Olduvaiblog: Musings on the coming collapse

Home » Posts tagged 'Fed'

Tag Archives: Fed

Citi Fails Fed Stress Test … The REAL Story Washington's Blog

Citi Fails Fed Stress Test … The REAL Story Washington’s Blog.

“Too Big To Fail” … Fails

Bloomberg reports that Citigroup has failed the Fed’s new round of stress tests:

Citigroup Inc.’s capital plan was among five that failed Federal Reserve stress tests, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. passed only after reducing their requests for buybacks and dividends.

Citigroup, as well as U.S. units of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, HSBC Holdings Plc and Banco Santander SA, failed because of qualitative concerns about their processes, the Fed said today in a statement. Zions Bancorporation was rejected as its capital fell below the minimum required. The central bank approved plans for 25 banks.

In reality, Citi flat lined” – went totally bust – in 2008.  It was insolvent.

And former FDIC chief Sheila Bair said that the whole bailout thing was really focused on bringing a very dead Citi back from the grave.

Indeed, the big banks – including Citi – have repeatedly gone bankrupt.

For example, the New York Times wrote in 2009:

Over the past 80 years, the United States government has engineered not one, not two, not three, but at least four rescues of the institution now known as Citigroup.

So why did the U.S. government give Citi a passing grade in previous stress tests?

Because they were rigged to give all of the students an “A”.

Time Magazine called then Secretary Treasury Tim Geithner a “con man” and the stress tests a “confidence game” because those tests were so inaccurate.

But the bigger story is that absolutely nothing was done to address the causes of the 2008 financial crisis, or to fix the system:

  • The faulty incentive system – huge bonuses that encourage reckless risk-taking by bankers – arestill here
  • Another big problem – shadow banking – has only gotten worse

Indeed, the only the government has done is to try to cover up the problems that created the 2008 crisis in the first place … and to throw huge amounts of money at the fattest of the fatcats.

Remember, Nobel prize winning economist George Akerlof has demonstrated that failure to punish white collar criminals – and instead bailing them out- creates incentives for more economic crimes and further destruction of the economy in the future.

Indeed, professor of law and economics (and chief S&L prosecutor) William Black notes that we’ve known of this dynamic for “hundreds of years”.  (Actually, the government has ignored severalthousand years of economic wisdom.)

Heck of a job, guys …

A First Look at a New Report on Crony Capitalism – Trillions in Corporate Welfare | A Lightning War for Liberty

A First Look at a New Report on Crony Capitalism – Trillions in Corporate Welfare | A Lightning War for Liberty.

Posted on March 26, 2014

One of the primary topics on this website since it was launched has been the extremely destructive and explosive rise of crony capitalism throughout the USA. It is crony capitalism, as opposed to free markets, that has led to the gross inequality in American society we have today. Cronyism for the super wealthy starts at the very top with the Federal Reserve System, which consists of topdown economic central planners who manipulate the money supply and hence interest rates for the benefit of the financial oligarch class. It then trickles down through lobbyist money into the halls of Washington D.C., and ultimately filters down to local governments and then the average person on the street gaming welfare or disability.

As such, we now live in a culture of corruption and theft that is pervasive throughout society. One thing that bothers me to no end is when fake Republicans focus their criticism on struggling people who need welfare or food stamps to survive. They have this absurd notion that the whole welfare system doesn’t start with the multinational corporations and Central Banks at the top. In reality, it is at the top where the cancer starts, and that’s where we should focus in order to achieve real change.

That’s where a new report from Open the Books on corporate welfare comes in. In a preview of the publication, the organization notes:

If Republicans are going to get truly serious about cutting government spending, they are going to have to snip the umbilical cord from the Treasury to corporate America.  You can’t reform welfare programs for the poor until you’ve gotten Daddy Warbucks off the dole. Voters will insist on that — as well they should.

So why hasn’t it happened? Why hasn’t the GOP pledged to end corporate welfare as we know it?

Part of the explanation is that too many have gotten confused about the difference between free-market capitalism and crony capitalism.

