Tag Archives: central bank policies

Why the Boomers Are Going Broke, by Bill Bonner

It’s hard to accumulate wealth when the value of the supposed store of value is whatever central bankers and politicians say it is. From Bill Bonner at bonnerandpartners.com:

POITOU, FRANCE – We were taken aback on Friday by the ferocity of our dear readers’ comments. [Read more in today’s Mailbag.]

What were they so sore about? we wondered.

Son of Satan

Of course, we are frequently wrong about a great number of things. When connecting the dots, we are bound to draw a few stray lines. And we will no doubt be proven wrong in many of our opinions and predictions.

Will The Donald’s trade war pay off for Americans? We don’t think so.

Will the tax cut really boost the U.S. economy and reduce the deficit? There is no sign of it.

Will Mr. Trump really make America great again? The odds, based on what we’ve seen so far, seem very, very slim.

But what do we know? And we’d be happy to be proven wrong.

What was surprising – to us – was that readers did not write to correct us or help us get the lines in the right place.

Instead, they seemed to suggest that we were a son of Satan, sent to destroy all that the good patriots of the United States of America hold most dear.

In other words, the discussion seems to have hit a religious nerve… like setting fire to a cathedral; the faithful fear their most sacred relics will be incinerated.

We have no remedy for this condition, so we will cheerfully ignore it. Besides, cross readers may be right. And those who have a better idea of how the dots connect are invited to send their thoughts by clicking right here.

Goldilocks Report

So, what do we see today?

What we see is an economy staggering under the weight of phony wars and phony finances.

It took more than 200 years for the country to reach its first $1 trillion in debt; now, it adds that much every 12 months. In addition, the Fed increased the base money supply by roughly 400% over the past decade.

What do you get for that kind of money? The feds got the weakest recovery in history… with no real gains in per-hour wages… and GDP growth rates only half those of the 1950s and ‘60s.

In 1821, John Quincy Adams described American foreign policy: “She goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy…”

Here we are, nearly 200 years later, and U.S. troops are looking for monsters in every godforsaken sh*thole in the world. And where none can be found… they create one.

To continue reading: Why the Boomers Are Going Broke

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When the Freaks Run Wild, by MN Gordon

You can get used to almost anything that’s freakish, bizarre, or ridiculous, so much so that it becomes almost normal. From MN Gordon at economicprism.com:

The unpleasant sight of a physical absurdity is both grotesque and interesting.  Only the most disciplined individual can resist an extra peek at a three-legged hunch back with face tattoos.  The disfigurement has the odd effect of turning the stomach and twisting the mind in unison.

After repeated exposure, however, the shock of an absurdity is reduced to that of vanilla ice cream.  Somehow, even the extremely preposterous becomes commonplace after a while.  For example, a panhandling Batman doesn’t get a second look in Hollywood.  That persona comes a dime a dozen.

Yet just because an absurdity’s been watered down to the seemingly ordinary, doesn’t mean it has become any less ridiculous.  Rather, the viewer has become conditioned to the absurdity.  The abnormal has been calibrated to a feigning normal.

Extreme market intervention by central planners has been going on for so long that the distorted conditions it produces are considered normal.  The Cyclically Adjusted Price Earnings Ratio (CAPE Ratio) of the S&P 500 is currently more than double its historic average.  But no one, save a few grumpy old farts, are alarmed by this.  Like a freak at a freak show, it all seems perfectly normal.

Diapers, soda pop, beer, chocolate, and chicken, are all rising in price.  At the same time, the federal government is aiming for a $1 trillion deficit.  Still, U.S. consumers haven’t been this fired up about the economy since February 2001.  You see, in the year 2018, spending more and getting less is perfectly normal.

Cancer and Crackpots

The destructive absurdity of modern fiscal and monetary policy is only matched in nature by the insidious replication of cancer cells.  As these cancerous cells are replicated and divided, and then replicated and divided again and again, their uncontrollable growth flows into lumps and tumors.  Sometimes these cancerous growths go undetected for years, as if the body is perfectly normal.

To continue reading: When the Freaks Run Wild

Central Banks Are Using The Trade War To Hide Their Direct Influence On Stocks, by Brandon Smith

Stocks have gone the same direction as central banks’ balance sheets—up—the last few years (there hasn’t always been a such consistent relationship). Brandon Smith argues that now that the balance sheet trend is heading the other direction, so too will equity markets. From Smith at alt-market.com:

There has been a lot of confusion lately in the mainstream economic media as well as in independent media circles as to the behavior of stock markets in the wake of the recently initiated global trade war. In particular, stocks suffered one of the longest runs of negative days in their history in June, only to then spike just after Donald Trump “officially” began trade war tariffs in July. The expectation by many was that the headlines would cause an immediate and continued downturn in equities markets, but this was not the case. Many analysts have been left bewildered.

This is an issue I have touched on multiple times since the beginning of this year, and it is something I predicted long before Trump’s election in 2016. But it is obvious that the schizophrenic nature of stocks needs to be addressed in a very concise, no-holds-barred fashion, because there are still far too many people who are looking at all the wrong causes and correlations.

