Olduvaiblog: Musings on the coming collapse

Home » Posts tagged 'Bank of England' (Page 2)

Tag Archives: Bank of England

Vince Cable: interest rates may have to rise to combat housing boom | Business | theguardian.com

Vince Cable: interest rates may have to rise to combat housing boom | Business | theguardian.com.

Vince Cable<br />

Vince Cable has again called for the government to rethink its help to buy scheme. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA

The business secretary, Vince Cable, has warned that interest rates may have to rise to constrain a “raging housing boom” in London and the south-east.

Speaking on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, he said if interest rates were not increased by the Bank of England, there was a danger that large parts of London could be inhabited only by foreigners and bankers as house prices spiralled.

He added that, on the other hand, if interest rates were increased it would have a negative impact on UK manufacturing since exchange rates would rise, making exports harder.

It is the first time Cable has spoken so openly about the possibility of interest rates rising due to the imbalance in the economic recovery.

He again called for the government to rethink its Help to Buy scheme, which he said was conceived in entirely different circumstances. He also hinted strongly he did not want to follow the Conservative path on spending cuts after the election in 2015, saying the social fabric was under strain.

Cable said: “There is a raging housing boom in London and the south-east, and not in other parts of the country. The danger of raising interest rates is that you hit those parts of the country which are not yet fully recovered, you push up the exchange rate and that hits manufacturing. We don’t want that. On the other hand, if you do not increase interest rates – if that is the way the governor and the Bank of England go – then this boom that is taking place in housing prices gets out of control and the only people that can afford to live in large parts of London are foreigners and bankers, and we don’t want that either.”

He said the government needed to look again at the Help to Buy scheme, which involves government backing for mortgages so that buyers do not have to provide such a large deposit, saying “it was conceived in very different circumstances”.

Cable also said he noted the rating agency Standard & Poor’s hadreaffirmed the UK’s AAA rating, but had expressed concerns about imbalance in the UK economy.

He said: “We have got to have a sensible balance on public spending cuts – which is getting very severe. Some very good services are now being seriously affected.”

 

UK unemployment rate slips to four-and-a-half year low of 7.4% | Business | theguardian.com

UK unemployment rate slips to four-and-a-half year low of 7.4% | Business | theguardian.com.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney

Under Bank of England governor Mark Carney’s policy of forward guidance, the MPC will not to consider raising rates until unemployment has fallen below 7%. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Britain’s unemployment rate has slipped to a four-and-a-half year low of 7.4%, edging closer to the “threshold” at which the Bank of England has said it will consider raising interest rates.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that unemployment in the three months to October was 2.39 million, or 7.4% of the working age population, down from 7.6% in the three months to September.

Under the Bank’s policy of forward guidance, governor Mark Carneypromised that borrowing costs would remain on hold at least until unemployment has fallen below 7%.

When the policy was announced in August, the Bank’s monetary policy committee expected that to take three years; but their latest prediction is that it could be as soon as 2015.

“The jobless rate is falling far faster towards the Bank of England’s 7% threshold than policymakers envisaged when establishing the marker back in the summer,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at City data-provider Markit. “Employment is surging higher and unemployment collapsing in the UK as the economic recovery has moved into a higher gear.”

Sterling jumped after the unemployment data was released, rising by almost a cent against the dollar, to $1.635, as investors bet on an earlier-than-expected rate rise. A stronger pound was one of the concerns of the Bank’s nine-member monetary policy committee at their December meeting, according to minutes also published on Wednesday.

The MPC pointed out that the value of sterling has risen by 9% against the currencies of the UK’s major trading partners since March, and warned that “any further substantial appreciation of sterling would pose additional risks to the balance of demand growth and to the recovery”.

The minutes suggested the latest evidence pointed to a “burgeoning recovery” in the UK; but one which was unlikely to prove sustainable unless productivity picked up, finally lifting real incomes. The MPC voted unanimously to leave rates on hold at their record low of 0.5%, and the stock of assets bought under quantitative easing unchanged at £375bn.

MPC member Martin Weale suggested last week that if unemployment is falling rapidly at the point when the 7% threshold is breached, he would regard that as a reason to tighten policy.

The details of the jobs data reinforced the view that the labour market has strengthened markedly over the past six months. The number of people employed across the economy has hit a fresh record high above 30 million, while there are more vacancies than at any time since the summer of 2008, before the UK slipped into recession.

On the claimant count, which measures the number of people in receipt of out-of-work benefits, unemployment fell to 1.27 million in November, its lowest level since January 2009.

John Philpott, director of consultancy the Jobs Economist, described the data as “wonderful”. “The quarterly 250,000 net increase in total employment is as big as one might once have expected in a full year. Employment is up in all parts of the UK, except Northern Ireland, with a sharp rise in job vacancies helping an additional 50,000 16 to 24-year-olds into work. And while the overall figure of more than 30 million people in work still leaves the UK employment rate (72%) below the pre-recession rate (73%) it is a landmark worth celebrating,” he said.

Despite the improving conditions in the labour market, there is little evidence that the prolonged squeeze on wages is easing. The ONS said total pay rose at an annual rate of 0.9% in October, or 0.8% including bonuses. That compares with an inflation rate of 2.2% in the same month, suggesting that on average, living standards are continuing to fall. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “These are undoubtedly positive figures, but we should not forget how far we still have to go to restore pre-crash living standrards through better pay and jobs”.

Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “Today’s fall in unemployment is welcome, but families are facing a cost-of-living crisis and on average working people are now £1,600 a year worse off under this out-of-touch government.”

 

» Nazi Counterfeiters and the Fed Alex Jones’ Infowars: There’s a war on for your mind!

» Nazi Counterfeiters and the Fed Alex Jones’ Infowars: There’s a war on for your mind!.

What is the fundamental difference between the SS pumping “liquidity” into the British economy via black markets in the 1940's and the Federal Reserve pumping “liquidity” into the US economy today?

What is the fundamental difference between the SS pumping “liquidity” into the British economy via black markets in the 1940′s and the Federal Reserve pumping “liquidity” into the US economy today?

During the Second Word War, Germany devised a secret plan to undermine the British economy by flooding the country with counterfeit Bank of England notes.

Codenamed Operation Bernhard, in recognition of its mastermind, SS Major Bernhard Krüger, the plan involved a team of 142 counterfeiters, drawn primarily from the inmate populations at Sachsenhausan and Auschwitz concentration camps. Beginning in 1942, the dragooned engravers and artists worked feverishly, forging huge quantities of £5, £10, £20, and £50 notes. By the time of Germany’s surrender in May of 1945, the operation had produced 8,965,080 banknotes worth a total value of £134,610,810, an amount exceeding all the reserves in the Bank of England’s vaults.

