Central Banks

     

 

 

Under the Influence

 

“This feels very sustainable.” 

– Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, October 8, 2019

 

Understandable confusion… [PT]

 

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Chaos in Overnight Funding Markets

Most of our readers are probably aware that there were recently quite large spikes in repo rates. The events were inter alia chronicled at Zerohedge here and here. The issue is fairly complex, as there are many different drivers at play, but we will try to provide a brief explanation.

 

There have been two spikes in the overnight general collateral rate – one at the end of 2018, which was a first warning shot, and the one of last week, which was the biggest such spike on record, exceeding even that seen in the 2008 crisis.

 

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Groping in the Dark

This week central planners pursued their primary mission with steadfast conviction. They planned. They prodded. They prearranged tomorrow to save us from ourselves. Some also grubbed a little graft for their trouble. Other central planners took to debasing the dollar to price fix the federal funds rate within a narrow band of tolerance.  What in the world do they think they are doing?

 

Central planning committee in the analysis and forecasting phase… [PT]

 

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An Odd Combination of Serenity and Panic

The United States, with untroubled ease, continued its approach toward catastrophe this week.  The Federal Reserve cut the federal funds rate 25 basis points, thus furthering its program of mass money debasement.  Yet, on the surface, all still remained in the superlative.

 

S&P 500 Index, weekly: serenely perched near all time highs, in permanently high plateau nirvana. [PT]

 

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Inflation and “Price Stability”

We still remember when sometime in the mid 1980s, the German Bundesbank proudly pointed to the fact that Germany’s y/y consumer price inflation rate had declined to zero. It was considered a “mission accomplished” moment. No-one mentioned that economic nirvana would remain out of sight unless price inflation was pushed to 2% per year.

 

CPI, annual rate of change. During the “stagflation” period of the 1970s, Congress enacted the Federal Reserve Reform Act and the Humphrey-Hawkins Act, which specified a list of miracles the Fed was supposed to perform.

 

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The Negative Interest Rates Abomination

Our readers are probably aware that assorted central bankers and the economic advisors orbiting them occasionally mention the “natural interest rate” (a.k.a. “originary interest rate”) in speeches and papers. It is generally assumed that it has declined, which is to say, time preferences are assumed to have decreased.

 

This is actually an understatement…

 

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How to Hang on to Greenland

Jim Bianco, head of the eponymous research firm, handily won the internet last Thursday with the following tweet:

 

 

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A Case of Highway Robbery

What if the savings in your bank account lost 55 percent of its value over the last 12 months?  Would you be somewhat peeved?  Would you transfer some of your savings to another currency?

 

USD-ARS, weekly. For several years the Argentine Peso has followed a certain pattern: it declines mildly, but steadily, with little volatility for long time periods, and then spikes in crash waves whenever a crisis situation comes to a head. In early 2011, it took roughly four pesos to buy one US dollar – which was already an enormous loss of value relative to the 1:1 exchange rate that prevailed under Argentina’s currency board prior to the government default and banking system collapse of 2001. When Mr. Macri was elected president, it was widely held that his market reforms would finally repair Argentina’s economy, which had been ruined by almost two decades of economic mismanagement and inflation under the previous Peronist administration. Alas, Macri made a mistake no Argentine government that gains the trust of foreign investors seems able to resist: he embarked on a big borrowing spree, much of it denominated in USD, until it became clear that the government would no longer be able to defend the peso or service its debt. Then he exacerbated his mistake by borrowing even more money from the IMF – which should be filed under “a movie we have seen before”. And just as had happened in that earlier escapade, his government is now likely to default on its IMF loan as well. Not surprisingly, the peso has collapsed – and in well-worn fashion Macri is now trying to save the village by destroying it and has introduced capital controls. [PT]

 

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Fiat Money Woes

Monday was Labor Day holiday in the US. The facts are that the euro lost another 1.4%, the pound another 1.1%, and the yuan another 0.9% last week.

 

Assorted foreign fiat confetti against the US dollar – we have added the Argentine peso as well, as it demonstrates what can happen when things really get out of hand. [PT]

 

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The Pointlessness of Negative Yields

If there are any virtues of debt instruments with negative yields we have yet to realize them. Certainly, we understand that as bond yields fall, bond prices rise, and bond investors are rewarded with capital appreciation. But when capital is appreciating as a consequence of negative yields, we suspect there is something fundamentally wrong with the capital itself.

 

Not only is the stock of negative-yielding debt at a new record high of almost $17 trillion, lately there has been a big surge in corporate debt sporting negative yields-to-maturity. [PT]

 

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Tending Towards Maximum Perversity

According to Finagle’s corollary to Murphy’s law, “Anything that can go wrong, will — at the worst possible moment.”  Taken a degree further, per O’Toole’s corollary of Finagle’s law, and the second law of thermodynamics, “The perversity of the Universe tends towards a maximum.”

 

Murphy’s law in action… not even Murphy himself was safe from it. [PT]

 

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A Good Story with Minor Imperfections

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there,” is a quote that’s oft misattributed to Lewis Carrol. The fact that there is ambiguity about who is behind this quote on ambiguity seems fitting. For our purposes today, the spirit of the quote is what we are after. We think it may help elucidate the strange and confusing world of fake money in which we all travel.

 

Consumer price index, y/y rate of change – the Fed is not satisfied with the speed at which monetary debasement raises everybody’s cost of living lately. And no, they don’t think said speed should be lowered. [PT]

 

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Most read in the last 20 days:

  • Repo Quake – A Primer
      Chaos in Overnight Funding Markets Most of our readers are probably aware that there were recently quite large spikes in repo rates. The events were inter alia chronicled at Zerohedge here and here. The issue is fairly complex, as there are many different drivers at play, but we will try to provide a brief explanation.   There have been two spikes in the overnight general collateral rate – one at the end of 2018, which was a first warning shot, and the one of last week,...
  • Curious Events in Risk-Free Collateral-Land - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Liquidity Shortage Last week the price of gold rose $28, and silver $0.53. But the prices of the metals was not the big news last week. The price of repo — a repurchase agreement, to sell and repurchase a treasuries — skyrocketed. Banks were thirsty for liquidity, and only cash can quench it.   Last week's “oops” moment in repo land as the overnight general collateral rate briefly soared to 10% (we will soon publish a detailed summary of the sequence of events that...
  • The Inexorable Final Collapse
      Groping in the Dark This week central planners pursued their primary mission with steadfast conviction. They planned. They prodded. They prearranged tomorrow to save us from ourselves. Some also grubbed a little graft for their trouble. Other central planners took to debasing the dollar to price fix the federal funds rate within a narrow band of tolerance.  What in the world do they think they are doing?   Central planning committee in the analysis and forecasting phase......
  • Elizabeth Warren’s Plans to MAGA
      21st Century Hooverville There are places in Los Angeles where, although the sun always shines, they haven’t seen a ray of light in over 100-years.  There’s a half square mile of urban decay centered on the Union Rescue Mission at 545 South San Pedro Street, where depravity, chaos, addiction, insanity and archaic diseases multiply and ricochet about like metastatic cancer.   One of LA's modern-day Hoovervilles in San Pedro Street...  In 2015 it was reported that Union...
  • The System Scrapes By - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      An Accident in Waiting The price of gold dropped $20, and silver 43 cents. For reference, $20 was once worth just about an ounce of gold. Dollar was a unit of measure, a weight of gold equal to 1/20.67 ounce of fine gold.   A gold certificate from the time when the dollar still represented a fixed weight of gold [PT]   Today, it is an irredeemable currency, defined not as a unit of weight but as a unit of central bank liability which is backed by government debt,...
  • Zugzwang - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Respectable and Not so Respectable Assets The price of gold went up 8 bucks, and the price of silver went up a penny last week. These were not among the capital assets that could be liquidated for greater quantities of consumer goods last week. Nor were equities.   A respectable, mother-in-law-proof speculation: the 10-year US treasury note. [PT]   However, the consumer goods stockpile stored in treasury bonds (to extend our half sarcastic, half tongue-in-cheek...
  • Fed Chair Powell’s Inescapable Contradiction
      Under the Influence   “This feels very sustainable.”  – Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, October 8, 2019   Understandable confusion... [PT]   Conflict and contradiction.  These were two of the main themes reverberating around the world of centralized monetary planning this week. On Tuesday, for instance, a novel and contradictory central banker parlance – “reserve management purposes” – was birthed into existence by Fed Chair Jay...

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