Federal_Contract_Spending_Spirals

And part of the problem is corporate welfare that is so well hidden from public view in the budget that no one has really measured how big this mountain of giveaway cash to the Fortune 500 really is. Finding out is like trying to break into the CIA.

Until now. Open the Books, an Illinois-based watchdog group, has been scrupulously monitoring all federal grants, loans, direct payments and insurance subsidies flowing to individuals and companies.

It’s an attempt to force federal agencies to release information on where the $4 trillion budget is really spent — and Open the Books will release a new report on corporate welfare payments to the Fortune 100 companies from 2000 to 2012.

Over that period, the 100 received $1.2 trillion in payments from the federal government.

That number does not include the hundreds of billions of dollars in housing, bank and auto company bailouts in 2008 and 2009, because those payments and where they went are kept mostly invisible in the federal agency books.

As suspected, the biggest welfare queens in the U.S. are the super wealthy themselves, but they’d rather you focus on some single mother on welfare simply trying to survive.

The full report can be downloaded here.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

The Fed is Fighting the Wrong Battle Again… And Creating Yet Another Crisis | Zero Hedge

The Fed is Fighting the Wrong Battle Again… And Creating Yet Another Crisis | Zero Hedge.

A critical element for investors to consider is that the Fed is not forward thinking when it comes to monetary policy. Indeed, if we reflect on the last 15 years, we see that the Fed has been well behind the curve on everything.

First and foremost, recall that Alan Greenspan was concerned about deflation after the Tech Crash (this, in part is why he hired Ben Bernanke, who was considered an expert on the Great Depression).

Bernanke and Greenspan, both fearing deflation (Bernanke’s first speech at the Fed was titled “Deflation: Making Sure It Doesn’t Happen Here”), created one of the most extraordinary bouts of IN-flation the US has ever seen.

From 1999 to 2008, oil rose from $10 per barrel to over $140 per barrel. Does deflation look like it was the issue here?

Over the same time period, housing prices staged their biggest bubble in US history, rising over three standard deviations away from their historic relationship to incomes.

Here are food prices during the period in which Greenspan and then Bernanke saw deflation as the biggest threat to the US economy:

The message here is clear, the Greenspan/ Bernanke Fed was so far behind the economic curve, that it created one of the biggest inflationary bubbles in history in its quest to avoid deflation.

Indeed, by the time deflation did hit (in the epic crash of 2007-2008), the Fed was caught totally off guard. During this period, Bernanke repeatedly stating that the subprime bust was contained and that the overall spillage into the economy would be minimal.

Deflation reigned from late 2007 to early 2009 with the Fed effectively powerless to stop it. Then asset prices bottomed in the first half of 2009. From this point onward, generally speaking, prices have risen.

The Fed, however, continued to battle deflation in the post-2009 era, unveiling one extraordinary monetary policy after another. They’ve done this at a period in which stocks and oil have skyrocketed:

 

Home prices bottomed in 2011 and have since turned up as well (in some areas, prices now exceed their bubble peaks):

 

 

Which brings us to today. Inflation is once again rearing its head in the financial system with the cost of living rising swiftly in early 2014.

 

Rents, home prices, food prices, energy prices, you name it, they’re all rising.

 

And the Fed is once again behind the curve. Indeed, Janet Yellen and Bill Evans, two prominent members what is now the Yellen Fed (Bernanke stepped down in January), have both recently stated that inflation is too low. They’ve also emphasized that rates need to remain at or near ZERO for at least a year or two more.

 

Investors should take note of this. The Fed claims to be proactive, but its track record shows it to be way behind the curve with monetary policy for at least two decades. Barring some major development, there is little reason to believe the Yellen Fed will somehow be different (Yellen herself is a huge proponent of QE and the Fed’s other extraordinary monetary measures).

 

Which means… by the time the Fed moves to quash inflation, the latter will be a much, much bigger problem than it is today.

