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Will this be the year when the Fed’s quantitative easing program finally ends? For a long time, many analysts were proclaiming that the Fed would never taper. But then it started happening. Then a lot of them started talking about how “the untaper” was right around the corner. That hasn’t happened either. It looks like that under Janet Yellen the Fed is quite determined to bring the quantitative easing program to a close by the end of this year. Up until now, the financial markets have been slow to react because there has been a belief that the Fed would reverse course on tapering the moment that the U.S. economy started to slow down again. But even though the U.S. middle class is in horrible shape, and even though there are lots of signs that we are heading into another recession, the Fed has continued tapering.
Of course it is important to note that the Fed is still absolutely flooding the financial system with money even after the announcement of more tapering on Wednesday. When you are talking about $55,000,000,000 a month, you are talking about a massive amount of money. So the Fed is not exactly being hawkish.
But when Yellen told the press that quantitative easing could end completely this fall and that the Fed could actually start raising interest rates about six months after that, it really spooked the markets.
The Dow was down 114 points on Wednesday, and the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries shot up to 2.77%. The following is how CNBCdescribed the reaction of the markets on Wednesday…
Despite a seemingly dovish tone, markets recoiled at remarks from Yellen, who said interest rate increases likely would start six months after the monthly bond-buying program ends. If the program winds down in the fall, that would put a rate hike in the spring of 2015, earlier than market expectations for the second half of the year.
Stocks tumbled as Yellen spoke at her initial post-meeting news conference, with the Dow industrials at one point sliding more than 200 points before shaving those losses nearly in half. Short-term interest rates rose appreciably, with the five-year note moving up 0.135 percentage points. The seven-year note tumbled more than one point in price.
But this is just the beginning. When it finally starts sinking in, and investors finally start realizing that the Fed is 100% serious about ending the flow of easy money, that is when things will start getting really interesting.
Can the financial markets stand on their own without massive Fed intervention?
We shall see. Even now there are lots of signs that a market crash could be coming up in the not too distant future. For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Is ‘Dr. Copper’ Foreshadowing A Stock Market Crash Just Like It Did In 2008?”
And what is going to happen to the market for U.S. Treasuries once the Fed stops gobbling them up?
Where is the demand going to come from?
In recent months, foreign demand for U.S. debt has really started to dry up. Considering recent developments in Ukraine, it is quite certain that Russia will not be accumulating any more U.S. debt, and China has announced that it is “no longer in China’s favor to accumulate foreign-exchange reserves” and China actually dumped about 50 billion dollars of U.S. debt during the month of December alone.
Collectively, Russia and China account for about a quarter of all foreign-owned U.S. debt. If you take them out of the equation, foreign demand for U.S. debt is not nearly as strong.
Will domestic sources be enough to pick up the slack? Or will we see rates really start to rise once the Fed steps to the sidelines?
And of course rates on U.S. government debt should actually be much higher than they are right now. It simply does not make sense to loan the U.S. government massive amounts of money at interest rates that are far below the real rate of inflation.
If free market forces are allowed to prevail, it is inevitable that interest rates on U.S. debt will go up substantially, and that will mean higher interest rates on mortgages, cars, and just about everything else.
Of course the central planners at the Federal Reserve could choose to reverse course at any time and start pumping again. This is the kind of thing that can happen when you don’t have a true free market system.
The truth is that the Federal Reserve is at the very heart of the economic and financial problems of this country. When the Fed intervenes and purposely distorts the operation of free markets, the Fed creates economic and financial bubbles which inevitably burst later on. We saw this happen during the great financial crisis of 2008, and now it is happening again.
This is what happens when you allow an unelected, unaccountable group of central planners to have far more power over our economy than anyone else in our society does.
Most people don’t realize this, but the greatest period of economic growth in all of U.S. history was when there was no central bank.
We don’t need a Federal Reserve. In fact, the performance of the Federal Reserve has been absolutely disastrous.
Since the Fed was created just over 100 years ago, the U.S. dollar has lost more than 96 percent of its value, and the size of the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger. The Fed is at the very center of a debt-based financial system that has trapped us, our children and our grandchildren in an endless spiral of debt slavery.
And now we are on the verge of the greatest financial crisis that the United States has ever seen. The economic and financial storm that is about to unfold is ultimately going to be even worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Things did not have to turn out this way.