The original plan called for the dropping of the forged notes from aircraft flying over Great Britain in the expectation that they would be picked up and eagerly circulated but that part of the scheme was never put into effect. By 1943, the Luftwaffe lacked the capacity to deliver the “economic weapon” in sufficient quantities and the operation was taken over by SS foreign intelligence agents who laundered the counterfeit currency, using it to finance their own espionage activities and pay for strategic imports.

Although Operation Bernhard failed to meet its primary objective (the collapse of the British wartime economy), it was successful in flooding the European black markets with counterfeit pounds, thus undermining confidence in Britain’s currency abroad, and causing its value to plummet.

The Nazi plot may have been the most ambitious counterfeiting racket in history but it pales in comparison to the recent exploits of the world’s central banks, especially those of the Federal Reserve.

The Fed is currently creating, ex nihlio, more than a trillion dollars a year and using the funny money to buy U.S. government debt and mortgage-backed securities and then taking them out of circulation. These purchases have propped up the bond market and kept banks solvent. But they have also caused the Fed’s balance sheet to quadruple, growing from just under $1 trillion in 2008 to nearly $4 trillion today.

And there appears to be no end in sight to the reckless money creation. Janet Yellen, a “monetary policy dove” by all accounts, is about to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the next head of the Federal Reserve. Were Messrs. Bernanke and Greenspan “monetary policy hawks?”

Now if a Nazi plot to flood Great Britain with counterfeit currency was a considered a serious threat to that nation’s economy, what are we to make of our own central bank’s policies? What is the fundamental difference between the SS pumping “liquidity” into the British economy via black markets in the 1940′s and the Federal Reserve pumping “liquidity” into the US economy today?

The answer, of course, is there really is no difference. Economic law applies regardless of political circumstances. If you print money faster than the rate of production, you will have more money chasing fewer goods and sooner or later you will have price inflation. It really is just that simple.

An important distinction, however, between the Nazi counterfeiting scheme and the Fed’s current monetary policy is that the US dollar is still the dominant international reserve currency. This “exorbitant privilege” enables US monetary authorities to engage in periodic devaluations without being immediately confronted with a balance of payments crisis or domestic price inflation.

Right now the Fed’s inflationary policies have yet to show up in the Consumer Price Index though there are those who claim the rate of price inflation has been purposely understated by the US government. And indeed consumer prices have gone up in the last five years.

It should also be taken into consideration that the consequences of currency devaluation can manifest themselves in ways other than overt sticker shock. For instance, producers anticipating consumer resistance to price inflation can reduce the quality or quantity of their goods rather than raise prices. This is happening today as many products are now being packaged in smaller amounts yet are being sold at the same price.

Moreover, when you’re measuring price inflation, your baseline is crucial to your analysis. Absent intervention by the US government and the Fed, the Crash of 2008 would have precipitated widespread deflation. This did not happen as the US Treasury and central bank pumped in trillions of new dollars to arrest the panic. The new money has created relative “price stability” in the past few years but this itself is evidence of inflation because otherwise prices would have fallen.

And we can look at bond prices as evidence of inflation. The bond market is an enormous bubble that has been intentionally created by the Fed in order to forestall the inevitable reckoning for decades of overspending by the Congress.

That said, the dreaded hyperinflation that many predicted would happen has yet to occur. Why?

It appears the inflationary deluge is being held back by the Fed’s policy of paying banks not to lend money. Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff elaborated on this very point in Forbes last September. He wrote:

But why haven’t prices started rising already if there is so much money floating around? This year’s inflation rate is running at just 1.5 percent. There are three answers.

First, three quarters of the newly created money hasn’t made its way into the blood stream of the economy – into M1 – the money supply held by the public. Instead, the Fed is paying the banks interest not to lend out the money, but to hold it within the Fed in what are called excess reserves.

Since 2007, the Monetary Base – the amount of money the Fed’s printed – has risen by $2.7 trillion and excess reserves have risen by $2.1 trillion. Normally excess reserves would be close to zero. Hence, the banks are sitting on $2.1 trillion they can lend to the private sector at a moment’s notice. i.e., we’re looking at an gi-normous reservoir filling up with trillions of dollars whose dam can break at any time. Once interest rates rise, these excess reserves will be lent out.

But, and this is point two, other things aren’t equal. As interest rates and prices take off, money will become a hot potato. i.e., its velocity will rise. Having money move more rapidly through the economy – having faster money – is like having more money. Today, money has the slows; its velocity – the ratio GDP to M1 — is 6.6. Everybody’s happy to hold it because they aren’t losing much or any interest. But back in 2007, M1 was a warm potato with a velocity of 10.4.

If banks fully lend out their reserves and the velocity of money returns to 10.4, we’ll have enough M1, measured in effective units (adjusted for speed of circulation), to support a nominal GDP that’s 3.5 times larger than is now the case. I.e., we’ll have the wherewithal for almost a quadrupling of prices. But were prices to start moving rapidly higher, M1 would switch from being a warm to a hot potato. i.e., velocity would rise above 10.4, leading to yet faster money and higher inflation.

So, if commercial banks began lending at a rate resembling the historical norm, we would soon be experiencing hyperinflation. That is hardly a comforting thought. I suppose the only saving grace at that point would be in an economy already laden with massive debt, there might be very little demand for more credit and thus the money multiplier effect may not kick-in, at least not with the vengeance foreseen by Mr. Kotlikoff.

The Fed’s massive intervention into the market has been defended by the usual Keynesian suspects as a necessary measure to spur economic recovery. And yes, the Fed’s overheated printing presses have fueled a stock market boom. Unfortunately, this latest bubble has not lifted the real economy which remains in the doldrums. Private sector investment remains low and unemployment high.

The problem with this situation is the moment the Fed takes away the easy money, the market will collapse. Indeed, we have reached a point where just the suggestion of the Fed “tapering off” sends financial markets into a panic.

So the Fed has painted itself, and the entire U.S economy, into a corner. There is no way the Fed can stop creating money and liquidate its bloated balance sheet without reaping a deflationary whirlwind. And with an economy addicted to perennial trillion-dollar budget deficits and consumer debt, the political will to stomach such a painful yet necessary correction is not likely to be manifested anytime soon.

Vladimir Lenin is reported to have said, “the best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency.” He was right. So why is the Fed following the advice of a deceased communist revolutionary?

No, I don’t think it is because the Federal Reserve Board has been infiltrated by communist moles, or Nazi agents for that matter. Although it is difficult to imagine commie saboteurs doing more damage to the U.S. economy than the monetary commissars now in charge at the Eccles building.

Perhaps the famed economist and alleged Fabian socialist John Maynard Keynes provided the answer when he wrote:

By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.

