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Posts Tagged ‘chances of hyperinflation’

Financial Repression Kicks the Can and Our Butt

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 21st, 2012 8:36 AM |

More and more we see central bankers around the world — but especially here at home and within the EU — engaged in financial repression as THE means to solve our economic woes.

What is financial repression?

A term that describes measures by which governments channel funds to themselves as a form of debt reduction. This concept was introduced in 1973 by Stanford economists Edward S. Shaw and Ronald I. McKinnon. Financial repression can include such measures as directed lending to the government, caps on interest rates, regulation of capital movement between countries and a tighter association between government and banks.

What are the challenges faced by investors in an era of financial repression? (more…)

Bernanke Conundrum

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 8th, 2009 7:27 AM |

Overnight markets indicate that Treasury prices are lower and interest rates subsequently higher (remember the inverse relationship between bond prices and interest rates). 2yr Treasury notes are trading at 1.33% and 10yr Treasury notes are trading at 3.85% (both are .03% higher from Friday’s close).

If interest rates are higher, clearly that move must be an indication that economic activity is improving and equity markets should be higher overnight, correct? In “normal” economic times, perhaps that line of reasoning would hold water, but in the Uncle Sam economy, we need to go deeper.

Equity futures indicate our stock markets will open lower by approximately 1%. What’s going on? Welcome to the Bernanke conundrum! What is the riddle wrapped inside our economic enigma? How can Fed chair Ben Bernanke nurse our economy back to health while at the same time maintaining the necessary fiscal independence, integrity, and discipline of robust Fed policy?

Big Ben has used aggressive measures to backstop a wide swath of our markets. In the process, he has created a fair amount of stability but with an effective government guarantee “insurance” policy as the cost of stability. Some of these policies have lessened in size as certain sectors have normalized. However, the major Fed programs remain in place. What are these?

1. quantitative easing: commitment to buy $1.3 trillion in total of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities in an attempt to keep these rates down. Then why are rates rising? More on this in a second.

2. commitment to provide necessary liquidity as needed to support the “wards of the state” including Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, GM, AIG, Citigroup.

These programs in conjunction with the massive deficit spending programs undertaken by the Obama administration have ballooned our expected funding needs in calendar 2009 to upwards of $3 trillion, a fourfold increase over prior years.

In my opinion, interest rates are moving up much less on any real signs of economic improvement than on these funding needs and very real signs of a monetary printing press malfunction. What’s that? With the Fed Funds rate at 0-.25%, the Fed is literally flooding the economy with cash. Where is that cash going? Is it flowing through to the economy? Not really.

The cash is pouring into the banking system to cushion and support financial institutions from the ongoing losses connected to rising defaults on credit cards, residential mortgages, commercial real estate, and corporate loans.

The market is now very clearly sending a signal to Bernanke, Geithner, Obama and team that if they want to continue their programs as designed (and they do and will), the price, that is the rate of interest, is going up. Why?

The market is very concerned that the flood of liquidity will lead to inflation if not rampant inflation and potentially hyperinflation. How does Bernanke head that off?

Withdraw the very liquidity that he has found so necessary to pour into the financial system. How does he do that?Two ways.

1. increase the Fed Funds rate: that is, make borrowing more expensive.

2. reverse the quantitative easing program so that the Fed actually sells Treasury and mortgage-backed securities into the market and takes liquidity out in the process. What are the impacts of both those maneuvers? Higher interest rates.

In fact, interest rates are moving higher already in anticipation of Bernanke being forced to make these moves. Can Bernanke “thread this needle?” What will happen if interest rates move higher?

Slow the economy, especially housing given higher mortgage rates, and lower earnings especially for financial institutions. To wit, our equity markets are lower overnight.

Nobody said this was going to be easy.


Increasing Inflation or Playing With Fire

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 19th, 2009 4:09 PM |

There is a reason parents tell their children not to play with matches. Small campfires can take down an entire forest. In similar fashion, heightened levels of inflation also have the potential to explode in a ball of fire. Are our central bankers playing this inflation-ahead1game as a means of addressing our massive government and non-governmental debt burden? In my opinion, they most definitely are rubbing those sticks together mighty hard. 

I have highlighted three means for central bankers to address excessive debt: default, restructure, devalue. Individuals and corporations are increasingly defaulting and will default at an increasing rate as evidenced by my post earlier this morning highlighting the surge in delinquencies. Individuals and corporations are looking to renegotiate and restructure debt burdens wherever possible. Our government is restructuring debt through the legislative process and not always consistent with generally accepted market and legal principles. Despite words to the contrary, I am convinced that Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner are on course to devalue our debt, as well, via a promotion and acceptance of higher inflation.

I was somewhat surprised to read that two economists whom I highly respect are encouraging Bernanke specifically to raise the inflation target. Greg Mankiw, an Economics professor at Harvard, shied away from providing an actual inflation target but did offer that Bernanke should work towards a “significant” level of inflation. Kenneth Rogoff, also a Harvard professor and former chief economist at the IMF, believes Bernanke should target an inflation rate of 6%.

Rogoff and Mankiw are both highly regarded. In my opinion, they are calling for higher inflation because they are clearly concerned that the mix of stimulus programs (monetary, fiscal, and budgetary) will not be sufficient to jumpstart our economy. (more…)

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