Congress could have shut down the Federal Reserve long ago.
But our “leaders” never seriously considered doing such a thing, and the mainstream media kept telling all of us how much we desperately needed central planners to run our financial system.
Well, now those central planners have brought us to the brink of utter ruin, and yet only a small minority of Americans are calling for change.
Soon, we will all get to pay a great price for this foolishness. A great financial storm is fast approaching, and it is going to be exceedingly painful.
Sri Mulyani Indrawati considers the reforms that emerging economies must undertake to succeed in the post-QE era. – Project Syndicate
The fact that the advanced economies are bouncing back is good news for everyone. But, for the emerging and developing economies that dominated global growth over the last five years, it raises an important question: Now, with high-income countries joining them, is business as usual good enough to compete?The simple answer is no. Just as an athlete might use steroids to get quick results, while avoiding the tough workouts that are needed to develop endurance and ensure long-term health, some emerging economies have relied on short-term capital inflows (so-called “hot money”) to support growth, while delaying or even avoiding difficult but necessary economic and financial reforms. With the US Federal Reserve set to tighten the exceptionally generous monetary conditions that have driven this “easy growth,” such emerging economies will have to change their approach, despite much tighter room for maneuver, or risk losing the ground that they have gained in recent years.
As the Fed’s monetary-policy tightening becomes a reality, the World Bank predicts that capital flows to developing countries will fall from 4.6% of their GDP in 2013 to around 4% in 2016. But, if long-term US interest rates rise too fast, or policy shifts are not communicated well enough, or markets become volatile, capital flows could quickly plummet – possibly by more than 50% for a few months.
This scenario has the potential to disrupt growth in those emerging economies that have failed to take advantage of the recent capital inflows by pursuing reforms. The likely rise in interest rates will put considerable pressure on countries with large current-account deficits and high levels of foreign debt – a result of five years of credit expansion.
Indeed, last summer, when speculation that the Fed would soon begin to taper its purchases of long-term assets (so-called quantitative easing), financial-market pressures were strongest in markets suspected of having weak fundamentals. Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, India, and South Africa – dubbed the “Fragile Five” – were hit particularly hard.
Similarly, some emerging-market currencies have come under renewed pressure in recent days, triggered in part by the devaluation of the Argentine peso and signs of a slowdown in Chinese growth, as well as doubts about these economies’ real strengths amid generally skittish market sentiment. Like the turbulence last summer, the current bout of market pressure is mainly affecting economies characterized by either domestic political tensions or economic imbalances.
But, for most developing countries, the story has not been so bleak. Financial markets in many developing countries have not come under significant pressure – either in the summer or now. Indeed, more than three-fifths of developing countries – many of which are strong economic performers that benefited from pre-crisis reforms (and thus attracted more stable capital inflows like foreign-direct investment) – actually appreciated last spring and summer.
Furthermore, returning to the athletic metaphor, some have continued to exercise their muscles and improve their stamina – even under pressure. Mexico, for example, opened its energy sector to foreign partnerships last year – a politically difficult reform that is likely to bring significant long-term benefits. Indeed, it arguably helped Mexico avoid joining the Fragile Five.
Stronger growth in high-income economies will also create opportunities for developing countries – for example, through increased import demand and new sources of investment. While these opportunities will be more difficult to capture than the easy capital inflows of the quantitative-easing era, the payoffs will be far more durable. But, in order to take advantage of them, countries, like athletes, must put in the work needed to compete successfully – through sound domestic policies that foster a business-friendly pro-competition environment, an attractive foreign-trade regime, and a healthy financial sector.
Part of the challenge in many countries will be to rebuild macroeconomic buffers that have been depleted during years of fiscal and monetary stimulus. Reducing fiscal deficits and bringing monetary policy to a more neutral plane will be particularly difficult in countries like the Fragile Five, where growth has been lagging.
As is true of an exhausted athlete who needs to rebuild strength, it is never easy for a political leader to take tough reform steps under pressure. But, for emerging economies, doing so is critical to restoring growth and enhancing citizens’ wellbeing. Surviving the crisis is one thing; emerging as a winner is something else entirely.
February 12, 2014
Even if we used a 10:1 fractional reserve ratio, the Fed’s $85 billion per month QE was creating $10 trillion per year in liquidity.