That ratio has probably improved somewhat lately. A greater portion of the public appears to be catching on to the Fed’s monetary sleights of hand. The increasing demand for physical gold and silver as well as the various state initiatives to re-monetize those precious metals are auspicious signs of such an awakening.

 

Manufacturing’s Decline A Bigger Problem Than Housing Bubble: BMO

Manufacturing’s Decline A Bigger Problem Than Housing Bubble: BMO.

Heinz shuts down its plant in Leamington, Ont., laying off more than 700 and ending a 104-year-long presence in the town. Three weeks later, Kellogg’s shuts down its plant in London, Ont., erasing 500 jobs. Days after that, drugmaker Novartis announces its pharmaceutical plant in Mississauga will shut down, taking 300 jobs with it.

Add it all up, and what you have is the largest medium-term threat to Canada’s economy, BMO chief economist Doug Porter said in a client note this week.

Porter noted that Ontario has lost 4 per cent of all its manufacturing jobs in the past year — something he understatedly describes as “not good.” Canada overall lost 2.5 per cent of all its manufacturing jobs this year, the Wall Street Journal notes — and that’s despite a recent rise in manufacturing output.

There are now more jobs in health care in Ontario than there are in manufacturing; as recently as 2000, there were twice as many factory jobs as health care jobs.

bmo jobs chart

The decline of factory jobs is taking place even as manufacturing around the world, particularly auto manufacturing, is experiencing a boom — one that appears to bepassing Canada over.

“It would seem to us that this is a much bigger issue for the medium-term Canadian outlook than the more hyped housing bubble/household debt concern,” Porter wrote.

The Bank of Canada appears to disagree, once again reiterating this week that it sees high house prices and record high consumer debt levels as the dominant domestic risk to the economy.

But maybe those two risks aren’t entirely unconnected. As manufacturing employment wanes (even with manufacturing output growing), the real estate boom has picked up much of the slack, and construction employment is at or near record highs in Canada today.

But few market observers, even those optimistic about the future of the housing market, expect this juggernaut to continue. That’s why economists are constantly looking to external demand (i.e. exports) to pick up the economic slack from a housing boom that’s expected to level off.

On that front, there is some hope for good news, BMO economist Robert Kavcic says.

“With the high-profile job cuts in Ontario’s manufacturing sector piling up, there might be some reprieve coming from the weaker loonie and stronger expected U.S. growth,” he writes.

“But keep in mind that a weaker currency won’t help overnight — the impact tends to filter through over the course of at least two years.”

So here’s hoping the housing construction boom keeps up for a few more years, or Canada could get a nasty surprise in future unemployment reports.

 

China Is On A Debt Binge And A Buying Spree Unlike Anything The World Has Ever Seen Before

China Is On A Debt Binge And A Buying Spree Unlike Anything The World Has Ever Seen Before.

Chinese Black Dragon - Photo by Angelus

When it comes to reckless money creation, it turns out that China is the king.  Over the past five years, Chinese bank assets have grown from about 9 trillion dollars tomore than 24 trillion dollars.  This has been fueled by the greatest private debt binge that the world has ever seen.  According to a recent World Bank report, the level of private domestic debt in China has grown from about 9 trillion dollars in 2008 to more than 23 trillion dollars today.  In other words, in just five years the amount of money that has been loaned out by banks in China is roughly equivalent to the amount of debt that the U.S. government has accumulated since the end of the Reagan administration.  And Chinese bank assets now absolutely dwarf the assets of the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England combined.  You can see an amazing chart which shows this right here.  A lot of this “hot money” has been flowing out of China and into U.S. companies, U.S. stocks and U.S. real estate.  Unfortunately for China (and for the rest of us), there are lots of signs that the gigantic debt bubble in China is about to burst, and when that does happen the entire world is going to feel the pain.

It was Zero Hedge that initially broke this story.  Over the past several years, most of the focus has been on the reckless money printing that the Federal Reserve has been doing, but the truth is that China has been far more reckless

You read that right: in the past five years the total assets on US bank books have risen by a paltry $2.1 trillion while over the same period, Chinese bank assets have exploded by an unprecedented $15.4 trillion hitting a gargantuan CNY147 trillion or an epic $24 trillion – some two and a half times the GDP of China!

 Putting the rate of change in perspective, while the Fed was actively pumping $85 billion per month into US banks for a total of $1 trillion each year, in just the trailing 12 months ended September 30, Chinese bank assets grew by a mind-blowing $3.6 trillion!

I was curious to see what all of this debt creation was doing to the money supply in China.  So I looked it up, and I discovered that M2 in China has grown by about 1000% since 1999…

M2 Money Supply China

So what has China been doing with all of that money?

Well, they have been on a buying spree unlike anything the world has ever seen before.  For example, according to Reuters China has essentially bought the entire oil industry of Ecuador…

China’s aggressive quest for foreign oil has reached a new milestone, according to records reviewed by Reuters: near monopoly control of crude exports from an OPEC nation, Ecuador.

Last November, Marco Calvopiña, the general manager of Ecuador’s state oil company PetroEcuador, was dispatched to China to help secure $2 billion in financing for his government. Negotiations, which included committing to sell millions of barrels of Ecuador’s oil to Chinese state-run firms through 2020, dragged on for days.

And the Chinese have been doing lots of shopping in the United States as well.  The following is an excerpt from a recent CNBC article entitled “Chinese buying up California housing“…

At a brand new housing development in Irvine, Calif., some of America’s largest home builders are back at work after a crippling housing crash. Lennar, Pulte, K Hovnanian, Ryland to name a few. It’s a rebirth for U.S. construction, but the customers are largely Chinese.

“They see the market here still has room for appreciation,” said Irvine-area real estate agent Kinney Yong, of RE/MAX Premier Realty. “What’s driving them over here is that they have this cash, and they want to park it somewhere or invest somewhere.”

Apparently a lot of these buyers have so much cash that they are willing to outbid anyone if they like the house…

The homes range from the mid-$700,000s to well over $1 million. Cash is king, and there is a seemingly limitless amount.

“The price doesn’t matter, 800,000, 1 million, 1.5. If they like it they will purchase it,” said Helen Zhang of Tarbell Realtors.

So when you hear that housing prices are “going up”, you might want to double check the numbers.  Much of this is being caused by foreign buyers that are gobbling up properties in certain “hot” markets.

We see this happening on the east coast as well.  In fact, a Chinese firm recently purchased one of the most important landmarks in New York City

Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd. (0656.HK) will buy office building One Chase Manhattan Plaza for $725 million, adding to a growing list of property purchases by Chinese buyers in New York city.

The Hong Kong-listed firm said it will buy the property from JP Morgan Chase Bank, according to a release on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange website.

Chinese firms, in particular local developers, have looked overseas to diversify their property holdings as the economy at home slows. Chinese individuals also have been investing in property abroad amid tight policy measures in the mainland residential market.