 

For a FREE Special Report on how to protect your portfolio from inflation, swing by

www.gainspainscapital.com

 

Best Regards

Phoenix Capital Research

The Fed is Fighting the Wrong Battle Again… And Creating Yet Another Crisis | Zero Hedge

The Fed is Fighting the Wrong Battle Again… And Creating Yet Another Crisis | Zero Hedge.

A critical element for investors to consider is that the Fed is not forward thinking when it comes to monetary policy. Indeed, if we reflect on the last 15 years, we see that the Fed has been well behind the curve on everything.

First and foremost, recall that Alan Greenspan was concerned about deflation after the Tech Crash (this, in part is why he hired Ben Bernanke, who was considered an expert on the Great Depression).

Bernanke and Greenspan, both fearing deflation (Bernanke’s first speech at the Fed was titled “Deflation: Making Sure It Doesn’t Happen Here”), created one of the most extraordinary bouts of IN-flation the US has ever seen.

From 1999 to 2008, oil rose from $10 per barrel to over $140 per barrel. Does deflation look like it was the issue here?

Over the same time period, housing prices staged their biggest bubble in US history, rising over three standard deviations away from their historic relationship to incomes.

Here are food prices during the period in which Greenspan and then Bernanke saw deflation as the biggest threat to the US economy:

The message here is clear, the Greenspan/ Bernanke Fed was so far behind the economic curve, that it created one of the biggest inflationary bubbles in history in its quest to avoid deflation.

Indeed, by the time deflation did hit (in the epic crash of 2007-2008), the Fed was caught totally off guard. During this period, Bernanke repeatedly stating that the subprime bust was contained and that the overall spillage into the economy would be minimal.

Deflation reigned from late 2007 to early 2009 with the Fed effectively powerless to stop it. Then asset prices bottomed in the first half of 2009. From this point onward, generally speaking, prices have risen.

The Fed, however, continued to battle deflation in the post-2009 era, unveiling one extraordinary monetary policy after another. They’ve done this at a period in which stocks and oil have skyrocketed:

 

Home prices bottomed in 2011 and have since turned up as well (in some areas, prices now exceed their bubble peaks):

 

 

Which brings us to today. Inflation is once again rearing its head in the financial system with the cost of living rising swiftly in early 2014.

 

Rents, home prices, food prices, energy prices, you name it, they’re all rising.

 

And the Fed is once again behind the curve. Indeed, Janet Yellen and Bill Evans, two prominent members what is now the Yellen Fed (Bernanke stepped down in January), have both recently stated that inflation is too low. They’ve also emphasized that rates need to remain at or near ZERO for at least a year or two more.

 

Investors should take note of this. The Fed claims to be proactive, but its track record shows it to be way behind the curve with monetary policy for at least two decades. Barring some major development, there is little reason to believe the Yellen Fed will somehow be different (Yellen herself is a huge proponent of QE and the Fed’s other extraordinary monetary measures).

 

Which means… by the time the Fed moves to quash inflation, the latter will be a much, much bigger problem than it is today.

 

For a FREE Special Report on how to protect your portfolio from inflation, swing by

www.gainspainscapital.com

 

Best Regards

Phoenix Capital Research

charles hugh smith-Is the Deep State Fracturing into Disunity?

charles hugh smith-Is the Deep State Fracturing into Disunity?.

(March 14, 2014)

I recently discussed the Deep State and “throwing Wall Street under the bus” with my friend and colleague Jim Kunstler.

When we speak of The Powers That Be or the Deep State, this ruling Elite is generally assumed to be monolithic: of one mind, so to speak, unified in worldview, strategy and goals.


In my view, this is an over-simplification of a constantly shifting battleground of paradigms and political power between a number of factions and alliances within the Deep State. Disagreements are not publicized, of course, but they become apparent years or decades after the conflict was resolved, usually by one faction winning the hearts and minds of decision-makers or consolidating the Deep State’s group-think around their worldview and strategy.

History suggests that this low-intensity conflict within the ruling Elite is generally a healthy characteristic of leadership in good times. As times grow more troubled, however, the unity of the ruling Elite fractures into irreconcilable political disunity, which becomes a proximate cause of the dissolution of the Empire if it continues.

