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Shock And Awe From Turkey Which Hikes Overnight Rate By 4.25% To 12%, Blows Away Expectations | Zero Hedge

Shock And Awe From Turkey Which Hikes Overnight Rate By 4.25% To 12%, Blows Away Expectations | Zero Hedge.

The much anticipated Turkey Central Bank Decision is out and it is a stunner:

  • TURKEY’S CENTRAL BANK RAISES OVERNIGHT LENDING RATE TO 12.00% – this is the key rate, and it was at 7.75% until now, so an epic 4.25% increase, far greater than the 2.50% expected. 
  • TURKEY’S CENTRAL BANK RAISES BENCHMARK REPO RATE TO 10.00% – from 4.50%
  • TURKEY’S CENTRAL BANK RAISES OVERNIGHT BORROWING RATE TO 8.00% from 3.50%
  • TURKEY CENTRAL BANK SETS PRIMARY DEALER RATE AT 11.5% VS 6.75%
  • TURKEY CENTRAL BANK RAISES LATE LIQUIDITY WINDOW RATE TO 15%
     

The full release from the TCMB:

The Monetary Policy Committee (the Committee) has decided to adjust the short term interest rates as follows:

 

a) Overnight Interest Rates: Marginal Funding Rate is increased from 7.75 percent to 12 percent, borrowing rate from 3.5 percent to 8 percent, and the interest rate on borrowing facilities provided for primary dealers via repo transactions from 6.75 to 11.5 percent.

 

b) One-week repo rate is increased from 4.5 percent to 10 percent.

 

c) Late Liquidity Window Interest Rates (between 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.): Borrowing rate is kept at 0 percent, lending rate is increased from 10.25 percent to 15 percent.

 

Recent domestic and external developments are having an adverse impact on risk perceptions, leading to a significant depreciation in the Turkish lira and a pronounced increase in the risk premium. The Central Bank will implement necessary measures at its disposal to contain the negative impact of these developments on inflation and macroeconomic stability. In this respect, the Committee decided to implement a strong monetary tightening and to simplify the operational framework. Accordingly, (i) one-week repo rate is increased from 4.5 percent to 10 percent; (ii) the Central Bank liquidity will be provided primarily from one-week repo rate instead of the marginal funding rate in the forthcoming period.

 

Tight monetary policy stance will be sustained until there is a significant improvement in the inflation outlook. Under this policy stance, inflation is expected to reach the 5 percent target by mid-2015.

 

It should be emphasized that any new data or information may lead the Committee to revise its stance.

 

The summary of the Monetary Policy Committee Meeting will be released within five working days.

This is what a shock and awe move is. And it better work. This is how the revised Turkish “corridor” looks as of this moment:

 

For now the TRY (as well as the USDJPY and thus, equity futures) is loving the move, plunging 500 pips against the dollar.

Here is the bottom line: a $10 billion taper (out of $85 billion) just caused Turkey to hike its rate by 4.25%. This is just the beginning.

In the meantime, we hope our Turkish readers don’t suddenly need to take out a loan tomorrow morning. It may just be a tad more expensive.

The Prosperity Illlusion Part 1

The Prosperity Illlusion Part 1.

How Will The Economy Improve In 2014 If Almost Everyone Has Less Money To Spend?

How Will The Economy Improve In 2014 If Almost Everyone Has Less Money To Spend?.

Piggybank - Photo by Damian O'SullivanIs the U.S. consumer tapped out?  If so, how in the world will the U.S. economy possibly improve in 2014?  Most Americans know that the U.S. economy is heavily dependent on consumer spending.  If average Americans are not out there spending money, the economy tends not to do very well.  Unfortunately, retail sales during the holiday season appear to be quite disappointing and the middle class continues to deeply struggle.  And for a whole bunch of reasons things are likely going to be even tougher in 2014.  Families are going to have less money in their pockets to spend thanks to much higher health insurance premiums under Obamacare, a wide variety of tax increases, higher interest rates on debt, and cuts in government welfare programs.  The short-lived bubble of false prosperity that we have been enjoying for the last couple of years is rapidly coming to an end, and 2014 certainly promises to be a very “interesting year”.

Obamacare Rate Shock

Most middle class families are just scraping by from month to month these days.

Unfortunately for them, millions of those families are now being hit with massive health insurance rate increases.

In a previous article, I discussed how one study found that health insurance premiums for men are going to go up by an average of 99 percent under Obamacare and health insurance premiums for women are going to go up by an average of 62 percent under Obamacare.

Most middle class families simply cannot afford that.

Earlier today, I got an email from a reader that was paying $478 a month for health insurance for his family but has now received a letter informing him that his rate is going up to $1,150 a month.