Earlier this month, Chinese state-owned developer Greenland Holdings Group agreed to buy a 70% stake in an apartment project next to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., in what is the largest commercial-real-estate development in the U.S. to get direct backing from a Chinese firm.

And in a previous article, I discussed how the Chinese have just bought up the largest pork producer in the entire country…

Just think about what the Smithfield Foods acquisition alone will mean.  Smithfield Foods is the largest pork producer and processor in the world.  It has facilities in 26 U.S. states and it employs tens of thousands of Americans.  It directly owns 460 farms and has contracts with approximately 2,100 others.  But now a Chinese company has bought it for $4.7 billion, and that means that the Chinese will now be the most important employer in dozens of rural communities all over America.

For many more examples of how the Chinese are gobbling up companies, real estate and natural resources all over the United States, please see my previous article entitled “Meet Your New Boss: Buying Large Employers Will Enable China To Dominate 1000s Of U.S. Communities“.

But more than anything else, the Chinese seem particularly interested in acquiring real money.

And by that, I mean gold and silver.

In recent years, the Chinese have been buying up thousands of tons of gold at very depressed prices.  Meanwhile, the western world has been unloading gold at a staggering pace.  By the time this is all over, the western world is going to end up bitterly regretting this massive transfer of real wealth.

Unfortunately for the Chinese, it appears that the unsustainable credit bubble that they have created is starting to burst.  According toBloomberg, the amount of bad loans that the five largest banks in China wrote off during the first half of this year was three times larger than last year…

China’s biggest banks are already affected, tripling the amount of bad loans they wrote off in the first half of this year and cleaning up their books ahead of what may be a fresh wave of defaults. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and its four largest competitors expunged 22.1 billion yuan of debt that couldn’t be collected through June, up from 7.65 billion yuan a year earlier, regulatory filings show.

And Goldman Sachs is projecting that China may be facing 3 trillion dollars in credit losses as this bubble implodes…

Interest owed by borrowers rose to an estimated 12.5 percent of China’s economy from 7 percent in 2008, Fitch Ratings estimated in September. By the end of 2017, it may climb to as much as 22 percent and “ultimately overwhelm borrowers.”

Meanwhile, China’s total credit will be pushed to almost 250 percent of gross domestic product by then, almost double the 130 percent of 2008, according to Fitch.

The nation might face credit losses of as much as $3 trillion as defaults ensue from the expansion of the past four years, particularly by non-bank lenders such as trusts, exceeding that seen prior to other credit crises, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimated in August.

The Chinese are trying to get this debt spiral under control by tightening the money supply.  That may sound wise, but the truth is that it is going to create a substantial credit crunch and the entire globe will end up sharing in the pain…

Yields on Chinese government debt have soared to their highest levels in nearly nine years amid Beijing’s relentless drive to tighten the monetary spigots in the world’s second-largest economy.

The higher yields on government debt have pushed up borrowing costs broadly, creating obstacles for companies and government agencies looking to tap bond markets. Several Chinese development banks, which have mandates to encourage growth through targeted investments, have had to either scale back borrowing plans or postpone bond sales.

This could ultimately be a much bigger story than whether or not the Fed decides to “taper” or not.

It has been the Chinese that have been the greatest source of fresh liquidity since the last financial crisis, and now it appears that source of liquidity is tightening up.

So as the flow of “hot money” out of China starts to slow down, what is that going to mean for the rest of the planet?

And when you consider this in conjunction with the fact that China has just announced that it is going to stop stockpiling U.S. dollars, it becomes clear that we have reached a major turning point in the financial world.

2014 is shaping up to be a very interesting year, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.

 

 

Banks Warn Fed They May Have To Start Charging Depositors | Zero Hedge

Banks Warn Fed They May Have To Start Charging Depositors | Zero Hedge.

The Fed’s Catch 22 just got catchier. While most attention in the recently released FOMC minutes fell on the return of the taper as a possibility even as soon as December (making the November payrolls report the most important ever, ever, until the next one at least), a less discussed issue was the Fed’s comment that it would consider lowering the Interest on Excess Reserves to zero as a means to offset the implied tightening that would result from the reduction in the monthly flow once QE entered its terminal phase (for however briefly before the plunge in the S&P led to the Untaper). After all, the Fed’s policy book goes, if IOER is raised to tighten conditions, easing it to zero, or negative, should offset “tightening financial conditions”, right? Wrong. As the FT reports leading US banks have warned the Fed that should it lower IOER, they would be forced to start charging depositors.

In other words, just like Europe is already toying with the idea of NIRP (and has been for over a year, if still mostly in the rheotrical and market rumor phase), so the Fed’s IOER cut would also result in a negative rate on deposits which the FT tongue-in-cheekly summarizes “depositors already have to cope with near-zero interest rates, but paying just to leave money in the bank would be highly unusual and unwelcome for companies and households.”

If cutting IOER was as much of an easing move as the Fed believes, banks should be delighted – after all, according to the Fed’s guidelines it would mean that the return on their investments (recall that all US banks slowly but surely became glorified, TBTF prop trading hedge funds since Glass Steagall was repealed, and why the Volcker Rule implementation is virtually guaranteed to never happen) would increase. And yet, they are not:

Executives at two of the top five US banks said a cut in the 0.25 per cent rate of interest on the $2.4tn in reserves they hold at the Fed would lead them to pass on the cost to depositors.

 

Banks say they may have to charge because taking in deposits is not free: they have to pay premiums of a few basis points to a US government insurance programme.

 

“Right now you can at least break even from a revenue perspective,” said one executive, adding that a rate cut by the Fed “would turn it into negative revenue – banks would be disincentivised to take deposits and potentially charge for them”.

 

Other bankers said that a move to negative rates would not only trim margins but could backfire for banks and the system as a whole, as it would incentivise treasury managers to find higher-yielding, riskier assets.

 

“It’s not as if we are suddenly going to start lending to [small and medium-sized enterprises],” said one. “There really isn’t the level of demand, so the danger is that banks are pushed into riskier assets to find yield.”

All of the above is BS: lending has never been a concern for the Fed because if it was, then one could scrap QE right now as an absolute faiure. Recall that as we showed recently, the total amount of loans and leases in commercial US banks has been unchanged since Lehman, with the only rise in deposits coming thanks to the fungible liquidity injected by the Fed.

Furthermore, contrary to what the hypocrite banker said that “the danger is that banks are pushed into riskier assets to find yield”banks are already in the riskiest assets: just look at what JPM was doing with its hundreds of billions in excess deposits, which originated as Fed reserves on its books – we explained the process of how the Fed’s reserves are used to push the market higher most recently in “What Shadow Banking Can Tell Us About The Fed’s “Exit-Path” Dead End.”