I recently proposed the idea that Wall Street now poses a strategic threat to national security and thus to the Deep State itself: Who Gets Thrown Under the Bus in the Next Financial Crisis? (March 3, 2014)

Many consider it “impossible” that Wall Street could possibly lose its political grip on the nation’s throat, but I suggest that Wall Street has over-reached, and is now teetering at the top of the S-Curve, i.e. it has reached Peak Wall Street.

Consider what the extremes of Wall Street/Federal Reserve predation, parasitism, avarice and power have done to the nation, and then ask if other factions within the Deep State are blind to the destructive consequences:

How The Fed Has Failed America, Part 2 (March 12, 2014)

The Fed Has Failed (and Will Continue to Fail), Part 1 (March 11, 2014)

Can anyone not in Wall Street or the Fed look at this chart and not see profound political disunity on the horizon?


source: Poll Shows Why QE Has Been Ineffective (STA Wealth Mgmt)

I recently discussed the Deep State and “throwing Wall Street under the bus” with my friend and colleague Jim Kunstler: here’s the resulting podcast, which you can download or listen to on whatever device you are using at the moment: KunstlerCast 250 — Chatting with Charles Hugh Smith

Jim’s trademark wit and clarity guide the discussion, and he kindly lets me blather on about the Deep State. I think you’ll find the discussion of interest; you certainly won’t hear this topic being aired elsewhere.

I have covered the Deep State and profound political disunity for many years:

Going to War with the Political Elite You Have (May 14, 2007)

The Shape of Things To Come (July 8, 2011)

The Master Narrative Nobody Dares Admit: Centralization Has Failed (June 21, 2012)

China's Credit Nightmare Explained In One Chart | Zero Hedge

China’s Credit Nightmare Explained In One Chart | Zero Hedge.

Everyone knows that after years of kicking the can and resolutely sticking its head in the sand, China is finally on the verge, if hasn’t already crossed it, of a major credit event, confirmed by the first ever corporate bond default which took place a week ago. Few, however, know just why China is in this untenable position. If we had to select one data point with which to explain it all, it would be the following: just in the fourth quarter of 2013, Chinese bank assets rose from CNY147 trillion to CNY151.4 trillion, or, in dollar terms, an increase of almost exactly $1 trillion!

By comparison, US bank assets in the same period rose by just over $200 billion, a number which consists almost entirely of the reserves injected by the Fed.

And if we had to show it in one chart, it would be the following comparison of total Chinese and US bank assets: the two lines shown below are on the same axis, and at the end of 2009, the US had just a fraction more assets than China. Since then the US has added $2.3 trillion in bank assets, exclusively thanks to the Fed’s reserve creation. As for China… total bank assets more than doubled from $11.5 trillion to a record $25 trillion! This is a number that is nearly double that of the US, and represents a pace of $3.5 trillion per year – or nearly four concurrent QEs – a rate of “financial asset” addition five times greater than in the US!

 

Another way of showing just the past three years:

 

What’s worse: China is now hooked to a “flow” pace of $3.5 trillion each and every year, just to generate an annual GDP of about 8% and declining with every passing year. Any reductions in the pace of monetary flow will have magnified implications on China’s growth, and from there, social, and globa, stability.

But what does this really mean? Simple: in this epic, unprecedented, feverish pace to “grow” the economy and create hot, if worthless, money out of assets, all assets, even “magic” assets (i.e. thin air), the following took place:

CITIC Trust tried to auction the collateral but failed to do so because the developer has sold the collateral and also mortgaged it to a few other lenders.

Until now nobody cared because defaults were prohibited in China and nobody really cared what was underneath the hood. Now, defaults are allowed and, in fact, are encouraged. Which is why suddenly everyone is starting to cast curious glances into the dark shadows where the engine is supposed to be.

They won’t like what they find.