First, let’s be clear: stock markets are NOT tracking the news headlines. The past month should have proved this if there was any previous doubt.

It is hard for investors and some analysts to grasp this fact, primarily because for at least the past few years it appeared as though stock markets were utterly dictated by headlines out of Bloomberg, Reuters and other mainstream media outlets. Once investors and analysts became used to this narrative it was difficult for them to adapt when the dynamic changed. They are still living in the past based on an assumption that was never quite correct to begin with.

In reality, headlines never actually dictated stock prices; it was always the Federal Reserve among other central banks.

As I and others have noted consistently, stock market valuations for the past several years have tracked almost perfectly with the Fed’s balance sheet. That is to say, every time the Fed purchased more assets and increased the balance sheet, stocks went up.

Fed Balance Sheet

To continue reading: Central Banks Are Using The Trade War To Hide Their Direct Influence On Stocks

Living Dangerously, by Alasdair Macleod

Suppressing interest rates, encouraging debt, and discouraging savings generally does not end well. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:

Regular readers of Goldmoney’s Insights should be aware by now that the cycle of business activity is fuelled by monetary policy, and that the periodic booms and slumps experienced since monetary policy has been used in an attempt to manage economic outcomes are the result of monetary policy itself. The link between interest rate suppression in the early stages of the credit cycle, the creation of malinvestments and the subsequent debt dénouement was summed up in Hayek’s illustration of a triangle, which I covered in an earlier article.[i]

Since Hayek’s time, monetary policy, particularly in America, has evolved away from targeting production and discouraging savings by suppressing interest rates, towards encouraging consumption through expanding consumer finance. American consumers are living beyond their means and have commonly depleted all their liquid savings. But given the variations in the cost of consumer finance (between 0% car loans and 20% credit card and overdraft rates), consumers are generally insensitive to changes in interest rates.

Therefore, despite the rise of consumer finance, we can still regard Hayek’s triangle as illustrating the driving force behind the credit cycle, and the unsustainable excesses of unprofitable debt created by suppressing interest rates as the reason monetary policy always leads to an economic crisis. The chart below shows we could be living dangerously close to another tipping point, whereby the rises in the Fed Funds Rate (FFR) might be about to trigger a new credit and economic crisis.

 

living danger 1

Previous peaks in the FFR coincided with the onset of economic downturns, because they exposed unsustainable business models. On the basis of simple extrapolation, the area between the two dotted lines, which roughly join these peaks, is where the current FFR cycle can be expected to peak. It is currently standing at about 2% after yesterday’s increase, and the Fed expects the FFR to average 3.1% in 2019. The chart tells us the Fed is already living dangerously with yesterday’s hike, and further rises will all but guarantee a credit crisis.

The reason successive interest rate peaks have been on a declining trend is bound up in the rising level of outstanding debt and loans, shown by the red line on the chart. Besides a temporary slowdown during the last credit crisis, debt has been increasing over every cycle. Instead of sequential credit crises eliminating malinvestments, it is clear the Fed has prevented debt liquidation for at least the last forty years. The accumulation of debt since the 1980s is behind the reason for the decline in interest rate peaks over time.

To continue reading: Living Dangerously

Here We Go Again: Our Double-Bubble Economy, by Charles Hugh Smith

Blowing bubbles has become the official economic policy. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

The bubbles in assets are supported by the invisible bubble in greed, euphoria and credulity.
Well, folks, here we go again: we have a double-bubble economy in housing and stocks, and a third difficult-to-chart bubble in greed, euphoria and credulity.
Feast your eyes on Housing Bubble #2, a.k.a. the Echo Bubble:
Here’s the S&P 500 stock index (SPX): no bubble here, we’re told, just a typical 9-year long Bull Market that has soared from a low in 2009 of 666 to a recent high of 2802 in January of this year:
Here’s a view of the same bubble in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA):
Is anyone actually dumb enough not to recognize these are bubbles? Of course not. Those proclaiming that “these bubbles are not bubbles” know full well they’re bubbles, but their livelihoods depend on public denial of this reality.
And so we’re inundated with justifications of bubble valuations, neatly bound with statistical mumbo-jumbo: forward earnings (better every day in every way!), P-E expansion, and all the rest of the usual blather that’s spewed by status quo commentators and fund managers at the top of every bubble.
The problem with bubbles is they always pop. The market runs out of Greater Fools and/or creditworthy borrowers, and so sellers overwhelm the thinning ranks of buyers.
Those dancing euphorically, expecting the music will never stop, are caught off guard (despite their confidence that they are far too clever to be caught by surprise), and the panic-driven crowd clogs the narrow exit, leaving a ballroom of bag-holders to absorb the losses.
The other problem with bubbles is that we’ve become dependent on them as props holding up a rotten, corrupt status quo. Since the economy can no longer generate sufficient prosperity to go around via actual increases in productivity and efficiency, those skimming most of the gains rely on “the wealth effect” generated by expanding asset bubbles to create a dreamy illusion of prosperity.
Here’s the third consequence of bubbles: the gains flow to the very top of the wealth-power pyramid: there is no other possible output of the bubble, since roughly 80% of all assets are owned by the top tier of households, and the majority of financial assets are owned by the top .1% (one-tenth of one percent).