What the real danger is, is that once the Fed lowers IOER and there is a massive outflow of deposits, that banks which have used the excess deposits as initial margin and collateral on marginable securities to chase risk to record highs (as JPM’s CIO explicitly and undisputedly did) that there would be an avalanche of selling once the negative rate deposit outflow tsunami hit.

Needless to say, the only offset would be if the proceeds from the deposits outflows were used to invest in stocks instead of staying inert in some mattress or, worse (if only from the Fed’s point of view) purchase inert assets like gold or Bitcoin.

Which brings us back to the first sentence and the Fed’s now massive Catch 22: on one hand, shoud the Fed taper, rates will surge and stocks will once again plunge, as they did, in early summer, just to teach the evil, non-appeasing Fed a lesson.

On the other hand, should the Fed cut IOER as a standalone move or concurrently to offset the tapering pain, banks will crush depositors by cutting rates, depositors will pull their money from banks en masse, and banks will have no choice but to close on a record levered $2.2 trillion in margined risk position.

 

The Money Bubble Gets Its Grand Rationalization

 

 

by John Rubino on November 20, 2013 · 12 comments

 

Late in the life of every financial bubble, when things have gotten so out of hand that the old ways of judging value or ethics or whatever can no longer be honestly applied, a new idea emerges that, if true, would let the bubble keep inflating forever. During the tech bubble of the late 1990s it was the “infinite Internet.” Soon, we were told, China and India’s billions would enter cyberspace. And after they were happily on-line, the Internet would morph into versions 2.0 and 3.0 and so on, growing and evolving without end. So don’t worry about earnings; this is a land rush and “eyeballs” are the way to measure virtual real estate. Earnings will come later, when the dot-com visionaries cash out and hand the reins to boring professional managers.

During the housing bubble the rationalization for the soaring value of inert lumps of wood and Formica was a model of circular logic: Home prices would keep going up because “home prices always go up.”

Now the current bubble – call it the Money Bubble or the sovereign debt bubble or the fiat currency bubble, they all fit – has finally reached the point where no one operating within a historical or commonsensical framework can accept its validity, and so for it to continue a new lens is needed. And right on schedule, here it comes: Governments with printing presses can create as much currency as they want and use it to hold down interest rates for as long as they want. So financial crises are now voluntary. They only happen if a country decides to stop depressing interest rates – and why would they ever do that? Here’s an article out of the UK that expresses this belief perfectly:

 

Our debt is no Greek tragedy

“The threat of rising interest rates is a Greek tragedy we must avoid.” This was the title of a 2009 Daily Telegraph piece by George Osborne, pushing massive spending cuts as the only solution to a coming debt crisis. It’s tempting to believe anyone who still makes it is either deliberately disingenuous, or hasn’t been paying attention. 

The line of reasoning goes as follows: Britain’s high and rising public debt causes investors to take fright and sell government bonds because the UK might default on those bonds.

Interest rates then spike up because as less people want to hold UK debt, the government has to pay them more for the privilege, so that the cost of borrowing becomes more expensive and things become very, very bad for everyone.

This argument didn’t make sense back in 2009, and certainly doesn’t make sense now. Ultimately this whole Britain-as-Greece argument is disturbing because it makes the austerity project of the last three years look deeply duplicitous.

If you go to any bond desk in the City that trades British sovereign debt, money managers care about one thing – what the Bank of England does or doesn’t do. If Governor Mark Carney says interest rates should fall and looks like he believes it, they fall. End of story.

Why? Because the Bank directly controls the interest rate on short-term government debt, so it can vary it at will in line with any given objective. Interest rates on long-term government debt are governed by what markets expect to happen to short term rates, and so are subject to essentially the same considerations.

It doesn’t matter if investors get scared and dump government bonds because this has no implication for interest rates – it is what the Bank of England wants to happen that counts.

If investors do suddenly decide to flee en masse, the Bank can simply use its various tools to bring interest rates back into line.

The simple point is that since countries like the UK have a free-floating currency, the Bank of England doesn’t have to vary interest rates to keep the exchange rate stable. Therefore it, as an independent central bank, can prevent a debt crisis by controlling the cost of government borrowing directly. Investors understand this, and so don’t flee British government debt in the first place.

Greece and the other troubled Eurozone countries are in a totally different situation. They don’t have their own currency, and have a single central bank, the ECB, which tries to juggle the needs of 17 different member states. This is a central bank dominated by Germany, which apparently isn’t bothered by letting the interest rates of other nations spiral out of control. Investors, knowing this, made it happen during the financial crisis.

On these grounds, the case of Britain and those of the Eurozone countries are not remotely comparable – and basic intuition suggests steep interest rate rises are only possible in the latter.

Britain was never going to enter a sovereign debt crisis. It has everything to do with an independent central bank, and nothing to do with the size of government debt. How well does this explanation stand up given the events of the last few years? Almost perfectly. The US, Japan and the UK are the three major economies with supposed debt troubles not in the Eurozone.

The UK released a plan in 2010 to cut back a lot of spending and raise a little bit of tax money. The US did nothing meaningful about its debt until 2012, and has spent much of the time before and since pretending to be about to default on its bonds. Japan’s debt patterns are, to put it bluntly, screwed – Japan’s debt passed 200 per cent of GDP earlier this year and is rising fast.

But the data shows that none of this matters for interest rates whatsoever. Rates have been low, stable and near-identical in all three countries regardless of whatever their political leaders’ actions.These countries have had vastly different responses to their debt, and markets don’t care at all.

By the same token, the problems of spiking interest rates inside the Eurozone have nothing to do with the prudence or spending of the governments in charge.

Spain and Ireland both had debt of less than 50 per cent of GDP before the crisis and were still punished by markets. France and the holier-than-thou Germany had far higher debt in 2007, and are fine.

The takeaway is that problems with spiking interest rates amongst advanced countries are entirely restricted to the Eurozone, where there is a single central bank, and have no obvious relation to the state of public finances.

So what we have, then, is a disturbingly mendacious line of reasoning . Back in 2010 the Conservative party made a perhaps superficially plausible argument about national debt that was wrong then and is doubly wrong now. They then – sort of – won a mandate to govern based on this, and used it to radically alter the size of the state. The likelihood that somehow this was all done in good faith beggars belief.

Britain has had a far higher proportion of austerity in the form of spending cuts than tax rises relative to any comparator nation. On this basis austerity is a way of reshaping the state in the Conservative image, flying under the false flag of debt crisis-prevention.

If the British public had knowingly and willingly voted for the major changes made under the coalition in how the government taxes, spends and borrows, this wouldn’t be such a great problem.

Instead, they were essentially conned into it by the ridiculous story of Britain as the next Greece.