Curious for more: read Chart Of The Day: How China’s Stunning $15 Trillion In New Liquidity Blew Bernanke’s QE Out Of The Water, and Some Stunning Perspective: China Money Creation Blows US And Japan Out Of The Water

China’s Credit Nightmare Explained In One Chart | Zero Hedge

China’s Credit Nightmare Explained In One Chart | Zero Hedge.

Everyone knows that after years of kicking the can and resolutely sticking its head in the sand, China is finally on the verge, if hasn’t already crossed it, of a major credit event, confirmed by the first ever corporate bond default which took place a week ago. Few, however, know just why China is in this untenable position. If we had to select one data point with which to explain it all, it would be the following: just in the fourth quarter of 2013, Chinese bank assets rose from CNY147 trillion to CNY151.4 trillion, or, in dollar terms, an increase of almost exactly $1 trillion!

By comparison, US bank assets in the same period rose by just over $200 billion, a number which consists almost entirely of the reserves injected by the Fed.

And if we had to show it in one chart, it would be the following comparison of total Chinese and US bank assets: the two lines shown below are on the same axis, and at the end of 2009, the US had just a fraction more assets than China. Since then the US has added $2.3 trillion in bank assets, exclusively thanks to the Fed’s reserve creation. As for China… total bank assets more than doubled from $11.5 trillion to a record $25 trillion! This is a number that is nearly double that of the US, and represents a pace of $3.5 trillion per year – or nearly four concurrent QEs – a rate of “financial asset” addition five times greater than in the US!

 

Another way of showing just the past three years:

 

What’s worse: China is now hooked to a “flow” pace of $3.5 trillion each and every year, just to generate an annual GDP of about 8% and declining with every passing year. Any reductions in the pace of monetary flow will have magnified implications on China’s growth, and from there, social, and globa, stability.

But what does this really mean? Simple: in this epic, unprecedented, feverish pace to “grow” the economy and create hot, if worthless, money out of assets, all assets, even “magic” assets (i.e. thin air), the following took place:

CITIC Trust tried to auction the collateral but failed to do so because the developer has sold the collateral and also mortgaged it to a few other lenders.

Until now nobody cared because defaults were prohibited in China and nobody really cared what was underneath the hood. Now, defaults are allowed and, in fact, are encouraged. Which is why suddenly everyone is starting to cast curious glances into the dark shadows where the engine is supposed to be.

They won’t like what they find.

Curious for more: read Chart Of The Day: How China’s Stunning $15 Trillion In New Liquidity Blew Bernanke’s QE Out Of The Water, and Some Stunning Perspective: China Money Creation Blows US And Japan Out Of The Water

Foreigners Sell A Record Amount, Over $100 Billion, Of Treasurys Held By The Fed In Past Week | Zero Hedge

Foreigners Sell A Record Amount, Over $100 Billion, Of Treasurys Held By The Fed In Past Week | Zero Hedge.

A month ago we reported that according to much delayed TIC data, China had just dumped the second-largest amount of US Treasurys in history. The problem, of course, with this data is that it is stale and very backward looking. For a much better, and up to date, indicator of what foreigners are doing with US Treasurys in near real time, the bond watchers keep track of a less known data series, called “Treasury Securities Held in Custody for Foreign Official and International Accounts” which as the name implies shows what foreigners are doing with their Treasury securities held in custody by the Fed on a weekly basis. So here it goes: in the just reported latest data, for the week ended March 12, Treasurys held in custody by the Fed dropped to $2.855 trillion: a drop of $104.5 billion. This was the biggest drop of Treasurys held by the Fed on record, i.e., foreigners were really busy selling.

This brings the total Treasury holdings in custody at the Fed to levels not seen since December 2012, a period during which the Fed alone has monetized well over $1 trillion in US paper.

