Tag Archives: central bank policy

Is Trump Winning? by Robert Gore

Mainstream analysis has been wrong for so long, why start believing it now?

SLL has run a series of articles (“Plot Holes,” “Trump and Vault 7,” “Calling a Bluff?” “Let’s Connect the Dots,” “Powerball, Part One,” “Powerball, Part Two”) advancing interrelated hypotheses. We’ve asserted that President Trump is far smarter and the powers that be far stupider and weaker than current consensus estimates. Trump’s primary motivation is power. The nonstop vilification campaign against him has little to do with policy differences and instead reflects establishment fears that Trump will investigate, expose, and punish its criminality. The upshot of these hypotheses: Trump is winning and has consolidated his power.

Reader reaction to this non-mainstream and admittedly speculative line of thinking has been mixed and often skeptical. However, we’ll press on, because our hypotheses have yielded testable predictions, most of which have been borne out. From “Powerball, Part Two”:

To answer a question posed in Part One: if Trump has consolidated power both at home and abroad, don’t hold your breath waiting for a swamp draining. The most effective power is often power of which only a few know. Those he has by the short hairs would be most helpful to him—sub rosa—if they’re still in government. If such is the case, don’t be surprised if the Russia probe fades away, Trump’s nominal opposition consigns itself to rote denunciation, the Deep State sits still for his Middle Eastern policy changes, and he gets more of his agenda through than anyone expects.

Even the Washington Post has admitted the Russia probe is “crumbling.”  Trump and Sessions know Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller won’t find much because there’s nothing there, although there may be a sacrificial offering or two to propitiate the investigatory gods. Trump read Sessions the riot act via Twitter and a Wall Street Journal interview about not investigating Hillary Clinton, intelligence community leaks to the press, and Ukrainian efforts to sabotage his presidential campaign. He’s been roundly condemned for publicly criticizing Sessions, but here’s a speculative leap: perhaps publicly criticizing Sessions was not really what Trump was doing.

Perhaps Trump was giving his attorney general political cover to pursue investigations against high-profile Democrats who cannot help Trump, sub rosa or otherwise. Investigations of Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Fusion GPS, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz would demoralize the Democrats, preoccupy and harass key players, expose criminality, and electrify Trump’s base. Providing Sessions further cover, twenty Republican representatives have sent a letter to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein demanding the appointment of a second Special Counsel to look into potentially illegal acts by Clinton, Lynch, and former FBI director James Comey.

After recusing himself from the Russiagate investigation, which he knows is pointless, and being “scolded” by Trump, Sessions is now a sympathetic, squeaky-clean figure; even Democrats have expressed support. He has far more latitude to pursue the investigations his boss wants him to pursue. Most of the ensuing criticism will be directed at Trump, which will bother Trump not at all (although there will undoubtedly be answering Twitter blasts).

Trump has quietly (when Trump does anything quietly, take note) made two sea changes in US policy in Syria. At the G20 summit, he negotiated a cease fire with Vladimir Putin for southwest Syria. Last week he ended a CIA program that armed Syrian jihadists fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Both changes are anathema to the US Deep State, the mainstream media, and US allies Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Israel, and Turkey, yet other than “rote denunciation,” they have been surprisingly docile. The latter change could presage abandonment of a pillar of US foreign and military policy since President Carter supplied arms and other aid to the mujahideen in Afghanistan during their successful fight against the Soviet Union. The US may be out of the business of arming Islamic insurgents against regimes it seeks to change.

Deft—by this analysis—as Trump has been, his biggest challenge lies ahead. The government is bankrupt, and demographics will push it ever-deeper in the hole. The global economy is struggling under monstrous and unsupportable debt. Fiat money something-for-nothing has a sell-by date, sooner or later the stock market and economy will head south. Historically, there’s been a tight correlation between stocks, the economy, and presidential popularity.

Can Trump dodge this bullet? Here’s another speculative leap: he is already laying the groundwork. He’s claiming credit for the stock market’s rally since he was elected. That may not be as foolish as it seems. When the market and economy falter, he will claim they went up on hopes for his program, and will blame Congress and the Federal Reserve for dashing those hopes.

Most people blame the Republican-controlled Congress, not Trump, for the failure to repeal and replace Obamacare. Trump proposes, but Congress disposes and Trump has made sure everyone knows that Congress is responsible. In the same vein, he signed the veto-proof Russian sanctions bill while at the same time excoriating Congress for passing it. He has an easier job making his case than a President whose party controls Congress normally would. Trump is a Republican in name only and ran just as hard against the Republican establishment as he did against Hillary Clinton.