Critical Mass: When Will Investors Care About The Dollar Shortage Crisis? by Adem Tumerkan

Investors may not care about an impending dollar shortage until there aren’t enough dollars around to drive markets higher. From Adem Tumerkan at palisade-research.com:

Former Federal Reserve Chairman – Ben ‘Helicopter’ Bernanke – just threw cold water on the mainstream growth narrative. He said the economy by 2020 is going to go right over the cliff.

Although rarely – I do agree with Helicopter Ben about something. . .

President Trump’s $1.5 trillion in personal and corporate tax cuts – plus $300 billion in increased federal spending – was done at the “very wrong moment.”

The huge tax cuts and government spending requires a significant amount of new debt to be issued, all while the Fed’s tightening and unwinding their balance sheet via Quantitative Tightening (QT). 

This is going to cause an evaporation of dollar liquidity – making the markets extremely fragile.

Putting it simply – the soaring U.S. deficit requires an even greater amount dollars from foreigners to fund the U.S. Treasury. But if the Fed is shrinking their balance sheet, that means the bonds they’re selling to banks are sucking dollars out of the economy (the reverse of Quantitative Easing which was injecting dollars into the economy). This is creating a shortage of U.S. dollars – the world’s reserve currency – therefore affecting every global economy.

This illiquidity is going to cause the oil that greases the wheels of markets to dry up – fast.

So, with the dollar shortage making matters worse – we also have that there’s never been a time when the Fed began tightening and it didn’t lead to negative economic growth or a market crisis.

The historic evidence of the Fed’s rate hikes – and the inverting yield curve – right before a recession is irrefutable.

Take a look at over the last 40 years. . .

As the Fed continues their rate hikes and QT, the over-indebted system becomes illiquid and more fragile. Things will eventually crack.

The protégé of Austrian Economist Ludwig Von Mises – Murray Rothbard – once asked a series of questions that stumped many economists defending the Fed.

From his book America’s Great Depression, he called these ‘The Sudden Cluster of Errors’, which were. . .

1. Most businesses in the economy generate steady profits and can service their debts fine. Then suddenly, without warning, conditions change, and the bulk of businesses begin posting huge losses and can’t pay their creditors.

2. How did all these astute business men, MBA graduates, and ‘professional’ forecasters make such huge errors together. And – most importantly – why did it all suddenly happen at this particular time?

3. Why do the capital goods industries – raw materials, construction, etc – fluctuate much more wildly than the consumer goods industries? During recessions you see home construction firms belly up, but places like GAP and Hollister survive.

The explanation is the Fed’s artificial moving of rates up after keeping them down for years triggers the harsh bust.

To continue reading: Critical Mass: When Will Investors Care About The Dollar Shortage Crisis?

Beware Former Central Bankers Telling You to Work More, by Michael Krieger

Our progeny will have to work harder than we did to pay off the promises we made to ourselves. From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

I’m not the only one of course. The financial crisis of 2008/09 similarly shattered the worldview of tens, if not hundreds of millions of people across the globe. I believe that the old manner of doing things as far as organizing an economy and society died for good during that crisis and its aftermath. Sure it’s been shadily and undemocratically propped up ever since, and we haven’t yet transitioned to what’s next, but for all intents and purposes it’s dead. It’s dead because it has no credibility.

– From last year’s post: The Generational Wheels Are Turning

Hard work is fundamental to our continued existence and advancement as a species. I would never devalue the importance of hard work, particularly when combined with intense passion and drive, which leads to extraordinary technological progress and soaring artistic creations. Nevertheless, my ears perk up whenever I hear an older person lecture millennials about how they need to work more just to have a reasonable chance at a retirement compared to generations that came became before.

Yet that’s exactly what happened when I read an article published at Politico by 75-year old Alicia Munnell, and academic who also worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the U.S. Treasury Department under Bill Clinton.

She seems to understand the problem. She notes:

A comparison of millennials (adults currently ages 25 to 35) with earlier cohorts (Gen-Xers and late baby boomers) when they were the same age shows that even though a higher percentage of both millennial men and women have college degrees, they are behind in almost every economic dimension.

One reason is that millennials entered the labor market during tough times. Most turned 21 between 2002 and 2012, which meant that they were graduating from college during a period that included both the bursting of the dot.com bubble and the Great Recession. This experience appears to have been particularly hard on millennial men, who have labor-force participation rates below earlier cohorts.

That’s all true, it’s her unimaginative, and quite frankly, offensive conclusion about what’s to be done that I take issue with. She writes:

My research suggests that those concerns are real, and millennials really are building wealth more slowly than the other working generations. But they are not insurmountable—as long as millennials are willing and able to work longer than their parents and grandparents did.

To continue reading: Beware Former Central Bankers Telling You to Work More