Some thoughts
What’s great about the above article is that it doesn’t beat around the bush. Without the slightest hint of irony or historical sense, it lays out the bubble rationale, which is that central banks are all-powerful: “If you go to any bond desk in the City that trades British sovereign debt, money managers care about one thing – what the Bank of England does or doesn’t do. If Governor Mark Carney says interest rates should fall and looks like he believes it, they fall. End of story.”

So this is the end of history. Interest rates will stay low and stock prices high and governments will keep on piling up debt with impunity – because they control the financial markets and get to decide which things trade at what price. Breathtaking! Why didn’t humanity discover this financial perpetual motion machine earlier? It would have saved thousands of years of turmoil.

At the risk of looking like a bully, let’s consider another peak-bubble gem:

“The simple point is that since countries like the UK have a free-floating currency, the Bank of England doesn’t have to vary interest rates to keep the exchange rate stable. Therefore it, as an independent central bank, can prevent a debt crisis by controlling the cost of government borrowing directly. Investors understand this, and so don’t flee British government debt in the first place.”

The writer is saying, in effect, that the value of the British pound – and by extension any other fiat currency – can fall without consequence, and that the people who might want to use those currencies in trade or for savings will continue to do so no matter how much the issuer of those pieces of paper owes to others in the market. If holders of pounds decide to switch to dollars or euros or gold, that’s no problem for Britain because it can just buy all the paper thus freed up with new pieces of paper.

This illusion of government omnipotence is no crazier than the infinite Internet or home prices always going up, but it is crazy. Governments couldn’t stop tech stocks from imploding or home prices from crashing, and when the time comes, the Bank of England, the US Fed, and the Bank of Japan won’t be able to stop the markets from dumping their currencies. Nor will they be able to stop the price of energy, food, and most of life’s other necessities from soaring when the global markets lose faith in their promises.

Tagged as: central banksDollareurogoldinflationinterest ratesmonetary policypound sterling,silveryen

The Money Bubble Gets Its Grand Rationalization.

 

BoE Survey Shows Growing Fears Of House Price Crash | www.goldcore.com

BoE Survey Shows Growing Fears Of House Price Crash | www.goldcore.com.

Today’s AM fix was USD 1,271.50, EUR 939.69 and GBP 787.11 per ounce.
Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,272.25, EUR 942.13 and GBP 790.12 per ounce.

Gold fell $0.30 or 0.02% yesterday, closing at $1,273.40/oz. Silver slipped $0.09 or 0.44% closing at $20.32/oz. Platinum climbed $3.40 or 0.2% to $1,411.40/oz, while palladium rose $3.75 or 0.5% to $718.47/oz.


Gold in GBP, 1 Year – (Bloomberg)

Gold in sterling terms is testing strong support at the £775/oz level. A breach of this level could lead to gold testing the next level of support at £740/oz and below that at £700/oz which was resistance in 2009 (see 5 year chart below).

Gold was trading in a tight range until it suffered another very sharp concentrated sell off at 1126 GMT which led to prices falling from $1,272/oz to $1,259/50 in seconds. The selling was so furious and concentrated that it led the CME to stop trading for a significant twenty seconds. Some entity appeared determined to get the gold price lower and they succeeded – for now.

Gold failed to make any headway despite dollar weakness after more dovish comments from exiting Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke about the bank’s bond purchases.

Bernanke said yesterday that the Fed will maintain an ultra loose U.S. monetary policy for as long as needed and will only begin to taper bond buying once it is assured that labour market improvements would continue.

The assumption that QE will be trimmed is like a lot of assumptions – wrong. There are strong grounds for believing that the weak state of the U.S. economy may lead to Bernanke’s even more dovish successor, Yellen, increasing the QE programme.

Physical demand continues at these levels but is not at the very high levels seen in recent months.

Many bullion coin and bar buyers have accumulated their allocation of gold and silver and are waiting for higher prices. There is a real sense of the calm before the storm in the gold market. How that will manifest and the catalysts for a resumption of the bull market is yet to be seen.


Gold in GBP, 5 Year – (Bloomberg)

​The Bank of England’s Systemic Risk Survey semi annual report to quantify and track market participants’ views of risks to, and their confidence in, the UK financial system shows increasing concerns of a house price crash.

The report presents the results of the 2013 H2 survey, which was conducted between 23 September and 24 October 2013 with 76 financial services companies.

Fears that a house price crash could damage the financial system have risen sharply in the last year, the key Bank of England survey shows. Increased concerns were expressed by the participants over ultra loose monetary policies and the extended low interest rate period.

Concerns about a property price bubble rose and were mentioned by 36% of respondents, up 21% from 14% since the previous survey in the second half of 2012. Concerns were concentrated almost exclusively on the residential market, where responses focused on the risk of a house price correction.

As we know house price corrections tend to feed on themselves and often lead to house price crashes.

Other Key Risks To The UK Financial System:
• Perceptions of the two main risks to the UK financial system remain sovereign risk and the risk of an economic downturn, although citations of both have fallen: 74% of respondents mentioned the former (-3 percentage points since May 2013) and 67% (-12 percentage points) the latter. Concerns over sovereign risk continue to focus on Europe, but unsurprisingly given the uncertainty surrounding the U.S. debt ceiling negotiations that prevailed during the survey period, there was a sharp increase in concerns around U.S. sovereign risk.

 For the second survey in succession, risk surrounding the low interest rate environment was the fastest growing, with 43% of respondents citing it, up 17 percentage points since May 2013. Over half of the responses emphasised risks around low rates, with the remainder referring to risks associated with a snapback in those low rates to more normal levels. Perceived risk around property prices also rose, being mentioned by 36% of respondents, up 11 percentage points since the previous survey. Concerns were concentrated almost exclusively on the residential market, where responses focused on the risk of a house price correction.

 Other top risks include regulation/taxes (cited by 41% of respondents, up 1 percentage point since May 2013), financial institution failure/distress (+4 percentage points to 30%) and operational risk (+1 percentage point to 25%).

Outside of the top seven, geopolitical risk has grown in prominence, with concern focusing on instability in the Middle East.

The report may have led to GBP weakness upon its release as the pound fell against the dollar, euro and gold.


UK Rightmove Regional Avg Asking Price Greater London, 2002-Today – (Bloomberg)

Interestingly, also on Monday came news of a sharp 5% drop in London property prices in what could portend a bust of the London property bubble.

Values in the U.K. capital dropped 5%, or 26,956 pounds ($43,500), from the previous month to an average 517,276 pounds, Rightmove PLC said Monday. Across England and Wales, average prices declined by 2.4%.

Estate agents and property industry blamed the falls on a seasonal pre-Christmas decline, however valuations are extremely stretched with very low yields and the hot money that has fueled the huge increase in London property prices may be pulling back.