Look for him to lambast Congress when it botches tax reform and the debt ceiling. He could be hoping for such miscues. Debt ceiling contretemps may set off financial market conniptions. Trump will sigh and tweet: If only Congress had passed my health care and tax reforms and given me a clean debt ceiling increase, none of this would have happened. If the Federal Reserve continues to raise its federal funds target rate and shrinks its balance sheet, he’ll include Janet Yellen in his tweets.

These hypotheses yield testable predictions. Mueller’s investigation will come a cropper, but investigations of high-profile and no sub rosa value leakers and Democrats—up to and perhaps including Hillary Clinton—will lead to indictments and either plea bargained settlements or convictions. Trump will take credit for the stock market until it reverses. He will continue to harshly criticize Congressional failures and blame them when financial markets and the economy head south. This may come to a head if Congress fails to pass a clean debt ceiling increase by the end of September. Trump will also point his finger at the Federal Reserve. This is a high risk strategy, given the longstanding psychological linkage between presidential popularity, the strength of the economy, and stock market indices. It’s probably the only strategy available to Trump. Time will tell if it works.

The war in Syria has crested; ISIS, though still capable of substantial mischief, has lost. The refugee flow has already reversed, an estimated half a million refugees have returned, which, as noted in “Powerball, Part Two,” gives European leaders some breathing room. Assad will stay in power unless Russia, not the US, sees fit to remove him. The embers of conflict will smolder for years, but Trump will not be fanning them by arming anti-Assad groups or escalating US military involvement. He will continue to use shows of force and diplomatic maneuvers to try to resolve other hot spots—North Korea, Iran, the South China Sea, Ukraine, Afghanistan—and will shy away from exclusively military solutions. He is deeply displeased with the war in Afghanistan and is calling for a rethink that may ultimately lead to withdrawal.

All this is speculative, but it continues a line of analysis whose predictions have been for the most part confirmed. However, borrowing from the ubiquitous financial disclaimer: past performance is no guarantee of future accuracy.

YOUR GRANDCHILDREN WILL READ THIS BOOK

AMAZON

KINDLE

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The Federal Reserve Is, and Always Has Been, Politicized, by Ron Paul

Fed partisans shriek that any legislative constraints, such as regular audits, will “politicize” the Fed. That’s all window dressing, because everyone knows the Fed is already politicized. From Ron Paul at ronpaulinstitute.org:

Audit the Fed recently took a step closer to becoming law, when it was favorably reported by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. This means the House could vote on the bill at any time. The bill passed by voice vote without any objections, although Fed defenders did launch hysterical attacks on the bill during the debate as well as at a hearing on the bill the previous week.

One representative claimed that auditing the Fed would result in rising interest rates, a stock market crash, a decline in the dollar’s value, and a complete loss of confidence in the US economy. Those who understand economics know that all of this is actually what awaits America unless we change our monetary policy. Passing the audit bill is the vital first step in that process, since an audit can provide Congress a road map to changing the fiat currency system.

Another charge leveled by the Fed’s defenders is that subjecting the Fed to an audit would make the Fed subject to political pressure. There are two problems with this argument. First, nothing in the audit bill gives Congress or the president any new authority to interfere in the Federal Reserve’s operations. Second, and most importantly, the Federal Reserve has a long history of giving in to presidential pressure for an “accommodative” monetary policy.

The most notorious example of Fed chairmen tailoring monetary policy to fit the demands of a president is Nixon-era Federal Reserve Chair Arthur Burns. Burns and Nixon may be an extreme example — after all no other president was caught on tape joking with the Fed chair about Fed independence, but every president has tried to influence the Fed with varying degrees of success. For instance, Lyndon Johnson summoned the Fed chair to the White House to berate him for not tailoring monetary policy to support Johnson’s guns and butter policies.

To continue reading: The Federal Reserve Is, and Always Has Been, Politicized

When Money Is “Free,” Discipline Evaporates; When Discipline Evaporates, Decisions Are Disastrous, by Charles Hugh Smith

Another way to put what Charles Hugh Smith is saying here is that when money is free, the expected return on investment goes to the prevailing interest rate, or zero. From Smith at oftwominds.com:

The only possible output of a system lacking any discipline is self-destruction.

Whatever is free is squandered. When water is free, it’s freely wasted. When electricity is free, there’s no motivation to use it wisely.

The same principle holds true for money. If money is free, or nearly free, there is no motivation to invest it wisely, or consider the opportunity costs of spending it versus investing it or preserving it as savings.