Millions of families are receiving letters just like that.  And to say that these rate increases are a “surprise” to most people would be a massive understatement.  Even people that work in the financial industryare shocked at how high these premiums are turning out to be…

“The real big surprise was how much out-of-pocket would be required for our family,” said David Winebrenner, 46, a financial adviser in Lebanon, Ky., whose deductible topped $12,000 for a family of six for a silver plan he was considering. The monthly premium: $1,400.

Since Americans are going to have to pay much more for health insurance, that is going to remove a huge amount of discretionary spending from the economy, and that will not be good news for retailers.

Get Ready For Higher Taxes

When you raise taxes, you reduce the amount of money that people have in their pockets to spend.

Sadly, that is exactly what is happening.

Congress is allowing a whopping 55 tax breaks to expire at the end of this year, and when you add that to the 13 major tax increases that hit American families in 2013, it isn’t a pretty picture.

This tax season, millions of families are going to find out that they have much higher tax bills than they had anticipated.

And all of this comes at a time when incomes in America have beensteadily declining.  In fact, real median household income has declined by a total of 8 percent since 2008.

If you are a worker, you might want to check out the chart that I have posted below to see where you stack up.  In America today, most workers are low income workers.  These numbers come from a recentHuffington Post article

-If you make more than $10,000, you earn more than 24.2% of Americans, or 37 million people.

-If you make more than $15,000 (roughly the annual salary of a minimum-wage employee working 40 hours per week), you earn more than 32.2% of Americans.

-If you make more than $30,000, you earn more than 53.2% of Americans.

-If you make more than $50,000, you earn more than 73.4% of Americans.

-If you make more than $100,000, you earn more than 92.6% of Americans.

-You are officially in the top 1% of American wage earners if you earn more than $250,000.

-The 894 people that earn more than $20 millionmake more than 99.99989% of Americans, and are compensated a cumulative $37,009,979,568 per year.

It is important to keep in mind that those numbers are for the employment income of individuals not households.  Most households have more than one member working, so overall household incomes are significantly higher than these numbers.

Higher Interest Rates Mean Larger Debt Payments

On Tuesday, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries rose to 3.03 percent.  I warned that this would happen once the taper started, and this is just the beginning.  Interest rates are likely to steadily rise throughout 2014.

The reason why the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is such a critical number is because mortgage rates and thousands of other interest rates throughout our economy are heavily influenced by that number.

So big changes are on the way.  As a recent CNBC article declared, the era of low mortgage rates is officially over…

The days of the 3.5% 30-year fixed are over. Rates are already up well over a full percentage point from a year ago, and as the Federal Reserve begins its much anticipated exit from the bond-buying business, I believe rates will inevitably go higher.

Needless to say, this is going to deeply affect the real estate market.  AsMac Slavo recently noted, numbers are already starting to drop precipitously…

The National Association of Realtors reported that the month of September saw its single largest drop in signed home sales in 40 months. And that wasn’t just a one-off event. This month mortgage applications collapsed a shocking 66%, hitting a13-year low.

And U.S. consumers can expect interest rates on all kinds of loans to start rising.  That is going to mean higher debt payments, and therefore less money for consumers to spend into the economy.

Government Benefit Cuts

Well, if the middle class is going to have less money to spend, perhaps other Americans can pick up the slack.

Or maybe not.

You certainly can’t expect the poor to stimulate the economy.  As I mentioned yesterday, it is being projected that up to 5 million unemployed Americans could lose their unemployment benefits by the end of 2014, and 47 million Americans recently had their food stamp benefits reduced.

So the poor will also have less money to spend in 2014.

The Wealthy Save The Day?

Perhaps the stock market will continue to soar in 2014 and the wealthy will spend so much that it will make up for all the rest of us.

You can believe that if you want, but the truth is that there are a whole host of signs that the days of this irrational stock market bubble are numbered.  The following is an excerpt from one of my recent articles entitled “The Stock Market Has Officially Entered Crazytown Territory“…

The median price-to-earnings ratio on the S&P 500 has reached an all-time record high, and margin debt at the New York Stock Exchange has reached a level that we have never seen before.  In other words, stocks are massively overpriced and people have been borrowing huge amounts of money to buy stocks.  These are behaviors that we also saw just before the last two stock market bubbles burst.

If the stock market bubble does burst, the wealthy will also have less money to spend into the economy in 2014.

For the moment, the stock market has been rallying.  This is typical for the month of December.  You see, the truth is that investors generally don’t want to sell stocks in December because they want to put off paying taxes on the profits.

If stocks are sold before the end of the year, the profits go on the 2013 tax return.

If stocks are sold a few days from now, the profits go on the 2014 tax return.

It is only human nature to want to delay pain for as long as possible.

Expect to see some selling in January.  Many investors are very eager to start taking profits, but they wanted to wait until the holidays were over to do so.