So is this the proverbial beginning of foreign dumping of US paper? Could Russia simply have designated a different custodian of its holdings? No, because as of most recently it owned $139 billion in US paper, or well above the number “sold” and a custodial reallocation would mean all holdings are moved, not just a portion. For another view, here is what the bond experts at Stone McCarthy had to say:

We don’t have a ready explanation for the plunge in custody account holdings. One thing that is striking about the drop is that the last several days was not a period of heavy market buzz about “central bank selling” of Treasuries, at least to the best of our knowledge. China and Japan are by far the largest holders of Treasuries, with holdings of $1.269 trillion and $1.183 trillion in holdings at the end of December, respectively. China’s holdings are more skewed to central bank holdings. Selling of Treasuries would appear to be at odds with China’s recent effort to depreciate its currency, although on March 5 and 6 there was a brief correction in that trend.

As for the timing:

… the Wednesday-to-Wednesday decline was much larger than the weekly average decline in Treasury holdings of $46.6 billion. That implies that the plunge in Treasuries occurred later in week rather than earlier.

Some further thoughts from SocGen:

Weekly data from the Fed for US Treasury securities held in custody on behalf of foreign institutions and central banks fell sharply over the past week and may offer a plausible explanation as to why the USD has been offered pretty much all week against its major counterparts. EUR/USD in particular has stayed strongly bid since last week’s council meeting (to the bemusement of the ECB) and touched a high of 1.3967 yesterday before easing back after the exchange rate comments from president Draghi. The reduced appetite for USTs and strong demand for EUR debt and equity securities underlines the difficulties the ECB is encountering to stop the strong EUR from reducing inflation expectations in the euro area.

 

Foreign holdings of US government securities held at the Fed dropped by a whopping $104.5bn in the week to Wednesday 12 March according to the data published overnight (see chart below). This marks the biggest single weekly fall on record and compares with just a $13.5bn drop the previous week and a 4-week average fall of $1.5bn. The previous largest fall came in mid-2013 (26 June, a week after the FOMC meeting) when holdings fell by $32.4bn. The selling over the last week coincides with the latest US employment statistics, a run of weak data from China and the escalation of the situation in Crimea and Ukraine.

 

Russia has threatened to respond with sanctions of its own should economic measures be imposed by the EU and the US after the referendum in Crimea this weekend. Russia currently holds $138.6bn of USTs (based on December data) and the country has been a net seller for a combined $11.3bn of USTs over the last two months for when data is available. China sold $47.8bn alone in December. The latest Treasury International Capital (TIC) data for January are only due next week so we won’t find out officially until May how much Russia’s US government debt holdings dropped in March.

So either China selling TSYs and buying EURs to make European import power stronger, if not so much its exports (much to Draghi’s ongoing horror). Or Russia, which may be dumping USTs to support the ruble… Or dumping just because.

Foreigners Sell A Record Amount, Over $100 Billion, Of Treasurys Held By The Fed In Past Week | Zero Hedge

Foreigners Sell A Record Amount, Over $100 Billion, Of Treasurys Held By The Fed In Past Week | Zero Hedge.

A month ago we reported that according to much delayed TIC data, China had just dumped the second-largest amount of US Treasurys in history. The problem, of course, with this data is that it is stale and very backward looking. For a much better, and up to date, indicator of what foreigners are doing with US Treasurys in near real time, the bond watchers keep track of a less known data series, called “Treasury Securities Held in Custody for Foreign Official and International Accounts” which as the name implies shows what foreigners are doing with their Treasury securities held in custody by the Fed on a weekly basis. So here it goes: in the just reported latest data, for the week ended March 12, Treasurys held in custody by the Fed dropped to $2.855 trillion: a drop of $104.5 billion. This was the biggest drop of Treasurys held by the Fed on record, i.e., foreigners were really busy selling.

This brings the total Treasury holdings in custody at the Fed to levels not seen since December 2012, a period during which the Fed alone has monetized well over $1 trillion in US paper.