Money that can be borrowed for next to nothing is essentially “free” because the costs of interest are negligible. Money that can be borrowed in virtually unlimited quantities is also “free,” as whatever funds are squandered or lost to malinvestment can be easily replaced with more borrowed money.

Nothing enduringly productive can be built without discipline and a steady focus on the bottom line of production costs, revenues, overhead expenses and opportunity costs, i.e. what else could have been done with this capital and labor?

These dynamics are scale-invariant, meaning they apply to individuals and households as well as to companies, institutions and nation-states.

Thus we see the same poor results in trust-funders whose income is “free” (pouring in monthly whether the individual was productive or not) and national governments that can simply borrow another trillion dollars (or $10 trillion, hey why not?) when they’ve squandered all the tax revenues.

We intuitively grasp the necessity of discipline to corral impulses and desires that are self-destructive in the longer term. Eating chocolate cake and ice cream might appeal to our immediate cravings, but longer term the consequences of unbridled consumption of this kind of sweets are dire.

We also grasp the role discipline plays in learning difficult subjects/tasks and in accomplishing long-term, often arduous projects.

To continue reading: When Money Is “Free,” Discipline Evaporates; When Discipline Evaporates, Decisions Are Disastrous

In the Next Few Hours, the Deep State Will Launch Its Revenge on Trump, by Nick Giambruno

Nick Giambruno believes the Deep State will use the Federal Reserve as its agent to prick the financial bubble and exact revenge on President Trump. This article was posted a few hours before the Fed’s rate hike Wednesday. From Giambruno at internationalman.com:

The Deep State is set to prick the largest bubble in human history today…

The Deep State is the permanently entrenched “national security” bureaucracy—the top tier of the military, the CIA, FBI, NSA, etc. It also includes the Federal Reserve, the quintessential Establishment institution.

They all hate President Trump. They did everything possible to stop him from taking office. None of it worked. They fired all of their bullets, but he still wouldn’t go down.

Of course, the Deep State could still try to assassinate Trump. It’s obvious the possibility has crossed his mind. He’s taken the unusual step of supplementing his Secret Service protection with loyal private security.

But for now, anyway, the Deep State’s next move is to pin the coming stock market collapse on Trump. He’s the perfect fall guy.

When people think “Greater Depression,” they’ll think “Donald Trump.”

Right now, the Federal Reserve is the Deep State’s weapon of choice.

The economy has been on life support since the 2008 financial crisis. The Fed has pumped it up with unprecedented amounts of “stimulus.” This has created enormous distortions and misallocations of capital that need to be flushed.

Think of the trillions of dollars in money printing programs, euphemistically called quantitative easing (QE) 1, 2, and 3. Meanwhile, with zero and even negative interest rates in many countries, rates are the lowest they’ve been in 5,000 years of recorded human history.

On top of that, the too-big-to-fail banks are even bigger than they were in 2008. They have more derivatives, and they’re much more dangerous.

If the Deep State wants to trigger a stock market collapse on par with 1929, it just has to pull the plug on the extraordinary life support measures it’s used since the last crisis.

This outcome is already baked in the cake. It’s just a matter of when… and there’s a good chance “when” is today.

To continue reading: In the Next Few Hours, the Deep State Will Launch Its Revenge on Trump

Bond “Carnage” hits Mortgage Rates, Aims at Housing Bubble 2, by Wolf Richter

The relationship between the housing market and higher interest rates isn’t as straightforward as many people think. Sometimes rates rise and the housing market does well for the same reason: the economy is strong. Interest rates probably hit bottom in July, 2016, and have embarked on a long-term rising trend. It remains to be seen how that will affect the housing market. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

“Many fear the Fed is behind the curve. The market is even further behind: This is clearly a dangerous situation.”

US government debt took another beating today. As prices fell, yields rose to new multi-year highs. The 10-year Treasury yield rose 5 points to 2.625%, the highest since September 2014, when it just briefly kissed that level. At this pace, the yield will soon double from the record low of 1.36% in July last year.

This chart shows the progression of the 10-year Treasury yield since late August (chart via StockCharts.com):

When yields were surging maniacally in November and December – broadly called the “bond massacre” or the “bond meltdown” or similar – I pontificated that eventually yields would fall back some, “on the theory that nothing goes to heck in a straight line.” And they did start falling back in mid-December. But that three-month breather has now been totally undone.

Two-year Treasuries took it on the chin too today, and the yield jumped to 1.40%, the highest since June 2009.