So what do you think is coming up in 2014?  Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

Piggybank - Photo by Damian O'Sullivan

 

Yield on Canadian Government Bonds Rising | CANADIAN MARKET REVIEW

Yield on Canadian Government Bonds Rising | CANADIAN MARKET REVIEW.

About three weeks ago, I speculated that the bottom on interest rates had come and gone, and interest rates were rising.

This now seems more and more certain. Because of Abenomics, yields on Japanese government bonds have shot up and set off an ugly chain reaction. Bond prices are falling and yields are rising. Rather quickly, I might add.

Take a look at these charts of yields for selected Canadian government bonds. Pay extra attention to the longer-term bonds.

First, marketable bonds. The average yield on 1-3 year bonds:

Government of Canada marketable bonds - average yield - 1 to 3 year

Now 3-to-5 year bonds:

Government of Canada marketable bonds - average yield - 3 to 5 year

5-10 year:

Government of Canada marketable bonds - average yield - 5 to 10 year

Here’s the average for 10+ year bonds:

Government of Canada marketable bonds - average yield - over 10 years

Now the benchmark bonds.

First, the 2-year:

Government of Canada benchmark bond yields - 2 year

The 3-year:

Government of Canada benchmark bond yields - 3 year

The 5-year:

Government of Canada benchmark bond yields - 5 year

The 7-year:

Government of Canada benchmark bond yields - 7 year

The 10-year:

Government of Canada benchmark bond yields - 10 year

Long-term benchmark bonds:

Government of Canada benchmark bond yields - long-term

Here’s the long-term real return bond yield:

Real return bond - long term

You can draw your own conclusions from this data, I’m sure.

 

Mortgage rise will plunge a million homeowners into ‘perilous debt’ | Money | The Observer

Mortgage rise will plunge a million homeowners into ‘perilous debt’ | Money | The Observer.

Oxford Street shopping

Around 13 million people paid for their Christmas by borrowing. Photograph: Paul Brown/Rex Features

More than a million homeowners will be at risk of defaulting on their mortgages and losing their properties in the wake of even a small rise ininterest rates, a bombshell analysis reveals. Borrowers who have failed to pay down their mortgages when interest rates have been at record low levels now face being overwhelmed by “perilous levels of debt” when the inevitable hike comes.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, warned of a “financial ticking timebomb”: “The rising cost of energy, food and travel has been absorbing any spare income people may have. This means that in some cases there is little or nothing left to cope with larger mortgage repayments.”

According to a new report from an influential thinktank, the Resolution Foundation, even in the most optimistic scenario – in which interest rates rise slowly to 3% by 2018 and economic growth is strong and well-distributed between the rich and poor – 1.12 million homeowners will be spending more than half of their take-home pay on mortgage repayments – this is a widely accepted indicator of over-indebtedness.

If the Bank of England were to raise interest rates more quickly, to 5% by 2018, and growth continues to be slow, around two million households would be plunged into financial trouble – and around half of these would be families with children.

The thinktank’s analysis, based on official Office for Budget Responsibility projections, warns: “Far from being resolved, Britain’s personal debt problem remains a cause for real concern. While record low interest rates have reduced current repayment costs, fewer people than we hoped have used this breathing space to pay off their debts.

“When rates go up, the number in ‘debt peril’ could increase to anywhere between 1.1 million and two million, depending on the speed at which borrowing costs rise and the nature of the economic recovery.”

The warning comes as a survey carried out by Which? reveals that rather than paying off their debts, around 13 million people (25%) paid for their Christmas by borrowing. Overall, more than four in 10 (42%) used credit cards, loans or overdrafts to fund their spending over the festive period, which suggests that Britons have not shed their addiction to debt.

The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said he will look at raising the Bank of England base rate, to which lenders hook their mortgages, when unemployment has fallen to 7%.

A recent surge in job creation saw unemployment drop to 7.4% in December, raising expectations that an increase in the Bank’s base rate will come in 2015, and have an impact on lenders’ rates this coming year.

The markets believe the base rate will increase to 3% by 2018, with what the Resolution Foundation describes as “huge social and human cost”. However, the thinktank warns that a hike of just 1 percentage point more than that, to 4% by 2018, would lead to 1.4 million homeowners facing severe financial pressure.

If interest rates rise by two percentage points beyond market expectations – to 5%, still 0.5% below the 2007 base rate – the number of people in substantial and perilous debt would rise to 1.7 million – or as many as 2 million if economic growth continues to be sluggish.

The analysis finds that while people across the social spectrum could be in trouble, lower-income households “look particularly vulnerable”, with one in five of those with debt being in danger.

The thinktank says that while it does not follow that all households in “debt peril” will default on their mortgages, those spending more than half of their income on debt repayments will find their financial position increasingly difficult to sustain.