So is this the proverbial beginning of foreign dumping of US paper? Could Russia simply have designated a different custodian of its holdings? No, because as of most recently it owned $139 billion in US paper, or well above the number “sold” and a custodial reallocation would mean all holdings are moved, not just a portion. For another view, here is what the bond experts at Stone McCarthy had to say:

We don’t have a ready explanation for the plunge in custody account holdings. One thing that is striking about the drop is that the last several days was not a period of heavy market buzz about “central bank selling” of Treasuries, at least to the best of our knowledge. China and Japan are by far the largest holders of Treasuries, with holdings of $1.269 trillion and $1.183 trillion in holdings at the end of December, respectively. China’s holdings are more skewed to central bank holdings. Selling of Treasuries would appear to be at odds with China’s recent effort to depreciate its currency, although on March 5 and 6 there was a brief correction in that trend.

As for the timing:

… the Wednesday-to-Wednesday decline was much larger than the weekly average decline in Treasury holdings of $46.6 billion. That implies that the plunge in Treasuries occurred later in week rather than earlier.

Some further thoughts from SocGen:

Weekly data from the Fed for US Treasury securities held in custody on behalf of foreign institutions and central banks fell sharply over the past week and may offer a plausible explanation as to why the USD has been offered pretty much all week against its major counterparts. EUR/USD in particular has stayed strongly bid since last week’s council meeting (to the bemusement of the ECB) and touched a high of 1.3967 yesterday before easing back after the exchange rate comments from president Draghi. The reduced appetite for USTs and strong demand for EUR debt and equity securities underlines the difficulties the ECB is encountering to stop the strong EUR from reducing inflation expectations in the euro area.

 

Foreign holdings of US government securities held at the Fed dropped by a whopping $104.5bn in the week to Wednesday 12 March according to the data published overnight (see chart below). This marks the biggest single weekly fall on record and compares with just a $13.5bn drop the previous week and a 4-week average fall of $1.5bn. The previous largest fall came in mid-2013 (26 June, a week after the FOMC meeting) when holdings fell by $32.4bn. The selling over the last week coincides with the latest US employment statistics, a run of weak data from China and the escalation of the situation in Crimea and Ukraine.

 

Russia has threatened to respond with sanctions of its own should economic measures be imposed by the EU and the US after the referendum in Crimea this weekend. Russia currently holds $138.6bn of USTs (based on December data) and the country has been a net seller for a combined $11.3bn of USTs over the last two months for when data is available. China sold $47.8bn alone in December. The latest Treasury International Capital (TIC) data for January are only due next week so we won’t find out officially until May how much Russia’s US government debt holdings dropped in March.

So either China selling TSYs and buying EURs to make European import power stronger, if not so much its exports (much to Draghi’s ongoing horror). Or Russia, which may be dumping USTs to support the ruble… Or dumping just because.

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: How The Fed Has Failed America, Part 2

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: How The Fed Has Failed America, Part 2.

The only way to eliminate the financial parasites is to stop subsidizing their skimming and scamming, and the only way to stop subsidizing the financial parasites is to shut down the Fed.

Before I explain how the Federal Reserve has failed America, let’s do a little thought experiment. Let’s imagine that instead of creating $3.2 trillion and giving it to the banking sector to play with–funding carry trades and high-frequency trading, for example–the Fed had invested in carry trades itself and returned the profits directly to taxpayers.

Before we go through the math, let’s recall how a carry trade works: Financiers borrow billions at near-zero interest from the Fed and then use the free money to buy bonds in other countries where the return is (say) 5%. The financiers are skimming 4.75% or more for doing nothing other than having access to the Fed’s free money.

If the bonds rise in value (because interest rates decline in the nation issuing the bonds), the financiers skim additional profit. If the trade can be leveraged via derivatives, then the annual return can be bumped up from 5% to 10%.

OK, back to the experiment. The Fed created $3.2 trillion in its quantitative easing (QE) programs. let’s say the Fed’s money managers (or gunslingers hired by the Fed to handle the trading) earn around 5% annually with various low-risk carry trades.


That works out to an annual profit of $160 billion (5% of $3.2 trillion). Now let’s say the Fed divvied the profit up among everyone who paid Social Security taxes the previous year. That’s around 140 million wage earners. Every person who paid Social Security taxes would receive $1,100 from the Fed’s carry trade profits.