UK Rightmove Regional Avg Asking Price Greater London, 2006-Today – (Bloomberg)

“This is different” and “this location is different” is the mantra of every property bubble. We will soon see if the London property bubble is truly different or will suffer the fate of bubbles throughout history.

Of the four charts in our market update today, which ones do you think show characteristics of a bubble?

Those diversifying and buying gold in the UK today will be rewarded in the coming years. The smart money is reducing exposure to overvalued London property and increasing exposure to undervalued gold.

Click Gold News For This Week’s Breaking Gold And Silver News
Click Gold and Silver Commentary For This Week’s Leading Gold, Silver Opinion

 

Talking Real Money: World Monetary Reform

Talking Real Money: World Monetary Reform.

Talking Real Money: World Monetary Reform

Published in Market Update  Precious Metals  on 14 November 2013

By Michael O’Brien

Today’s AM fix was USD 1,283.25, EUR 955.23 and GBP 801.53 per ounce.
Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,276.00, EUR 951.25 and GBP 798.75 per ounce.

Gold rose $4.40 or 0.35% yesterday, closing at $1,273.30/oz. Silver slipped $0.19 or 0.92% closing at $20.56. Platinum fell $5.55 or 0.4% to $1,424.20/oz, while palladium fell $9.50 or 1.3% to $727.97/oz.

Gold inched up again after Federal Reserve Chairman nominee Janet Yellen said the U.S. economy and labor market must improve before QE is reduced. This lifted confidence as silver prices recovered from their lowest levels since August. “The focus for the bullion market may shift to the upcoming testimony by Yellen,” James Steel, an analyst at HSBC, commented. “Chinese gold demand remains brisk. However, gold is likely to remain on the defensive in the near term”, wrote Steel.

The latest long term gold trend research from Nick Laird at ShareLynx indicates that the price of gold may rise in the near future. In the chart below, Nick references those periods from the past when it was prudent  to buy and to sell. He also indicates that this particular period, November 2013, may be a prudent time to to buy. This chart reaffirms GoldCore’s long term outlook for the price of gold.


Long Term Gold Trend (www.sharelynx.com)

“Sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean, sometimes you have to know what things don’t mean.” Bob Dylan

The Bank of England says the UK recovery has taken hold and Chancellor George Osborne is reported as saying “the report was proof the government’s economic plan was working.” The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said the bank will not ‘consider’ raising interest rates until the jobless figure falls below 7%.

However, The Bank of England threw a get-out-of-jail card on the table and said that there was a two-in-five chance of the unemployment rate reaching the 7% threshold by the end of 2014. And then added that the corresponding figures for the end of 2015 and 2016 are around three in five and two in three respectively. What exactly does the Bank of England mean or what does this not mean?

The financial crisis of 2007-2008 has sparked the most intense interest in international monetary reform since Richard Nixon closed the gold window at the New York Fed and devalued the U.S. dollar in 1971. Nixon’s action was widely seen at the time as presaging the end of the dollar-based world trade and financial system. On the face of it, this probably wasn’t an unreasonable expectation at the time. Within fewer than ten years, however, it was proven to be far off the mark. The dollar fell alright, but by the middle 1980s had recovered strongly.

In retrospect it is clear why the dollar sceptics were wrong. To begin with, the U.S. economy was still the world’s largest and the U.S. was still the leader of the “free world,” that is to say the world outside the communist bloc. The NATO countries of Western Europe were wholly dependent on the U.S. for security as well as for markets.

The same applied to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, while the signatories of the secret UK/USA intelligence agreement (the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) represented the Anglo core of the old British Empire, a group with no interest in seeing the dollar replaced. Communist Russia and China were in no position to register an opinion, much less offer an alternative. By default, the dollar soldiered on, thanks to the geopolitical realities of the time.

But what about today’s realities? Continue this fascinating story in our November edition of Insight – Talking real money: World Monetary Reform.

Click here to download your own copy of Talking real money: World Monetary Reform

Click Gold News For This Week’s Breaking Gold And Silver News
Click Gold and Silver Commentary For This Week’s Leading Gold And Silver Comment And Opinion
Like Our Facebook Page For Breaking News, Interesting Insights, Blogs, Prizes and Special Offers.

Global Debt, Global Currency » Golem XIV – Thoughts

Global Debt, Global Currency » Golem XIV – Thoughts.

by  on OCTOBER 17, 2013 in LATEST

With the latest installment of the ‘US debt ceiling’ melodrama over, for now, perhaps it’s a good time to ask, what was it all about really?

I know that officially it was supposed to be an edge of your seat, high stakes thriller about how much debt the US government can carry before some disaster strikes, and who has the authority to decide. But I think that behind the lumbering domestic stage show there was actually a different, larger battle, with different stakes, being played out. The debt ceiling debate was, to my mind, something of a proxy war. Real for those caught up in its angry rhetoric, but seen from further away, clearly just a local manifestation of something deeper, and something being directed by different people than those making speaches in the spot-light.

Actually I think the fight over the US debt ceiling is a proxy for who controls the world’s real reserve currency. And that currency is not the dollar. I suggest we would understand events more simply if we recognized that the world’s real reserve currency is debt -pure debt.  We should not be confused by the fact that debt, globally, is denominated in several forms. Much like the dollar comes in bills of ten and twenty,  so the debt currency comes in dollars, euros, Yen and Yuan. But they are not the currency itself they are just the different bills it comes in.

In Britain we have pound notes issued by the Bank of England but also by the Royal Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale and Ulster Bank, but they are not different currencies, they are all pounds no matter whose logo in on the notes. I think globally we are now in the early and perhaps not quite recognized days of a similar situation. It is debt which is globally traded and used to settle and value all deals everywhere. The problem is this global debt system is not yet fully formed. It is still umbillically tied to the old system of national currencies and their issuers. And like mummies everywhere the old issuers like to think they are in charge long after they no longer are.

If you are willing to accept this idea, at least for argument’s sake, then the domestic dramas in different countries over how much of this or that kind of debt backed note, with this or that logo on it, should be permitted, take on a different character. I am not saying that the domestic arguments over how many dollars or euros can be printed up, how much debt should be carried are unimportant. They are important and do have profound real life consequences for people and businesses. But I am saying that the driving logic is not domestic and nor is it controlled or even understood by most of the domestic players.

Think of the Vietnam war. In Vietnam it was North vesus South. But for the wider world North and South were just proxies for a much deeper conflict of Communism versus America. And the politicians of South Vietnam were not really in charge of very much. I think this is increasingly the situation of domestic politicans when it comes to finance, debts and currency. Only they don’t yet know this one vital fact. Thus we have the dis-spiriting spectacle of watching the fag ends of our representative democracy argue about things most of them do not understand. An endless stage show where the actors strut and fret, and deliver their lines with gusto, pulling with all their puffed-up might on the familiar levers of power available to them, expecting applause. Yet all the while their drama and the levers of power they squable over are less and less connected to the actual engines of change.