The point to understanding the Status Quo financial system is doomed is not to revel in the doom but to understand why we have to look past the current corrupt, predatory, parasitic system to a better arrangement. That’s positive.
Longtime correspondent Harun I. submitted this quote from John Ing and a commentary on simple arithmetic. In “We Are Nowhere Near The Chaos That I Expect”, John Ing observes the consequences of deleveraging a highly leveraged system:
“We have already had $3 trillion in stock market capitalization wiped out. It is amazing that just a $20 billion tapering has been enough to cause all of this chaos around the globe.”
Harun then explained why it isn’t amazing at all–it’s entirely predictable:
Simple arithmetic will do. The Fed is leveraged 72:1. For every dollar it removes, it actually removes 72. The product of 72 and 20 is 1,440. The Fed has actually removed nearly $1.5 trillion of liquidity with its $20 billion tapering.It is a mathematical certainty that this geometric progression of debt growth will end (remember, for everything that is growing geometrically, that upon which the growth is dependent is contracting at the same rate). The contraction (deleveraging) must necessarily be as geometric as the expansion (leveraging).
The Fed can try to keep interest rates at zero but there will be dire consequences. The Fed can try to “taper” but there will be dire consequences.
What I find amazing is that even if we used a 10:1 fractional reserve ratio, the Fed’s $85 billion per month QE was creating $10 trillion per year in liquidity.
The World Economic Forum reported in 2011 that $100 trillion in new credit would be needed for world growth going forward. How long does anyone think tapering will last?
Over US$ 100 Trillion Additional Credit Needed to Support Global Growth(World Economic Forum)
Trying to force simplistic results out of complex systems inevitably generates unintended consequences. Liquidity and credit expansion act like pressure in a closed system; central planners look at the site of the last financial break and see no leaks, so they assume they’ve got the system under control.
But the next failure in the system will occur where no one is looking–the points in the system that everyone assumes are “safe.”
The system is doomed if central banks continue creating trillions of dollars in new leveraged credit and liquidity to keep the system from imploding, and it is also doomed if they cease creating new leveraged credit (i.e. taper their geometric expansion of credit). Doomed if you do taper, doomed if you don’t taper.
Here’s the Fed balance sheet. If you get a magnifying glass, you might discern some tapering.
Geometric expansion of credit is visible throughout the system. Never mind the infamous shadow banking system–look at the insane expansion of credit/debt in student loans:
Of related interest:
Resolution #1: Let’s Call Things What They Really Are in 2014 (January 15, 2014)
The Federal Reserve’s Nuclear Option: A One-Way Street to Oblivion (February 5, 2014)
Volatility will rise toward its long-term average and that means an increase in risk premiums, said Philip Moffitt, head of fixed income in Sydney for Asia and the Pacific at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, which had $991 billion of assets under supervision worldwide as of September. The risks for different emerging economies will become more idiosyncratic and Mexico presents a buying opportunity following the rout, he said.
Markets from Turkey to South Africa and Argentina were roiled during the past month as investors sold off emerging-economy currencies, stocks and bonds, prompting emergency measures from governments and central banks. The bout of risk aversion follows the Fed’s decision to scale back asset purchases and China’s pledge to rein in leverage and give market forces a more decisive role in allocating resources.
“The selloff in emerging markets has much more to do with China than with Fed tapering,” Moffitt said yesterday in an interview in Sydney. “China’s such a big source of global demand, in particular for other emerging markets, uncertainty’s going to stay high and risk premiums should be expanding.”
The worst isn’t over for emerging markets, Mark Mobius, who oversees more than $50 billion in developing nations as an executive chairman at Templeton Emerging Markets Group, said in an interview. Prices can decline further or take time to stabilize, he said.
China’s policy makers have attempted to rein in the unprecedented credit boom they unleashed in 2008-2009 amid the global financial crisis. Money market rates in China have surged, the cost of insuring against credit default by banks has increased and payment difficulties are emerging in the country’s $6 trillion shadow-banking industry.
“They’re looking to create a market that prices credit risk, rather than having prices imposed,” Moffitt said. “In the absence of a strong mechanism for pricing credit risk, there’s likely to be a lot of uncertainty and volatility.”
The world’s second-largest economy is predicted to expand by 7.4 percent this year, the slowest pace since 1990, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey.