To continue reading: Bond “Carnage” hits Mortgage Rates, Aims at Housing Bubble 2

Are We Witnessing The Weirdest Moment In Economic History? by Brandon Smith

2017 has the turbulence potential to make 2016 look normal. From Brandon Smith at alt-market.com:

It is an unfortunate reality that most people tend to be oblivious to massive sea changes in geopolitics and economics. You would think that these events would catch the immediate attention of everyone as they happen, but usually it is not until they realize that the microcosm of their personal lives is subject to the consequences of the macrocosm that they wake up and take notice.

There are, however, ways to train yourself to pick up on signals within the news cycle and within political and financial rhetoric; signals that indicate a great shift is perhaps on the way. Sometimes these initial signs are subtle, sometimes they are as subtle as a feminist slut-walk. I would point out that over the next few months there are dangerous correlations so numerous and blatant in the economic sphere that I would almost rather watch a marching gaggle of frumpy feminists wearing nothing but electrical tape than bear witness to the mayhem that is about to strike the unwitting public.

What am I talking about? Well, let’s go through the list…

Federal Reserve Meeting March 14-15th
As my readers know well, I have been warning since before the election that the Fed would use a Trump presidency as an opportunity to pull the plug on near-zero interest rates and remove a primary pillar supporting stock markets — stock buybacks made possible by free overnight loans to numerous banks and corporations. Without QE and low interest rates the equities bubble will inevitably implode.

Corporate earnings certainly aren’t holding up stocks, neither is GDP or consumer spending. The Fed is the only determining factor of the ongoing bull market. Anyone who claims otherwise is probably a mainstream analyst or overzealous day trader with a vested interest in keeping the illusion going.

To continue reading: Are We Witnessing The Weirdest Moment In Economic History?

 

Janet Yellen’s Shame, by Bill Bonner

The contrast between honest capitalism and inherently dishonest central banking. From Bill Bonner at acting-man.com:

Playing Politics

In honest capitalism, you do what you can to get other people to voluntarily give you money. This usually involves providing goods or services they think are worth the price. You may get a little wild and crazy from time to time, but you are always called to order by your customers.

In the market economy, consumers reign supreme. There is no such thing as a “lost” vote in the marketplace; every penny spent affects production. Mises noted: “Consumers ultimately determine not only the prices of consumers’ goods, but no less the prices of all factors of production. They determine the income of every member of the market economy. The consumers, not the entrepreneurs, ultimately pay the wages earned by every worker, the glamorous movie star as well as the charwoman. With every penny spent, consumers determine the direction of all production processes and the minutest details of the organization of all business activities.”

That is true of honest banking, too. Back when such a thing existed, the job of an honest banker was to aggregate people’s savings and lend them to worthy borrowers. You make too many mistakes, your customers leave and you go broke.

Politics is a different game altogether. It produces no wealth of any sort. So the only way you can prosper in politics is to connive, cheat, and steal – manipulating your friends… sidelining your enemies… and exploiting the public.

It is a game of taking wealth, not making it. And you have no customers, so there’s not much of a check on how out-of-order you can get. Still, a politician is not always lying, not always stealing – and not always wrong. Occasionally, he blunders into honesty and slips into truth.

On Monday, for example, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Fed chief Janet Yellen should be ashamed of herself for what she was doing to Americans and for creating a “false stock market.

US monetary base vs. the S&P 500 Index. Although base money growth has leveled out since 2014, the money supply has continued to grow since then due to commercial bank credit expansion. Since 2008 the broad true US money supply has increased by 128%, and this chart is a reminder that the money didn’t just “print itself”.  A great deal of it was created directly by the Fed, which the rapid growth in base money demonstrates. Newly created money doesn’t affect all prices simultaneously or to the same extent and for a variety of reasons, asset prices are always likely

US monetary base vs. the S&P 500 Index. Although base money growth has leveled out since 2014, the money supply has continued to grow since then due to commercial bank credit expansion. Since 2008 the broad true US money supply has increased by 128%, and this chart is a reminder that the money didn’t just “print itself”. A great deal of it was created directly by the Fed, which the rapid growth in base money demonstrates. Newly created money doesn’t affect all prices simultaneously or to the same extent and for a variety of reasons, asset prices are always likely to be at the top of the list (in other words, the above correlation is not a coincidence)

The financial press was quick to condemn Mr. Trump for “undermining confidence” in the Fed and the stock market. It was “irresponsible” to question the Fed’s integrity and its non-partisan mission, said the pundits.

Widely dismissed was the idea that Ms. Yellen was “playing politics” with the Fed by supporting the stock market to embellish President Obama’s last months in office and help Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton slide into the White House after him. But Mr. Trump is right: Politics is the Fed’s game.

 

To continue reading: Janet Yellen’s Shame