Matthew Whittaker, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, said ministers should consider “locking in” cheap credit for those who are heavily indebted. He added:”Even if we take a somewhat rosy view of how the economy will develop over the next few years, the number of households severely exposed to debt looks as though it will double.

“But the levels of debt built up by families in the pre-crisis years are such that even relatively modest changes in incomes and borrowing cost assumptions produce significantly worse outcomes.

“This is an alarming prospect, where a large number of families find themselves struggling with heavy debt commitments, especially among the households who are already among the worst-off. As the Bank of England has acknowledged, even small increases in the cost of borrowing could push a significant number of families over the edge and it is most likely to happen to those with the lowest incomes – who are already spending the biggest share of their budget on mortgage repayments.

“Rather than waiting for a repayment crisis to strike, policymakers and lenders should seriously consider acting now while there’s still the chance to help people reduce their exposure to debt.”

The number of repossessions has been dropping for years, with 30,000 expected by the end of this year, down from 75,500 during the 1991 recession.

Yet one in six households are currently mortgaged to the hilt, servicing home loans that are at least four times the size of their annual salary, in further evidence of the intense vulnerability of many homeowners to rate hikes.

 

After the Taper: The Fed’s Non-Plan Is Unchanged – Frank Hollenbeck – Mises Daily

After the Taper: The Fed’s Non-Plan Is Unchanged – Frank Hollenbeck – Mises Daily.

As an economist, it is getting more difficult to understand the logic underlying current monetary policy in the U.S. There are two main channels by which economists think monetary policy can influence growth and employment. The first is to lower interest rates to spur investment and consumption spending. The second is to induce inflation so real wages drop, spurring output and employment.

Since 2008, the central bank has reduced interest rates to almost zero with little to show for it. You can bring a horse to water in a trough, pond, or lake, but you cannot make him drink. Most of the added liquidity has found its way into excess reserves. Banks are not lending because they have few creditworthy customers who want to borrow. The household sector is still deleveraging and has less appetite for more debt, and the business sector is careful about making future investments in a financial and economic environment on unstable footing. Businesses are keenly aware of the malinvestments never cleaned up after the last bubble and of the price distortions of current monetary policy. Why would businesses stick their necks out if they suspect a painful adjustment is around the corner?

Since the first channel has failed, only the second channel remains. Economists are generally in agreement, however, that there is no long-run trade-off between inflation and unemployment. The Keynesians and monetarists believe that there may be a short-run trade-off. If people have adaptive expectations, (based on the recent past) then monetary policy that creates inflation will reduce unemployment by lowering a worker’s real wages. Of course, once a worker realizes he has been fooled, he will demand an increase in nominal wages to bring his real wages back up to previous levels. The gain in employment is only temporary. If, instead, people base their expectations rationally and are not fooled, the neo-classical position, there is no short- or long-run trade-offs between inflation and unemployment.

In a capitalist economy, relative prices play a crucial role in sending information to producers about what society wants. When one price goes up and another goes down, these are signals that tell producers to make more of the first good and less of the second. It is a complex system of signals with price changes reflecting the urgency of the needs within the reality of the law of scarcity. The most important aspect of a price system is the information it conveys to guide production.

Inflation causes an “information extraction” problem. When all prices are going up by different degrees, it is very difficult for an entrepreneur to distinguish between a relative and an absolute price change. Is a rising price a reflection of greater demand or inflationary pressure? That is, does it reflect a society’s changing needs or simply reflects a changed measuring stick (i.e., the value of money)? The same information extraction problem holds true with the prices of resources and labor. We have different labor markets with a wage gradient established along the production process. The printing of money interferes with this wage gradient and the information it conveys about the right proportion of capital and consumption goods to produce. Overall employment may initially improve but the gain is not worth the cost from the adjustment that must occur once the printing stops.

Looking at historical evidence, inflation leads to higher, not lower, unemployment. This should not be surprising. Inflation is like a wrench thrown into the workings of a capitalist system.

If economists agree that there is no long-term trade-off between inflation and unemployment, and the current Fed strategy to lower interest rates has failed miserably to boost growth, then we must ask, why is the Fed, even after this week’s taper, in effect printing $75 billion a month? It’s likely the goal is to induce inflation for a short-term gain in employment. Things are no better if the Fed’s strategy is to raise asset prices to induce an imaginary wealth effect. Yet multiple bubbles may pop before any wealth effect takes place. The Fed should not be playing the economy as a stake in a poker game.

Through multiple bubbles, Alan Greenspan’s monetary policy was responsible for massive human suffering worldwide. Yet Greenspan is living high on the hog with a comfy government pension, spending his spare time penning op-ed articles and dispensing his expert advice on the lecture circuit. He informs us that he was only human and that no one saw the bubble coming. This is less than ingenuous. If you play with fire, and you burn down the forest, it is criminal to say “I did not realize that playing with matches was dangerous.” The sad situation is that we recently replaced him with even bigger arsonists!