The slowdown in China comes as the U.S. economy is showing signs of a pickup, allowing the Fed to trim its monthly bond purchases to $65 billion from $85 billion. U.S. growth is expected to accelerate to 2.8 percent in 2014 from 1.9 percent last year, according to a another Bloomberg poll.
Moffitt said investing in Mexico would be his top trade at the moment because the country’s fundamental outlook is strong even though it has been affected by the global selloff.
“There’s been outflow from emerging-market assets and when you get that kind of flow people sell what they can sell, often high-quality assets,” he said. “It will benefit from the strong U.S. growth we’re expecting and there’s the prospect for rate cuts, so Mexico stands out to us on both value and fundamentals.”
Is this how it starts?
The third great market crash of the 21st century?
At Ben Bernanke’s perhaps final public appearance at the Brookings Institution on January 16th, the beginnings of the 2008-2009 financial crisis were linked to the issues of a French bank in the summer of 2007, an incident little noticed at that point in time.
This time around will it be the currency problems of frontier and emerging markets? The default of a Chinese trust fund, discussed in some detail here atForbes? Or something else altogether, totally hidden at the moment? Or nothing at all?
With U.S. equity markets suffering their deepest losses since 2012, there were plenty of disparate concerns to go around this past week.
These included the fear of the Fed’s tapering ultimate timing and impact, weakening China growth, those currency devaluation jitters, a lackluster U.S. earnings season, perceived overheated equity market valuations, and that China trust fund, to mention a few. There was also the end of week concern that the selling could feed upon itself, as those market-makers selling puts on indices and calls on the VIX could get squeezed and have to hedge next week with more S&P futures selling.
On the week, the Dow gave up -3.5%, finishing below 16,000 for the first time since mid-December. The S&P 500 lost -2.6%, closing below the key 1800 level at 1790. And the NASDAQ fared the best, down “only” -1.7%, helped by the relative strength of some of its high-fliers. Notably, the VIX popped close to +46%, ending the week just above 18, although still far below panic levels.
It is a bit iffy to reconstruct the true narrative of the week, as things seemed to get rolling to the downside on Monday evening. Influential Fed watcher Jon Hilsenrath of the WSJ wrote of January FOMC tapering possibilities:
A reduction in the program to $65 billion a month from the current $75 billion could be announced at the end of the Jan. 28-29 meeting, which would be the last meeting for outgoing Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Coincidence or not, the next four trading days were all on the negative side of the ledger for the Dow, although the S&P hung in decently on Tuesday and Wednesday. But then China’s HSBC PMI numbers hit, indicating a drop in January to 49.6 from December’s final reading of 50.5, moving “below the 50 line which separates expansion of activity from contraction.” (Reuters).
This, combined with the currency devaluation news, with Venezuela, Argentina, and Turkey leading the headlines, seemed to fuel the overall“emerging market risk” theme which overwhelmed markets on Friday.
Not helping were some comments coming out of Davos. Larry Fink ofBlackRock BLK -3.95% said there was “too much optimism” in the markets. He added, according to Bloomberg , “The experience of the marketplace this past week is going to be indicative of this entire year. We’re going to be in a world of much greater volatility.”
This came on the heels of Goldman’s chief strategist, David Kostin, saying two weeks ago that market valuations are “lofty by almost any measure.”
But the real outlier came from Dr. Doom himself, NYU professor and head of Roubini Global Economics, Nouriel Roubini. Roubini seized on yet another global issue, tweeting:
@ Nouriel: “Japan-China war of words goes ballistic in Davos” and “A black swan in the form of a war between China & Japan?” along with various comments on the emerging market issues, saying, “Argentina currency crisis & contagion to other EM – on top of weak China PMI – suggests that some emerging markets are still fragile.”
The China/Japan “conflict” story was the shocker, and apparently goes back to some comments allegedly made by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abewhich compared China/Japan tensions to those found between Germany and Britain prior to World War I. (CNBC) In an interview with Business Insider, Roubini called the events of last week “a mini perfect storm,” alluding to“weak data in China, fresh currency market turmoil in Argentina, and a worsening chaotic situation in the Ukraine.”
It is a bit amusing to note that while Mr. Roubini was serving on several panels at Davos, giving press interviews, and tweeting non-stop, he also found time (or one of his associates did) to post a ranking of “top Tweeters” from the World Economic Forum, showing himself in 5th place. (See Twitter imagehere.)