The Democrats and Republicans think they are arguing over who should control the amount of debt the Fed will take on. Not realizing that neither of them, neither Republican nor Democrat controls the matter over which they are arguing. Neither do they realize – not fully at least – that theirs is no longer a theatre of power, it is mostly just a theatre. Power, fundamental power,  has moved elsewhere.

What the debt-celing debate was about, I suggest, was a fight between those who think they control the Fed and the currency (because once they did) and those who do control it but would prefer we not quite realize this.

I think the real battle going on is between the financial players led by the global banks, assorted funds and Insurers, all of whom are very much addicted to fiat debt-money, and a dwindling cadre of politicians who still think central banks control the currencies and elected officials decide how much debt is enough.

This latter group seemingly cannot understand why they can’t get the Fed or the ECB to do what they both said, ever since 2008, they would do, which is to ‘exit’ or to use the prefered term ‘taper’ the ‘extraordinary’ and ‘temporary’ measures they took in 2007, then took again in 2008 and again in 2009 and again in 2010 and 2011 and 2012 and 2013. Which is, let’s be fair to our puzzled politicans and pundits, a confusingly frequent use of ‘extraordinary’ and a long time for ‘temporary’. Hence their confusion.

What our politicians – most of them but crucially not all of them – seem reluctant to underdstand is that neither the FED nor the ECB nor any other central authority, can limit the amount of debt that is issued into the global markets. The banks issue the debt not governments. But that debt, conjured into existence by extending loans does then, particularly in periods of market uncertainty, ‘need’ – or rather or ‘demand’  – backing from a national currency. This creates a pressure on central banks to ‘issue’ more sovereign debt paper to provide the backing for the ALREADY created debt.

The big banks issue the reserve currency. It is a global reserve currency and replaced the dollar some time ago, only no one noticed becaue they kept the old brand name going. It’s not even as if it is just American financial intitutions which issue dollar debt which the Fed finds itself being forced to cover – foreign banks do it to. And anyone who issues dollar denominated debt has a hand on the strings which move the Fed around. Obviously the same is true for other major currencies and their central banks.

The governments and central banks can try to influence the creation of debt though interest rates or ‘stress tests’ and setting levels of ‘regulatory capital’ that must be held. But all of these can be and are gamed by the banks. And when gaming is not sufficient then a debt crisis can be brought in to play to force the reluctant politicians to do what they ‘must’. And that last ploy is the debt ceiling.

Once private debt has been created the central banks are under-pressure to create public debt with which to back it. They know this is how it works they are on record as saying so. But they are caught in a dilemma. The politicians and the public think the government and central banks are in charge and can tell the markets how much debt is enough. The central banks know they do not really have this power because in reality it is the markets not the central banks who are in charge and  decide how much debt is good for THEM.

What can the central banks do? Nominally they work for the government. The people even think they work for them (ho ho!) Whereas the logic which controls lies in the markets and the levers are in the banks. If the Central banks were to come clean and tell the government and the public who is really in charge, who they really work for, what would happen? So they don’t come clean, at least not in public, leaving the poltiicans to argue fatuously amoung themselves for our entertainment.

There are only a limited number of end games I think. The issuance of debt will go on despite the increasing drama of the decisions. The question for the banks will be how best to manage it with the minimum of fuss and least chance of the real situation becoming too clear too early.

Debt issuance will go on because the present economic system, fueled as it is by debt, requires growth above the rate of interest they are all charging each other. The Pension companies require more growth than that because they have long term obligations to pay out at a higher rate. In boom times growth takes care of itself. In bad time that growth ‘must’ be provided by ‘stimulus’ AKA public debt. The minimum growth they want for the headlines is 3%. Which seems reasonable till you do the maths and find 3% growth means a doubling every 17 years. Given the frequency of ‘busts’ built into the debt based system and how much they cost the public each time – (and they are built in – I explained one aspect of this in the last part of the Securitization series. (For completeness here are parts 1 and 2.)  This series is my take on the same logic than Minsky had of course already come to before and more fully) – it is clear how much ‘growth’ is going to be based on public debt. So the debt will grow.

But while it does, other parts of the economic system and their political friends will complain about the size of the debt. So there will continue to be a pressure to stop the debt ‘getting out of control’. How to sqaure this idiot’s circle? The answer is already here only in its infant form. Public Debt created to back private debts will be ‘required’ to grow. Public debt for other things will therefore be under pressure to be cut. So far what has been cut has been the easy and the small beer.

The sums ‘saved’ have been tiny in comparison with the sums created in order to ‘help’ the financial system, even though the misery created in cutting them has been huge. But who cares about miserable poor people when you’re a rich happy one? Nevertheless the sums saved through ‘austerity’ are not going to be sufficient over even the medium term of the next decade. The ‘savings’ need to be orders of magnitude greater. For that the only option is to target the long term, ‘unfunded commitments of health, state pension and long term welfare. These are what the bankers will target when people have been softened up and the next bust hits.

The option I think they will go for is complete privatization of health, welfare and state pension.

All these long term ‘unfunded obligations’ as they are called appear in public debt accounts as future liabilities, future debts. But as soon as the same obligations are shifted to the private sector they become future profits rather than future debts. No matter that people might not be able to pay for them – accountants are not paid to worry about such details. To you and me it might seem daft to think that by moving things from one column to another , from public to private that this will suddenly make things better. And of course it won’t. The private sector will argue it will be ‘better’ because they are so much more ‘efficient’. Believe that if you like.  But the main thing is the acounting exercise will make the number in the public debt column go down.

The important thing for any discussion of public debt levels, is that removing these ‘obligations’ from the public account suddenly cuts the future public debt. Freeing up all that now uncommitted future debt to be available for pumping into the private financial sector . Which it would suddenly make ‘good economic sense’ to help, given the now very buoyant future demand for private health, pensions and welfare provision.

Public debt is always seen by the financial world as a drain, an obligation. The same obligations re-cast as serivces are seen as a source of future profit. Thus I think we will see in the next few years an all out attack on every aspect of public service provision.  Libertarians amoung you might cheer at this point. I think you will not cheer when you see what is going to replace what you currently dislike.

I believe the era of the Nation-State is coming to an end not because of attack from outside enemies but because Nation-States are being dismantled from the inside – by the  State itself.  But the State has no itention of losing power. It is simply changing jobs and employer. The big welfare state is being dismantled but in its place is going to come an even bigger and certainly more repressive Corporate State.

But the End of the Nation-State and the emergence of a global system of  Technocratic, Managed rather than democratic Corporate-States is a larger discussion I am still writing.

 

%d bloggers like this: