membership reads like a Who’s Who of the world of global finance. It includes current and former central bankers, many of whom now work or worked in the past for major financial corporations, such as:
This post was published at Wolf Street on Jul 10, 2017.
In February 2000, the FOMC quietly switched from the CPI to the PCE Deflator as its standard for inflation measurement. There were various technical reasons for doing so, including the CPI’s employment of a geometric mean basis (which was in 2015 finally altered to a Constant Elasticity of Substitution formula). But it was one phrase that in hindsight did the Fed no favors, as it explicitly cited the expected fruits of the PCE Deflator’s methodology which would ‘avoid some of the upward bias associated with the fixed-weight nature of the CPI.’ I am not a conspiracist by any means, but there are times when you have to shake your head as these economists lack even a modicum of self-awareness. The central bank has been given a legal mandate for price stability, so the average American might wonder why that central bank is allowed to choose the measure most inherently stable (and low). At the very least, it seems like a conflict of interest, one among so many. In that regard, the last five years have been almost fitting. The PCE Deflator has, as expected, avoided the higher beta tendencies of the CPI and in both directions. For that, it has remained stable, alright, but stable below target no matter what the Fed does with its own balance sheet. I hope the irony is not lost on them, especially as it was oil prices that ‘achieved’ what they could not despite considerable expenditure on their part.
This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Confounded Interest. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission. Bloomberg has nice piece on the battle between JPMorganChase’s Jamie Dimon and the Minneapolis Fed’s Neel Kashkari. (Bloomberg) Jamie Dimon is America’s most famous banker, and Neel Kashkari is its most outspoken bank regulator, so it’s not a shock that they would eventually come to blows. What’s interesting is that their contretemps is over an acronym that most Americans have never heard of, but one that may be central to preventing another recession. TLAC, which is pronounced TEE-lack, is something you need to know about if you want to judge the sparring between Dimon, the well-coiffed chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Kashkari, the very bald man who ran for governor of California on the Republican ticket and is now president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. On April 6, Kashkari went after Dimon in a way that circumspect central bankers ordinarily don’t. In an essay published on Medium and republished on the Minneapolis Fed website, he challenged Dimon’s assertion in his annual letter to shareholders that 1) there’s no longer a risk that taxpayers will be stuck with the bill if a big bank fails, and 2) banks have too much capital (meaning an unnecessarily thick safety cushion). Wrote Kashkari: ‘Both of these assertions are demonstrably false.’
“While the idea of admitting that a bureaucracy is necessary, I must also admit that marketers are liars and if left unregulated will rival politicians in their dishonesty when making product claims. Both admissions shake my libertarian sensibilities to the core.” First, a free market eventually corrects for the condition of “marketers are liars,” unlike with politicians. Furthermore, not ALL marketers are liars. Second, what makes you think the FDA, or any government bureaucracy for that matter, doesn’t lie? If one thinks we need an FDA, then one should think that we also need an EPA, FED, NLRB, EEOC, and on, and on, and on … further violating your libertarian sensibilities. The head administrator of the FDA is pretty much a revolving door with Big Pharma: is government regulation always the knee jerk reaction to every ill that affects society? Can you creatively think of some other solutions that don’t violate the Constitution of the United States? Keep reading, and maybe some other ideas will present themselves. More people die every year from legalized drugs than from taking supplements, not to mention the drugs the FDA eventually gets around to recalling, after they’ve already done their damage. In addition, the FDA is continually pushed by vested interests (Big Pharma and lobbied government officials) to cut corners so that drugs can get to market faster. So much for the efficacy of the FDA! So, you want more of the same? lot of medical doctors are in the back pocket of Big Pharma, not to mention the AMA: can go here to find out if your particular doctor is on the take:
This post was published at Gary North on March 25, 2017.
The Republicans have a problem. Healthcare prices are so swollen by government imposed monopolies that most people cannot possibly afford to pay the crazy bills without subsidies. What to do? Example: my son recently went to an out-of-state emergency room for food poisoning. The bill came in at over $8,000. And how is this for fairness: our insurance company knocked it down to about $4,000. An uninsured person would have been liable for the full amount. Might even have faced bankruptcy for failure to pay it. I personally lobbied for a provision in Obamacare preventing hospitals for charging the uninsured more than the insured. Obama said no. Why? Because the idea upset the hospitals. They wanted to be able to continue to exploit the uninsured. Whew. What does that tell us about Obama? Under these circumstances, average people cannot possibly pay their medical bills unassisted. Yet if you repeal Obamacare by imposing new price controls and subsidies, in other words, pour old, spoiled wine into new bottles, you just perpetuate the problem. So what to do? Prices can never be reduced by price controls, much less by price controls on government imposed monopoly prices. Most people do not realize that the government, through Medicare, has fixed medical prices for half a century and the results speak for themselves. At the same time, government has fed price increases by protecting monopolies set up by the drug companies and the American Medical Association. This is what government always does, and it wrecks any sector of the economy where this crony capitalist system is applied.
The biggest banks on Wall Street, both foreign and domestic, have been repeatedly charged with rigging and colluding in markets from New York to London to Japan. Thus, it is natural to ask, have the big banks formed a cartel to rig the prices of their own stocks? This time last year, Wall Street banks were in a slow, endless bleed. The Federal Reserve had raised interest rates for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis on December 16, 2015 with strong hints that more rate hikes would be coming in 2016. Bank stocks never do well in a rising interest rate environment because their dividend yield has to compete with rising yields on bonds. Money gravitates out of dividend paying stocks into bonds and/or into hard assets like real estate based on the view that it will appreciate from inflationary forces. This is classic market thinking 101. Bizarrely, to explain the current run up in bank stock prices, market pundits are shoving their way onto business news shows to explain to the gullible public that bank stocks like rising interest rates because the banks will be able to charge more on loans. That rationale pales in comparison to the negative impact of outflows from stocks into bonds (if and when interest rates actually do materially rise) and the negative impact of banks taking higher reserves for loan losses because their already shaky loan clients can’t pay loans on time because of rising rates. That is also classic market thinking 101. Big bank stocks also like calm and certainty – as does the stock market in general. At the risk of understatement, since Donald Trump took the Oath of Office on January 20, those qualities don’t readily come to mind in describing the state of the union. Prior to the cravenly corrupt market rigging that led to the epic financial crash in 2008 (we’re talking about the rating agencies being paid by Wall Street to deliver triple-A ratings to junk mortgage securitizations and banks knowingly issuing mortgage pools in which they had inside knowledge that they would fail) the previous episode of that level of corruption occurred in the late 1920s and also led to an epic financial crash in 1929. The U. S. only avoided a Great Depression following 2008 because the Federal Reserve, on its own, secretly funneled $16 trillion in almost zero interest rate loans to Wall Street banks and their foreign cousins. (Because the Fed did this without the knowledge of Congress or the public, this was effectively another form of market rigging. Had the rest of us known this was happening, we also could have made easy bets on the direction of the stock market.)
While U. S. political journalist Matt Taibbi has made no bones about his dislike of Donald Trump… (via Rolling Stone a day after the election) Most of us smarty-pants analysts never thought Trump could win because we saw his run as a half-baked white-supremacist movement fueled by last-gasp, racist frustrations of America’s shrinking silent majority. Sure, Trump had enough jackbooted nut jobs and conspiracist stragglers under his wing to ruin the Republican Party. But surely there was no way he could topple America’s reigning multicultural consensus. How could he? After all, the country had already twice voted in an African-American Democrat to the White House. Yes, Trump’s win was a triumph of the hideous racism, sexism and xenophobia that has always run through American society. But his coalition also took aim at the neoliberal gentry’s pathetic reliance on proxies to communicate with flyover America. They fed on the widespread visceral disdain red-staters felt toward the very people Hillary Clinton’s campaign enlisted all year to speak on its behalf: Hollywood actors, big-ticket musicians, Beltway activists, academics, and especially media figures. Trump’s rebellion was born at the intersection of two toxic American myths, the post-racial society and the classless society.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 15, 2017.
This week the 115th Congress was sworn in, and there are some indications that Fed reform may be on the agenda. The combination of populist anger fueled by Ron Paul’s Presidential campaigns and the 2008 financial crisis coupled with the repeated failings of the Federal Reserve to meet their projections has created a rare window for monetary policy to be both politically advantageous, as well as so obviously needed that even politicians can see it. The question now is what sort of reform is on the table. Congressional Reforms Last Congressional session saw proposals from both the House and the Senate. From the House we have the FORM Act, which would require the Fed to adopt a monetary policy rule and explain to Congress whenever they deviate from that rule. The FORM Act also calls for an annual GAO audit of the Federal Reserve, doubles the number of times the Fed Chairman testifies before Congress, and makes some other tweaks to the makeup and protocol of the Federal Reserve Board. Since the FORM Act passed the House in 2015, there is a good chance we will see it resurrected in 2017. On the Senate side, Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby has pushed for the Financial Regulatory Improvement Act. Not only does it lack a catchy acronym, but its reforms to the Fed are far more modest than the FORM Act. The meat of the bill focuses on changes to the Fed board. The head of the New York Fed would no longer be appointed the banks board of the directors, but would instead be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate – just like the Federal Reserve Chairman. It would also grant powers to the Fed’s regional presidents that currently only reside with the board of directors. Though early drafts of the Senate bill called for the Fed to adopt rules-based monetary policy, this ended up being stripped from the final proposal due to Democratic opposition – largely because much of the Hill focus has been on the Taylor rule, which many Fed advocates fear is too restricting.