Let’s take a very quick look at a few of the other notable quotes from newsmakers this week:
–“I don’t think it (marijuana) is more dangerous than alcohol.” –President Obama in a New Yorker interview published last Sunday. The remark created a firestorm of controversy, including reportedly negative feedback from DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart and many others. (Huffington Post)
–Apple is “one of the biggest ‘no-brainers’ we have seen in five decades of successful investing.” –Fund manager and legendary investor Carl Icahn, in continuing to tout AAPL’s undervaluation and push for stock buybacks by the company. Forbes also noted that Icahn grabbed headlines last week for now getting involved with eBay and urging a spinoff of its PayPal holding.
–“Gross: PIMCO’s fully engaged. Batteries 110% charged. I’m ready to go for another 40 years” –PIMCO’s Bill Gross tweeting after the highly visible and speculation-provoking departure of Mohamed El-Erian. Mr. El-Erian reportedly said in a letter to PIMCO employees, “The decision to step down from PIMCO was not an easy one.”
–“It’s a very juicy target.” –Andrew Kuchins, Russia Program Director for CSIS, in commenting on the terrorist threats at the Sochi Olympics and the need for extensive security and preparedness planning. (USA Today)
–“It’s so easy to enter, a caveman could do it.” –Warren Buffett, a bit jokingly, in announcing his company’s sponsorship of a $1 billion March Madness challenge along with Quicken. (Fox Sports) The simple idea is that an absolutely perfect bracket will produce the billion-dollar winner, but the offer includes also some twenty $100,000 winners for the best, if imperfect, brackets. There is also a charity angle, but at something like 1 in 9.2 quintillion odds (we have seen varying estimates all over the place) Berkshire is likely not facing too much risk here.
–“A lot of people got dead in that one.” –retired NYC detective and now security consultant/media celebrity Bo Dietl on the Don Imus program, commenting on the history of the Lufthansa “Goodfellas” robbery and this week’s arrests in the case.
–And in another high profile criminal case, famed lawyer Roy Black said of client Justin Bieber, “I’m not going to make any comments about the case except to say Mr. Bieber has been released on bond and we agreed that the standard bail would apply in this case.” (CBS Miami)
–“We’ve lost some of our consumer relevance.” –McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson in a call after client traffic comps greatly disappointed in the recent earnings release. This was the flipside of Netflix, which surged dramatically after their latest numbers and user figures, with NFLX stock up some 17% despite the terrible market week.
–“We believe POS malware will continue to grow.”–The FBI in a statement on the troubling hacking of Target and other retailers, which was revealed in far greater detail this week, including the hacking intrusion of Neiman Marcus. (Yahoo)
–“It was so awesome!” –ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, in a slightly hard to believe remark on the antics of Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman after last week’s NFC title game. Her initial real-time reaction to the interview seemed at odds with that statement, as she stood in utter disbelief in the post-game situation. (seattlepi.com)
Let’s close it out there, as all eyes will be on the opening of foreign equity markets tonight and the U.S. futures trading. Well, maybe not all eyes, as the Grammy Awards also kicks off this evening. But the really big event of the week will be President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening. Presidential senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer predicted in an email of the upcoming SOTU address, according to Bloomberg:
Pfeiffer: ‘Three words sum up the president’s message on Tuesday night: opportunity, action, and optimism. The core idea is as American as they come: If you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to succeed.’ While Obama ‘will seek out as many opportunities as possible to work with Congress in a bipartisan way,’ Pfeiffer said he ‘will not wait for Congress’ to act on some of his goals.’
Have a good week!
Joseph Stiglitz, in an interview with CNBC has said what we are all probably thinking right now. Even President Obama can’t be foolhardy and ostrich-like with his head buried in the sand to imagine that the US economy is picking up. Hope against hope and all the rain dancing you can do won’t get the economy moving because the wrong decisions have been taken by the people that thought that they had the ultimate solution to the world’s woes. Joseph Stiglitz is right when he says that the economy is not in recovery mode and hasn’t been.
Talk as much as we might wish about growth, it just hasn’t materialized. The lackluster growth with the highest growth rate in the third quarter of 2013 (the highest since 2011, which is nothing in itself to write home about) has not even dented the US economy let alone kick-started it into 2014. We have everything to be still worried about as the problems are just stagnating there as the people at the top take the decisions that are going to bring the economy further down into the doldrums. Just how far can we go?
