Subscribe: RSS Feed | Twitter | Facebook | Email
Home | Contact Us

Posts Tagged ‘what is stagflation’

Federal Reserve Issues a Blank Check

Posted by Larry Doyle on September 14th, 2012 7:37 AM |

Well, I gather we will not be discussing the need for a 4th round of quantitative easing down the road.

Given that the Federal Reserve’s announcement yesterday put neither a dollar amount nor an end date on its pronouncement to purchase $40 billion in MBS (mortgage-backed securities) per month as needed, the great and wondrous Fed wizard Ben Bernanke effectively pre-signed a series of blank checks.

Thoughts and questions crossing my mind this morning include:  (more…)

Front End Springs a Leak

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 5th, 2009 4:57 PM |

In a manner of speaking, the management of our economy has been nothing short of a major overhaul of a tired old ship. When the tide went out, the base of our ship was exposed as being filled with holes.

Little did we know at the time, but through many of those holes a number of “pirates” were running off with a whole lot of booty. In the process, many market participants riding along on the main deck were thrown overboard by the economic storm that hit our economy and markets over the last two years.

We do not have the luxury of bringing our ship into port for an overhaul. We have had to continue to sail this ship while trying to repair it. In that spirit, by necessity we have had to add significant ballast (liquidity) in our hull. In so doing, we need to recognize that the ballast can itself be inflammatory if the engine generates a spark.

In purely economic terms, this morning’s non-farm payroll number of -345k jobs  was a hint of a spark. While various sectors of the market gyrated today, the front end of our ship, that is the front end of our yield curve, sprung a serious leak. How so? Interest rates on short term Treasury notes increased a DRAMATIC 35 basis points. Why?

Traders are already pricing in an expectation that the Federal Reserve will be forced to increase the Fed Funds rate prior to any hint of inflation or even the expectation of inflation gains a foothold. Bloomberg sheds color on this likelihood, Traders Begin to Speculate Fed Will Need to Tighten:

Traders are beginning to price in expectations the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this year as the recession shows signs of abating.

Federal-funds futures contracts on the Chicago Board of Trade show a 70 percent probability the central bank will lift its target rate for overnight bank borrowing to at least 0.5 percent by November after a report today showed the U.S. economy shed the fewest jobs in May in eight months. Rate-increase odds were 27 percent yesterday.

The Fed cut the target rate to the record low range of zero to 0.25 percent in December as the economy lapsed into the worst recession in decades. President Barack Obama and Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke have committed $12.8 trillion to thaw frozen credit markets and ramped up government spending to revive growth. The Fed last raised borrowing costs in June 2006, when policy makers pushed the rate to 5.25 percent.

Fed governors and Fed chair Bernanke now face a serious quandary. Economic data will remain decidedly weak. Unemployment will continue to increase. Consumers are going to remain strapped. Corporations will face challenges. Municipalities will encounter an ongoing decline in tax revenues. Nobody is going to truly feel like the economy is improving to the point that the Fed should even think about increasing interest rates. Then why is the market starting to price that reality into the market? Let’s go back into the hull.

The bowels of our ship are flush with liquidity and given any sort of traction in the economy, the velocity and growth in the money supply will drive inflation.

What is Big Ben and team to do? The market is raising interest rates on him rather than his raising interest rates on the market. In the process, a very fragile economy will now be forced to deal with higher interest costs along with anemic growth.

What do I see on our economic horizon? In my opinion, today’s price action took us in the direction of the island known as Stagflation.

Please share your thoughts and comments.

LD

Inflation, Deflation, or Stagflation?

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 1st, 2009 11:06 AM |

I am an eternal optimist and, as such, I never want to see people’s spirits waver. I encourage people not to allow the current economy to “deflate” their hopes for better days. By the same token, I am a pragmatist and caution people not to view the recent bounce in our equity markets as reason for an overly “inflated” sense of optimism. In this same spirit, though, we need sufficient optimism along with practical analysis to avoid the perils of “stagflation.” Let me expound.

The debate between analysts touting prospects for inflation versus deflation is ongoing. Those concerned with deflation highlight increasing levels of unemployment pressuring wages, falling asset valuations, and slack consumer demand. Those concerned with inflation point toward the unprecedented levels of liquidity injected into our system via all of the government programs. The inflation hawks maintain the economy merely needs a small spark and inflation will spread in an uncontrollable arson-like fashion.

I actually believe there is a very real chance we get developments from both camps leading to the scourge known as stagflation. How may this play out?

Many respected analysts are promoting the concept of a new “normal” economy. This scenario entails an economy operating with enormous government deficits, an elevated level of unemployment, and little to no shadow banking system (securitization of loans and other assets).

In this new “normal” economy, GDP may only eke out small positive growth given these heightened pressures. Pimco’s Mohamed El-Erian writes of A New Normal:

This reflects a growing realization that some of the recent abrupt changes to markets, households, institutions, and government policies are unlikely to be reversed in the next few years. Global growth will be subdued for a while and unemployment high; a heavy hand of government will be evident in several sectors; the core of the global system will be less cohesive and, with the magnet of the Anglo-Saxon model in retreat, finance will no longer be accorded a preeminent role in post-industrial economies. Moreover, the balance of risk will tilt over time toward higher sovereign risk, growing inflationary expectations and stagflation.

Even as we come out of this recession, our economy will run increased risks of slipping into another recession given the lack of cushion provided by a strong consumer, the burdens of heavy government debts, and inability to easily access credit.

El-Erian adds:

For the next 3–5 years, we expect a world of muted growth, in the context of a continuing shift away from the G-3 and toward the systemically important emerging economies, led by China. It is a world where the public sector overstays as a provider of goods that belong in the private sector. (As one of our speakers put it, we have transitioned from a world where the private sector provided public goods to one where the public sector provides private goods.) It is also a world in which central banks and treasuries will find it difficult to undo smoothly some of the recent emergency steps. This is particularly consequential in countries, such as the U.K. and U.S., where many short-term policy imperatives materially conflict with medium-term ones.

As our global economy transitions to this new “normal,” I believe the likelihood of stagflation is quite high. For those who recall the perils of our economy in the early 1980s, stagflation is not a pretty picture. How does one manage investments and personal finances in an environment of stagflation?

Let’s deal with the component parts. Given sluggish growth, limited credit, and lessened opportunities, it is of paramount importance to cut expenses and minimize debt as much as possible. Servicing debt will be an ongoing challenge and increasingly problematic. Be proactive at this point in time in adjusting your finances to this reality.

Where will the inflation come from and how does one address it? In my opinion, the inflation “train” will arrive sooner than we think. Some of the savviest investors, including Financial Pacific Advisors’ Bob Rodriguez and noted Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, are already positioning themselves for it. (The WSJ reports, Black Swan Fund Makes a Big Bet on Inflation).

How can people protect themselves from the inflation monster? Increase exposure to the following:

  – precious metals and commodities

  – critical infrastructure (power plants, agriculture, water, transportation)

  – necessary life items (drugs, medicines, food)

  – stronger and more fiscally prudent foreign markets

Decrease exposure if not get outright short

  – longer maturity (5yr and and longer) Treasury bonds

This stagflation story will have many chapters and I will be writing extensively on it. Please share your thoughts, opinions, and recollections of the early 80s economy so we can all move forward most effectively in navigating the economic landscape.

LD






Recent Posts


ECONOMIC ALL-STARS


Archives