Central Banks

     

 

 

Trepidation Nation

This week, while you were busy working, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, took time out from rubbing elbows with fellow movers and shakers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to share his trepidations:

 

“The only thing I have trepidation about is negative interest rates, QE, and the diversion between stock prices and bond prices and yield and stuff like that…  I think it’s very hard for central banks to forever make up for bad policy elsewhere, that puts them in a trap.  We’re a little bit in that trap today with rates so low around the world.”

 

Jamie Dimon having nightmares in his money bunker [PT]

 

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Fiat Currency Rankings – From Bad to Worse

Today, as we step into the New Year, we reach down to turn over a new leaf.  We want to make a fresh start.  We want to leave 2019’s bugaboos behind. But, alas, lying beneath the fallen leaf, like rotting food waste, is last year’s fake money.  We can’t escape it.  But we refuse to believe in its permanence.

 

This is what “monetary stability in the Fed-administered fiat money regime looks like: in the year the Fed was established it took $3.80 to buy what $100 buy today – provided the government’s CPI data are actually a valid gauge of the dollar’s purchasing power. [PT]

 

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A Critical Appraisal of a Hero of Central Monetary Planning

We apologize for publishing this Report late. We have been very busy developing the business. Last week the price of gold moved up $16, and that of silver $0.39. Almost two groceries leaked out of that store of value par excellence, bitcoin. But hey, stocks are up!

 

We admit to having a soft spot for the politically incorrect Paul Volcker. He frequently expressed bemusement at the newfangled obsessions of his successors at the Fed (as an example, at a conference in 2006 he remarked on the increasing emphasis on “core” inflation: “A great mantra of central bankers these days is ‘inflation targeting.’ I don’t understand that nomenclature. I didn’t think central bankers were in the business of targeting inflation. I thought we were supposed to be targeting stability.” h/t Grant’s). Nevertheless, we are on board with the criticism voiced below. Volcker was indeed instrumental (along with Milton Friedman, otherwise a champion of free markets, but oddly blind to the insidious nature of a monetary central planning agency) in persuading Nixon to abandon the last remnant of the gold standard, the Bretton Woods “gold exchange standard” that permitted foreign central banks to exchange their US dollar reserves for gold at a fixed exchange rate. Not only did this decision unleash a decade of economic and currency market chaos, it ultimately paved the way for the unbridled expansion in money and credit in train since the early 1980s. In the meantime we have arrived at a juncture where central banks are “forced” to adopt ever more insane policies as they rush from trying to prevent one potential systemic collapse after another. [PT]

 

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Addicted to Spending

There are many falsehoods being perpetuated these days when it comes to money, financial markets, and the economy. But when you cut the chaff, three related facts remain: Uncle Sam needs your money. He needs a lot of your money. And he needs it bad!

 

The inescapable logic of tax & spend: empty vault… empty pockets… gimme more! [PT]

 

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The Bubble Machine

The launch angle of the U.S. stock market over the past decade has been steep and relentless. The S&P 500, after bottoming out at 666 on March 6, 2009, has rocketed up over 370 percent. New highs continue to be reached practically every day.

 

S&P 500 weekly, since the low of 2009. A party of roaring 20s proportion in terms of duration, extent and end point valuations (a post-war inflation episode triggered a devastating bear market from November 1919 to August 1921, in which the DJIA fell from ~120 to ~64 points. It then rose until early September 1929, topping at ~380 points. By the time it peaked, Wall Street had created all sorts of new-fangled instruments such as the then highly popular investment trusts, everybody was speculating on margin and the equivalent of today’s FANGs such as RCA (“Radio”) traded at previously unheard of multiples – as did the rest of the market. Numerous sharp corrections along the way had eradicated the perception of risk in investors’ minds. We have discussed the parallels between the two eras before, and in the meantime another parallel can be discerned in the charts. In late 1928 the market suffered a sharp sell-off in the normally seasonally strong period, very similar to what occurred in 2018. It was the biggest correction of the entire bull market, but the market swiftly rallied again and by February 1929 it made new highs. It then proceeded to build a chart formation known as “three peaks and a domed house”. The three peaks of 2019 are not a perfect replica of the basic schematic of the formation, but the timing is in line with it (they are supposed to be established within 6-10 months). George Lindsay’s original schematic is very detailed, it is therefore unlikely that the pattern will repeat perfectly every time. The so-called domed house can take up to 7 months to form, but we would focus on the shape rather than the precise duration. Whether the formation does indeed form remains to be seen. It is definitely something worth keeping an eye on. [PT]

 

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Monetary Lunacy, Nipponese Version

Earlier this month, Bank of Japan (BOJ) Governor Haruhiko Kuroda commented that Japan’s central planners are considering a 50-year government bond issue as a long-term means of putting a floor under super-long interest rates.  How this floor would be placed is extremely suspect; we will have more on this in a moment.  But first, the dual benefits – according to Japan’s central planners…

 

Kuroda-san: the man with a plan, or rather, a plethora of plans (過剰な計画). [PT]

 

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Incrementum Advisory Board Discussion of 23 Oct 2019

In late October the Advisory Board of the Incrementum Fund held its quarterly meeting (a transcript is available for download at the end of this post). This time the board was joined by special guest Dan Oliver, the manager of Myrmikan Capital and president of the Committee for Monetary Research & Education.  Myrmikan inter alia publishes excellent and quite original research on gold which we hereby highly recommend.

 

Dan Oliver of Myrmikan Capital

 

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Prettifying Toxic Waste

The promise of something for nothing is always an enticing proposition. Who doesn’t want roses without thorns, rainbows without rain, and salvation without repentance?  So, too, who doesn’t want a few extra basis points of yield above the 10-year Treasury note at no added risk?

 

The yield-chasing hamster wheel… [PT]

 

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The Sky is Falling

 

“We believe monetary policy is in a good place.”

– Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, October 30, 2019.

 

The man from the good place. “As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today, Oh how I wish he’d go away!” [PT]

 

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Wildfire Surge

The hillsides are always brown in the land of fruits and nuts come autumn.  After baking away all summer long in the hot sun, the dense sage and chaparral covering the coastal hillsides and canyons are dry and toasty. Though, before conditions get better, they must first get worse.

 

California is ablaze again… as every year.  [PT]

Photo credit: Noah Berger / AP

 

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Ominous Pronouncements

The prices of the metals barely budged last week. It is interesting to note that last week, more than one central banker felt it necessary to say something about a possible next crisis. And at least one of them said something about gold.

 

Lost as always, and apparently slightly nervous these days… [PT]

 

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True Money Supply Growth Rebounds in September

In August 2019 year-on-year growth of the broad true US money supply (TMS-2) fell to a fresh 12-year low of 1.87%. The 12-month moving average of the growth rate hit a new low for the move as well. The main driver of the slowdown in money supply growth over the past year was the Fed’s decision to decrease its holdings of MBS and treasuries purchased in previous “QE” operations. This was partly offset by bank credit growth in recent months, which has moved to 6.6% y/y after being stuck below 4% y/y throughout 2018.

 

US broad true money supply TMS-2, year-on-year growth w. 12-month moving average. After establishing a new 12-year low at  1.87% in August, TMS-2 growth has rebounded to 3.09% in September. In 2000, the low in y/y growth coincided almost precisely with the peak in the S&P 500 index. The next major low was established in 2006, about one year before the stock market peak. It is worth noting that in both cases, money supply growth actually soared during the subsequent bear markets and recessions. This illustrates the fact that slowing and/or accelerating money supply growth exerts its effects with a considerable lag.

 

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