The US stock market has hardly had a good start to the year. Just about the only thing that is doing well is the banking sector. As usual, some might say. The correction that has been promised now for months looks set to be rearing its ugly head at any moment now. Equities have fallen already almost 2% since the start of this year. Those that had somehow foolishly believed that the only way was up or that the sky was the limit look as if they are going to be in for a rough ride.
The market hasn’t corrected itself now for the last 28 months. The longer the wait, the bigger it will be. Statistics show that there is a correction of the market roughly every 18 months that is in the region of 10%. Yesterday was the worst session for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It fell 1.1% at the close, down 1.9% for the start of 2014. The S&P 500 is down 1.6% and the NASDAQ has fallen by 1.5% so far this year.
The US employment situation is far from good. Jobs haven’t and just aren’t been created these days whatever the government has been telling us. We get people rejoicing over a few thousand jobs that are created, when we need literally hundreds of thousands of jobs every month. Data from last week showed that 74, 000 jobs had been created in December. We we’re expecting 200, 000.
It doesn’t create uncertainty; it just leaves the bitter pessimistic taste of failure in your mouth, Mr. President.
The participation rate in the US hasn’t been this low since 1978. It stands at just 62.8% for December. The number of people that are actively looking for work or in work hasn’t been lower now for more than 35 years. Stiglitz stated: “We have millions who have given up looking for a job. They’ve looked and looked and there are no jobs…more and more Americans have said there’s no future”.
All of that just brings on the same old story about the Federal Reserve’s decision ti cut the Quantitative Easing and shut down the printing presses after injecting $3 trillion into the US economy to keep it floating. All the bailing out that you can do is not going to plug the hole in the bottom of the boat, is it?
Stiglitz believes that it’s fiscal stimulus that will get the economy moving again and certainly not throwing bad money after even worse money. No amount of printing the greenback will have little if any effect on the economy. They might as well just go, get down on their knees and start praying in Washington. Nothing else will happen.
Fourth-quarter growth for 2013 looks as if it will be mediocre at best. Profits growth for S&P 500 is predicted to reach an increase of 7.7% in comparison with December 2012.
Robust growth, let alone any growth at all, is certainly not on the cards this year. According to Stiglitz, we should start worrying (or at least continue).
Last week, in Part I of “That Was The Weak That Worked,” we reviewed the equity markets in an attempt to see how equity investors managed to scamper through 2013 with the friskiness of puppies when all about them lay doubt and potential disaster.
We found the answer in quantitative easing — of course.
This week we will take a look at how the bond market managed to navigate the same 12-month period and see what can be learned about 2013 in order to forecast for 2014.
Let’s begin by considering the subject of logical fallacies — an endeavor rendered more obsolete with each passing day.
(Deus Diapente): The study of logical fallacies is useful in learning how to think instead of what to think. In learning how to deconstruct an argument, you learn how to efficiently construct your own thoughts, ideas, and arguments. You learn how to find fallacies in your own line of reasoning before they’re even presented, which is a valuable methodology for learning how to think. Which is a lot more honest, liberating, and possibly more objective than simply regurgitating what society, teachers, parents, preachers, friends, or politicians tell us…
“Learning how to think instead of what to think”?
The very idea is enough to send many into an Austen-like swoon, and yet within this relatively simple construct lies a principle that, if it were applied to today’s markets, would have every rational investor rushing headlong into the hills.
Allow me to demonstrate using everyone’s favourite logical structure: the syllogism.
A syllogism is classified as a point-by-point outline of a deductive or inductive argument. Syllogisms normally contain two premises followed by a conclusion:
Premise 1:Miley Cyrus is the most talented musician of her generation.
?Premise 2:The most talented musician of every generation achieves legendary status.?
Conclusion:Miley Cyrus is a legend.
The conclusion, from a purely logical standpoint, holds water. The problem comes when either of the first two premises is not accepted by the person to which they are proposed.
At that point, the argument starts to fall apart.
The common term for this kind of flawed argument is a “non sequitur,” which literally means “it does not follow.”
So let’s apply the syllogistic approach to the concept of quantitative easing and see how we go:
Premise 1:Central banks have been printing money like lunatics.?
Premise 2:Their printing of money hasn’t had any ill effects.?
Conclusion:Printing money doesn’t have any ill effects.
Right then. There’s our syllogism. Do you want to go first, or shall I?
Quantitative Easing IV (or “QE IV” — so-called because it was injected directly into the veins of the monetary system) was unveiled on December 11, 2012, when Ben Bernanke announced, as Operation Twist expired, that in addition to the ongoing QE3 program (which committed the Federal Reserve to buying $40 bn in MBS every month) he would sanction the additional buying of $45 bn in long-term Treasury securities. Every month. Forever. Until further notice.
The rest, as they say (whoever “they” are), is history.
The effect on the Fed’s balance sheet is plain to see:
That’s a very steady, predictable line; and markets, as we have discussed, LOVE steady and predictable. The consistency of this curve underpinned the strength in equity markets this year, as I demonstrated last week. But in Bondville? Well, that’s another story…
2014 is going to be a bumpy ride for bond markets, folks. Count on it.
Government debt is at levels that only governments themselves would pay, at exactly the time when they are trying to lean more heavily on the private sector to take up the slack — good luck with that.
Interest rates, bond markets, and the housing market are inextricably intertwined. They always have been and always will be. Period.
You cannot monkey around with one piece of that eternal triangle and expect the others not to be affected at some point, and just because nothing bad has happened definitely does NOT mean it won’t.
2013 may well have been The Weak That Worked, but the odds on that continuing for another 12 months are very short indeed.
And so, as we wrap up this week, let’s revisit the idea of logical fallacies and throw a couple more that the guardians of the global economy are relying on into the ring for good measure:
The Taper Syllogism
Premise 1: The Fed tapered its monthly asset purchases.
Premise 2: The taper had no major negative effect on markets.
Conclusion: Tapering has no negative effect on markets.
The Housing Bubble Syllogism
Premise 1: The government has all the data on the housing market.
Premise 2: The government sees no bubble in the data.
Conclusion: There is no housing bubble.
The Interest Rate Syllogism
Premise 1: The Fed sets interest rates.
Premise 2: The Fed has promised low rates of zero to 0.25 percent “… at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6.5 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored.”
Conclusion: Interest rates will stay at zero to 0.25% and zero to 0.25 percent will be appropriate “… at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6.5 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored.”
The Inflation Syllogism
Premise 1: The world’s central banks have printed ~$4.7 trillion.
Premise 2: There is no noticeable problem with (official) inflation numbers.
Conclusion: Printing money doesn’t cause inflation.
Full Grant Williams letter below…
The loonie continued its long slide Wednesday, hitting a fresh four-year low against the U.S. dollar.
The Canadian dollar was trading at 92.58 cents after falling more than a cent Tuesday to its lowest close since late 2009.
The slide followed a spate of bad news about Canada’s economy. The Ivey Purchasing Managers Index, a measure of economic activity, came in much lower than expected for last month, at 46.3, compared to 53.7 the month before. A reading below 50 suggests economic contraction.
Canada’s trade deficit numbers also spooked the markets, with Statistics Canada reporting Tuesday that the country’s overall trade deficit with the world grew to $940 million in November as imports rose to $40.7 billion, while exports were unchanged at $39.8 billion.
The deficit came as the results for October were also revised to show a deficit of $908 million compared with an initial report of a surplus of $75 million for the month.
Meanwhile, U.S. economic data has been positive, further pressuring the loonie downwards.
Payroll firm ADP reported the U.S. private sector created 238,000 jobs during December. That data came two days before the release of the U.S. government’s employment report for last month. Economists expect it will show the economy created about 195,000 jobs in total.
International traders are certainly bearish on the Canadian dollar. The Globe and Mail reports the amount of money being placed in bets against the loonie is nearing extremes, with about US$5.5 billion currently invested against it.
Investment bank Goldman Sachs forecast late last year the Canadian dollar could hit 88 cents U.S. in 2014.
Meanwhile, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz doesn’t appear in any hurry to raise the Bank of Canada’s trend-setting rate. In an interview on CBC on Tuesday, he denied he was under international pressure to raise rates.
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty suggested in a recent interview that there would be such pressure as a result of Fed tapering.
Poloz did say that Fed tapering will inevitably put pressure on Canadian bond yields, likely leading to an increase in long-term fixed mortgage rates even if the Bank of Canada does not increase its benchmark rate.
— With files from The Canadian Press