Former Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher recently gave a speech identifying the Federal Reserve’s easy money/low interest rate policies as a source of the public anger that propelled Donald Trump into the White House. Mr. Fisher is certainly correct that the Fed’s policies have ‘skewered’ the middle class. However, the problem is not specific Fed policies, but the very system of fiat currency managed by a secretive central bank. Federal Reserve-generated increases in money supply cause economic inequality. This is because, when the Fed acts to increase the money supply, well-to-do investors and other crony capitalists are the first recipients of the new money. These economic elites enjoy an increase in purchasing power before the Fed’s inflationary policies lead to mass price increases. This gives them a boost in their standard of living. By the time the increased money supply trickles down to middle- and working-class Americans, the economy is already beset by inflation. So most average Americans see their standard of living decline as a result of Fed-engendered money supply increases.
After Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump’s election in the US, the political elites of the world are slowly waking up to the inevitability that the will of the people can not be ignored forever. In Northern Europe, the electorate has rebelled against political elites, like Angela Merkel, who have embraced “open borders” and the influx of refugees from war-torn areas in the mid-east that have brought with them increasing violence and terror attacks. In the U. S., the rebellion is the direct result of Americans being fed up with a federal government that is defined by cronyism and complete dysfunction. Now, the latest demonstration of an electorate fighting back against its elected officials comes from Spain as 80,000 people rallied in Barcelona on Sunday in a show of support for Catalan leaders locked in a political battle with Madrid over an independence referendum. In Catalonia, separatists complain their relatively wealthy region is overtaxed by an oppressive central government in Madrid to subsidize poorer regions of the country.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 14, 2016.
Trump shocked the world last night by tapping into a “burning resentment” growing within the American electorate…something that he alone was able to identify while every other politician and mainstream media journalist clearly missed it. Trump’s victory, as Michael Moore said, is “the biggest fuck you” in human history as voters lashed out against a system they view as rigged and only working for the rich and powerful. Trump’s victory give a voice to those infuriated with the excesses of wall street, the corruption of the mainstream media that is more interested in spreading their own propaganda than reporting the truth and to those who are utterly fed up with politicians who are “all talk.” In the 2008 U. S. election, Carrie Sheridan slept in her Honda Element as she campaigned across the country for Democrat Barack Obama. On Tuesday, the self-described community activist from the Washington, D. C. area spent $864 of the last $1,000 in her checking account on a room in Republican Donald Trump’s $200 million luxury hotel three blocks from the White House. “I had to be here,” Sheridan said, as Trump supporters lounging on velvet sofas poured champagne on each other early Wednesday morning to celebrate their candidate’s shock presidential election victory. “This is rage against the machine.” Voters in Tuesday’s presidential election were split nearly evenly between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, who as of late Wednesday morning was leading in media tallies of the popular vote count despite failing to win enough states to secure the White House.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 9, 2016.
At an event in Davos, Switzerland earlier today, Former U. S. Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, argued that Central Bank independence from national governments should be scrapped in favor of a coordinated effort between politicians, central bankers and treasury to engineer inflation. Seems reasonable, right?…what could possibly go wrong? According to Market Watch, Summers argued that Central Bank independence came from “an understanding of the macroeconomic policy problem that is not relevant to current times.” Ironically, he argued that Central Bank “insulation” was required in the 70s/80s when the “White House” and “Congress” could not be trusted to fight inflation. So does this indicate that Summers’ baseline assumption is that politicians today are more trustworthy than in the 70s/80s? Perhaps Summers is the one that is “insulated” from reality? Is it possible that he’s completely missed the fact that one of our presidential candidates is currently under multiple investigations by the FBI for various allegations of corruption and fraud? Meanwhile, both presidential candidates are polling at among the lowest rates ever experienced for “trustworthiness” while the job approval rating of Congress has never been lower…but sure, we should grant them even more power to wreak havoc on the U. S. economy for political gain…why not? Central bank independence ‘comes from an understanding of the macroeconomic policy problem that is not relevant to current times,’ Summers said in a speech at the International Monetary Fund.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 4, 2016.