One can be certain that interest rates will shoot up once inflation picks up. Since most of the U.S. debt is short term, it is going to be very difficult to inflate prices to reduce the real value of the debt. How will the U.S. government react if it has to refinance at interest rates of 12 percent or more, like in 1981? Yellen is no Volker; will she be able to tame the inflation beast as Volcker did? The independent German central bank was powerless to stop the German government from using the printing presses during 1921-23.

Napoleon and Hitler, both responsible for millions of deaths, rode to power on a wave of discontent that followed periods of excessive monetary printing. Why are we taking such risks?

 

Fed’s Economic Projections – Myth Vs. Reality (Dec 2013) – STA WEALTH

Fed’s Economic Projections – Myth Vs. Reality (Dec 2013) – STA WEALTH.

Each quarter the Fed releases their assessment of the economy along with their forward looking projections for three years into the future. (See Fed Projections Myth Vs. Reality for the September analysis)  I started tracking these projections beginning in early 2011 and comparing the Fed’s forecasts with what eventually became reality.  The problem has, and continues to be, is that their track record for forecasting has been left wanting.  The reality is, however, is that the Federal Reserve simply cannot verbally state what they really see during each highly publicized meeting as it would roil the markets.   Instead, they use their communications to guide the markets expectations toward reality in the hopes of reducing the risks of market dislocations.

The most recent release of the Fed’s economic projections on the economy, inflation and unemployment continue to follow the same previous trends of weaker growth, lower inflation and a complete misunderstanding of the real labor market.

Economy

When it comes to the economy, the Fed has consistently overstated economic strength. Take a look at the chart and table. In January of 2011, the Fed was predicting GDP growth for 2013 at 4.0%. Actual real GDP (inflation adjusted) is currently estimated at 2.0% for the year or a negative 50% difference. The estimates at that time for long run economic growth was 2.7% which has now fallen to 2.15% and was guided down from 2.3% in September and 2.5% in June.

Fed-Revisions-GDP-121813

We have been stating repeatedly over the last 2 years that we are in for a low growth economy due to the debt deleveraging, deficits and continued fiscal and monetary policies that are retardants for economic prosperity. The simple fact is that when an economy requires more than $5 of debt to provide $1 of economic growth – the engine of growth is broken.

As of the latest Fed meeting the forecast for 2014 and 2015 economic growth has been revised down to just 2.9% and 2.8% respectively as the realization of a slow-growth economy is recognized. However, the current annualized trend of GDP suggests growth rates in the next two years could likely be lower than that.

With more than 48 months of economic expansion behind us; this current expansion is longer than the historical average.  Economic data continues to show signs of weakness, despite intermittent pops of activity, and the global economy remains drag on domestic exports.  With higher taxes, government spending cuts and the debt ceiling debate looming the fiscal drag on the economy could be larger than expected.

What is very important is the long run outlook of 2.15% economic growth. That rate of growth is not strong enough to achieve the “escape velocity” required to substantially improve the level of incomes and employment that were enjoyed in previous decades.

Unemployment

The Fed’s new goal of targeting a specific unemployment level to monetary policy could potentially put the Fed into a box. Currently, the Fed sees 2014 unemployment falling to 6.45% and ultimately returning to a 5.6% “full employment” rate in the long run.  That long run rate was adjusted higher from the June meeting.  The issue with this “full employment”prediction really becomes what the definition of “reality” is.

Fed-Revisions-Employment-121713

Today, average Americans have begun to question the credibility of the BLS employment reports. Even Congress has made an inquiry into the data collection and analysis methods used to determine employment reports. Since the end of the last recession employment has improved modestly. However, that improvement, as shown in full-time employment to population ratio chart below, has primarily due to increases in temporary and lower wage paying positions. More importantly, where the Fed is concerned, the drop in the unemployment rate has been due to a shrinkage of the labor pool rather than an increase in employment.

Employment-fulltime-joblessclaims-103113

While the unemployment “rate” is declining, it is a very poor measure from which to benchmark the health of the economy. The drop in unemployment is primarily due totemporary hires, labor hoarding and falling labor participation rates.  Real full-time employment as a percentage of the working population shows that employment has only marginally increased since the financial crisis. The drop in jobless claims does not necessarily represent an increasing employment picture but rather labor hoarding by companies after deep levels of employment reductions over the past 4 years.

InflationWhen it comes to inflation, and the Fed’s outlook, the debate comes down to what type of inflation you are actually talking about. The table and chart below show the actual versus projected levels of inflation.