The point of this experiment is to suggest that there were plenty of things the Fed could have done with its $3.2 trillion that would have directly benefited taxpaying Americans, but instead the Fed funneled all those profits to financiers and banks.

The Fed apologists claim that lowering interest rates to zero benefited American who saw their interest payments decline. Nice, but not necessarily true. Try asking a student paying 9% for his student loans how much his interest rate dropped due to Fed policy. Or ask someone paying 19.9% in credit card interest (gotta love that .1% that keeps it under 20%)–how much did your interest drop as a result of Fed policy?

Answer: zip, zero, nada. The Fed’s zero interest rate policy (ZIRP)funneled profits to the banks, not to borrowers.

And let’s not forget that many Americans chose not to borrow at all. What did the Fed do for them? It stole the interest they once earned on their savings. Estimates vary, but it is clear that the Fed’s ZIRP transferred hundreds of billions of dollars in interest to the banking sector, income forceably “donated” by savers to the banks.

Lowering interest rates to zero is effectively a forced subsidy of borrowers by savers. But that’s not the only subsidy: who makes money from originating and managing loans? Banks. The more loans that are originated, the higher the transaction fees and profits flowing to banks. So incentivizing borrowing generates more profits for banks.

Humans make decisions based on the incentives and disincentives in place at the time of their decision. Lowering the cost of money (interest) to zero creates an incentive to gamble the money on low-yield bets. After all, if you can earn 3% on the free money, then why not skim the free 3%?

If speculators had to pay 6% for money and 7.5% for mortgages (the going rate in the go-go 1990s), then the number of available carry trades plummets. The only carry trades that make sense when you’re paying 6% for money are those with yields of 10%–and any bond paying 10% carries a high risk of default (otherwise, the issuer wouldn’t have to offer such a high rate of interest to lure buyers).

All of these incentives to borrow money at zero interest rate are only available to banks and financiers. And that’s the point of the Fed’s policies: to stripmine the bottom 99.5% and transfer the wealth to banks and financiers. Lowering interest rates to zero incentivizes carry trades and speculative bets that do absolutely nothing for America or the bottom 99.5% of taxpayers.

A self-employed worker pays 50% more tax than a hedge funder skimming billions of dollars in carry trades. A self-employed worker pays 15.3% in Social Security and Medicare taxes and a minimum of 15% Federal income tax for a minimum of 30.3%. (The higher your income, the higher your tax rate, which quickly rises to 25% and up.) The hedge funder pays no Social Security tax at all because the carry trade profits are “long-term capital gains” which are taxed at 15% (20% if the Hedgie skims more than $400,000 a year).

Despite the Fed apologists’ claims that ZIRP and free money handed to banks and financiers create jobs and start businesses, there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim. The only beneficiaries of Fed policies are tax accountants for the banks and financiers and luxury auto dealerships. Since Porsches and Maseratis are not made in the U.S., the benefits of the top .5% buying costly gew-gaws and evading taxes is extremely limited.

Attention, all apologists, lackeys, toadies, minions and factotums of the Fed: is there any plausible explanation for the wealthiest .5% pulling away from everyone else since the Fed launched ZIRP and QE other than Fed policies? And while we’re at it, how about publishing a verifiable list of companies that were founded and now employ hundreds of people because the owners could borrow millions of dollars at zero interest?



Get real–no new business can borrow Fed money for zero interest. The only entities that can borrow the Fed’s free money are banks and other financial parasites.

The truth is the Fed incentivizes and rewards the most parasitic, least productive sector of the economy and forcibly transfers the interest that was once earned by the productive middle class to the parasites. Though the multitudes of apologists, lackeys, toadies, minions and factotums of the Fed will frantically deny it, the inescapable truth is that the nation and the bottom 99.5% would be instantly and forever better off were the Fed closed down and its assets liquidated.

The only way to eliminate the financial parasites is to stop subsidizing their skimming and scamming, and the only way to stop subsidizing the financial parasites is to shut down the Fed.


Source: Wealth, Income, and Power (G. William Domhoff)

%d bloggers like this: