Central Banks

     

 

 

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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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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