Fed-Revisions-Inflation-121713

The Fed significantly underestimated official rates of inflation in 2011. However, in 2012 and 2013 their projections and reality became much more aligned.   Unfortunately, inflation has fallen well below target levels of 2% which is weighing on economic growth.  The Fed’s greatest economic fear is deflation and the current drop in annual rates of inflation will keep pressure on the Fed to continue to accommodative policy active for longer than most expect.

However, for the average American the inflation story is entirely different. Reported inflation has little meaning to the consumer as the real cost of living has risen sharply in recent years. Whether it has been the cost of health insurance, school tuition, food, gas or energy – these everyday costs have continued to rise substantially faster than their incomes. This is why personal savings rates continue to fall, and consumer credit has risen, as incomes remain stagnant or weaken. It is the rising “cost of living” that is weighing on the American psyche, and ultimately, on economic growth.

Wishful Thinking

While the FOMC is vastly hopeful that the current economic improvement will be sustained; rising deflationary pressures, weak global growth rates and stagnant wages pose major headwinds.  The problem is that the current proposed policy is an exercise in wishful thinking.  While the Fed blames fiscal policy out of Washington; the reality is that monetary policy does not work in reducing real unemployment or interest rates. However, what monetary policy does do is promote asset bubbles that are dangerous; particularly when they are concentrated in the riskiest of assets from stocks to junk bonds.

The problem that the Fed will eventually face, with respect to their monetary policy decisions, is that effectively the economy could be running at “full rates” of employment but with a very large pool of individuals excluded from the labor force.  Of course, this also explains the continued rise in the number of individuals claiming disability and participating in the nutritional assistance programs.   While the Fed could very well achieve its goal of fostering a “full employment” rate of 6.5%, it certainly does not mean that 93.5% of working age Americans will be gainfully employed.  It could well just be a victory in name only

With the Fed committed to continuing its Large Scale Asset Purchase program (Quantitative Easing or Q.E.), and deploying specific performance targets, the question of effectiveness looms large. Bernanke has been quite vocal in his testimonies over the last year that monetary stimulus is not a panacea. In his most recently statement, Bernanke specifically stated that “fiscal policy is restraining economic growth.”

However, the recent improvements in employment and economic activity allowed the FOMC to begin “tapering” their current rate of asset purchases from $85 to $75 billion per month.

“…the Committee sees the improvement in economic activity and labor market conditions over that period as consistent with growing underlying strength in the broader economy. In light of the cumulative progress toward maximum employment and the improvement in the outlook for labor market conditions, the Committee decided to modestly reduce the pace of its asset purchases.”

The problem for the Federal Reserve currently is that there are very few policy tools left, and the economic effectiveness of continued artificial stimulation is clearly waning.  Lower mortgages rates, interest rates and excess liquidity served well in priming the pumps of the real estate and financial markets when valuations were extremely depressed. However, four years later, stock valuations are no longer low, earnings are no longer depressed and the majority of real estate related activity has likely been completed.  More importantly, the recent surge in leverage and asset prices smacks of an asset bubble in the making.

Reminiscent of the choices of Goldilocks – the reality is that the Fed’s estimates for economic growth in 2013 was too hot, employment was too cold and inflation estimates were just about right. The real unspoken concern should be the continued threat of deflation and what actions will be available when the next recession eventually comes.

 

Interest Rate Swaps Hit Record High As China Warns “Big Chance Of Bank Failures” | Zero Hedge

Interest Rate Swaps Hit Record High As China Warns “Big Chance Of Bank Failures” | Zero Hedge.

Overnight repo rates are spiking once again in early trading as the typically smaller banks that are more desperate bid aggressively for whetever liquidity they can find. 5Y Chinese swap rates have also reached a record high as the Yuan reaches its highest since Feb 2005. Chinese authorities are clearly stepping up the rhetoric:

  • *CHINA SHADOW-FINANCE RISKS WILL SPREAD TO BANKS, FANG SAYS
  • *VERY BIG CHANCE ONE OR TWO SMALL CHINA BANKS WILL FAIL: FANG
  • *SOME CHINA TRUST INVESTMENT FIRMS MAY FAIL, SELL ASSETS: FANG
  • *CHINA MUST PLAN FOR BANK-FAIL SCENARIOS TO MANAGE RISKS: FANG
  • *CHINA NEEDS TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO CORPORATE LEVERAGE: HU

The gambit between the PBOC’s liqudity provision and the growing dependence on their “spice” is clear – the question is, of course, will banks send a message (via the markets) to the PBOC or will they self-select (on first-mover’s advantage) eradicating the weakest.

 

5Y Chinese Interest Rate Swaps have reached a record high (implying expectations priced into the market of rising interest rates)…

 

and short-term liquidity is problematic again as overnight repo jumps to 5.00% in early trading..

 

What everyone is wondering is – with the failure of 1 or 2 banks seemingly guaranteed – how will the contagion be contained? How will the interbank market respond when no one knows who is it? We know what happened in the US in 2008…

 

Guest Post: Bubbles And Central Banks – Is There A Connection? | Zero Hedge

Guest Post: Bubbles And Central Banks – Is There A Connection? | Zero Hedge.

Submitted by Dr. Frank Shostak, via The Cobden Centre blog,

According to the popular way of thinking, bubbles are an important cause of economic recessions. The main question posed by experts is how one knows when a bubble is forming. It is held that if the central bankers knew the answer to this question they might be able to prevent bubble formations and thus prevent recessions.

On this, at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland on January 27, 2010, Nobel Laureate in Economics Robert Shiller argued that bubbles could be diagnosed using the same methodology psychologists use to diagnose mental illness. Shiller is of the view that a bubble is a form of psychological malfunction. Hence the solution could be to prepare a checklist similar to what psychologists do to determine if someone is suffering from, say, depression. The key identifying points of a typical bubble according to Shiller, are,

  1. Sharp increase in the price of an asset.
  2. Great public excitement about these price increases.
  3. An accompanying media frenzy.
  4. Stories of people earning a lot of money, causing envy among people who aren’t.
  5. Growing interest in the asset class among the general public.
  6. New era “theories” to justify unprecedented price increases.
  7. A decline in lending standards.

What Shiller outlines here are various factors that he holds are observed during the formation of bubbles. To describe a thing is, however, not always sufficient to understand the key factors that caused its emergence. In order to understand the causes one needs to establish a proper definition of the object in question. The purpose of a definition is to present the essence, the distinguishing characteristic of the object we are trying to identify. A definition is meant to tell us what the fundamentals or the origins of a particular entity are. On this, the seven points outlined by Shiller tell us nothing about the origins of a typical bubble. They tell us nothing as to why bubbles are bad for economic growth. All that these points do is to provide a possible description of a bubble. To describe an event, however, is not the same thing as to explain it. Without an understanding of the causes of an event it is not possible to counter its emergence.

Defining bubbles

Now if a price of an asset is the amount of money paid for the asset it follows that for a given amount of a given asset an increase in the price can only come about as a result of an increase in the flow of money to this asset.

The greater the expansion of money is, the higher the increase in the price of an asset is going to be, all other things being equal. We can also say that the greater the expansion of the monetary balloon is, the higher the prices of assets are going to be, all other things being equal. The emergence of a bubble or a monetary balloon need not be always associated with rising prices – for instance if the rate of growth of goods corresponds to the rate of growth of money supply no change in prices will take place.

We suggest that what matters is not whether the emergence of a bubble is associated with price rises but rather with the fact that the emergence of a bubble gives rise to non-productive activities that divert real wealth from wealth generators. The expansion of the money supply, or the monetary balloon, in similarity to a counterfeiter, enables the diversion of real wealth from wealth generating activities to non productive activities.

As the monetary pumping strengthens, the pace of the diversion follows suit. We label various non-productive activities that emerge on the back of the expanding monetary balloon as bubble activities – they were formed by the monetary bubble. Also note that these activities cannot exist without the expansion of money supply that diverts to them real wealth from wealth generating activities.

From this we can infer that the subject matter of bubbles is the expansion of money supply. The key outcome of this expansion is the emergence of non wealth generating activities.

It follows that a bubble is not about strong asset price increases but about the expansion of money supply. In fact, as we have seen, bubbles – i.e. an increase in money supply – can take place without a corresponding increase in prices. Once we have established that an expansion in money supply is what bubbles are all about, we can further infer that the key damage that bubbles generate is by setting non-productive activities, which we have labelled as bubble activities. Furthermore, once it is established that formation of bubbles is about the expansion in money supply, obviously it is the central bank and the fractional reserve banking that are responsible for the formation of bubbles. As a rule, it is the central bank’s monetary pumping that sets in motion an expansion in the monetary balloon.

Hence to prevent the emergence of bubbles one needs to arrest the monetary pumping by the central bank and to curtail the commercial banks’ ability to engage in fractional reserve banking – i.e. in lending out of “thin air”. Once the pace of monetary expansion slows down in response to a tighter central bank stance or in response to commercial banks slowing down on the expansion of lending out of “thin air” this sets in motion the bursting of the bubbles. Remember that a bubble activity cannot fund itself independently of the monetary expansion that diverts to them real wealth from wealth generating activities. (Again bubble activities are non-wealth generating activities).

The so-called economic recession associated with the burst of bubble activities is in fact good news for wealth generators since now more wealth is left at their disposal. (An economic bust, which weakens bubble activities, lays the foundation for a genuine economic growth). Note again that it is the expansion in the monetary balloon that gives rise to bubble activities and not a psychological disposition of individuals in the market place.

Psychology and economics

Psychology was smuggled into economics on the grounds that economics and psychology are inter-related disciplines. However, there is a distinct difference between economics and psychology. Psychology deals with the content of ends. Economics, however, starts with the premise that people are pursuing purposeful conduct. It doesn’t deal with the particular content of various ends.

According to Rothbard,

A man’s ends may be “egoistic” or “altruistic”, “refined” or “vulgar”. They may emphasize the enjoyment of “material goods” and comforts, or they may stress the ascetic life. Economics is not concerned with their content, and its laws apply regardless of the nature of these ends.[1]

Whereas,

Psychology and ethics deal with the content of human ends; they ask, why does the man choose such and such ends, or what ends should men value?[2]

Therefore, economics deals with any given end and with the formal implications of the fact that men have ends and utilize means to attain these ends. Consequently, economics is a separate discipline from psychology. By introducing psychology into economics one obliterates the generality of the theory, and renders it useless. The use of psychology is counterproductive as far as economic analyses are concerned.

Summary and conclusions

Contrary to Shiller, in order to establish that a bubble is forming we don’t need to apply the same methodology employed by psychologists. What we require is the establishment of a correct definition of what bubbles are all about. Once it is done, one discovers that bubbles have nothing to do with some kind psychological malfunction of individuals – they are the result of loose monetary policies of the central bank.

Furthermore, once we observe an increase in the rate of growth of money supply we can confidently say that this sets the platform for bubble activities – for an economic boom.

Conversely, once we observe a decline in the rate of growth of money supply we can confidently say that this lays the foundations for the burst of bubble activities – an economic bust.

 

Euro Tumbles After ECB Hints At QE | Zero Hedge

Euro Tumbles After ECB Hints At QE | Zero Hedge.

Despite the ECB’s recent “stunning” rate cut, which sent the EUR modestly lower by a few hundred pips, the resultant resurge in the European currency has left the European Central Bank even more stunned: just what does it have to do to force its currency lower and boost Europe’s peripheral economies, especially in a world in which every other major central banks is printing boatloads of money each and every month?

We hinted at precisely what the next steps will be two days ago when in “Next From The ECB: Here Comes QE, According To BNP” we said “BNP is ultimately correct as the European experiment will require every weapon in the ECB’s arsenal, and sooner or later the ECB, too, will succumb to the same monetary lunacy that has gripped the rest of the developed world in the ongoing “all in” bet to reflate or bust. All logical arguments that outright monetization of bonds are prohibited by various European charters will be ignored: after all, there is “political capital” at stake, and as Mario Draghi has made it clear there is no “Plan B.” Which means the only question is when will Europe join the lunaprint asylum: for the sake of the systemic reset we hope the answer is sooner rather than later.”

Two days later the answer just appeared when moments ago the WSJ reported that the ECB’s Praet hinted more QE is, just as we predicted, on the table.

From the WSJ:

The European Central Bank could adopt negative interest rates or purchase assets from banks if needed to lift inflation closer to its target, a top ECB official said, rebutting concerns that the central bank is running out of tools or is unwilling to use them.

 

“If our mandate is at risk we are going to take all the measures that we think we should take to fulfill that mandate. That’s a very clear signal,” ECB executive board member Peter Praet said in an interview Tuesday with The Wall Street Journal. Annual inflation in the euro zone slowed to 0.7% in October, far below the central bank’s target of just below 2% over the medium term.

 

He didn’t rule out what some analysts see as the strongest, and most controversial, option: purchases of assets from banks to reduce borrowing costs in the private sector. “The balance-sheet capacity of the central bank can also be used,” said Mr. Praet, whose views carry added weight as he also heads the ECB’s powerful economics division. “This includes outright purchases that any central bank can do.”

 

The ECB could do more if necessary, Mr. Praet said. “On standard measures, interest rates, we still have room and that would also include the deposit facility,” he said. The central bank’s deposit rate has been set at zero for several months. Making it negative would effectively levy a fee on commercial banks that park funds at the ECB.

 

The ECB purchased safe bank bonds and government bonds at the height of the global financial crisis and the euro debt crisis, but in small amounts compared with other major central banks.

Of course, there are some legal hurdles:

The ECB’s charter forbids it from financing governments.

But, wily as always, the ECB appears to have found a loophole:

The ECB must respect its legal constraints, Mr. Praet said, however its rules “do not exclude that you intervene in the markets outright.”

And sure enough, the Euro tumbles just as mandated by the ECB’s talking head: let’s see if it actually stays lower this time.

And now check to the Germans, who will be positively giddy that first Europe accused it of unfair export-led growth, and now the ECB is openly contemplating tearing off the Weimar scab.

Looks like things in Europe are about to get exciting all over again.

 

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